Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hoover Dam and Valley of Fire

We woke up early Easter morning and headed over to tour the Hoover Dam. Avery called us out when entering. We told the women she was 3. She is NOT 3, she is 4 and proud!!! Lucky for us she's so dang cute she still got in free.
Hoover Dam is amazing! I'm in awe and impressed with the men who built it. They worked 10 hours a day, every day, with only 1 day off a year. For not much money. A job is a job right? We're learning that first hand with our poor economy now.
We went on the generator tour and were able to go 500 feet into the belly of the damn dam to see for our selves these ginormous machines in action. We also learned that no one actually fell and died in the cement. Jason still doesn't believe this.
After the tour we went into the museum and exhibit hall. It has great interactive games for the kids to play with. They got to create their own generators and control the water intake for a city.

The large pipe behind Kaleb in the picture above is one of the 9 feeding the generators. Water flows through these pipes at 60 MPH at a rate of 80, 000 gallons per second! We could feel the whole room shaking and the noise from the water in our ears was LOUD!
Afterward we headed north along the banks of Lake Mead. On one side of the road is this huge man made lake and the other is nothing but barren desert. We stopped to smell the blooming cacti and kept our eyes open for bighorn sheep. The next day we entered Valley of Fire State Park. The rock here is amazing. I felt like I was back in Moab, UT area. Red rock surrounds the park and we found a wonderful campsite in the canyon. There is a lot of Native American history in the park. We hiked canyons full of petroglyphs. After 8 months of exploring pictographs and petroglyphs I'm still in awe at every one I see. I love sitting on a rock and looking at the land and the artwork and feeling the spirits of the people that once called these lands home.

Where's the meat? That's what Kaleb was wondering. He was bites away from finishing his meal when he realized that he forgot to put the actual burger in his bun. Guess he was hungry.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Viva Las Vegas

How can you spend 3 days outside Las Vegas and not cruise the strip? We said we wouldn't, but curiosity got the best of us. Our first adventure was just trying to find the strip. We parked at The Rio and walked over. We entered from a parking garage belonging to Caesars Palace and had to ask how to even get out. When we finally did.......WHOA!!!
To make a not so long story shorter we walked up one side of the strip and down the other. Certain blocks required hands over Kaleb's eyes. Mouths wide open staring up. Free shows. Lions and M&M's. Water shows. Pirates. Volcano's. PEOPLE EVERYWHERE. We spent 3 hours total in the city before rushing out. Now we can check that off on the been there, done that. Although not even a penny spent in the slots. Hmmmm...

Friday, April 10, 2009

Til Death do us part

Death Valley National Park::::
-largest National Park in the contiguous United States
-Badwater Basin salt pan= lowest point in Western Hemisphere at -282 feet
-record heat is 134 degrees Fahrenheit, only topped by the Sahara Desert by 2 degrees
-first humans settled here roughly 10,000 years ago (along the edge of a 30 foot deep lake)
-sparse yet thriving ecosystem
-surrounded by peaks 6,000-11,000 feet high
We werent' really sure what to expect before entering Death Valley. The name itself freaks you out. We entered from the west side and I had no idea the elevation gains and lows we'd hit. We would start at 5,000 ft only to drop to 1000 to raise again to 4500 before finally hitting sea level. Let's just say it was a good test on the new transmission.
The wildflowers were in full bloom. The sun wasn't shy either. It was rather "warm" for April, 85 degrees. I couldn't even imagine being here in mid-July.
First stop....the sand dunes!
Kaleb's eyes grew big as we approached. He begged Jason for a pit stop and I think we'd all agree that it was well worth the small walk out to the dunes. Ani couldn't believe how high some of them got. Who can walk on sand dunes with out trying "sand angels", rolling, jumping, flipping, hide and seeking and pure disbelief in the amazing natural landscape.
Avery loved looking for lizard and snake trails.
We camped at -200 feet below sea level on the full moon. The white clay and salt hills glowed in the moonlight. No flashlights necessary.
The next morning after the kids completed the Junior Ranger Program we continued on east into another great desert known as......Las Vegas. We are busy here exploring The Red Rock area. So far so good. One full day of climbing accomplished. Tomorrow is driving and hiking along "the loop".

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

We have takeoff...

The transmission is fixed and we're on the road again. Faster and smoother than ever!
We've made it back to Lone Pine, the town we broke down in.
Tonight we'll camp in Death Valley and then move on east with a few days in the land surrounding Las Vegas.
We just wanted to thank everyone for the concerns and good vibes sent our way.
The Chinchens are back on the road again.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Sooner or later


Not a pretty sight is it.
It happened. We've been so fortunate on this journey, it was bound to happen sometime.
We were on our way to Death Valley National Park. I had been saying for weeks how the name just scared me. There was a reason......
For such a crappy thing to happen it couldn't have been at a better time really. We were just pulling into Lone Pine, the last town before venturing into "Death". We had stopped at a little corner produce stand to buy local veggies when WHAM....problems. Shifting problems= no good.
Jason tried everything that night, changing the oil, the transmission oil and filter but it was a no go. "The Grasshopper" needed a rest. We decided to take advantage of our free 100 mile towing from AAA (one of the best purchases before leaving home) and came back to Bishop, CA. We spent over a week here before and loved it and thought if we were going to be stuck, why not be in a cool town we could enjoy. No brainer right?
The transmission is blown. (SOB again.)
We are at a great mechanics, Jim Allen, and he is letting us "live" at his garage and even plug in. We are filling our time with *lots of walks around town, hanging in the coffee shop to have interent access, hitchhiking to the boulders to rock climb, playing at the park, watching movies and enjoying the sight of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
We hope to be out on the road again by the end of the week (cross your fingers) heading east to Colorado via Red Rocks (Las Vegas area) and Zion. There is a possibility of us working on an organic farm outside of Grand Junction for a bit. You all know the big smile that appears on my face at the thought of that.

--- "They crowned are as the locusts, and thy captains as the great grasshoppers, which camp in the hedges in the cold day, but when the sun arises they flee away, and their place is not known where they are.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Thursday, April 2, 2009

So Ridgecrest, Cali was somewhat of a bust. There were a few boulders there, but nothing I would say worth the drive. It wasn't all that bad....we did get to camp out in the desert one more night with our BC friends we met in Joshua Tree. And we found a desert tortoise!!! Now that was a score!
After a tearful goodbye to our friends, we headed north solo for the first time in 3 months!! First stop....Lone Pine, California. What an amazing place!!! The town lies at the base Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the lower US. We spent a week camped out by the river, fishing and watching for bears, which we never did see!
Just west of Lone Pine is an area known as The Alabama Hills. The hills are known as a backdrop to many film and commercials that are filmed here.
We know it as a place to play and boulder!
We heard a lot about Bishop, Cali while in Joshua Tree. It sounded a lot like what Bend, Oregon use to be. A small outdoorsy town with mountains on one side and desert on the other. Heaven to us. On the way we spend a few hours at Manzanar National Monument, a Japanese Relocation Center during the war. The history here is amazing and highly educational for the kids. The barracks are gone now but you can still see traces of them among the trees and weeds that have now grown. Remains of an old tea garden still remain as well as the cemetery. The kids completed the Junior Ranger Program here and received their 11th badge.
If you haven't driven Hwy 395 from Reno south through the Eastern Sierras's then your truley missing someting. It's a drive I highly recommend. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking. The mountains tower above you at 14,000 feet. And even though it's April now we really haven't seen much snow. The spring weather is awesome!. (except for the wind that always seems to blow) Right before Bishop we pit stopped at some hot springs to relax and "freshen up".
We spent just over a week around the Bishop area. It is well known in the bouldering scene. I believe we've been on the rocks everyday since our arrival. We are now on our way through Death Valley and on to Red Rocks just outside of Las Vegas to meet and climb with some friends we met in Joshua Tree.