Slow Camping

August 29, 2011

The time has come, folks. It is the moment we’ve all been waiting for. We reached Southwestern Utah’s Ponderosa Ranch & Resort yesterday around 3:30 pm Mountain Time (again, confusing, but we’ve finally figured it out. Arizona is on PT time from spring to fall, and MT time from fall to spring because it simply doesn’t change its clocks. Ever.). With a nervous eye, we rounded the shower and pool area to find our Chuckwagon cum Hotel Room at the base of the hill. It looks like this.

All the clothing you see on the picnic table is ours. It’s the entire contents of one of our bags that was the unlucky recipient of our 5 gallon water jug that dripped unwittingly on it allllll afternoon. Nice.

Hey, at least we’re number 1 (as in Wagon #1, pronounced “way-gun” in, um Montanian – our receptionist is from Montana, dontchaknow). And, as Husband joked, when we have dinner at the lodge, we can put it “on the wagon” as in “on the room”. As you can see, there isn’t much of that either. But the upside is it is indeed the kids’ favorite overnight place thusfar. And it’s like camping (it rained buckets last night), only you’re on a full-blown mattress with sheets and all.

And you stay dry. Oh, and there’s maid service.

You gotta love the West for all its amenities. Slow camping at its best with air conditioning in the main building (and free WiFi) when you need it most. After hiking five hours in 100F heat in Zion National Park today, we were ready to flop and feed. We did just that and are happier for it!

In 2010 281,303,769 visitors swept through the 394 National Parks this nation (and its surrounding areas such as Puerto Rico) has to offer. Every state in the United States has one, with the exception of Delaware. An annual pass costs $80 and it’s well worth the price.

In just three days we have visited three different national parks (we did this all very slowly, honest. They are very close to one another!). And I must tell you we beam at the rangers in those booths when we flash our annual pass that Husband graciously paid for. He was wise. A seven-day pass to just one park costs $25-30. So as we breeze past the pre-paid booths, we smile, knowing yet another fabulous educational program awaits us.

Bryce Canyon National Park

The simplicity of it is astounding. The signage is always informative with lots of pictures, maps and guides. The rangers are friendly (one of them at the Grand Canyon admitted he passed his phone interview by smartly answering the question: “What are you going to say to tourists when the Canyon is filled with fog and they can see nothing?” “It is Nature’s cycle,” he replied. I smiled. Yes, it’s Nature’s cycle.)

So when the rain pelted our heads on the way to the car after devouring an amazing meal at the Bryce Canyon Lodge, we knew the sky would clear soon. On the way back to our hotel, we were rewarded with two mole deer staring at us as we trolled past in our rental car.

To all you rangers and National Park Service folks, we say thank you. You are beautiful in every way. The cost of admission may be eighty bucks, but the value of experiences like these are priceless.

Slow Simplicity

August 26, 2011

The pace of life out West is certainly slower than on the East Coast. For one, the temperatures are in the hundreds (Fahrenheit!) so no one is really in a hurry to move anywhere quickly.

Second, there are fewer people so relationships are cherished as the selection is rather slim. At the local Starbucks we saw the same people each day we went to get Husband’s daily java jolt. In fact, many of the cashiers also moonlighted as tour guides, whom we recognized. The waiter at the Dam Bar & Grill also worked the breakfast shift at Denny’s.

"Let's Go To That DAM Bar & Grill," said the kids. So we did! :)

And so it goes. Go with the slow is what we are learning as we tour the vastness of this country.

They say the Grand Canyon is a timeless place. This photo, taken yesterday, says it all.

Nature is an astoundingly restorative thing. Surround yourselves with the beauty of it, wherever you are. If in a city, go to a botanical garden. If in the country, run to the nearest tree. Nature is the fastest way to slow!

We’re three weeks into my five week sabbatical, and I have to say my email volume has shrunk considerably. On both my work and book-related accounts, I activated an auto-reply that explains I’m checking in intermittently, but that I’m pretty much off the grid until September 2.

Nice.

Typically, my email inbox swells to the size of a voluminous tidal wave on a daily  hourly basis. But somehow folks have recognized they’re not going to get an answer from me unless it’s really big news or an immediate request that simply can’t

Because some things just can't be missed. 17th Anniversary in Virginia!

wait. As you know from another post, I am on an iPhone diet. Thusfar I’ve lost about one thousand emails that simply aren’t rolling in. Apart from the occasional random pitch, I’ve been left alone by just about everyone.

It was the best decision I could make so I could free up as much time as I needed to attend to my life “on the ground”. I reconnected with almost every single living family member, visited five of my closest and oldest friends (who are so not old – really gang, you look fabulous!) and even managed to go shopping a few times for back-to-school items for the kids.

As we enter what I’ve coined PHRASE III of our August sabbatical, we will experience new adventures out West (from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon to, yes, two overnights in a Chuck Wagon – stop snickering. Believe me. It will be blogworthy!). I promise to pop by occasionally because slow does not mean stop; it merely means a mindful pace that allows you to soak it all in.

Under pressure! That’s what many of us feel right before taking a vacation. Locking down the house, arranging for pet care, stopping all mail delivery, etc. It’s almost as if you need a vacation from your vacation planning before it’s even gotten started.

I don’t know about you, but renting a car at the airport after an international flight has to be a seamless experience, otherwise I am even more stressed. So when we got to Dulles International Airport two weeks ago, we were astounded at how fast the check-in service at Dollar Rent-a-Car went. Until we discovered they didn’t have any more economy cars available for another fifteen minutes. No big deal, I thought. I live in a time abundant state. We’ll have some snacks and wait. When the newly washed car was driven up, we were thrilled.

But what I didn’t know was the rental car agency had rushed through the detailing process such that the air tire pressure was uneven. A light indicator for the air tire pressure illuminated in my car about a week later. We even went to a tire center to have it checked. All but one had fifty pounds in it, but they couldn’t add the tire because the supervisor hadn’t turned the machine on yet (it was almost 10 am – you have to love slow country living!). We found an air machine at the local convenience store. Following the tire guy’s instructions, I added enough in the one tire to match the air pressure in the others.

That is, until my dad suggested I look at how much air pressure is SUPPOSED to be in the tires. It turns out the “lowest tire pressure” was actual the accurate one. So I went back to the rental agency and asked them to please check it. I wasn’t about to spend anymore money on it. Indeed, the tires had been overinflated by the agency itself. I suggested he let the detailers know to which he snippily replied, “I would if they spoke English!”

Hmmm…I was starting to feel less enamoured of Dollar by the minute.

So my slow travel tip to you is to ask that they check the air pressure for you before you leave, or travel with a gauge yourself. You can find the proper air pressure on the inside of the driver’s door. Apparently at Dollar, the buck stops with you.

 

Cool meals for hot days

August 10, 2011

Now I know it is not hot in my resident country (Germany) right now, but it is sweltering just about everywhere else in the Northern Hemisphere. For those of you looking for wholesome, no-oven meal choices, you must look to the August issue of DASH. They’ve got cool picks when it’s gotta go quick. And you can have slow food that goes fast if you think ahead. The ingredients are what matter. So give it a look. On stands or on their blog now!

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