photo tours

An overview of where all we wentWell Hi! How are you? Great, glad to hear it! Me?? Oh, great great! Yeah, vacation was great, thanks for asking!

Those of you who also read Priscilla’s Blog have already seen the link to all of our pictures. We edited out about half of them, but there are still over 300. But, we’ve got them neatly arranged by place we were at, at there’s thumbnails and everything, so you can actually scoot through them pretty quickly if you, like me, have limited patience for looking at huge collections of photos.

Or you can just get the highlights here! First, that map there shows basically where we went. We flew into Denver, so if you want to follow along on the map (just click it if you want to) start on that side. You can zoom in and see the path with enough detail that you can use your inate-to-humans “snap to road” ability and pretty much know exactly where we went. Or, like I say, you can just look at the whole thing, it gives a pretty darn good overview, just not as cool (read: geeky). (Thanks once again to the amazing Gmaps Pedometer for making such things possible).
I’m not going to type a play-by-play of everything we did. But here’s a text overview, with quick reviews and links to photos:

  • Rocky Mountain National Park: We were more impressed than I expected us to be. If you go there, I highly recommend the Mill’s Lake Trail.
  • Snowy Range Road: We had a nice campground and a nice scenic drive, neither of which were in our original plans.
  • Grand Teton National Park: Amazing mountains, although not a lot of great trails or other things to do.
  • Yellowstone: Big and famous, but unlike anything else on Earth
  • Arches: From the mountains to the desert, and uncommonly beautiful desert at that
  • Canyonlands: It seems like it’s gotta be as big as the Grand Canyon. Probably not, but awe-inspiring and beautiful.
  • Manti-La Sal National Forest: Amazing campground on a mountain with amazing views of Canyonlands that sadly didn’t photograph very well.
  • Bryce: I can’t think of anything as closely linked to my sense of visual beauty as this park
  • Zion: Another home of yet another kind of rock formation. Also home to two unique hikes: Angel’s Landing and The Narrows.

Click to play with the google map overlayIn addition to all of those links to photos, I’ve also got just a couple of google map projections of GPS recordings of trails that we walked. My favorite is definitely this one of the Fiery Furnace in Arches. The rangers warned us that the GPS wouldn’t work in there, which was largely true… but apparently it got enough glimpses of GPS satellites to give a sense of where we went, although I bet a lot of these data points are pretty inaccurate. Still, despite its lack of precision, I love that aerial view of the furnace. And of course, you can zoom in and out and see the whole park from above, if you like.

I also have projections like this one of the Flattop Mountain Trail and the Mills Lake Trail (both in Rocky Mountain National Park) if you (like me) can’t get enough of this GPS/aerial photo stuff. (Thanks once again to GPS Visualizer for making this kind of thing so incredibly easy and so deeply satisfying). (Ok, and yes, thanks also to Google Maps. But unlike the other two things, everybody knows about Google…)
Anyway, as I hope is evident, we saw some amazing natural wonders, and we also had a great time. If all of this isn’t enough detail for you, I’m sure you’ll have no trouble convincing either of us to talk and talk and talk about it, so don’t hesitate to ask — at least, not for OUR sake. :)

All three of the vehicles When I called my insurance company to put the new car on, they explained that my best option was to transfer my existing coverage to my new car. But, by their rules, that means I have only 30 days to get rid of the old Saturn, or else start a new policy on it which would be expensive.

Meanwhile, there’s the van. The van was a gift from my parents, after it got old enough and of questionable enough reliability that they got a new one. It’s been very handy, helping me with several pickups of lumber, furniture, etc. It also helped countless friends of mine move.

But, during its last main job last fall, a scary thing happened. A big part of the suspension jetted up through the floor of the car. Eek! I asked some friends about it and most people thought it would be repairable. I took it to a garage, but they recommended a welder. I took it to the welder, but he said it might not be worth it, the van is old and rusty and it would cost at least a few hundred dollars to repair. I drove away to think about it.

Now, thinking is one of my favorite activities. :) I did some math in my head and calculated, after a while, that, for as little as I drive the van, it’d be cheaper for me to rent a U-Haul all of those times than to continue paying the insurance on it along with these repairs. Less convenient, sure, but still… My line to myself ended up being “if you used the van more often, it might be worth fixing, but since you don’t, it’s not worth it, at least not for you.”

The van's biggest problemSo, long and short, I had two motor vehicles to sell. And, just as I don’t have a great deal of experiene buying cars, I don’t have any experience selling them… The other two cars I’ve owned in my life were junked at the end of their times.

Again, it’s great that it’s so easy to use Kelley Blue Book and similar sites for things like this. The KBB value of my car was $1050-1250, depending on condition, and it definitely isn’t in top condition. So, I was gearing up to try to sell it for about $1000. Turns out that before I even listed it on line, I hear interest from two different friends, and ended up selling it to one of them for $925. Her other car is a pickup, and by our calculations, the Saturn will pay for itself in about 7 months in fuel savings for as much driving as she does. Wow.

But I did eventually get up my courage to list it online. I cleaned it up a bit on the inside (finding all sorts of things (especially cheap kids’ toys) that were apparently left in there when some friend was moving things). I figured I would try on Craigslist first, because it’s free and easy.

A tip for people thinking of listing something on Craigslist: do it when you have some free time ahead of you. Listing this old beast for $200 negotiable, I had two replies the next morning, both of whom very specifically made offers to pick it up THAT DAY. I actually had several meetings and stuff that day, so I had to work to fit one of them in. But, he was flexible, and we worked it out.

He worked as a professional welder in Columbus, IN, and apparently does welding in his spare time as well. So, I think the van is going to a good home. He drove over in his big pickup, pulling a trailer behind him.

I asked if we wanted to test drive it or anything. “Nah” he said “as long as I can drive it up on the trailer, that’s all I care about.” No problem there! So, up it went, he handed me the agreed upon $125, and a few signatures later, the van was gone. So simple.

The Van being Driven AwaySo, I’m a one car family again! :) I do like the new car, I’m happy about the whole experience. But, as a conclusion, rather than talk about the new car, I want to send a tribute to the old Saturn.

I have an approach to examining car expenses which is to look at the total cost of the car, including repairs (but not including gas or insurance) over the time that you owned the vehicle. I think you do pretty well if you can drive an economy car for $1000/year. So, if you buy a car for $13,000, never put any serious repairs on it, and it lasts for 13 years, you did well. If you buy an old car for $1000, put $2000 of repairs into it over three years, you did well. Or, if you buy a used car for $9000, drive it for two years with no repairs, and sell it for $7000, you did well.

Well, if I recall correctly, I bought the 1994 Saturn for $5500 in December, 1999. Over eight years later, I sold it for just over $900, so I my net expense was $4600. That car barely needed any maintenance. In fact, a year or so ago, I finally had a bunch of the preventive maintenance type stuff done on it, figuring that it had been at least seven years since it had any of that done. So, maybe I did $1000 of repairs over that eight years. Even at a full thousand, though, the total cost of ownership would be $5600 over eight years, an average of under $700 per year. And never once did it fail to get me where I wanted to go. That car served me extremely well, and it is just a bit sad to see it go. Of course, since I sold it to my friend, I’m hoping I can watch it continue to serve someone well for at least a few more years. Thanks, y’old Saturn…

New York at Sunset from the Air

It’s been about two weeks since my most recent post. Where have I
been? Well, although it doesn’t explain everything, part of the
distraction from posting was a trip to New York City. Sue had a
conference at the Waldorf Astoria, and she asked if I might like to
meet her, stay for a few days with Meg (my very dear friend from
high school) and her family, and to have some fun in The City (as the
locals call it). Well, yeah! So, I was there from Friday evening
through Tuesday morning, March 3-7.

Partially inspired by [my friend Beth’s world famous
blog](, I figured I should do more
telling of stories of trips on my own blog. So, welcome the new
“photo tours” category, and here’s a bit about our trip to NYC!