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Days 6-7 (Saturday, 2/20, and Sunday, 2/21) were spent in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, hanging out with Lauren’s grandparents, Pat and Lynn Kinney, and also her mom, who happened to be here visiting at the same time. It was a great two days of family time, for which we are extremely grateful.

One highlight of these days has been hearing stories; for example, Lauren’s granddad worked in the Hoover Dam (then “Boulder Dam”) when he was just 16 (in the early 1930s) and later worked on a Zeppelin during WWII that patrolled the east coast, keeping an eye on two particular German submarines that lingered off the coast there.

Grandparents' house in Lake Havasu.

Dinner with grandparents.

An old advertisement of which Gramps Kinney was the star.

Picking from the orange tree in the backyard.

A tour of the aircraft workshop.

Day 8 (Monday, 2/22) was spent driving from Lake Havasu, AZ, to Camarillo, CA. Along the way we made a brief detour to spend the afternoon at Fuller Seminary with our good friend Michael Wright. Michael gave us a great tour around Fuller and Pasadena, and we had the good pleasure to meet a few of his friends. We enjoyed great conversations about music, art, inspiration, and visions for the future.

Michael showing us Pasadena City Hall.

We arrived in Camarillo at Lauren’s Uncle Kerry’s and Aunt Sharon’s house just in time for an incredible homemade dinner and a great evening of visiting and catching up.

The next day — Day 9 (Tuesday, 2/23) — was spent mostly with Sharon, who gave us a great tour of the area, particular the beautiful downtown Ventura. A highlight was definitely the olive oil tasting shop. Once Kerry got home from work we enjoyed going out again to an incredible meal down on the ocean. We hadn’t seen the Kinney’s since our wedding, and we really enjoyed this time of reconnecting. It was really a treat to have that time together.

On the pier.

Day 10 (Wednesday, 2/24) we drove from Camarillo, CA, to Bakersfield, CA. To make this trip we decided to take the long but scenic route up the coast. Our first major stop up this route was around the town of Los Almos, a ripe green land filled with vineyards, wineries, and art galleries. After having spent most of the previous 9 days driving through desert, this change of scenery was a welcomed variation.

Vineyards.

Barrels in a winery.

Winery exterior.

Our next significant stop was a somewhat remote beach down some back roads. This was another one of my google research finds, and it delivered even more than hoped for. Not only were we the only people at the beach, but also we turned around a corner and came upon 7 or 8 sea lions climbing onto rocks in effort to get out of the rising tides. Maybe sea lion sightings are not uncommon for Californians, but for us it was the last thing we expected to stumble upon at our new beach spot. At this same beach we also found a tunnel carved through the hillside by the wind.

Travis at the quiet cove.

Cove with sea lions (they're camouflaged on top of the dark rocks).

Lauren by the cove cave.

We arrived in Bakersfield, after a beautiful drive through what must have been Ireland, just in time to join our cousin Evan and some of his friends in a game of ultimate frisbee. Our skills were a bit rusty but this was a fun group of people to help us sharpen them. Afterward we returned to the Bacon home for a fun time and an incredible home-cooked dinner with Evan and his parents: Uncle Terry and Aunt Jamie.

The road from the coast to Bakersfield.

Day 11 (Thursday, 2/25) was a great day with the Bacons. Aunt Jamie and Evan treated us to a great tour of Bakersfield.

Warning signs at the Kern River.

For supper we all had a great Mexican dinner and returned to the house to hang out and watch Baron Munchausen, a fascinating movie that explores everything from dualism to whether a human can travel across the sky by hitching rides on cannonballs.

Day 12 (Friday, 2/26) was another great day with the Bacons. It began with a tour of Sun World, where Terry works in Research and Development. It was an incredible place to see, and we learned some new and very interesting things about fruit breeding and production.

A visit to Terry's office.

Seedlings.

Greenhouse.

Beehives adjacent to an orchard.

Flower closeup (and the shot immediately before our camera broke).

The next shot (a.k.a. What a messed up shutter looks like).

In the afternoon, Terry and Evan took me (Travis) on an incredible mountain biking adventure out at Hart Park. This place is a mountain biker’s playground, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.  Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was definitely my favorite portion of the course, though there were many other similarly exhilarating spots.

Mountain biking at Hart Park with Evan, Terry, and Tobey.

For dinner we had the pleasure of being invited over by Evan’s girlfriend Laura. We were also joined by one of Laura’s roommates, Liz. For dinner Laura made a spectacular pasta; she also served artichokes, salad, and some toasted kale that shattered everything I thought I knew about kale. It was so good that I was eating it like popcorn. Dinner was, of course, followed by a highly competitive game of Balderdash, during which we learned that Ted Toddey (sp?) took 3 years to ride a bull named (insert absurd name here) from St Louis to New York City… or something like that.

After our great time with Laura and Liz we then enjoyed some more time visiting with Aunt Jamie and Uncle Terry back at the house.

NOTE: Despite being a good day all around, there was one – to put it mildly – tragic incident in which our camera…. died.  Well, actually, it’s just that the shutter quit working correctly. Its timing it now off, leaving most of the screen black. Oh well, we were in need of a new camera at some point soon anyway. For now though, Aunt Jamie graciously offered let us take her small digital with us for the next week until we see her again in Austin, TX, around March 9. So, we are very happy to announce that we will still be able to photographically document this trip.

Day 13 (Saturday, 2/27), after breakfast with the Bacons and saying our goodbyes, we headed off toward San Francisco. Again, in typical style, we opted for the longer, more scenic route. We took 46 West all the way to the 1, which we then took all the way up the coast to San Francisco. The whole ride was beautiful as the road winded up, down, and around rocky cliffs overlooking the crystal clear waters of the Pacific. The scenery was made even more interesting on account of the ocean’s extreme choppiness and massive waves, possibly a result of the earthquake in Chile, which was strong enough to put the whole of the West Coast on Tsunami alert to the extent that local law enforcement officials were closing down beaches and asking people to head to higher ground. Though we never saw an all-out Tsunami, we saw towering waves and extremely rough seas.

Coastline.

We also must have seen at least 200 (no exaggeration) seals and elephant seals, which totally blew our minds. They were everywhere. Huge elephant seals, longer than our car and nearly as tall, were lying just feet from the road. Smaller seals were piled high in stacks rolling about and screaming, recalling to our minds scenes from the new Where the Wild Things Are movie. Pile!!

One of many beaches covered with seals.

At Big Sur.

Closed beaches.

The beach beyond the sign (just south of San Francisco).

The weather this day could have been described as sporadic, or perhaps fickle. From sunlight to rainstorm to sunlight again, all within only minutes. In Big Sur we even came upon a tree that had only moments earlier fallen across the road; it would have totally blocked our way and forced us to turn and backtrack for several hours except that it still hung at one shoulder of the road by the power line it had fallen across. We quickly squeezed under and through, spinning a bit in the mud of the shoulder, and shot off further north before any more downed trees could try to keep us from making it to San Francisco.

Only moments after sunset we crossed the Golden Gate bridge to the north side of the city. Here we cut of into a forest at the edge of the Muir Woods, where we found the cheapest legal camping area we had been able to find anywhere near San Francisco, and we settled down for an nice night under the full moon and the soft shadows of this night forest.

Day 5 (Friday, 2/19/2010)

We left Flagstaff early, taking the famous Highway 89A south to Sedona. The road winds through forest and between towering red rocks. Sedona is nestled right at the center of the most prominent rock formations.

From above Sedona.

After a few hours on this road and exploring Sedona, we decided to make our way to some nearby hot springs. These springs were supposedly down a remote back-country road and were not very well known, except by locals. In the early 1900s a resort had been built around the hot springs, but it had burned down in the 1940s, thus leaving only ruins.

We drove southeast from Sedona and found, near Camp Verde, the dirt road that would take us to the Springs. 13 miles, then a right turn, then 6 miles: that was the directions we had received. The road turned out to be a brutal ride winding through remote canyons as the road continually narrowed and worsened in condition. It was clearly meant for 4x4s and not small Mazda Proteges. For about 20 minutes we were stuck on a narrow switchback behind a cowboy (leather pants, well-trained horse, lasso, and all other stereotypically cowboy features included) guiding his cattle across the pass. A large, controlled brush fire served as the backdrop to this scene.

Cowboy.

After over an hour on this road we finally made it the 19 miles to the hot springs trailhead. The first site on pulling into the trailhead was an old beat-up white van. It had bikes attached to the front and beside it in the gravel sat a couple coolers, a propane stove, and several guitar cases. Out of the van immediately jumped a guy and a girl about our own age, both well-dressed and with long hair. They were musicians, we learned, who were from “all over” and had just finished a “jam session” somewhere nearby; they had come down here to just “chill” for a few days after the jam session. They had been living down there in the van for 3 days now, and they quickly became our mythical guides to this remote and strange place. They told us about the hike to the springs: how we should ignore the signs and just head under that fence and down that path until we see the washcloths, then how we should follow the washcloths, watching for them hanging from the trees above, then how we should look for the small socks, which would be hanging at the spot where we could cross the river. Then, they said, we would have to be careful because the extremely cold river was running fast and high, at about 5 ft. in height at the crossing. The couple had made the journey the previous day; it had been “intense,” but well worth it, and they planned to go again later that afternoon.

Home of a Nomad.

Sadly, we still had a long drive to Lake Havasu City ahead of us, and we wanted to get there by dinner, so we couldn’t wait to go later with these intriguing musicians. In fact, after the hour-long journey down to the trailhead, we weren’t even left with enough time to make the river-crossing at all. It was a big blow to have to pass on this ultimate adventure, but in the end we made the hard choice of family over impulse. We walked to the river where we could see the ruins and observe the hot springs from afar, then we hit the road again with the one-hour trip back to pavement ahead of us, followed by the 4-hour drive from there to Lake Havasu City, where we were warmly welcomed to a delicious meal, a comfortable home, and a cozy bed.

Us in Sedona.

Trail to the hot springs.

Another view of the musicians' home.

Dissatisfied readers felt words (and articles of clothing) needed to be added to this sign.

Day 4 (Thursday, 2/18/2010)

After a comfortable night in the car at Bryce Canyon (elevation: 8300 ft.), we got up and made our way to Sunrise Point, overlooking the Canyon, where we, of course, watched the sun rise. The red fingerlike rock formations glowed as the early morning light poured into the snowy canyon. We hiked down into the canyon for a while, being careful not to lose our footing on the icy path.

After several hours in Bryce, we began our long drive for the Grand Canyon, which we finally reached sometime in early afternoon. Since the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is closed all winter we were forced to circle around and enter from the east side of the South Rim, at Desert View. We then made our way all the way across the South Rim, enjoying viewpoints all along the way. We were even able to drive through regions that are only accessible by public shuttle during later, busier times of the year. There was a fair amount of snow at the Grand Canyon, but not nearly as much as had been in Bryce.

I will not try to describe the Grand Canyon, except to say that “Grand” just doesn’t quite do it justice. We mightiest well call it Understatement Canyon.

We headed south again but couldn’t quite make it to Sedona, our intended destination, so we pulled over in Flagstaff, found wireless internet, watched the latest episode of LOST on Hulu, and slept in the car again.

Bryce Canyon, UT: at sunrise

Bryce Canyon

Textures

Our shadows on the canyon wall.

View on the trail down.

Us in Bryce Canyon.

snow-covered log

The Watchtower at Grand Canyon "Desert View"

In the Watchtower

Understatement Canyon

Understatement Canyon, part 2

The road to Flagstaff.

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