Sunday, November 20, 2016

Route 66 campground & casino 9/24/16

This was a little gem we weren't expecting. As usual we didn't know where we'd stop & we came across this rv park in the back of the casino. It was brand spankin' new & we got the promotional price. It was still pricey for my taste, but it was so nice & spacious & only a few campers out there. No we didn't venture into the casino since we had the kiddos, but that's ok. I don't like losing $$ anyway, which usually happens. This rv park had concrete paved sites & the kids loved the fact that the roads were paved & not gravel. They rode their bikes all over the place & it was pretty windy out there too. There were newly planted trees, but that was about it. Nothing to block the wind, but oh the view! So pretty. I was bummed we couldn't sit outside & enjoy it because it was cold & windy. They had a gorgeous swimming pool, but of course it wasn't opened up & it was too cold anyway, a super cute community center all decked out in route 66 style & two big dog parks that our pups loved. We could tell because they were running fast chasing each other & jumping on the green grass. We were just there for the night so we could continue on. We were on a deadline to get to KY. A nice place to stay, but probably won't stay again because the prices went up after their grand opening. On-on!

Antelope Canyon & Horshoe Bend 9/22-23/16

Yes finally! Antelope Canyon & Horseshoe Bend. These two sites have been on my "must see" list for years. I've seen so many photos online of the beautiful swirly rock patterns & colors of Antelope Canyon with that magical beam of light coming thru and shining on the ground. I couldn't wait to see it. Before you head out there are some things you should know. First of all you have to be on a guided tour if you go to the Upper Canyon area. I don't believe you need a guide for the lower canyon, but it was recommended. There are ladders & steps on that lower tour, just fyi. No way around the UC guided tour, which means you need reservations from one of the local tour groups. You should really set up your tour far in advance because they fill up fast. There's only one tour group that takes first come first served tourists (can't remember the name of the company, but it was an Indian tribe group). Everyone I called was full for that day, but they each told me to Indian tribe group. Thankfully we got a 10am spot. Yippee! This is where hubby likes to chime in with his "see it's ok to wing it" mentality. Nope, I'm a planner & had I known about the reservations then I wouldn't have had all that last minute struggling & stress. Oh & the best time to view that magical beam of light is between 11-1p (depending on time of year), but be prepared to be overwhelmed with professional photographers who are also there to capture that light. *Side note, they offer a professional photography tour also.* So....part of the tour is a 4x4 wheel drive to the opening of the cave area. You're in the back of the open end truck where it's very sandy, very windy & very bumpy just so you know, but so worth it. We loved it, but it was a bit chilly that day so the kids were all cuddled between us trying to stay warm. We arrived at the start of the tour & I was surprised to see so many trucks there. You see all the touristy places have the same or close to the same time slots so it can get a bit crowded & you're almost guaranteed to have strangers in the background of your photographs. Our tour guide was very informative & took pics for all of us using our personal cameras/phones. He knew which areas had the best lighting & angle for best results. He had a wealth of knowledge & it was nice to hear that National Geographic has been permanently banned from taking pics there because they illegally & without permission drilled holes into the sides of the rock to try & capture the water raging thru the canyon. Yes they got it on film, but they also lost all their equipment & it's never been found & no one has ever seen the footage either. Tsk tsk. When you get a nice guide like that be sure to give them a tip. I know he was appreciative as hubby handing him a tip when we got back.

When you walk thru the canyon it's one way in & out. You walk to the other end take a few pics then you turn around & walk back the way you came to get back to the truck. So yes you are walking past a bunch of people coming in. We did manage to see that beam of light, but man they shooed us past real fast because the professional photographer group was guaranteed 2 minutes to take pics without people walking by I quickly turned & clicked a few shots hoping to get at least one without 200 heads in my way. Not magazine worthy, but at least I got a photo. I really wanted a shot with my babies standing in that beam of light, but oh well.

 There really are no words to describe the beauty of Antelope Canyon. The colors are amazing & the way the light shines in is breath taking. There were a couple rocks that were named after presidents because the shape of it looked like the profile of George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. There was also a bear I believe. You could go into that canyon at different times of the day & year & get different looking photos of the same rock formation simply because of the light coming in. You just gotta go see it for yourself, that's all there is to it. Just take it all in. Natures beauty.
Of course it wouldn't be a normal trip without someone having to go pee, ahem Dalton. Unfortunately we were quite a ways out from the bathroom, but thankfully we made it with no accidents. They do have bathrooms at the site to get on the trucks, but they are stinky nasty. We used the port-a-potties & they were nicer than the bathrooms. No bumps or bruises on this tour so I say it was a success! We headed into town after the tour for some bbq. So yummy & close enough to Texas style as you can get. Soon I would have my TX bbq fix & TexMex. Can't wait for that. But for now next up was Horseshoe Bend. It was on the way back to the trailer so we had to stop.

 I read on some reviews that the walk to see Horseshoe Bend was pretty close to the road so I was expecting a fairly quick walk. I could see where all the other people were walking so the walk to the top of this little hill looked easy enough. HA! Once you got to the top of that it was still quite a ways away. Thankfully it was downhill, but coming back....ugh all uphill. Of course it was all worth it. No words to describe it. Every time I look at this photo I see a face in that formation. Do you see it?
It was hard not getting the entire bend in my photo (duh why didn't I use the panoramic feature...geez), but this was the best I could do. It made me so nervous having the kids close to the edge. Even I got a bit freaked out looking over to get a good photo. This is where a selfie stick would have come in handy. There were lots of people there, way more than I would have thought. Later hubby told me some Asian guy was taking a photo of Dalton. Say what? That's just weird & had he told me sooner I would have approached that guy & made him delete the photo. I asked him if he did or said anything & he said he just gave the guy a mean look. Grrrr. Leave my babies alone. I know they're beautiful, but you don't have my permission to photograph my babies. Anyway, back to the bend. Annika pointed out a boat at the very bottom & it looked like a teeny tiny ant. Sure wish we could have taken a boat ride down there & taken pics from the ground up. Maybe next time, if we're in the area again. After our pics & walking around it was time to tackle the hill back up to the parking lot. Ugh! Talk about a leg workout & we didn't take any water because I thought it was a "short walk" from the parking lot. Forget that, take some water people! Emry was too cute & was looking for the little lizard she saw on the way in, but we couldn't find him again. He was sun bathing on a rock by the path. It was a nice trek & as usual hubby was waaaaayyyyyy far ahead of us. Good thing none of us got hurt or else he never would have known. Daddy long legs.

 Another place to check off our list. Woohoo!

Camp Verde, AZ 9/20/16

It was a fairly quick drive from Payson to Camp Verde considering the twisty windy road. Ugh! I'm surprised I didn't get car sick. We did a search while on the road (you'll see a pattern here) and chose an rv park called Distant Drum. Wow! This place was great! It was right off the highway, but I never heard any road noise while inside the trailer. Outside I heard a little bit, but really not much. This place was spotless! The concrete pads with greenery in between gave the park a nice uniform look. Of course I prefer shaded trees with ample space between slots, but this was a really good find. My kids were excited about the smooth roads so they could ride their bikes. The staff was exceptional & really went above & beyond to help hubby back into his slot. Keep in mind he's a new 5th wheel driver & this was his first backing up slot. It took several tries IN THE RAIN, but the camp host was there guiding him as well as a fellow camper. They were so nice & we were so appreciative & grateful for their help. Had I been the one guiding hubby....well let's just say he would NOT have been smiling the whole time. Hubby mentioned something about a "pow wow" that evening. My mother in law & I were all excited, but it wasn't an actual full dress pow wow. Instead it was 3 men singing traditional songs. Still it was very nice & they had a fire pit going & free snacks. After the singing we enjoyed smores, cup cakes, fruit, hot chocolate & other goodies. Their laundry room was huge & I had no idea they had a full workout room. I decided to use the showers & took the kiddos along & whoa! They had 6 large private bathrooms with showers in them. Plenty of room for all of us. I was impressed. Overall we enjoyed our stay at Distant Drum & gave it 2 thumbs up.

Since we weren't staying long we had to squeeze in both the Wildlife Park and Slide Rock in the same day. We got up the next morning after checking in & headed to the park. The kids were excited to use their new CamelPaks. Yay talk about a back saver for me....well it should have been. No more carrying bottles of water for the kids was the plan. Now they carry their own water & a couple snacks. Of course I carried my own CamelPak with my stuff (keys, phone, small wallet, wipes, band aids, antibacterial gel, extra clothes for Emry, etc) as well as extra snacks. My back was feeling it & they didn't even eat the snacks I packed. Good grief. They ate the potato chips from vending machine purchased by the grandparents. Uh huh. Of course if I didn't have the packed snacks then they would have been wailing for them. Better to prepare I guess. Anyway, we had been to this wildlife park years ago when my oldest was about 3 yrs old so we decided to revisit. We took the bus tour & it was hilarious! They gave us celery sticks to feed the giraffe & hubby got a wet tongue to his beard by a giraffe. We think the giraffe liked the texture of his beard. I got the perfect photo too. That's a keeper for sure. Annika & Emry both fed the long necks, but Dalton was not interested. Party pooper.

 It was a bumpy ride on that bus, but fun & very interesting to learn about all the animals. Afterward we took a tram up to the top where we could walk around & see other animals (tigers, bears, wolves, hyenas, etc). We were passing time as we waited for the animal show to begin. They brought out 3 animals. A big ol snake that all 3 kiddos touched, a cute tiny hedge hog and this weird looking rat/deer/rabbit that turned out to be a Cavy.

 After the show the complaining started "I'm tired, I'm hungry, I'm done looking all the animals" etc. I still wanted to do the zip line, but wasn't able to because of the time situation. We still had to do Slide Rock. Thus instead we went back to the rv park, fed everyone then changed into our swim gear & headed to Slide Rock. We drove thru Sedona & that was beautiful....until all the touristy businesses popped up. Why must we put up all these stores & take away from the natural beauty of the land? Oh Grrrrr. I didn't see one store that made me want to shop. What a waste I tell ya, in my opinion anyway.

We pressed on & got to Slide Rock, which by the way used to be an apple orchard back in the 1930s. There was a subtle scent in the air....sniff sniff....ahhhh apples! I was craving them from that point on. I was able to buy some wet socks in their little general store. Lifesaver! You see as a mom we think of everyone else first so before we left Tucson I made sure all the kiddos had proper water shoes & of course I never got any for myself. Thus, I was excited to find wet socks for myself. Woohoo on towards the water! I was anxious to get in & then......I felt the water. Brrrrr! Holy freezing temps! I slipped while walking & scraped my knuckle on a rock then Emry slipped & scraped the side of her leg, but she's a trooper & no tears. The older kids told me she stepped into a puddle & much to her surprise it was deeper than expected & she was in past her knees. That would have been funny to see. Hubby walked to the start of the sliding area with the kids, but I could see a lot of hesitation from everyone. The girls came back over to me to wait & discuss what they were going to do. Hubby took our son with him & proceeded to slide. I was laughing because I could not only see the expression on hubby's face, but hear a somewhat high pitched noise coming out of him as a result of the freezing water. I knew he'd only venture down once & I was right.

I was up next. My youngest decided not to go so it was me & the oldest. As we got to the beginning there was this sudden swarm of young teenage boys. They came out of no where. Turns out there was a large bus full that unloaded. Either some kind of camp or after school gig. All I know is that we got most of their backs on camera as I was getting ready to slide. My daughter quickly changed her mind as I was pulling her down to sit. Yeah it was cold alright. My body was telling me to high tail it outta there, but my brain was telling me we had to do it at least once. I had her kinda on my lap in between my legs & I pushed off. Holy smokes did that take my breath away. Have you ever been so cold that you momentarily can't catch your breath? Brrrr!!!!! I lost my grip on my daughter & she kept going with her little fingers clenched to her nose. We got to the first pool area & I quickly yelled "get outta the water, get outta the water". I helped her off to the side then here came one of those teenage boys & he kinda knocked me off balance and there I went further down the pool area. You can hear me on the video making all kinds of noises then I was so numb I couldn't get up on the nearest rock. I felt like a beached whale rolling onto the rock. Yes it was funny afterward. Since hubby only went in once & refused to go again, I as usual took one for the team & stayed in so the kids could go down the second smaller area into the next pool section. The things we do for our children. My son went about 4 more times & my oldest daughter went a few more. My youngest daughter kinda jumped from the side once & that was enough for her. There were really no grips along those rocks so once you went that was it. I went with my son a couple times & I got him to the side safely, but the current kept pushing me. I had a death grip on the side of the rocks to try & get out, but it required hubby's strong hands to pull me onto a rock where once again I felt like a beached whale trying to catch my breath & my strength. It wasn't a raging river, but that current was enough to push you along & tire you out. I don't know how long we were there, but it couldn't have been longer than 30 minutes and we were ready to go. It was a bit of a walk out of there with all the steps to climb up. We did see a red & black striped snake along the way. This little guy caused quite the debate among our family & I had to recite the poem "red & yellow kill a fellow, red & black put him back/friend of Jack". I was right, he was a friendly so on we went & tried to warm up. A few more pics & we were outta there. Checked that on off our list. I'm sure when it's 100+ degrees that cold water would feel wonderful, but it sure didn't on the day we were there. Fun yes, but dang soo sooooo cold, but gotta do it at least once.