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Southwest Expedition - Thanksgiving 2012

  • 2000+ miles by car
  • 20+ by foot
  • 4.5 by bike
  • 10 by horse
  • 50 by helicopter

Good time had by all.  Most of the time.

We've done some 800-mile round trips before (six-hour bursts to Mammoth Mountain and Tucson).  Leigh, Dash, and Aunt JoJo travelled up and down the coast south of Monterrey last Thanksgiving.  But this was my first "several days in a car" trip with Dash.  Hope for the best prepare for the worst.  My secret weapons: some Clone Wars Season III DVDs and a DVD of the complete works of Schoolhouse Rock.

The Plan was too drive out Tuesday Night, spend the night in Vegas and then head to Bryce for two nights to hike and go horseback riding (Dash's mount time totaled, to this point, 4 minutes on a llama).

We stayed at the Rio in Vegas.  I heard Dash was a bit baffled by the sight of Casino waitresses in lingerie as Leigh and he headed to the rooms.  Nice hotel, $39/night.  We spent more on the buffet in the morning. 


Managed to get hold of a Horseback outfit that was still open (most had shut down for the winter).  I thought we'd have no problem making the 3:00p start time until I found out that Red Canyon was in CST, not PST.  High stress drive, since missing the cavalry would require waiting until Friday to ride, since apparently the horses are unionized and have Thanksgiving off.

We arrived in Red Canyon, Utah about two minutes early.  Good to go.

Dash was a bit concerned up front, especially when the wrangler started barking out instructions on how to handle your horse.  He wasn't happy about wearing a helmet.

His horse is "Hollywood", Leigh's is "Diamond", mine is "Lucky" (a misnomer since Lucky always draws the fat guy).

After Dash got comfortable, the chattering got started (and didn't stop until San Diego).

(note: all pictures are linked to full-size images)


This was a day for hiking Bryce Canyon.  Early hike went down a horse trail, which you would think interesects the primary "Fairyland Loop".  Not so much.

Once we got back on track...


Thanksgiving Dinner consisted of our fifth straight buffet meal, a Thanksgiving Buffet at Ruby's Inn.


After another buffet, we head to Arches and Moab by way of Capitol Reef National Park.  Good Gravy is Utah big.  And desolate.  There's an area that seems like you're on the moon.  Grey flat plain with big connect piles of grey mush.

Dash watched "Home Alone 2" for the first time.  He had headphones on.  We couldn't hear the movie, but he thought it was hilarious.  What's better than your kid laughing?  Schoolhouse Rock start to get into heavy rotation.

We get to Arches National Park in time to get a short hike to Double Arch.   Dash was grumpy, since we had a rule that when we get to something viewable, we take the iPad away.  Taking iPad away = grumpy.  After climbing rocks like a monkey he was happy again (as the pictures show).

Next up was a hike to Delicate Arch.  Nice hike, I'd forgotten everything but the Arch itself.  I'd forgotten that it's marginally dangerous at places.  It didn't occur to me to set Dash's expectations and that he'd act like he was in a playground. 

Nearing the top there is a bit of a spine, with Certain Death a slip away to the right and Probable Death a slip away to the right.  He had no awareness of the risk (paying attention, there is little risk of falling; spazzing around, it was dangerous enough to freak Leigh and me out.  Dash, of course, didn't think our yelling was warranted and was in a fowl mood and pouting.  His judgment is pronouncedly worse when he's mad.  I'm shadowing him saying "I don't trust you."  Surly, surly, surly, but safe.

That's Leigh to the left staying between him and the Probable Death dropoff.


Saturday was: biking in the morning; Arch hiking in the afternoon, and then driving and driving to Tuba City (that's right: Tuba City).

First, the bike ride. 

Dead Horse Point State Park, Intrepid Trail System.  Dash's Third Trail (the previous being Penasquitos Waterfall in San Diego).

To me this was the big unknown of the trip - the skill level of the trail, the hassle of equipment, the possibility of pain, the probability of bad attitude.

This trail has an utterly amazing view and was built for beginners.  The Intrepid Trail was made possible through great public/private partnerships. Intrepid Potash, Inc., for which the trail is named, gave $20,000 for construction of a new single-track, non-motorized trail system. The trail was built by Trail Mix, a local volunteer organization, and volunteers from the Utah Conservation Corps, American Conservation Experience and Moab Trails Alliance.

Thanks to those folks: it was great beginner ride.  I gotta figure out how to do it again.

There's a good write-up about this trail here.


First: "Before Pictures," in case the "During Pictures" and "After Pictures" are too frowny or bloody.


Dash's prior off road experience was pretty much:  truck trails, with pretty consistent good traction. 

After the first 100 yards or so, he was hit with a whole bunch of new things at once including some single track, slickrock, some incline and abrupt changes of terrain.  I'm thinking "uh-oh."

Shortly thereafter we had the first dropped bike and the initial chorus of "I hate this.  I'm never doing this again."  When he's upset everything is absolutes.

We get him back on.  I'm thinking "this is a single track loop, but we can probably go against the flow" (there wasn't much flow, it was very empty out there).  We get him back on and we make some progress.

There were a few more iterations of dropped bike and "I'm never getting back on."  I told Dash that dropping the bike is completely fine, it's expected, walking is okay, and as long as you don't get hurt, everything is fine.  I was out front scouting for obstacles and difficulties, so I actually missed most of his good stuff (though I caught most of the elaborate protests and lamentations).  I was planning to take us all back via short 1-mile loop, whose turnoff was at the half-mile point.

We stopped to take a break, enjoy the view, take some pictures calm down. 

What I didn't notice was the little path to the cliff edge pretty much confused the short-loop turnback.  We kept going and after a while I realized: "Whoops, we missed the turnaround path and now we're on the 4.2 mile loop. I am going to be in trouble..."

Again, I'm out front instead of right behind him, so I'm missing most of how he's doing (I couldn't hang back close in front, because whenever he'd catch up to me he'd yell "Dad, Speed Up!!!!".  Shouts of "Use your breaks. If I'm going slow, there's a reason" only seemed to incendiary to him.

We keep going, the slickrock goes away for a while, with a flat dirt single track, easy enough to give Dash some success.

I see him put the bike down a couple times, without major histrionics. Maybe we'll be okay.  I still haven't told anyone we're on the 4-mile loop...

He seems to be doing okay, in fact, I did stop to warn him about a tricky uphill and he powers right up it. Looks like he's into it now.  In fact, he's gone straight to cocky and over-confident.

We're at the half-way point, so I tell Leigh and Dash that I missed the short loop cross over and we're at the farthest point from help.  I emphasize to Dash: "You're only goal now is to get back safely.  Don't worry about getting better, doing well, dropping the bike, any of that.  We have over two miles to get back to the trailhead.  Our goal is to not get hurt and get back there safely."

He does.  We do.

Leigh says he really enjoyed it once he got comfortable.

I think he did a great job on a challenging course for his third off road ride.  I'm proud that he stuck with it, powering through the difficult start.  He was very intimidated by the many new things being thrown his way, but kept at it and was doing very well after the first 40 minutes.

And it was fun. And beautiful.  I can't wait to do that trail again.  I'll look for one that's technically similar, but I think the view will be unmatchable...

After the Bike, back to Arches to Hike...

Landscape Arch (the longest in the world, if I recall), Double O, Navajo...

Nice Climbing hikes (which makes Dash happy).  We were smart enough to set his behavioral/dangeral limits prior to the start of this one...

This hike was, I think, entirely good attitude and lasted past sundown.
Landscape Arch in the background

In front of Landscape Arch

Leigh and Dash up top Leigh and Dash up top
Our Shadows along the spine to Double O Arch

our shadows on the spine to Double O Arch

coming back from Double O, along the spine

on the way back from Double O on the spine

Dash in the bottom O of Double O
Double O at Sunset and Moonrise  

After gassing up in Moab, we started the long haul to Tuba City to sleep prior to heading to the grand canyon.  By now Conjunction Junction was Dash's new favorite song.  The four-hour drive was punctuated with "...Hooking up words, and phrases and clauses... I got three favorite cars that get most of my work done... And, But and Or will get you very far..."


Fifty minutes from Tuba City starts Grand Canyon National Park.

Our Grand Canyon experience started on a sour note because:
  1. one must turn the iPad off during scenic stops and
  2. I insisted that we defer buying the $20 "Authentic Indian Arrow" at the first Tourist Trap, preferring to wait until the main Grand Canyon Village Tourist Trap (better selection/prices?).

The latter was a mistake, as $20 arrows are a rarer commodity that I imagined, and at one point going back 20-miles to the original store was being debated.  I hope that I don't make that mistake again.

Our stay in the canyon was brief, partially so that we could get home at a reasonable hour, and partly because we were mainly shopping for arrows (or so it seemed to me).

Heading out we passed the Grand Canyon Airport. Dash thought a helicopter ride would be a great idea (I got one of those jumping up and down hugs with cooings of "best Dad ever!". I should have drawn that moment out...  :) ).


Then if was time for the final 480 miles home.  Leigh sat in the back to watch Home Alone 2 with Dash.  Stereophonic laughter (lost on me, slapstick w/o video left too much to imagination). 

2000+ miles of this in my rear view mirror:


Traffic was good, everything was good.  "We'll be home in an hour and twenty minutes!"  "Bluh!" Dash starts throwing up.  Strapped in his car seat, he didn't have much room to aim.  So right onto the harness buckle.  Couldn't eject. "Get me out of this!"  Fortunately, we were a mile from a rest stop.  Got him out, cleaned him up and the car seat.  Fortunately he fell asleep shortly thereafter.  Stayed home from school Monday; fine Tuesday.

Good trip.


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