Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Road Trip, Part 6

The last day of our multi-generational vacation was a whirlwind. Connor and I are homebodies and the thought of spending a night on the road didn't appeal to us. We convinced Dad to hit Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, the Grand Canyon, and Meteor Crater in one day - and then head back to Kansas City.

About 3 a.m., I regretted that. But first things first.

Connor and I both wanted to see Lowell Observatory. We're into Mars and telescopes. We got there way too early, but a very nice girl who worked there (Heather? Emily? Hannah?) let us into the Clark Dome, where Percival Lowell's telescope is. We got to move it around and pretend to look through it (nothing to see in the daytime anyway) and watch the dome move around, which satisfied us. They also had a Solar System walk there where every million miles was an inch or something like that; it really hammers home the scale of the Solar System ("what, Saturn's all the way over there?"). They also have a very decent hands-on museum in their visitors center, and Lowell's mausoleum is on the site as well (an interior shot of an awesome dome that overlooks his final resting place is shown below).

The observatory campus itself, high on a hill overlooking the town, is a peaceful, contemplative wooded environment and it was nice to just walk around there, and wonder why they had a bocce ball court in the middle of the woods. Flagstaff is a beautiful town, even though we got a little bit lost in it once or twice (I don't think there is a single straight line on that street map). If I ever moved to Arizona, I'd probably aim for Flagstaff. Here are some photos:

Then we drove north to the Grand Canyon. This wasn't originally part of our vacation plan, but when you're so close, why not? Folks who'd been there told me words couldn't really describe it, and they were right. These pictures don't really even describe it. You just kinda have to be there to "get it." One amusing moment is when Connor fed an animal cracker to a bold raven who walked up to our car. Later we saw a sign saying this is very illegal. We stayed about 45 minutes or so, gaping. I was very afraid near the edge. I don't do well with heights and it was really overwhelming. I fought the urge to grab Connor every time the wind blew. Here are some pictures:From there we drove to Meteor Crater, which isn't that far from Flagstaff. I've seen pictures of this many times in my life and, while it is not as overwhelming as the Grand Canyon, it has a power all its own, especially when you consider how it was made. There is also a decent museum here, but what we were interested in was the giant hole in the ground:

...this next photo is of me at the very bottom of the crater:

...actually, I'm lying. That's me in front of a mural in the museum that makes it look like you walked down to the bottom of the crater. After a long day of driving, that walk was not on anyone's agenda.

Then came the first leg of a very, very long drive. We left Arizona about 6:30 or 7 p.m. and got back to Kansas City at about 6 p.m. the next day. Maybe later. I don't remember. My brain turned to mush at about 3 a.m. In Albuquerque I got some 5-Hour Energy Drink which worked very well for about three hours. We listened to Coast to Coast A.M. for a while, until we lost reception. Then it was a brutal, pitch-dark drive through New Mexico. I'm not even sure when we hit Texas, but I do remember stopping somewhere in Texas, where my dad also imbibed the energy drink (a cop in Albuquerque recommended it, otherwise I don't think Dad would have taken it). These long, dark hours of monotonous driving were brutal. In the wee dawn hours, I stopped at a nameless trading post of some sort in Texas and got an off-brand of it called "Cowboy Up!" After that, I managed to get a few hours of sleep, and woke up in Oklahoma City. The rest of the ride wasn't too bad, and Dad managed to get a few winks in.

Then, of course, we hit I-470 in Kansas City just at rush hour. When we finally got home, I hit my bed and didn't get up again until 9 a.m.

Here's what I took away from our vacation:

I hadn't spent a lot of uninterrupted time with my dad in a long time. It was nice. I also got my first glimpse at a post-Connor world. By that I mean I have always dreaded Connor growing up and moving out because I couldn't see past it. What purpose could I possibly serve, if it's not to be his Dad and take care of him? But now I can see that there are lots of places to go and many other lifestyles than those I have known. Life can be pretty sweet when you get older, I guess, as long as you have your health and a little bit of money. My dad, who is retired, pretty much does whatever the hell he wants, when he wants, more or less, and that's something to look forward to. I was also glad Connor got to see so much of the country this summer (he went to Washington DC with his mom in June). We'll both remember the trip for the rest of our lives, and I do know that it's not my last trip to the southwest. I really like the stark nature of it. I loved Mount Lemon and want to go back and camp there.


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