I Owe Alabama an Apology

I have always said that Alabama exists to make Tennessee look good. Cross the state line, set your clocks back 20 years. Insert your own Alabama joke here. This was before I drove the length of Georgia on my way to the Everglades. Alabama, I apologize. You may be backwoods, but you are no Georgia. 

I-75 is pockmarked with billboards. To amuse myself on this very long road trip, I started paying close attention to the billboards. Leaving aside the billboards advertising hotels, gas stations and restaurants, the overwhelming majority of billboards along the interstate in Georgia are about “getting rid of liberals”, abortion and massage parlors/strip clubs.  Apparently, Georgia is overrun with people who frequent sex parlors and strip clubs that get girls knocked up and that are just ripe for being marketed to via the billboard. I’m not sure what liberals have to do with this, but maybe they oppose people going to sex parlors and knocking up girls.

You have many options available to let someone love you long time in Georgia

Once you are done fornicating, it’s time to deal with that unplanned pregnancy:

Apparently, abortion accounts for 20 percent of Georgia's GDP because abortion billboards account for most of the billboards

Then, for some unknown reason, the liberals must be removed from Georgia. This was next to an abortion billboard:

Apparently, communists oppose easy abortion and strip clubs in Georgia because Jody Hice wants Obama out.

So if you are a communist-hating, strip club patron who likes to knock women up and/or you like to have abortions after fornicating, Georgia looks perfect for you. For the rest of us, close your eyes and think of baseball.

Canoeing with Susan: a lesson in why kids should be sent to summer camp

My little sister is turning 40 soon and we planned to head to Florida to recover from the horror; her from turning 40 and me from having a little sister who is 40. The house we are staying at is on the beach but also is adjacent to a brackish water lake and they rent canoes.  I love to canoe and all things water-related.  I also know how to canoe. I assumed that Susan knew how to canoe because my parents also sent her to camp where I had learned to canoe. Big mistake. Susan has no idea how to canoe.

My Dad is a salt of the earth type whose parenting skills included spouting such gems as “life is hard in the far west” when confronted with a reasonable request for assistance. Dad also believed I should go to 4H camp so I could “toughen up”. At 11, I discovered that 4H camp meant get in a canoe, try to stay afloat and catch and make your own dinner.  My formative summers were spent in exotic locations like Kansas and Missouri canoeing and illegally trawling for bass to stay alive. I assumed Susan got the same treatment, but I never asked since she was younger than I am and was completely beaneath my notice. So when Susan said “hey let’s rent a canoe”, I was hit by a wave of nostalgia and though it would be a lark, especially since I could spend an enjoyable day in the sun paddling around the beach and then head out for a nice dinner without having to catch it first.  I did not consider the danger of Susan.

The site of the canoeing debacle, except the lake was attached to the ocean

To start with, Susan is a completely charming and utterly dangerous human to hang out with. She thinks nothing of lighting a cigarette with a map gas torch while driving down the highway.  She once blew the doors off a microwave while boiling eggs in a Pyrex bowl because “it seemed like a good idea.”  This is the person I decided to canoe with. In my defense, I had no idea she had never canoed because she had been to camp.

Getting in the canoe was the first trick. She almost took a header out of the canoe because she did not understand that the canoe was balancing in the water. I pressed on with the adventure because I thought she was just rusty and would remember how it all worked soon. The concept of balance remained elusive as she continuously lurched over the side to try to reach things in the water. Then, because there is such a thing as a “tide” and she did not heed commands to paddle hard, we foundered on a sand bar.  People from the beach could see us. They were laughing at us. Susan picked that time to jump out of the canoe to “push us off the sand bar”. Genius. Never mind that there were drop-offs everywhere around us.  Drop offs with sharks. She did manage to free us and somehow get back in the canoe just as this swam past us.

OK., this was not really us and this did not really happen, but we did see a 3 foot long baby shark 60 seconds after she got in the canoe. Of course there were bigger sharks just waiting to eat her out of my line of sight.

The bigger question for me was why did she not know how to canoe? The answer was that she got to go to civilized camp. With air conditioning, and three meals a day brought to her by people interested in her survival. Obviously, as the first born, I was expendable since they had a spare. So Dad, remember it will probably be me pushing your wheelchair and I am holding a grudge.

How to blow 320,000 Skymiles

So we have a ton of Skymiles on Delta to burn and I wanted to see where the most expensive place in the world is to fly to from Nashville. Courtesy of our friends at Kayak.com, I learned I could fly anywhere in the world for between $90 and $9,170.   I expected that for $9,170 in cold hard cash, it would be some exotic South Sea destination with black sand and blue oceans.  Not so much. $9,170 buys you coach to Baghdad. As in Iraq. Now there’s a garden spot I want to blow my Skymiles on.

You too can travel to exotic places, meet new and exciting people, and possibly be abducted and killed by them.

 Alternately, I can fly to Afghanistan for $8,260. Bargain travel to paradise.  Anyone up for a road trip?

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Penis rock, Arches

Some things need no explanation

You will not find this in any guide book. If you look to the right (of the you know what), you will see the famous Double Arch in the Windows Section at Arches National Park. Oh sure, I know you claim you were looking at the arch the whole time, but we all know where your mind is. Pervert.

Detour to Bryce Canyon

I was awakened before dawn by a determined husband who wanted to get on the road. Since I was groggy and without caffeine and riding shotgun, I had time to ponder all kinds of things I have never thought of before, like where would I go in case of nuclear war?  I also noticed the incredible numbers of giant boulders strewn across the sides of the canyons and I did give some thought to what I would do if some mega-ton boulder came tearing down the mountain while we were driving our trusty CR-V around the hairpin turns below. I really want my last words to be something pithy and not Holy Sh- followed by permanent silence.

Bryce Canyon turned out to be a small park filled with German people and also Japanese people. Also really old people, some of them German. German people stand out because they look tall, Aryan and unwashed with serious hiking gear. German lesbians abound. They are all sweaty and serious about hiking and smell like it too. Seriously, I have video. Japanese people are all tiny and carrying cameras and, apparently, the fashion in Tokyo this year requires that Japanese citizens wear painted on jeans which are so practical on a desert hike. Anyway, we (the royal we) decided to hike the Victoria’s Garden trail, then hike to the Navajo loop trail and do the Wall Street hike. For some reason, Bryce attracts old, slow annoying people who want to loudly talk to each other about where to meet. Why they would want to do this hike is beyond me because the trails in this park are evil for people who have bad joints, which I assume all old people have. The descent was endless and I knew my knees were taking a pounding and although I am old, I am not old people old. More on this later.

I looked at lots of hoodoos and have concluded the reason they made Bryce Canyon a national park is because it is full of penis-shaped rocks and someone thought it would be hilarious to name one of them after Queen Victoria. Whoever did the signs for Bryce Canyon also has a sense of humor because the signs they have don’t match any known direction of any existing trail, nor do the park maps match what was actually constructed, so you have to take it on faith that you are going in the right direction. That led to a so predictable spat between Troy (who is always right) and me (who is also always right) about which way to go. Fortunately, I was right. Someone please note this for posterity. This park has convinced me of the absolute rightness of my proverb that you should never marry a man with a butt smaller than yours. Had I married someone lazier and larger, I doubt seriously I would have an Icy Hot patch taped to my left butt cheek.

As to the hike itself, I suppose it was stunning. What I saw when I wasn’t doubled over in pain was spectacular. Wall Street is a narrow canyon with towering walls above that you walk through. It’s a good thing you start out walking, because by the end of the trail, I was close to crawling. I know I said on day 1 that I have discovered I hate hiking. This is not precisely true. I hate hiking at high elevations. In fact, I’ll be bold and declare I hate mountains. To do anything at 8000 feet that is remotely strenuous becomes much more so just by virtue of elevation and by the time I was crawling out of the canyon, I could barely breathe. Tiny dwarves with little knives were stabbing my legs repeatedly. I think an appropriate punishment for anyone on Wall Street (say the CEO of AIG) is to have to climb out of Wall Street in Bryce Canyon on a hot day with no water wearing a suit. That’s a 500 foot climb over .3 mile at 8000 feet.  Take that you over-privileged trust fund larvae! Tonight, I would sell what is left of my miserable lawyer soul to be able to touch my toes without screaming.

Tomorrow we hike the slot canyons at Antelope Canyon. My secret fear is that my chest will not fit through the slot canyon and I will end up stuck between canyon walls and Troy will have the camera.

Postcard worthy without the pain of hiking to see it

And also:

Seriously, a sandstone buttplug?

Antelope Canyon

I was again dragged from sleep by my husband this morning, this time for an excursion to Antelope Canyon. Antelope Canyon is in Arizona near Glen Canyon Dam and is on Navajo land. I was expecting to see a canyon filled with antelope, but I was told the antelope left the canyon in the 50s. The canyon is now filled with tourists, apparently mainly German, but they have not renamed it German Tourist Canyon. We arrived at the tour site as directed. It is worth noting that Arizona remains the only state that gives the proverbial finger to the rest of the United States and refuses to adopt daylight savings time. I guess they think they have enough sun and don’t need more of it. The tour site is run by Navajo who conveniently own the land on which the slot canyon is sited. If the federal government had foreseen what a cash cow this place was to become, they would have shipped the Navajo farther west.  Lucky for the Navajo that our ancestors were lazy.

Getting to the site was an adventure. They line you up and have you crawl in to the back of a 4 wheel drive truck with big tires, 2 long bench seats that comfortably seat 5 and then shove 6 on each side and make you share a seat belt. The back of the truck is covered with a fancy tarp. Our driver and tour guide, Angie, wasted no time hauling out of the parking lot and getting on the road.  Angie could give pointers to the guys that do that crazy off road race in the deserts of North Africa.  The only thing that would have made me feel less secure on the road would have been if Angie had heaved an empty  bottle of Mad Dog out the window as we careened through the desert or yelled “Hey watch this”.

Once we got there, we got our $64 worth. Angie made sure we got there before anyone else so we could get pictures without anyone being in our way. This ultimately turned out to be futile due to the presence of Earl, but it was a nice gesture. The canyon rises up in front of you at the end of what appears to be a wide dry riverbed. The pictures taken by famous photographers do not do this place justice. It is exceptionally cool and I highly recommend it.  I do recommend however wearing Teva’s or some other sandal and not water shoes as your shoes will fill with fine red sand which will then trail behind you in a Hansel and Gretel way for the rest of the day. The canyon is famous for the light beams that shine down from cracks in the ground that open on to the slot canyon below. In some places, the canyon is the width of a good sized dining room and in others, just three feet wide. I was relieved to see that the canyon was wide enough so my chest did not get stuck in a narrow passage. Because Troy and I have the luck of the Cherokee and not the Irish, our tour was cursed by passing rain clouds and the presence of Earl. Earl is a white elderly man who wandered through the canyon in the middle of everyone’s picture carrying a video camera at least 15 years old and absolutely oblivious to the throngs of people who wanted to get pictures of the canyon without Earl. This is Earl:

Earl, stylin' in the desert with his Super 8

Earl is blurry because these photos take long exposures and Earl is a perpetual motion machine of an old man.

Once the tour concluded and we returned to the starting point, we attempted to tour Glen Canyon Dam, but they refused to allow us in with a camera bag. I find it odd that security will not allow white middle aged people to tour with a camera bag (or purse) in tow, but just ½ mile away on a cliff is a platform created to provide an unobstructed view (and open shot) of the dam for any terrorist with a rocket launcher. I’m just sayin’. So we drove up to Wahweap overlook and looked at the marble canyons and the water and the dam from the backside.

After six days in the desert, I am beginning to feel canyon fatigue. What was new and novel is now starting to seem old hat. I feel much like I did in the museums of Europe: “Another Madonna col Bambino” by Michelangelo. Yawn.

Antelope Canyon, sans Earl

Zion: the Narrows

Someone told me once that the Narrows is a long river hike. Having returned from hiking the Narrows, I am qualified to say that that statement is like saying that the Grand Canyon is a big hole in the ground.  Neither adequately explains what you will experience.  It is important to note that I am a genetic, orthopedic disaster. I have knee surgeries like Hollywood people get “work done”. The Narrows is a river bed composed of river rocks which are neither stable nor easy on the ankles or knees. Now consider that it is early in the season and snow melt is still occurring. Add to the unstable rock bed the added element of 46 degree water moving in excess of 120 cfs. That’s like wading upriver on foot through Class 3 rapids.

Like all good death marches, we started ours bright and early. When we got to the trailhead, there were several other people there preparing to do battle with the Narrows. They were all dressed from head to toe in dry suits. Troy and I had on wicking shirts and shorts with neoprene shorts underneath, neoprene socks and water shoes.  We decided they were pussies. Then we got in the water. It wasn’t so bad until I fell about 100 yards in. Then I was cold. Within ½ mile, the river was running about neck deep. For those who have never had the pleasure of hiking a river with a strong current running against you, it’s exhausting and tedious. The average depth of the river for the entire run we did (trailhead at the Temple of Sinawava to the Wall Street area) was between knee and hip deep. The canyon is spectacular and it is absolutely worth seeing. I would, however, suggest you consider it later in the season when the water is shallow and warm.  I spent most of the hike trying to stay upright in the current. By the time we hit the Wall Street area it was deep, cold and fast.

Troy points out that I fell in the river 4 times. He never fell in. Troy says he is invincible in the woods. I have pointed out that he is completely at my mercy when he is asleep. By the time we got back, I had completely torched my knee  and had begun to cough (I now have bronchitis). This is the single most brutal hike I have ever done. I was (blissfully) unaware of the muscle connections between my toes and my scalp until I woke up this morning and I could have gone a lifetime without the knowledge.

Later, after my return to the hotel from the emergency clinic, I realized that the great tragedy of it all is that the hospital sent me back with drugs that would have been great fun if only I didn’t need them.

The Narrows:

Troy tried to kill me here

The Zion Travelogues

Day 1:

I am in Zion, which sounds like it should be some sort of Mormon paradise. However, it is paradise for people who hike. Also German people.  I hate hiking. This is a recent discovery.

We arrived at 11 pm last night after 16 hours in the car. We had intended to spend the night in Page AZ and drive in today, but unbeknownst to us, Page AZ was full of French people and they took all the hotel rooms. Bastards. Troy said I was babbling. Probably.

I awoke this morning (early) because Troy wanted to get an early start. As an aside, I insisted on breakfast and impeded Troy’ progress. We rode (with German people) on the shuttle (no cars allowed in Zion). We went to hike Emerald Pools. I swear it was the Bataan death march. The book classes the hike as “easy”. Uh huh. The hike was 2.3 miles long straight up and then straight down the mountainside. See below. All my training hikes at Warner Park meant nothing because I failed to consider altitude. My lungs were on fire. My legs shook. And that was just at the trail head. It was hot. The only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that if I die, Susan will try to get my earrings.

Here is what I learned today:

1) I am a creature of the inside. Hiking is hot and exhausting. They make videos so you can see what it looks like up there.
2) Girls who like to hike are earthy, perky things with washboard abs. I hate them all.
3) Sweat runs into unladylike places and then begins to chafe you. Then the flies come for you like buzzards.

Tomorrow, Troy is hiking Angel’s landing. I have no interest in or ability to manage that trail. I will stay at the hotel and guard the croissants.

Day 2:

Troy got up early to hike Angel’s Landing. Had I been more alert, I might have done more than mumble incoherently as he left as that trail is seriously and insanely dangerous and it might have been my last chance to say something sweet to my soon to be deceased husband. Instead, I pulled the blanket over my head and went back to sleep.

I woke up at 7, showered and admired my bright red forehead. Guess I missed a spot yesterday with the sunscreen. I also stared at my wadded up swimsuit on the bathroom floor I had been too weak to pick up after I returned from the hot tub last night. I note that a tankini seems like a good idea in principal, but in my case, all I got was massive cleavage and a swimsuit bottom with a disturbing tendency to roll down. I vote for a one piece next time.

I decided that lumbering along the river was a good idea to stretch my muscles. I ended up on a trail that went a good distance into Zion. Since it was early, all I saw were a few people and massive piles of horse crap, one of which greatly resembled a hoodoo formation I expect to see in Bryce Canyon tomorrow. Troy had the camera with him so I was unable to impress you with a photo of horse crap. Eventually, my legs seemed to be functioning and I grew tired of dodging bikes, so I went back to the hotel. One really excellent thing about being in a national park where hiking is the order of the day is that no one expects you to look good while you wander through the towns outside the park. I look like someone you would avoid on a street corner for fear of getting panhandled, but no one seems to notice my slightly mincing walk or oddly matched t-shirt and shorts. Bored, I did what any sensible tourist would do and I went shopping for jewelry. I bought a really sweet turquoise necklace that cost slightly less than Troy’s camelback backpack. Guess who will get more use out of their purchase?

Having spent money, the only thing left to do was return to the hotel and wait to find out if I was newly widowed. Troy stumbled in around 12:30 and I had the great satisfaction of knowing he was in the same pain I was in yesterday. I did make some sympathetic noises and got him both Gatorade and lunch. I am a nice wife no matter what Troy says.

Troy lounged around until I finally prodded him that we should go see something seeing as we are in Utah and while the hotel ceiling is fascinating, we could see it anytime. We decided to drive to Pink Coral Sand Dunes State Park to see pink coral sand dunes. It was about 50 miles to the park and we arrived and stared at slightly orangey sand dunes. There was a German couple there (of course) and no one else. We took some pictures and went back to Zion.

Tomorrow: Bryce Canyon. This is high elevation territory so I expect to pass out in the parking lot. Give me sea level any day. On the plus side for Brenda, this park lacks the dramatic cliffs from which Troy could push me so I will likely survive another day. The bad news is that the Narrows remains closed due to high snow melt runoff so Troy’s plan to drown me on the hike through the river bed has been thwarted. Since the hike through the Narrows is one of the main reasons we are here, it would suck to not be able to do that hike.

Troy has put together some video of his Angel’s Landing hike which has been uploading on youtube for 45 minutes thus far. In the meantime, to hold you for the time being while we wait, here’s a picture some old man took of Troy at the top. Points will be given for the best caption. I am merely irritated that an old man could do that hike while I would have died 20 feet in.

Troy at Angel's Landing

So, so close to the edge

Glacier National Park, part deux

I saw a headline today that said that Tennessee as a state is the 5th laziest state in the United States. This makes me want to work harder at slacking. I loathe sweating and if I feel a bead of sweat rolling down my ass crack, it’s a pretty safe bet I am unhappy. This is why it continues to mystify my friends that I go to national parks for vacations where I swear I am going to hike. Part of it is being married to a guy who thinks a 12 mile hike at high altitude is a fun day and not wanting to look like the complete slacker I am.  I blame the rest on the Title Nine catalog.  If you buy the clothes, clearly you can do the hike.  Consumerism creates delusional behavior.

Unlike normal people who see a photo of a beautiful mountain scene and admire the beauty, I look at it and think, I could train to get in shape to climb that mountain and then my obnoxiously fit husband could kiss my ass the next time he makes some comment about how I use the cross trainer to hang wet bras out to dry.

If you buy the right shoes, you can definitely hike to Grinnell Glacier, even if you drive to the corner market rather than walk.

There is one major problem with hiking in the mountains. It’s the word “mountains”. Mountains are steep. Steep is hard to walk up without sweat running down your ass crack and I hate sweating. I much prefer the kind of hiking that’s suitable for old people. If the trail is groomed enough for someone to ride a Rascal scooter on, I am all over it.

Even better, take awesome pictures of Goose Island on St Mary Lake 10 feet from your car

There is another problem with mountains. Mountains are cold. They have ice and snow. Second to sweating, I hate freezing. Glacier National Park is named after glaciers. Glaciers are moving giant fields of ice. Ice is cold.

This is Grinnell Glacier. It is cold. Troy hiked here to take this picture as I had nothing to do with the actual taking of this photo

Troy hiked to Grinnell Glacier. He said it was very cool and the alpine valleys were scenic. For all I know, he went to the bar and had someone photoshop the picture, but he swears he hiked there.

Troy at Grinnell Glacier. Note the awesome hiking stick.

He may have hiked 6 miles up to Grinnell Glacier, but I staggered out of the car and up a field to take this picture of wildflowers at Many Glacier. Troy will never pick up chicks hiking to glaciers. We want flowers, not hunks of glacial ice.

Just as scenic, 40 degrees warmer and no difficult hike.

I hiked to St Mary Falls to prove I was not a total loser. It is beautiful. I sat on the rocks and contemplated tossing Troy over the edge into the roiling waters for taking this picture. If Chaka Khan was a white girl with flaming red hair and she hiked in Glacier National Park, this is what she would probably look like.

Photographic proof that I was there for my doubters

Note my awesome hiking pants. They are not quite as cool as Chuck Norris action jeans, but they are close.

The desert is hot

I am a creature of the indoors. I like electricity, running water and fluffy mattresses with 600 thread count sheets. On the list of things I do not like:  sweating, chafing, being eaten alive by sand fleas and long hard hikes up the sides of cliffs. Clearly,  a trip to hike in the desert in Utah in June was an excellent plan for a vacation. There are serious flaws to being married to a man with a butt smaller than mine, not the least of which is that he is a) morally superior when skipping up the side of a steep slope and b) is not sweating or chafing in unfortunate locations while skipping up the side of a steep slope. In the abstract, the desert southwest is a great idea for a vacation. Beautiful, sweeping vistas and stark landscapes that inspire awe. In reality, you may be awed, but you will also be sweaty.

I present Delicate Arch for your consideration. Delicate Arch is the state symbol for Utah. It’s on their license plates and it’s really really famous. It seemed like a good idea to hike up to see it. I mean, it’s only 1.5 miles to it, so how bad can it be?

The answer is really really bad. It was hot. Sweat was running down my body and into dark places that did not need watering. I frankly do not enjoy rivulets of sweat running down my ass crack, but maybe it’s just me. Also, I am a white girl with red hair. Imagine the Pillsbury Dough boy with long red hair and you have the idea. Guess what? SPF 45 sunscreen does not do much to help really white girls avoid sun burn. I roasted, even through my shirt. As I roasted, I complained to anyone who would listen that I was also dying a slow, miserable death. I now know exactly what a lobster feels like as it is being cooked in the shell in boiling water, except the lobster was not marched to its death uphill first. Troy did not look like he had even broken a sweat. I really hate him sometimes. The worst was listening to people seeing you on the way back down saying “You’re almost there and it is sooooo worth it.” It makes you feel like a loser if you decide fuck it, I’m heading back to the car and air conditioning. So you soldier on. And at the end, you turn the corner and you see this amazing arch sitting way up high on the side of a slick rock cliff.

Delicate Arch, Arches National park

So yes, it is amazing and I suppose it’s worth it to have seen this sight. (Side note: the little white speck to the left of the arch is Troy to give you a sense of scale. I can’t believe I didn’t rush over and throw him off the edge when I had the chance).