Saturday, December 1, 2007
Thanksgiving 2007 in Arizona
The wonderful feast of Thanksgiving. This year we particularly looked forward to it since we were going to Arizona to celebrate it with Mom and Grandma Manthei. Weirdly it isn't our first Thanksgiving together, that was last year over a wonderful dinner at our friends - and then home of Jen - the Prices. The other event we celebrated together last year was the Harvest Party organized by our friend Tony. To show you how small of a world this great place is... his parents live in Arizona.
-- THANKSGIVING DAY
To ease the travels we decided to travel on Thanksgiving Day. Since we left from Akron Canton Airport we only had a 10 minute drive to the airport, which is nice if your plane leaves at 6.50am. We left on-time and after watching some DirecTV on our Frontier flight we arrived in Denver at about 9am where we had the best possible connection. We got off the plane and I dropped the bags in front of the podium since our next flight was departing from the next gate... Jen quickly ran to the bathroom and when she got back our rows were called to board so we weren't in the terminal for more than 10 minutes. Nice !!
The fight to Phoenix was only 2 hours and we filled it with playing some Phase 10. Great game to play while flying. For those interested: the 'Game-master' kicked my behind... Yes, Jen won! (Jen says, "Three years of game therapy have paid off!") Since we didn't check any baggage we were able to get straight to our Super Shuttle after we landed. With the time-change it was barely 10am. Always nice to fly west-bound. We informed Mom that 'the eagle had landed' and - after driving by the city where our friend Tony grew up - we met up with Mom and Grandma at the Dell Web Memorial Hospital in Sun City / Surprise.
On the way to Wickenburg (our destination for the weekend) Mom and Grandma were acting like professional tour-guides and after learning about the 'upside-down' river the Hassyampa River we got to Wickenburg quickly in Grandma's awesome car (more about that later...). We were a bit hungry, but ended up going shopping at ALCO. Apparently some of her daugthers told Grandma that she needed a new TV. So before I knew it I was transformed into Mr. SME. That's Subject-Matter-Expert for the non-acronym inclined among us. She got a nice Flat Screen that we installed quickly. Bonus: Grandma made excellent Belgian Waffles and the new TV was showing Green Bay kicking some Detroit behind... On three TV's at Grandmas. We also got her a new remote. One of those all-in-one' devices, but it didn't work as nice with all the other 'toys' Grandma has. But the TV works fine...
At 5pm we were invited to a nice Thanksgiving dinner at the community center. We were far-and-away the youngest people there since Mom and Grandma live in a 55+ community... We really enjoyed our table-guests and before we knew it we were talking away about me being from Holland and that we got married only 4 months ago. We had a great dinner with all sorts of things, but the funny thing was that our plates looked like the prison-kind... Didn't make the dinner any less enjoyable and tasty, just funny... ;-)
After dinner we went back to Mom's house to watch a movie, but around 6.30pm (local time) we were 'done'. We had about 5 to 6 hours of sleep the night before and had been up for 14 hours by that time so even though there were about 5 great movies on we couldn't get ourselves to watch any. We ended-up in bed by 7pm. When in Rome.... Oh sweet sleep, thou art a Man's best friend.
The next day was our relaxing day. We planned nothing and got up around 10am. Still in Rome, but we ARE on vacation... We got some breakfast and decided to head to the pool. It is late November and for folks from (North-)east of the Rockies outdoor pools in late November don't usually invoke 'warm-and-fuzzy' feelings, but here in the Valley of the Sun it was a perfectly acceptable proposition. The water was even heated... but at 72F / 21C that was only a bonus. We did some exercises from the Aqua Aerobics classes and after about 30 minutes we 'retired' to our book (Niels) and the inside of our eyelids (Jen)... on the side of the pool in the sun... Gotta love AZ.
After being at the pool for a few hours Mom came to check-up on us since she had lunch prepared. Lunch evolved into playing Gin 13. Turned-out to be very similar to our Phase 10 game so we beat Mom every which way we could... sorry, Mom. It's that Game Master thing again. Around 2.30pm we went to visit Mom's other 'son' Bart. Bart is her horse (Palomino???) who is boarded at a range on the north-side of Wickenburg off AZ-93. This was my 2nd time seeing Bart (1st time was in MN over Memorial weekend). He looked beautiful and after feeding Bart we walked over to see some roping. Pretty interesting from a 'city-slicker / dude -perspective.
Around 4pm it was time for dinner with Grandma. Mom decided it was time for some good ol' Minnesota 'Wild Rice Soup'. If this was a test I guess I aced it since I devoured three cups... LOVE that stuff... It is a bit filling so the rest of the dinner took a bit of hit for me, but you can feed me that soup anytime! Since daylight was running out and we wanted to check out the 'letter-rocks' we went for a walk in the desert during sunset. That is one of the most amazing sceneries to enjoy when walking. My beautiful wife and me, seeing the sun set behind the mountains in the background. Before our good friend the Sun decided to call it a day we found the letter rocks and after finding the 'Manthei-family' section we added our 'Jo' just above Grandpa Leo and changed 'JEN' to J&N'.
The photographer in me couldn't let the opportunity pass by to take some nice sunset pictures. Having a camera without a tripod and manual setting proved to be a bit challenging, but the end-result - after some experimenting - wasn't all that bad. Guess that tech-thing called 'Image Stabilization' actually works. One thing to notice... it does get rather chilly in the AZ desert in November so we made our way back to Mom's house where an evening of playing cards was in our future. We decided on Gin 13 again. We had a lot of fun. Mom liked the wine as much as the game so the conversations were rather 'lively' and Mom lived-up to her nickname 'spring-butt' as she couldn't stay at the table for more than 5 minutes at the time. For those interesting in the score... well, we played 4 full games and between Jen and me we won them all!! Around 10pm we called it a night since Saturday was our AZ-travel day.
Today we decided to explore the beautiful surroundings we found ourselves in. Mom gave us a number of things for us to check-out. We walked over to Grandma to get the car. She is really proud of that car since it was the last car Grandpa and her had before he passed away almost 4 years ago. We started with a drive to Yarnell. On our way we took a beautiful drive that slowly climbed up from the valley into the mountains and gave us same amazing Vista's. Sorry nerds, we are not at Best Buy looking at computers, but enjoying the wide and panoramic view of the desert from the side of a mountain. Pretty amazing stuff. At the top of the mountain lays Yarnell. A small town known for her 'Stations of the Cross' depicted outside on the side of a mountain. Good exercise for both body and soul. Also would have been a good spot to have a jacket since a mountain town in the morning was a bit cold... The term 'brrrr' was used... a lot...
The next leg of our journey was towards Prescott. Lots of twists, turns, uphills, downhills, mountain views, valley views... I loved it. Jen, on the other hand, was a little less enthousiastic about it since she's a bit prone to car-sickness so by the time we arrived in Prescott we stopped at a local Safeway supermarket to give here some terra-firma time and we got some goodies for the rest of the trip. We got some baby-carrots, crackers, a Snickers bar and a loaf of French bread. We also got a little snack-present for Mom plus a 2L bottle of 7-Up. Since we had some empty waterbottles we made good use of the 'value' of a 2L bottle over the smaller ones.
Prescott is nice town with a very Alpine feeling coming in from AZ-89 and a very mid-west / western feeling downtown. It is also growing like crazy into Prescott Valley. I don't know, but building towns in the middle of a desert seems a bit odd given the scarce water resources in those environments, but alas. A little after Prescott we took the exit to AZ-89A towards Jerome and Sedona. To make a long story short... I have a new favorite 'winding road'. It rivals the best European mountain drives. Gorgeous.
One of the highlights was the former ghost town of Jerome. It used to be a mining town with a population of 15.000 at its highest earlier this century, but after all the mines closed this little town on the side of the mountain dwindled its way into oblivion with a meager 50 people remaining untill the hippies and later the artists took over this beautiful little village. With its location entirely on the side of the mountain it has a very European feeling to it. Building-style, road layout, location, it was all eerily familiar to me and reminded me so much of the small European mountain villages in France and Italy that I immediately felt 'at-home'. I feel that Jerome probably feels more European to me than Quebec City.
Decending further down the mountain to Cottonwood we made our way towards Sedona and its red rocks. What a neat little city. Nestled into the Oak Creek Canyon, surrounded by those amazing red rocks. It is also the location of the only McDonalds in the world that doesn't have yellow arches because the town council decided the color wouldn't match the surroundings. Instead they are turquoise. We stopped at a local bookstore checking out some local books and took a picture of the 'EU Deli' surround by the red rocks. Since we don't really care for all the New Age stuff that Sedona has plenty of, we went on into the Canyon. Well, I did. Jen took a little nap...
While my beautiful wife was checking out the insides of her eyelid again, I enjoyed another beautiful mountain drive (the Naturalist in my was having a great time!!). The end of the canyon ment another drive up the mountains and a great vista at the end, but since we were only half-way I decided to drive on to our next destination; Flagstaff.
Flagstaff was made famous because a certain highway runs straight to the middle of it and it's located close to a world famous landmark and National Park. The road is Highway 66 and the park is the Grand Canyon. After driving on US-66 for about 5 minutes we took the US-180 towards to the Grand Canyon. That road goes up to 8000ft in elevation and in the winter months gives access to both Nordic and Alpine skiing. Yes, skiing in Arizona... About 45mins later we ended-up at our final destination on the north-bound section of our trip; the mighty Grand Canyon!!!
This is my first time seeing the Grand Canyon 'in the flesh'. I've seen so many pictures and video (including those from my parents on their trip to Vegas a number of years ago), but now I was there myself and with Jen. We again sorely missed our jackets, but with a good sweater it worked. We walked down to the first viewpoint and guess what... Dutchies!! Yep, it doesn't matter where you go in the USA, there are always Dutchies to be found. In May in northern New Hampshire on top of a mountain pass, on top of the WTC in July (when it was still there....) or at the Grand Canyon in November. We're everywhere... Yeah!
After the required photo-ops we checked out the Visitors Center and the bookstore (called 'Bookstore and More'). We found an awesome gift for one of our Bailey-sitters and left around 4.45pm to take the drive to the east-entrance/exit of the park. During that drive we stopped a few times to take in the Canyon at sunset. Absolutely stunning!! Pretty hard to take nice pictures too, but once a get a good one, it's absolutely beautiful.
Since it was now 5.30pm and we left at 8.30am and had to get back to Wickenburg we decided to take the fast-route (US-89 south to I-40 west to I-17 south to AZ-74 to Wickenburg) and only 3 hours later (with a stop at Wendy's for some dinner) we where back where we started some 13 hours and 450 miles ago.
I can honestly say that it was one of the best days of my life... Mountains, driving, spending time with my wife, the Grand Canyon, meeting fellow Dutchies, on vacation, just loved it. Thanks God for creating such a beautiful place to explore and enjoy.
After a day like the one we had yesterday we decided to 'stay-put' today and after a good night sleep and some breakfast we went to church with Mom and Grandma. It was my first Catholic service that I can really remember and it was very different from our regular weekend gatherings. The service itself is very liturgic and structured, but some of the songs were actually pretty recent. Unfortunately the priest did not appear to have a good day since his message on purgatory was delivered like he either didn't believe it or he was just generally not enthusiastic about it. After Church and soul-feeding it was time for some good body-feeding at lunch in a local restaurant. I saw that they had Country Fried Steak (European translation: Schnitzel) so I was good!
One thing Jen and I were hoping to see today was the Minnesota game. We found a local sports bar that was showing the game. During the 2nd half Mom joined us and were able to witness Minnesota give the Giants one of the worst losses in while. Eli Manning will probably wish to erase that game from his memory, but it gave the Vikings a decent shot at the wild-card race.
Feeling good about the outcome of the Viking game Mom gave us a little tour of Wickenburg. She showed us a few places she looked at before moving in to her current home and drove by another ranch she was looking at last year to board Bart. One of the interesting things about Wickenburg is that all the houses are either the Pueblo / Adobe style houses or single-story ranches. Not a single two-story house to be found. Local building code perhaps?
Sunday-night dinner was chicken and wild rice followed by Pure Country, a movie with George Strait. Better than I thought it would be. We topped-off the evening by another round of Gin 13 and packing for the flight home tomorrow. Yep, time to leave the sun and Arizona behind again tomorrow. Sigh...
Since our flight left at about 10.50am, but our Super Shuttle was to pick us up at 7.30am at Dell Web Memorial - and since Grandma had a cataract appointment at 7.45am it was a pretty early rise for us. Luckily we packed everything the night before. The drive to Phoenix was beautiful. Pretty quiet and we were able to see a good ol' AZ sunrise on our last day!
We were at Dell Web around 7.15am and said our goodbyes and following some last-minute photos with Grandma we played some more Gin 13 until the shuttle arrived. We continued our game until we reached the airport. The hour-long drive seemed a lot shorter this way. After a quick bathroom break we checked-out the airport bookstores and magazine stands until it was time to find our gate.
The flight home was pretty uneventful with only a slight delay in Denver, but otherwise not much happened. We played some more cards, Jen slept some more, I read some more and at about 6.30pm we were back in - a rainy - Ohio. One of the good things about coming home after a trip is to see Bailey again. Makes the post-travel blues a lot easier.
All-in-all, a great trip. Thanks Mom and Grandma. Hope to see you again soon!