I'm not sure they even wanted me there in the first place. The first hotel we tried was booked. The second hotel was also booked. Finally, the third hotel had rooms and we were finally able to go to sleep.
The next morning I tried going online with hotel wifi. A short while later I got a virus and my internet was completely pwnd. This wasn't a seedy hotel or anything, it was actually a pretty nice La Quinta. Officially, this is the reason why I couldn't blog pseudo-realtime, although we all know I probably wouldn't have anyways. Also, this meant I couldn't get photos from John's camera. Honestly though, I wasn't too concerned, since I was crashing with John in SD after Phoenix, so I could get the photos later and deal with the virus. Until then, I was basically cut off from internet, but I was fine with that. Besides, I couldn't risk the virus stealing the password to our LMP blog, and making up stories about me.
It also started storming so a bunch of flights were getting delayed. John audible'd and booked a new flight online, literally an hour before takeoff as we were driving to the airport. All on his phone. Impressive.
On the way back from the airport, a tiny rock hit my windshield about 2" from the left edge. It barely made a sound, but immediately cracked to the edge, and then propagated the other direction to form about an 8" crack.
It turns out I was close to an Auto Glass and Body shop. Really close. It was literally on the next block ..
Anyways, I stopped and asked for advice. It turns out they didn't actually do glass on site, so the receptionist gave me a phone number to call, which led to a guy in Minnesota. Unfortunately, they couldn't repair cracks larger than dollar bill lengths, so that meant I needed a full windshield replacement. They needed a day to order the windshield, and a second day to install it. Catherine was arriving that next morning, and we were heading out of Salt Lake immediately, so I really just wanted some sort of a quick fix to get by for now.
I found another Auto Glass shop with Goog411. They also said the crack was hopeless to repair, but that they could probably stop the crack from growing by filling the ends. It had to be off the books, since they couldn't warranty it, so the guy told me he'd do it for free and I could tip him if I wanted to.
The guy kind of looked like Derek Jeter.
When he finished, it actually looked pretty decent, so I gave him everything in my wallet, which was $31.
Anyways, that was pretty much Day 8. I was a little bummed with the hotel, the virus, the weather, and the crack, but I was still pretty happy to have averted disaster and that the trip was still on.
On Day 9, I picked up Catherine.
First we went to get brunch in Provo at a place Aaron suggested, Cafe Rio. It's a Mexican restaurant, and surprisingly it was really good. Aaron had also suggested the Nauvoo Cafe in Salt Lake, which was extremely tasty. They had Coke-marinated meat in one of the specialty sandwiches, which was really good. But I'm not actually sure Coke-marinated foods are Mormon-approved.
Anyways, Cafe Rio was also really good food. Mexican food. In Utah. So "half and hour" for lunch ended up stretching closer to an hour. But it was worth it.
Next, Arches. We couldn't quite decide whether we wanted quantity or quality, so we talked with the ranger. For quantity, we could go see North Window, South Window, and Turret Arch, which were all close together, but for quality, we had to see delicate arch, which required a couple mile hike in. We decided to compromise and do both.
|Maneki Neko (aka Chinese lucky cat)|
|Creepy Michelin man and friend|
Originally the plan was to drive all the way to Bryce and camp there, but we made it halfway and it was already getting dark. We stopped at a gas station to get fuel, and asked the attendant about camping options nearby. Apparently it was bow-hunting season, which meant all the campsites were probably full. She also told us all the local motels were infested with bed bugs, except for the Super 8 next door, which she used to work at. We gave it a once over. Then we went to the next big city on the map.
We found a nice hotel, and were able to hold off porta-potties for one additional night. That was Day 9.
Day 10 started off poorly.
I got busted along a stretch of straight highway at about 8a in the morning. There was absolutely nobody on the road and the roads were totally straight, although over rolling hills. The patrolman came over the hill from the opposite direction .. game over.
|Utah state trooper|
The cop was actually surprisingly polite. We think he was Mormon. He told me that they actually pull anyone going +5 over the speed limit. So much for my +9 theory.
To be quite honest, on the rest of the way to Bryce we saw a ton of camouflaged cops in pickup trucks pulling guys over. So chances are I probably would have been busted there anyways if I wasn't already panicked and driving the speed limit.
Anyways, Bryce. Bryce was cool.
Anyways, Bryce. Bryce was cool.
|Unique Bryce rock formations|
|More awesome rock formations|
When Catherine was growing up, her parents actually told here they found her out of a garbage can. Come to think of it, I think my parents might have told me that same story too. Maybe it's a Chinese thing. Anyways, my theory is that she came from this hole in the wall.
|Pretty good fit|
And this is where Catherine used to play as a kid.
|Random tree in the canyon|
Anyways, I really liked Bryce. Aaron told us to see Cedar Breaks next, so we complied. In fact, everything Aaron told us was really good advice. Quite possibly, his suggestions were the only good parts of Utah. Anyways, I'm a firm believer of not backtracking, and by going through Cedar Breaks, we were able to enter Zion from the west, and exit it from the east.
On the way to Cedar Breaks, we saw a biker and thought of AJ. There were actually signs warning of a bike race going on.
|This guy was either at the very front or the very end|
Next we went to Zion. The Grand Canyon, Zion, and Bryce make up the Grand Staircase, since the top of one is the bottom of the next. Zion is in the middle, but I really wasn't too impressed. The rock formations looked pretty normal, and the murky river wasn't too attractive. Zion really has nothing going for it, except for its water, which tastes really good.
Another cool attraction of Zion, is the moon coming over the top of this peak called the Watchman. We were lucky and it was pretty close to a full moon when we were in Zion.
Sunrise was kind of nice too. Although, I was actually asleep. Fortunately Catherine took pictures.
When I finally got up, we headed out. Zion was the last stop in Utah, and I've never been more happy to leave a state in my entire life.
Oh yeah, I hit a bird at some point in Utah too, I felt really bad. I can't remember, but I'm pretty sure it was actually on this stretch out of Utah. The guy flew towards my windshield, hesitated, and then tried to double back. He didn't make it. Yet another reason you should never backtrack if you can avoid it.
Anyways, it was nice to be out of Utah, and on our way to the Grand Canyon. North Rim was the first stop.
Catherine wanted to take pictures of wildflowers. We took a picture of wildflower pictures, so we could identify them.
|Picture of wildflower pictures|
|North Rim again|
|North Rim bench placement|
There was this neat hike on the Cliff Springs Trail which took you alongside the cliff.
It was getting kind of late, but it was worth it. Definitely.
Our next stop was South Rim. If we could go directly across the canyon, it would only be 10-12 mi. Instead, the only way to get there was all the way around this horrible 58 mi loop.
|North Rim, South Rim|
|Leaving Grand Canyon|
The rest of the night was spent driving to Phoenix, which Catherine had warned would be "literally, hot as hell". And that was an understatement. We got in around 11p, but it was still completely miserable. And humid. Luckily, everywhere is air conditioned, so as long as you stayed indoors you were fine. We went to an In n Out for dinner, and that was the end of Day 11.
By 8a on Day 12, it was already unbearably warm, so I packed up and left for CA. A couple fruit and border inspections later, I was pretty much home again.