Sunday, April 22, 2018

Escape Campervan-ing, an Arizona safari, and ending Spring Break in Phoenix

I never wrapped up the blog series on our recent family Spring Break #vanlife trek out west. Having already recounted our time in Vegas, Zion, Lake Powell, the Grand Canyon, and several other places in between, we headed to Rachel’s grandmother’s house in Scottsdale, a suburb of Phoenix.

But first we spent an afternoon north of the city at Out of Africa, a well-done safari in the desert. My favorite animal was the grizzly bear, which we were able to get within an arm’s length and is a majestic and downright pleasant-looking creature. One of several tigers also stretched up into a massive form along a gate next to our walkway. And a baby tiger jumped out from its hiding spot at one point to nearly surprise Zoey and I out of our shoes. But perhaps best of all was when Jackson fed a giraffe right out of his mouth, including a smooch on the lips that incorporated his very long tongue.











I highly recommend a visit to this American/African safari. 

And I should also mention the I-66 shop we visited in Williams, Arizona, if only because of all its pop-culture lunch boxes (and signs).





Finally, anyone who rents an Escape Campervan, which are now available in many cities throughout the country, won’t regret it. The customer service was incredible, the price was maybe even less than renting a typical minivan without a kitchen or pop-up bed, and we were able to pick up lots of groceries and other necessities like a cooler and firestarter wood in our pick-up location where others returning from their trips left the materials in a community-share area. And it was fun to count the other Escapes along the way. Jackson’s final tally was 27, and we talked to many of their occupants about our similar travel experiences.








Sunday, April 15, 2018

It the movie(s) simply can’t compare to the classic book



As readers of this blog know, I’m a huge Stephen King fan. I keep wanting to deny that as I get older and supposedly more mature, but King just keeps being every bit as awesome as ever.

2017’s It has been high on my list of movies to see for many months, but it ends up being a letdown. At 2 hours and 15 minutes, it moves slowly in parts, doesn’t develop enough of the kids’ characters, and suffers from perhaps too many shocks and scares.

That said, it is indeed scary, but it would be scarier if it were less scary all the time.

Granted, pulling off a re-creation of one of the great horror books is not an easy task. It’s a long and detailed book. But with a slew of it neglected, the movie should have just gone ahead and been considerably shorter.

The 1999 TV miniseries suffered from different elements. It was long enough to capture better characterizations, but it was far less scary and fairly cheesy.

I’ll still look forward to the supposed sequel being planned for when the kids are adults and It comes back to the town of Derry, Maine on its usual schedule. But probably the best use of my time would be to simply read the book again.

3 out of 5 stars

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Can we make Grand Canyon visits mandatory for all humans?

The experiment, which we had no idea how it would unfold, turned out to be a success.

Nobody tried to kill each other on our week-long Spring Break Escape Campervan trek across Nevada, Utah, and Arizona.

Sure, there were some times like this.



But it was mostly like this.



Our kids weren’t just troopers. They were flat-out buddies. And the van was beneficial because they were much further away from the parents than in our regular car rides.

After an already full Wednesday of hiking, we arrived at the Grand Canyon in early afternoon to explore about a 30-mike stretch along the South Rim.







Although our kids are too little to do major hikes down to the bottom, we did get down a switchback trail a good little ways.





And the day was absolutely stunning weather-wise, turning the sunset into our Grand Canyon highlight. We watched it on a point with far fewer tourists than the other spots we had visited throughout the afternoon.







It’s tough to believe it took me this long to get to one of the Earth’s true wonders, right here in our own country. It should definitely be a requirement that anyone from the U.S. visit the Grand Canyon. All the pictures and postcards capture it well, but they still can’t compare to staring out across that vast space.

We decided not camp for the night and stayed in a hotel about an hour away in Williams, Arizona, which is the starting point for the Grand Canyon train. Promotional materials says it helps keep “about 50,000 cars out of the park every year.” Sounds like a good thing, although as a car-trip expert, that seems like an extremely conservative estimate of how many cars the train actually keeps out of the park. I’d like to know how they make that estimate.

Anyway, after Williams, our trip will conclude further south in Phoenix.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Northern Arizona presents stunning camping and hiking

We arrived early at our next destination, the Wahweap Campground overlooking beautiful Lake Powell (https://www.lakepowell.com/rv-camping/wahweap-rv-campground/) with time to play a little baseball before sunset and a campfire under the stars.





This was great because it’s started a string of daily father-son baseball catch and whiffleball, which are some of the very best ways to bond with a 10-year-old.

Wednesday morning we headed out to get a good look at the nearby Glen Canyon Dam, made famous by author Edward Abbey’s classic Monkey Wrench Gang novel that helped form the anarchist environmental movement decades ago.








We stopped just south of the dam and Page, Arizona for a quick 1.5-mike round trip hike off the highway to Horseshoe Bend, which is stunning but packed with tourists, so we didn’t stick around long. It’s also super scary to be standing at the edge of the steep drop off.








Next up, we hightailed it down to the Grand Canyon to spend most of Wednesday taking it all in.