Sunday, July 16, 2017

I Traveled To California And Arizona! (Part 4)

Onto our last installment of our CA/AZ trip in May!  If you haven't read the last three parts and would like to, click HERE, here, and/or hErE.


We woke up with the sun (one of my favorite things about camping) and after breakfast, we hit the road for the Grand Canyon!  Our campsite was in Williams, which is only about 30 minutes from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  Very close, not a bad drive.  We got our permit to enter the park (by the way, it's a pass that lasts a full week, in case you're thinking of going.  It's a great deal) and then drove on through.

A really great time to arrive, at least at the South Rim, is around 9am.  There aren't a million people milling around and that makes it pretty quiet.  It was a lovely introduction to this masterpiece of nature.

 It was weird, Jack and I walked through the visitor's center and when we got to the first overlook... I don't know, it didn't feel real.  It felt like I was looking at a picture, but I was standing with my own two feet in this amazing place.

Jack and I thought about walking down into the canyon, but upon further inspection when we got to the visitor's center, we realized that the hikes took up a lot of the day and some of them required special equipment or extra supplies.  So for now, we stuck to the trail along the rim.  We'll have to return again after a bit more exercise.  That's something both of us would love to do.

There were a surprising number of things for us to see and visit as we were walking and enjoying the canyon.  We popped into a small geology museum that talked about the different layers of rock that can be found in the canyon and how the canyon was formed in the first place.  It was so cool to see how rocks can be used as clues to determine the age of the canyon in different areas.  It's like forensics with rocks.  How cool is that?

There was also a house that seemed to be balancing precariously on the side on the canyon where two brothers lived and had their photography studio.  They are responsible for photographing and filming some of the most hard-to-reach places of the canyon that people hadn't seen before.  I didn't expect that to be there but I was very happy it was there.

I think my favorite thing to do as we walked and explored was to follow the Trail of Time, where you basically time traveled as you walked.  There were little medallions on the sidewalk indicating years and at some points on the walk there were examples of rocks that were that old.  I made sure to poke every single one!

My other favorite thing was experiencing just a taste of Dine (DEE-nay... I don't have the accent mark on Blogger...), or Navajo, culture.  Once a month, there is a storyteller who comes to the Grand Canyon accompanied by 2-3 dancers.  He shared Navajo language through songs and he talked a little bit about their history and how he continues to teach Navajo children their language in the schools.  I thought that was amazing.  And their dancing and costumes (which, if I remember correctly, each person makes their own costume for powwow purposes) were absolutely beautiful.  I love that the speaker didn't make this about casually experiencing culture, but he turned this into a moment of education and had you really engage.  It was a real privilege to be there and the right time to see the dancers.

I think we spent about eight hours at the Grand Canyon.  By the end of the day, we were absolutely exhausted and were happy to start heading home... but we didn't go back to the camp site just yet.  Oh no, even though we were really tired, the adventures didn't end there.  So where did we go next?

Flintstones Bedrock City, located about ten minutes from our campsite.

I can't make this stuff up.

We had a late lunch here (it was... fine...) and then walked into this pretty much abandoned and run-down Flintstones theme park.  When we walked in, there was a small group also in the park, but they didn't last long.  Soon, we were the only two people in the park.  It was the single weirdest and most eerie experience on this trip.  Pictures below.

We went inside the homes of the Flintstones characters (super dusty, buggy at times... pretty damn creepy, if I'm honest).  We walked the track that goes through the volcano structure (also really creepy inside), took pictures with the different animals and characters, slid down the giant dinosaur slide... definitely a weird late afternoon, but also a really fun afternoon.  I think I enjoyed the 'goatasaurus' and feeding him the most!  We spent the rest of the afternoon into the evening reading books in the tent and Jack spent a while just staring up at the sky once the stars came out.  The universe is a very big place...


We packed up our campsite after a relatively slow morning.  We cooked up the rest of our food into a hobo dinner for breakfast and then we hit the road.  Like on our journey from LA to San Diego and from San Diego to Williams, we had a couple of stops we wanted to make before reaching Phoenix.  First stop, Flagstaff!

We wanted to visit the observatory where Pluto was first observed: Lowell observatory, named for Percival Lowell who worked there (although he concentrated primarily on Mars).  Pluto was observed by Clyde Tombaugh who was an intern at the observatory.  My favorite part is that after they established that Pluto was actually a thing, a eleven-year-old girl from Oxford, England, Venetia Burney.  She named the then planet Pluto after the Roman god of the underworld after learning that Pluto is likely a cold and dark planet.  I just thought that was awesome.  

I have much more respect for astrophysicists and astronomers who do this as a profession... heck, even as a hobby.  It takes a lot of time and a lot of patience as you look to the skies trying to find that one small difference that could indicate something is in orbit.  I could not do that.  In fact, I tried (in a game you could play there) and I got really frustrated in the 90 seconds I devoted to trying.  Seeing the observatory and the different telescopes (and even Percival Lowell's mausoleum... it was beautiful inside, I peeked through the bars like I do in any mausoleum I come across.  The ceiling was stained glass and meant to look like the night sky).  We spent several hours here and made the choice to skip some of the other stops we were considering making.  But that was okay.  

One other side trip to we did make was through Sedona.  Holy cow, I've never seen a place more beautiful.  Seriously, I would love to go back to this place.  Sedona was a place we drove through more than anything.  What I loved about this drive though is that you could see the landscape change from a more mountainous terrain to something more desert-like but still lush somehow.  Nature is so cool.  From Sedona (after going around NINE traffic circles!!), we continued on to Phoenix.  The closer we got to Phoenix, the more a dream of mine came true-- seeing Saguaro cacti in the wild :)  There were so many!!!

Our Phoenix adventure led us to another interesting place to stay.  This time, we stayed in a container home.  They're all over YouTube-- people creating houses out of these shipping containers.  They're super awesome!  I'll admit, when we were figuring out places to stay earlier this year, I saw this container home on AirBnB and kind of made the executive decision (telling Jack before I booked it) to stay here.  So I was rather looking forward to this place!  When we got to Phoenix, we were exhausted.  We got the key, went into the backyard of the property we were staying in, figured out which container home was ours, and then took a long nap.  


This was the last full day of our vacation.  Honestly, we were exhausted from all of the driving and all of the exploring we had done.  Phoenix for us on this trip was simply the city that housed the airport we would use to get home.  At least that's what we felt when we checked the weather and saw it was going to be sunny and 103 degrees, like, four days in a row.  Outside exploration did not sound like an attractive option, period.  So we decided to start the day really slow, repacking, reading, writing... that kind of thing.  But then we decided to get out and go see a movie so we could get out of that windowless container home (yeah, the container home wasn't as awesome as we had hoped... it was cozy, but a window would have really made the place.

In the afternoon, we saw Phoenix Rising, which is a movie about the Phoenix lights that were seen in the 80s... maybe the 90s... Jack really wanted to see it while we were physically in Phoenix.  That move scared the crap out of me.  You should see it while sitting in the middle of a dark room.

After the movie, we did a little bit of exploring of downtown Phoenix.  We found weird bug statues with tiny people walking on them.  We found a creative space for kids where they could come in and learn to work with cameras, 3D printers, electrical circuits... it was essentially a makerspace studio for young people.  I don't think Jack had seen anything like this before (and neither had I).  It was love at first sight.  

We returned to the container home and later ventured out once more for our second movie theater experience of the day.  This time, we saw Beauty and the Beast at a dine-in theater.  I had never been to one of those before, but it was pretty cool!  And the movie was gorgeous.  It was kind of an unconventional way to spend a vacation, but it was perfect for us.  And a really nice way to end an awesome vacation together.
This was a much-needed get away for us.  We were married August 19 and the next week, I started student teaching and Jack was preparing to start up his last year of college.  We hadn't been on our honeymoon yet (still haven't... that's still coming) and we were under a lot of stress.  But more importantly, we haven't had the chance to travel together just the two of us.  This was a great way to notice each other's strengths and where we needed to help each other.  It was a wonderful way to enjoy each other's company away from all of our responsibilities and stressors.  

With that, our trip is at an end!

Thanks for Reading!


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A Review of 'Oedipus Rex' by Sophocles

Image result for oedipus rex book cover"'... What man wins more happiness than just its shape and the ruin when that shape collapses?'

Sophocles' Oedipus Rex has never been surpassed for the raw and terrible power with which its hero struggles to answer the eternal question, 'Who am I?'  The play, a story of a king who acting entirely of ignorance kills his father and marries his mother, unfolds with shattering power; we are helplessly carried along with Oedipus towards the final, horrific truth."

I'm just going to say it: I hated this play.  I hated that everyone was jumping to conclusions about who did what and I hated the reaction at the end.

The only reason I was reading this play is because I thought that I would be long-term substitute teaching a 10th Grade English class in the fall and this was on the teacher's syllabus.  I'm really glad that it was short so that I only had to force myself to read the 54 pages for a short while.  I don't think that I would be a good teacher for this book.

I thought the story was too dramatic.  Like, yes, I think it would be horrific to find out that you had murdered your own father and creepy to find out that you had accidentally married your mother, but I think the characters totally flew off the handle in reaction to the news.  Maybe I feel this way because of what the Oracle in Delphi said to Oedipus-- that he would marry his mother and kill his father.  Oedipus was already married, so you knew who his mother was.  The only mystery that was left was had he already killed his father already or not?  That's the only part I wrestled with.

But for the wife to commit suicide because she found out her son was Oedipus (wouldn't she know his name by the way?  Well, maybe not if she had not named him and made that name public before getting rid of Oedipus as a child).  Then for Oedipus to stab his eyes out and send his two daughters (half-siblings?) away to be raised by other people was kind of appalling to me, honestly.

I don't know... I had a lot of strong feelings about this book and I won't be reading it again if I can help it.

I give 'Oedipus Rex':
Thanks for Reading!


Monday, July 10, 2017

A Review of 'Still I Rise: A Graphic History of African Americans' by Roland Laird with Taneshia Nash Laird

Image result for still i rise graphic novel"Still I Rise is a critically acclaimed work with an impressive scope: the entire history of Black America told in an accessible graphic-novel form.  Updated from its original version-- which ended with the Million Man March-- it now extends from the early days of colonial slavery right through to Barack Obama's groundbreaking presidential campaign.  Compared by many to Art Spiegelman's Maus, Still I Rise is a breathtaking achievement that celebrates the collective African-American memory, imagination, and spirit."

I finished this book on the plane ride from New York to Minneapolis.  This is one that I meant to read last summer prior to beginning my student teaching, but I didn't get the chance to.  I'm glad I got to read it now.

I've never read a history book that comes in the form of a graphic novel, but I thought this was a really effective way to present this history that too often goes ignored (in the classroom and out in the world).  It's visual, so it's accessible to high-level readers and low-level readers alike.  It's also written in a way where you don't have to be familiar with any part of this history in order to understand or connect the dots with your current knowledge.  That's why this book was written: to educate those who aren't aware or don't fully understand.

For me, it was fascinating to recall what I knew about different parts of history that I learned in school and then compare that knowledge side by side with what was going on with African Americans.  I was surprised by what I hadn't been taught in school.  Social Studies teachers, please take note and be the change many people would like to see in the school system.

This is such a worthy read and an important one for everyone whether you're in school and are looking to supplement what you're learning in class or if you're out of school and want to know more.

I give 'Still I Rise':
Thanks for Reading!


Saturday, July 1, 2017

A Review of 'Recovery Road' by Blake Nelson

Image result for recovery road blake nelson"Madeline is sent away to Spring Meadows rehab for drinking and rage.  At the weekly movie night in town, she meets Stewart, from another rehab nearby.  They fall for each other despite the crazy time.  Madeline gets out and starts to regain her feet.  But when Stewart joins her, both still are severely troubled, and he is getting worse."

This is another book that has been hanging out on my TBR list at my local library for a long time and something in the universe aligned that made me actually interested in starting and finishing this book.  It took one or two tries, I remember.

This is a pretty easy read, I feel.  I'd describe my experience as being a tourist passing through this book.  I didn't feel entirely connected to the characters in this story, but I was interested in what they were going through and what was happening to them, oddly.  So I was able to read this without feeling committed or attached to anyone.  The characters were either fairly flat or just too annoying to care about.  Normally this is something I really value in a book, and I still value this, but when you just want something a little lighter to read, I guess it doesn't really matter.  That's how I feel about it anyway.

While this book shouldn't be considered the Bible on the recovery process of drug addiction and chemical dependency, I do think that it is a good initial look at generally what people go through in their struggle to get clean.  There are characters who very obviously need help, but no amount of examples and persuading them to stop their reckless lifestyle choices convince them because they're not convinced they need to change.  Once someone does decide that they need to change, success is more likely, but there will always be those times when struggle is unavoidable.  And it's normal.  But you pick yourself up and keep going.  You try again.  For some people, leading a successful life after spending so much time getting high or buzzed or whatever is possible with work.

Overal, this was an okay read.  I'm happy that I read it, but I won't go out of my way to purchase this book at this point in time.

I give 'Recovery Road':
Thanks for Reading!