Welcome to our adventures. I try as best as I can to document the happenings here in our family - everything from the shenanigans to the spiritual, from the kid to the kitchen, from the cat to the catastrophes. We believe that adventure can be found in everything we do...even in the mundane tasks of the day. When we set our minds on things above in gratitude to God, we find the strength to approach life with a sense of purpose & adventure. The adventure may not always be what we have planned...but isn't that what adventure is all about?

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Aren't you glad you came back for more?

Now I didn't completely make good on my promise - as you can see Mike is nowhere in sight. We had to do covert ops to get the photos as the maid and a few customers were milling about. Yes, people really do stay in these things apparently. So there you go...the Wigwam Motel - you too, can sleep in a wigwam.

On to more important matters...such as - what did we do today on the heels of our grand, grand canyon experience. Here's the Reader's Digest version:

1. Had breakfast (well, brunch) at a cool greasy spoon cafe called Joe & Aggies Cafe on Route 66.
2. Drove through and stopped at various areas in the Petrified Forest
3. Drove through and stopped at various areas in the Painted Desert
4. Drove down I-40 going East for a long, long time looking at dried brush and the occasional cluster of stores selling Indian Curios, Blankets, Kachina Dolls and Buffalo Jerky.
5. Arrived in Albuquerque, New Mexico and proceeded to get lost finding dinner and hotel.
6. Checked in to our base camp and breathed a sigh of relief that we can actually spend more than one night somewhere!

First of all - I've been getting quite a few emails asking how Abby is doing with the whole traveling experience. She is loving every minute of it. She is really getting into observing the sights. To pass the time, she colors, practices writing on her dry erase book, listens to songs and stories on her MP3 player or watches an occasional DVD on a portable player. There have been a few times where she was a bit tired or hungry and she got kind of spun out - but otherwise, she's a fun kid to have in the car.

A few items from the Reader's Digest version above that I want to write about in further detail.

Petrified Forest - no, the forest is not scared.

After packing up at the hotel and eating our late breakfast at Joe & Aggies Cafe, we headed down the 27 mile road that travels through the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert. We started off on the southern end of the road and worked our way north and ended up on the I-40 going east towards New Mexico. We weren't really sure what to expect...I mean, come on, we are a couple of computer nerds - and even though Abby can use symbiotic relationship properly in a sentence, NONE of us knows what causes wood to petrify. And, more importantly - do we really care? Good grief, every time I tried to ask Mike what petrified wood was he would say, "it's wood that's scared". Sometimes I think he knows and he just messes with me. Regardless - we were hoping to get educated.

Our first stop was the Visitor's Center on the south end where we saw a short film that describes what conditions must exist for wood to petrify, as well as how the "Petrified Forest" came to be. According to the film, 225 million of year ago (during what was called the "triasic" period), that very site was lush, green, tropical land where dinosaurs roamed. Here's a quote from John Crossley on the website americansouthwest.net that gives a quick overview of what happens:
The preservation process began during occasional flooding, when some of the trees were buried by a great depth of water and sediment quickly enough to prevent aerobic decay. Over a long period, water containing dissolved minerals seeped into the wood and replaced the organic cells with stone. Much later, the whole area was uplifted and eroded to give the landscape seen today.
The whole process is fascinating...for a little more in-depth (but still understandable) knowledge, I would highly recommend reading this 2 page PDF article from the National Park Service entitled, "Trees to Stone".

We really, really, enjoyed looking at the Petrified Forest...it makes me want to be a geologist. Time, pressure and the right ingredients are sure to make beautiful things (hmmmm...I feel another spiritual tangent coming on...hold that thought). Abby really enjoyed climbing on some of the bigger stumps and boulders around. Here's a picture of her on one of the biggest stumps we saw - this particular stump was not as colorful as some of the others, but it was still petrified!

The Painted Desert (not to be confused with Dessert)
Remember what I said in my post yesterday about my rookie pics? Well, I've already dislocated my shoulder patting myself on the back - my pictures from today were pretty darn good. (See more of them here.) Of course, the subject matter is basically a mound of dirt, so maybe I shouldn't get too excited. But - these mounds of dirt are very beautiful to look at! Once again, I defer to people who know what they are talking about. Here is a small excerpt from the National Park Service brochure entitled, "Geology and the Painted Desert" that describes how these formations get their color:
The colorful bands of the Chinle Formation, which give the Painted Desert its name, represent ancient soil horizons. While the red and green layers generally contain the same amount of iron and manganese, differences in color depend on the position of the groundwater table when the ancient soils were formed. In soils where the water table was high, a reducing environment existed due to a lack of oxygen in the sediments, giving the iron minerals in the soil a greenish or bluish hue. The reddish soils were formed where the water table fluctuated, allowing the iron minerals to oxidize (rust).

I have to say...this was some spectacular eye candy. The colors were indescribable sometimes - I mean, yeah - they are rust, blue, pink, red, etc., but they are more than that. Do you remember those things we did as kids with the colored sand in the glass bottle? The formations sometimes reminded me of those. Absolutely stunning.

Other than these awesome sights - this National Park is pretty much featureless.

Another fun item of note - Abby is now officially a Junior Park Ranger! She has taken an oath (the lady made her raise her right hand and everything!) to help preserve and protect the parks of America. I'm sure Abby didn't really understand what the heck the gal was talking about, but she had to sign her name in a log and got a really cool ranger badge that she proudly displayed all day long (and will probably insist on wearing forever). The process of becoming a Junior Park Ranger is arduous...ok, well not really - she had to complete a few tasks while traveling through the park. She did a great job.

The Continental Divide and WHAT TIME IS IT??
Shortly after we crossed the Arizona/New Mexico border, we saw the exit for Continental Divide. Once again, I remind you that we are computer geeks, not knowledgeable in the ways of continental divides. I had to find a restroom badly, so we figured that surely the Continental Divide had restrooms - and then I could tell everyone on the blog that "I peed on the Continental Divide". Sorry - that was not really appropriate to say, forgive me if I offended you... Anyway - at the very top of the freeway exit we saw this sign. It's actually a historic marker that explains what the continental divide really is. Wow. I'm so much smarter than when I first left Concord, Ca. So - in case you can't read the details of the sign it reads, "Rainfall divides at this point. To the west it drains into the Pacific Ocean, to the east, into the Atlantic." Well, that's the Continental Divide in a nutshell. Further research revealed to me that all continents have a divide (man, I am really not painting a bright picture of my intelligence). I should really stop writing about this.

Lastly - we have been thrown into a time zone tailspin...the day that we left San Diego was the day that everyone is supposed to turn their clocks forward, losing an hour. However, that same day we arrived in Arizona, which is the only state of the United that doesn't participate in daylight savings. On Saturday, they were an hour ahead of California - but on Sunday they were now sharing the same time. Now, 2 days later - we cross into New Mexico who aligns in the Central time zone (2 hours ahead, but also a participator of daylight savings). So we are trying to decide if we've lost time, gained time or just stayed the same. If you figure it out, drop a line.

So as I write, we are cozy in our New Mexico base camp - ready for a few days of exploring the Alba-crackie area. There are some fun things to do here...which we are looking forward to. However, over the last week or so our eyes have feasted on some amazing sights....I think I need a day where I just look at normal, everyday things. I guess you'll have to tune in tomorrow to find out what that ends up being.