Monday, June 06, 2005

So much better than we expected!

We woke up Sunday morning just in time for the Baptist church service at Bryce Canyon Lodge. Obviously Mormonism is huge in Utah, so we double-checked that we were indeed hearing the Baptist service! A pastor with a church in nearby Panguitch comes out each Sunday morning to do an 8AM service. There were 8 worshipers there until we arrived; you can imagine how glad they were to see us, which almost doubled their attendance! It was a beautiful service...singing "Majesty, Worship His Majesty" never seemed more appropriate.

By 10 AM we left Bryce Canyon and headed towards Zion National Park, only an hour and a half drive. Of all the National Parks, Zion was the one I was least excited about. Probably because the highlight of Zion for most people is wading in "The Narrows." However, because of the big snowpack and warm spring, the narrows are closed. The normal amount of water moving through there is 100 cubic feet per minute; currently it is 1350 cubic feet per minute! We were disappointed about it, but after hearing those statistics we realized it would have to wait for another trip.

The one thing I was excited about Zion, though, was our hotel. I’d done a lot of research in planning our trip on Fodor’s Travel website. You can ask questions or do searches on any location; then many people who’ve been there give advice...where to stay & eat and other "must do" things for an area. It was a big help to me in planning our entire trip. For Zion, many people had recommended staying at the Desert Pearl Inn. When I called to make the reservation, the clerk recommended booking for two nights. She said no one ever wants to leave and they are always fully booked and unable to accomodate a last-minute request for an additional night. After spending five minutes there, we understood why. Fodor's picked this place as one of the Top 20 Best $158 per night, it truly is!

We arrived at Zion in 95 degree weather and after touring the park for a couple hours, checked into the Desert Pearl. We were thrilled to find a gorgeous room and really nice pool. Hiking in that oppressive heat could wait; we had relaxing to do! The room was just gorgeous, more like a condo than a hotel room. It was very spacious with hardwood floors, and decorated with a southwestern flair, complete with a leather couch in the front of the room. The front of the room was all glass, and led out onto a private patio with easy access to the pool. And all in the most idyllic mountain setting. this was luxury! Oh did I mention the bidet in the bathroom?? The kids all thought that was the grossest thing they’d ever seen!

While the kids swam I sat on the patio (not the bidet) catching up on my journal. Then the weather was so nice I headed out to the pool. A man sat down beside me as we watched our kids swim. We struck up a conversation with the obligatory, "Where are you from?" Turns out he was from South Carolina, near Charleston. Now that got my attention, since Charleston is my most favorite place in all the world. It’s where Alan & I spent our honeymoon years and it will always hold a special place in my heart.

Now here comes another story you need to know to understand the "rest of the story." Alan & I got married 2 weeks after I graduated from Penn State with an Accounting degree. I got a job with a public accounting firm, Arthur Young & Co. (same ones who’d offered me the job in Stamford, CT). My office was on Meeting Street, arguably the most beautiful and historic street in the United States. I loved the city but did not like my accounting job...long hours and high pressure. All I ever did was look out the window and dream of being a carriage tour guide, but didn’t know how to reconcile that career with my accounting degree. When my grandparents came to town and took me on a carriage tour, I was hooked! I studied hard to learn the history of Charleston, worked on my Southern accent (since we wore Confederate uniforms you couldn’t have a YANKEE giving the tour!), and got a job at Old South Carriage Company. Quitting my accounting job was wonderful and I loved the time I spent giving carriage tours in Charleston!

So I told this guy the story and he said, "Which carriage company did you work for?" When I told him which one, he said, "So you worked for David?" Turns out his name was Doug and he was the priest where David and his wife Debbie went to church! Wow, what a small world! We had fun hanging out with Doug & Tricia and their children, and all of us wished our mutual friends, David & Debbie and kids were there as well.

There was a huge grassy area there so while the adults hung out together, Alan held a volleyball clinic for all the kids. A few lizards even showed up to join the fun. I don’t think I will ever get used to lizards, but I guess this is the desert, and for sure they are better than snakes!
Zion National Park turned out to be one of our favorite parks. Isn’t it nice when you have modest hopes for something and it exceeds your expectations?! There are huge stone mountains everywhere, and the nicest thing is that there is a shuttle system that takes you anywhere you want to go. It was nice, especially for Alan, to be able to park our car and then let the shuttle drivers deal with the treacherous hairpin turns in the park. Zion’s stone mountains are really impressive and there are so many trails to hike. Unfortunately it was extremely hot and tiring and our hotel was extremely cool and relaxing. So we will have to save our serious hiking of Zion for the next trip Zion is only two hours from Las Vegas so I don’t doubt that someday we’ll be back, specifically for Zion, and of course, more four-wheeling, which is very popular in southwest Utah. And to think we almost cut the Bryce/Zion part out of our trip! We talked about how much extra driving it would entail and probably would have nixed it had my friend Brenda not brought her album down and insisted we go there! It's been the highlight of our trip so far.

The Desert Pearl was within walking distance of town and enjoyed pizza at Zion Pizza & Noodle. At night the hot tub at the Desert Pearl is adults only so we put a movie in for the kids and then joined some other adults in nice conversation out at the hot tub. We had a great night’s sleep on plush mattresses with down comforters. Alan says to not forget to tell you about the 300 count sheets. (I had no idea he even knew what they were!)

As I sit here typing on Monday morning, I see a gardener working on the flowers. Gives me a twinge of homesickness...I’m really tempted to ask him if he needs some help! I envied him digging in the dirt. It will be nice to be home again working in my gardens; stopping every now and then to play with our very much missed dog, Gracie. But for now, we are having an incredible trip and I am loving having all this time with Alan and the kids. The kids are doing so well with all this driving; unfortunately our biggest day of driving awaits us tomorrow as we need to drop down into Arizona, cross the whole state, and end up in Farmington, New Mexico.

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