Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Thanksgiving to remember

We started late. It took us much longer to get errands run and everything packed then we expected. Things were going wonderfully until we past Beaver. We saw a person that we thought needed some help with food so we made a 20 minute detour only to find out that he didn't want food but cigarettes. We were nearing Green River when things went really bad. We had only 40 miles to go and the battery light came on. After that the power steering failed and then the coolant system in quick succession. We only got about 10 miles closer to Green River after the battery failure when the car completely died. We did our best to push the car a ways before giving up and unpacking our bikes. We had just started walking our bikes up a steep hill when a very nice family on their way to Grand Junction offered us a ride into Green River. We were able to contact Mom and Dad in Moab as well as a tow service once there. The highway between Richfield and Green River is terrible for cell phone reception. We were so glad to see Nathan and Dad arrive. It was a late night for all of us.
Thanksgiving was much better. Brian got the Wii all set up and we had a fun time having everyone try out the fitness program after breakfast. I started making rolls but quickly discovered that I had misread the recipe and had to start over again. Thankfully the turkey still had lots of time to cook so we weren't set back. Tommy, Mom and I made some pomegranate jello (pomegranates stain your fingers a dark maroon color I found out) while Dad, Brian and Nathan played a Find it game on the Wii. Dinner turned out great. We finished the evening walking 4 dogs and teaching Dad and Tommy the game Dominion.
Friday we packed up 6 bikes and headed out to a bike trail that Dad knew of. Apparently it follows and even includes some of the old highway that surrounded Moab. We rode 9 miles through a red cliffs to finish near the Courthouse Wash Trail. We followed that trail a ways in to sit by a very muddy river and have some lunch. We finished the day by looking for and recovering 3 wayward dogs.
Saturday Brian, Dad and I drove to Green River to see if our car had been a simple fix and ready to drive again. We had been hoping that it was just the serpentine belt that had broken. We weren't so lucky. It turns out the engine block had cracked due to severe overheating. We are very lucky and thankful that we have the money to be able to pay for a replacement engine. It was an interesting 40 mile trip from Green River back to Moab since we had to tow our car. It was my first real experience with rope towing and I can't say I want to try it again any time soon. Brian and Dad did terrific though. We spent a couple of hours after getting back to Moab making phone calls and trying to figure out how we were going to get a dead car back to St George. Once again we were lucky. A friend of Mom and Dad from church in Grants knew of a friend in Moab who was heading our way and had a trailer that could transport our car. It was a Thanksgiving that when everything looked darkest, we were blessed to get the help we needed. It was a thanksgiving that we will remember a very long time.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The not so rainy Seattle

After our fantastic trip to Alaska we decided that we would play the tourist a little longer and spend some time in Seattle. I was worried it would rain the entire time but it only sprinkle one day. We saw some interesting exhibits at the Science Fiction Museum. Brian enjoyed seeing the replicas and props from Battleship Galactica. They had items from the new series as well as the old. I thought the Avatar exhibit was fun. They had all kinds of interactive displays. I really liked the light sensitive screen that let you dance with the floating flowers. We went through a children's museum as well that had all kinds of fun games and experiments to do. If the line hadn't been so long I think Brian would have tried out their fear of falling experiment. Why anyone would enjoy being dropped backwards onto a mat is beyond me. I liked the butterfly house. We tried to take a picture of a butterfly's iridescent wings but it wouldn't sit still long enough. We got to see a lot of the harbor and heard about some of Seattle history. We enjoyed going to the top of the Space Needle and seeing the harbor and city. It was fun to watch the sunset from the view deck. We learned a lot about the history (good and bad)of Seattle in a tour under its streets. Seattle is a city on top of a city. They have a unusual past. Brian really like the tours and I was impressed with how well our tour guide explained the unsavory history considering there were young children in the group. Seattle has a small aquarium where we got to see some sea otters (much bigger and furrier the river otters) and seals that seagulls kept trying to steal the fish from. The Seattle zoo was much bigger then I was expecting. We spent an entire day enjoying all the different animals and habitats. Some we had seen before but others (like the Komodo Dragon) were new animals to see. We suspect a set of ostrich eggs was a display but we're not sure. They didn't have any polar bears but the lions and elephants were active and fun to watch. We were sad to leave but were ready to go home and relax.

a day at the zoo

so many starfish

sunset in Seattle

boating extravaganza

an underground shop

The Science Fiction Museum

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A garden from a mine pit

In Victoria Canada we were introduced to the most amazing gardens. These botanical gardens were started by the Butchart family years ago and remains in the family today. They require four full time gardeners to maintain them. The Butchart gardens are a combination of many gardens including a Japanese garden, rose garden and Spanish garden. The most impressive garden by far though was the Sunken garden and to go along with it's fantastic flowers it has an amazing story. The garden started as an open mining pit. The family Butchart was doing well and earning a lot of money from their mining operation but when the ore ran out they were left with an unsightly hole in the ground. The wife of the family didn't like that much so she started planting trees and flowers. Little by little the gardens grew and now you can't tell where the natural landscape stops and the garden begins.
I enjoyed the rose garden but wish we could have see it in bloom. They had hundreds of rose bushes all given by different countries in different years. The Japanese garden was pretty with all the statuary and shaped trees. They even had a couple of those cruved bridges you always see in pictures of Japan. They had an impressive fountain that would shot feet into the air and change shaped. It reminded me of the fountains a the Belogio in Las Vegas. They had a carousel there but we didn't have time for a ride unfortunately. Brian's favorite garden was the Sunken garden. It was by far the most impressive botanical we have seen.

Now for Ketchikan Alaska

We saw an interesting show while in Ketchikan Alaska. It was a lumberjack competition show. The lumberjacks showed how to throw axes, slice wood circles and chop from a spring broad stuck in the side of a tree. They also had a tree climbing competition and log rolling fight. I think Brian enjoyed the show more then me. We also went to a place that had dozens of totem poles and a native clan house. The clan house reminded me a lot of the pictures from a book I loved in grade school called "The Angry Moon". The stories the totems told were interesting and very imaginative. The area also had a bald eagle that apparently had a nest somewhere close by. We did a little shopping in Ketchikan before heading back to the boat. Ketchikan was an interesting little town because some of it's roads are so narrow that cars cannot go on them. One of their roads was actually a staircase up the side of the hill. Most of the homes are built on the side of the hill so they have staircases, so quite long, to get to them. We enjoy seeing Ketchikan.

Springboard tree cutting

Ax throwing contest

the log rolling contest that lumberjacks are famous for

Just a few of the totem poles we saw

the clan house

Aimee and a totem pole

Brian leaving the clan house

Friday, August 5, 2011

Glacier Bay National Park Alaska

One of the most impressive sights on our cruise was a trip through Glacier Bay National Park. It is a national park that few get to see. In an effort to protect the evironment of the area only two cruise ships and 25 priviate ships are allowed in the park a day. They don't allow any fishing and the distance the ships can travel is limited. The water is a different color in the bay then the rest of the sea due to the melting of the glaciers. The glaciers vary in size, shape and color. Some are the typiical walls of white and blue ice but others are just flat sheets of ice. Some glaciers though are not white ice at all but dark muddy brown ice. Some glaciers are hard to see becuase they are surrounded by trees and covered in snow.
While floating silently through the bay we saw many sights. We got to see a bald eagle seating on an ice float and a couple of noisy puffins. There are birds (kittiwakes)that live in cliffs and eat the plankton that is stirred up by the calving of the glaciers. It was impressive to see the large chunks of ice break free and fall into the sea water below. This was the coldest day of our cruise. I was so glad that we had packed our heavy winter coats.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Alaska gold

Part of our trip to Skagway Alaska involved looking for gold. We had some very amazing prospectors show us how to swirl and dunk to find gold in a pan of sand. They had some very large gold nuggets for the presentation but assured us that they had removed all the large gold piece so we didn't have to worry about gold nuggets. Brian had tried gold panning before but this was my first time. I was very uncomfortable with the idea of dumping the sand into the water but was really good at swirling the pan. After I was show how to remove the sand and get the gold, I enjoyed the gold panning adventure. Brian and I added the gold flecks we found together and got a lovely pendent with real Alaska gold for a souvenir.

Friday, July 8, 2011

A train ride in Skagway

The second stop on our cruise of Alaska was a little town called Skagway. It is one of the towns that grew up during the gold mining days of Alaska. Today the town is still small and most residents live in tents and RVs while in Skagway and then winter in the lower 48 states. We had a great time riding a train along the mountain passes and seeing the trails and hearing some of the history of the gold miners. The train follows the White Pass. We saw some lovely waterfalls and snow covered mountains. We were lucky enough to see not just one but two black bears. A small cub or juvenile (who was more Cinnamon colored then black) was right next to the train tracks. I have never seen a bear that close in the wild. We weren't fast enough to get a picture of him but did get a picture of an older black bear that was a little farther up the hill from the train. The train went all the way into Canada. We didn't get off the train so didn't need any passports to reenter the states. It was the first time I have been out of the United States and the first time Brian has been in Canada. This port was our longest stay so we spent a few hours wandering the 8 city blocks and exploring the local stores for souvenirs. We had a lot of fun in Skagway.

The White Pass Railroad

The Canadian border in Alaska

The highest wooden tressel bridge

There are bears in the mountains

Snowcapped mountains in June

Waterfalls everywhere

Saturday, July 2, 2011

On Our Cruise

After a two hour delay we left Salt Lake City and flew to Seattle. We had to hurry once there to catch our cruise but did get to see a few of the more important sights of Seattle as we made our way from the airport to the pier. The Space Needle, naturally,was the most prominent feature of the Seattle skyline. It wasn't long after we boarded the lovely Norwegian Pearl that we were on our way to Alaska. We had fun watching the scenery float by and exploring the ship for all the different entertainment options as we spent a whole day just sailing.
We arrived at the port of Juno Alaska in the early afternoon of our second day. It was foggy, raining and cold. Apparently that's the way Juno is most of the year. We spent a couple of hours while we were in Juno admiring the blue ice of the Medenhall Glacier. I have never seen such large ice floats except in movies before. They really are big enough to do some damage to a ship. Near the glacier was a large waterfall called Nugget falls. The glacier and waterfall together made a lovely picture.
After the glacier, we rode a tram up Mt Roberts. Unfortunately it was so foggy we couldn't see much even from that height. We did get to see our first live Bald Eagle named Lady Baltimore while there so it was still a neat visit. We weren't staying in port very long so we had to hurry and make a few purchases and get back to the ship. All in all, our first experience with Alaska was cold, rainy, and thrilling.

Our fist glimpse of Juno, Alaska

The Mendenhall Glacier (a distance view)

Look at that ice

Nugget Falls

Lady Baltimore