On Tuesday morning, December 18, Barry and I woke up in the AirBnB we had spent the night at, just outside of Flagstaff. It was called the Mod Lodge. The blurb about it on the AirBnB site reads, in part, as follows:
The big red house at the base of the San Francisco Peaks contains within its walls Mudshark Recording Studios, the oldest running recording studio in Flagstaff in action since the mid 1970s. This historic Northern Arizona landmark was started by Phil Gall and has been recording local and regional artists for over 30 years! There are many tales in local folklore of visits to the studio by members of the Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead to Steve Miller and Linda Ronstadt.
It's a family's house but also doubles as a recording studio and has apparently been used by fairly prominent musicians for many decades. The original owner died recently, but the new owners are carrying on the business. The man of the house told us that he has worked for years with Tony Visconti, David Bowie's producer. Upon hearing that I'm a huge David Bowie fan, he told us some stories about Tony Visconti and some stories that Tony Visconti had told him about David Bowie. Mainly he told one story about how, in 1974, Tony Visconti and David Bowie and John Lennon were together in a room (John Lennon was a guest songwriter/backing vocalist on David Bowie's song "Fame" at the time) and David Bowie warned Tony Visconti not to mention Paul McCartney because it would set off John Lennon ranting about how angry he was at Paul McCartney. But Tony Visconti had recently produced Paul McCartney's album with Wings and was really angry because Paul McCartney hadn't credited him properly on the liner notes but had just printed "Thanks, Tony," with no last name and no indication of what Tony's role had been. So Tony Visconti complained to John Lennon about Paul McCartney doing that. And then John Lennon jumped up and said he'd been working on a song that had been reminding him of when he and Paul were kids and he'd been thinking of inviting Paul to work on it with him, but now that Tony Visconti had reminded him of what a jerk Paul was, he'd decided again not to invite Paul to work on anything with him ever again. And so David Bowie told Tony Visconti, "You just prevented the Beatles from getting back together!" and continued to blame Tony Visconti forever afterward for having prevented the Beatles from getting back together.
He told us that story just before we left. I guess I'm getting a little ahead of myself, though, because I should start with when we woke up. This was the view from the enclosed patio adjacent to our room.
Anyway, we got up and dressed, washed our hair, and started packing our stuff into the rental car. I accidentally left my shampoo, toothpaste, and toothbrush behind in the guest bathroom of the guy who works with Tony Visconti. I didn't much miss them, though, since by the end of the day we were back at Barry's house where I had other shampoo, toothpaste, and toothbrushes. We listened to the story about how Tony Visconti prevented the Beatles from getting back together. We looked around outside. Here is the same view as above, but from outside.
And here are a few other views from around the house.
Here is our rental car in the driveway, with one of our suitcases in front of it. It was a good rental car, this little Nissan Versa.
And then we were on the road again. It was about an hour and a half's drive from Flagstaff to Grand Canyon National Park. Upon arriving, we first walked straight out to the canyon rim at Mather Point Amphitheater. Here are two panoramic views of the canyon from Mather Point Amphitheater.
Here is the amphitheater itself, with Barry up at the top of it.
Here's a photo I took from the top of it.
And here's one Barry took of me from the top of it.
There was a nice rock for standing on at the top of it. I took a picture of Barry standing on the rock.
And then Barry took a picture of me standing on the rock.
Here's a picture Barry took from the rim of the canyon.
We walked a little bit west along the rim trail from Mather Point Amphitheater. It wasn't more than a quarter-mile or so just yet, but here are the pictures I took along the way.
Barry took the one below - showing basically the same scene as the one I took, above.
This one is mine again.
Along the way, but not actually at the amphitheater named for him, was this plaque about Stephen Tyng Mather. It says, "He laid the foundation of the National Park Service, defining and establishing the policies under which its areas shall be developed and conserved unimpaired for future generations. There will never come an end to the good that he has done." Camp Mather at Yosemite National Park is also named for him.
Near the plaque, a family asked Barry to take a picture of them, so we asked them to take a picture of us in the same spot in return. Unfortunately the spot they had chosen put us looking directly into the sun. One of them had the bright idea to hold up a folder to block the sun from our eyes, but this created bizarre shadows on us. I ended up Photoshopping together two different pictures of us, one with bizarre shadows and one with horribly scrunched-up faces because the sun was in our eyes. The result has implausible shadows that fairly obviously involve Photoshop, but it's still better than the extremely obvious and distracting shadow of a woman with her arm raised, holding a folder to cast a shadow over our faces.
I also took a whole bunch of panoramic photos from all around the area where the plaque was.
And some non-panoramic photos.
We then turned and headed back away from the rim, toward the Grand Canyon Visitor Center. On the way, we saw a javelina (Tayassu tajacu). Barry remembers seeing these in his childhood. Once, he saw two Boy Scouts chasing a javelina, and then a few minutes later, he saw the same two Boy Scouts being chased by the javelina. We saw this one from a distance, across a low brick wall as shown below.
However, I had my camera's 30x zoom lens to make it look like a closer encounter! The javelina seemed to be nosing around in a drainage pipe.
It was a good javelina encounter. We were good park visitors and did not try to harass the javelina, and the javelina in turn did not try to harass us.
We walked through the Grand Canyon Visitor Center. They had some exhibits where you were supposed to reach through a curtain to feel something and try to guess what it was, but I skipped most of those because I had a cold and didn't want to spread it to everyone. I did touch a few things, though, so if you were at Grand Canyon National Park on December 18 and you came down with a cold a couple of days later, it might be my fault. In my defense, it was not the flu. (But your flu could be my fault if you were at Yosemite National Park last February 28 and went hiking in the snow in the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias that day. In my defense that time around, I didn't know yet that I had the flu. We went home when we realized I had the flu.)
Then we ate lunch at Mather Point Café. There was a long line. Barry decided he wanted a burrito, and I decided I wanted a ham sandwich. There was a long line to get the food heated up, so Barry stood in line for both of us while I went outside to hold a table for us. The food was good.
After that, we waited at a shuttlebus stop and took a bus to Yavapai Point. The Grand Canyon has free shuttlebuses just like Yosemite has. At Yavapai Point, we went to Yavapai Geological Museum and Bookstore, which was significantly smaller than the Grand Canyon Visitor Center but had a huge window directly overlooking the canyon rim.
Then we walked two billion years of the Trail of Time, on the rim trail from Yavapai Point to Verkamp's Visitor Center. First opened in 2010, the Trail of Time is a timeline installed on the rim trail that walks visitors through the many stages in which the Grand Canyon's many layers were gradually formed over two billion years and also helps create a sense of how long two billion years really is. Brass markers set into the pavement at regular intervals represent periods of geologic time. Beginning at Yavapai Point, the markers initially represent a small number of years, but the scale is gradually stepped up until each brass marker represents 10,000 years. These 10,000-year increments continue until they add up to two billion years. Each time period along the trail is represented with labeled rock samples from the layer of rock that formed during this time period (as shown below), and also with little spyglasses mounted along the trail and aimed at this layer of rock in the canyon, and also with signs explaining what this layer of rock is made of and how it formed.
My reaction upon first seeing the Grand Canyon was to take a ton of photos of it, but by this point in the day I stopped taking as many photos and focused more on experiencing the Trail of Time - reading all the signs and looking through all the spyglasses at the different layers of rock. This was a 1.3-mile walk, significantly longer than the earlier one, but I took only a few photos during it.
Here are a few that Barry took.
Here's one he took of me! I think I look a little sick though, because I was.
Here's one I took of him! This one is just perfect.
And here's one final picture of the Grand Canyon.
Apparently the Trail of Time continues around the canyon rim all the way back to the age of the Earth. But we just walked the main portion of it, the two billion years during which the Grand Canyon was formed. Upon finishing it, we toured Verkamp's Visitor Center, where I talked Barry into buying a Grand Canyon National Park centennial magnet to go with his Yosemite National Park magnet on his refrigerator. Then we toured the Hopi House, which was exhibiting and selling various works of Native American art. After that, we took a free shuttle bus back to our rental car and headed back to Phoenix. It was a four-hour drive back there.
Once we got to the Phoenix area, Barry asked me to search on his phone for a restaurant called The Baked Bear, but I couldn't find it. Then he told me a street name to search for, but we ended up at the wrong end of the street and took so long driving around that it no longer made sense to keep trying to find it. It was dark by this time. Barry pulled over to the side of the road and searched, successfully located the Baked Bear but decided it was now too far out of our way, and looked for other options. We ended up going to the Rodehouse Restaurant & Lounge, a sports bar where we had upscale burgers. Then we returned the rental car, took a bus to the airport at about 7:00 p.m., and caught our 9:40 p.m. flight back to Sacramento, just four days before the air traffic controllers stopped getting paid due to the longest and stupidest government shutdown in U.S. history.
The end! It was a fun vacation. Then we came home and went to a British panto performance of Moby-Dick, celebrated Christmas Eve with Barry's parents and Christmas Day with my parents, got stressed over designing and laser-cutting our wedding invitations, put aside the stress to go to a several-days-long New Year's Eve board-game party at our wedding venue, got invited to re-landscape part of the wedding venue, came back to Barry's house and dived back into the stress again, and finally sent out the perfectly gorgeous wedding invitations. Hooray! The main part of each invitation was made of wood, with text engraved on the front side and lupine flowers engraved on the back side. In front and back of the wood was some sky-blue, textured paper with RSVP information and such, and then we added a sparkly white gatefold around the whole thing, lasercut in the shape of a trellised gate, with lupine flowers at the bottom of the gate and lupine blue butterflies at the top of the gate. (The blue of the butterflies and the lupines was the blue paper showing through the holes lasercut in the sparkly white paper.) Barry lasercut some custom envelopes in the exact size of our invitations, with a border of lace-like heart shapes cut into the envelope flap. I addressed all the envelopes with calligraphy pens and put blue butterfly postage stamps on them - special 70-cent stamps with a "nonmachinable surcharge" because of the stiff wood inside the envelopes.
We dropped off the invitations at the Woodland post office on our way back to the wedding venue to spend a weekend re-landscaping the venue. Barry bought me a saw and helped me rip out some old vines. I pulled up weeds and planted a bunch of flowers. Then we spent the first half of February hounding people for RSVPs and found that three of our invitations had fallen apart in transit and never got delivered to the recipients (or the recipients received only empty envelopes). So we made a few more invitations and sent those out. Now we are fairly clear that we will have about 40 guests, give or take a couple, so we're back at the wedding venue to try to get the furniture rentals, catering, and wedding cake stuff all properly planned and contracted. It is stressful and involves talking to strangers, which freaks us both out a bit. But we are getting close! We may yet figure out how to get married. Hopefully soon!