Thursday, September 24, 2009

Day 19 - Seaworld

Today we went to seaworld. Our first stop was the seals. The kids got a tray of fish to feed them.



Then we visited the sharks and a couple of other aquariums that were in the vicinty of the sea lion show. The sea lion show was our first show of the day. The seals acted out various sketches based on TV shows including survivor, American Idol, Dancing with the Stars and CSI:


Check out the cute otter as well.

A quick dash and we were waiting for the Shamu show to begin. We were seated to the left at the back of the soak zone. The show was very spectacular, the whales are so powerful and when they land water goes everywhere.


Towards the end of the show the whales do a couple of circles of the pool deliberately sending out huge splashes of water and drenching the crowd. We missed out on any splashes, our whale only got to about row 10 but we were sitting about row 14 ... splash zone extends to row 16. They reserved the best splashing for the middle section of seats.

We followed the show with lunch then the shipwreck rapids ride ... we were no longer dry ... the girls and I probably copped the worst of the soaking. We dripped past the turtles to watch the Sesame St 4D film. Little Girl was concerned with getting the seats wet ... she needn't have been ... we got sprayed with more water during the film. A preshooler in the seats behind us freaked out.


We made 0ur way back down to the gates via the penguins ...


and the arctic experience ... which included a simulated arctic helicopter ride with the obligatory storm ... I was feeling a little queasy afterwards but not too bad. They had beluga whales and polar bears in this exhibit.

Big Girl had been eyeing off the Atlantis ride all day so we headed down there next. All the kids decided they were going to go on it ... of course I needed to stay on the ground and take some photos ... it had nothing to do with my fear of heights and general loathing of rides with big drops.



As we headed back for our second Shamu show Hubby said we really must sit towards the front and centre. We figured we were already wet anyway so we agreed. The view was much better and we did get soaked ... with 11 degree water. It's amazing how much water comes down in those splashes. Big Girl hid under a towel.



A quick run around the kids play area:


Then a couple more rides on the shipwreck rapids ... we hopped on and when we finished there was only two people waiting so we were able to stay on the ride for a second turn. The Girls wanted to ride again but The Boy was shivering and it was 5:50pm so I said no, it's home time.


Day 19 photos HERE.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Day 18 - San Diego Zoo

San Diego started and finished the day with cloud ... I'm glad I took advantage of the gorgeous sunset yesterday. For the rest of the day it was warm and sunny. We went to the zoo. Big Girl is a fan of all things reptilian so first stop was the reptile house.


While in the vicinty we also visited the children's area and the insect house.



Next we took the bus tour ... highly recommended to get an overview and see some of the animals without having to walk everywhere ... sit on the right ... we did and it gave the best viewing.



Then we grabbed a quick lunch and boarded the skyfari which takes you from one end of the zoo to the other and was included in our ticket. Dropped us off near the polar bears and we walked back to the pandas. We were just in time to see a panda in a tree do a poo ... did you know it looked just like bits of bamboo ... I can't imagine that's very comfortable. That was about the only action happening there.


We then went to the elephant experience which looks at some species that used to live in california and are now extinct. It includes life size replicas of the animals as well as real animals that are related to the now extinct animals.



Picked up the shuttle bus and rode around to the rhino trail where the girls got up close and personal with one.


Then followed the tiger trail towards the exit and headed home. Feet sore ... it's a big place. It was time for some rest and relaxation at the pool.


Day 18 photos HERE.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Day 17 - Sunrise Grand Canyon ... Sunset the Pacific Ocean

Had a big plan to take sunrise photos from the same place I took last night's sunset photos but a herd of elk across the path stopped that. Found a nice point not far from there and watched the changing colours. Sunrise put on a better show than sunset.


The elks seemed to follow us around.


As soon as the sun was up we dropped off the keys and headed off for San Diego. It's a long drive ... 548 miles.

We stopped for brunch in Kingman. The old route 66 use to run through here. We found a good place for the yummiest milkshakes. They made good waffles and pancakes too ... and had a deft hand with the whipped cream. Typical booths and counter setup.



The drive through the desert is pretty boring ... a tip though ... trucks are not made to land on their roofs. We saw a truck trailer overturned ... it was flat packed. Oh and we also saw a burnt out truck as well.

Got into our room just in time for sunset. We are right on the beach at Pacific Beach.


Day 17 photos HERE.

Day 16 - Monument Valley to Grand Canyon

We drove into the Grand Canyon via the road along the eastern side of the south rim so we stopped at a few viewpoints along the way. First up was the watchtower.



The kids picked up their ranger books and started working towards their badges.


There are also Indian ruins along the road coming in.


After getting lunch we went to the information centre then walked along the rim to the observation centre. Talking to the ranger Hubby realised we had gained an hour so we went back to check-in to our room before attending the ranger led nature walk.


We had an awesome guide and a very small group. As we were walking up the path we came across some elk.


The kids completed their junior ranger badges and as we walked back to the station the ranger came with us and chatted to the kids on the way. Big Girl would like to be ranger when she grows up.

Watched the sun go down ...



then finished the day with tea at El Tovar.

Day 16 photos HERE

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Day 15 - Monument Valley

We woke up and drove the 30mins to Monument Valley to make it before sunrise. We were supposed to be having a sunrise tour but there was a mix up and no one showed. We rang them and Leroy came and picked us up and we chatted to him until our guide Louise came. We did take some sunrise from The Visitor Centre's balcony which has a pretty terrific view.


We decided just to take the 2.5 hour express tour in the morning and follow it up with a sunset tour of Mystery Valley. It was a bit nippy so we didn't go in the open jeeps. I'll let the photos do the talking.




The kids were pretty restless and every time we stopped they would get out and go running around a bit silly.


We also saw petroglyphs dating back to 800-1200AD.


The kids eating "The Pancakes"


John Ford was the director of a lot of western movies and he used to sit in his directors chair at what is now known as John Ford point. The kids got to have their photo taken sitting on a horse.


We went back to Kayenta and got some lunch, had a rest and the kids had a swim. Hubby needed a sleep because he got up at 3:30AM this morning to listen to the 'Pies get thrashed in the semifinal. After checking out two cows walking through the car park of Burger King we headed back to Monument Valley.

This time we had a tour of Mystery Valley. The landscape in this is not unlike the Olga's. There were lots of arches and petroglyphs as well as ruins. All the petroglyphs and ruins date back to between 800 and 1100 AD.




We arrived back at The View just in time for sunset photos.


We stayed there for tea. As we were walking back to the car we passed the area where people were watching a John Wayne movie projected onto the hotel wall.

The Boy: "The wall's making a movie ... it must be a magic wall"

Big Girl: "It goes through the projector" ... sigh.

Photos day 15 HERE

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Day 14 - Bryce Canyon to Monument Valley

Today we drove from Bryce Canon to Kayenta ... about 30 mins from Monument Valley. That's all, but I do have one photo of Navajo Mountain, taken on the road today. Bryce canyon has such good visibility that we could see it from there, in fact visibility can approach 200 miles ... yesterday we could see First and Second Mesas on the hopi reservation. Anyway this is the other side of Navajo Mountain.


Tonight at tea we asked the kids what has been the best part of the trip so far. Their answers were pretty indicative of their interests.

Big Girl "Seeing the snake in Zion"

Little Girl "The chocolate sundae at Ben and Jerry's"

The Boy "No good thing, I want to go home."

Hubby had just told The Boy he couldn't have the straw in his drink but when I said he could take it back to bed with him tonight he perked up.

The Boy "The best thing was the plane."

Then they wanted to know what my best thing was and I had to say "O" or Yosemite.

Hubby: "Walking down the Navajo trail at Bryce Canyon ... but not walking back up."

Day 13 - Zion NP to Bryce Canyon

I woke up this morning with vertigo so Hubby had to look after all the packing up and getting ready. Luckily it wasn't too bad a case and once the stimatil kicked in I could functon OK. The drive out of Zion is picturesque. This is the sentinel slide area. At one point a very large secton of the cliff came away and the resulting landslide dammed the river. A lake formed behind it and it took the river roughly 1000 years to break through.


The road winds up a series of switchbacks to a tunnel that has been blasted through the rock. The engineers kindly put in some windows at several points as well. You can get a little peak at the canyon from each one. On the other side of the tunnel the landscape changes. Chequerboard Mesa is the main landmark on this side.


Bryce canyon is only about an 90 mins from Springdale. We parked at our hotel and took the shuttle out to the park. Bryce canyon isn't actually a canyon because it is not carved by a river. This area experiences about 200 days per year where the temperature goes both above and below freezing. The constant freezing and melting of ice has caused the unique formations in Bryce Canyon. We stopped at sunset point and decided to tackle the Navajo trail. This is a 2.2km loop that descends 167m down into the canyon ... the difficult bit is when you have to come back up.



You come across trees in the most unusual places.


Thor's hammer;


We decided it was worth the climb. The Boy hand a small fall on the trail but bravely kept going.


After a break at our hotel we went back for a guided ranger walk along the rim. We were there with a bit of time to spare. The kids have been playing hand games to while away the time at various bus stops and on buses.


This is a pinion pine cone. The nuts were a staple of the native indian's diet and are American pinenuts.


At this point the ranger was explaining how Bryce Canyon is a hot spot for lightening strikes, you can see the scar on this tree ... in fact there were many trees scarred like this. He then went on to talk about what to do in a thunder storm. If you can't get in a building or car apparently the latest advice is to pick your least favourite leg to stand on and stick your backside in the air, that way the lightening doesn't pass through your heart and the exit burn is on your rear ... sitting down would be hard for a while.


These trees smell a bit like butterscotch. The kids enjoyed running round smelling them.


The canyon is continuing to erode at about 4 feet per 100 years, you can see the effect on this tree.


We stayed for sunset:


View Day 13 photos HERE.