Goth Panda

August 14, 2014

Planning for Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon

In just a few weeks, we will be heading to Arizona and I will see the Grand Canyon for the first time. We went through Arizona on our cross-country road trip, so this doesn’t get me any states for the 50 States Project. But I’m pretty excited to see the G.C. I think it and Yellowstone were at the top of my must-see national parks in the U.S.

Mike has been to Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon before, but this time he will be hiking into the Canyon on a three-day tour with one of our friends. I will be staying at Yavapai Lodge on the South Rim while that part is going on, and we will be in Flagstaff before and after the tour. I’ve got a few things on my list to do while we are there. As usual, I’m not sure we will get to all of it.

Places to Go
Antelope Canyon
Lowell Observatory
Meteor Crater
Museum of Northern Arizona
Petrified Forest National Park
Sedona, AZ ~ Red Rock State Park
Walnut Canyon National Monument
Wupatki National Monument

We’re always looking for vegetarian-friendly places. Mike has been to most of these, and recommends them.

Beaver Street Brewery
Cottage Place Restaurant
Fat Olives
Macy’s European Coffeehouse and Bakery
Salsa Brava
Taverna Greek Grill

July 31, 2014

Planning for Australia 2015

When I was a kid, my mom always used to talk about how she wanted to visit Australia. I think next year, if we can schedule it, I’d like to take her with us to visit it.

The scheduling part will be difficult because I’d want to go for at least two weeks and there are only certain times of the year this is feasible with my job. I’m thinking late May-early June will work best, which will be late fall in Australia, although all of the different areas we want to go have different climate variations.

That is one of the problems – that Australia is so big and so far away, that in planning for it, I am trying to cram in everything I want to do while we are there under the theory that I might never be able to visit it again. So far that is not making for a very relaxing journey. More like one where we race around the country as if we were on a demented reality tv show.

I worked out my wishlist itinerary and it looks like this:

Sat. – Depart the U.S. and fly basically for forever (The flights I checked flew us into Dallas (4 hrs.) and then out of Dallas to Sydney (18 hrs.), and I am not looking forward to that at all)
Mon. – Arrive in Sydney, stay in Sydney through Thursday
Thu. & Fri. – Drive along the coast to Melbourne
Sat. & Sun. – Drive the Great Ocean Road in a loop back to Melbourne
Mon. – Fly to Uluru, overnight there
Tue. – Fly to Cairns, stay in Cairns until Friday
Fri. – Fly back to Sydney
Sat. – Fly home, arriving on the same day through the magic of the International Date Line

This seems really crowded, and I don’t like all of the internal flights, but I don’t see any way around them. Driving or taking the train would take too long. I was originally planning to leave out Uluru, but the more I read about it, the more I’d like to see it. But if I have to cut anything out, it would be that. I think the real non-negotiables are Sydney and Cairns (for the Great Barrier Reef).

July 29, 2014

Cross Country Road Trip Wrap-Up

Everyone asks us what our favorite part of the cross-country road trip was, and it’s a tough question to answer. In some ways, the whole trip was the best thing; actually making the drive all of the way there and back and seeing so many different parts of the country. I worried a lot about being bored on the trip or getting sick of being in the car and neither of those things happened. I bought a bunch of books for my Kindle and ended up not reading any of them.

That said, there are a few experiences that I would recommend to others, and there are a few places that I’d like to visit again.

I liked Tucson, San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Big Sur, and I wish we’d had more time to spend in each of those. I would definitely consider going back and spending more time in each. I’d recommend the Gateway Arch, Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands National Monument, and Arches National Park to others, although I’m not sure I need to visit any of them again. We had fun in Roswell, but I’m not sure everyone would like it. I liked Iowa in general, and Des Moines in particular, more than I expected to, but I’m not sure we will ever be in that area again. I’m sad we missed the chance to see Hearst Castle. I didn’t really like Las Vegas, although we plan to return there for another Utah/Colorado road trip sometime in the future. Maybe we can find something to like about it then.

All in all, everything went more smoothly than I could have hoped for, with only one serious disruption in Oklahoma. Since coming back, we have even talked about doing it again sometime, with a different route. I have a few other plans for long road trips, but I don’t think we will be crossing the country again for a while.