Friday, May 21, 2010, 01:11 PM
Posted by Administrator
Apparently, I was a little blogged out after 31 days of blogging during the west coast adventure. But I'm back! So, what have I been up to the past month?

1. Packing, packing, packing. However, with time on our side, we've been able to do little bit each day and still enjoy this much-appreciated sabbatical.

2. Cleaning house.Our load was significantly lightened after a yard sale, a trip to Bookman's, a few visits to Goodwill and some Craig's List and Facebook postings.

We also attacked the outside of the house which resulted in a very full roll-off dumpster and Paul and I taking turns pulling cactus needles out of each other.

3. Exercise! With the summer heat upon us, we've still be getting up early most days for a run or bike ride. And, since I'm not going into an office these days, I've had time to hit the gym later in the day for some strength training or my new favorite thing - yoga!

What's next? Well, I'm currently waiting for a moving trailer to be dropped off in our yard, at which point, we'll start filling it up. Like the packing of boxes, this can be a leisurely endeavor as they won't pick it up until Tuesday.

Then, next Wednesday, we'll hit the road for 6 days of books-on-tape, doggie pit stops and Motel 6's - because dogs stay free! Oh yes, in the midst of all of this, Paul and I will continue looking for jobs.

I'll try to blog as we make our way across the country. It's sure to be another great adventure for the Vyriotes family!

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West Coast Road Trip – Day 31 
Wednesday, April 14, 2010, 10:09 PM
Posted by Administrator
We had two items to check off our list before leaving Phoenix:

1. Stop by REI to return the “waterproof” gloves I bought at the Bend REI. Those things didn’t even stay dry for one hour of snow shoveling in Mt. Shasta!

2. Enjoy lunch at Picazzo’s!

We cruised down I-10 and were thrilled to pull into our driveway. Click here for the wonderful greeting we received.

In a nutshell, this trip was AMAZING! Not wanting to take a single day for granted, I often reminded myself that this was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that holds a spot on many people’s bucket lists. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to enjoy the journey at this point in my life and with an incredible partner.

Thanks for sharing in the journey with us!

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West Coast Road Trip – Days 29 and 30 
Monday, April 12, 2010, 09:22 PM
Posted by Administrator
I started the day with a short run followed by a hot springs soak. Doesn’t get much better than that.

After packing up and hitting the road, our first stop of the day was the China Ranch Date Farm whose dates are sold at the Sunday farmers' market at St. Philips Plaza. I absolutely LOVE them and so was excited to see that the farm was on our route. I was doubly excited when we got there and found that they sell the dates for half the price that I usually get them. We bought 6 pounds for later and a date shake for right then. Mmmm…

Our next destination was the Mojave Desert National Preserve, but we made a pit stop in Baker, CA for lunch at the Mad Greek. You’ve gotta love a Greek restaurant that sells both gyros and horchata amidst lots of tacky, naked statues. Paul was quite proud.

Baker is also home to the world’s tallest thermometer. Sadly, we didn’t have more time to spend in this cultural mecca.

We cruised through the Mojave Desert National Preserve fairly quickly and continued on to the north entrance of Joshua Tree National Park where we caught the sunset and then set up camp at Ryan Campground.

We thought we’d be soaking up the desert warmth by this point in our trip…but, no. A storm was passing through and, while we curled into little balls in our tent, temperatures dropped into the upper 20’s. Here is out frost-covered car the next morning.

We drove up to Keys View for some early morning photography and then warmed up with a 7-mile hike on the Lost Horse Mine trail.

While hiking, we saw a number of these cocoons filled with crawling caterpillars. Fascinating, yet gross.

From there, we drove to the southern end of the park and did the same hike that we did the very first day of our trip. How's that for coming full circle? This time, we were treated to lots of wildflowers!

We had told our house-sitter that we would return the following day, but, driving out of Joshua Tree, we realized that we could actually make it home by mid-evening if we just kept driving. We were dying to see the furkids, but, not wanting to spring our arrival on him with just a few hours notice, we opted to spend our final evening in Phoenix.

While this felt a little silly, we attended an injury prevention talk at a Phoenix running store and actually both got a lot out of it.

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West Coast Road Trip – Day 28 
Sunday, April 11, 2010, 05:03 PM
Posted by Administrator
Seeing that there was some nice color over the mountains when we opened our eyes around 6:00am, we hopped out of the tent and headed for Zabriskie Point. Unfortunately, it was overcast and so we missed out on the spectacular morning colors for which this lookout is famous. But, Paul still got some great shots.

From here, we took a drive through Twenty Mule Team Canyon and stopped to hike up some of the hills. The colors are so different than what I'm used to seeing that some of the photos actually look like paintings to me.

Next up was a drive up to Dante’s View, supposedly the most scenic viewpoint in Death Valley. It did not disappoint. We could see Badwater one mile below us, as well as mountain peaks one mile above us.

(Note that that is not water in the photo - it is salt.)

As everything we wanted to see was on the way out of the park, we packed up camp, hit the visitor center, grabbed some lunch at Furnace Creek and then began making our way south.

Our first stop was for a hike in Golden Canyon where I decided that school truly is wasted on the young. Geology had never interested me and yet I found it fascinating how the levels of rocks and sediment clearly told a story.

(Again, that's not a beach in the background - it's a salt pan.)

We drove through Artist Drive which has some of the most colorful rocks in Death Valley.

And we stopped at Devil’s Golf Course which was bizarre and fascinating. This is all salt that was left behind from evaporated water and has now crystallized.

Our final stop might have been the most anticipated of this portion of the trip, Badwater.

Sitting at 282 feet below sea level, it is the lowest point on the continent. We walked out on the large salt pan and marveled at all of the salt!

On the way out of Death Valley, we were treated to some wildflowers. It's amazing that such beautiful things can grow in this climate

That night, we stayed at Delight’s Hot Springs Resort in the tiny town of Tecopa. Lest you thing we're getting all fancy on you, I should explain that by “resort” they mean RV and mobile home park.

As tent camping was not permitted, we settled on a motel room and thoroughly enjoyed a hot spring soak before bed.

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West Coast Road Trip – Day 27 
Saturday, April 10, 2010, 12:56 AM
Posted by Administrator
The initial trip planning I had done while in Tucson had only gotten us as far as Yosemite. It was only about a week ago that I sat down at the library in Bend, Oregon to make a plan. It was at this point that I realized Death Valley was right next to Yosemite.

In warmer weather, you can take Highway 120 all the way across Yosemite, which puts you in a great spot to enter Death Valley. However, during snow season, which lasts until early summer in Yosemite, the majority of this highway is closed. We had exited the park via the southern route on Highway 41 and now had to continue driving south to go around the Sierra Nevada mountain range and then north again to enter Death Valley. It was a lot of driving, but well worth it. We both quickly fell in love with Death Valley.

Firstly, it was warm! After a few days in Yosemite, the warm breeze here felt amazing. Secondly, the landscape is otherworldly and beautiful. Thirdly, Death Valley has the mystique of being home to the Badwater Ultramarathon, a 135-mile footrace starting at the lowest point in North America and finishing the top of Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States. This race takes place in July, when temperatures regularly exceed 120 degrees.

We made a pit stop in Stovepipe Wells before a short hike in Mosaic Canyon.

Then, another quick stop at the Mesquite Dunes.

And a short walk at Salt Creek which, amazingly, is home to little pup fish.

We didn’t take too much time as it was already early evening and we were worried about finding camping spot. The month of April is the end of Death Valley’s peak tourist season. Sure enough, the Furnace Creek Campground was full, but, just past the town, we found plenty of spots at Sunset Campground…which was free!

There is so much to see in Death Valley that you really don’t want to spend time at your campsite. This is a good thing as all of the campgrounds are essentially huge gravel parking lots.

Setting up camp was a challenge in the strong winds, but I was so thrilled with the warmth that I didn’t care. We didn’t even put on the rain fly. We sat in the car to enjoy our dinner – chili, salmon and tortillas again – and then walked down the road to Furnace Creek to check out the town.

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