take a moment

i love going on trips. i love coming home. but i’m always sad about coming home, even if i love it at the same time. it makes me realize that i should go more places and see more things, but i just don’t have the time or money to do so. i know we only have this one life and we should grasp it as much as possible. but what does it say that every time i’m in some place new, a part of me just wants to be in the black hills on vacation instead? and is it that makes me think that i’m more than content just sitting on my patio on a warm june evening, watching the sun set with a fire crackling? 

time moves much more quickly than one thinks, and i think vacations are the real proving point to that. our daily routines are just a way to make us a little more complacent about time and how it moves. if every day is similar and falls into patterns, we aren’t aware of how much time has passed. but seeing how quickly our time away from routine goes, it’s a little terrifying. i’ve been planning my trip for months – almost 9 months in advance. and it crept up quickly and happened so fast. i have my memories and momentos, but the moment’s past. 

and so we keep chugging away at our routines, aware but unaware of how time is chipping away at our lives, one second at a time.

day … sizzlethree? driving and more driving

GUESS WHAT. mesa verde was open this morning. so yes, let’s add another 1.5 hours of driving onto the already long 6.5 hours! i didn’t care. this has been a bucket list item for too long to not check it out while here.

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during the summer, you can do an actual tour of the ruins. i checked out the “requirements” at the visitors center, and the ladder was sufficiently not rickety and the crawlspace just fit my junky trunk (literally scraping the edges) so that if we DO come back during the summer (a real possibility since there is some pretty awesome lodging near the top of the mesa), i could go on a tour.

i’m glad we actually took the time to check it out!

then we booked it across new mexico. new mexico has some interesting rock formations that pop up out of nowhere.

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UGH look at my four chins. i swear i gained 20 lbs so far on this trip. blargh!

so we drove and drove, drove some more. we stopped to get some gas and snacks, but otherwise it was flatland city. but then we saw a sign for the petrified forest national park. at first we both said “next time”. but then i said i needed to use the bathroom. and nate was really excited about visiting, so we went. talk about adding more time to our drive! but we got to eat a navajo taco, ha! worth it?


the petrified forest includes the painted desert and the only national park that includes a portion of route 66.

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there are NO remnants of route 66 – no concrete, asphalt, etc. was it removed? did it just get grown over? i’m going to have to find a documentary on it.

the petrified wood is really cool, and the whole area reminds me of the badlands, as you can see from the pics above. and it was actually a very south dakota-esque drive from there on out. we entered the tonto national forest after that; i smelled PINE TREES and it was glorious. it was almost exactly like driving through the hills except for taller hills. the towns we drove through were picturesque, and there were a couple campgrounds and lodges i would definitely stay at.


THEN we drove through the mountains as the sun was setting and it was sooo lovely! reminded me of when jane and i were driving back to LA from sequoia.


now nate and i are in our crazy huge hotel room in phoenix. tomorrow we fly out at 1:30 – we’re a short drive from the airport. and we’ll be flying back into snow. how exciting.

as an aside, nate and i went to 7 national parks/monuments and monument valley (glen canyon map is missing)!! totally worth the annual pass.


day sizzle2: monument valley and a disappointment

this morning felt like such a heading west kind of morning. nate and i left before 8 a.m. the sun was just peeking over the horizon, we were loading luggage into the car in a hotel parking lot, and the road was waiting. the only thing throwing me off was that we were heading east instead of west.

today was a longer driving day than the others, but we hit up a few spots. northern arizona is a pretty spectacular looking place to drive, even if the road is a little monotonous. our first stop was monument valley. you know monument valley! it was REALLY cool and i recommend it to everyone. we drove up to the visitors center and drove into the valley a bit. i hope my entrance fees goes toward the “pave the road” fund.




you may know monument valley from john ford/john wayne collaborative movies such as “the searchers.”

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i called my dad while we were driving though, and he called me a snotnose!


then we hitched it across the bottom of utah through towns like mexican hat. (and hat rock.)


nate got a stuffed goat that became our driving mascot.


we drove the trail of the ancients to cortez, which went through the valley of the gods, some other great rock formations, and general geological wonderments.

as we drove closer to cortez and into colorado, i saw this giant rock thing – kind of like devil’s tower but way more sinister looking. it’s shiprock! we’ll drive past it tomorrow.


then came the big disappointment of the day. the reason nate and i drove to cortez was to see mesa verde. i have wanted to see mesa verde for a long time – since i was a teenager. so after eating lunch and checking in, we headed out there. and because of the super high winds and minimal snow yesterday, the roads were closed unless you had a 4 wheel drive or all wheel drive vehicle. i hoped for a “minnesota driver” exception, but no such luck. all that way to visit the visitors center and that was it πŸ™

i did get a pic of the “table” (mesa).


tomorrow before we leave i’m going to call and see if the roads are open. i got the direct number, so here’s hoping the roads are clear and the tour’s quick.

tomorrow is back to phoenix and the last travel day – it’s a big one. 6.5 hours of driving to get back to phoenix. but we’re driving through new mexico, so that makes this a 4-state trip and adds two states to my repertoire!

day sizzle: north AZ

the morning was a little chilly. i woke up and was out to the edge of the canyon before 8:00 and was greeted with a dreary sky and a solemn looking hole in the ground. i was on the hunt for some stamps, so i ducked into the gift shop (to no avail – i had to go to el tovar), and when i came out, the sun was peeking through the clouds in spots, making bluffs in the canyon bright spots.

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after getting my stamps and postcards mailed, nate and i headed out, driving in some nasty wind and minimal snow pellets. (this was after i checked out at the front desk and listened to a lady talking about the “big storm” coming for about 5 minutes).

so, here’s some info about nate. he likes to drive EXACTLY the speed limit. it doesn’t matter if he has a line of people behind him. so we made no headway from driving fast. but we sure did have a tailwind! we got great mileage. we made it into page around lunchtime and had lunch at dennys (i know; i know). since we still had a few hours til hotel checkin or our tour, we went to the lake powell/glen canyon dam visitors center, where we learned a lot about how the CO river powers a LOT of states (even nebraska, for crying out loud).


checked out lake powell through the visitors windows and then we drove out to horseshoe bend, where i hiked the .4 miles to look at it and nate took a snooze in the car.


(this does it no justice. i didn’t want to get close to the edge, and i didn’t want to swap out my lenses in the middle of the SAND STORM that was happening on the top of this shot. so just imagine that the river loops around the bottom.)

let me take a moment to tell you how COLD i was all day. it made no sense. i was mystified. sure, i started off the day outside in 25ΒΊ, but i had on my fleece, three layers, hat, mittens, and scarf. i sat in the car on a heated seat with my heat vent set to 79. still cold. booked it to the various scenic overlooks. still cold (note to those slow, huddling-in-the-cold tourists: half of staying warm is making sure you move quickly and a lot). put on two more layers for my canyon tour; still cold. i only warmed up after spending 20 minutes in a super hot jacuzzi tub.

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see? i was definitely dressed for the 45ΒΊ it was. i felt like i was representing minnesota absolutely miserably.

after checking out the sketchy travelodge i had a reservation at, nate and i both decided it would be prudent to get a different hotel, and i called up comfort inn to find a jacuzzi suite for only $90. and the bed is super comfy.

after hotel checkin, nate and i headed to the antelope canyon tour. i made a big mistake of not taking dramamine before the ride to the canyon, but i managed to ward away motion sickness. was it my not looking at the scenery? the pressure point in my thumb? the slow deep breaths? who knows! but it worked.

antelope canyon is a great tour; even nate enjoyed it, despite the weirdo people on the tour. i got some great pics, and the ride back was equally free of motion sickness. win win!

and i ended the day with some warming-up jacuzzi time and pizza hut . *eyeroll* hopefully better food tomorrow – maybe some authentic mexican or something.

tomorrow is a long day – driving 4.5 hours to cortez, CO by way of monument valley, and hopefully getting out to mesa verde once we’re in cortez.

vacay is almost over! 😭

OMGrand canyon!

today i learned that nate loves me so much, he was willing to park in touristy sedona and go into four shops with me on our way out of town. and he even bought a HAT.


it was a hazy morning in sedona on the way out, but i got some shots of the red rocks. and the drive up to flagstaff from sedona was gorgeous. it gave way to forest land and mountains, and we drove up switchbacks and through pine trees. we stopped at a scenic overlook at about 6000 feet altitude, then went on our way.

drove through flagstaff and stopped for gas, then got on the highway through flat grassland and shrubbery to the GC.

as we approached the last little nothing town before GC, there were increasing RVs and trailers out in the middle of the flatlands. i can’t imagine there was electric or sewer run out there, so it just baffles my mind. do they live off the grid? do they have generators? how do they get their water? it was like a shantytown.


that’s something that i noticed here. i don’t know if it’s because i’m just not used to desert or what, but homes look dirty here, unless they’re actual pueblo style. if the homes were dropped on a grass lawn with some trees instead of sand and shrubs, would they look better?

home aesthetic contemplation aside, nate and i got the GC and battled some minimal traffic, considering, to get to our hotel, then we headed out to the rim. our hotel has a partial view, but it just doesn’t compare to seeing it up close!


it’s true what they say: pictures do it no justice. i mean, i still took a buttload of pics, but there’s no way it can show the immensity of it; it completely envelopes your vision.

for supper, i had a reservation at el tovar, the fancy hotel here in the village. we definitely had some fancy food! had a couple drinks, an italian mozzarella appetizer, nate had duck – which was delicious-, i had a salmon tostada and should have had the ribeye, and then i had lemon cheesecake and nate flourless chocolate cake for dessert.

and now it’s getting cold and SUPER windy (gusts up to 75 mph tomorrow). it’s supposed to snow tomorrow on our way to page, and it’ll be 45ΒΊ during our canyon tour. i might have to wear all my clothes.

day four: sedona!

after waking up to a perfect morning (of course) and sitting on the balcony a bit, nate and i packed up our junk and took off for sedona.

on the way out of town, we stopped at in-n-out. so when jane and i were in california, we stopped at in-n-out and were NOT impressed. i was a little more impressed this time around; we did get fries animal style. i ate a few fries sans animal sauce, and they were still more boring than 5 guys, but they weren’t like styrofoam wiht potato flavor. i don’t know if jane and i just stopped at some weird one or what. but this time wasn’t a bad experience.

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on the way out of the valley.

since we bought the annual NPS pass, we stopped at two national monuments on the way: the motezuma castle and montezuma well. the american indian tribes that lived there were cliff dwellers, which boggles my mind. we saw some that were in cliffs up high and then also in cliffs that went below ground level (that was the well). they must’ve used ladders of some sort, but it still makes me do a double-take. well, i guess if that’s what you know.

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then we hauled it up to sedona, which is pretty darn scenic, but OMG the traffic is insane. nate and i went to a mexican place and it took us half an hour to find a parking spot. and that wasn’t even the touristy part of town! the mexican was delicious. i had tacos and nate had a torta. then we did a quick (“quick”) drive through sedona and got angry at all the traffic, but the red rocks looked great in the sunset.

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now we’re sitting back in the hotel – which we rate more highly than the place we stayed at the past couple nights! – drinking margaritas. MMMMMM. maybe later on we’ll head to the outdoor hot tub. YOU NEVER KNOW.

tomorrow is GRAND CANYON.

day three: wedding day!

so i know this is late, but i had a late night wedding day, and then all day today nate and i were traveling. so i’ll do a quick recap of wedding, then another post for today’s travel.

wedding was great! ceremony was short, setting was pretty, susnset was GREAT, food was awesome, and liz and i danced almost all night. here’s a couple pics, including my favorite one i took.

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if you follow me on facebook, you can see the whole album here: https://www.facebook.com/katewallace1979/media_set?set=a.10102902480158851.1073741849.56002659&type=3

day two: is it bedtime yet

what a long day! i think it seemed long because i was awake at 8 a.m. and only got 5 hours of sleep -_-

nate and i had about three hours to kill between checking out of our hotel and meeting up with my family, so we went to target and got some drinkage and snackage for the next few days. then we just headed out and drove around phoenix.

the warmth! i wore a tank top! the car windows were open! amazeballs!

well, we headed south and ended up driving through desert (obviously) just to take a look. i guess i didn’t realize there were mountains in arizona, but then i also didn’t realize there were mountains in california, so take whatever i think with a grain of salt.

then i saw a sign for a national monument, so we decided to check it out.


this is the casa grande ruins national monument. i didn’t know anything about it before and i still don’t know a lot about it, except that the people who lived here mysteriously were wiped out.

and while we were at the nps desk, we decided to just get the annual pass since we’ll probably visit at least 2 more parks, maybe 3.

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it rained today! so everything was sort of muddy while were trekking across this piece of desert. and then my flip flop almost got stuck, and it got super muddy. (don’t worry; i made it out.)

then we headed back to phoenix and met up with my fam, and we hung out for a good 5 hours or so at the hotel restaurant. expensive drinks here, that’s for sure.

but the view from my balcony is nice!


arizona: day one…half?

here’s a delayed day one (sorta) of vacay.

last night, nate and i flew out at 9:30, so i worked a full day of work and then went home to a very antsy nate. fed the cats 3 heaping bowls of food (don’t worry – charlie’s coming to catsit for a few days!) and took off.

seriously, this is the most boring day, but we had one very fun part of the trip out: we flew first class!

i’d never flown first class before, and it was cheaper than flying out thursday cattleclass, so we took advantage of that.

the seats were nice and wide, the flight attendant was very … attentive i guess? and the mixed drinks were free!!!

so i got a margarita right off the bat.

then they were a little heavy-handed on my bloody mary (and it was an airplane bloody, so not that great), so i decided to stop after that.

we also got an in-flight meal – a wrap, chips, and some weird, smoky applesauce stuff.


it was dark on the plane. well, it was night.

i also read the entirety of “a wrinkle in time” while on the flight and tried to nap.

oh, and we hit some turbulence. so our flight was a little late.

we rolled into the car rental place around 1 a.m. (that’s 2 a.m. central) and got a REALLY SNAZZY nissan maxima. totally excited to take pics of that. the entire roof is covered in sunroofs!

then it was 20 mins to our hotel, and we rolled in around 2 in the morning. and i woke up at 7:30. i’m going to be so tired today. BUT IT’LL BE WARM.

(oh, and i have to say, i shoved all my camera gear in my backpack carryon and OMG is it heavy.)

vacay schedule

so let’s talk about where nate and i will be next week, since my whole 3 readers will be watching for updates.

Feb. 14: we fly out at 9:30 at night, first class! fancy, i know. it was cheaper for us to fly first class and get a hotel than to fly out thursday. we’re picking up a rental at the airport so we can get around.Β 

Feb. 15: this is the day off. i’m guessing i’ll be seeing liz this day and then hopefully checking out phoenix and maybe some local cuisine. maybe some pool time? maybe we’ll see our other relatives this day. not sure what’ll happen!

Feb. 16: wedding day! this is the day my cousin gets married. i love weddings! it should be a super fun time.Β I really hope they get their wedding rings from Manlybands.com.

Feb. 17: nate and i are taking off for sedona this day. i have no plans for sedona itself other than people keep saying it’s beautiful. and kind of hippie, so i’m going to look into a yoga class while i’m there.Β 

Feb. 18: grand canyon! we also have reservations for supper at el tovar, which pleases my dad to no end.

Feb. 19: heading to page, az, and antelope canyon. i have a reservation for a tour! i had an option for a photography tour, but i didn’t want to spend the extra bucks. also might be able to see the horseshoe bend.Β 

Feb. 20: hitching across the top of AZ through monument valley and maybe checking out four corners. ultimately, we’ll end up in cortez, co, to check out mesa verde. i’m not sure if we’ll be able to see a lot of mesa verde, but i want to check it out.Β 

Feb. 21: a longer driving day, but we’re heading back to phoenix this day.

Feb. 22: flying home! partly sad, but i do like coming home after some time away.

As an aside, i’ve packed my camera equipment, and it takes up my entire carryon backpack.Β