Day 3: Bryce Sunrise, Red Canyon, Zion Observation Point

Holding onto the branch like it would save me…

I decided to wake up for another sunrise. It was cold but worth it! After doing some pre-reading, I decided to check out Inspiration Point rather than Sunrise Point. The reason is that Sunrise Point is right next to the campground, so likely more crowded. In addition, Inspiration Point has a broader view over the entire Hoodoo Canyon.

It was chilly though! The temperature was in the 30s and there was a good breeze blowing. There were a lot of people wrapped up in blankets who looked really cold. They booked it as soon as the sun came up. I thought the canyon became more and more beautiful as the sun rose, so I’m glad I had my hoodie jacket even though admittedly, I could have used slightly better layers!

Yes, as the light increased, different areas became illuminated at different times. I think the most beautiful effect was when the lighter colored tops of certain hoodoo clusters lit up. Due to the color gradient, it looked like the rock was transilluminated which I’m pretty sure is an optical trick but still, very beautiful!

I had thought about doing Fairytale Loop but honestly, even though the hoodoos are beautiful, I thought it might feel a little more of the same. I know, so spoiled and sassy! But I had been hiking a lot, still had more to go, and I didn’t want to completely destroy myself given that a lot was going on that week.

So, I went back to the room, slept for another 90 minutes, got breakfast, and hit the road. But I didn’t go far! Just down the road, I stopped at the Red Canyon Visitor Center and did a short hike. The Red Canyon is pretty magical and slightly smaller in scale, which makes it feel more accessible.

I read a historical marker near the road tunnel which talked about the opening ceremony in the early 1900s where they cut the ribbon and proclaimed they were entering fairyland. People dressed as fairies and waved streamers. Seems a little whacky, but who am I to judge? The tunnel is kind of funny though, because it sort of looks like they could have just built the road around the rock but why do that when you could blast through it?

After a short hike, I continued onto Zion. The drive was beautiful and before long, I made it to Zion Ponderosa, a camping/glamping/hotel resort that provides activities just east of Zion National Park. I parked the car and quickly bought a ticket for the shuttle to the trailhead for Observation Point. Since 2019, Observation Point has only been reachable from this Eastern trailhead as rockfall blocks the trail from the valley. The view is incredible and not terribly crowded, unlike the crowds I saw the next day near the Western entrance!

I really enjoyed the hike. It had been billed as a walk through the trees, which it was but I did think there would be more shade. I was hiking midday but still, not a shady hike. Don’t be fooled! It was mostly flat, with a few gentle up and downs closer to the point.

The view was absolutely spectacular. It kind of reminded me of a smaller Yosemite from Tunnel View, where you see both sides of the spectacular rocks rising away from the valley except it is sandstone and volcanic, not granite.

I hiked back the way I came and caught the shuttle van. The road was dry and I could have made it in the Tesla, but the shuttle was $6.75 roundtrip and gave peace of mind. Worth it!

That evening, I treated myself to a delicious burger. After a carb heavy few days of bars, it felt needed! I stayed in a glamping tent which was super comfortable and makes me look forward to our late July glamping trip in Yellowstone. I settled in for a good night’s sleep with no sunrise hike planned. The next day was going to feature the long road trip home to San Diego.

Day 2: Grand Canyon Sunrise, Bryce Sunset

Ohaio gozaimasu!

Oh my gosh! This trip has been amazing and already I’m a day behind so rather than rhapsodize how I’m typing this in Zion under a twilight sky at 9:20 pm (!) waiting for the strawberry moon, I’ll write about yesterday’s awesome adventures!

Ooh Aah Point

So, I spent the night at Maswik Lodge which was very nice but also very NPS-feeling. If you’ve ever stayed at a NPS site, you’ll know what I mean. Honestly, it’s amazing how nice the places are for the amount of people that travel through them. I realize that’s the nature of all hotels and lodging, but outdoor adventures can result in a particular level of grime and stink so to the NPS I say, A+.

So, my alarm went off at 4:25 am. Yuck. But since I don’t think I’ll necessarily be back at the Grand Canyon, as amazing as it it, I made myself get up and seize the day. I packed, went to the ATM for a housekeeping tip, packed the car, and got to the Visitor’s Center by 4:55. I hoped on the shuttle to South Kaibab trail.

Heading down the stairs of South Kaibab trail on the way to Ooh Ahh Point

So, I walked out to Ooh Ahh point. I hate the name for its overly cutesy-ness but at the same time, it is pretty accurate. I got there right before sunrise and it was a great vantage point. The illumination over time of the various rocks was pretty spectacular. For me, I liked it a lot better than sunset, early wakeup notwithstanding.

Cedar Ridge

At Ooh Aah point, I ran into a foursome (two couples) who had taken my picture the night before at Powell Point. By the way, I was not awake enough to put this together. The woman who took the picture remembered me. Probably because my tee-shirt the night before was uniquely ugly. They headed back up while I proceeded another half mile to Cedar Ridge. That was pretty cool because it was the first layer of intra-canyon mesas, so it was neat to progress to the next “level” of geologic history. If I ever go back, I’d like to make it all the way to the Colorado River but the time to do that is not the Summer!

I hiked back up to the top (less fun!) and hoped on the shuttle back to the Visitor Center where I parked my car. Then, I drove out of the park via the East exit. On the way, I stopped at several scenic overlooks that were really cool because I could see the Colorado River as it entered the canyon. My favorite overlook was Navajo point because it was the best angle for looking up the Colorado river canyon as a smaller part of the Grand Canyon. I’m not sure if this makes sense, but at the Visitors’ Center, you can only see the dark gouge of the canyon level, rather than all the way down to the river. That is also cool but honestly, I think the Navajo point was my favorite of the park!

I had thought of going to Sedona that morning and hiking a vortex but there were several reasons not to: 1. It was hot 2. Pinecone fire shut down the direct route via the 89 and 3. the time I would have spent was freed up to spend on various outlooks. So, another trip will have to be planned. My favorite!

So, I went to Horseshoe Bend, which an article called “a quintessential American roadside attraction that someone decides to profit off of.” Weeeelllllll, since it’s the Navajo nation cashing in on its Instagram popularity, I don’t feel I can begrudge them the chance to profit off the Influencer!

It was pretty cool. I took a lot of pictures. I’m sure you can find better under Google Images. But they’re mine, and I like them! I also climbed the rock to the right of the bend which causes an off-centered horseshoe picture, but was a neat mini-scramble. My fear of heights kind of increases in those situations, but it’s worth the adrenaline surge and scaredy-catness!

After the Horseshoe Bend, I charged in Page and went to the Grand Canyon Brewery. They had pretty mild beers, but maybe San Diego has made me super tough! I only had a few tastes since I was driving, but it was fun to hang out at a local brewery.

Then, it was off to Bryce Canyon! Along the way, I drove through Red Canyon on the 12A which was super-cool. I was focused on Bryce but I made a mental note to stop through the next day on my way to Zion.

Through a window (but not the Wall of Windows) while hiking Peek-a-boo Loop

I checked into the hotel and immediately headed to Sunset Point to do the Navajo Loop-Peek-a-boo Loop hike, which is just under 5 miles. The hoodoos and other natural formations are spectacular and the changing light made it extra amazing. The sun went below the canyon about 45 minutes prior to the actual sunset so even though it was still pretty, photographically the light was “dead” as SMS would say.

For the loop, I went clockwise, which was recommended in a guide. I don’t have the CCW to compare to, but it was a great direction and the benefit (I think) is that you have a great view down the Wall of Windows rather than not appreciating the panorama that would be behind you if you walked up CCW. I don’t think you would be wrong either way, though!

Coming through a small tunnel on Peek-a-boo Loop

Day 1: San Diego to Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon! Sunset, looking East.

This has been such a fun road trip! Since I’m traveling West to East for a mini-vacation rather than a long-distance move, I’ve taken some routes I’ve never been on. Plus, the Tesla forces me to stop in some pretty unique places. [Side note: It’s pretty wild how different the Tesla supercharger stops are. SMS thinks there’s a real opportunity in creating nice rest stops like Spasso in Japan or AutoGrill in Italy. I think he’s right!]

The first stop was in 29 Palms at the Tortoise Rock casino. There are no pictures. I was definitely glad the charger was there, but that was about it. Although Joshua trees are pretty cool, it’s a pretty hardscrabble place.

The next stop was at a historic Rte 66 town: Kingman, AZ! There are several superchargers at the Kingman visitor center in the historic Powerhouse. I used the restroom and then quickly toured the Electric Vehicle museum, which has a pretty amazing collection! There was a Tesla roadster, tripped out golfcarts, a retro-fitted Porsche, and two university designed concept cars. There were several other cars and early prototypes, as well.

But, it was time to move to the main event. So, fueled by a delicious root beer float, I made it the rest of the way to the Grand Canyon.

Oh.my.gosh. It is an amazing place. It is just so vast, but with so many details in the landscape that it’s impossible to take it all in. It’s a perspective that shifts from the largest scale (millions of years! thousands of feet!) to a very small scale like an eye-catching striation or undulation in one particular rock formation. And even though some 19th century naturalists were a little over-the-top in their descriptions (*cough looking at you John Muir*), it is a spectacular place.

I checked into the Maswik Lodge, then quickly headed to the Rim to catch the red shuttle towards Hermit’s Rest. I had read the best sunset viewing spots were along the Rim at that location. The bus only took us to Mohave Point since there were a limited number running. I walked back towards Hopi Point, where I found the tripod photographers and decided that it was a sign of a good viewing location. It was a good decision! Although I realized at a certain point that what I was mostly doing was staring into the sun, so I knocked that off before I did any damage!

After the sunset, I walked back along the Rim to the Lodge. It was a pretty walk and along the way, I walked out on Powell Point which, honestly, seemed a bit better than Hopi due to a wider vantage point. Another great place (I think) would be on the East Side of the Park, where certain scenic overlooks allow the viewer to look up the canyon. I really liked that perspective. I will tell you my favorite East viewing point tomorrow! In contrast, from the Rim where I was the first night, you can see the gouge of the canyon at the base but the river and sidewalls are hidden from view.

California North Coast Road Trip

For the second half of the trip (2 days/2 nights), we headed out to the North Coast via the Russian River Valley. We wanted a little nature to go with our wine, so I planned the trip as a split between Sonoma County and the North Coast, centered on Point Arena.

I hope you make it out!

But first we drink! We started the day at one last winery. We went to Williams Selym, one of the OG Pinot Noir makes in Sonoma. At least this is what two of my friends say and I am too lazy to fact check this. We had a really nice tasting, but it felt a little Ex Machina with Alicia Vanderker. As in, there was a distinct possibility there were malevolent robots who were waiting to do us harm behind the sleek gleaming interior decor.

Getaway cars at Williams Selym

Fortunately, we made it out and even left with wine, which should increase our quality of life. Phew. We drove along the 101 to the 128, stopping for lunch at Disco Ranch in Boonville. It was a super cool wine and snack-y/tapas cafe. Between the food we bought off-the-shelves and a few tapas made in-house, we had an awesome picnic. We ate on their little patio. It was really a neat place and if you wanted to have the perfect Spanish or Italian snacks to go along with your wine, this is the place to shop!

We went for a short-ish hike through the redwoods at Hendy Woods State Park, where we were able to charge our car for a little bit. Then we headed to the coast. Our hotel was in Point Arena. The Wildflower Boutique hotel is a renovated inn that is absolutely delightful. I highly recommend it. The rooms were stylish, affordable, and clean. Each morning, there was a delivered breakfast from four options that we would choose from the night before. The people who worked there were really nice. Overall, it was a really positive experience.

That evening, we went to The Bird Cafe. It is a cash-only restaurant that at the time, was only open Friday-Saturday. Now, it’s closed while they think about future projects but I highly recommend checking it out on a visit. The food was delicious. The walls are covered in bird art (swoon) by Nicole Ponsler. They serve Pelican Bread, which is made locally by a baker who is very into the process (grinds his own grains). The wines were from Penny Royal Farms Winery. Apparently, it’s hard to get suppliers to deliver out to Point Arena so they’re pretty happy to have their arrangement with a winery they think is delicious. We ended up eating pretty much everything on the menu- to be fair, there’s two choices for apps, entrees, and desserts. I really liked it and would love to go back some day!

The next day, it was up to coast to Mendocino and Ft. Bragg. First, we went to the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. It was beautiful! There were gorgeous well-maintained gardens along the entrance lawn/meadow that transitioned to longer trails along the bluffs. I loved it! The dahlias were particularly gorgeous at the time we went.

For lunch, we went to the Lost Coast Brewing Company, which had good food and beer. Then we were off on the Skunk Train for a ride through the redwoods. It is an old logging railroad that is now perfect for tourists who want to see redwoods without hiking! After the train ride, we headed back to Pt Arena. We had dinner reservations for about halfway down the ride, but when we passed the restaurant it was still too early for dinner. Plus, we were all tired from the driving and thought it would be a lot less fun to drive on the foggy, winding roads through the dark. So, we bought picnic provisions from the little store in Pt Arena and at at the large table in the lobby of the hotel. It worked out perfectly.

But yes, one thought for a North Coast trip. The driving distance is a little deceptive relative to how long it will take due to the single lane, many curves, and slightly decreased visibility depending on the fog. While it’s nice to stay in a hotel for multiple nights to avoid packing/repacking, another option would be to drive up the coast and hotel hop more frequently in order to prevent backtracking along the driving routes. Anyway, things to consider in case anyone is reading this blog for travel tips!

Street band in Pt Reyes Station

The next day, we headed back to Menlo Park. Our first stop was an early lunch at Spud Point Crab Co in Bodega Bay. It had been recommended by Mom’s cousin and it was incredible! We ate clam chowder and crab sandwiches, which were epic. Although I had planned for a picnic in Pt Reyes Station, we had spoiled our appetites but we still went for a walk around town.

We drove to Menlo Park and had dinner at The Little Store in Atherton. SMS and I had an awesome lunch there a few weeks prior and we had high hopes for dinner. But it was kind of a bizarre experience. The owner was pretty weird with strange suggestions and strong wine upsell attempts. Fortunately, we all thought it was kind of funny rather than too off-putting, but I’m not as eager to go back as I once was. The food was still excellent and if I’m in the area and have a craving for French Onion Soup, that’s where I’m going!

Mom, Dad, and I left from SFO the next day. We grabbed breakfast in the Centurian Lounge (yay!) before heading off to our respective destinations. It was an awesome trip! Next up, trip recap with SMS’ parents!

Sonoma Road Trip with My Parents!

When SMS and I got married, we had pretty basic vows. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the basic vows are pret-ty serious. Love for a lifetime? Sign me up! But if we had been the type to write our own custom vows, would we have included the vow to take epic road trips with our parents? Hell yeah!

So, the epic road trip with my parents is first up! For those of you wanting SMS’ parents, wait a few weeks. It’s coming!

My parents were in Wyoming for a mini-siblings reunion (Dad’s side). Back in June, I said that since they were 2/3 of the way across the country, why not complete the journey and come to Northern California for a vacation continuation? Who can argue with that logic? No one. So, my parents arrived on Monday for a six day NorCal adventure.

For the first two nights, my parents stayed at the Hotel Lucent in Menlo Park. SMS has a 1B1B apartment and we’re just not air mattress people. Haha, we totally could be but we don’t even own one now. So, my parents stayed at HL, which they recommend for nice rooms at a reasonable (for SV) price.

On Tuesday, we had breakfast at our place. Canned hash and poached eggs for the win! Then we headed out to Filoli, which is really beautiful. Gorgeous gardens that have a timeless feel. The original owner planted them knowing full well the peak would be in 100 years, well beyond his time here on Earth. The combination of impermanence and legacy is a dialectic beyond the scope of this blog but still interesting to reflect on.

That night, we had dinner at our place since the next few days would be pretty restaurant heavy. Wednesday morning, we headed up to Sonoma for our first day of wine-tasting and culinary delights! BTW, planning tip. While I have turned into much more of a planner over the years, it is crucial to pre-plan at the current time. Most places have limited seating and time-slots and you have to plan your trip as soon as you think of it. The further out the better. It’s a little much but since Hot Vax Summer was thwarted by the Delta variant, I think this is going to be the reality at least through 2021.

Our first stop was Medlock Ames. This is the only wine club SMS and I currently belong too. I think the wines are delicious, and I really like their thoughtful approach to farming and wine-making. I am a little less thrilled that they’re turning more to single-varietal ($$$$) and abandoning their blends. Mostly because I really love their estate blends they make each year. Alas, RIP. 2018 is the last year they’re making an estate red. I would say I should stock up but I seem to drink the wine more than collect it so I guess I should embrace the change.

ANY-way, we had a reservation for the “Olive Grove Experience.” This included a white/rose bottle per 2 people and a picnic basic full of delicious provisions such as Mt. Tam cheese, Bouchon bread, olives, MA jam, MA olive oil, and salami. We had a rosé and chardonnay, both of which were delicious. It was a gorgeous day and a beautiful space. It was the perfect start to our vacation and no matter what the occasion, I alway recommend Medlock Ames.

Then we went into town and had a Northern Italian varietal tasting at Idlewild. I love those Northern Italian wines. Strong reds with a hint of dirt. Yum!

Afterwards, we headed to Chalkboard. SMS and I had been several years ago, but I had forgotten. It’s pretty good but the portions are on the small side. Especially when the waitress claimed that they encouraged “family-style” eating. I guess by family-style, they mean that everyone can stick their fork into everyone’s decidedly individually-sized portion. The food is delicious, but the comic relief was when we all ordered the soup and instead of a cup of soup, received teeny-tiny shots of soup. Several pictures were taken to document the size relative to common objects. I realize this paragraph sort of makes me sound like a pig, but this restaurant was a little on the ridiculous side. But still, delicious food!

We headed back to our hotel which, by the way, was a complete delight! The Camellia Inn was reasonably priced and in the heart of downtown Healdsburg. The rooms were great and the breakfasts were quite nice. We also went swimming both afternoons, which was refreshing after some pretty warm temperatures!

Only two of us got the memo that on Thursdays, we wear pink!

The next day, we drove to Sonoma proper to have lunch with my Mom’s cousins at The Girl and the Fig. It was such a lovely afternoon. The cousins are younger than my parents, but older than SMS and I. We had such a nice lunch and it was fun to catch up. We all had to head out after a couple of hours. The cousins went back to work and we went to Silver Oak.

SMS prefers the Sonoma Silver Oak vs Napa. The tasting room was beautiful. We were outside, which was warm but tolerable since we were in the shade. The view was beautiful, the building gorgeous, and the wines delicious. We all really liked the experience.

After heading back into town, we went for a quick swim and then got ready for dinner. Dinner was at Bravas restaurant, where we had Spanish tapas and split a paella that was phenomenal. We sat in the back courtyard and it was such a beautiful, bug-free space.

The Sonoma part of our trip was awesome. A fair bit of pre-planning and reservation-making, but it made for a smooth trip with delicious wine experiences. Next up, our Northern coastal adventures.

Highlights: August 2019 (Part 1: Road Trip Edition)

SMS and I are YouTube stars.  Yes, really!  Ok, no, not so much.  But we do have our own channel with 11 subscribers and a few hundred views.  We’re going to go viral any….second…

But, yes, I’m going to be a little bit lazy and start off with the YouTube channel first since it covers our entire cross-country trip from Norfolk, VA to San Diego, CA.  We had a really nice time although, surprise, surprise, it was a lot of driving.  (This blog: come for the pictures, stay for the insights.)

But I do have pictures!  Yes,  I’ll go into a few highlights and lessons not really covered in the Vlog since our main focus there was the logistics of driving an EV cross-country.

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Birds go first!

Lesson 1: There is always more stuff than I think!  Argh, yes, I envisioned a completely clear back seat so that the car was less of a target for break-ins.  But, yet again after many moves, the “small amount” I left behind blossomed and filled the trunk and back seat.  While this may have been a predictable outcome, it was still annoying.

Our starting point was Virginia Beach.  We actually touched the ocean before leaving, although by the time we got to San Diego, we were over it and didn’t make it to the coastline proper.

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Breakfast with Dad at Three Ships coffee in Virginia Beach.  I love that place and their country ham biscuits are delicious!

After breakfast with Dad and dropping him off at the airport (you can’t ride with us!), we went to the hospital for my final checkout.  There, I had my first Bates blowout of my career.  What’s that, you ask?

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Bates Blowout

A Bates Blowout is when your overpriced, cheaply made Bates uniform shoes completely fall apart on you in very short order.  I never really believed people before it happened to me, but it’s real.  In the span of walking 30 feet down a hallway, my shoes completely fell apart, shedding chunks of black rubber along the hallway.  It reminded me of a line from a Will Farrell movie: “I’m not angry, I’m impressed!”

So, we finally hit the road where I promptly sliced the tip of my finger open.  See vlog for evidence.  So yes, the road trip was off to a rough start and SMS is a saint.  The end.

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Kidding!  Our first stop was Charleston where we stayed for two nights.  It kind of squished the rest of the trip but this was the city we wanted to explore a little more.

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Charleston was very pretty.  I was somewhat tempted to go on some sort of tour, but after a crazy month, I just wanted to relax and walk around.

We ate a few delicious places, some planned, some not.  167 Raw is a delicious temple to awesome seafood.  It has a pretty relaxed vibe and it was fun to learn a little bit more about oysters from the really nice bartender.

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We stayed at the Grand Bohemian hotel, which offered overnight charging.  The hotel was pretty awesome with a lot of contemporary art works on display and a cool gallery on the first floor.  We met up with my cousins at the Eleve rooftop bar, which had a really nice outdoor space.   I felt very cool because my cousin’s girlfriend said she had been wanting to go there for a long-time so I felt in the know, even though I had no idea what was cool!

The next night, we went to Chez Nous, which has a really good reputation with a very small menu and cool interior.  Honestly, we didn’t love it but it was fine.

Afterwards, we went to Edmund’s Oast because I had lasting FOMO from when I was in Charleston for a bachelorette party and I didn’t have the PB&J beer because I was worried what it might do to my stomach at the beginning of a night of dancing and drinking.  Ha!  Don’t tell me I don’t have good judgement!  Well, maybe it’s not perfect judgement because I still wanted to drink it and it was, at best, so-so in my opinion.  Win some, lose some!  The outside courtyard was a total winner though and it was nice to relax outside.

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Then, we were off!  We met up with our Yokosuka friends while charging in Atlanta.  Emily is out of the military and studying to be a CRNA while her husband continues to work as a civilian as well.

Another awesome meal stop was in Birmingham where we stopped at Saw’s BBQ.  We both ordered the Pork ‘nGreens, which I rhapsodize about on the YouTube episode.  SMS ordered it the last time we were in Birmingham and this time, I didn’t make the same mistake of not getting a plate for myself.  It’s a dish with a delicious nest of grits with collard greens, pulled pork, and fried onions on top.  This does not sound amazing but I promise you, it is completely insane.

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We pulled into Memphis late that evening and the next morning, we had brunch with more Yokosuka friends!  I am so happy to have seen my friends, whom I basically just messaged out of the blue to see if we could meet for a meal.  I didn’t invite ourselves over to Brooke and Aaron’s but because of the kids and visiting parents, it was easier for them to meet at their place.

After brunch, we hit the road.  Aaron lent us a Route 66 book that we used during our trip.  They also recommended going to Bass Pro shop inside a former basket ball arena, a 535,000-square-foot pyramid!  We took the slow elevator to the top and had a pretty incredible view of Memphis.

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On our way West, one of the Tesla Superchargers was in the town of Shamrock, TX.  There’s an old restaurant (no longer in service) and U Drop Inn, a highlight featured in the Route 66 guidebook!  The building is featured in the animated movie Cars.  It’s very cute.

It’s also staffed by the most aggressively nice volunteers I ever met.  We were strong-armed into a photoshoot, posing in the restaurant and sticking a pin in the town we’re from.  The map, aided by the fact that every visitor is forced at nicepoint to place a pin, is pretty impressive in showing the worldwide appeal of Shamrock, TX.

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SMS drove the car up to the pump and pretended to fill the Tesla.  We’re hi-wa-wi-ous!!!

At another Texas BBQ stop, we came upon a DeLorean time machine.

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Another highlight featured in our YouTube episode: The Continental Divide.  You will see SMS pour out water from a bottle.  Where will it go?!?!

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The Grand Canyon State…*sigh*…someday I will see the Grand Canyon.

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The Petrified Forest vista.  I wish we could explore the park more but our charge was low, which meant our AC wouldn’t work in Park mode.  This was problematic since there were four feathered friends in the car that would have roasted.

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Thank you for caring!!!

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Random food shot- looks delicious!