Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Up in the air! An end of season farewell to the RV!


October saw a return to time spent in the RV – our company command center – as we pulled back onto Americas highways with an opportunity for yet another “bizcation.” The primary focus was business, as we were leveraging an opportunity to catch up with former colleagues as well as others providing insights into where technology was headed, particularly when it came to HPE. If you have a need to check into the business aspects of our trip then check out the posts to the NonStop community blog Real Time View of October 15, 2017, NonStop future – not all what it seems! Sometimes, you just have to get out and meet folks to better understand the reasons driving change and this trip proved no exception.

As it so happened, our trip took us to Albuquerque, New Mexico, at a time when the annual hot air balloon fiesta was well under way. Even though we missed some of the opening activities we were still able to take in a lot – very early in the morning, unfortunately. The one thing that escaped me as I became aware of this event is that hot air balloons work best when the surrounding air is very cold and so, waking in time for the 6:00am “balloon glow,” meant putting on almost all the clothes we had packed for the week!


Perhaps not something every reader is familiar with but the air currents above Albuquerque are rather unique. As the balloons begin their ascent above a large arena, they drift to the south where the pilots then up the heat to ascend to a higher level where the air currents reverse to take them back over the arena. This back and forth passage can be repeated several times with the more skillful pilots being able to descend back into the arena more or less on the spot where they first lifted off. Of course, there are many variances with these air currents and we often saw balloons sailing away to the horizon only to land in inhospitable terrain, but thanks to their chase crews, they always made it back to do it all over again the next day.

Part of the charm of this event comes from the sheer number of participants – at one point we were informed that there were upwards of 700 hot air balloons participating and it was hard to argue with this number the morning of the “mass ascension” which shouldn’t be confused with a religious ceremony. Rather, the balloons manifested themselves in every imaginable shape and as for the colors well, rainbows come to mind. As it so happened, we had parked our RV directly underneath the point where the balloons came to a stop more or less before they ascended to catch the counter-current so we were able to capture them motionless for several minutes making it easy to take pictures. 

Many of those around us at this campsite considered attending this event as taking an important step towards checking off all the items on their bucket list. Having not ever considered taking in this balloon fiesta we were taken completely by surprise. We even saw the famous Wells Fargo stagecoach float overhead one morning. And of course, the famous ReMax balloon was easy to spot for anyone familiar with their television advertisements. There seemed to be no limit to the number of companies that took advantage of this event to advertise their products and services only adding to the color that at times, completely covered the sky immediately above us. 


One morning, the ascension was devoted to all those balloons shaped like animals and there were even famous characters from the movies including Darth Vader and Yoda. And of course, the Armadillo gun fighter was hard to ignore! What did turn out to be good was that folks we wanted to meet and talk business with found every opportunity to drop what they had been doing to join us alongside the arena. As the activities came to a halt around 9:00am each morning there was still a lot of the day left to address business topics and for a couple of the folks, this continued through to when we shook martinis, something they had read so much about and wanted to see us shaking a couple for them, which we were only too happy to oblige. 


Leaving Albuquerque, and with the weather still very stable for this time of the year, we elected to spend the weekend driving back through Arizona and into Utah with a brief stopover in Zion National Park. Fortunately, this took us past Page and the eastern extremity of the Grand Canyon. Having elected to make this part of the journey a joint affair with our good friends, the Kennys. We have heard about Antelope Canyon, but  what was surprising to us was that we had passed the exit to this canyon many times without realizing just how dramatic a view of the canyon existed so close to a major highway. Having now seen it, we recommend the short walk down to the rim to anyone with plans to pass by Page.

Parking our RV in the spaces reserved for cars wasn’t so difficult when we arrived, but after spending an hour or so taking in the view, when it came time to leave well, that was an entirely different situation as we were essentially boxed in and had to be very precise with our movements extracting ourselves from the car park. But otherwise, this is a place everyone needs to visit – nothing had prepared us for how beautiful this arc of the river really is even as we had seen it many times depicted in photos hanging in galleries. While the early morning put much of the river in shadow it still gave us an opportunity to walk the rim of a pretty special place.


Leaving the park we headed into Zion where it wasn’t so much the sight of antelopes that caught our eye as it was the deer that fearlessly walked right up to our campsite. Even when a passing motorcyclist restarted his cruiser after snapping a few photos, the noise didn’t faze the deer one bit – he just kept on munching the greenery of a lawn adjacent to the very busy main street thoroughfare. Zion has always been a very special place for us as we find it one of the few parks where everything is in easy reach and while we have absolutely no interest in climbing to the top of its famous Angel’s Landing, we have walked a number of trails that originate in the valley.

This valley emanating from the Virgin River that begins at Zion’s popular Narrows Riverwalk, is alive with animals at this time of year and we saw many bush turkeys, hawks of every variety as well as the deer. Hanging from the sheer rock cliffs we even saw more adventurous climbers pulling up stakes to continue their climb having spent the night suspended high above the valley floor in makeshift cocoons wedged into the clefts of the cliff face. We have seen climbers before, but each time we encounter them we just scratch our heads and wonder. And each time we think about it we help ourselves to a stiff drink and raise a toast – not for us, but all the same, we tip our hats to brave enough to take on these particular challenges. 


This time we did try to ascend to Hidden Valley which we thought we had read was labelled as being of “moderate” level of difficulty. It was only when nearing the top that we discovered it was not moderate but rather, labelled “strenuous.” Of course, our good friends Brian and Jan Kenny did continue to the top and then, without giving it any additional thought, rerouted and took in the loop to Observation Point overlooking Angel’s Landing only to recount how tough the combination of these trails proved to be. But no, not for the Buckle-Holen family, which had returned to the Zion lodge to enjoy a glass of wine with their hamburgers in the second floor restaurant. Sometimes, it is better to ere on the side of caution even if it means missing out on catching sight of landscapes unseen by almost everyone else. On the other hand, we have also come to realize that, in the words of Dirty Harry, we just “have to know our limitations!” 
  

Returning home was so much easier on us this time as we didn’t have to empty out the RV and walk into an unfinished home. After spending almost two months setting up our new home, it was beginning to take on a familiarity that made it easier for us to relax. Margo has done a simply fantastic job of bringing together the colors and the décor that make the place really something special and yes, by all accounts, completely unexpected for the homes already built. The builder’s wife has stopped by now more than once to complement us on what we have done with the place, even suggesting that they may want to photo the finished spaces as few others have quite had the imagination that Margo has demonstrated. I would like to think I did have a hand in it all but in reality it was only minor when compared to what Margo sought to accomplish.


Returning home was so much easier on us this time as we didn’t have to empty out the RV and walk into an unfinished home. After spending almost two months setting up our new home, it was beginning to take on a familiarity that made it easier for us to relax. Margo has done a simply fantastic job of bringing together the colors and the décor that make the place really something special and yes, by all accounts, completely unexpected for the homes already built. The builder’s wife has stopped by now more than once to complement us on what we have done with the place, even suggesting that they may want to photo the finished spaces as few others have quite had the imagination that Margo has demonstrated. I would like to think I did have a hand in it all but in reality it was only minor when compared to what Margo sought to accomplish. 




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