Our Arizona Adventure, Part 4: the Unexpected

IMG_4146

On our way home, we got hit by something completely unexpected. Snow. Ice. Winter. In places where the temperatures in winter rarely dip below 50, we drove in a landscape of white. Now many of you will look at this and say, “Yeah? So what?” In Houston, we are used to getting a dusting of snow about once every 10 years. In Arizona, it is pretty much limited to the mountain areas and the northern part of the state. We were driving from Las Cruces, NM to Kerrville, TX the day the storm hit, and I became terrified. We were surrounded by drivers who had NO EXPERIENCE driving in these kinds of dangerous conditions. I was in a car with drivers who had NO EXPERIENCE driving in these kinds of dangerous conditions. I was not a pleasant passenger to say the least, and the dozens of semi trucks spun out along I-10 did not raise my confidence.
IMG_4149
We stopped in Van Horn, TX to change drivers and eat lunch at Papa’s Pantry. This sign greeted us in the entryway of the restaurant.  The place was packed with weary travelers, and the parking lot was filled with ice scrapings.  The coffee was hot, the food all needed a little more salt, and the servers were clearly stretched to their limits, but overall it was a pleasant place to stop in an unpleasant situation.  My son got a sandwich made with homemade bread, which was delicious, and I would highly recommend to anyone if they find they have to stop along that section of I-10.

This pretty much cemented a feeling I had already had of absolute loathing for West Texas.  On our last road trip west, we stopped in Fort Stockton, which is where EVERYONE stops halfway across West Texas, because there are barely any other sizable towns in West Texas.  My mother and I immediately took a dislike to Fort Stockton, which gives the impression of nothing more than a way station for guys coming and going from the oil fields.  Bars, buffets, and overpriced hotels.  We avoided it like the plague this time – which makes for a very long drive across the wasteland that it West Texas.  No towns, no roads, no cell towers, just mountains that Arizonans laugh at, oil derricks, and wind farms.

It’s depressing as hell for this child of the piney woods.

Advertisements

Our Arizona Adventure, Part 3: the Adventure

IMG_4032  One of the castles at Castles and Coasters.  We spent an hour and a half playing putt putt, and then walked around to let the kids ride rides.  Avoided the amusement park food like the plague.

IMG_4095

View of the Superstition Mountains from the parking lot at Lost Dutchman State Park.  This was where we went for a wonderful hike with my aunt, uncle, cousin and his girlfriend.  Having my aunt and uncle along was like having our own park rangers hiking with us explaining what all the different plants, animals, and land features were.  My husband went trail running while the rest of us took a more leisurely pace for 2.75 miles around the base of the mountain range.  Since we’re from 0 feet above sea level here in Houston, I wasn’t sure how well I would take to massive amounts of elevation gain, but the 200 feet we gained over the course of the hike was perfect.  My husband’s trail got him much higher, and his quads are still killing him for it.IMG_4112After hiking, we took a nice touristy stop at a nearby ghost town.  We did the mine tour, the Mystery Shack tour, and the train ride, as well as tasting prickly pear fudge – which is delicious, btw.  I highly recommend getting 1/4 pound and splitting it 6 ways, like we did. 🙂

No pics, but we also went to an indoor amusement park type place, called Amazing Jakes.  The kids got to run around doing laser tag, bumper cars, mini coasters, and things like that.  Then the four of us played a round of bowling with a new friend.

We were staying at the Arizona Golf Resort.  I can’t vouch for the place as a “resort”, it was nice enough but the amenities are clearly geared towards the golfers.  However, it was lovely watching the jackrabbits scatter as my daughter and I walked along the the edge of the golf course.  And since it is such a big property, between walking from the room to the main building and all of the walking around at activities, I got 10,000 steps in pretty easily without stepping foot on one of the treadmills in their fitness room – the ones that I was pretty sure wouldn’t be able to take my weight for more than 5 minutes.

Our Arizona Adventure, Part 2: the Planning

IMG_4122Okay, so as soon as we heard about the whole Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives plan of my dad’s, my husband and I had a confab.  My dad has few things he really enjoys, and eating is one of them.  My mom and my aunt and I were discussing which museums to visit and where the best hiking was, and my dad was trying to figure out where the best bowl of red chili is.  I wouldn’t want to take away his vacation fun, any more than I wanted him to tell me that hiking was out because he can’t walk that far.

So, we had to plan for this.

Exercise

The best way to offset all those calories is to burn them off with lots of activities.

In addition to trying to plan active fun things to do (like hiking), I also conferred with my trainer and yoga instructor for advice.  I packed my new yoga mat, resistance bands (much better for traveling that my free weights), water bottle, walking shoes and plenty of socks.  I also threw in my swimsuit and sport towel in case my mother and I decided to grab a water aerobics class at one of the gyms near our Mesa resort.

My trainer said I had permission to only do 5000 steps on traveling days, but that I needed to get my full 10,000 steps in the days we were not driving, and that I needed to do at least half of them outside.  Also, when the front desk receptionist said that one of the two rooms we had reserved was upstairs, my husband and I immediately said we would take it, saving my parents the climb and giving us an extra exercise several times each day.

My husband brought his brand new running shoes, and planned on doing as much running as he could – even some trail running in the mountains while the kids and I hiked.  We had planned on the kids being able to be watched by my folks, but the cold that they had prevented them from doing just about anything this trip.

Food

There was no way we were going to avoid Mexican food while we were in Arizona.  In fact, during the trip we went out to eat sushi (El Paso’s sucked with cold rice while Phoenix’s was surprisingly good); Afghani food, Mexican, Native American, even Sweet Tomatoes and crappy pizza buffet (this was for the kids’ sake).  We went out for Mexican food a lot. 🙂

So how do you plan to avoid loading on the calories when you KNOW what you really want is a chimichanga smothered in green chili and a big bowl of chips with red salsa washed down with a bottle of Dos Equis (not really a margarita girl)?  Well, me and my husband hit on a plan for that.  We shared.  Every plate that wasn’t at a buffet, every restaurant.  We would decide what we wanted together, not worrying as much about how fried or soaked in sauce something was, because we knew we would be eating a reasonable portion of it.  That fry bread taco I mentioned last time with the chorizo?  I only ate half.  And it was more than enough, especially since I took a slice of the cheese crisp and dessert fry bread we ordered for the table.

I think this was a great idea, and I’m going to try to convince him that we should do this from now on.  I don’t think it will be a hard sell.

IMG_3993Small Packing Space

Like I said: 4 adults, 2 kids, one minivan, 10 days.  I figured that we should just pack like we were flying and do laundry halfway through the trip.

This is what I packed for me, along with my pillow.  I had packed a change of clothes and my pajamas into my backpack so that at our stop in El Paso, I could just bring in the backpack and leave the suitcase in the car.  The kids were limited to one big bag for clothes, toiletries, and the quilt my son insisted on bringing.  Then they each got one backpack to fill with stuff to occupy them on the drives.

Everyone was also required to bring clothes suitable for the memorial (nice but not formal) and clothes suitable for hiking.

As far as clothes go, I brought:

  • new grey yoga pants (size 2X, because the 3X are now falling off my butt!)
  • navy slacks
  • jeans
  • brown skirt (which I never wore because it ended up being too cold, and I forgot to bring shorts to wear underneath)
  • grey workout shirt, suitable for wearing in public, too
  • white button down shirt
  • navy shell
  • ivory/brown dressy linen shirt
  • brown dressy t-shirt
  • appropriate undergarments (except the shorts)
  • brown dress flats
  • navy fake Toms style flats
  • walking shoes
  • a few pieces of jewelry
  • pajamas
  • big fleece pullover that I usually use for camping

I didn’t want to bring my BIG fleece coat, because it is big.  I got it before I started losing weight, so now it swallows me up.  So I brought the fleece pullover I have worn to every cold campout for a couple of years.  It’s warm enough for weather in the 50’s, which is what I expected to see based on weather reports.  I also like the fact that it now fits me correctly; before, I couldn’t pull it over my hips, now it hangs over them. 🙂 But I should have brought the big one, because I would have been better prepared for the weather we encountered later in the trip.

Our Arizona Adventure, Part 1: the Bad

IMG_4101 My next big adventure (as I mentioned) was another cross-half-the-country road trip to Arizona.  Only this time, we were going to be going in winter instead of summer, and we were aiming for Phoenix instead of Yuma.  Oh, and instead of just me, my mom, and my kids, we were adding both our husbands to the mix.  In a minivan.  But that is just the beginning of the list of not nice aspects to this trip.

The occasion was not a happy one this time, unfortunately.  The clan on my mother’s side was gathering for a memorial for my grandmother who had passed away this time last year.  It took so long for us to get together because we have become quite far flung these days.  And actually, we are not the family members which traveled the furthest – my cousin who is doing graduate work in Germany gets that badge – but I think we are definitely the ones who drove the furthest (about 2700 miles total, including driving around Mesa/Phoenix for 5 days).  But we had to coordinate schedules for people coming from Germany, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, and Washington State, ranging through 4 generations.

And my father’s idea of a good time involves eating.  Good eating.  Greasy eating.  Both of my parents are from Arizona, umpteenth generation desert rat, and they were both raised on good Sonoran style Mexican food.  Then they moved here to Texas, and my father has been disappointed ever since.  To put this in context, Taco Bell is a very good representative of Tex-Mex – not too spicy, meats tend to be ground and sautéed rather than stewed and shredded, heavy reliance on flour tortillas, limited assortment of vegetables (lettuce, tomatoes, jalapeños), and a very tomatoey flavor to all the sauces and salsas.  My father would add that it has no flavor.  I’m not sure I would agree with that, but I will say Sonoran style takes way more time, Tex Mex is much faster to cook.

IMG_4127 All that being said, we went to Arizona, not California.  If you are trying to watch your calories, Baja (Southern California) style Mexican food is MUCH better, filled with fresh vegetables, corn tortillas, seafood, and light methods of cooking.  And on top of that, my father had intended on having our dinners dictated by restaurants given the Triple D Seal of Approval.  Luckily for my husband (who is in training for his next marathon) and I, Guy Fieri did the unthinkable and never visited a Mexican restaurant while in Arizona.  I will agree with my dad on this one – that’s like going to Texas and avoiding the BBQ, brisket, or Chicken Fried Steak, the foods that, in a way, define Texas cuisine.

Oh, and did I mention the fry bread?  And the Navajo tacos made by topping that beautiful fry bread with authentic chorizo, lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese?  Made by Tohono O’odham natives?  So. Good.  So.  Many. Calories.

IMG_4035This was about to be a test of my (extremely weak) willpower, whether I could avoid eating back all of the 75 pounds I have lost so far.

More good news: My son brought home a cold from somewhere, and my father got one at about the same time – we are pretty sure they were different colds, though.  But it meant that just in time for our 11 hour drive to El Paso (stop one), four out of the six of us were dripping and sniffling and coughing and miserable.

So just how did I end up smiling?  Next up, the planning.

Weird SLC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sightseeing in Salt Lake City

Go ahead and click on the pics to read the full captions.

Decompression

IMG_3819.JPG

 

What an amazing experience Convention was.  But I am glad to be back.  Forgive me for not blogging while I was there, but I was honestly either too busy or too tired from being too busy. So you will be getting several posts about the Convention, about Salt Lake City, and other miscellany about the trip.

IMG_3843.JPG

 

No, the National Council Sessions were not actually this boring, I just suck at taking selfies.  Trust me, this one is better than the ones where I tried to smile. 🙂  The business meetings were actually pretty interesting, although the proposal I thought was going to be most controversial wasn’t and one of the ones I thought was a snooze ended up with quite a bit of passionate rhetoric.  I guess you never know.  The one thing I was told to be prepared for was for there to be LOTS of people going to the microphone to ask for the air conditioning to be raised or lowered – and it never happened.  Everyone pretty much stayed on track.  Well, except for one morning. 🙂

IMG_3850.JPG

 

This was Saturday morning.  We were having technical difficulties with our voting gadget, some were not working.  So the presiding officer used her executive privilege to have everyone sing “Happy Birthday” to one of the Board Members whose birthday was that day.  And then it became “Happy Birthday” to all October birthdays.  Well, we’re Girl Scouts.  It doesn’t take much to get us to sing.  After that came “Make New Friends” in a round, then someone from the Council behind me started a round of “Boom Chicka Boom“.  Then the Presiding Officer asked for a Girl to come up and help her lead a song.

That was a mistake.

First one Girl Delegate from the front row sprinted to the stage.  Then came a few more.  Then a lot more.  Finally, every Girl at the meeting was up on stage.  They started us off with “The Milk Song“, and then one of my troop’s favorites, “Princess Pat“.  After this, the presiding officer decided she had better take back control of the meeting and shooed them all off the stage. 🙂  It’s one of my best memories of the trip, though.

IMG_3837.JPG

 

I took time to explore the Hall of Experiences, picking up goodies for my troop, pamphlets to read, and samples to snack on (though I tried to limit those – I think I only ate 3 Girl Scout cookies the whole trip).  There were a lot of really great booths, a fabulous treehouse, and exhibits trying to get everyone excited about the new technology that will be coming to help us manage our troops.

IMG_3852.JPG

 

One of the focuses for this Convention was the Outdoor Discussion – how much is and should the Outdoors be part of Girl Scouting.  There was a pretty resounding, “DUH” from the Council.  The Girls especially were very loud about not only retaining and increasing the Outdoor badges and experiences currently in the program, but also complained that Ambassadors were left out of the proposed new Outdoor Badges.  It was interesting to see the concerns of Councils from around the country, from the completely urban Girl Scouts of Greater New York who have to put their girls on a subway and then a bus to get the girls to Camp in a different Council’s geographic area to the Councils that are desperate to stop having to sell off camp properties to the Councils which have so few camps that if their Older Girls want to go to camp they have to volunteer to be a counselor for the younger girls.

I realized how lucky I am to be in the Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council, where we have 10 camps spread pretty evenly around the Council geography.  We have a robust cadre of Outdoor trainers (and I can’t wait until I can rejoin them!), wonderful facilities at our camps (most of them), equipment for troops to use for free or rent for dirt cheap, and most importantly a climate that allows us year-round use of our camps.

I should have asked the ladies I met from Alaska what their camps were like . . .

IMG_3888.JPG

 

I picked the Celebrate Cultural Arts theme dinner.  It was pretty great, with a couple of Henna artists, a presentation from Eunique Jones about her “Because of Them We Can” campaign (plays a video automatically), and performances from local dance and music groups – Irish step dancers, a drum and bagpipe corps, an opera singer, a group of Basque dancers, and a group of Chinese dancers.  I think the performances could have been a little more multicultural, but I think the reason we had 4 out of 5 groups from Europe was simply because Salt Lake City is not as diverse a city as Houston.

IMG_3887.JPG

 

The goodie bag from my theme dinner.  A Dreamcatcher kit, a pen from the hotel where the dinner was (which also happened to be the hotel I was staying at), two leftover cookie sale necklaces, and a Jolly Rancher.  Le sigh.  I was way more excited to get a henna tattoo.  I hope it stays long enough for my girls to see it at our next meeting. 🙂