Week 13-  November 20 Week: Thanksgiving Already?!

After picking up Nate’s buddy Jordan we made a quick trip to Lake Meade and Hoover Dam.  I am always amazed by the intellect and creativity that went into massive historical projects like these.  It is easy to think that since folks in generations past didn’t have the flashy tools and measurements that we do, that they were somehow not as smart, when in fact, the opposite is probably true.  We can often afford to be intellectually lazy these days.  Enough engineering philosophy…Everybody enjoyed the tour, especially realizing that a good portion of the power from the dam’s turbines runs the southern California area we had enjoyed last week.  It was also novel to the kids as we crossed the dam between Nevada and Arizona and changed time zones each way. 

As I mentioned last week, our itinerary can change by the hour.  Originally we had planned to take Jordan to the canyon lands of southern Utah.  The weather forecast was for cold and snow so we changed plans and headed part of the way toward Death Valley Saturday afternoon.  It was a good thing because our next day in Death Valley was blustery enough.   

Our time in Death Valley, the driest, hottest place in the US was ironic.  First of all we had to drive out of our way to get into the National Park because of extensive flood damage to some of the roads from rains in August.  There was a cold wind with only breaks in the clouds as we drove through the park on Sunday, and by late afternoon there was even a little light rain!  On our whole adventure to this point, we have amazingly only had a handful of rainy days! 

On the trip to Death Valley we also passed the Nellis Air Force area and the infamous Area Fifty-one that intrigues UFO fanatics.  We stopped in the town of Beatty at the edge of Death Valley just in time to attend worship at a tiny Baptist church.  What a contrast from last week’s worship with the throngs of thousands at Saddleback, but we enjoyed it just the same.  The friendly folks invited us to their special Thanksgiving lunch, though we had to decline as we just had the afternoon for visiting the park. 

In the park we stopped at the Rhyolite ghost town.  I have always wanted to visit one, and this had been a town of five to eight-thousand people during its short life of less than ten years. Other stops we made in Death Valley were the salt flats, the lowest point in the US (-280 feet altitude), the remains of the Borax processing facility of “twenty mule team” fame, and of course our time at the visitor center for the kids to complete another Junior Ranger program. 

Jordan couldn’t escape school, as we had him join Nate on Monday morning.  At lunchtime we headed back toward Las Vegas we were surprised that while we had had a few raindrops in Death Valley the passes through the hills between Pahrump and Las Vegas had gotten snow!  The highway had been closed due to the snows earlier and people were driving out from Vegas to make snowmen in the desert hills! 

By the time we got there midday it was melting and we spent the afternoon in Red Rock Canyon, an unexpected surprise.  The bright red rock formations were a scaled down version of the area of Utah we had originally planned to visit.  We enjoyed the wild burros on the way into the park as one peeked into the van window.  The kids worked on another Junior Ranger program, so Jordan earned two different badges with them during his short stay! 

The melting snows had normally dry creek beds running and we found a good place to release Jenna’s clam collection.  She had kept a little aquarium, in the RV shower, with some clams she collected in Oceanside.  It was a good way for her feel like she wasn’t abandoning her “clam-dude” friends, while freeing our shower from her pail… 

Tuesday, we officially called off school in honor of Jordan’s last day with us.  We were staying in the KOA RV Park at Circus Circus for a couple of days so it would be convenient to see a little of the glitz of Las Vegas and be able to take Jordan back to the airport Wednesday morning.  The treat of the day for the kids was a visit to the Adventure Dome indoor amusement park at Circus Circus. 

In the evening we indulged ourselves at one of those famous casino buffets and then toured the “strip” at night.  The musical water shows outside of the Bellagio Casino delighted all of us.  The shows we saw were all choreographed to the music of Aaron Copland, my all time favorite modern composer.  

In the midst of the aural and visual cacophony, we all were glad that we would be leaving the counterfeit environment of Vegas the next morning.  In viewing the elaborate casinos it dawned on us that Las Vegas is a true mirage in the desert- New York is fake, Paris is fake, Treasure Island is fake, the Pyramid is fake, as are the promises of riches and sexual satisfaction that seem to be the foundation of this town. 

It was sad saying goodbye to Jordan when Nate and I took him to the airport for a very early Wednesday morning flight.  The visit will probably be one of Nate’s highlight memories years from now.  Thankfully we had no problems with either flight since Jordan was flying as an unaccompanied youth. 

After packing up, and shaking the dust of Vegas off of our shoes, we took Harvey across Hoover Dam heading into Arizona.  After traveling through the Lake Meade area, we came to Kingman and old Route 66.  We stopped at the Route 66 museum highlighting the history of the first major modern roadway from Chicago to California.  We were given free admission because it was the day before Thanksgiving and the admissions guy was sharing his gratefulness!   

From Kingman, we decided to stay off of the interstate and drive almost one hundred miles on Route 66.  We stopped for a couple of photo ops at quirky establishments along the way and then made it to the Williams area just south of the Grand Canyon before sundown to prepare for Thanksgiving the next day! 

For me, Thanksgiving will be another wonderful memory of this adventure.  Before the girls were up and about, I took Nate on a hike up the mountainside from the base where our campsite was located.  It was a strenuous hike on rocky trail punctuated by patches of snow.  Starting at 6,900 feet altitude, we also found breathing a little tougher.  We talked about perseverance as we pressed on toward the goal of the summit and were rewarded with a wonderful view of the surrounding valleys and hills. 

Since this was our first major holiday on this adventure where we wouldn’t be with family, we didn’t know what the kids’ reaction would be.  Brenda made the day by decorating Harvey and making a traditional “turkey and all the fixin’s” meal to look, smell, and taste like as much like home as possible. 

The day ended with us cozy in Harvey protected from the freezing mountain temperatures outside.  We are especially thankful this year.  God has demonstrated time and again his provision and guidance on a daily basis.  We are slowly learning to trust Him more. 

Surprises…  We headed off to Grand Canyon Friday morning.  We have been spoiled most of this adventure to be visiting attractions when they are not busy.  Little did we know that the day after Thanksgiving is Grand Canyon’s busiest day outside of peak summer season.  Thankfully our National Park Pass got us in a special entrance lane and we got into the park with no problem.  Later in the afternoon as we were leaving we passed a line at least a couple of miles long still trying to enter the park! 

The views were beautiful in a crystal clear chill.  We did some hiking… Unfortunately Leah and Jenna aren’t into the same kind of hiking as the rest of us, but we had a great day anyway.  It gave me the inspiration that I would like to return with Nate, a couple of his friends and their dads, and hike to the bottom and back someday. 

A major highlight was when a ranger helped us use a high powered monocular to view a young Condor way down in the canyon.  It hadn’t yet flown, but was practicing flapping its already enormous wings. 

With colder and snowy weather on its way to the area, we decided that Saturday would be our day to flee to the desert of Tucson!