Thursday, April 24, 2014

NLCV Day 5

Grand Canyon day.  The quick preview from last night make the anticipation that much stronger.  First things first though.  Breakfast.  Most important meal of the day, right?
You can’t go wrong with the Golden Arches.  Quick and consistent.  They even have good coffee now.  Thank you Paul Newman.  Overpriced?  Sure, but what isn’t around here.  And any worse than South Station or at a Rest Area?  We have to be somewhat efficient to be at the GC Airport on time for our helicopter tour.
I highly recommend the helicopter tour the Grand Canyon.  Especially, if you have only a small window of time at the GC.  The whole adventure does not take a lot of time.  There is a quick safety video, which is mandatory.  It’s is the equivalent of your flight attendant demonstration at the start of every airplane flight.  They weigh you to assign your seat.  They strap a silly looking flotation device.  It is a yellow, over sized fanny pack with strings.  Only the snorkel, face mask, and flippers are missing.  The tour is just amazing.  Coming out over the edge of the GC is breathtaking.  The boys really got a kick out of it.  They took it all in and developed a healthy appreciation for the size of this place.
We spent the rest of the day walking and sightseeing on the South Rim.  We drove up to Mather’s Point.  Fortunately we had found the gem of the GC area, RJ’s Stage Stop.  Reasonably priced, they offered sandwiches, coffee, breakfast, and trinkets.  We got our memorabilia at very decent prices.  We ordered sandwiches and drinks, which they packed nicely for a hike.  So up at the South Rim we wandered with a backpack full of water, lunch, and sunscreen.  We took lots of pictures, for ourselves and other people.  The amount of guests is staggering.  What is truly amazing is that besides the popular look-outs, you don’t feel crowded at all.  In fact, contact with other tourists is almost sparse, once you start walking.  But I digress.  We did offer to take group photos for other folks and asked the same in return.  People were great about it.
The boys got a first-hand look at Darwinism at its finest.  People ignored the rules, posted on signs.  They ventured off the walkways.  They crawled out onto some precarious ledges.  The footing was suspect.  The wind was stronger than you might think.  All to take that picture with no railing, or with the ledge effect.  It’s no wonder so many people fall to their deaths at the GC each year.  The learning? Some people are really dumb.  Let the culling begin……
The boys earned some down time to watch TV and play games in the room.  Demi and I earned pool time.  Win/Win.
The boys also got a lesson in economics.  Supply and demand.  Or beggars can’t be choosers.  The boys got sandwiches for dinner.  Demi and I got a pre-made salad and a rotisserie chicken.  No eating utensils.  Old school medieval hand eating.  Tough times call for drastic measures.  At least it wasn’t a Donner Party.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

NLCV Day 4

Live at Red Rocks.  OK.  That is CO.  But the red of the mountains in Sedona is stunning.  Having a  cup of coffee with that backdrop was truly amazing.  Coco had a cinnamon roll, the size of his head.  I had the most amazing oatmeal.  I know.  How interesting can oatmeal be.  Believe me.  This was the gold standard. 
We had some time to kill before our tour in the famous Pink Jeeps.  We walked up and down the main strip.  It is really a nice place.  I could spend a few days there with Demi for sure.  The boys were fascinated at a candle maker’s shop.  They watched the whole process for quite a while.  They perused the inventory with a keen eye.  The Pink Jeep tour of Broken Arrow was astounding.  It could very well be the highlight of the trip.  Pink Jeeps have a special permit giving them the only access to certain parts of the valley.  We made 2 stops and were permitted to get out.  The views were spectacular.  The peaks we summited were not as severe as they looked from afar.  So we didn’t have to worry about plummeting to our deaths.  Submarine Rock permitted us an amazing view of the whole area.  Our guide was great.  He took some great family photos for us.  At some points, he put on a clinic of technical off-road driving.  We were completely perpendicular to the ground, on uneven terrain, completely stopped.  We did that going up and we did that going down.  We drove around a rock on a high peak that only allowed the width of the jeep.  The open air was refreshing, but at the same time dried us out.  They tell you to bring lots of water and we were glad we did.    It was a quick 2 hours.  Our guide let us in a great lunch spot as well.
We stopped at Slippery Rock Park on the way to the Grand Canyon.  The boys and I ventured in to the frigid water to ride the river like a giant water slide.  I am surprised we didn’t get banged up.  The rocks are smooth but they are still rocks.  It allowed us to expend some energy too.
We got into the hotel at the Grand Canyon late that afternoon.  We changed and raced to make sunset but missed it.  The Canyon was still amazing though.  In our haste we got separated.  Coco and I stayed by the Rim, while Demi and Caz went for the car.  They didn’t remember where they parked.  I didn’t have my cell phone.  I couldn’t pass on seeing the Canyon, so Coco and I bolted to the look out.  It took my breath away.  It is one of the 7 wonders for reason.  It really makes you feel small and puts life in perspective.  We took some pictures and went looking for Demi.  We headed to the visitor center.  It seemed like a natural Lost and Found meeting spot.  Sure enough we saw the car coming towards.  It’s good to be lucky sometimes

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

NLCV Day 3

Big Travel Day.  The Long Haul from New Mexico to Arizona.  The drive alone was going to be somewhere between 6-9 hours, depending on our final destination in AZ.

     We got a decent jump on the drive.  We had to wait for the pharmacy to open at 9 AM to pick up Caz’s medication.  I got up fairly early to pack the car.  I tried to use the 3rd row and creative packing, to maximize the personal space for the boys.  I also had to keep certain items handy: everyone’s electronics, the cooler, neck pillows, sunglasses, etc.  It is really an art form, if I do say so myself.  The boys appreciated it.
     We stocked up at the pharmacy/grocery store.  We got drinks, lunch, and snacks for the ride.  I needed windshield wiper fluid.  The amount of bugs splattered on the windshield numbered in the hundreds. 
      Our first stop took longer than expected.  Both Demi and I had read the printed directions wrong and grossly underestimated the time for our first stop.  The VLA.  Very Large Array.  It is part of the SETI project.  Our second issue was using SIRI.  We didn’t have a physical address for the GPS.  Demi used SIRI.  When we started down the side streets of New Mexico State Technical & Mining School, then into neighbor hoods, we knew something was amiss.  Unless the DISH satellites on the homes were the Very Small Array, we were not in the right spot.  SIRI, we found out, took us to the official head office of the VLA.  So it was back on the Road.
     Talk about middle of nowhere.  The direction included turning left at mile 82.  No sign.  Why have a sign?  That is when we saw the barbed wire and small signs that read: “ US Government Property.  No Trespassing.”  I was waiting for the black SUV’s to come hassle us.  The arrays were scattered all over the place, not even close to each other despite the pictures on line.  As we started out the door to the viewing area we saw a hand written sign that said there were snakes on the grounds.  Sure enough 2 six footers were bearing down on the door.  That was enough for Demi.  We did the Griswald quick look around, snapped some pictures, and loaded up back in the car.
     We got to the Rainbow Museum in the Petrified Forrest with no issues.  The time was about as expected.  It was a lot different from what we expected.  Not so much a forest as you would picture in your head.  The history was interesting.  .  The fossilized wild life and vegetation was a good learning opportunity too. The walk around the premises was leisurely and short.  It was a good chance to stretch our legs.
     The boys decided they wanted to press on to Sedona, so off we went.  We tried to get dinner 30 mins out but the town of Winslow turned out to be a ghost town in the making.  The GPS took us to a diner that no longer existing.  It took us through a rough stretch of town to get back to the highway.  We would have been better off cruising Bucket of Blood Blvd in Holbrook by the Petrified Forest, on old route 66.  We did however find a hidden gem in Flagstaff.  Bigfoot BBQ.  It was tucked away in the basement of a small walk in market area.  Great southern BBQ.  We rolled out of there back into the car to head to Sedona. 
     This was the only night we hadn’t booked a hotel room. We were gambling.  It paid off.  We found a really nice room at a place in Sedona online.  We used some frequent flyer miles (so to speak) to offset the cost difference between that and the a decent hotel room.  The drive to Sedona was a bit more exciting than planned.  We dropped 4K feet in elevation, winding down some hairpin turns, with no guardrails, in the complete dark.  We almost did a mule deer.  We couldn’t appreciate the sights but we could appreciate the comfortable beds when we finally made town. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

NLCV Day 2

So Caz woke up with pink eye.  Not the way to start the first full day of vacation.  Somehow we found a walk-in clinic in this ski mountain town.  It looked like we might have to wait a while and it would certainly throw off our road trip plans.  But Demi had the good senses to call our primary care physician back home. The nurse called in a prescription to a pharmacy here in Ruidoso. Score! We were able to leave town only slightly behind schedule.
      First stop?  Carlsbad Caverns.  It was a 3 hr trek from Ruidoso.  This was the only time I got nervous about gas.  Just after Roswell - which we planned to hit on the way back - I saw we were close to 1/4 tank of gas left and not a gas station in sight.  We knew that gas stations could be scarce on this trip.  Not knowing the capacity of a rental car increase today's anxiety.  The GPS kept wanting to take us back to Roswell.  Alien Conspiracy?  Governmental spying?  Who knows?  But Siri found us a town 25 miles away that had a gas station.  We made it with plenty of fuel to spare.
     We made the Caverns around noon time.  A lunch stop to Subway set up back.  The place was packed. I ate my salad in the direct sunlight, experiencing our first taste of hot weather, while Demi and boys hiked up a top a cliff just inside the park entrance.  We proceeded to the visitor center, picked up our passes, filled up our Camelbaks and headed for the Devil's Gate.  The opening to our descent.  700 feet down into the network of caverns that stretch one for miles.  Filled with stalactites and stalagmites, pits and pools, bats and guano.  We stayed in the caverns, out of the daylight, for about 4 hours.  We saw the Lily Pad Pond, the Devil's Gate, Devil's Tail (sense a trend?), Crystal Cavern, Big Room, Bottomless Pit, and all kinds of rock formations, cavern formations, grottoes, pools, etc.  We took the self guided tour, so were given a night stick with a speaker.  You hit button corresponding the a number on sign post and a narrator would provide information about that point.  It was well worth the $5.  I liked that we could go on our own pace.  A nice couple from Texas took our picture for us.  We took about 400 pictures in the Caverns.  This national park is truly a national treasure.  The boys really appreciate it.  Caz particularly got a charge out of making a squeaking noise with his Camelbak that was a perfect bat sound.  Scared the hell out of Demi.
     We stopped by Roswell on the way back.  It turned out to be a total Griswald stop.  The UFO museum was closed.  So were the other UFO/Alien themed sites.  The trinket stores were open of course, but not worth the time.  We packed it in and headed back to Ruidoso.  Oddly enough it did not bother anyone to eat dinner at 8 PM.  Demi and Coco crashed early.  I took a quick soak in the hot tub.  I gave Caz and early bed time, to which I got no argument.  I intended to crash at 9:30.  But as I flipped channels, I game across an ESPN Sports Century piece on Pat Tillman.  Timing is everything.  I watched it all, then called it a night.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

National Lampoons Chinny Vacation

Day One - We are off on our vacation.  It's an early start.  Really early.  The airport limo, which was a present from my brother and sister in-law, came to pick us up at 5 AM.  No problem for your truly, as I have been up since 3 AM.  I woke up in a panic that my sons iPod sync had failed.  I amble downstairs to find that I was right.  After 45 mins of trouble shooting, I finally figured out the issue.  One changed cord later and the sync was back on.  The things we do for our kids.  I wonder if he will even appreciate it.
     The boys were really great about getting up.  We were up and out the door with all the luggage when the van showed up.  They even beat Demi out of the house.  No arguments, no crabbiness, nothing......
     The plane ride went well.  Both of them.  We made our connections.  Our luggage arrived.  We even took some plane selfies, which became a "thing" for the Chinny Vacation.  Bonding was off to a great start.
     The condo in Ruidoso was fantastic.  Our friends really hooked us up.  We all had our own bedrooms and bathrooms.  We all had TV's(not that there was much time for watching).  And there was a hot tub on the deck.  We had a great dinner at a local place that service Mexican food.  Then we relaxed in the hot tub.  We all turned in early and slept soundly.  Off to a great beginning.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Turning 15

Happy 15th Birthday Caz!  I hope you have a great day.  Enjoy the new amplifier.  I really hope you start playing the guitar again.  You are at a great age for it.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Notes from Fatherhood

Two interesting Dad moments tonight:

1) Dinner with Coco, one on one.  Big Kahuna Burgers.  They were indeed tasty burgers.  I thoroughly enjoyed when Coco asked me if he could have a soda to help wash down his tasty burger.  It was also fun to see him taking in Tin Cup on the TV they had going in the seating area.  He seemed interested.  In a golf movie.  Go figure.

2) Caz made coffee tonight.  Actually he setup the coffee maker.  Grounds.  Cinnamon. Filter. Water.  Then he set the timer for 6:30 AM.  I could get used to this.  I knew starting him on coffee would pay off.....

Monday, April 7, 2014

Back to School

Coco got back to school today.  We finally turned the corner from his health problem.  He had missed 6 straight days.  It was Father & Son time all weekend, starting Friday.  I took him to the doctor. After getting looked over, we had a course of action.  The new treatment started pretty quickly, I have to say.

     By afternoon, Coco said to me, "Dad, I feel so much better."

     Those words were magic.  Then I felt better.  I don't know how parents with major challenges do it.  The rest of the weekend went smoothly too.  We even go to go out as a family on Saturday night.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Opening Day 2014

Today was the Fenway home opener for the Sox.  It came will all the expected pomp and circumstance of the occasion.  I have to say kudos to NESN.  They didn’t utter a word during the hour long spectacular leading up to the roster introductions.  It was perfect.  Sure, it might have been nice to know who some of the first responders/victims were when tribute was paid to the Marathon Bombing event and recent Boston fire tragedy.  But it was really nice to sit in quiet and see the Sox players interact with all of them.  Papi was the Sox ambassador of good will.  He hugged everyone that came close to him.  The players made goo-goo eyes at the infants/toddlers.  It was well done. 
I was fortunate enough to be home to Coco to watch it.  I hope he appreciated all of it.  He takes in a lot.  He thinks a lot.  I think seeing something well done and respectful like this display will have a positive influence on him. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Coffee To Go

Well, it was no April Fool’s joke.  Caz has gone to the bus stop every morning this week with a travel mug full of Joe.  Since he just measured in at 5’11” last week, can I really say it will stunt his growth?  It is actually pretty comical for me to hear Demi ask how he likes his coffee.  I think he is still perfecting his sugar & cream to coffee ratio.  He is still a novice after all.
It is really a good thing.  As I noted before, the caffeine will help him combat his ADD and increase his attention span early.  Maybe it will help lead to a better breakfast and morning routine.  To say that Caz is not a morning person is a huge understatement.  Couple that with the fact that Demi is also not a fan of the AM, you increase the likelihood of a school AM disaster.  All heck will rain down on the child responsible for missing the bus.  You think Noah was facing a wrathful vengeance?  He didn’t miss the Ark to school

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Fool's 2014

This one went by the boards unnoticed.  Not one prank to speak of at all.  A bit of a disappointment really.  Ah, what can you do?  Life happens.