Posted by: mmmbillski | July 1, 2010

Portland, Oregon!

June 15th and 16th – The City of Roses!

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

So this is my first post in a couple of weeks.  I decided to take a hiatus from posting and just enjoy where I was for awhile.  Now I’m trying to go back and remember what I did, hopefully I don’t miss anything.

I left my Uncle Dave’s house in the morning and made it to Portland in 5-6 hours.  It was a pretty cool drive, went along the Columbus River for most of the way.  Towards the end, it got very scenic, lots of waterfalls and stuff.  I didn’t get a chance to stop, but it was ok … I had to meet Stef at the airport!  Yay road trip friend!

After checking in at the hotel, we walked around downtown Portland and barhopped all night.  Portland is a very cool city; some awesome architecture, lots of interesting bars and places to eat, lots of interesting people.

This is from a gay bar we accidentally went to. Casey's ...

WARNING:  The outfit that I’m wearing in the pictures above was the only warm set of clothes I had (lost my other sweatshirt in Spokane and only brought shorts and t-shirts … cmon, I live in Phoenix!).  You will see me in that hoodie and pair of jeans in almost every picture in the coming posts…

The next day we explored Washington Park, which has a ton of stuff to see.  But first, breakfast!

Cornflake crusted french toast ... mmmmmmmmmmm

First up at Washington Park was the Japanese Garden.

Next was the Rose Garden.  Got some cool close-ups of roses.

We found a swingset nearby, and I tried messing around with my camera a little bit.

Last thing to do in Washington Park was go to the zoo!  If you ever go to Portland, I highly highly highly recommend the zoo.  It’s much better than the Phila Zoo IMO, the layout of the exhibits was great and there was a lot of cool information.  My camera died halfway through the zoo :(.  Stef managed to take some nice pictures though, so it turned out alright.

We spent a full morning and afternoon exploring Washington Park, it was exhausting.  I would love to go back to Portland someday when I’m still young and explore the city some more.  Actually, I’d do the whole trip from Portland to Phoenix again in a heartbeat.  So many things to see.

That night I wanted to drive as close to Crater Lake National Park as possible, so that we could wake up the next morning and get right to the park.  We drove south of Portland a little bit to meet up with Alex Bell, who had just flew out to Portland to help his brother start up Oregon Ice Works!  It’s like Rita’s Water Ice, but much more tasty and delicious.  I know Rita’s is awesome, but their stuff tasted real … it’s hard to explain, it just tastes better and better for you.

Alex, manning the cart.

The drive to Crater Lake was about 4 hours, and a large portion of it took us through the Williamette and Deschutes National Forests.  Here are some pictures from the road.

As always, all the pictures are up on FLICKR.  I took SO many pictures in Portland, I really suggest checking out that link if you want to see more.  I only put a handful up on the blog.

My next post will be about Crater Lake and the drive from Oregon to Northern California.  I apologize for the lack of writing, I’m pretty busy and am just trying to get these posts up before I forget.  The pictures should do a decent job telling the story anyway.

~Bill

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Posted by: mmmbillski | June 17, 2010

A Hiatus From Posting

June 17th – almost 4,000 miles driven so far

HI!

That’s a picture of me too busy to blog.  I’m heading to Crater Lake shortly, and spent the last 2 days in Portland (so much fun).  Now that I have someone accompanying me (Stef, who was bored enough in NC to join me for long boring car rides), I feel bad spending hours a day waiting for pictures to upload and writing posts.  So, for now I’ll just give you my schedule for the next week or so, and update sometime along the way when I have time.

June 15th – met Stef in Portland, barhopped

June 16th – Japanese Garden, Rose Garden, Zoo, met up with Alex Bell at his brother’s water ice cart (delish)

June 17th – Crater Lake, drive to Redwoods

June 18th – Redwoods, drive to Napa, wine tasting

June 19th – San Francisco

June 20th – San Francisco/Yosemite

June 21st – Yosemite/Vegas

June 22nd – Vegas

June 23rd – WSOP event in Vegas (which determines how long I’ll be in Vegas)

After that, I’m back in Phoenix :(.

I’ll try to update somewhere along the way.  I took a bunch of cool pictures in Portland and had a great time.  It’s off to Crater Lake now …

~Bill

Posted by: mmmbillski | June 14, 2010

A pleasant break from the road at Newman Lake.

June 12-14 – Approximately 3500 miles driven so far.

Saturday afternoon I arrived at my Uncle Dave and Aunt Theresa’s house in Newman Lake, and I’ve been relaxing ever since.  By relaxing, I mean not driving 5 hours everyday.  I’ve actually been kept pretty busy while I’m here, although I still manage to fart around on the internet (Dave’s words) for a couple hours a day.  First item on the things to do list was take the go-kart out for a spin.  They have a big backyard, and multiple go-karts (one that works though I think).  Can’t remember the last time I was on a go-kart, it was a lot of fun.

Next up, we shot tennis balls, potatoes, and water balloons from a catapult on their deck.  In an attempt to break the previous long distance record, we built a new catapult and modified the current one.  The modification didn’t work too well (rope was too inelastic), but the new one we built rocked.

Cousin David about to launch off of the modified catapult.

Dave about to launch a potato with the new catapult.

Dave trying to catch water balloons with a trash can lid in the back yard.

Sybil loving all of it

Saturday night, Dave and I went into Couer D’Alene Idaho (he lives right on the Washington/Idaho border).  It’s a nice little town, right next to a lake and lots of shops, art galleries, restaurants, etc.  We went to a japanese restaurant and ordered sushi and sashimi, and then barhopped around town.  We got lucky at the last bar and got to see the cops escort an incredibly not-sober person out of the bar.  The guy started off by spouting straight gibberish at the bartender, and she proceeded to cut him off and give him his bill.  He didn’t have any money on him or something, she asked how he would pay, yada yada yada, he calls her the C-word.  She calls the cops on him, and he starts yelling at a bunch of people in the bar.  I took a couple videos of the encounter, but it’s R-rated and actually not too exciting.  No fight, but the cops came and walked him out in handcuffs.  Fun times.

I had one beer too many (waiting for the cops to come and seeing if a fight would happen), so I slept in late on Sunday.  Upon waking up, I found out we were playing football in the backyard and then I was supposed to beat Dave in tennis.  Dave went easy on me on the tennis court and still kicked my butt.  I want to blame it on the hangover, but that wouldn’t be fair … I just don’t have it anymore, and he does.  At least Cousin David and I beat Cousin Isaac and Dave in a doubles match.  Dave isn’t the greatest doubles player, Isaac carried the team.

That night, Dave Theresa and I went to a local steakhouse for some delicious steak.  It was a complete hole in the wall; off the interstate, something you need to hear about I guess before you check it out.  Anyway, the New York strip was perfectly cooked and extremely tasty.

Dave sharing a bite to eat with the local Native Americans

We capped off the night with a friendly game of poker at the dinner table, which I proceeded to win (all skill).  I was exhausted and passed out when we were done.  I’m surprised I even made it through the game; the combination of hangover, football, tennis, and steak should have crushed me by 9pm.

Today, after messing around on the computer for the entire morning, I went with Dave to get my car checked out and to play some golf.  I haven’t had my car looked at since before I roadtripped out to Phoenix, so I’ve put a ton of miles on it inbetween.  Luckily, everything looked great and I just got an oil change.

Golf was an epic failure.  Dave and I both played real crappy and only made it through 9 holes.  I managed to lose the sweatshirt I wear all day every day (the white fleece, if you look through my facebook pictures I probably have it on in half of them) on the golf course.  Hopefully someone returns it.  My body is incredibly worn out, between tennis and golf I’ve used probably hundreds of muscles that I haven’t moved in years (I haven’t golfed in at least 9 months, and tennis … not since high school probably).

Tonight we go out for some Thai food and then I’m not sure what else.  I need to be on the road pretty early tomorrow morning, so we probably won’t have too late of a night.  Tomorrow I head to Portland for the beginning of the return home portion of my road trip.  Gonna be awesome, can’t believe the road trip is halfway over though.

Also, one more point – I am the first Roth from the east coast to visit the Newman Lake house!  Kelly will be following in my footsteps, and then I think the rest of the family needs to make their way out here.  Also, thanks to the whole family out here in Washington, they’ve been super accomodating and I’ve had a great time hanging out with them. 🙂

~ Bill

Posted by: mmmbillski | June 13, 2010

Days 9/10 – Glacier National Park

June 10th and 11th – 3300 miles driven so far

In this post, I attempt to convince you that if there is one park you go to in your life, make it Glacier National Park.  It was cold and cloudy, the trails were muddy, and half of the Going to the Sun road was closed for snow removal and repairs (the half near the tops of the mountains, or the coolest half).  Even with all of that, Glacier was the nicest park I’ve been to so far.  I can’t imagine what it’d be like on a sunny fall day in September.

I drove into Glacier from the west, and entered near Apgar at Lack Mcdonald.  The picture at the top of the post was the first thing I saw upon driving in.  I was planning on waking up super early and driving the Going to the Sun road (the one that goes through the middle of the park, up the mountains) before it became packed with tourists, so I decided to pay a little extra and stay at the resort on the lake.   This way I could be on the road immediately after I woke up.  That night I just relaxed on the porch in front of the lake, taking pictures and drinking with the neighbors.

Dark clouds started rolling in around nightfall.

I got up early the next day and onto the Going to the Sun road.  On the way towards the mountains, I saw a grizzly bear cub and a moose crossing the road.  Both times, I didn’t get my camera out fast enough :(.  The road was closed at Avalanche Lake, but you could walk up as far as you want so I parked my car and did that for a little.  I walked about a mile or so but didn’t see too much, so I turned around, planning to hike the trails where I had parked.  Unfortunately, one of the trails was closed due to bear sightings (and I saw someone coming off the trail, they said they made it halfway before spotting a Grizzly mom and cub and turning around).  I walked the 0.8 mile-long Trail of the Cedars, and joined up with a couple from Green Bay (they had bear spray and I didn’t).  It was a really nice walk, took some cool pictures.

I saw a deer, and tried to get close to take a picture. I think I pissed it off, because it started snarling and charging at me. I took this right before that.

It chilled out after a little bit and went back to eating stuff.

By the time I was done on this trail, it was 9am and I was starving.  I decided to head back to the hotel, check out, and drive around to the east side of the park.  The couple from Green Bay told me there were more trails open there and was more scenic.  Before leaving I took another picture of the lake from the hotel.

I ate breakfast at the West Glacier Restaurant.  Famous Blueberry Hotcakes mmmmmmmmmmm.  It took about two hours to drive to the east side of the park, and my first stop was Many Glaciers.  I started down a trail, when I saw a moose from a distance walking across the trail.

After the deer charged me earlier, I was a little afraid of getting too close so I turned around and headed for other areas of the park.

Leaving Many Glaciers

Leaving Many Glaciers

After Many Glaciers, I headed to the St. Mary’s Campground and drove up the Going to the Sun road as far as I could.  When I got to where the road was blocked off, there was a deer walking along the side of the road.

That was pretty cool, you could walk right up to it and it acted like nothing was happening.  I saw a couple guys coming out of a trail nearby and asked them how it was; they said they saw some moose and elk but no bears.  No bears is a good thing, so I took it by myself.  It was actually kinda scary though, the path was really narrow and it was hard to see to the sides of me at some points.  It was super quiet except for random forest noises, and I kept expecting a bear to pop out at any moment.  I made it to a river about a mile out and took some pictures, then turned around.

Next up was St. Mary’s Waterfall trail.

A deer was walking in front of my on the trail for about a quarter mile.

St. Mary's Waterfall

Messing around with the shutter speed on the camera.

After this trail, I just drove around the park to take pictures of different viewpoints.  Here are a couple of the better ones.

As always, all pictures are on FLICKR.

Like I said before, Glacier National Park was my favorite park so far.  Even though it was overcast and the Going to the Sun road was half-closed, I enjoyed it immensely.  The wildlife was cool, the scenery and views were gorgeous, and everyone I talked to was super nice and friendly.  In fact, I haven’t had that many people come up and talk to me out of the blue the entire trip.  It’s also less crowded than Yellowstone and Grand Tetons, which is a definite plus.

Right now I’m in Spokane with my Uncle and family.  So far, we’ve shot potatoes off his catapult, rode go-karts around his backyard, barhopped and saw the cops get called on a guy (after he called the bartender the C-word), and played tennis (he kicked my ass).  I’ll be here until Tuesday morning, at which point I head to Portland (meeting a friend there :D).  The western portion of the road trip is about halfway over at this point, kind of sad.  Couldn’t have imagined spending my month and a half off any other way.

~Bill

Posted by: mmmbillski | June 11, 2010

Day 8 – Yellowstone

When I was done with Grand Tetons, it was around noon and I started driving towards Yellowstone.  Originally I had planned to stay at Yellowstone overnight, but at some point I made the decision to leave that afternoon, for multiple reasons.

1.  There was a ton of traffic.  They were doing road work in a couple spots, and it caused huge delays.  I was at a standstill twice for 30 minutes.  It was frustrating.

2.  The park was better suited for a week-long trip with family or friends.  It was just too big, and I felt like rushing through it in a day just wouldn’t do it justice.

3.  The weather was bad, crappy-looking melted snow on the ground, and the scenery was just blah.  I could imagine it looking amazing in summer and fall, and even in winter.

But my route to northern Montana led me through Yellowstone anyway, so I stopped at a couple spots and took some pictures.  Some highlights, and then the rest of the pics in slideshow form.

Bison hanging out by the side of the road.

An elk(?) with hot springs in the background.

West Thumb

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You can also check out all the pics from June 9th here – FLICKR.

I didn’t get a chance to see Old Faithful.  That was on the section of the loop I didn’t pass through.  After dealing with all the construction and traffic, I was ready to get out of the park and on the road.  Driving through Montana was pretty cool, reminded me of Utah.  Big mountains on either side of you, a mix of straight and curvy roads.  I made it to Butte Montana in time to catch the Flyers game.  There was one sports bar in town, it was actually pretty nice.  Filled with Blackhawks fans though, and they let me have it when the game was over
I spent the past 2 days in Glacier National Park, and at this point it has been my favorite so far.  I don’t want to make any judgements until the trip is over, but I’m almost positive this will be my favorite.  I drive to Spokane tomorrow to stay with my Uncle Dave and family for a couple of days, I’ll have a Glacier update then.

~Bill

Posted by: mmmbillski | June 10, 2010

Day 7 – Grand Tetons

I was sick of the old blog theme, so I changed it to this.  I took that picture at the top in Colorado on a business trip with Lockheed.  You can see the Lockheed site on the far left of the picture.

June 9th – about 2,600 miles driven so far

GRAND TETONS – DAY 1

Driving up to the Grand Tetons was unreal.  About 10 miles before you hit the actual park, you come over a ridge and get a full view of these HUGE mountains right next to you.  As you enter the park, you start driving right alongside the mountains.  At first, I was just kind of in awe of how big they were.  Here are some pictures from just inside the park.

As you drive through the park, you start to see the sides of the mountain tops and how jagged the peaks are.  You also get the chance to hike around some lakes.  Some lake pictures –

For all the Day 1 Grand Teton and Preston pics – FLICKR.

The next day was sort of a rollercoaster.  The day started off crappy … the weather was overcast and cold, and I realized I wasn’t really prepared for cold weather.  I don’t even think I have any cold weather clothes with me in Phoenix, it’s been 60 degrees or hotter since I’ve lived there.  So I was a little disappointed, but upon arriving back at the Grand Tetons, I got excited again.

MOOSE!

Just as I was crossing the bridge before the entrance to the park, there were a bunch of cars on the side of the road.  I stopped to see what the deal was, and it turns out there was a moose grazing in the field near the river.  I took some pictures like everyone else, and the moose just kept walking closer and closer to us.  It went down to the river right near the bridge, so everyone scrambled onto the bridge to take some pictures.  Then, it walked along the side of the bridge (how I got the above picture) and onto the road.  Luckily, I was the last person on the bridge, so I got a perfect view of the moose as he walked across the road.  I took a bunch of pictures, I’m put them all into a slideshow below.

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So that was really cool.  I took some more pictures of the park, but will leave them out of this post because they look similar to the others.

I was going to post my Yellowstone trip report, but the internet is just too damn slow and I have to get on the road.  Hopefully tonight I can get that up.

~Bill

Posted by: mmmbillski | June 8, 2010

Day 6 – Vote for Pedro / Grand Tetons

I always pick the hotels with the worst internets.  This is going to be a short post, it’s going to take too long to upload all my pictures.  I’m going back to Grand Tetons tomorrow morning anyway, so I’ll just upload all those pictures in tomorrow’s post.

Today I drove north of Salt Lake City to Preston, ID.  This is the town where Napoleon Dynamite was filmed.  I got the idea from my friend Joe, who also has a road trip blog.  Actually, I’ve gotten most of the ideas for this trip from Joe haha.  He’s going on a really long road trip (seriously, he’s going from Florida to Nova Scotia, down to Texas, zigzagging across the western US, driving up to Alaska, and then back to New York … ), so he’s about three times as cool and three times as ballsy as me.

Anyway, here are some landmarks I found in Preston that you might remember.

Pedro's house - 2010

Pedro's House - Napoleon Dynamite ... the plant on the left looks about 6 years older

Playground 2010

Playground Napolean Dynamite (i took my photo from the opposite angle)

I had trouble finding anything else.  I saw some stores downtown that were used in the movie (Kings, Rex Kwan Doe (although it was called something else now)).  I spent way too much time cruising around Preston with nothing to show for it though.  Oh well, next it was off to the Grand Tetons.

The route took me through Bridgier National Forest, and there was one really good viewpoint I stopped at.  I want to run a poll at this point.  Take a look at these six pictures –

1

2

3

4

5

6

Which one looks best?  Vote in the comments if you want.  I don’t know if I like dark or light better.

Two more pictures leading up to Grand Tetons –

And like I said, Grand Tetons pictures will come tomorrow.  The sun was pretty uncooperative today, it was setting right over the mountains and made it really difficult to get the lighting right.  Some initial thoughts on it though – breathtaking and unreal.  Here’s a teaser …

It was so hard to pick just one picture ...

Update on Grand Tetons comes tomorrow.  Yellowstone is also on my plate for tomorrow, should be a great day.  Seems like each day is better than the last.  Let’s keep that streak going.

~Bill

Posted by: mmmbillski | June 8, 2010

Day 5 – ARCHES!

Balanced Rock

June 7th – I forgot to check how many miles, but probably around 1,800

Today I spent about 5 hours in Arches National Park, and walked 6-7 miles around the park.  It was really cool, I’ll just get straight to pictures because I don’t have much else to say.

Balanced Rock 2

Double Arch

Look at how small the people look inside the arch, click on it if you can't see

Got a close up of a bug on the way back to the car. Kind of looks fake right?

North Window Arch. Kind of looks like a huge mouth about to devour that guy.

Both North and South Windows.

Turret Arch.

Turret Arch from further away.

Helicopter landed right next to Turret Arch, not sure why.

Someone from PA! It was a family with 4 small kids, and they actually started in PA. Kudos to those parents for not going crazy by now.

Here are a bunch of cloud pictures I took.

More Arches…

Entrance to Sand Dune Arch

The sand inside the crevice.

Through the crevice to Sand Dune Arch. It was really cool in there (as in not hot).

Kind of underwhelming considering the journey to get here.

Broken Arch

The other side of Broken Arch

Now for some pictures of animals and flowers!

Saw a squirrel on top of a tall boulder, about 50 feet up.

A bird showed up and the squirrel was like WTF

Twisted wood

Flowers

Almost caught the fly on the flower, but it flew away at the last second.

My final stop in Arches National Park was Devil’s Garden trail.  The whole trail was about 7 miles, I’d say I did half of it.  It was pretty strenuous, most of the trail was just climbing on top of rocks and stuff.  Here are some pictures from that trail.

Skyline Arch

The trail had me walking on top of large rocks most of the time.

Double O Arch

I went off the trail a little bit, climbed a really big boulder that overlooked the trail. I sat up there for about 30 minutes and relaxed, the view was great.

Me

All the pictures here – FLICKR.

So that’s Arches National Park.  The rest of my day was spent driving north through Utah.   I stopped for dinner in Salt Lake City, it was tasty.  The town seems pretty dull though.  I didn’t expect anything really exciting in Mormon country, but I guess I expected a little bit more.

Today, I visit Preston Idaho (where Napoleon Dynamite was filmed), and then it’s off to Grand Tetons National Park.

~Bill

June 6 – about 1600 miles driven so far

I got such a late start on Day 4.  I woke up early to write the Day 3 post, and the internet was so slow that I didn’t get all the pictures upload and the post up until almost noon.  I had to check out and finish the post from my car.  Nonetheless, I was not to be discouraged.  I was really looking forward to today, and late start or not I was going to make it count.  My plan was to drive to Bryce Canyon National Park and spend the good part of the afternoon there, then make my way through the Grand Staircase and Capitol Reef National Park, and end up at Arches National Park for sunset.

I took a ton of pictures, so I’ll just let them and the captions tell the story of Day 4.  In chronological order –

BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK

Bryce Canyon is known for the hoodoos that reside in the canyon.  They look like giant chimneys, formed by erosion over millions of years.  Don’t ask me how they formed the way they did, just enjoy the pictures.

Entering Bryce Canyon

Entering Bryce Canyon 2

Entering Bryce Canyon 3

Cone Hoodoo

Here we go

Landscape before Bryce

Bryce Canyon hoodoos

More hoodoos

Gives you an example of the size of some of these things

that's me

I hiked down into the canyon, on the sunrise to sunset trail. This spot was called "Two Bridges".

I got a little bored with Bryce Canyon after a while actually, so I only stayed for a couple hours.  The hoodoos are really cool, but I started to feel like I was looking at the same thing over and over again.
ESCALANTE/GRAND STAIRCASE

Next up was the drive from Escalante through the Grand Staircase.  Grand Canyon makes up the bottom of the staircase, Zion National is the middle of the staircase, and Bryce Canyon is the top of the staircase.  I think what I drove through was the very top step.  It was breathtaking.  Every couple of miles or so there was a turn-off point.  I stopped at maybe 80% of them, because the view from each viewpoint was unique and amazing.

The road leading to the Grand Staircase

Not quite there yet ...

There we are

I can see for miles and miles and miles

Sweet

Mmmm

The road through the Grand Staircase was a lot of fun, really curvy and hilly. The views helped too

I miss clouds. Phoenix doesn't get clouds. Clouds are nice.

I think this drive was cooler than the drive through southern Utah to Zion.  Less rock formations, but much cooler views.  Although, driving through Capitol Reef offered a lot of rock formations.
BURR TRAIL/DIXIE NATIONAL FOREST

Coming out of the Grand Staircase, I reached an area called Burr’s Trail or something.  In the middle of nowhere, there was a restaurant called the Burr Trail Grill that was packed with cars.  I decided to stop for food here, and it was worth it.  Everything was locally grown on the farms in the area.  Some food combinations I’d never seen before.  I took a picture but it came out really blurry.

Looking over the Burr Trail area before I enter Dixie National Forest

Cool looking clouds over the forest

Menacing clouds.

Riding into the storm?

Very fun drive, would do it again.
CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK

By the time I got to Capitol Reef, I was kind of sick of taking pictures and it seemed like the rain would come down at any minute, so I sort of flew through it.  Here are a couple pictures though.

Goosenecks!

Couldn't really get a good picture of the Goosenecks, you kinda just have to see it for yourself. Very cool.

Cool looking rocks

I wish I spent more time here.  I really wanted to get to Arches by nightfall though, and my timing was basically perfect.  I arrived at Arches at about 8:15pm, right as the sun was about to go down.  But when I got to the park, I didn’t realize how big it was.  I was honestly expecting one or two arches, but the park is HUGE.  Multiple trails, lots of cool arches to see.  Also, I was really low on gas and wouldn’t have been able to drive through the park and back (it takes about 45 minutes to loop through the park).  So I decided to call it a night.  I got a room in Moab UT 5 minutes down the road (and the hotel didn’t have working WIFI).  I spent the entire morning of June 7th in Arches National Park, and will have an update on that hopefully later tonight or tomorrow morning.  Until then, a long and boring drive through Salt Lake City and beyond.  Hope this was an enjoyable post.
~Bill

Posted by: mmmbillski | June 6, 2010

Day 3 – The Road to Zion

Day 3 – Total miles driven so far – 1,172 miles
That’s me on top of Angel’s Landing at Zion National Park.  It looks like i’m just overlooking the canyon from the rim, but this is actually an outcrop in the middle of the canyon.  It’s about 10 yards wide and 30 yards long.  Mom, if you were there with me you wouldn’t have let me go … scary stuff.  Anyways, let’s start from the beginning of the day and work our way to Zion.
I woke up around 6:30am, a little later than I wanted, and was on the road by 7.  My first stop of the day was the Moki Dugway, a switchback road that carves its way up a steep cliff face, 2000 ft in the air.  It took about two hours to get there, but there were plenty of interesting sites along the way

Column on a hill

The road

Intersection to nowhere

Pretty landscape

Could have taken 100 more pictures like this

I could have spent the entire day taking pictures of random Utah landscapes, but had to keep moving if I was to make it to Zion.  I turned onto the road that led me to Moki Dugway, all I saw was a huge cliff face and a straight road leading me right towards it.

About to drive up that cliff directly in front of me

The road was gravel, and the posted speedlimit was 5 mph.  It actually wasn’t too scary of a drive, there is plenty of room on the road (but no guardrails to stop you from a straight drop off the cliff).

The road ahead

The Moki Dugway

I made it

At the top, you get some great views of the Valley of the Gods and Monument Valley (my next destination).
I turned around and made the trek back down the cliff, heading off to Monument Valley and Zion National Park.  At this point, I’m just going to post pictures leading up to Zion.
I made it to Zion National Park around 2:30pm.  The road to the park is a gradual climb in elevation, and then upon reaching the park you start to make your way into the canyon.  I drove back and forth through the park, taking some pictures along the way.
A shuttle takes you through the part of the canyon that the Virgin River runs through (inaccessible by car), and this is where all the best trails and photo opportunities are.  I got a recommendation from a friend to take the Angel’s Landing trail.  It is Zion’s most famous trail, and is supposedly one of the toughest.  The trail is five miles long roundtrip, and towards the top has paths that are only a couple meters wide with drops of 1,000 feet on either side.  They have chains leading the way up the mountain to help you, but it’s still exhilirating to look to either side of you and see what could be a fall to your death.  Here are some pictures detailing the way up the trail.
Bottom of the trail
A little higher up, not too tough a hike at this point
Trail leading into a narrow portion of the canyon. Lots of very steep switchbacks, it was a bitch to hike.
There is a stopping point before the real tough part of the trail called Scout’s Lookout.  Up until this point, the path has been very steep and tiring, but paved and not dangerous.  The trail leading from Scout’s Lookout to Angel’s Landing, that’s a different story.

That's comforting

You can see chains leading up the side of a narrow cliff, very daunting.  It was about .5 miles more of what seemed to be a straight vertical climb.  I almost didn’t make the trek up to Angel’s landing; partly because I’m afraid of heights, partly because it was getting late, and partly because the view was amazing from Scout’s Lookout.

View from Scout's Lookout

But I started talking to a young couple, Andy and Marisha, and after she effectively called me a pussy, I was obligated to climb it.  From this point on I put my camera in my backpack and focused on the hike up to the top.  The hike was strenuous, but I kept my head down and tried not to look off to the side too much.  It took about 30 minutes to make it to the top, and upon reaching it realized it was so worth it.  Pictures will explain the rest.
Incredible. I think the pictures would have come out better if I had gone at noon when the sun was at the peak, it was hard to get a good picture with the sun almost setting on the right. Every picture I took either had the left cliff too bright or the right cliff too dark. This was the closest I came to a balanced picture.

The other side of the canyon

Andy and Marisha on the way back down

A girl found a baby chipmunk on top of Angel's Landing (blurry picture, booo)

Andy, Marisha and I headed back down the mountain at that point.  We started chatting about work, and I told them about how I start my new job in July and have all this time off.  They seemed like they were college students (they were 21 years old), but it turns out they both didn’t go to college.  So I asked what they did, and at this point Andy started describing his job like he was selling it to me.
He said he works for ACN, and they sell telecommunication equipment to people or something.  They cut out all the money wasted in advertising by companies, saving their customers money and making commissions based on those savings.  Fair enough.  Then it started getting shady.  He started talking about the different levels you could rise to in the company, and how you really move up when you bring “business partners” in to sell more services and equipment.  They were currently ETT’s (I don’t know what the acronyms stand for), and if they sold enough product they would move up to the next level.  Then, if they brought on two “business partners”, and sold enough product they would move up to ETL, which paid up to $3,000 a month!  The next level was X business partners and X product, and you could make up to $5,000 a month!  Next level, up to $10,000 a month!  Next level is team leader, up to $25,000 a month, plus residual income off the people in your team!  Senior VP makes a million dollars a year!  It soon became apparent that the way to make money in the company was bringing other people into the company, not actually selling the products/services.  In other words, pyramid scheme.
They went to conferences and met Senior VPs that seemed really down to earth.  If you worked hard, you could rise to the top!  One guy that was a former mechanic rose to team leader in 8 months, the fastest anyone ever has!  I wanted to tell him that it sounded like the 2% of people that actually make money in pyramid schemes were hyping up the possibility of making money to the 98% of people that surely wouldn’t make money (because that’s how the residual income keeps coming in for them).  I kept my mouth shut though, I didn’t want to tell him it sounded like a pyramid scheme and then spend an hour in silence with them on the way back to the shuttle bus.
Eventually, he made his pitch to me, trying to get me to either buy their product or become a business partner.  I politely declined.  I felt bad, they were really nice kids that seemed like they didn’t know what they were getting into.  After reading about ACN when I got to the hotel, I found that it costs $499 to join the sales team, and there are yearly dues of over $150.  Pyramid scheme.
I said bye to the nice people I met and headed towards Bryce Canyon National Park.  I found a Best Western on the way, checked in, grabbed some dinner at the local restaurant, and passed out.  I should have started writing this post last night, it took about an hour for the pictures to load.  I’ll have all the pictures I took on Flickr later tonight.  For today, I think I’ll only make it to Bryce Canyon.  I’m not getting on the road until noon, and its a 2 hour drive there.  Another update later tonight.  Here’s what I’ve been listening to.
~Bill

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