Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Journey East

In the course of my travels I have made an oddly shaped circle around the country going from Florida to Maine to Tennessee to Washington to Nevada and now back to Florida. I have seen so much and each of my trips has held completely different experiences for me. Every area and people had their own distinct idiosyncrasies, landscapes, and culture, and I loved being a part of it all for short periods of time. This trip back home along the southern part of our country was no different. I went from Nevada to Arizona the first day and was planning on stopping by the Grand Canyon again; (I have been there before.) However, it was about an hour out of my way, and when I found it was snowing in AZ south of where I wanted to go I began to reevaluate my plans. (You know how I feel about snow) :). So in true "Ivy" fashion I changed my plans last minute and decided to keep driving to the Petrified Forest National Park. This is why I don't make hotel reservations. I like to fly by the seat of my pants. I think it's so funny that I have a really hard time writing my blog posts when I am on the road because every evening when I stop for the night I have to figure out what I am going to do the next day which does not leave much time for blogging. I usually have a general idea of what is in the area, but I don't actually decide till the day before. For some people that may be really stressful, but I love it!
As I continued east on I-40 I saw signs for the "Meteor Crater." Of course, I changed plans again and decided to go see this too. :) Apparently, many years ago a meteor hit in the middle of the Arizona desert so there is a vast area of completely flat desert land and then a huge crater in the middle of it all. There has been a lot of research on the crater and they have actually found pieces of the meteor that hit. It was really neat, and super huge!

 The next day I continued on to the Petrified Forest National Park. I have never seen anything like this. At one time there was a forest in this area of Arizona and the forest was covered quickly by flood waters which knocked all the trees down and buried them in mud which was full of sediments. As the sediments settled in and seeped into the wood it "petrified" the wood. Which, in my limited understanding, seemed to be like crystallizing the wood. All of the tree trunks were cracked, and some, like glass, had shattered into small pieces and the inside was all different colors depending on the mineral.

On Saturday, I went to the Hot Air Balloon Festival in New Mexico. This was my one and only planned stop; considering I needed tickets. When I first arrived at the air field at 5am it was so cold I thought I was going to die of hypothermia. (I wasn't really prepared for that temperature.) I ended up having to buy a hat and long socks. But it was all worth it when I got to see hundreds of hot air balloons being inflated and then taking off as the sun was rising. There were tons of different colors and designs and some were even shaped like funny cartoon characters. It was really fun to stand there and see 600 different balloons all inflating around you and watching them as they took off randomly around the air field. I thought there would be some kind of order or someone telling them when to go, but that was not the case. They would just go whenever they were ready. One interesting thing I learned there was that this festival is a pretty big deal. It is broadcast in 50 different countries and it is one of the most photographed events in the world. Now I can see why. I took over 150 pictures in the 3 hours that the balloons were taking off! When I decided to leave and I got back on the roads around town I saw some balloons still floating around and a ton of chase crews that were following their respective balloons around waiting for them to land. There are some great time lapse videos at (I was there Oct 8th if you want to watch those videos.)

The following day I drove into Oklahoma (listening to the "Oklahoma" movie soundtrack along the way.) There was a huge storm passing over so I was driving in the rain the whole day, but I broke up the monotony by stopping at the National Cowboy Museum (it seems it was the only attraction in the whole state.) I enjoyed it, though, especially after spending all this time out west. Some of you know that if I had to go back and live in another time in history it would be the pioneer days in the mid 1800's, and this museum had a lot of art work and reconstructions of life from that period so I was thrilled.

In Arkansas, on Monday, I went spelunking! I took a tour of Blanchard Springs Caverns which is in the Ozark National Forest. When I first took the elevator down into the cave and got out with the group and the tour guide it took me a second or two to will myself to step further in and follow them. Before your eyes could fully adjust to the dim lights it is really dark and there are all sorts of oddly shaped things around you. It looked like something out of The Hobbit when Bilbo is wandering around in the dragons cave. After my eyes adjusted and the tour guide started talking about the history of the cave and all its cool features I got control of my overactive imagination and was able to really enjoy the tour. It was amazing to me how quickly the features of the cave can grow. There was a man made tunnel in the cave dug out about 40 years ago to allow for handicapped access to a second room in the cave where you could see the layers of earth. When the water seeps into the limestone layer it causes the lime to seep out and as that lime solidifies again it forms the stalagmites and stalactites. Well, in this 40 year old tunnel there were thin lime formations about 3 feet long. The power of water is pretty impressive even underground.


After Arkansas I visited friends in Atlanta. (Actually, the same friend that I visited on my way to Maine. A fitting way to complete my circle.) Then, I continued into Gainesville for a couple days where I saw my old roommate and a classmate who just had a baby. After that, I visited my Aunt Karen and cousin Kathy near Tampa for a couple days and finished off my family visits in Orlando with Jimmy and Jess. I don't think I stopped talking the whole time. Ever since I left Maine, and excluding the visits from family and friends, I really didn't have anyone to talk to about anything deeper then the weather, so I guess I had a lot to say. :) Coralie, my roommate, and I calculated it one day and we had talked for a total of 15 hours. Ridiculous, right? But I loved every minute of it. I, also, loved the one on one time I had with my Aunt. You can learn so much from, and about, a person by just spending time with them. I have long known that my Love Language is Quality Time and the last 5 or so days of my trip home were definitely satisfying.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

National Park Dash

As I said in my last post, my friend, Dawn came out to Vegas to do some traveling with me. We began by seeing the Beatles Cirque du Soleil show, "Love," on Thursday night. I have said plenty of times how much I love cirque shows and this one was no different.

We struck out on Friday after I got off of work for Utah. On Saturday, we went on a quick tour of Zion and Bryce.
That evening we stopped at a campground that was in the middle of nowhere. On our way we passed by some beautiful farm land and some very curious cows.
Every time that I have been to Utah it has been very hot, but apparently I missed the one week of fall and it went from summer to winter without me noticing because this time around it was freezing...literally. We spent a cold night in the tent and were happy to carry on the next day to Moab where we had a hotel waiting for us.
 Sunday, when we finished driving to Moab we looked around town and did some relaxing and window shopping. Moab is a small town built up around Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. There are lots of nice restaurants and shops.
Monday and Tuesday were spent discovering all there is to see at Arches and Canyonlands, respectively.
Arches is, of course, known for all the rock arches that have formed there.

It contains the greatest density of natural arches in the world! The arches are beautiful and when you see them you think they are strong and fixed since they are made of stone, but in fact they are ever-changing and eroding. The Landscape Arch had a huge piece fall off in 1991. It is strange to think that in a few years the Landscape Arch may not be there any more. At its thinnest point it is only 6 feet wide.
 My favorite arch was the Delicate Arch. It is the symbol of Utah (if you ever see a Utah license plate take a look at the picture on it.) We had to go on a 3 mile hike up hill the whole way to get there, but it was totally worth it. The view of the arch from there was spectacular. What you can't really see from the pictures is the drop off on both sides of the arch. It is defiantly nerve racking.
click to enlarge!

Canyonlands had one arch as well, the Mesa Arch. This was another one with a huge drop off on one side.
 Its kinda fun to see just how close you can will yourself to go. (I know my mom is cringing at this right now.) :) Canyonlands has three districts separated by the Colorado and Green rivers: Island in the Sky, the Maze district and the Needles district. There are no paved roads in to the Maze, but Dawn and I did manage to make it to the other two districts.

The sky was cloudy for most of the day which was unfortunate for most of our pictures, but made for the perfect sunset with a rainbow in the back ground. 
Surprisingly, my favorite moment of the day was not all the sightseeing, but the spontaneous stop on a no-name dirt road to watch the sunset in a field of long grass with a rainbow in the background. Those are the moments that make life wonderful!

Definitely a trip to remember!