Mark D. Simpson
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|Wednesday September 4, 2002
The following is Kathleen
Marie Beddow Simpson's journal from our 2002 trip to Colorado, Utah,
Arizona, and New Mexico sometimes referred to as the Grand Circle tour
around the Four Corners area.
Obviously, this journal web page is a work-in-progress. Please be patient
as we get it updated.
We went so that Kathleen could do this............
Kathleen standing in Colorado, Utah, Arizona, & New Mexico all at once !
|Day 1 Tuesday June 18, 2002|
Up at 6:30 AM
Mom and Dad arrived at 8:40 to drive us to the Charlottesville airport. Had to arrive one hour before our 10:35 flight to Atlanta.
Attempted to check in at Delta desk ... the guy behind the counter informed me that my driver's license had expired Sept. 2001 ! Had to take a taxi home to get Social Security card. Plenty of time, thank goodness !
Flew tiny Delta school-bus-with-wings to Atlanta by noon. Just enough time to hit the restrooms and board the next Delta flight to Chicago.
Had a tasty pizza for a late lunch in Chicago (O'Hare airport) before boarding American Airline flight 1021 to Denver.
All flights today were fine. Only big hitch was that Mark's check-in bag didn't come with us!
Here we are in Denver; it's 9:45 PM (which is really 11:45 to us) and we're still waiting for Mark's suitcase to arrive. At least we've checked in to our Mark I Suite, which is really quite large and nice. More like a one-bedroom apartment complete with full-sized living room, and a kitchen with dishwasher!
Since the office here closes at 7:00 pm, we've had to wait here for the luggage. We've just now finished another meal of pizza- Pizza Hut delivery this time. It'll be rather impossible to stay on our diet if we keep eating pizza like this. Wonder if anyone delivers heads of lettuce?!
Sure hope the suitcase arrives soon. Long, six hour drive tomorrow. At least we have a fairly nice Montero Sport (4X4) from Alamo rental.
After what we hope will be a good night's sleep, we'll be headed for Grand Junction tomorrow, with a stop at Red Rocks (amphitheater).
Hooray! 10:pm exactly (midnight back east for us) and the bag has arrived
Off to bed!
Red Rocks amphitheater west of Denver, CO
|Wednesday June 19, 2002|
Up at 6:30 AM once again.
Checked out and went to the Red Rocks Amphitheater which was fabulous! Walked all the way to the very top... over 250 steps! Took lots of pictures. Met a lovely couple from Scotland! (Perth).
Found a Wal-Mart, bought more "switchable" cameras, grabbed a quick (fattening) lunch at McDonald's , and left Denver by noon.
Made it to Grand Junction by 4:00! All reports had said it would take about 6 hours but we did it in 4! Unbelievable drive through the Colorado Rockies !
Checked in at the Days Inn at Grand Junction. Stopped by the Visitors Center just up the street ( on Horizon Drive( and obtained lots of helpful info from a delightful lady there.
Onto the Colorado National Monument, founded by John Otto who died exactly 50 years ago today. This place is just too amazing to describe. I took loads of pictures and Mark shot lots of video and we're certain none of it will do it all justice. We had a grand time hopping in and out of the car to capture all those "Kodak" moments.
Exhausted by 7:30 PM, we returned to our hotel for steak and wine.
Colorado National Monument (Grand Junction in the distance)
Along the road to Moab, Utah (Colorado River)
Fisher Towers ( on the route from Grand Junction, CO to Moab, UT )
|Thursday June 20, 2002|
Up at 7:30 am Terrific full breakfast! (included in our stay at a very nice Days Inn in Grand Junction, CO)
Left Grand Junction around 10:30 and took the scenic route to Moab UT, We are sooo glad we went that route ! The photos we took will hopefully reflect the beauty we witnessed today. Our 3-mile drive off the route and down a packed-dirt/gravel road rewarded us with an outstanding experience all to ourselves at Fisher Towers. Several John Wayne movies, as well as other westerns and television commercials were filmed here. It would have been so easy to drive right on pat it without ever knowing what we would have missed.
We reached the outskirts of Moab around 12:30 and decided to go to Arches National Park. Another excellent decision! "Delicate natural sandstone arches and impossibly balanced rocks are among the amazing geological features at this national park near Moab." I cannot even remember how many pictures I took in this park, but they’ll be great! The 2-mile hike (up & down in sand and gravel) ended with a view of the infamous Landscape Arch! I was really dead on my feet after that trek.
Back on the main drag, into the town of Moab where we spotted the Slickrock Café on Main Street not far from our room at the Ramada Inn. After checking in, we rested up a bit and around 5:00 we scoped out the Slickrock Café --- beer, nachos, burgers. T-shirts, and Cyber-Space were all part of the evening there.
Time to write a few postcards and hit the hay. (9:00pm)
Tomorrow its on to Cortez, CO
Arches National Park (near Moab, Utah)
Slickrock Cafe in Moab, Utah
|Friday June 21, 2002|
|We awoke on the first day of summer at 7:00 am in Moab
After attempting to a ride on the "ski-lift", called the Moab Skyway, which is actually a chair lift ride to the Moab Rim (1,000 feet above town) we had a quick McDonald’s breakfast and a visit to the Moab Information Center. The folks there told us all about why he Skyway ride was closed…. due to mistaken identity with a similar yet less enjoyable place ( near the northern entrance to Moab) which never opened.
Anyway, we were told that if we so desired, we could drive way up on the road beyond the Skyway place for a truly "off-road" experience into Kane Creek Canyon. OH MY GOODNESS !!! We did it and we are very happy about it. Our pictures and video will only barely touch upon what we saw and experience. Once, again, we had the place all to ourselves! (This is where I picked up the "souvenir" rock) Next we drove about two hours south on route 666 (the devil, you say) to Cortez, Colorado. Checked in at the Best Western Turquoise Inn (very nice) and headed for the Four Corners Monument, about 35 miles southwest of Cortez..
Experienced the four corners of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah, along with lots of novelty stands featuring T-shirts and jewelry, Ate some wonderfully delicious Navajo Frybread "all the way…. the works", which means it was topped with powdered sugar, cinnamon, and honey--- YUM!
Drove back to Cortez, walked to the Main Street Brewery and met the German-born owner (Rudy) who spent a great deal of time at the bar where we were perched, discussing the drought and retirement! Thoroughly enjoyed ourselves ( and several beers) at the establishment; learned all about Kokopelli, the hunch-backed flute player Native American from this area ( AD 400) , whose likenesses depicted upon everything from beer coasters to T-shirts. Had truly enjoyable evening for our first of two nights in Cortez, Colorado.
We will rise early enough tomorrow to spend a full day ay the Mesa Verde National Park, not far from here.
11:00 pm – time for bed.
|Saturday June 22, 2002|
|Awoke at 7:15, had our very substantial continental
breakfast here at the Best Western Turquoise Inn, downtown Cortez, CO, and
went to the Wal-Mart Superstore right down the street to drop off 3 on my
cameras for development. Picked up some more bottled water and a few snacks
and headed for the Mesa Verde National Park; entrance is only 9 miles from
Spent all day ( from around 11 am until 4:30 pm ) at the Mesa Verde.
It was truly amazing to see those Cliff dwellings in person, and then be able to actually experience two of them up close and personal was AWESOME!
We braved the "strenuous"100 vertical climb ( including five wooden ladders and lots of steep steps) at the Cliff Palace which is Mesa Verde’s largest cliff dwelling.
We also to the very winding descent ( and of course ascent) path to Spruce Tree House, which is the best –preserved cliff dwelling in the Mesa Verde. It also included a fully-enclosed kiva which you could climb down inside of on a wooden ladder about 8 feet tall. I don’t like ladders very much but I climbed them all! I’m glad I did ! Mark and I are very proud of ourselves for all the physical challenges we have met in the last few days. We have been weary at the end of each day, but it has been worth it.
Tomorrow we leave Cortez and head for Page Arizona which is going to be a rather long ( about 6 or 7 hours) .
Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde National Park (near Cortez, CO)
|Sunday June 23, 2002|
|Up at :30 – another enjoyable
complimentary continental breakfast at the Best Western Turquoise Inn at
Stopped for gas and ice, then headed out for the scenic drive toward Page, Arizona. This route took us on a rather round-about, zigzagged way, but we wanted to go through the Valley of the Gods and through Monument Valley. Boy, oh boy, are we ever weary tonight, but it was a great photo-worthy trip
We had left Cortez round 8:30 and stopped for lunch in the tiny town of Mexican Hat. Good lunch including more Navajo Frybread at the Hat Rock Café.
Even though we were beat, we really needed to do some laundry, so we first attempted to use the Quality Inn at Lake Powell guest facilities. The laundry room was as far from our room as it could possibly be and the detergent vending machine took our money but was empty, Fine ! Mark got his money back at the lobby desk, we hopped into the car and drove three blocks to a Laundromat. It was rather yucky, but we accomplished our task in one hour and headed back to the hotel.
Finally had the time to relax and have a nice dinner in the hotel dining room. Ate too much (again) and now must get to sleep.
Tomorrow we will drive about 100 miles to see the Grand Canyon!
|Monday June 24, 2002|
|Awoke at 5:40 am Arizona time (6:40 Denver time) –
enjoyed a complete, satisfying breakfast in the hotel dining room. We
noticed that the French couple from the previous evening’s meal was sitting
at the next table again. The woman left her dark blue jacket behind when
they left. Wonder if she ever returned for it?
We register for a guided tour to antelope canyon for tomorrow at 10:30 am. Arrangements were made at the hotel gift shop.
Around 8:30 (AZ time) Mark drove us to the Grand Canyon (North Rim) about 100 miles from Page.
We simply could not believe our eyes! Everyone should visit the Grand Canyon. Amazingly huge and unbelievably beautiful!
Our lunch at the lodge was terrific! Afterwards, we saw more wonderful parts of the Northern Rim of the Grand Canyon. Mark’s video is very good, and wait until you see the picture he took of me standing out over the canyon on a big rock ledge! All very special to us. We are so tired … I drove us back to our hotel,
No dinner, 3 three big scoops of ice cream each. Then … bedtime
|Tuesday June 25, 2002|
|After another full breakfast at our hotel in Page (Lake
Powell Quality Inn) , we packed the car, locked and left it in the lot,
checked out, and waited in the lobby until 10:15 am. That’s when Jessie (
who looked a lot like Mr. Ridge[ Greene County school custodian who was once
World Champion Hog Caller"] ) came in his Suburban to take us on a guided
tour through Antelope Canyon! Navajo people tell us that in 1932 a little
Navajo girl discovered this very unique "slot" canyon while looking for her
lost sheep. What a beautiful place ! Hope our pictures show how terrific it
Jessie took us back to the hotel around 12:20, and we headed for Kanab, Utah.
Checked into the Best Western Red Hills Inn (Kanab) at 4:00
Left for Zion Canyon National Park, about 40 minutes away. Didn’t really see everything in Zion Canyon, but really appreciated the shade, the 80 degree temperatures ( 100 degrees in the sun), the deer and squirrels, the large trees near the babbling brook, etc. Very much of a relief from all the desert and rocks everywhere else. We have enjoyed all of it, but Zion canyon was a nice change.
Headed back to Kanab around 7:30 pm. Had a wonderful dinner on the corner opposite our of our hotel at a restaurant called the Rocking V. The owners are Victor and Vicki, thus the name!
Had to do a load of laundry; didn’t use the dryers, just hung it wet around the room.
Tomorrow we’ll see Bryce Canyon, about 90-100 miles from Kanab.
|Wednesday June 26, 2002|
|Full continental breakfast in the Best
Western Red Hill Inn.
Left there around 9:00 am and drove about 75-80 miles ( not 90-100) to Bryce Canyon. This Canyon is not to be missed! I’m soooo glad we decided to go up to Kanab from Page, even though we’ll have to backtrack to Page in order to get to Flagstaff and on to Holbrook, AZ
Mark and I took the self guided road/tour through Bryce Canyon. There were four major viewpoints where we stopped for "Kodak" moments. (Bryce Point, Inspiration Point, Sunset Point, and Sunrise Point). All these areas were overwhelmingly high; deeper than the Grand Canyon. ( Bryce Point is 8300 feet high)
When I took the very last picture in my disposable camera, we left Bryce Canyon and drove back to Kanab. Got to our hotel around 4:00 so we did another load of laundry, freshened up, and had a nice prime rib (with wine) dinner just up the street at Parry’s. Then we drove about a block and a half away to the Vermilion Café to have coffee and check/send e-mail. Took a few pictures of the café and the hotel, then bought a few souvenirs "Denny’s Wigwam", including my Kokopelli "beanie baby" and key chain!
Back to the Red Hills Inn for a decent night’s sleep. On to Holbrook, AZ tomorrow.
|Thursday June 27, 2002
We nearly FROZE to death last night! Apparently, it is impossible to turn off the air conditioning in our hotel room ( from the wall unit controls) so it gt really cold and colder all night. Mark and I were showered, dressed, packed, and breakfasted in record time. We left Kanab at 9:00 am and crossed over into Arizona by 8:15 am! Yep- - they aren’t ever on Daylight Savings Time in AZ.
Stopped at the tiny town (again) of Cliff Dwellers because we wanted to walk inside the little house with the partial rock roof, the one we took a picture of on Monday when we were coming back from the Grand Canyon. The house is empty and has two small rooms with dirt floors. Not sure if anyone ever lived here before; I sure hope not! Interesting place though.
Drove on to Flagstaff, right on through to Winslow, Oh, of course, we just had to stop and "stand on the corner in Winslow, Arizona" ( from the Eagles song "Take it Easy") …. Been there done that, got the T-shirt! Phone Janine and Bill (Armstrong) from that corner- left a message on their answering machine. Phoned Mary-Scott and Jim (Rhoads), and they answered! I sang to them from the "corner" – they were amused!
The lady who sold us the Winslow, AZ T-shirts at the Hallmark store told us about the Whistle Stop diner so we there for a late lunch. This true diner only seats 9 or 10 people at the skinny little counter and they served us some GIANT hamburgers with the "works" , along with lots of fries and Coke for me, iced tea for Mark. Very good food, very good prices.
Drove another 20 minutes to Holbrook Days INN – very nice room but awfully smoky outside. We are about 50 miles north of Show Low which has been evacuated due to forest fires. We’ll be fine for the one night we’re here.
Oh! I forgot to mention: right before Winslow, we stopped at the Meteor Crater which is 550 feet deep and ¾ of a mile wide. Our astronauts (Apollo) have trained there for the moon missions since the terrain is so similar to that of the moon.
Now we are about to go out for a couple of beers and a night on the town! Actually, I think we’re headed for the Safeway and a six-pack.
We’ll drive to Gallup, New Mexico tomorrow.
|Friday June 28, 2002
Coffee, juice, cereal and then we left Holbrook. Red Cross trucks and volunteers were everywhere, along with some insurance agents from All State. Luckily, for everyone, the sky seemed clear and the local news reported that things were looking more under control regarding the fires nearby Show Low.
We drove north through the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert. Neither place was what we had expected; very interesting, though, and beautiful in it’s own way.
Reached Gallup, New Mexico around 2:30 pm and checked in at the Best Western Red Rock Inn.
Drove across busy Gallup to the Wal-Mart to have 8 rolls of film developed. Ate a huge late lunch at the Cracker Barrel nearby, then went back to Wal-Mart and got all our pictures.
Proceeded to drive to Zuni Pueblo which is NOT AT ALL what we had expected. It is actually the "hutong" (slums) of New Mexico. The ancient pueblo dwellings have built upon with a few "improvements" and many of the Zuni Indians live there. Tourists are allowed to drive through, but are encouraged to arrange for a guided tour. Along with the guided tour you may purchase a permit to take pictures. Without the permit, NO PICTURES or VIDEOS may be taken, The office where you buy the permit was closed ( we got there after 5:00 pm) so we have ZERO pictures of Zuni Pueblo, Fine! Anyway, it was very "different" ; the way those people live is not at all appealing to me!
Drove back to Gallup and noticed that our ground-floor room had no way to lock the windows! We moved to a second-floor room.
We’ll head for Alamosa, Colorado tomorrow.
Nice late (9:00pm) dinner at Earl’s in Gallup. Waiter reminded of Lou Diamond Phillips.
|Saturday, June 29, 2002
Coffee, juice, cereal, toast and we left Gallup at 9:00 am. Had quite long ugly drive through some flat desert lands of New Mexico. Stopped in Dulce (icky) for gas and a much needed pit stop. Stopped in Chama for an "OK" lunch ( burgers & fries & a half-wit waiter). Mark and I find nothing we liked about New Mexico other than leaving it.
Crossed into Colorado ( Hooray!) around 3:15pm and arrived in Alamosa by about 4:00. Had a little trouble finding the Days Inn; checked in at 4:30 after calling them from some side street off of Main. The room is adequate; we’re glad to be back in Colorado and out of the car!
Alamosa is nestled in in the Colorado Rockies in the San Luis Valley, which is the largest alpine valley in the world. It’s over 80 miles long ( from north to south) and about 50 miles wide. The San Juan Range on the west is the Continental Divide. The Sangre de Cristo Range on the east is one of the tallest in Colorado. Alamosa, which is Spanish for "cottonwood" was settled in 1878, and with rails for trains in all four directions, it became the center of the valley. Wonderful place !
Mark and I had an extra special delicious dinner in Alamosa at Trujillo’s. This superb restaurant serves excellent Margaritas ( we each has two – one a huge 25 oz. and then a 16 oz. each) . Mark had the salmon dinner and I had the Parmesan chicken. Very expensive …. Very good. I liked the way the salad was prepared and served to our liking at the table.
Back to our room at the Days Inn right down the street a few blocks, by 9:30pm
Tomorrow we’ll go visit the Great Sand Dunes National Monument and Preserve. Then we’ll continue on to Colorado Springs.
|Sunday June 30, 2002
Checked out of the Days Inn at Alamosa, CO after a quick breakfast at McDonalds.
Drove about 35 miles northeast to the Great Sand Dunes National Monument and Preserve. It’s a GREAT sand dune, for sure! About 750 feet high and covering more than 50 square miles; Mark and I walked around at the base of it and took several pictures. Even at 10:15am it was already beginning to get very hot out in the open and the sand in the sun. We found a bit of shade under a few scrub trees where we also found a ranger (Kathy Schultz) who gave us our own private talk all about the dunes! She was so friendly and informative.
Left there and traveled on to Pueblos, CO where we had another gigantic lunch at another Cracker Barrel right off I-25.
Arrived in Colorado Springs and had to call to get directions to the Econo Lodge near Peterson AFB. We checked into room 100, one of the nicest rooms we’ve had on this trip. King bed, refrigerator, microwave, coffeemaker, real close to our car and to ice machine and sodas!
Tomorrow we’ll visit Pike’s Peak, Manitou Cliff Dwellings, and the Cave of the Winds. Then we’ll head to Denver for our last night.
It is only 4:00 pm so we've decided to go to the Manitou Cliff Dwellings and Cave of the Winds today. They are about 1/4 mile from each other.
Well, if we had never been to Mesa Verde to the Cliff Palace, then we would have been more impressed with Manitou Cliff Dwellings. Manitou is super duper tourist trap, however it was beautiful and very well put together. The gift shop was in a huge adobe pueblo-like building and I could have spent an hour in there, and lots of money, it's just as well we moved on.
Cave of the Winds was good. The road leading up to it was scary! I really like the picture they took of us at the beginning of our Discovery Tour of the underground cave. Mark and I chose to be last in the group; the tour guide asked us to yell out something unique each time we all made it to the next "room" on the tour so he would know we were all still together. Mark and I hollered "KOKOPELLI !" the guide was a young kid (19-22 ish) and his voice nearly drove us all nuts! Mark said he sounded like an encyclopedia salesman , very sing-songy and bored. Anyway, it was fairly interesting, but not as good as Luray Caverns or Endless Caverns in VA.
Drove back into Colorado Springs, which we really like, at around 8:00 pm and stopped off at the Safeway for cheese, salami, and wine coolers. Back to that nice, well-appointed room in the EconoLodge for a relaxing evening.
Tomorrow we'll go to Pike's Peak and then head to Denver.
|Monday July 1, 2002
WOW! July already? Today we (Mark) prepared breakfast pizza and coffee in our very well appointed Econo Lodge room . We checked out at 9:00 am and found our way easily to Pike's Peak. We went right past Manitou Cliff Dwellings and Cave of the Winds! It's a good thing we did those two places yesterday because we devoted quite a bit of our day to Pike's Peak. We can't believe we survived the drive 19 miles to the summit! At over 14,000 feet altitude, I felt very dizzy and a bit ill. We could only stay up there about 15 or 20 minutes. We both noticed a difference even just 2 miles back down at 12,000 feet. The views were all spectacular !
Left Pike's Peak and drove back to Colorado Springs to look for a Wal-Mart. There are four! We found the one on 8th Street and their 1-hour photos were going to take 3-hours so we left. Found another Wal-Mart on Platte Ave. after having lunch at Wood Grill Buffet. Dropped of the last of our film for developing and then drove to the Land Rover dealer on Motor City Blvd. Whoa! What a street! Do they have a lot of car dealers or what ? Mark bought a cap and a shirt. We headed back to Wal-Mart to get a small suitcase and the last of our vacation pictures. Finally headed for Denver at 4:30pm. Checked into the very fancy (ooh-la-la) Marriott in Aurora at Gateway Park 9 miles from Denver International Airport. Returned our rental car to Alamo at the airport and took the Marriott shuttle back to the hotel.
Nice dinner in one of the hotel restaurants. Wrote some postcards and this journal entry. Time for bed. It's 11:00pm and I have to get up at 2:15am!
|Tuesday July 2, 2002
Alarm went off at 2:14am! Mark woke up as I shut it off and said, "You're kidding!" It was really hard to get up but we did it. Ready by 3:45 so we took all our stuff down to the lobby, checked out at the front desk, and boarded the 4:00 am shuttle to the Denver airport.
Had to remove our shoes, my carry-on (with mug wrapped in a sweater, plus all our pictures) was searched by hand as was my purse and myself! Actually they patted down my legs and "wanded" the rest of me. After passing inspection, we boarded the American Airlines plane to Chicago.
From Chicago, we flew Delta to Cincinnati where we had a McDonald's lunch in the airport.
Flew from Cincinnati to Charlottesville by 4:45pm where Mom and Dad ( Doris and Frank Beddow) were waiting to take us home. They had bottled water, tomatoes, eggs, bacon, and bread all in a cooler for us. So sweet !
We feel as if we've been away for a month! It was a terrific vacation, but its good to be home.
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