An Open Letter to the State of Missouri

Dear State of Missouri,

Because my extended family lives in Kansas and I live in Tennessee, I am routinely forced to drive through your state.  I have always loathed this drive because  your roads are poorly designed, heavily-trafficked and generally awful. This year, though, you outdid yourself. The plan you had to control the masses driving through your state on I-70 was sheer diabolical genius. Stationing highway patrolmen every 8 miles in the median was a fabulous way to utterly fuck up traffic. The speed limit in your state is 70 miles per hour, but I doubt I made it much over 55 all the way through because every time the very heavy stream of traffic would approach the actual speed limit en masse, your highway patrol cars in the median would be spotted and my fellow drivers would panic and slam on the brakes, creating a chain reaction fuck up that would only clear up 8 miles further down the road. This hellish cycle repeated every 8 miles in an endless Groundhog-day-style loop. Instead of the three and a half hours it typically takes to drive from Saint Louis to Kansas City, you held me an unwilling captive for six long hours.

I was presented with some “fun facts” about Missouri at one of their rest stops which presumably exist to give you hope that you may someday get out of Missouri. Tourist bureau, you might want to edit your tourist information:

  1. Missouri is known as the “Show Me State”. Yes, show me how to get the hell out of this state as fast as possible.
  2. The ‘Show Me State’ expression may have begun in 1899 when Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver stated, “I’m from Missouri and you’ve got to show me.” You’ve got to show me how to get out of this state.
  3. The first successful parachute jump to be made from a moving airplane was made by Captain Berry at St. Louis, in 1912. Even flying over the state leaves you suicidal.
  4. The most destructive tornado on record occurred in Annapolis. In 3 hours, it tore through the town on March 18, 1925 leaving a 980-foot wide trail of demolished buildings, uprooted trees, and overturned cars. It left 823 people dead and almost 3,000 injured. Nature abhors Missouri.
  5. Josephine Baker was born in Missouri. And promptly ran screaming to Paris to get out of Missouri.
  6. The first Capitol in Jefferson City burned in 1837 and a second structure completed in 1840 burned when the dome was struck by lightning on February 5, 1911. I think someone is trying to tell you something.
  7. Creve Coeur’s name means broken heart in French, comes from nearby Creve Coeur Lake. Legend has it that an Indian princess fell in love with a French fur trapper, but the love was not returned. According to the story, she then leapt from a ledge overlooking Creve Coeur Lake; the lake then formed itself into a broken heart. Because she was trapped for eternity in Missouri.
  8. The most powerful earthquake to strike the United States occurred in 1811, centered in New Madrid, Missouri. The quake shook more than one million square miles, and was felt as far as 1,000 miles away. Hello, Missouri, the planet wants you to go away.
  9. Anheuser-Busch brewery in St. Louis, Missouri is the largest beer producing plant in the nation. If you lived in Missouri, you’d need buckets of beer to tolerate it, too.
 I never thought I’d be so happy to see this sign:

75 mph speed limit and 100% less annoying.

Suck it Missouri. Kansas is a much better state, Gov. Brownback lunacy notwithstanding.

Most Disturbing Hotel Pool Sign. Ever.

After a hard day hiking, I thought about taking a refreshing dip in the hotel’s saltwater pool.

Thanks for the heads up, hotel management. Next time I have a flaming case of diarrhea, I will definitely think twice about getting in the pool. Also, what the fuck is up with the nice brown streak in the middle of the water? Nice graphics touch.

Maybe another time.

 

Escape to Maroon Bells: fall color in full show

In the South, October and November are our reward for surviving July and August. Even so, with temps in the 70s and 80s and pleasant, drier air, no one drives to the South to see the fall color unless by fall color you mean UT orange or the Crimson Tide.  With the coming of the high holy season (SEC football), we try to ditch town to avoid the bubbas with their trucks emblazoned with the Auburn Tiger and proudly sporting the flags of universities they never went to. (Note: I went to Vanderbilt where the school fight song was ‘That’s alright, that’s OK, you’ll all work for us someday’).  No snarky comments today, kids, just some fall pretty to make you think of apple cider and pumpkin carving. Enjoy.

Aspen in full show

Maroon Bells near Aspen, Colorado: where people with a lot more money than I have live:

Probably the two most-photographed mountains in Colorado - Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak.

The valley and the lake here are outstanding:

Maroon Lake with aspen turning gold

Aspen in the valley

* Troy is responsible for these photos.

Antelope Canyon: where the deer and the antelope do not play

Once Troy mangled his ankle in the Subway in Zion, all thoughts of hiking such trails as “Fat Man’s Misery” were out of the question, so we got in the car and drove to Page, Arizona. (Note: I love that there is a canyon called ‘Fat Man’s Misery’). Page is the gateway town next to Lake Powell and Glen Canyon Dam and it’s famous for being next to Lake Powell and Glen Canyon Dam. This area is desert. The kind of desert with rocks and scrub and not a lot else. This is why we gave it to the Indians. No one at the time could think of a single reason to keep it for white people. As usual, we were short-sighted.

On the surface of things, this is what the area looks like:

You're probably thinking your ancestors made a good deal to give this to the Navajo

Take a few steps in and this small crack in the earth opens up and your job is to fit through this crack and drop down underground:

The entrance to Lower Antelope Canyon: I'll bet you're regretting that extra cupcake about now.

Welcome to Lower Antelope Canyon. To the best of my knowledge, there are zero antelope here which is kind of disappointing. I saw one cow down the road, but One Cow Canyon does not have a good advertising vibe to it. Maybe the Navajo are on to something because this place had a  boat load of people waiting to get in on the 24 person-limit tours at $26 per person. Tours leave every 30 minutes, so suck it, white man, the Navajo  are cashing in.

Getting into Lower Antelope Canyon requires that you navigate a series of metal ladders on a near vertical descent without handrails. This is the kind of place that makes lawyers wince.

Troy, sitting part way up one of the ladders.

Once you get to the bottom, you squeeze through a series of curved walls 24 inches apart. Ahead of you is a fantastic display of color, light and shapes sculpted by water:

Lower Antelope Canyon in all its glory.

It is overwhelming and you can’t help but be struck by this canyon as there is literally no place else on earth like this.

It really does look like this.

These slot canyons look like this because of violent flash floods – rocks and debris and the sheer force of water carve the canyon walls into amazing shapes. In August of 1997, 11 people died in this canyon in a flash flood. You are 35 to 50 feet below ground and there is nowhere to go if the water shows up. It pays to pay attention to the forecast, not just there but upstream as well.

How cool is this?

Your tour guide will point out features you may miss and they always know where to take the best pictures from (thank you Victor).  Don’t forget to tip your guide because the legions of European travelers generally don’t know they should. This is not a place for anyone with balance issues, orthopedic issues or an inability to stuff yourself into a narrow crack in the earth. For those who want to see the beauty but without the 2.2 degree of difficulty in getting in, Upper Antelope Canyon is across the road and you can walk in as it is perfectly level and flat.

Upper Antelope Canyon can be walked through by anyone, except Earl who was this old guy who staggered around in front of us two years ago. But I digress.

This is a bucket list place.

Shark diving on the cheap and other really bad ideas for vacation adventures

It is indisputable that sharks are extra cool. Every time I go to the beach, I look in vain for a shark. I’ve never seen a real shark in the ocean, not counting the two-foot-long baby shark I saw during my disastrous canoe trip with my sister. Naturally, Shark Week is a big geek-out time of year for me and I never miss the episodes reenacting the attack on the poor slob at the beach. For those of my morbid followers who just want the link to the shark attack videos, here you go.

Since I am such a shark geek, I am dying to go shark diving. This week, I got an email offering the trip of a life time to go “Budget Shark Diving.” This causes me some concern. I think that economizing to save money is not really my primary concern when picking a shark diving outfit. If you need an explanation why, take a gander at this outfit’s liability waiver you have to sign before you hit the cage. (Note: this dive group did not offer a discount trip to me). Keep your hands in the cage kids!

If shark diving on a budget strikes you as a bad idea, how about having a guy hold you by the ankles so you can look over the edge of Victoria Falls?

This hiking trail in China looks like it was built to last. I definitely want to try this one.

I think that zoos that allow visitors to simply walk into enclosures to pet the lions are charming, and also, operate to remove stupid people from the reproductive pool.

If you are brave and/or stupid enough to want to canoe a remote part of Africa, remember that hippos are not your friend.

Yachting around the Horn of Africa is lovely, and also, exciting as you attempt to outrun the natives who would like you to the their “Guest” while they ransom you. This site as some helpful tips including Somali phrases to memorize for your captivity.

On balance, the budget shark dive seems alright.

The Grim Reaper Report: National Park deaths

I have noticed an uptick in people who find this blog with searches for people who die in various national parks or as dinner for a shark or grizzly bear. Y’all are clearly a morbid, bloodthirsty bunch. This morning, these searches found this blog:

Searching for dead people

As a public service, for those of you with morbid curiosity wasting time looking for information on people who have died in National Parks and how, here’s where you need to go:

Yellowstone deaths

This bear in Yellowstone did not eat us as we stayed a long way away. If you surprise a bear with cubs, you can expect to be dispatched to the hereafter. Note the grainy picture which denotes long distance away from danger.

 

Yosemite deaths

3 people just died here. We didn't, but we stayed behind the rails.

Zion National Park deaths

This is why people die on Angel's Landing. It's 1200 feet off to one side and 900 on the other. I'm not insane enough to climb this, but Troy was. He's alive.

Grand Canyon deaths

Death Valley National Park deaths

Mount Ranier National Park deaths

Great Smoky Mountain National Park deaths/statistics

People die in Great Smoky Mountain National Park every year. Mostly because they are stupid. Waterfalls are dangerous.

 

Acadia National Park

Joshua Tree National Park

Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

Channel Islands National Park

Biscayne National Park

The water at Biscayne National Park is crystal clear. You can drown here or be eaten by a shark. According to Troy, who has to my knowledge, never set a toe in the ocean.

Big Bend National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

I did not drown, fall off a waterfall or get eaten by a mountain lion in Rocky Mountain National Park

Grand Teton National Park

Troy hiked all 19+ miles of this trail in Grand Teton without dying

Badlands National Park (click on the compendium for details by year)

The Badlands are named that way for a reason. Troy survived it. Because he's not an idiot and took water and knew where he was. Also because I was not there for him to argue with about which way to go.

Canyonlands National Park

Just past the arch is a drop of over 1500 feet. Don't go to the edge and pose.

Haleakala National Park

Crater Lake National Park

Sequoia National Park

Kings Canyon National Park

Denali National Park

Sadly, there’s no statistics kept on who had it coming. Darwinism may be at work in many of the deaths.

For those of you even more determined to track down who met their fate in the form of being dinner for a wild animal, here you go:

Mountain lion attacks

Black bear attacks

These baby bears are adorable. Mom is pissed off. We stayed a respectful distance away.

Grizzly bear attacks

Polar bear attacks

Shark attacks

Killer bee attacks

Snake bite deaths

You’re welcome.

Yosemite Bingo: Passenger Fun

Traveling is frequently very annoying. Traffic, crowds, weather issues – they can all totally screw up an otherwise pleasant trip. It is my lot in life to ride shotgun as I am never the one driving and I suffer extensively as the perpetual passenger. Troy complains that I am way too aggressive behind the wheel (doubtful) and that he is the sensible one (this from the man who would scream at someone holding a rocket launcher for cutting him off). Apparently, I must have been drunk* when Troy and I married because I missed the part in the vows to always let Troy drive. But I digress.

For those moments when life sucks in the passenger’s seat, I invented National Park bingo. Playing is easy. Print your card and observe.  Mark off the spaces as you see the items in question. When you get an entire row, casually lean over and then yell loudly in your husband’s ear “Bingo!”  When playing solo, you win when your husband nearly drives off the road so you can lecture him about his lack of driving acumen.

Your bingo card:

 

 

All of these things can be found at Yosemite National Park

Happy hunting.

* It was Vegas. And also, I was drunk.