Friday, September 28, 2007

When the Carters Came to Town

The Carters made the trek to the big city to meet Essie's new addition, and they stayed with us. Yay, cute buddies! Ruth's son Treyton is such a character; he never ceases to entertain me. And the twins are simply adorable. So when they invited us to go to the zoo with them, we couldn't resist.

Hunter and I were able to bail out of work a bit early on Wednesday, and we met up with the Carters at Hogle Zoo. Sarah also joined us with her three kids, and we began our fun adventure.

Last week I had talked to Treyton, and I told him about "
the Ghost of the Bayou." After confirming with his mom that Aunt Rach was telling the truth, he decided the White Alligator was gonna be pretty awesome. He was eager to check it out, and to be honest so was I. Turns out, this white alligater is pretty strange-looking. This guy is not albino, but has a different genetic disorder that is quite rare. Apparently there are only 10 white alligators in the entire world! Anyway, even though the odd animal didn't move an inch the entire time we were there, it was still pretty amazing to see. Afterward, I could not resist the cute little white alligators in the gift shop so I had to get one for Treyton. This kid just loves animals, and he was SO EXCITED when I presented him with his gift. It made my day!

Here's the cute kids; they fit right in with the rest of the animals on display, don't they?!
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While visiting the giraffes, Kasia and I stayed on the upper level to watch them eat while everyone else returned to the main level. After a few minutes, we also went back down to the main level. As we were climbing down the stairs, Kasia caught sight of her twin and exclaimed happily, "KENZIE!!" At almost the same time, Kenzie noticed Kasia approaching and called out "KASIA!!" It was pretty cute. I told Ruth & Brady about it, and they said the twins do this all the time. Apparently they can be in a store, and be separated for just a moment, and as soon as they see each other they call their sister's name as if they had been separated for days! What a bunch of goof troops. I think I'll keep them. :)

Anyway, I'll wrap up this story with some more fun zoo pics. Enjoy.
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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Hidden Treasure

Hunter and I took a lovely Sunday drive through American Fork Canyon. The leaves are changing and the views were simply breathtaking! While there, we went to Cascade Springs...what an amazing place! It's all innocent and obscure; you'd never know it exists except for the signs that tell you it does. Hunter couldn't believe I'd never been, so he was excited to show me. I pictured a big, vast waterfall; no idea where that image came from. As it turns out, Cascade Springs is exactly as it sounds...little bubbling springs that cascade gently down the mountainside. It's crazy; the water just bubbles up in the middle of a meadow, seemingly from nowhere, and dances its way to the bottom. It is crisp, clean and crystal clear...definitely not typical Utah water! I think the last time I saw water that clear was in Montana! Anyway, it was amazing and I definitely recommend a visit.

So we took a bunch of photos (as always) and I really wanted to share them all. So I figured the best way to do this was to put it into a slideshow. :) If you look at the bottom left of the slideshow, you'll see controls that allow you to speed up/slow down or pause the slides. Also, I added a quick-link to my Flickr site in the sidebar, so you can always go there and browse our thousands of photos to your heart's content. And if you have tortoise-paced internet, well you'll just have to come visit and we can show them to you in person! Yay!

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Home Stretch

The official last day of our vacation...sniff! We got up early and were amazed to see the thick blanket of fog that enveloped us. Here are a few pictures of the clouds over the lake:
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If you look closely at the first photo you can see the steam rising from the lake! What a peaceful, cozy morning...I can't imagine how cool it would be to live here. Except for the whole winter thing...that would be downright freezing. I'd have to hibernate, for sure.

Even though it was our last day of vacation, I couldn't help but be a bit excited because we were on our way to meet our new niece! It was killing me that Essie's little sweetheart still hadn't met her favorite aunt. So when the glorious moment finally arrived, I could hardly contain myself! There is something extra special about meeting my youngest sister's first child. It was unforgettable.
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Isn't she gorgeous?

Day 5: RMNP

Confession Time: We didn't go camping. Hello, did you see those storm clouds?? Not only was it stormy but it was really quite cold. So we played it safe and found a cute little hotel. This turned out to be a wise choice, as it literally rained all night long. Here's the happy rescue haven:
So we spent our last real day of vacation in Rocky Mountain National Park. It was still stormy, and we actually encountered snow! Check out the sights:
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We were even able to take the trucks for a walk:
We found this gorgeous lake:
And here's some shots from the peak:

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Day Four: The Georgetown Loop

I'm not doing a very good job of keeping this blog up-to-date. Day four of our trip was last Sunday...I should have posted this a week ago! Anyway, we stayed the night in Georgetown and then rode the Georgetown Loop the next morning. The Georgetown Loop is a short ride between Georgetown and Silver Plume, with an optional mine tour along the way. We opted for the mine tour, of course! This was another gorgeous, scenic, picture-perfect day. Here's the proof:
So, up to this point we have stayed in a hotel every night. Not the most luxurious of accommodations, mind you, but we had a roof over our heads. Well, that was coming to an end, as we brought our camping gear and planned to rough it for the final two nights. As the day wore on, the sky clouded up and the temperature began to drop. I was getting nervous. Nonetheless, we continued on toward Rocky Mountain National Park where we would be pitching tent. As we drew closer, we passed this gorgeous lake and couldn't resist the chance to snap a few shots:
Hunter showed off his rock-skipping skills, and if you look closely you can see he got at least five skips:
The sun started setting and the view was breathtaking:
Is anyone else a bit nervous that I might freeze to death tonight?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Next Stop: Georgetown

Day three of our road trip involved a lot of driving. We checked out of our hotel in Durango and hit the road. A short while later we arrived in Silverton. We were blown away by how much the leaves had changed overnight! We thought it was beautiful yesterday, but it was even more gorgeous on 3 033
What an incredible, breathtaking drive. Here are some more highlights:
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Check out the cute town of Ouray:
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As we travelled through the Rocky Mountains in central Colorado, we saw evidence of coal mines everywhere. It's unbelievable how many there are! We happened upon a coal train that had just been loaded up, in the process of leaving town. This baby was over a mile long! We stopped to watch the proceedings, and Hunter chatted with the brakeman for a brief minute. Before Hunter introduced me to the allure of the train industry, I never would have guessed...train employees are kinda like rock stars! Train fans are passionate fellows, evidenced by their frequent activities & events such as modelling, clubs, and train shows. And of course, what little boy doesn't love a good choo-choo? This shared admiration causes grown men and children alike to tremble with excitement when a train engineer waves back, and brings tears to their eyes when he toots the whistle just for them. In fact, simply being a passenger on the Durango & Silverton made me feel a bit like a celebrity. Every time we passed a road crossing, people were there waiting to take our picture. One guy even chased the train as far as he could, racing ahead to each crossing and then waiting for our arrival. Can you imagine experiencing that kind of popularity every day? I think I would actually look forward to going to work!

We continued onward, and our journey took us through the Eisenhower Tunnel. Actually, the Eisenhower Tunnel is the westbound lane, while the eastbound is the Johnson Tunnel. This was cool because I saw the Modern Marvels episode about the construction of these tunnels. I know, I know...I'm a nerd. Whatever, I still think it was super cool!
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So, we arrived in Georgetown and decided to check out the train station. Yup, we're taking another train ride! But that's for another post. Here's a preview of coming attractions:
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Monday, September 17, 2007

Durango & Silverton

After spending the night in Durango, we got up bright and early and headed for the train station. Hunter was like a little kid on Christmas was great. We picked up our tickets, grabbed some breakfast, and wandered around the railyard a bit. Then the glorious moment arrived, and we boarded our train.
Our seats were in one of the open cars, because Hunter wanted to be sure we had the best view. He thinks of everything! It was pretty incredible. We were far enough back that we could get some good shots of the engine chugging along, blowing steam and shooting coal cinders into the air. We timed it perfectly because the leaves are changing and the view was absolutely spectacular. There was not a single non-picturesque moment on the entire journey.

The train took us from Durango to Silverton (hence the name) and back again. We left at 9:00 am and returned at 6:30 pm, so it was definitely an excursion. The ride was sold out, which is pretty typical, and the majority of the passengers were antiques; some with grandchildren in tow. Here is our train in Silverton:

Isn't that a remarkable, majestic sight? I would never have imagined I could learn to appreciate the rugged, mechanical beauty of such an oversized beast. Before Hunter and I dated, I thought trains were so archaic and rudimentary; a jumble of metal clanking and banging its way to extinction. Now that I recognize the historical & cultural significance of this powerful force, I am more appreciative of the intricate beauty in the mass of clanging, hissing metal. There is something beautifully haunting in the mournful whistle that echoes through the mountains. It is the somber, desolate cry of history being forgotten.


To Clarify...

...we still love motorcycles! We haven't given up on them. We just don't think the V-Strom is the best bike for long journeys, especially riding two-up. Hunter still plans to ride with his buddies on occasional day-trippers, and someday we will own a more comfortable two-wheeled touring machine. Actually, we hope to own two! If I get really brave, I will take the motorcycle class and be a cool biker chick. Without all the crazy Harley leathers and cigarette butts, though. I'll be a normal biker chick, not a scary hard-core trailer-park Harley chick. Yikes!

Oh, and one more thing. I forgot to mention that while we were at Mesa Verde, we made a friend. He tried to follow us home. Isn't this guy cute?
Okay, he's not so cute. In fact he's yucky and mangy and I'm scared of him. But, have you ever seen a coyote this up-close and personal? It's crazy! He should be running for his life! This is definitely atypical coyote behavior. So we had no choice but to obtain photographic evidence.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Madison Marie Rigby

Wouldn't you know, my brand new niece decided to make her debut as soon as I left town! I am absolutely dying...she is now three days old and I still haven't met her! It was my worst fear when we planned this vacation, and of course 'ole Murphy had to do his thing.

I distinctly remember a day in 1983 when my siblings and I were gathered in the family room in the basement. My mom announced that she had a surprise for us, and it seems that I was only halfway paying attention. I think we were supposed to guess what she was going to tell us, but nobody did so she gave us a hint. She made a rocking motion with her arms, as if she were cradling a baby, and I realized I'd be getting another sibling! I was kinda excited, because I loved babies and wanted to help her take care of it. I would be nine years old by the time my new sister arrived, and I fully believed I could raise her! I had been babysitting and caring for my younger siblings for what felt like years, and thought I had it down. It absolutely blows my mind to remember that adamant determination. I thought I was all grown up...and I was only NINE! Wow.

And now, 24 years later, that sweet youngest sister of mine has a beautiful daughter of her own! I get teary-eyed just thinking about it. My little sister, whom I used to feed and burp and rock to sleep, is now a mama. It just doesn't seem possible. And yet at the same time I am overwhelmed with pride, joy, and hope for her future. My baby sister is all grown up. Congratulations, Madison! You have some pretty awesome parents. I've heard you have some pretty cool Aunts, as well. :)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Driving to Durango

Remember when Hunter and I went to Ruidoso, and we stayed the night in Durango on our way back? I mentioned in my blog post that we had determined we were coming back to ride the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad...and we meant it! So on Thursday, September 13th we hit the road.

As it turns out, our previous road trip was probably our last road trip on the least for quite a while. The more we ride the bike, the more we decide it may not be the way to go. It is so much fun, and I don't regret the trips we've taken. But you know, one big justification for the bike is that it would save us money and we have found this not to be the case. The maintenance costs for our V-Strom pretty much even the playing field when it comes to cost comparison with a good, economy car. After the previous road trip we had to replace the chain on the bike, which set us back about $275.00. And the tires will need replacing before much longer, which is another $300-ish. So along with the not-so-bargain price tag we also have to deal with limited cargo space (i.e. no RC toys or camping gear), super-sore derrieres, other stiff & achy body parts, stiflingly hot riding gear, trapped bugs in the stiflingly hot riding gear, and the fear of death around every corner. And the upside? Well, it's cool. You feel like a real adventurer. And you see more. And probably a few other things that I can't think of right now, but there's got to be more than that...

So anyway, I digress. The whole point I'm getting at here is that we jumped in the car and didn't know what to do with ourselves. We had music we could actually hear! A climate-controlled environment!! (Not that it stopped me from whining...) Cupholders and snacks!! My latest novel! And the best part of all? NAPS FOR RACHIE!!!!! Praises!!! Needless to say, we were in hog heaven. Or something like it, anyway.

We drove a lot...I don't remember much because I was either reading or sleeping...and at some point we arrived at Mesa Verde. Here are some sweet shots:

It is so amazing to consider the amount of work these communities required, and the stamina and fortitude they must have had. It sure made me conscious of my lack of these attributes, and reminded me how lucky I am to have such luxuries as restaurants and grocery stores. I look at the incredible structures that have survived for centuries, and feel so far removed from its inhabitants. We took a tour to the cliff palace and our tour guide pointed out the "chinking" in the mud between each brick. Chinking refers to the small rocks sometimes placed in the mud to strengthen it and stretch it further so they used less. Mud, that is. And when I looked at those tiny rocks placed strategically and aesthetically, I was struck by the personal touch of this thoughtful effort. What was going through the young woman's mind as she carefully pressed each pebble into the thick mud, waiting for her young husband to spread another layer before she added the next? Or was it an older man who was relegated to this task, his strength too long spent to be of much use elsewhere in the community? Maybe it was the heat, or the Santa Ana winds, but I found myself pondering the philosophical and existential wonders of these mysterious people.

After my need for pensive soul-searching resolved itself, we journeyed on to Durango. We are looking forward to a gorgeous train ride in the breathtaking mountains of Colorado. I am also anxiously awaiting news of Esther's impending bundle of joy. More to come!!