Points, Miles & Life

Travel adventures on this earthly pilgrimage

Category: Funny (page 1 of 2)

Visiting the Grand Canyon in May – What’s with the Snow?

Back last spring (I know…just getting around to writing some of these posts!) the older two kids and I had an adventure across the desert southwest of the United States. Some of our stops included Saguaro National Park and a nice resort hotel in Phoenix, as well as an afternoon of hiking in Sedona. It wasn’t the sort of road trip where you get to linger. We had to press onward each day.

The day finally came where we would be visiting the Grand Canyon. But it didn’t go at all how I imagined.

Snow? In Arizona?? In May?!?

It was quite blustery during our afternoon of hiking in Sedona [SEE: Easiest Sedona hike (with a view)]. The rain started just as we were on the final stretch back the car and it continued as we wound our way northward and upward to Flagstaff. Funny thing about Flagstaff: it’s at an elevation of almost 7,000 feet. And while it had been a perfect 70 degrees in Sedona, it was now snowing. Snowing! Nothing was sticking, but it was still snow. In Arizona. In May.

When we woke up the next morning, it was still cold and lightly snowing, but there still wasn’t really any accumulated on the ground.

However, as we continued toward the Grand Canyon, we *did* start to drive through real snow. Eventually, the kids couldn’t take it any more and we had to pull over. This was their first time really experiencing the snow. It was not at all part of the plan.

The Grand letdown

I became a bit concerned about our visit to the Grand Canyon. What if it was cloudy and snowy and we couldn’t get a view of the canyon? Does this happen from time to time? I imagine it does. Here we were, in the middle of a trip that would stretch over 1,000 miles of driving, and we may miss our one chance to see the Grand Canyon!

My fears were realized when we parked at the Canyon Rim lot. It was difficult enough to see anything that far from us, as it was quickly obscured by the fog/clouds.  We stopped by the visitor center first, and I hoped that conditions might improve and we’d get a view of the canyon.

But no such luck. Once we were done in the visitor center and wandered over to the lookout point, all we could see was cloud.

I was bummed. This is not how I expected our first visit to the Grand Canyon to go. Who knew that May would be such a poor time to visit?

The kids wasted no time in making lemonade from the lemon of a day we were given. They were enjoying a delightful romp in the snow.

A brief breakthrough

We slowly walked west toward the geology museum at Yavapai Point. The location is normally another picturesque viewpoint from the South Rim, but…there was nothing but cloud to see. However, after spending about 15 minutes in the museum where we got to see a cool model of the canyon, the clouds all of a sudden broke for just a few moments and we had a glimpse of the canyon below! Everyone inside rushed to the window.

It wasn’t a full panoramic view, but it was our first real taste of the Grand Canyon. The viewing window in the museum is great, as it provides a great vantage point while simultaneously letting you stay warm.

We spent a little while longer at the museum and were able to see a bit of the canyon on a couple more instances. Eventually I decided that things probably weren’t going to get much better and we might as well keep moving along on our trip. The breaks were very brief.

Chasing the sky

However, when we arrived back at the car, I could tell that the clouds around us were breaking up a bit. We hadn’t had a good view of the canyon except for those brief moments at Yavapai. But the sky looked slightly better toward the east, and the ranger had told us that there was supposed to be a slight lull before things worsened later in the afternoon. My gut told me that we would be able to have a better chance at a view at one of the viewpoints to the east.

So I started chasing that small patch of blue sky moving slowly eastward. We were eventually able to park at a crowded viewpoint. The gambit paid off. We were treated to this:

Things got even better when we made our way to the next vantage point, which is aptly named Grandview Point. The view was pretty grand, and we finally were able to wonder at this natural marvel.

We took a brief walk down the trail from Grandview, enjoying a couple different vsantage points of the canyon. If not for the clouds looming to the west, you might think there was nothing wrong with our day at the Grand Canyon.

I’m *so* glad we didn’t give up completely. Even though we were only able to enjoy this view for about 20 minutes, I was glad to have seen the Grand Canyon. We’ll be back again, I’m sure. At least the first time wasn’t a complete failure.

Conclusion

It was then time to move on. We had a dinner date in Kingman with friends, and with a few hours of driving to go, I hoped to make it there in time. The poor weather dissipated as we got further from the Grand Canyon, and eventually we were back to the sunny skies and pleasant temperatures that were much more familiar to an Arizona spring.

4 Funniest Moments from our China Trip

After detailing each day of our trip, I thought I’d compile some of the funniest moments and encounters from our 10 days in Beijing and Hong Kong. You never know what kids are going to say, or how people in other cultures are going to perceive you. Which led to some funny exchanges.

This is China?

While headed to Eureka to pick up the rental car, the little guy chattered on about us going to China. He was excited to stay with mom for over a week by himself.

When we arrived at the rental lot and pulled in, he quizzically asked, “this is China?” Gave us all a good laugh. No concept of geography. Yet. If only we could travel across the Pacific in a mere 30 minutes!

Twenty-nine? No way.

After spending a few hours exploring the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, the kids and I got in line for the toboggan run back down the mountain. This was one of the highlights, from everything I’d read. We had just made it to the front of the line when the operator put the whole show on pause for a coffee break. He also started chatting it up with me and the kids.

Our first exchange was funny enough. He offered my his tin cup of coffee, which I politely declined. But he wouldn’t take no for an answer, so I finally took a swig and handed it back.

Then he asked how old I was, which I found odd, but hey, I don’t mind answering questions. My response of “twenty nine” floored him. “No way,” were the first words out of his mouth. Apparently someone so young shouldn’t have kids so old, as he proceeded to be astounded at the ages of my two older children. He has a son who is three years the senior of my daughter, but at 46, he is quite a bit older than I am.

Ew, that’s its head!

During our last lunch in Beijing, the kids asked if we could order the duck. It was a bit pricier than other options, but I decided to humor them. I’m all about new food experiences (withing reason…we passed up the scorpions on a skewer).

However, I didn’t realize *I’d* be eating the whole thing. The instant my daughter saw the whole duck cut in half and then carved into slices on the platter, she refused to touch it. Apparently it was now the grossest thing ever. Ever. My son decided not to eat any either, so now I was left with a whole duck to consume. Funny, but also not funny.

Falling asleep in an upright lie-flat seat

Our flight back to the U.S. was in business class, a splurge that I justified because, hey, we had the miles, and we’d all arrive more rested back in the U.S. My son in particular wanted to jump right back into school the day after we got back. The only issue with the flight that I chose was that it left Hong Kong after midnight.

I knew the kids would be tired by the time we were aboard, but this would just mean they’d sleep better in their lie-flat seats. My daughter struggled to keep her eyes open as we boarded, and she ended up zonked before we even hit cruising altitude. I had a good laugh when I was finally able to unbuckle my seat belt and check on them, and she was fast asleep in her upright lie-flat seat.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, the difficult or tense moments often stick out the most from our travels, such as almost losing my son on the Beijing subway, or our scary encounter on BART in Oakland. But the funny ones make for better reflection. I can’t wait to see what this current year brings us.

The Two-Hour Time-Traveling Flight

An odd pastime of mine is looking up obscure flights, simply for fun. Lately I’ve spent a bit exploring options in central Asia, as I’d like to visit Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan someday (among lots of other places). This allowed me to stumble upon a perplexing schedule for a China Southern flight.

We really arrive 10 minutes before we left?

The flight that goes backwards in time

The fact that some flights “go backwards” in time isn’t exactly news. Most that cross the international date line from west to east end up arriving at an earlier time than they departed. Sometimes they arrive during the previous day. My Qantas return flight from Brisbane did just that when I visited Australia for a week on the cheap. Check out this Jetstar flight from Sydney to Honolulu as an example:

It leaves at 4:25 p.m. and arrives at 6:00 a.m. the same day. It’s like Groundhog Day. You get to repeat it a second time.

What is odd about the China Eastern flight is that it has a block time of a mere 1:50 and has a scheduled arrival time 10 minutes earlier than departure. I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered a flight that does this outside of those that cross the date line. I’ve seen super short hops that arrive at basically the same time they left. They are simply in neighboring time zones. But losing time?

Apparently you get to travel 10 minutes backward in time if you fly from Urumqi, China to Almaty, Kazakhstan on this China Southern flight. Urumqi is at GMT+8, while Almaty is at GMT+6. The two cities are barely 500 miles apart. Even crazier is the fact that China at GMT+8 borders central Asia countries that operate at GMT+5. The flight from Urumqi to Tashkent lands exactly when it arrives.

How is that for wonky?

The odd time zones of western China

Western China drew the short straw when it comes to time zones. Actually, they didn’t really get any say in the matter. As a matter of national unification, Mao Zedong changed the country to a single time zone.

This leads to some interesting sights in the western part of the country. In Kashgar, China’s westernmost city of a reasonable size, you may experience sunset a mere hour before midnight. It could be completely disorienting if you aren’t expecting it. Plus, the extreme difference leads to two time systems being used concurrently. Talk about confusing.

Urumqi overwhelmingly uses Beijing standard time, as there are a large number of Han Chinese who have migrated there. Beijing standard time is their system; they wouldn’t conceive of using something else.

But other cities that are predominantly minority Uighur population tend to disregard the time imposed on them by Beijing. Some places will post two schedules, one in Beijing time and the other in local time. In more rural areas, Beijing time isn’t even on the radar.

Imagine for a moment if the U.S. operated the same way. The distance across China is roughly the same as across America. If everywhere had to adopt East Coast time, the sun wouldn’t come up in California until 10:30 in the winter. Sunset would be at midnight in the summer. The reverse would be just as bad. New York would have a 2:30 a.m. sunrise in the summer months. It’d be a mess.

Conclusion

I’ve probably either bored you or intrigued you by my musings on the oddities of time zones and traveling rapidly across them. One thing is for certain, though. Changing multiple zones at a time is always disorienting. We experienced utter exhaustion re-starting a day on our recent trip to Paris (SEE: 3 Days in Pars: Day 1 – Surviving the Jetlag).

3 Tips for Hiking with Kids in the Desert

During our time traversing the Southwest a couple weeks ago, we embarked on four different short hikes in the desert. Well…some of them you really can’t call hikes. Even in 100-degree weather, walking 400 yards or so out onto the salt flats at Badwater Basin in Death Valley still doesn’t qualify as hiking in my book.

But…it does to some. Including my kids. They weren’t ecstatic about my ideas and made their position on hiking quite clear. It took some significant coaxing and prodding to get them out of the car a couple of times. To them it was sooooo miserable that they wanted to stay in the car in 100-degree weather (yes, really).

After all my effort, I thought I’d note down a few tips in case you consider traipsing through the desert with your own brood.

Tip #1 – Reconsider the whole idea

I mean, really. You probably shouldn’t go. Unless you enjoy dragging whiny children over sand and rock for a couple hours at a time, this isn’t for you. Whether it is their supposedly hurting feet, or the fact that they didn’t bring enough water (in other words…they poured it all on the ground…or on a sibling), they will let you know.

At every moment you have to not just urge yourself onward but your children as well. It’s like they think they are going to die from a mere 90 minutes of desert exposure. Somehow the kids that were soooo happy to finally be someone warm suddenly think they are going to melt if they have to do something besides splash in the pool in 85 degrees.

Save yourself the pain and just stay home. It’ll be better for everyone involved.

Tip #2 – Bring earplugs

If you decide to go against your better judgment and still embark on this fun family outing ridiculous escapade, earplugs might be in order. It’ll prevent you from hearing the birds chirping, but you’ll also be able to enjoy the beautiful vistas in utter tranquility. Such was life at this moment in Sedona.

Ahhhh, peaceful Sedona.

But you might not need them anyway id the kids repeat themselves enough. By about the fifth time I’d heard, “I’m dying”, I had pretty much tuned it out. So I honestly don’t know if if was the fifth time or the twenty-fifth. I do know the first four times had included a quick check of each child: Blood? No. Signs of heat stroke? Negative. Out of water? Possibly, but typically not because they’re drinking it. Sweating? Yes, but that just means the cooling system is functioning properly.

Definitely no signs of dying. . Carry on.

Tip #3 – Just laugh

This was my one consolation. I finally realized how hysterically overdramatic their reactions were. Whenever I’d hear the newest reason as to why we couldn’t continue, I’d smile and keep slowly marching along. They’d always eventually follow.

I’d also chuckle when they’d use their water for things like making mud or dumping it on their heads. When they’d invariably run out, I’d happily sip my own. They’d just have to make it the last mile without refreshment.

Death Valley was the best. Although the temperature was pushing 100°F, we could literally see the car from where we’d hiked. And it wasn’t very far away. I’d had them hydrate before we got to Badwater Basin, and we each had a water bottle for our short outing. We were prepared for our excursion.

Yet it definitely wasn’t their cup of tea. This picture will forever make me giggle.

As for my own experience, I’d happily take a walk in full sun on a flat surface in a bone dry 100°F than an ascent at 80°F with any sort of humidity.

Ok…we did have *some* fun

In case you can’t tell this is mostly tongue-in-cheek, we did actually have some fun hiking in the desert. I definitely had to keep spurring the kids on at times, but it was a good experience for us overall. They don’t have quite the same appreciation of the scenic beauty of the locations we visited, but I am hopeful someday that’ll change. They’ll have to at least get used to it. Walking and hiking are two of my favorite things to do when traveling.

Of our four partial days of hiking, the kids enjoyed the red rocks of Sedona and our short trek to the waterfall at Red Rocks National Conservation Area the most. The latter hike didn’t start out all that pleasantly (as they had no idea what was at the end of the trail), but I was smugly satisfied sitting up on a boulder watching them happily toss rocks in the pool and enjoy getting close to the fall. I wish I’d had my camera out to capture the looks of horror when I finally told them we had to head back. Apparently they like the end goal of hiking, just not the process.

Would I take the kids hiking in the desert again? Absolutely. And we I would love every minute of it.

Hey look, I’m a pilot…with what?!?

A few weeks ago I studied and passed the FAA Part 107 knowledge test. This allowed me to become a certified small unmanned aircraft system pilot. That mouthful just means I can now fly drones for commercial purposes. The company I work for had asked me to get certified (and I was able to work my test into a personal trip), and I now even have a little experience under my belt (including a crash, sadly).

Getting my remote pilot’s license

You can test to become a drone pilot even without any flying experience (but you really should have some). I’ve been doing hands-on training with another operator within our company. The exam is computerized, and if you pass, you can apply for a remote pilot’s license. I did this as soon as I could following the exam.

When the card arrived, I added it to the already large collection in my wallet. But not before reading it and discovering one detail they’d messed up. Look for it. You’ll see what I’m getting at.

Yeah. It looks like a requirement of being a pilot of any kind is that you possess gray hair. I have to admit, this *is* a shared characteristic of many pilots I see.

By my reckoning I probably have at least a decade until this is a reality. But you never know. Maybe the card will turn out to be right sooner rather than later!

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