Saturday, October 24, 2009

Lily's first meet!

The clan has migrated to Phoenix for the night to see Lily's first official gymnastics meet! The actual compitition is tommorrow morning but it was too early to drive up from Tucson, so we're all camping out at a Quality Inn in Glendale.

Many a picture will be taken tomorrow I'm sure, so those will be shared ASAP. Good luck Lils!

PS: Chris should listen to his lovely wife when she suggests sunscreen while he's painting the fascia on the house at the bequest of their jerky HOA. Sunburned forearms = sad panda.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A Great Anniversary Day!

Aimee checking in here! It's 10:30 PM and we're winding down from a great day, celebrating our first anniversary as a married couple.

We started the day bright and early with a 3 or 4 block walk from the hotel to La Bellavia, where we posted our earlier blog and had some delicious, filling breakfast. Afterward, we walked around a bit and Chris took some lovely pictures of a gorgeous church called the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany (quite a mouthful) before we headed back to the hotel.

We decided to exchange presents early so that we wouldn't have to carry them to the restaurant later (we have walked everywhere). We both got awesome nerdy presents from each other-- from me, Chris got a bit torrent media server and player, and a hard drive to go with. Chris gave me a 32GB iPod Touch, which makes me so happy! I have been watching him use his iPod for such cool stuff since I got it for him, so I've been wanting one myself! I can't wait to load it up with music and cool programs!

We had a nice nap, and around 11 or so headed out again for some downtown wandering. We found a great photo gallery nearby and browsed in there for a while, as well as going to Animas Trading Post, which has been in Flagstaff forever (or at least as long as I've been there). After working up a new appetite, we went to a restaurant that was new to me, Karma Sushi, which was fabulous. Chris ordered a bento box with oceans of food in it, and we shared its non-sushi contents (soup, salad, etc) while I ate some cooked fish sushi. It was a nice light lunch, which was good because our dinner was both fabulous and filling.

After lunch, we went over to the NAU campus and walked around a bunch. I showed Chris a lot of my old haunts, and we went through the student union. I was surprised to see how much it has changed! It used to have two distinct eating section and that was it; it's now a much bigger building with tons of food choices, including name brand stuff like Einstein's Bagels (jealous!), Starbucks, Pizza Hut, and so on. Quite a different atmosphere from when I was there!

Somehow, I managed to take a second nap after we got back to the hotel (I love vacation!), after which, we got dolled up to go to dinner. We ate at Brix Wine Bar and Restaurant, which is also new to me. It's contemporary American cuisine, and in spite of its pretentious menu listings, the food was both excellent in quality and in quantity (no tiny plated entrees with a single asparagus spear poking out or anything). It was a bit fancier and bit pricier than anywhere we'd normally go, but that made it perfect for an anniversary! At the end, we shared a few bites of our wedding cake, which had held up remarkably well in our freezer this past year. It still tasted like cake, albeit a slightly dry cake.

After we were done with dinner, we met up with Caleb and Shayna to go to Lowell Observatory. Caleb and Chris used to work together before Caleb went over to LTA--Live Tax Advice--and then moved to Flagstaff. Shayna works at Lowell, so we were able to get in for free (thanks guys!!!!) and saw some fabulous stuff. We got to see Jupiter through a smaller telescope, and it just so happened that four of the brightest moons were visible and in a straight line, so that was cool. We saw a ring nebula that Shayna says they usually describe as a "soggy Cheerio" for people who are having issues seeing it. And then we got to look through the coolest telescope of all, which is the Clark telescope. It was installed at Lowell in 1896, and is still in perfect working condition. It's just an amazing feeling to realize you're looking at stars through the same telescope that has been used by many famous astronomers. Shayna told us that a lot the foundation of the Big Bang theory was developed using a spectograph at Lowell, and Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and the rest of the team used the Clark telescope for pre-moon mission mapping. Also, Lowell is in works with the Discovery Channel, and they're building a 4.3 meter telescope (huge!) that hopefully will be done within the next couple of years.

All in all, this was an amazing anniversary day, and has been a fabulous weekend. I miss Flagstaff so much, and it's bittersweet to be here again, but I wouldn't want to be anywhere else for our special weekend!

Long time, no blog...

Aimee and Chris here, checking in from Flagstaff. We came up here for our one year anniversary and are having a great time.

Chris is taking lots of pictures (that he'll upload when we get home) and complaining about the cold. Aimee is in heaven and has realized just how much she misses living in Flagstaff.

We went to the Beaver St Brewery last night and had their famous pretzels, and Chris tried a few different types of their microbrews, of which the marzen octoberfest was his favorite. We're doing breakfast at La Bellavia, a cool little local place that has great peppermint mocha. :-)

One of Chris' co-workers moved up here about a year ago and his fiancé works at the Lowell observatory, so we're going to get a behind the scenes tour later today. Yay!

More updates to come!
PS: this was pecked in on Chris' iPod so please excuse any typos or missed capitalizations.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Power of Mama Nature

That tree seems to be leaning on that house on the left, doesn't it? Yeah, that's our house (and our neighbor's tree). Sometime during this afternoon's crazy-strong storm the tree was uprooted and is now leaning completely against our house via a branch that keeps cracking more and more. Christ...

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Sent from my Helio Ocean

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Sent from my Helio Ocean

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Isn't technology grand?

New TV and entertainment center from Best Buy! Bluray looks amazing and everything is super awesome.

We eventually want to wall mount it, but thats a project for another weekend. So far the cats have been okay around it, but it makes Chris nervous, especially with all the cables that are on the back.

Further reports as we play with all the options...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Illinois Illinupdates

Hello everyone, your favorite bloggers here.

First thing's first, Chris added a few pictures from meeting up with Gramps (AKA Rev, AKA Joseph, AKA Joe), as well as some from Papa's actual birthday with his brother Gerry. We added links here as well as in the older posts.

Yesterday we took a trip up to Belleville to visit the Casson family, who are longtime friends of Papa (AKA Gene), and all of Chris' mom's family. Deb's mom and Jerry Casson were great friends, and raised their kids together for a few decades. The Cassons are a loud, fun-loving bunch, and it's always a great time to hang out with them. This shindig was at Rick's house (Rick being one of Jerry and Dave's many children who made it to the party), and we got the grand tour including the bar they'd installed downstairs, the lake in the middle of their little community, and the winery owned and operated by the guy who built the neighborhood.

The Winery was fun, and really any place that hands out free tasty alcohol can't be all bad. The make wines with awesome names like Old Hippie, Smart Ass Chardonay, The Doctor's Zin, and Hope (which is a Riesling in a cobalt blue bottle with a pink breast cancer awareness label, donating the proceeds to the local Susan G Comen foundation). We ended up with two bottles of Hope, and figure that by including it with the bottle of Brut champagne they gave us at the House on the Rock, we'll have enough to share with the 8 folks at the house some evening.

The birthday cake was tasty, and the candles (yes, there were really 80 of them) were successfully extinguished. Everyone brought some food product so we had a big buffet of chicken, brats, porkiness, all sorts of potato salads/coleslaws/sides, and of course you can't have a big family get together in the mid-west without an assortment of American beers. Deb had spent the last few weeks scanning old pictures of Papa as a kid, attending various weddings, family portraits, etc and Kim put together a great slideshow of pictures for everyone to enjoy. It went over very well and everyone was gathered around the TV to watch and see what trouble Gene had gotten into growing up.

Kim of course gravitated towards the pool (since she's a particularly awesome swim instructor) and towards baby Olivia (since she's an early childhood education guru [Also, she says "And the baby's so cute!"]), so naturally she sought to combine the two. In an impromptu swim-lesson, after obtaining parental consent of course, she danced around the pool with Olivia and they blew bubbles at each other. This baby took to the water perfectly, and Kim's hopeful that early exposure to swimming before Olivia has a chance to develop an (irrational) fear of the water and resistance to swim lessons makes her the safer and more confident swimmer just like she's seen in other babies who started swimming early.

As I'm writing this, we're off to Flora to visit Synda who is Deb's cousin. There's a lot of family all over the Illinois area so while we're back here, we're making the most of our proximity to catch up with everyone we can. More updates and pictures to follow!

PS - The spiderweb pictures at the end of the album don't really have anything to do with the birthday, but my dad pointed them out, and I thought they were cool.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis...

We've been in St. Louis (or technically, in Illinois, since Deb's folks live in Waterloo, IL, which is about 45 minutes from the St. Louis airport) for a couple of days now. Staying with Norma and Gene Boyd is just such a treat. They're the nicest folks, and they love having all of us here. Kim and Ricky are sleeping in the finished basement, Jim and Deb are in the guest room, and your favorite nerds are on the futon in the computer room (go figure).

Yesterday, we drove the 3 hours up to Bloomington, IL, for a delightful day spent with Jim's father and his brother John and John's wife, Cindy. We all had lunch, and then dinner, together, before heading back down to Waterloo. It was a lovely day spent with family. Funny little anecdote on the way back-- apparently, a lot of cops in Illinois drive unmarked cars, and unlike in Arizona, they're not white Crown Vics. Deb was anxious to get back to her folks' house, so she was being a liiiiiiiitle bit lead-footed. We were going around 80 in a 65 zone. An unmarked cop pulled up alongside us, glared at Deb, and pointed at his speedometer. We were pretty lucky that he was feeling generous! Needless to say, we slowed to about 70 for the rest of the drive home.

Today, Gene's brother Gerry and his wife Sherrill are here visiting for Gene's 80th birthday, which is today. Over the weekend, we'll be going to a big barbecue bash being held by the Cassons, who are longtime friends of the Boyd family.

We're having a great time, but Aimee admits that she's pretty homesick and is looking forward to being with her kitties again next week. Chris is glad that his allergies have only kicked in once so far, though he's pretty miserable right now.

Time for us to stop being rude guests and go socialize. More blogging later!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Two journies becoming one...

We made it to St. Louis and successfully returned the Durango (to Alamo) and got the van (from Budget), with only a few weird snags.

The trip was long and boring between the house on the rock and the alamo lot in St Louis, but was uneventful. Returning the car in and of itself wasn't bad but we have more crap to haul around than any two people ever should, which has to all be transferred to the Budget car rental place. We pretended that we had a flight leaving the airport, and the Alamo people happily took us over - where we walked 3 feet and got on the budget shuttle. It covered more distance than needed, but got us there without having to lug bags too far...

Which gets us to the Budget lot. The new plan is for Chris to rent the car in his name,and add Deb as a second driver. This way, all the bags can be thrown in at once, and we can haul all 6 of us around (Chris, Aimee, Deb, Jim, Kim and Ricky) without a problem. The snag here is that Chris didnt know what all the details were when Deb set up the reservation, so he made his best guesses. The only thing that's really different from our rental is the milage limitation, but the 1,050 miles should be sufficient.

Chris had finally gotten used to the big ol' Durango, but this van is a friggin' BEAST. He says "I miss being able to see when I could merge." We're thinking that letting Deb drive sounds like a better and better idea, since Chris has 2,000+ miles under his belt within the last week.

We're currently at the STL airport cellphone lot, and will be picking everyone up in the next hour. More updates after we make it to Papa and Grandma Norma's house!

Day 7 - House on the Rock

We left Minneapolis around 9 or so, as we'd planned, and drove the 4 1/2 - 5 hours to House on the Rock Resort, where we stayed last night. The resort is absolutely gorgeous, and much nicer than we realized it would be-- we're in a suite with a living room and separate bedroom with a king sized bed. The food at the restaurant was delicious, and nowhere near as expensive as we feared it would be, as fancy as the place is (particularly since our package included a dining discount!).

Our package included 30 minute massages for each of us, which we were more than happy to indulge in after being on the road for so long. It was Chris' first professional massage, and he definitely enjoyed it!

As for the House on the Rock attraction itself, well, this place is awesome! We both really wish that we'd had more time to look at it. Our massages were done a little after 4, and we got to the attraction 7 miles away around 4:30. There are three tours to see everything. Tour 1 is fairly short, and Tours 2 and 3 are much longer. We were told that the last tour starts at 5 for any given tour, so that meant we had to go through Tour 1 fairly quickly to make it to Tour 2 before 5, and then spend the last hour before they closed in Tour 2. We didn't get to see Tour 3, sadly, and we spent less time in 1 and 2 than we would have liked.

The House was the brainchild of Alex Jordan, an architect, artist and collector who began the House in the 40's as a retreat. By the 60's, enough people were coming out of their way to see the House that he decided to open it to the public and give up on the whole retreat idea. He charged admission so that he could keep building it and making it more and more interesting.

Tour 1 included the Infinity Room, which is what people talk about when they talk about the House. It juts out over a cliff around 85 feet up from the ground, and the docent told us it's counter-weighted by a massive amount of concrete under the main house. There are a bunch of pictures of it in the album, including this one.

By far, though, our favorite part was the Japanese Garden. As cool as all the collections are, this is what we'd spend our money on building.

We have to post a shorter blog today, because we've got a long drive ahead of us to St. Louis, so we're going to stop here. Check out all of the pictures in the album; we think you won't be disappointed!!

Next update will be with the Cronenberg family!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

This is What Happens When "Adults" Act Like Kids

So, we had breakfast at the cafe at the Ramada Mall of America (or MOA, as it's called) this morning, and in his usual nerdy way, Chis decided to blow his straw wrapper at me. He always does this. Today, it hit me...and then deflected off my head and into the hair of the elderly lady behind us. Luckily, she laughed at it. I was mortified and laughing hysterically at the same time. Surprised we didn't get kicked out...

We're about an hour and a half outside of Minneapolis, filling up the ginormous tank on the Durango with E-85. Awesome that we get to use it, since it's better for the environment and way cheaper.

More blogging after House on the Rock!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Day 6 bloggage

Hello all!

As Aimee posted earlier from the theater, Up was pretty darn cute, though Chris thought the ratio of sad to happy and fun was a little too much toward the sad side of things (Aimee cried). You know how Disney loves to kill/maim/separate/poke with a stick/etc some important character so as to make you love/hate/feel for/root for/etc another? Same thing, just with a heavier hand than usual.

The mall was just ridiculous, and gigantic. Go through the pictures here. Most of them relate to the fact that there's a friggin' amusement park in the middle of the mall, but there's also stores for everything you've ever heard of. Nothing all that exciting to report - pretty much we wandered around the mall for a few hours, and outside of scale and selection, it was not all that special.

Tomorrow we're going to be at The House On The Rock, which looks to be an interesting place with a museum, a tour, and crazy Frank Lloyd Wright eske architecture. I'm sure I'll take lots more pictures there. More updates tomorrow!
UP was so cute!

How come our mall doesn't look like this?

Made it to the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN (essentially Minneapolis/St. Paul), and it's HUGE. Each wing (there are 4) of each floor (there are 3 or 4 floors depending on the part of the mall) would hold Park Mall, and that's not even including the Nickelodeon theme park in the middle...

Today was a pretty easy day of driving, and we're going to go see Up! in about an hour, so that should be fun. Not sure how many pictures we'll have to share, but we'll put together a day-in-review post after the movie and mall exploration is done. Bye, everyone!

Day Five - Wall Drug and The Badlands (And a Lot of Driving in the Rain)

Day five dawned like most of the other days so far-- overcast. We didn't have the best of accommodations at the Rodeway Inn (note to all-- when choosing a Choice hotel, stick with Comfort Inn/Comfort Suites over Rodeways), so we were ready to head out pretty early. We had an OK breakfast at their cafe and hit the road, heading east towards the small town of Wall, SD.

Wall's only real claim to fame is Wall Drug, which has its beginnings in the 30's. The short version of their history is, the Husteads bought a drugstore, and it did pretty crappily, unsurprisingly, thanks to the Depression. They were close to closing when they hit on a great idea to attract business to the off-the-beaten-path little town: they advertised free ice water for hundreds and hundreds of miles in all directions. Those signs are still around these days.

Their campaign worked like a charm and Wall Drug is an actual attraction now. It's not a drugstore anymore; it's a mall. The thing is HUGE! There are several different gift shops, with products ranging from South Dakota attractions (Mt Rushmore, Badlands, etc) to Wild West memorabilia to a Black Hills Gold shop to a rock, mineral and gem shop, and so much more. Of course, there's also a ton of kitsch. Wouldn't want it any other way. Besides the shops, there are a couple of places to eat and an ice cream shop. There are also a few funny attractions, like this and this and this. They still offer free ice water and 5 cent coffee, too. More pics in the roadtrip album for Day 5 - Wall Drug!

After leaving Wall, we took the scenic loop through the Badlands. The Badlands are interesting. Most of western South Dakota is gentle rolling hills--some of which are known as the Black Hills, because they're so densely covered in trees that they look black from a distance--and then, out of nowhere, BAM! This landscape smacks you in the face. Looks like parts of Arizona, huh? I think that they called it "Bad Lands" when it was first discovered because it was so different from the very-suitable-for-farming hills. More pictures of the Badlands can be found in the roadtrip album for Day 5 - Badlands.

From leaving the Badlands, we headed east, to traverse basically the entire state of South Dakota. We hit some decently heavy rain for a short stretch, then drove through mostly overcast skies with a few sprinkles here and there. We also left the higher elevations during this leg. At the highest, in eastern Wyoming, we were at 9,000 feet. Now, in eastern South Dakota, we're at about 1,400 or so.

By five-ish, we were itching to be in our hotel in Sioux Falls, and were still 50 miles out or so. Of course, this is when the skies decided to open up completely and drop several million gallons of water all at once. The rest of the drive was in a tremendous downpour, much to Aimee's dismay. Chris kept his cool (good thing he was the one driving), and we made it ok, after a bunch of white-knuckling by Aimee.

Comfort Suites are nice, and ironically, way cheaper than the Rodeway Inn we stayed at in Rapid City. Of course, Rapid City is also the nearest city of a decent size to Mt. Rushmore, so we are sure that has something to do with the price difference. But we both heaved a sigh of relief when we got here and found this lovely place waiting for us.

Today we have a short drive-- it's only about 3 1/2 hours from here to the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN. We're going to have a nice, relaxing day! More updates later. Don't forget to check out the roadtrip photo albums!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Day four - Devils Tower, Jewel Cave, and Mount Rushmore, oh my!

We awoke today to the aftermath of the storm that we saw roll in the night before. Remember that awesome picture we had with the tower outside of our window? Yeah, it was gone this morning. There was such a thick fog that we couldn't see it at all. One of the other couples staying there joked that we should ask Frank for a refund, since the tower was gone. In an "It's A Small World After All" moment, we found out that they were ex-Tucsonans (one was a UA law school grad, and the other was a lumberjack like Aimee). They were very cool and fit right in with everything else about the Devils Tower Lodge.

We left the Lodge, and went to the base of the tower to walk around it and take some pictures - Frank and plenty of other folks regularly climb it, and then look down from the peak to see the Lodge, the folks around the base, and the four states you can see from there (South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana) - but we opted out of climbing the 600 feet monolith. Besides, there's a voluntary moratorium on climbing during June for the six local Native American tribes (Cheyenne, Lakota, Kiowa, Crow, Shoshone and Arapaho) to use it for religious purposes. That's the real reason we didn't climb... yeah...

To give you an idea of scale, here's Aimee sitting on a piece that fell off a few hundred years ago. See where it might fit up on the side?

We wrapped up there, and moseyed over to the next national park - Jewel Cave. There was a slight problem along the way - the deer in this part of the country are.. uppity. One might think that a giant silver SUV hurtling towards you at 70 miles an hour might be a good thing to try to avoid. But no one ever accused deer of overthinking things like that. Chris had what he described as his "first real use of anti-lock brakes" also including swerving, correcting, panting, and then breathing a huge sigh of relief that we didn't roll over. We probably missed that deer by 6 inches if that. Since we were 30 miles from BFE, Wyoming, no one was behind us on the 2-lane highway to rear-end us, or cause problems as we skidded into the rumble strips, corrected back into and through our lane, and then back into it again before resuming our cruise. We thankfully made it to Jewel Cave without further incident. Surprisingly enough, we don't have any pictures of this part of our adventure.

It's the second longest cave system in the world and they offer all sorts of various tours. We took the shortest one, the 20 minute lecture that takes place a 30 second elevator ride and 250 feet below the visitor's center. Aimee's claustrophobia didn't really make this a fun experience - in her words "I hated it." Chris thought it was pretty interesting, but probably would have enjoyed a longer tour where you actually went and saw things more than just the one room where they talked about the cave formation.

They had an interesting thing out front that they use to clear the folks who want to go on the most strenuous tour. It's an example of how tight the space get in some parts of the cave. The space Chris is crawling through there is 8.5" by 24" which taught him an important lesson - his rib cage is about 8.4999" when he squeezes everything in as much as he can. Not exactly comfortable, so Chris won't be going spelunking in Jewel Cave any time soon. He did make it though, so he was very proud.

After wrapping up at Jewel Cave, we drove towards Mount Rushmore, which is only about half an hour away from Jewel Cave. On the way to Rushmore was the site where they're carving a 350 foot tall version of Crazy Horse, and we pulled up toward it to check it out. Arriving at the gate, we saw that they were charging $27 a car to go look, so we opted out, particularly since all that's carved is part of the face, and the hole under his arm. We turned around and got back on route for Rushmore.

Right as we started the drive up to the monument, which is about 1000 feet above the highway, a storm rolled in, complete with pounding rain and thick fog a la the aforementioned Devils Tower. Feeling a little miserable and more than a little concerned about being able to see anything, we parked in a parking garage (nice to be able to keep the car dry) and went up to the plaza. We had lunch and hung around in the gift shop for a while, and when we looked up again, the sun was shining and we could see the faces now! Woo! The only bummer was that since it had been raining, the faces all looked like they'd been crying. Since we can't control the weather (yet!) we have to take what nature gives us.

Not wanted to tempt mother nature any more, we drove through a little more rain on the way to Rapid City, found a hotel, and hunkered down for the night. The wifi only works in their lobby and the bar/casino downstairs, but that means that we got to use the two-for-one drink coupons we gave us at checkin while writing the blog. Yes, we're nerds and brought a laptop into the bar.

That just about does it for the day, so we'll have to catch up with everyone tomorrow!

PS - The pictures are updated in the album!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Update for days two and three

Yay for having internet access and a good place to sleep for the night. The Devils Tower Lodge is awesome and Frank (the owner, who reminds me of Nuncle Joe in a lot of ways) is a hoot. Staying at strange, fun, off-the-beaten-path places is the way to go.

Two quick things about the pics in this blog entry - First, y'all should know that the pictures in the albums at http://www.aimeeandchris.com/roadtrip/ are not really converted properly from the raw versions, since Photoshop takes forever to do it the right way and the laptop hates doing it. Some of them are broken in some very interesting ways, but once home Chris will try to fix everything and convert them properly, one-by-one, to get a better version of the album up and running.

Second, for this entry, they're uploading slowly (gee, I can't imagine having slow upload speeds on a satellite connection, can you, Dad?), so while they're going to be in the album soon, I'm not able to link to the specific picture that I'm talking about. (EDIT: They're all up and I've added links where they're relevent) Just browse through here and you'll see them all.


When we last saw our heroes.. err, I mean... Where did we save our last update? Oh yeah, day two!

We got up around 6 am, had a pretty tasty continental breakfast at the Comfort Inn (yay for those waffle makers where you pour in the batter and flip over), and went to work on the car problem. Alamo has a Idaho Falls location, so that was handy. We were the first customer of the day, and after looking up our file and seeing the notes from calling roadside assistance the night before, the Alamo counter girl said she could exchange it.

Here's the fun part - even though we were returning a defective vehicle, and had agreed in Boise to pre-pay for them to fill the tank upon return in St Louis (which is actually cheaper than doing it yourself... go figure), they wouldn't take this car for the exchange without a full tank. That agreement gets us one tank at the agreed upon rate, not two, says the girl at the counter.

Grumbling all the way to the gas station we passed on our way to Alamo the first time, we put in a tank, and now we're driving a Dodge Durango. Yes, we went from a somewhat sporty little Chevy Cobalt to a seating-for-seven Durango. Not quite sure how that worked out. Aimee thinks that they needed it to go back to the east coast so they upgraded us for free. In any case, we have a much larger, more comfortable car, but sadly also one that gets 2/3 of the gas mileage of the prior. So far we're averaging around 20 miles to the gallon, to the Cobalt's 31. :(

The Durango is pretty nice all around, but it too has a few fun... let's call them "quirks." The computer thinks that it needs an oil change, and reminds us of it every time we turn it on. We also had a fiasco with the overhead lights being on constantly, until Chris finally discovered a setting near the headlights to turn them off. Luckily, there was no in-the-dark driving, which is about the only time the cabin lights being on would be an issue.

Speaking of light and dark, holy guacamole! We both forgot that the further north you are, the longer the sun is out in the summertime. It doesn't get dark in these necks of the woods 'til well after 9 pm, and the hotel clerk in Idaho Falls said it'd be even crazier in a few weeks, with it not getting totally dark until a little before 11 pm!


We took off out of Idaho Falls around 9 or thereabouts, and made it to the Grand Tetons somewhere around 11 or so. There's no way we can put into words how amazing those mountains and the surrounding glacial lakes are. You're driving along in western Wyoming, you round the bend of a tree-lined road and WHOOOOOOOOA NELLY! All of a sudden, you're gazing at mind-blowingly tall, snow-covered mountains!


After stopping in the GT visitors' center for a while (and checking out their awesome model of the range), we decided to both do a little hiking and do a little comfortable seated sight-seeing, so we drove to Jenny Lake (this is from the west side, looking east, so you can't see the mountains here. It's pretty nice anyway though... ), which is one of the glacial lakes near the base of the GTs. Besides being a gorgeous alpine lake, the thing that stands out about Jenny Lake, and really all the water near the Grand Tetons, is that it's glacial water that's amazingly cold and amazingly clear. You can actually see to the bottom of the lake straight through the water, it's so clear. Once there, we bought a round trip ride on a boat that takes you from the road side of Jenny Lake (the east side of the lake) to the mountain side (the west side). One surprisingly quick boat ride later, we got to the other side and hiked around a mile or so to get to a gorgeous place called Hidden Falls.

Now, we know that Aimee is from the east coast and has had some limited experience with a bazillion gallons of running water gushing down a mountainside, but it's been a long time. And we know that Chris is a born and raised desert rat. Suffice it to say, we were both in awe and just a little bit overwhelmed by Hidden Falls. Aimee's favorite part was the pale, sea-glass green color the crystal-clear water takes on as it cascades over the rocks. Chris' favorite part was that the entire hike was full of awesome surprises around every bend-- interesting plants, animals and running water to see at every step of the way. On the other hand, his least favorite part is the ever-so-flattering raccoon mask sunburn he acquired thanks to hiking with his sunglasses on, and no sunscreen on his face. Part of the lack of sunscreen on his face is because evidently, Idaho doesn't believe in sunscreen. Seriously. It wasn't available in the Albertson's that we found.

After hanging around the GTs for a couple of hours, we drove on to Yellowstone, although we stopped every few miles to take more pictures of the breathtaking landscape. At one point, we saw a herd of deer on the side of the road, so of course, we needed to snap a few shots of them. Yellowstone in general, and Old Faithful specifically, is a gorgeous place. We had some more battles with road construction, but made it to our gorgeous hotel and it was awesome. It was pretty rustic (hence the lack of internets), but since you could see, hear, and sometimes smell Old Faithful outside the window, it was a good trade off.

Day three!
We didn't get to see everything that we wanted in Yellowstone the first evening, so we got up early and hiked around then. Everything there is beautiful and Chris took lots of pictures, which are all up on the album. Aimee wasn't totally sure that the 6:00 AM, 50-degree, two-mile hike to the Morning Glory pool would be worth it, but Chris managed to convince her, and she was really glad they went. There are lots of other cool geysers and thermal features along the way too! The only real disappointment is the fact that we didn't see much wildlife. There were a few deer on the side of the road, but until we were leaving and saw a few bison, that was it.

The drive to Devils Tower was pretty uneventful, and we made it just in time for dinner, which was very tasty. This B&B is literally in the shadow of the tower, and Frank runs climbing expeditions up it several times a week, or even sometimes several a day. The room we're in has housed the governor and first lady of Wyoming, and has an AWESOME view out the window of the Tower. We'll explore the park in the morning (assuming the current storm bearing down on us doesn't rain on our parade) and put up pictures with updated links tomorrow take plenty of pictures so we can put them up like these. (Edit: The storm was awesome and full of close thunder and lightning. The fog/clouds that followed this morning totally obscure the Tower, and honestly, I'm not sure if it even exists anymore. We'll let you know in the next update...)

Goodnight everyone!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

No internet access at Yellowstone, so updating the blog via spotty 3G service is our only option. Real blog updates w/ pics when we have the internets again.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Day one accomplished!

Woo! We made it! Here's a short timeline of what we've done today. Things with stars* have a more detailed story below.

At 3:00 AM, the alarm goes off. We leave the house by 4:00, head to Arizona Shuttle, get to the Phoenix airport (somewhat delayed due to the nasty accident on I-10 from earlier in that morning), fly to Vegas, fly to Boise, rent our car*, drive out of town, keep heading east through middle-of-nowhere Idaho including the area around Crater of the Moon NM*, through some pretty gnarly construction*, into Idaho Falls, where we find a hotel and dinner.


Story number one - The car.
First thing you need to know about the Alamo counter at the BOI airport... ...there isn't one. You have to ask the Budget people where the hell Alamo is, and she politely points you to a courtesy phone to use to call them for a ride to their location.
Second thing is that when they send the van to pick you up along with the other customers, you'll be dropped off and one employee will try to process all 7 of you. By himself. Including inspecting the car for dents, dings, scratches, etc. You'll get the car, but it may take a while.
Third thing. Chevy Cobalts are crap. I'm trying to find nice things to say about the car, but so far my positive things are limited to the stereo having an MP3 jack, and the odometer computer giving you instant MPG numbers. Most of my complaints are nitpicky, but they add up - The doors don't feel right when you close them, the armrest in the middle either hits you or gets in the way, the A-frame obstructs your vision, the Service Air Bag warning comes on three times during five hours of driving through Idaho - you know, little things like that.
Fourth, which really is To Be Continued at this point. The guy I talked to on the phone says that the local Alamo will replace this car with another at no cost and with no hassle. I plan on making sure that's the case, and at ever-increasing volume as needed. We'll report back on how that goes in the morning.

Story number two - gnarly construction.
In BFE Idaho, we were stopped on the highway for about half an hour, "traffic" backing up (all 12 cars), and made to wait for some mystical go-ahead. When we got it, it was in the form of this car leading us through one of the more thoroughly destroyed construction sites I'd ever seen. No pictures of it unfortunately, but basically we had to follow that car because they were actively scooping, mining, and apparently blasting the road right next to us. The confusing part is that this is the only highway connecting this part of Idaho, and cutting it into pieces doesn't seem very friendly. Also, there wasn't a flow coming out as we waited, so i think both ends were just waiting for backhoes or cranes or whatever else to finish breaking the road so we could very slowly follow the awesomely marked car.

Story number three - Moon Crater NM.
If we'd had more time to stop here, I would have loved to. There are some pics here of the strange combination of areas that they have in Idaho. It changes from rolling green hills to pointy black lava rock from one side of the road to the other.

There's more to share, but it will have to come later. We went past a mountain where the local high school paints their year on boulders, the first nuclear power plant, as well as what is apparently a pretty active archaeological site, all without the time to really investigate like we should have. Hopefully the next legs will give more time for exploration. For now, I'm going to bed, since I've been up for about 21 hours now. More to come!

Yeah,baby! Yeah!

Made it past the ugly accident on I-10 and took off from Phoenix uneventfully. We're now in Vegas, as you might have guessed, and in about an hour we'll fly to Boise to start the first leg of the roadtrip.

We've not won any millions yet, but also haven't lost any, so I guess that's something...

Deadly accident on I-10, 3 car pile up with cars on fire. :-(

How long are we gone again?

That's a lot of luggage (so called, says Aimee, because you have to lug it around) for 2 weeks!

Heading off to the shuttle, which takes us to the first plane, which takes us to vegas and the second plane, which takes us to boise and the rental car.

Is there a roadtrip equivalent of "break a leg?"

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Chris Wants Me to Blog More Often...

So, to appease him, I am posting this blog from my phone. Hope this helps! :-)

Blogging via email via my phone... VIA!

My previous comment about being a nerd because I could blog from my iPod anywhere with wifi? Blown out of the water.

Nothing says anytime, anyplace inane blogging like being able to do it anywhere with cell coverage.

As yet unnamed male "I <3 my geek" monkey agrees.

Pictures from Lily's 6th birthday party are up

I've put together a super quick version of all the pictures I took at Lily's 6th b-day party (both at Old Pueblo gym as well as the restaurant) and all 197 should be up here by the time you read this.

I've got much higher quality versions of all of the pictures that are up there, so just ask and I'll send them out. A lot of them were also auto color-balanced instead of me doing it by hand, so I may be able to improve the colors or reduce washed out parts on them as well.


I really do like my new lens, though I think I'm going to have to carry both around with me when shooting something like this in the future. Having to back 25 feet away from the kids on the jumping castle was silly, and switching lenses takes just a few seconds. The vertical grip is good, and I'll have to play with it a little more before I reach a verdict as to how I feel about the battery life.


Going forward for indoor stuff I'll probably have to bring my better flash, which means I have to replace my human arms with some variety of robotic actuators or something. Holding a camera (and telephoto lens, and battery grip, and external flash) with the combined size and weight of a bowling ball at eye-height starts to be a bit of a bummer after a while... :-P


Oh, one other piece of news... If you'd like to be emailed each time we update this blog, let me know. There's a setting that I can update on my end to add emails to a subscription list.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

First Boise, then the WORLD!

I feel like we're planning a systematic invasion of our nation's parks.

Not just because of all the stops and the schedule for things, but because of all the crap we're bringing with us. I sat down and started writing out a list of the things we need to pack, and I'm starting to think that Normandy fell a tad more readily. We're bringing three main categories of crap - Stuff, Toiletries, and Clothing.

First up, Stuff:
  • iPod(s)
  • Maccy
  • Power for maccy
  • DS/DSi
  • DS/DSi chargers
  • DS/DSi games
  • GPS dongle
  • iPod car adapters
  • Car power adapter
  • Books
  • Work lappy?
  • Work lappy power
  • Work dongle
  • Camera
  • Camera parts
  • Boy nerd monkey
  • Girl nerd monkey
  • Oggs
  • Aimee pillow
  • All the paperwork
  • Printed map

Toiletries:

  • Makeup
  • CEC hair goop
  • Toothbrushes
  • APC hair goop
  • Tooth paste
  • Contact stuff
  • Shampoo and Conditioner
  • Soap
  • Deodorant
  • Electric razor
  • Razor charger
  • Epilator
  • Epilator charger
  • Zyrtec
  • Aimee's drugs
  • Sudafed/Actifed

Clothing

  • Regular shirts
  • Jeans
  • Shorts
  • Chonies
  • Socks
  • Swimsuit
  • Nice shirt
  • Shoes
  • Jacket

I suppose a few of those might require some explaining, but I assure you that it's all very much needed.

The set that we get the most raised eyebrows about is the boy and girl nerd monkeys. Clearly, these are our roadtrip mascots. Last Christmas, Aimee and I each, unbeknowst to each other, purchased I (Heart) My Nerd monkeys from ThinkGeek to give to each other as gifts. What more perfect mascots could there possibly be to represent two nerdy monkeys like us? I'm trying to convince Aimee that we dont need the bring the work laptop, but she has this fear about having 1000 emails waiting when she gets back. Excuses, excuses.

In any case, the frustrating part is that as soon as we get all this crap together and into suitcases, and on a plane and hundreds, nay thousands of miles from home, we'll realise that we forgot something actually important. Here's to hoping that it's not the plane tickets home!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Wow, I really am a nerd...

I just realized that I can update the Cronenblog from my iPod.

Now I can send inane updates from anywhere with wifi! Huzzah!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Roadtrip Ahoy!

You probably already know that Aimee and I are going on a roadtrip the week before the big Cronenberg family migration to St. Louis for Papa's birthday (and if you didn't, you do now). It's coming up pretty quickly - we fly to Boise on the 3rd - and because we're nerds, we've been trying to find a way to keep everyone updated on all the fun and interesting parts of the goingson. Starting today, you're looking at that update method. :-)

We plan on visiting a lot of national parks during this trip, as well as a few other fun places. The current plan is:

All of the above are mapped out, including planned routes between them, on this google map. Take a gander, and let us know if you have any "Oh man, you HAVE to see..." type of suggestions.

More updates to come!