Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Allen & Cindy Do Utah

In June, my parents came out for a long visit. We filled their time here with lots of fun stuff! They arrived on a Friday evening; we welcomed them to Utah with a fresh, all-grill-prepared dinner and we ate outside on our newly purchased patio set (that was a display model with a very slight tear in the umbrella, so it was $50… steal!). Romy was so excited to see my Dad she peed on the floor, which had not happened in ages. Sweet girl knows her family.

Saturday morning, we got up early, loaded my parents’ rented Jeep Compass, dropped Romy off at Diggity Dog and then headed for Jackson, WY. The drive was, of course, scenic – it is Utah after all – and it was given soundtrack by my Dad’s “oohs and ahhs,” “look at thats!,” and “holy snot bubbles!” comments, which were played every minute of the way. Seriously though, he did say those things all day, every day for like 3 days straight. Haha – love ya, Dad. :) We were also required to stop for several typical tourist photo ops, including this one:

Mom & Dad at Welcome to Idaho sign
We arrived in Jackson a little after lunch time and went to The Antler Inn to check into our room before heading out to explore the town. Once we got to the room and unloaded our things, we realized we would have new cause for exploring the town – getting clothes and undergarments for Jon and myself, who like dummies, forgot our bag of stuff at home. Thankfully, The Antler Inn is about ten steps from an Eddie Bauer, which was having a pretty good sale so we were able to get a few staples to carry us through the next couple days. We still needed undies and socks, however. So, Jon and I went on a mission to find those items (which took a while, surprisingly) while my parents continued walking around the town.

After all of that, we were ready for a drink! We all got ready, then walked to the Snake River Brewpub for dinner. While eating our yummy food, we overheard (or eavesdropped, whatever you want to call it) people at the next table talking about a rodeo. Apparently, the Jackson Hole Rodeo show would be taking place that night. We looked up the location and asked our server how far away it was. She told us it would be a 20-minute walk or we could take the bus, which was free and had a stop right down the street. I am not a huge public transport person (I’m sorry, I just don’t like being that close to strangers sometimes… when I think bus, my mind automatically goes to the drunk bus in Ocean City.. no thanks) and I don’t think any of us felt like walking, so we went back to get the Jeep. Five seconds later, we were there. Seriously, it would have taken us TWO minutes (not twenty you silly, spatially-challenged server girl) to walk there. Oh well.

Right away, I think we were all pretty excited. It was a real, freakin’ rodeo! YEEHAW! We got seats in the bleachers, then Jon & I got ourselves some Coors Banquet. The rodeo was pretty cool. I would have to say the girls that ran the horses out super fast and around the barrels was my favorite event. I was NOT a fan of the event where the cowboys tried to lasso a calf by its head and back hooves. On the handful of occasions where they were successful, the calf was basically pulled at both ends and fell down in the dirt. It was just kind of sad to watch that! Jon made friends with this guy sitting in front of us and they bought each other beers. Ironically, two days later we saw them at Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone. It’s funny how you always see the same people on vacation even when you’re not trying to. After the rodeo, we called it a night.

Mom & Dad at the Jackson Hole Rodeo

Jon & I at the Jackson Hole Rodeo

My favorite event at the rodeo
Sunday morning, we got up early, got breakfast and started our drive to Yellowstone. On the way, we passed by the Grand Tetons, which are stunning. It was a beautiful drive and we did get out a few times to get a few photos in front of the mountains and also at Jackson Lake.

The Grand Tetons are b-e-a-uuutiful!

Mom by Jackson Lake
Then we got into Yellowstone Park. First observation about it: it. is. GI-NORMOUS! Just so, so vast. Visiting Yellowstone means lots of driving from stop to stop. So, our stops on that day included:

Stop #1: Continental Divide Sign – a typical tourist photo op requested by my Dad

Mom & Dad at the Continental Divide
Stop #2: Yellowstone Lake – view of the Yellowstone Lake at the West Thumb, as well as many small hot springs around it

West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake

Mom & Dad in front of Yellowstone Lake

Some of the hot springs by the West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake

Stop #3: Old Faithful – saw it erupt twice, and also saw the eruption of Beehive Geyser (a less active and less predictable one, so pretty cool! It is also said to shoot higher than Old Faithful)

Eruption of Beehive Geyser

Old Faithful post-eruption with a nice sky

Typical tourist photo op at Old Faithful

Stop #4: Midway Geyser Basin – included seeing the Grand Prismatic Spring (really cool) as well as other, smaller hot springs and geysers

Grand Prismatic Spring

Grand Prismatic Spring
Stop #5: Fountain Paint Pots – paint pots are these things that looking like bubbling clay, if you want the actual description of what they are, please ask Jon Zerbe

Fountain Paint Pots
Stop #6: Gibbons Falls

Gibbons Falls
Stop #7: Canyon Village Campground

We set up camp, then is started to drizzle. It rains almost EVERY time Jon and I camp, so I was like REALLY?! But thankfully, it only lasted like 20 minutes. After that, we set to work making a dinner of chili then ate it and played cards. I may or may not have been a nazi about putting everything food-related back into the Jeep immediately after its use for fear of bears tracking our scent. It is Bear Country, people! We slept pretty well minus what sounded like a bear but really was a man in the next campsite over snoring to high heaven. We got some breakfast and coffee, then headed out for our second day of sight-seeing. Stops included:

Stop #1: Lower Falls at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River – probably my favorite sight, so beautiful and so much to look at in one place

Lower Falls in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River

Jon & I in front of Lower Falls
Stop #2: Tower Falls – waterfall where Tower Creek meets the Yellowstone River

Tower Falls
Stop #3: Petrified Tree

Petrified Tree
Stop #4: Mammoth Hot Springs – a really, very small area of hot springs… actually, it’s pretty f-in huge.

Mammoth Hot Springs

Mammoth Hot Springs

Canary Pool at Mammoth Hot Spring

Liberty Cap, dormant geyser near Mammoth Hot Springs

Herd of buffalo that held up traffic on our way out of Yellowstone
After that, we made our way out of Yellowstone and continued the drive back to SLC. On Tuesday, Jon went back to work, but I still had a couple days off. I took my parents out to Park City. We walked around the town, got some lunch, then went to the Utah Olympic Park. At the Olympic Park, we signed up for a guided tour but had a little time to kill, so decided to do the zip line thing. The zip line descends at the same angle as the Nordic ski jumps which were used in the 2002 Winter Olympics. We took the chair lift up and ended up having to wait a while because of the wind. After waiting a little longer, one of the employees there let us go down the Alpine Slide for free, which was this little toboggan ride. Pretty cool. Finally, we were able to do the zip line, which was fun, but we had wasted so much time we’d missed our tour and now had time to kill until the next one. We passed the time by watching people do these ski jumps into a pool. It was actually pretty entertaining. Then, we took the tour which was pretty fun and informative. We got to get very close to the bobsled track, which is what’s also used for luge and other sports. When the Olympics were held there, people could pay $35 to stand that close to the bobsled track. CRAZY! That night we took my parents to Red Iguana for some delicious Mexican food.

Mom & Dad at Utah Olympic Park

Mom & Dad riding the chair lift at Utah Olympic Park

Mom coming down the Alpine Slide

Curve 11 of the bobsled track at Utah Olympic Park
Wednesday, we wanted to go do a tour of Timpanogos Cave but as it turned out there was no room that day, so my parents made reservations to do it Thursday. So, we headed off to Red Butte Gardens to take a little tour and walk around. I had been there before with Christina and it was very nice, but this time the rose bushes were in great bloom and looked lovely! That night, my Dad, Jon and cousin Lance played golf so my Mom and I got pedicures and made some dinner. 

Roses in bloom at Red Butte Gardens
Thursday and Friday I went back to work, so my parents were on their own. On Thursday, they did the Timpanogos Cave Tour which they enjoyed and on Friday, they drove to my Aunt Linda’s so my dad could go fishing with my Uncle Tom and they got lunch and spent some time visiting with them. On Saturday, we had a cookout so that my aunt, uncle, and cousins that live in Utah could come down to the house and visit with my parents. It was fun and lots of good food. That night, we all went to see the Salt Lake Bees, a local minor league baseball team. Then Sunday morning, we saw them off as they headed to the airport and back to Maryland.

Overall, it was a really great visit. I was so happy that we were able to see and do so much! Can’t wait until they can come back again!

From the Mountains of UT back to the Mountains of PA

This is Jon's post re-capping Ben's bachelor weekend which I was supposed to post like over a month ago and just got around to doing now. Sorry!

Over Memorial Day weekend, Jenn and I flew back east for Sara and Ben's bachelorette and bachelor parties. The girls were having a fun night in Baltimore, while the guys went up for an all weekend Bachelor party to Suits Us - the Hess's cabin in the middle of Bald Eagle State Forest. We drank a lot of beer out of the creek, shot a lot of .22 rounds, and manage to go offroading, make squirrel bbq sandwiches, and do some mountain biking as well. Despite the best attempts by some participants (who shall remain nameless) strippers would no be attending. 

 I certainly love the majestic mountains of Utah, but the Appalachians sometimes can't be beat. Lush greenery. High humidity. Small cool mountain streams cascading over bottles of Yuengling and Straub. On saturday Dr. Schmidt, Jason, Jarkon, Pony, and I rode the classic Cowbell Hollow loop, which coincidentally is the closest trail to the cabin as well as the best trail I have found in the area. Of all the trails in the 200,000 state forest, I've ridden this one the most. Thanks to my overwhelming amount of mountain bikes, I was able to leave one of my trusty steeds in Pennsylvania with my brother - my custom painted WVU Cannondale 29er singlespeed. I sure did miss it. It performs beautifully in the wet, rocky, rooty, trails back east. This weekend was no exception. We cranked that loop out in 40 minutes. Saturday night I got to witness first hand Andrew's Exterra get airborn. We bucked through some mud puddles while offroading with Jason and Dad in the jeep, and all of a sudden I thought I heard what sounded like a tire bursting. I notified the driver, "uh oh you blew a tire". Instead it was a 16oz Lager can that burst open. I updated the driver, "it was a beer can and your sleeping bag is soaked." Andrew then informed Pony and Me, it was Shitass's sleeping bag he intended to use that night. Hilarity ensued.

On sunday we traded Andrew for Shitass, and got around to riding a bigger loop. First we would pound a few beers playing Awesome Frisbee - we are the top 7 ranked players in the sport - and my diet consisted of ring bologna and longhorn cheese. Not exactly an athletic fuel. We set out to recreate the rest of the 2011 Transylvania Epic stage 5. However, bonking, navigation issues, and thunderstorms had us heading back to the cabin a little early. We still got in a good 3+ hour ride. You can check out both rides on my Strava.

Monday came and the saddest part is having to leave the cabin, but the best part is taking a shower. I think Jenn appreciated that. And I appreciated the short 3-day weekend spent with those Pennsylvania woods amongst the finest of men.