Posts Tagged ‘USA’

Yosemite’s Curry Village: Good Times with the Bear Necessities

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Our Curry Village tent cabin

I was carrying my bag into Yosemite’s Curry Village, about to check into a canvas-sided, one-room shack that’s a hybrid of a tent and a cabin, when suddenly I came within an inch of stepping in one of the biggest piles of poop I’ve ever seen.

I know dog doo, cat scat, cow pies, horse manure, deer droppings, feral pig dung and, of course, human feces, and I knew this cake-sized coiled turd was none of the above. Barely disguised with dust, and resting a mere 10 feet or so from our door, it looked frightfully fresh, thick, dark, and flecked with something nutty and grainy — a hapless hiker’s granola bar, perhaps?

“A bear did that!” I said out loud to no one in particular. Then I found Morgan to show him, and we in turn showed it to a man we had just met in the neighboring tent cabin.

“I’m not surprised,” the man said. “You should see the patch job on my cabin,” and he held up his hand and mimed a menacing scratching motion while describing a large ursine claw mark still visible underneath a patch on his unit’s flimsy excuse for a wall.

“Well,” I said to Morgan, “We’re not in The Ahwahnee anymore.” (more…)

83 Places, 5 Continents, 10 Months

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Less than 24 hours after our plane from Heathrow landed in Los Angeles, the four of us walked into a Noah’s Bagels on Sunset Boulevard for an early lunch. Our sense of time and place were thoroughly out of whack from jet lag and from the strangeness of waking up in Southern California, drinking Peet’s Coffee and tuning into the Disney Channel as though we’d never been away.

As we stood ordering bagels, we suddenly remembered we had eaten lunch at the same Noah’s on the day before we flew to Buenos Aires in early October. “I feels like we were just here,” Colly said, and I agreed while my chest hiccuped with anxiety.

It felt as though all those months abroad — which had stretched so elastically and netted so much in a single week, so that on the first of every month I’d express disbelief at how much we had experienced — had snapped back and condensed into a blip to make mental space for the task of reorganizing our lives and getting ready to move back into the house.

Checking out of a hotel in Marlow, England, on our last morning before flying back to California.

I’m feeling profoundly mixed emotions upon our return and need to think more about the transition before trying to write much about it. I got weepy on our last night in Marlow, a lovely town outside of London, as we checked out of a hotel a final time and toasted our trip; then, I got teary with joy as we approached my hometown of Ojai last weekend for a reunion. I also am in the process of thinking through the next phase of this blog, so stay tuned and thanks to all of you who’ve read it regularly!

In the meantime, I’m publishing the following list as proof and as a reminder to myself that we really went to all of these places. We called this our “sleepover list” and had fun updating it as we traveled. Most are linked to previous blog posts if we wrote about that destination. Three places are listed twice since we visited there twice, so the number of places totals 83, but the bottom line is that we moved and unpacked 86 times!

The Sleepover List: August 15, 2009 – June 15, 2010: (more…)

So Long, Sedona and SoCal

Monday, October 5th, 2009

Lots o' packing yesterday and today ... we had to put a bunch of stuff in storage, give away outgrown kids' clothes and pare down to the true essentials.

Lots o' packing yesterday and today ... we had to put a bunch of stuff in storage, give away outgrown kids' clothes and pare down to the true essentials.

I’m rushing to write this blog post while packing for tomorrow’s departure to Argentina. We traveled through Arizona less than a week ago, yet it feels more like a month has passed. We arrived in LA for a few days to take care of some business, reorganize all our belongings and — most difficult of all — say goodbye to our dog Teddy, who will spend the next ten months in the care of my in-laws. Teddy will be in very good and generous hands, but oh, it’s hard to leave him!

Our journey is shifting to a more challenging and exciting phase as we go abroad, and I’d like to say we’re ready but I don’t think I’d ever feel completely prepared. We realized today, at the eleventh hour, that some travel logistics have not been arranged or confirmed, so Morgan and I found ourselves scrambling and then consciously taking deep breaths, concluding, “Oh well, it’ll work out, or we’ll figure it out when we get there.” I have spent the weekend trying to adopt a true traveler’s mind — i.e., embracing rather than fearing the unknown — and doing my best to maintain an outwardly positive attitude for the kids’ sake. Their tears started to flow last night as the prospect of missing Teddy magnified a bout of homesickness (or rather, “friendsickness”). Thankfully, a trip to the beach with their grandparents today made everything feel better.

I had a lump in my throat all weekend because we have to say goodbye to Teddy. He is a fantastic dog, and we loved road-tripping with him the past six weeks.

I had a lump in my throat all weekend because we have to say goodbye to Teddy. He is a fantastic dog, and we loved road-tripping with him the past six weeks.

Before the memories of the past week grow more distant, I want to document our last special destination: Sedona. Funny thing is, when I paused to reflect on it this morning, an image of Kyle on a Colorado trail a couple of weeks earlier crossed my mind. He had randomly picked up a small rock and discovered a quartz crystal under the dusty surface. His eyes grew large and a smile broke out on his face, and as he clutched his little treasure, he headed down the trail with new energy.

Like Kyle bending down to pick up that rock, we made an unexpected and enchanting discovery on our way to Sedona that renewed our energy. I should be careful when talking about “energy” in the context of Sedona, however, because I don’t want to be mistaken for one of the New Age crystal-gazers who are drawn to Sedona’s red rocks and attest to the power of  “energy vortexes,” which supposedly spiral around certain points on the landscape and resonate good vibes. Then again, I did feel particularly good while there, so who knows whether I felt the vibes of a vortex or a placebo effect or just a buzz from a beer?

We met the Flintstones and had a yaba-daba-do-dah time.

We met the Flintstones and had a yabba-dabba-doo-dah time.

Certainly our slightly addled states of mind upon entering Sedona primed us for fun and come-what-may adventure. We had no expectations, no plans, save for a last-minute booking at a hotel. We had decided only about a week prior to go there for a couple of nights in lieu of a detour to Vegas, our forethought limited to, “It’s only 30 miles south of Flagstaff? Might as well check it out, I heard it’s nice.” We had spent the night outside the Grand Canyon in the fleabag Red Feather Lodge, which is notable for its very un-P.C. retro Indian Brave motto and its inedible breakfast buffet offerings. (But, they take dogs — the only motel in the area to do so.) I was disoriented from insomnia and the belated discovery that we had crossed a time zone and gained an hour. Plus, we all felt punchy from a brief stop at the Flintstone Bedrock RV Park, where a two-story-high Fred Flintstone appears like a bad-trip hallucination in an armpit corner of the desert.  At that point, we didn’t know what to expect next. (more…)

Glimpsing the Grand Canyon

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Our visit to the Grand Canyon was not unlike the Griswolds’.

We had never been to the Grand Canyon and always wanted to go — but our dream is to raft the river, hike rim to rim and camp for days. Alas, that was not meant to be. A variety of circumstances — including Kyle’s young age, Morgan’s broken toe and the park’s dog-unfriendly regulations — meant we settled for a drive-by visit. Here’s how we did the Grand Canyon in about five hours: (more…)

Boulder For Real

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Teddy looks over Boulder from the Red Rock trail in Settlers' Park. Could it be he's sad to leave, too?

Teddy looks over Boulder from the Red Rock trail in Settlers' Park. Could it be he's sad to leave, too?

Nine days after that somewhat mawkish “love at first sight” post, I am still romanticizing Boulder. Colly recently voiced my feelings while she was in the midst of a lesson at a local gymnastics gym (speaking of which, she and Kyle helped me produce a little movie yesterday about their time at that gym; scroll to the end of this post to see).

Colly’s face, which was flushed and beaming from the discovery of the high-quality facility and friendly coach, momentarily clouded over as she said, “The trouble with travel is you find a place where you want to stay, and then you have to leave.”

I pointed out the glass-half-empty perspective (i.e. if not for travel, we would not have experienced this place at all), but I also agreed with her. The trouble with Boulder is that we had to leave today. (more…)

Love at First Sight in Boulder

Monday, September 14th, 2009

I have been in Boulder, Colorado, less than 24 hours and already feel as though I found a home away from home, or perhaps a home to move to in the future. Or maybe I lived here in a past life, about 140 years ago, when the home we’re renting was built — who knows? The fact is that even though I can’t yet find my way around town, I experienced love at first sight when we pulled into our destination. (more…)

Magic at Mesa Verde and Along the San Juan Skyway

Saturday, September 12th, 2009

Looking through a window in time in Mesa Verde's Balcony House.

Looking through a window in time in Mesa Verde's Balcony House.

Morgan crawls through the tunnel exiting the Balcony House cave dwelling.

Morgan crawls through the tunnel exiting the Balcony House cave dwelling.

Inside a cave perched high on a cliff face in Mesa Verde National Park, where remnants of rooms built from stone have stood for more than 800 years, I got down on my hands and knees to crawl through a dark tunnel only a few feet high and barely wide enough for my shoulders. I crept forward on all fours like a baby in order to follow an exit from a cave dwelling known as Balcony House, which Ancestral Puebloans built under the overhang of a massive rock. Soon — thankfully — I reached a point where a shaft of light filtered in and the passageway opened up nearly high enough to stand, and I gazed up at a perch where the park’s archeologists theorize a person would have sat guard to stop or allow those who tried to enter the pueblo. Then the tunnel narrowed to a crawl space again, and I took a deep breath to keep claustrophobia at bay before pushing through to reach sunlight and a spectacular view of a canyon.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from our trip to Mesa Verde, but I didn’t expect this: to squeeze between rock crevices and climb up 30-foot ladders, and then to walk through the homes and gathering places where people thrived and a society developed to surprising sophistication in this spot for some 700 years, around 600 – 1300 AD. Never before had I experienced such an intimate and not-entirely-safe visit to a national or state park. (more…)

36 Hours in Telluride, CO

Friday, September 4th, 2009

Subtle graffiti on this sign on the way into Telluride ("pricy" conditions may exist) signal locals' ambivalence toward the town's growth and gentrification.

Subtle graffiti on this sign on the way into Telluride ("pricy" conditions may exist) signals locals' ambivalence toward the town's growth and gentrification.

This weekend, Sept. 4 – 7, Telluride’s annual film festival will transform the town. Its population of about 2200 will triple and its main street, Colorado Avenue, will be packed with visitors. I’ve never actually been to Film Fest but hear the scene is undeniably cool, and my family got a kick out of spotting Ken Burns outside of our favorite burrito place (La Cocina de Luz) the other night.

As a quasi-local lifelong lover of Telluride, I can’t help feel some reverse snobbery and sadness that a lot of these festival-goers — like a lot of skiers who briefly visit in winter — miss out on some of the more authentic, historic and out-of-the-way treasures that make Telluride what it is. For them, I offer this alternative weekend guide to Telluride, with apologies to The New York Times Travel Section for copping its “36 Hours” format. (The Times published its own “36 Hours in Telluride” in January of 2005, which was geared toward winter activities and dining and shopping downtown.)

Friday afternoon: Arrive in Telluride. Got that? TELLURIDE, not Mountain Village. I have heard dear misinformed friends say, “Oh, I love Telluride!” and then reveal that they spent a week in Mountain Village over Christmas break, as though the two towns were synonymous. They are not. Mountain Village is an oversized, overpriced and soulless master-planned golf and ski village-with-no-sense-of-community carved into the mountain above Telluride in 1987 and connected to town by a gondola. (more…)