In 1967 my father bought a Pontiac Catalina and a dingy old travel trailer and took his girlfriend, my brother and me on a road trip. Over the next 8 weeks we drove 13,498 miles, visited 51 parks, and saw wonders like geysers, redwoods, grizzlies, and the Summer of Love in San Francisco. The trip made an indelible impression, cementing my appreciation for the natural world and the American landscape. This summer Pamela and I hope to repeat the experience for our family.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


Friday, July 2nd

9:20 Left camp site at Bryce. Broke camp in good time.

10:40 Stopped at a sign that said "Bake Sale." Turns out it was a lady running a baking business out of a stand next ot a KOA camp ground.

She was a nice young woman and we spent a pleasant 15 minutes talking to her. She had moved to the area a few years earlier. She has three kids, the oldest ten. She seemed very interested in Lark (a representative of the teenage tribe) and expressed some anxiety about raising teenagers. Understandable, considering where she lives. Beautiful country but not much for teenagers to do except join the 4-H or get in trouble.

The baker lady wore her hair back in a bun, which made her look a bit like one of those Mormon fundamentalist. Leaning into the booth a bit, we saw she was wearing jeans. If she was fundamentalist, presumably she would be wearing one of those Laura Ingals Wilder dresses.

The baked goods were excellent. We ended up buying 6 chocolate chip cookies, 1 piece of pumpkin pie, 1 piece of cheese cake, 1 cupcake, and 1 loaf of bread.

11:35 Entered Arizona

12:25 Stopped at an overlook to picnic on rocks with a sweeping view. of the Vermillion Cliffs. Extremely windy. Linden's styrofoam container (leftover from last night) sailed out into the gulf before us.

1:13 Crossed Colorado RIver at Lee's Ferry and entered the Dine Nation.

2:30 Stopped at Cameron Trading Post for gas and stretch. Linden bought some silver and turquoise pawn earrings.

3:30 Entered Grand Canyon National Park

3:40 Climbed Watch Tower at Dessert View and ate pumpkin pie purchased at 'bake sale." Really good pie.

Pamela: Cloud World

On Thursday we backtracked about 50 miles up highway 89 through a beautiful valley filled with farms and edged with spectacular cliffs. Our objective was artist Maynard Dixon’s house and studio in Mt. Carmel, UT. Dave and have always admired Dixon’s work and had read that his studio was out this way.

The tour began in a beautifully appointed gallery. The art shown was all by contemporary plein air painters. Most we would gladly hang on our walls. None we could afford. From the gallery we walked a short way to the homestead nestled in a cottonwood grove. The log and stone buildings framed a small square of grass. The Mary Coulter influenced house was small with high ceilings. Dave and I could have moved in tomorrow. The studio was built later and was reminiscent of Wright’s Taliesin designs. The third side of the courtyard was comprised of a bunkhouse where artists can come for several days to paint.

After wandering through the grounds we climbed up a hill to the spot where Dixon requested his ashes be spread. The view was one he painted often with the red and white layers cliffs across the valley and the azure sky polka-dotted with puffy clouds. The man in the gallery called them Dixon clouds.

Back the gallery Lark settled in at the grand piano while Dave and I bought a Dixon print to be shipped home. It is called Cloud World. Linden told the man it reminded her of Georgia O’Keefe. He replied that it was the other way around. Dixon showed that very painting in 1923 at Columbia, a time when O’Keefe still was living in New York. It was the only painting from the American southwest. O’Keefe saw Cloud World before she ever moved west. From now on, great puffy clouds that float in a blue blue sky will forever be Dixon clouds.

Dave: The gentle murmur of Japanese

When visiting Bryce Canyon, you're supposed to watch the sun rise. At least that's what all lthe guidebooks say. That seemed unlikely considering Lark's sleep needs, but, to my surprise, she readily agreed. (Normally you need dynamite to get her out of bed.) So we woke up at 5:45, pulled on clothes, and jumped in the car. Pamela and I even made the ultimate sacrifice of forgoing coffee.

We drove to Bryce Point, which is on the south end of the area they call the amphitheater, a natural bowl where the most hoodoos are found. (A hoodoo is what they call the strange, almost human forms carved in rock throughout Bryce.)

When we arrived at the parking lot for Bryce Point, we were disappointed to see two tour buses there already. Great. Now we would have to share a sublime moment with 120 blathering tourists. But, after making the short walk to the point, we found thet the people from the bus were all Japanese tourists.

That made it okay. The Japanese were blathering, but softly, respectfully, and in a foreign language. Together their voices almost sounded like the wind sighing.

The sun finally peeked above the clouds on the horizon thirty or so miles away and the carved walls around us burst into color and shadow. It was spectacular.

Later we took what the park service documents call "the best 3-mile hike in the world." I must say, it is pretty incredible. A trail that runs down through the hoodoos, with lots of windows carved through the rock, providing vistas of deep blue sky. One neatly framed the nearly full moon.

At one point people had starting making their own hoodoos out of cairns. Everywhere you looked was a cairn, including dozens up in the trees. Normally I balk at human interference when you're out in the wilds, but this was transient. And funny.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


Wednesday, June 30th

8:45 Sat on balcony at Bumbleberry Inn and ate left over pizza and monkey fingers with coffee while admiring extraordinary view.

9:15 Pamela walked to Sol Food Market to pick up ice and necessities.

9:25 Left money in day-pack at motel. Had to walk back to get it.

10:00 Checked out of Bumbleberry Inn

10:06 Zion Visitor Center so Dave could buy National Park patch

10:30 Left Visitor Center

11:14 Leave Zion National Park

11:20 Spot buffalo roaming

11:25 Math class


Thunderbird Restaurant

Home of the Ho-made Pie

-Mt. Carmel, UT (Mustang Ranch retirement opportunities?)

12:42 Elevation 7777 ft.

12:50 Enter Bryce Canyon National Park

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Dave: Zion National Park always gets short shrift

I've been to Zion three times now. Each time, I've spent only a few hours there.

Many people tell me Zion is their favorite park. I believe them. But it seems like life doesn't want me to get familiar with the place.

Today we were slow leaving Vegas. It took a while to schlep all the bags around and get Judy acclimated to the rental car she is using (while we borrow her van) and the navigation system we provided to take to the place of the Honda's nice GPS. Plus we had to stop at Barnes and Noble to restock Linden's book supply. She had already blown through all the books she brought on the trip. To boot, we forgot about losing an hour when we crossed back into Mountain Time. Even eating a rolling picnic, we didn't get to our motel in Springdale until 5 PM.

Immediately we pulled on our hiking books and jumped on the shuttle bus up the canyon. Instead of taking an afternoon hike, as we had planned, we only had time to do a few fly-bys.

Even so, it proved to be extremely pleasant.

Of course, the landscape is spectacular. Incredible, soaring ramparts of red and white, all towering over a pleasant river valley lined with cottonwoods.

The shuttle system they have instituted at Zion eliminates the sense of crowds, vehicular gridlock, and suicidal rampages that come on me when visiting some national parks. Instead, your focus turns back to the landscape. There are people around, of course, but it doesn't feel suffocating. I wonder whether total visitor numbers are up or down since the shuttles were introduced.

We rode the shuttle to the top of the canyon and took a short hike along the river, but were soon driven back when a summer thundershower unleashed a downpour on us. Then we worked our way down the canyon, stopping for some other pleasant little hikes at the weeping rocks and the emerald pools. After spotting some deer, there was much laughter when we started identifying anything that moved as a deer.

Back in Springdale we had pizza and beer on a deck at a place called the Flying Monkey. We looked out at the soaring jagged red walls while the sun set. We talked to our waitress, who is planning to leave Springdale soon and move to St. Louis, where she hopes to be more active in historic re-enactments. A warm breeze blew and the whole time we did not see a single mosquito. I guess we are not in Florence, Massachusetts.

Tomorrow we're going to drive across Zion on the way to Bryce. So it was short and sweet today. Shame. I could see some intriguing trails heading up into the remote, rocky passes. I could almost hear them calling out to me.

Oh well. Maybe on visit number four Zion and I can get serious.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Tuesday, June 29

11:00 Checked out of Mirage Hotel

11:30 Went to Barnes and Noble to get Linden a book. Said goodbye to Grandma Judy.

12:00 Stopped at Vons to get picnic items for lunch.

1:52 (WAT) ….(also known as weird AZ time) Entered AZ

3:18 (MT) Entered UT. Landscape starting to get interesting.

4:01 Passed ostrich farm. Approaching Zion. Landscape spectacular.

4:09 Entering Rockville. The road just turned red. Matches the trees. Seeing lots of apricot trees loaded with ripe fruit.

4:12 Entering Springdale, UT. Check in to Bumbleberry Inn.

1967: Las Vegas

10:15 Left motel- headed into the section of Las Vegas called Neon Canyon. The light displays are fantastic. We had heard that The Mint had a glass elevator that rode up 24 stories to the glass enclosed sky room on top.

Watched a lady play the Jolly Red Giant which is a giant red slot machine. She was making some tremendous winnings. She won 10 $25 jackpots.

Pamela: All You Need is Love

It’s hard to describe Cirque du Soleil’s Love. It is the most amazing show I have ever seen. I sat entranced from start to finish. The show seemed sprung from the wild imaginings of some great creative genius—like the Beatles—perhaps as John Lennon might have dreamed in those moments just before waking when your dreams are their most vivid. Colors, lights, images all enhanced and danced with the melodies of Beatle songs that you have thought you had heard a million times before but realized that until now you have never really heard them at all. This was definitely our 2010 Summer of Love experience.


Actual day of driving began Sunday, June 27, 2010

Miles: 0

10:36 Left Grandma Judy’s in Fallbrook, CA

11:22 Stopped for gas at March Air force Base. Great Grandma Thelma Spalding worked here in World War II

11:51 Crossed Route 66

12:00 Elevation 4,000 feet

12:03 Detour due to major accident. I 15 closed ahead. Got off the freeway to search for alternate route

12:10 In and Out Burgers! Chocolate milkshakes

1:12 Buddhist temple in midst of Joshua trees.

3:00 Stopped Alien Fresh Jerky

5:00 Crossed into Nevada

5:30 Entered Vegas, land of excess. What happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas?

Linden: 563 Fahrenheit

Today was the hottest day of my life.

Tomorrow will probably be the hottest day of my life.

And the next day will probably be the hottest day of my life.

All in all, it's pretty hot here.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Dave: Godforsaken California

Heading up I-15 to Vegas, we see a flashing highway sign telling us the highway is closed ahead because of a big accident.

We pull off in Hesperia to plot a stratgy, and we get lucky. The exit unloads us into an In 'n Out Burger. The kids were delighted by the cheerful '50s ambience of the place, and they termed the chocolate shakes "brilliant."

Someone probably died in that accident on I-15, but for us it provided the occasion for a fun (and inexpensive) lunch.

Then we had to detour up 395, and head east on 58 to Barstow. This took us through a godforsaken landscape. It's mostly flat, scrubby vegetation, some Joshua trees reaching up for the sky. Pretty normal Mojave landscape. There are lots of widely spaced houses and almost every one is abandoned, boarded up, some covered with graffiti. Some yards feature rusty travel trailers. It's grim. I wonder what economic tide brought people to this area in the first place. Whatever it was, it ebbed many years ago, leaving only human flotsam behind.

When we reach Barstow and rejoin the highway, I think we'll have smooth sailing. Instead, we hit bumper to bumper and crawled along for another 10 miles until traffic settles down to a fast steady flow heading into Vegas on a Sunday night. Reminds me of the reasons I left California. There are so many cars and so many people.

Dave: Digital vacations and the Sherpak 15

My friend Bruce Favish warned me about taking all kinds of electronic gear on a vacation like ours. When he traveled to Yosemite with his girlfriend and her kids, he said, "We're passing all this incredible natural splendor and they barely looked up from their screens."

I agreed that was something of a worry, but so far it's the adults who have spent the vacation glued to their screens. Our plan for yesterday was to pack up the van at Judy's house and hit the road earlier. Instead, we got lost in IT issues and working to fine tune this blog. I was fighting with Google maps, trying to make our map look right. Pamela was experimenting with the intricacies of posting a polished looking slide show.

Pretty soon a couple hours had passed and we finally had to decide the map was good enough and the slide show would have to wait.

Fortunately, it was easy to pack the van. We had bought a rooftop carrier, the Sherpak 15. I was a little worried about how difficult that thing might be to use. Instead, it was a breeze.

That reminded me of the rooftop carrier my father made. This wasn't for our 1967 trip. We used this one on earlier camping trips. My family had very little money, and my father was loathe to spend any of it. But we needed room to carry camping gear.

At the time, there was a new subdivision going in down the street. Most of us were resentful of it because it changed the feel of the neighborhood. The developers had one of those big signs out front saying something like, "Coming soon, new 3 bedroom ranches."

One evening my father took my brother and me down there and pulled down the sign, which was really a sheet of 4x8 plywood. The three of us hauled it home. There he cut it in half, added some sidewalls, et voila, you have a rooftop rack. Probably leaked like a sieve, but the price was right. Plus he was striking a blow against the empire.

In comparison, the Sherpak 15 was just a declaration of our membership in the middle class. We struck no blows by loading it up with sleepbags and folding chairs.

Pamela: Saturday Chores

Fallbrook, CA

We’ve had a couple days full of touristing. But now my mother is exhausted and the girls are still catching up from, as Jaden’s Smith’s character in Karate Kid says, “airplane lag.” I’ve got one day to do all the chores that still need to be done before we set out. Dave comes in at 5:00 tonight and we head to Vegas tomorrow morning.

The day starts with laundry. Rule # 2 on a road trip is to always make use of a washing machine when you have one. (Rule # 1 is similar, just change out bathroom for washing machine.) I have to test the air mattresses and make sure the pump I brought fits them. This is important because I’m way too old to even consider sleeping on the ground. They work! One more thing to cross off my list.

Next on the list is the tent. I unpack it from the shipping box and take it out on the driveway. Lark, Linden and I read the directions and begin assembling it. With only minimal snapping at each other, we manage to set it up. It’s big and roomy and goes up pretty easily.

Now it’s off to do errands. I leave the girls with books and emails to catch up on and head out. My first stop is to the local grocery store, Major Market. I love the aisles of wonderful Mexican delicacies so easily purchased here. This is one of the things I miss most about living in New England. When I finish up my purchases I notice the market has set up a grill in the parking lot. I stop for a couple of street tacos—yummy. While sitting at a picnic table in the parking lot I have a lovely chat with a man about his favorite ice cream in New England, Kimball’s. I’ll have to try it when I get home. I tell him about Herrell’s and then it’s off to Target, and Trader Joe’s.

Everything gets done in time to head to the airport.