Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Home Again

We are delighted to be back at home in Richmond Hill, Georgia. We traveled 8,355 miles and consumed 404.92 gallons of gas at an average price of $5.00 per gallon (premium). Gas prices fell in July as we traveled but were much higher in mountain areas like Sun Valley where delivery prices are higher. The highest price we saw was $6.15 per gallon in Hailey, Idaho and the lowest was $4.00 per gallon as we got into Alabama on the trip home. We had one flat tire that needed to be replaced at a cost of some $400 and we have two cracks in the windshield that will require replacing it. Insurance is TBD. Everything else was minor wear and tear on the car, our dogs, and ourselves.

After Oklahoma City we were on a roll toward home. We spent single nights in Russellville, Arkansas and Memphis, and a couple of nights in Birmingham to see family and a few friends. Today we sprinted from Birmingham back to home, and we are glad to be finished with packing and unpacking for one-night-stands in hotels.

Our dogs were troopers throughout, and good sports over miles in the back of the car. They were easiest in our rental home in Idaho for four weeks and somewhat more of an effort traveling, but we couldn't have asked more of them and they came through every time. We have certainly bonded and they are as confused as we are to suddenly be back in our home.

The highlights of the trip were all in the west where the scenery and climate were incredible. A few things are worth mentioning. Once we got to St. Louis and everywhere west of there virtually every hotel was pet-friendly. We found that not to be the case as we returned to the south where finding a room that we liked and that accepted our dogs was not so easy. Speed limits were higher the further west we went and we found ourselves on interstates where the limit was 80 mph and on deserted two-lane roads with speed limits of 75 mph. These speed limits were somewhat incompatible with very bad roads in areas that experience freezing weather. It is not fun to hit huge potholes and expansion seams at 80 mph. People were uniformly nice every place we went, but the problems of finding good employees in the service industries were very evident. Many roadside hotels showed a clear lack of maintenance as a result. While we loved the dry climate, sun exposure at higher altitudes can be wicked. I read that going up 5,000 feet increases your UV exposure by 50%. Hats and sunscreen are imperative. While many say they go west to avoid bad allergies, I found the opposite to be true. I went through many boxes of tissues in the Sun Valley area. There are no Chick Filet locations out west and we had our first chicken sandwich today on I-20 near Atlanta. Roads out west go through areas of no civilization at all for hundreds of miles. After getting a lucky "temporary" repair of our tire we had to drive 500 miles before we could get it replaced in Albuquerque. The pending effects of climate change are clear in the western rivers. The ability to supply water and electricity are going away, and it does not appear that anyone has a plan to deal with it.

So all we can say is Wow! This is not a trip we will likely repeat but we are so glad we got to see the sights and experience the west. And we are also happy to be back home. And after all of this my wife and I are still on speaking terms. 

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Back Down to Earth


Preserved Conoco Gas Station along Route 66

We arrived last Saturday in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where we spent four nights. Sunday the annual Indian Art Market was going on in the plaza. We wandered about with our dogs to check out the scene. It was crowded but lively, and both the dogs and we enjoyed it. Neither of us had ever been to Santa Fe before. It has more art galleries than anywhere we have been and provides great food, great strolling, and great people watching. Monday I drove down to Albuquerque and finally got our punctured tire replaced after driving more than 500 miles concerned that the repairs would fail in the middle of nowhere. Laura Lee visited the Georgia O'Keefe museum that afternoon while I watched the dogs.

Tuesday we drove up to Taos, another spot we had not seen. I had always wanted to ski there but the ski area was an additional 20 miles up the mountains so we did not make it there. We had a pleasant lunch and I took the dogs to a park while LL visited The Fechin House and museum. Later she went through the Maybel Dodge Luhan house and hotel. The highlight of the day was stopping at the Tesuque Village Market to share a house Margarita with chips and salsa. Perfect ending to a great day.

After nearly two months of fantastic scenery and being at elevations from 5,000 to 8,000 feet, we left Santa Fe yesterday morning and descended to Amarillo, Texas, at around 3,200 feet above sea level. I must say the re-entry was jarring. The spectacular scenery and cool mountain air have been replaced by flat grasslands and hotter temperatures.

The Cadillac Ranch

 The most interesting scenery yesterday was the Cadillac Ranch, shown above, and miles and miles of giant windmills generating electricity.

Tonight we are in Oklahoma City, and the transition back to earth is complete. We are expecting to be in Arkansas tomorrow night, Memphis Saturday night, and home perhaps Monday or Tuesday.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Taking it Easy

We have just left Winslow, Arizona and have completed the obligatory pilgrimage to the corner in town turned into a tourist attraction after Winslow was mentioned in the song "Take it Easy". This particular corner is not necessarily the one referred to in the song, but Winslow has certainly capitalized on the brief mention. While there are myths and speculation, it seems that Jackson Browne started the song and was having trouble getting it finished. The line about Winslow came from Browne needing a car repair and spending a long day there. Glenn Frey of The Eagles helped him out, and supposedly wrote the line "It's a girl my lord in a flat bed Ford slowing down to take a look at me", so perhaps that part of the story happened somewhere else, or not at all. There is a statue of Jackson Browne at the corner, and another statue was added later that resembles Frey. There is also a flatbed Ford truck permanently parked there and a mural painted on the building facade. The song is officially listed as written by Browne and Frey. It was recorded by The Eagles 50 years ago, was their first single, and was the opening track on their first album. It is listed as one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's "500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll". It doesn't really matter what happened on which corner, but it really is a great song. It's good to visit here where a part of the song came from.

We stayed at La Posada Hotel in Winslow, a railroad hotel that first opened in 1930. It has a long history and numerous celebrities have stayed here. You can read about it here.

When I last wrote here we were leaving La Verkin, Utah for Kanab, Utah. Along the way we got a signal from the Volvo to check tire pressure. Sure enough, the right rear tire was very low. Fortunately, on a road in the middle of nowhere, there was a tire shop two miles away. The tire had been punctured by a part of a screwdriver still lodged in it. The shop applied a patch to the inside of the tire, but it continued to have a small leak. So they inserted a plug into the gash from the outside and told us we needed to replace the tire. 

It turns out that the particular tire we need is back-ordered and couldn't be obtained by anyone in the area. A call to Volvo revealed that many Volvo dealers stock these tires and we found one at the nearest dealer in Albuquerque. We have had to drive hundreds of miles watching the tire pressure carefully. It's been a little nerve-wracking but so far the patch has held. Monday, during our stay in Santa Fe, I will drive down to Albuquerque to get the new tire.

We spent two nights in Kanab and visited the northern rim of the Grand Canyon Thursday. The drive up and the views of the canyon are truly beyond belief. In fact, the scenery is spectacular everywhere in this part of the country. Kanab bills itself as "Little Hollywood" because of the vast number of westerns filmed there. There are plaques all over town about movie stars like Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, and others spending time filming in Kanab. The landscape reminded us not only of westerns, but also of Roadrunner cartoons.

Kanab was also interesting because we stayed at "Best Friends Roadhouse and Mercantile". This is a motel designed for people and their pets, and owned by Best Friends Animal Society. It is right up the road from the motel and is the largest non-kill shelter in the United States. On any given night, Best Friends has up to 1,600 rescue animals in its care. For more information on this amazing organization, check out its history here.

Yesterday we travelled to Winslow among more astonishing scenery. We stopped along the way to see the dam at Lake Powell. Water levels there are at about 167 feet below full and by content at around 24% of capacity. The ability to generate power and provide water are all at risk because of extended draught conditions. A recent explanation from the LA Times can be found here. It's a sad situation.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022


We are in La Verkin, Utah, where climate and altitude are dramatically different than during our stay in Sun Valley. Days here are about the same 90's temperatures as in Sun Valley but lows at night are around 70 compared to 50 degrees or cooler many mornings in Idaho. Humidity is higher here and the sun is less fierce. While our house near Hailey was at 6,000 feet above sea level, here we are close to 3,000 feet. 

We are staying at The Dwellings, a series of small cabins that overlook the Virgin River. We are close to the town of Virgin, Zion National Park, and the town of Hurricane. Just to save the curious time Googling, here's the history of the names: Virgin is named for the Virgin River which was called Rio de la Virgen or something like that by the Spanish, after the Virgin Mary, and the town of Hurricane was supposedly named by Mormon leader Erastus Snow who had the top blown off his carriage one day here and said "That was a hurricane. Let's call this Hurricane Hill."

There's only one way to get out of Virgin Jail

 We drove from Hailey to Salt Lake City Saturday and on to La Verkin Sunday, about four hours each day plus dog and people stops. We chose this area to visit Zion National Park, which we toured by E-bike yesterday. It was rainy, but we got in a ride through part of the park, and had lunch at the Zion Lodge. The only way visitors can see the park is by shuttle buses, bikes, or walking, so the E-bikes were ideal.

We sheltered under this rock for a while during the rain

Today we drove over to visit the Quail Creek and Snow Canyon State Parks where we walked dogs and let them have a swim. The scenery in this area is just spectacular. Tomorrow we move just a short distance to Kanab, Utah to position us to visit the Northern Rim of the Grand Canyon Thursday. Friday we plan to move on to Winslow Arizona.

While we are glad to be on the move and seeing new sights, I must say it was bittersweet to leave Saturday. Our month in Sun Valley was just perfect. The rental house was great and Hailey, just 10 miles south of Ketchum, is a quiet and uncrowded place to stay. We enjoyed three evenings at Sun Valley Music Festival concerts with our good friends Harry and Vanita Morgan. Laura Lee went fly fishing with guides (and Harry) four or five times and learned a lot. We got to have dinner with the Morgans and our Seattle friends the Kecks during our final week. And the visit by my son Daniel, his wife Jackie, and their three children could not have been better.

After the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, we will head for Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico, and then we shall take the southern route home. We plan to be back home by the end of the month.

The latest pictures will be added to the photos section of the blog by tomorrow.

Friday, August 5, 2022

On The Rocks

The Samford family on the rocks. Daniel nearly went overboard but managed to hang on.

 We have had a great time this week with my son Daniel, his wife Jackie, and three of our grandchildren visiting for a few days. They arrived Monday. Tuesday was a free day to explore and get to know the area. Wednesday, our entire clan took a raft trip on the Salmon River. It was beautiful and great fun getting tossed around on the river. 

Thursday morning, the gang had a flyfishing lesson and we topped that off by going up the Baldy gondola lift for lunch at the Round House. 

It's been a great visit. We hate seeing this crowd depart today, but school starts next week for the grandkids in the fourth, seventh, and eighth grades. We'll miss these guys. Click "Photos" above to see some of the action.