And now it is all over. Mirek and Hana have flown off to their life in the Czech Republic, and Anne and I have calculated the costs of the trip and picked up where we left off and are back to work and getting into our normal routines.
Looking back, this trip was almost perfect. The weather was great, with mostly warm, autumn like days interspersed with a few hot and a few chilly days. There was only one day when it rained, and on that day the rain only fell when we were traveling in the Trooper, from the South to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. And that same day was the only day that we had any threatening clouds. In fact, on many days during the trip we saw no clouds at all, just blue, blue sky.
As far as crowds, there seemed to be more tourists about on the weekend portions of our trip, and especially on the Labor Day weekend, when we were on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and in Zion National Park. The crowds bothered Anne and I, but our guests may not have noticed.
None of us got really ill. I had stomach cramps for a couple of days, but that passed. Hana got a blister, but if it bothered her much, she didn't complain. Mirek's hip seemed to bother him a bit after we hiked the slippery rocks in The Narrows, but his slight limp disappeared by the next day. So we were very lucky in this regard. I had three gnat bights that were an irritation, but that passed as well. On the first days in Yellowstone Mirek and I got our faces sunburned, but with the loving care of our wives that too passed with hardly a notice. We just walked around like we were embarrassed about something one of us had said.
Along the way we saw many magnificent landscapes, interesting people, ate great foods, and shared many priceless memories. We spotted a wide variety of animals, including some rare critters, such as the California Condors and the desert bighorn sheep. Of course there were Yellowstone's ubiquitous buffalo and elk, and lots of hawks and ravens and Turkey Vultures. We saw Wild Turkey, blue grouse, chukars, and cranes. We spotted one black North Kaibab Squirrel, as well as a variety of other squirrels and chipmunks. There were Prairie Dogs and coyotes and antelope (pronghorn) on the plains. A few lizards, one tiny snake, many deer, and a wide variety of western plants, from both mountain and desert environments. And our guests were introduced to cryptobiotic soil, or, "living sand," as Mirek called it.
We drove through parts of six states: Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona, covering over 2,600 miles of highways and dirt roads. We visited 16 national and state parks, monuments, and recreation areas:
In addition we drove within sight of Monument Valley, the San Raphael Swell, and many other natural wonders that our guests would have enjoyed just as much if we would have had more time.
Anne drove the entire distance, leaving me to navigate and act as tour guide as we drove along the routes through this spectacular countryside. I offered to drive at least once each day, but she refused my offer each time. (Besides ... she enjoys driving.)
And the language barrier ... it never existed. From the moment Mirek and Hana landed in Salt Lake City we were able to understand them. Their English was much better than they believed, at first. And when they found themselves struggling for the right word they were able to discuss it between themselves and come up with a viable solution. And it seemed that when Anne and I spoke slowly and clearly they could generally understand us. We tried to use few complex words, and that seemed successful.
However, in the evenings, when our "eyes were tired" from looking at all of the wonderful sights, and our minds were numb from absorbing it all, we often struggled a bit more with communication. But with a couple of beers (Bud or Miller) things stayed loose and we got by with laughter and good natured teasing. The language situation was actually one of the fun parts of the trip.
The foods that our guests found most interesting included onion rings, our traditional Thanksgiving style turkey dinner, pumpkin pie, Pizza Hut pizza, corn chips (both Fritos and blue corn chips, as well as Doritos), Mexican food (when it is not too hot), Fig Newton cookies, and barbequed ribs.
I think our guests were baffled by the variety and number of choices, even for simple items like bread, lunch meats, potato chips, corn chips, cereals, and other snack items.
And, we made very good friends along the way. I think the four of us got along very well, and seemed to enjoy each others company. After all, we were together almost constantly for 17 days and I don't believe a cross word was ever spoken (except between Anne and I 8^ ) the entire time. Unless, of course, it was spoken in Czech and we missed the tone and body language. We were all patient with each other and it paid off grandly.
Overall ... it was a great journey that the four of us will probably never forget.
Happy Trails ...