Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Where the antelope play

I left you last in the wide open spaces of Monument Valley, where you can see for miles across a desert spiked with rock formations that lend themselves to imaginative interpretations.

Kind of looks like a fort, doesn’t it?

And what’s the opposite of wide open spaces? Why slot canyons, of course!

Don’t you just want to go inside and see what’s in there?

A slot canyon is exactly what it sounds like, a narrow canyon formed by wind and water, winding it’s way through rock.

You’ve probably seen photos taken in slot canyons, the orange, reds and greys swirling rock and light together. The images look like modern art.

The sunlight coming down from the top illuminates parts of the canyon.

And if you’re a photographer or a painter you’ve wanted to see one of these for yourself.

One of the largest ‘rooms’ in the canyon.

I know I’ve always wanted to.

The colors all swirl around each other.

So I was excited when we were able to book a tour to one of the Antelope Canyons near Page, Arizona.

It looks like the set of some sci-fi movie.

I didn’t really know what to expect.

I couldn’t do this with a paintbrush, much less with wind and water.

But we were lucky, our group was small and our guide was all about photography. He stopped us at several places and told us where to look for the iconic shot.

Every corner we rounded caused new gasps of wonder.

He even suggested camera settings and took a few pictures of each of us using our cameras.

The texture was unbelievable.

I wasn’t sure what I got until that evening when I downloaded the images. There were a few that made me stop and say ‘oh’ and then grin.

I can’t tell if I was shooting straight up, or along a wall. Doesn’t matter, it was beautiful in every direction.

I hope they made you grin too.

You’re smiling…right?

And for absolutely sure, if you’re near Page you need to get yourself booked on a tour. Try to go in the off season so you get a smaller group, but go, no matter when you can go, just go.

Do you see the heart?

Camera or no camera, you’re going to be in awe as you walk through these canyons. And you won’t forget it, guaranteed.

All that rock carved into beautiful shapes and hidden away waiting to be found.

One more post about this Southwest trip is coming up. Stay tuned.

What’s over there?

Meanwhile…Katie-girl, we’re coming home soon sweetheart. I’ll make it up to you I promise.

One last look.


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Valley smiles

We’ve been in the west a week now, and every post I do about our travels out here should be connected to Trent’s weekly smile post because there are smiles just about everywhere I look!

The landscape gets more dramatic.

When I last left you we were in the painted desert which was beautiful in an entirely different way from the next places we visited. I don’t remember ever visiting Monument Valley before, so I was excited to see if it was as dramatic as they made it seem in all those old cowboy movies.

We actually turned around to get this shot, all the different terrain in one image. Pretty amazing.

It is.

But first we happened on the Valley of the Gods, which is just a little dirt road off of Highway 163 in Bluff Utah. We missed the road the first time we went by. There’s just one little old faded sign with an arrow telling you to turn down a nondescript dirt road.

Beginning the dusty drive through the Valley of the Gods. This was the only water we saw.

If you’re ever out in this part of the world, and you’re driving an SUV, not a low riding car, and it’s not raining, because the sign said the road was impassible if wet, then I highly recommend you take the hour or two or three it will take you to meander through this country.

The red against the sky was perfect in the afternoon sun.

There were huge towers of stone everywhere. It’s the kind of place that would make for wonderful night photography.

Imagine this with stars behind it.

But it also might be kind of scary to be out there alone in the dark.

Going through the Valley of the Gods was so worth it, even if it did put us behind getting to Monument Valley.

Monument Valley from the visitor center parking lot.

We drove up to the gate about 4:00, and they ‘close’ at 5:00. The woman was glad to take our $20 though and said we had plenty of time to drive the loop, even if “we were headed back out by 5:30 the gate would still be open.”

Just like in the movies.

We figured we’d start and see how far we got before we were kicked out. Plus the low sun made everything shine.

You can even ride a horse and pretend you’re IN the movies. That’s “three sisters” behind the horse stable.

It’s about here that I lost my phone, getting in and out of the car to get pictures. But I didn’t realize it yet.

Around the next corner was a stone monument I call the ‘broken finger’ because it looks so much like my right hand with it’s broken (and sort of crooked now) little finger.

I identified with this one. Ouch.

The light was starting to go, making everything even more dramatic.

More shadows now.

When I got back in the car after that last shot I realized I didn’t have my phone. I started walking back along the road frantically looking. No luck. We tried to remember the last picture I had taken with the phone and narrowed it down to three stops where I might have lost it.

This is the actual, not retouched, color that the stone was turning as the sun went down.

We drove around the last loop again, as fast as we could go over the rocky, bumpy, dusty road. No luck. My stomach hurt and I felt sick.

Can’t beat late afternoon light in the desert.

I didn’t feel like taking any more pictures. But my husband said, rightly so, we couldn’t change anything, so we should try to enjoy the last of the light.

It’s like someone created these scenes just to cheer me up.

And so we did, though my stomach still hurt and I was so sad that my phone was out there in the cold desert all alone. I know. That sounds silly. But that’s how I felt.

The big picture of Monument Valley at sundown.

No one ever came by to ask us to leave and there were plenty of people still in the Valley even at 6 when the last bit of light left the sky.

The last of the light as we left the Valley.

In fact, up at the visitor center there were a couple dozen photographers with their fancy cameras and tripods waiting for that last purple light. We waited there with them.

The end of a day filled with stress.

And when the light was finally gone we drove the 4 miles to our hotel, and sitting in our room my husband, for whatever reason, called my phone. And someone answered it. Turns out the visitor center has a hotel and someone found my phone and turned it in to the front desk. And the front desk guy heard it ring and answered.

Happy dance! My husband drove right back over there and picked it up. I am so grateful to that anonymous couple, and don’t you just love a happy ending?

Me too.

So where will we be next? You’ll have to wait and see. But I can tell you it is amazing. I don’t know if I’ll get it posted before we get home but it will be worth the wait.

Guaranteed.

On the road again…


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A crater and petrified wood and the painted desert – oh my!

Here I am, still trying to catch you all up. It’s hard when there’s so much to see. I’ll try not to rush you, but really we need to move along.

The view from the visitor center located on the rim of the crater, looking back over the desert.

So let’s visit Meteor Crater near Winslow Arizona. It’s a natural landmark that is privately owned by the decedents of the man who homesteaded the area way back in the 1800s.

Wind erosion is slowly filling the crater in.

The crater was made when a meteor hit the earth about 50,000 years ago. It’s about 3/4 of a mile wide and over 500 feet deep.

There’s an information center with a movie about the discovery and exploration of the crater over the years, a very large fragment of the actual meteor that you can touch, and guided tours along the rim.

Our guide, Priscilla.

I remember visiting when I was a kid, maybe in the late 60s. It’s much the same, though the guide told us there has been significant erosion which is one reason they don’t let people wander on their own there anymore.

Following our guide to the next point of interest.

Even though it’s kind of expensive, it was $20 each for us, a $2 discount because we were over 60, it’s worth going if you’re ever out there.

Not far down the road is the Southern entrance to the Petrified Forest. You would be remiss if you didn’t check it out.

It’s important to protect yourself from the sun here in Arizona, even in February.

We got in on my husband’s National Parks pass, definitely worth the money spent when you’re out here, we have used it several times already.

One of the first logs I fell in love with.

The road goes north and south, connecting two large highways, over twenty miles of interesting countryside, unbelievable vistas, and of course trees turned to stone.

Trees have fallen everywhere. They cracked when they petrified, no one chopped them up.

Right now, the middle section of the road is under construction so we could only go about 16 miles up the road. But it was fun anyway. If you only have a little time, I advise going on a short loop right behind the visitor center – you’ll see a lot of petrified trees in a small space.

This is “Old Faithful” a huge petrified tree located right behind the South Visitor Center on a short loop.

But really, try to go to Crystal Forest, a one mile paved walking loop with incredible petrified trees, and wonderful views. It’s paved and pretty level, and of course, if you get over petrified, you can always do only part of the loop.

The colors in the petrified wood are amazing, especially in late afternoon sun.

But likely that will be impossible because you’re going to want to know what’s around the next curve or over that rise in the path.

Take a walk in Crystal Forest. You won’t forget it.

If you were to go into the Petrified National Park from the north entrance you’d find an entirely different landscape. You’d soon realize you’re in the Painted Desert.

The north entrance has a building that used to be a restaurant and hotel, and now it’s a museum.

The colors, especially in early morning when we were lucky enough to be there, are almost indescribable. So I’ll let you just look and judge for yourself.

Stunning, right?

The red and green and rust and tan hills go on for miles and miles. At each overlook we had to stop and…well…look.

Amazing.

But we kept driving, and the landscape changed.

Well…this looks different.

We found ourselves surrounded by white mountains…

Interesting….very interesting.

…and following a paved trail we descended into a magical land of white and purple and blue and pink and grey piles of rock.

Isn’t this just the prettiest thing?

We gasped in surprise and delight around every curve. The morning light was making the colors glow. It almost looked fake.

To show you scale, the mountains were actually pretty big.

I’m telling you, don’t skip the north part of this park! Just because you’ve seen a bunch of petrified wood on the south side already, and you’re tired and thinking maybe you don’t need to go explore the north side, well, you’d be making a big mistake to skip this!

Loved those stripes!

After we walked back up the steep incline and out of the canyon we drove to an overlook. It was fun to trace where we’d walked. It looked sort of like a giant game board, with people moving along the path.

I don’t think we realized this was a purple mountain when we walked around it ourselves.

And, once we caught our breath…we headed back down the road.

On to the next adventure!

Next we’re stopping at Valley of the Gods and Monument Valley. I haven’t even downloaded those pictures yet…but I’m pretty sure there’s some good stuff in there.

On the way to our next location, this was a hint of what was to come.

And if you’ve followed this post all the way down here, thanks for your patience!

Yep, things are getting mighty interesting.


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We’re in the West!

Sometimes when you’re off exploring you get so overwhelmed with new sights that you just don’t know where to start. And that’s where I am right now.

On a drive up toward Roosevelt Lake north of Phoenix.

We’re in Arizona. Well, technically right this minute we’re in Colorado, but I have to get you caught up, and that means starting in Arizona. The images here are from the end of last week, starting in the Phoenix area where we visited friends.

Roosevelt Lake, on a beautiful sunny day.

We took a drive north of Phoenix, up toward Roosevelt Lake, driving through all sorts of terrain. The lake was beautiful, but the most beautiful that trip was this bridge.

Such a perfect reflection!

I liked that the ducks were swimming and messing up the glassy surface of the lake too.

A duck swims through the reflection.

After we visited for a couple days, we headed north for some exploring. We stopped at Montezuma’s castle, in Camp Verde, Arizona, where down a short walkway you could see the cliff dwelling sitting high up in the white stone. This dwelling was built and lived in by people from about 1100 to 1425.

Montezuma’s Castle, a cliff dwelling set along a beautiful river.

Then we traveled a few miles to Tuzigoot National Monument, another Indian ruin, this one sitting high on a hill.

Way up on that hill is the ruin of another Indian community.

We had perfect weather to explore the stone structure…

Lots of rooms in this multi-layered structure.

…and enjoy the views.

Long vistas, and no snow!

And finally, that day, we visited Montezuma’s well, a small lake that is fed fresh water from deep in the earth beneath the pond. Centuries ago it was a special place for gathering of the Indians from all over the region.

Fresh water coming up from the bottom, leaches out through the rock into a river below.

We were lucky enough to talk with a young man there whose people used to come there to pray and dance. He says they still do during certain times of the year.

There were cliff dwellings at the well too.

Since then we’ve seen a sunset in the desert, visited the Petrified Forest over the span of two days, wandered in the painted desert and crossed into Colorado.

Just can’t wait to get on the road again.

Oh and we spent one night in Winslow Arizona….had to get the iconic picture of that!

“Standin on a corner in Winslow Arizona…”

I haven’t even looked at the past two days worth of pictures, much less picked out some for you…but I will. We’ve seen some spectacular scenery and you’re not going to want to miss it!

Stay tuned.

Iconic Arizona


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Snow princess

Katie here.

So. Mama and daddy were away again and I spent a whole week at camp. But you know what? It wasn’t so bad. The girls love me there, I even got a kiss from one of them when I left. And they had to wake me up when mama came to get me, so I guess I can’t say I was all that stressed.

This is my backyard. Aren’t I beautiful?

Still, I milked it for all I could get on Friday when they brought me home. I talked a lot about how tough I have it, and I got a few extra treats because I made them feel guilty.

I’m very good at that.

And because mama felt really guilty about being gone a whole week she ordered up a couple days of snow for me. I love snow. Mostly, the past couple days I have been content to lay in front of my backdoor and watch it fall. That way I could keep an eye out for any marauding squirrels too. Sort of multitasking.

Time to get my feet in my snow!

But today the sun finally came out for a little bit and mama woke me up from my nap to ask if I wanted to go out and play in the yard. I wasn’t sure I really wanted to go, but she said she was going out with or without me.

Really? You’d consider going out there without me? I don’t think so mama!

I got this, mama!

I found a lot of really cool stuff. Like sticks that needed breaking up into small pieces.

Yep, this stick is history!

I even tried to break up a bigger stick but mama said I was being too ambitious and she was right.

This stick looks promising mama. Oh wait…it’s really long.

So I chased the snowballs she threw instead. I got quite wound up doing that.

I got it, I got it!!

Mama says all this new snow makes me look like I need to go to the groomer. I told her to pay attention and throw the snowball.

This one won’t get away from me!

I love this game, it’s my favorite thing in the whole winter world.

Did it go over there?

Mama’s not that good at throwing the snowball and taking pictures at the same time. You should see all the shots she deleted!

Well, obviously she should have deleted this one too! Geeze mama! Have you no decency?

But she still got a lot of cute images of me. I told her it’s not that hard to do but she says it’s not that easy either.

Yep, you can’t get any more cute than me!

All in all my little adventure in my own back yard was a whole lot of fun! I’m glad mama woke me up for a romp in my snow.

Throw it again mama!

Snow and supper, two of my favorite things. I hope it keeps snowing forever!

Talk later, your Snow Princess, Katie-girl.

Snow. The next best thing to supper.


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What made me smile this week?

Well, the week was spent mostly in DC and was very busy and full of stress. But once the work was done on Tuesday I had plenty of things to smile about.

I love Union Station.

I didn’t take my camera with me, so all the images I post today were taken with my phone. I had fun with the phone, you can take pictures of people easily because no one notices you messing with a phone.

Everyone going to work.

And someday I’d like to do a whole series about people on the Metro. I suppose there’s something less then honest about taking pictures of people without them knowing it.

Different generations travel together.

But I captured the images I did because the people caught my attention, both because of their diversity and because they were interesting. I love people watching on the metro. I’m hardly ever really on my phone there, I’m usually watching and sometimes snapping a shot.

Another thing I love about DC is walking at night. The monuments are, of course, beautiful, but we didn’t visit them this trip. We did, however, see other beautiful things.

Coming up out of the Metro at Judiciary Square. I love the lines.

A lot of the buildings are lit up and glow against the sky.

It shines more at night then during the day.

And the play at Ford Theatre was so good. It held my attention even though we were sitting so close to the box where Lincoln was shot. That usually distracts me, but not during this play.

The night time set contrasts against the lit box where the President was shot.

It was called “Silent Sky” and was about a woman in 1900 who mapped stars but couldn’t take credit for her work which eventually was used in the Hubble Spacecraft.

And still more I love about DC – the Metro. I know the locals don’t like it.

Late in the evening, not many people riding but I like that lone person on the escalator across the way.

There are lots of breakdowns and while we were there it was raining and there was more than one leak in the ceiling. Still….it got us where we wanted to go efficiently and quickly. And did I mention the people watching?

In fact, people watching is good all over the city, even in the museums.

Sitting next to her quiet friend.

No matter where you look there’s something fun to capture.

When I first saw this both guards were leaning on their side of the wall and I thought, for a moment, it was a mirror.

And the museums themselves are pretty awesome, and free.

Inside the castle visitor center for the Smithsonian museums.

It’s a wonderful city, Washington DC, if you can ignore the lack of production happening there.

There are great lines in the architecture everywhere.

Everything that is not political made me smile this week. I hope it made you smile too!

And the food is good too!


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Speaking up for safety

What would you do if someone called you on a Thursday and asked you to testify before a Senate subcommittee the next Tuesday? What if it was about something important, something close to your heart? What if the things that needed to be said wouldn’t be heard unless you went?

These people, and thousands more like them, are important.

Then of course you’d gather up your courage and go! So I did,

Time to go to work.

Yesterday, coincidentally on my dad’s 91st birthday, I testified before the Subcommittee on Transportation and Safety about the State of Trucking. I wasn’t alone, there was also representation from the American Trucking Association, The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers, the Livestock Marketing Association, and the State Police Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

The other guys. And me.

If you’ve ever watched a Senate hearing on TV you’ll know what it was like.

The Senators all sit elevated with big chairs. The witnesses sit together at a long table down below in front of microphones that have little clocks in them to time how long you’re speaking. And you have to remember to turn your microphone on before you begin. And especially to turn it off after you’re finished with what you want them to hear.

They ask questions from an elevated advantage.

It was an honor to be asked, but of course I was nervous. Still, the Executive Director of the Truck Safety Coalition wrote the first draft of my comments, and I edited it using words that I could get my mouth around. Then another board member helped me shave the speech down to five minutes and punch it up to gain attention.

The Hart Senate Office Building, where the hearing took place.

I practiced saying it out loud for hours on Monday, in front of my husband, the Executive Director and the board member. That helped a lot. And of course early Tuesday morning, while my husband was in the shower I spoke it aloud a couple times too.

A true statement.

Tuesday we arrived at the Senate Office Building early, to meet with one of my Senators who was going to introduce me at the hearing. Senator Peters is very supportive of safety technology and spoke eloquently about my work. I was the only witness to get an introduction like that and I appreciate him so much.

Meeting with Senator Peters before the hearing.

I got to speak first at the hearing, which was helpful, not to have to wait and listen to the other four speak. Though maybe I would have adjusted my talk to object to some of what they said if I had heard them first. But I doubt it. My oral testimony already countered most items they were asking for.

I think I was disagreeing with something.

Turns out teen drivers and allowing cattle haulers exemptions from the hours of service rules were the big topics, and of course I oppose both of those. But the Senators that agree with these ideas didn’t really want to hear opposition, so only one question was directed at me, and I was hard pressed to get any other thoughts in without them throwing me a question.

Sometimes it’s hard to get people to focus on what’s important.

A hearing is not a debate, you’re not allowed to interrupt other speakers, though one Senator, thankfully, did ask, at the end of her questioning if any of us had anything else to add, and of course I did. And toward the end I did just butt in on the last Senator and make a point disagreeing with the ATA representative about teen drivers, and thankfully was then backed up by the Independent Operators representative because they don’t want teen drivers either.

And that’s how the hearing ended, so I guess we got the last word, at least on one topic.

I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to speak up for safety. I wasn’t heard on as many topics as I was prepared for because many Senators on our side of safety didn’t bother to attend. And that’s a shame. There can’t be a complete discussion unless both sides come to the table. I may not be speaking at the next hearing, but I’ll be on the phone urging the subcommittee members to show up that’s for sure.

In order to make meaningful change everybody has to work together.

And that’s the lesson I leave you with. If you care deeply about a topic, any topic, and you have an opportunity to share that passion, don’t be afraid. Do the thing that scares you, make sure you’re heard.

Change is hard, sometimes it’s scary, but it’s always worth the effort.

I got lots of support from my husband too.