Datagal's Blog

January 17, 2010

Day 7 — the long and painful trip back

Filed under: Uncategorized — datagal @ 11:33 pm

DAY 7 – JAN 2 – GETTING HOME: Jim stayed up till 12:15 packing and got back up at 4:45 AM on Saturday morning to continue packing.  I got up at 5

a one-handed breakfast at 5 AM in Flagstaff

something to eat a little bowl of cereal.  We got on the road at 6:50 AM, almost an hour after we NEEDED to be because poor Jim had to do EVERYTHING including dress me!  Then we had some drama on the way down with me being nauseated from the pain medicine, stopping to take the anti-nausea meds, throwing up in a plastic bag and getting to Hertz behind a long line of cars checking in about 90 minutes before our flight.

MEDICAL EMERGENCY: Jim said “We have a medical emergency, can you help us get to the airport in time for our flight?”  A gallant young man told Jim to get into the back and he drove use backwards out of the check in line before we got boxed in, took us to another area and handed the car over to gorgeous young African woman in full African sari(?), headwrap and probably 7-8 months pregnant.  Although she understood almost none of our English, she drove us straight to the curb check-in for Southwest Airlines without a hitch.

SOUTHWEST AIRPORT LINES OUT THE DOOR: Once I was in a wheelchair, a porter wheeled me right past the longest check-in line I have ever seen.  It was hundreds of people (nothing like our virtually effortless check-in at SFO seven days earlier).  We waited near security for 5 minutes and another porter rolled me past another giant line waiting to go through security and helped me remove my shoes. Then I walked (actually tottered is more accurate) through the metal detector; then he put my shoes back on.  Meanwhile Jim was looking a little like Charlie Chaplin with the assembly line.  He had to remove his shoes. put two people’s stuff in trays on the rolling racks, remove our laptop from the carry-on bag as laptops must go in their own plastic bucket, and put it all back together after it went through security.  After all that, we arrived at the gate to learn that SFO was socked in and our flight would be delayed an hour.

SCOTTY BEAM ME UP: I took the opportunity to call our nurse practitioner in Chico about what to do next regarding the wrist and mentioned the nausea.  She said I needed to take the anti-nausea meds 30 minutes BEFORE the pain meds.   What an improvement!  Once properly medicated and in the plane I was asleep immediately.  I had to wake up to get wheeled from the plane to long-term parking while Jim shepherded all our luggage from place to place.  Our car battery was dead because the dome light was on for seven days due to a problem with one of the sliding doors on our aging van.  I slept on the couch of the Westin Hotel for another hour while Jim got AAA and jumped the van.  We departed for Chico at 3:30 PM and got home at 6:30 PM almost 12 hours after we left Flagstaff.  Our map program says its 13 hours from Chico to Flagstaff, add a couple hours for stops and you are comparing 15 hours in our own car to 12 hours of tortured travel and MANY MORE DOLLARS.  Will we ever fly to Arizona again, probably not.

AND THE DAY AFTER he made homemade lentil soup AND drove me to my classroom in Orland and spent several hours helping me setup for a sub.  Jim deserves a MEDAL for getting us through all of that, BUT INSTEAD he has to continue taking care of me for a long time…WOW what a guy!!

[This account was typed one week later with my right hand only (not my dominant hand) so it was slow going…]


Day 6 New Years Day (or how I fell “into” the Grand Canyon)

Filed under: Travel — datagal @ 11:24 pm

Day 6 New Years Day

Friday morning, January 1, 2010, “AROUND THE BEND ADVENTURES” picked up Jim and I at 8:45 AM.

This guide service, which I highly recommend, features small group tours in a van out of Flagstaff (78 miles from the Grand Canyon) with an interesting and knowledgeable guide who takes you to many overlooks, brings his telescope for close up views, serves a delicious picnic lunch, and lets enthusiastic passengers take a mini-hike on a one-mile section of the Grand Canyon Rim trail.

Our van was driven by Wes, one of their guides with many years of experience leading back-packing hikes into the canyon as well as rafting trips through the Grand Canyon.  If you read the rave reviews on their website, he is named in all of them, so we were lucky to have their number 1 guide.  Not so lucky for Wes as it turned out…

Little Grand Canyon on Highway 64 east of the BIG ONE

HIGHWAY 89: We took a scenic route out of Flagstaff on Hwy 89 through the Navajo Reservation with beautiful views of the Painted Desert, crossing over on Hwy 64.  We stopped on the way at an overlook to the “little grand canyon” formed by a river which joins the Colorado the east end of the Grand Canyon.  Wes suggested the smaller canyon would give us some perspective on the “big one”.  It also gave us a chance to buy some Indian jewelry from outdoor tables. Scattered among a couple dozen empty tables, were a handful of very cold Indian women in the early hours of the first day of 2010.  I took a few pictures and bought two pair of earrings.

SNOW AND ICE: There had been a big snow storm in northern Arizona the previous week which dropped more

Little Grand Canyon with snow

than 2 feet of snow. Temperatures had been unusually low also, dropping into the single digits nightly for a couple of weeks.  At the East entrance to the Grand Canyon, the ranger told Wes that a couple of days earlier, another Grand Canyon tour van had slid on some black ice on Hwy 64 and gone off the side of the road, tumbling 20 feet down an embankment.  Luckily the injuries were not too serious.

Wes clearly warned us to be very careful on the overlooks because he had seen tourists “wiping out on the ice” on other trips that week, not to mention the 19 people who died this year from various causes.

BY THE WAY I did a little research on the net and one source had broken down the approximately 600 deaths recorded at the Grand Canyon since the 1870’s into categories and only 53 (less than 9%) were accidental falls from the rim.

Desert View Watchtower

Jim & Deb at Desert View Tower - Colorado below

DESERT-VIEW LOOKOUT: To our surprise, when we arrived at the easternmost lookout, the sun was bright,the air almost warm, and there was no wind.

I felt that overwhelming sense of joy at the overlook taking pictures of the Colorado far below and the views east and west.

Wes explains the Hopi mural


In the tower built by American, Mary Colter,  Hopi artist Fred Kabotie painted a mural of the Hopi Snake Legend. Wes explained that the painting describes the Hopi connection to the Grand Canyon, a story of Wise Son of a Hopi chief who floated down the Colorado River through the canyon in a hollow log.  Wes explained the mural’s scenes from the story.

Hopi Snake Mural close-up

Mural of the Hopi Snake Legend

Upper left: Chief giving Wise Son prayer sticks for journey

Upper right: Wise Son floating through the canyon in his waterproof boat

Lower right: Wise Son meets the Snake People at the western end of the canyon and they teach him their sacred snake dance and the chief gives him his daughter.

Lower left: Wise Son and his new wife dance the snake dance and bring rain to the Hopi.  This was the beginning of the Snake Clan in the Hopi Nation.

LUNCH IN THE LOT: A young East Indian man, who went to college in the United States and now lives and

east from Desert View Tower

works in Phoenix, had booked the  tour so he could show the Grand Canyon to his parents visiting from India.  All five of us had requested a vegetarian lunch, so we all enjoyed a picnic lunch between giant snow piles in the parking lot.  It was the first time this vegetarian family had had hummus and they seemed to like it.  It was so warm that we took off our overcoats.

Desert View Tower looking west

CANYON RIM TRAIL: Jim and I decided to take the mini-hike on a one-mile section of the Grand Canyon Rim trail and meet up with our group at Yavapai Point.  We carefully maneuvered the icy trails and hung on to the railings going down to the overlooks and got some great pictures..

Jim's picture of me on far right of an overlook CLOSEUP shot

Jim's picture of me on far right of an overlook distance shot

Jim at one of the overlooks on Rim Trail

Last shot at the Grand Canyob before my fall

CRACK – CRACK: At the final overlook before Yavapai Point, I started down some icy steps that had no guard rail

Jim and I at an overlook

and wedged my heel into the slightly softened ice on each step.  Jim realized the steps were especially treacherous and told me to stop.  I was so enthralled with the view ahead that I continued despite his plea.  I should have stopped because the ice on the next step was rock hard at a 45 degree angle and I lost my footing.  My left hand shot out to stop my fall and I felt (heard?) two cracks and then pain, pain, pain…  By the way, I am left-handed.  As Jim and a helpful tourist helped me to a bench, I told Jim that I was still glad we had come…

GRAND CANYON ANGELS OF HEALTH CARE: Our tour guide rushed us to the Grand Canyon clinic which was 10 minutes away.  I was deeply embarrassed to learn that in all his years at the Canyon, Wes had never had to take anyone to the clinic before.  OH MY GOD. I urged him to take the East Indian family back to the rim while I was being treated, which he did.  At the clinic, a great young female doctor, two nurses and an X-ray tech treated me with great care and gentleness while I continued to have pain, pain, pain….  The end diagnosis was two displaced fractures of my radius and ulna at my wrist.  After consulting with an orthopedic surgeon in Flagstaff who said it could not be “reduced” (set) and would require surgery, they splinted my wrist and sent me back to Flagstaff on the tour van.

KINDNESS AND LOVE: Before they could splint my wrist, the two nurses had to assist me in removing two long-sleeved heavy pullover sweaters and a long-sleeved silk undershirt.  This was a truly terrifying prospect which those two wonderful ladies made happen with a minimum of pain.  Jim then literally gave me the flannel shirt off his back AND a heavy overshirt, leaving him with a long-sleeved tee-shirt.  AND he was sweet and supportive the WHOLE time, EVEN THOUGH I WOULD NOT HAVE FALLEN IF I HAD STOPPED WHEN HE TOLD ME TO.

Sunset shot with good right hand returning from Grand Canyon south on Hwy 180

SCENIC RETURN: As we drove back to Flagstaff, the pain meds kicked in reducing my wrist to merely pain as opposed to pain, pain, pain.   Using my right hand, I got some great shots of the setting sun and the light of the setting sun on the highest snow covered peak of the San Francisco Peaks above Flagstaff.  Wes continued to humor me nicely by answering all my tourist questions.  He could have been understandably peeved after my little “mishap” cut the tour short and forced us to leave the park at 5:00 over an hour later than scheduled.

TELLING THE KIDS: On the drive back, Jim dialed Tomás Dora and I talked to them about the accident.  When we took the kids to the Grand Canyon in the summer of 2002, we were all on a guided walk with a park ranger at the rim, and he warned us that tree roots had come up through the paved path in some spots and we should watch our footing.  Moments later I stumbled on one of those roots (though I did not fall) and the kids tell that story at least once a year as part of their repertoire of stories that make fun of mom and dad.  So when I called Tomás I told him that his clutzy mother had finally fallen at the Grand Canyon.  He said, “I’m just glad you didn’t fall into it.”  When I talked to Dora, she was very sweet and sympathetic and sounded like maybe she was feeling some of my pain, pain, pain.  It was nice to hear their voices…

1629, 147 years before San Francisco, California, received that name, Spanish friars founded a mission at a Hopi Indian village in honor of St. Francis, sixty five miles from the Peaks. 17th century Franciscans at Oraibi village gave the name San Francisco to the peaks to honor St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of their order.[3] Wikipedia

San Francisco Peaks north of Flagstaff glowing in the setting sun

PAIN, DARK AND COLD: Then just as it got dark we got stuck in bumper to bumper traffic going about 5 MPH as hundreds of families with sleds poured off  the San Francisco peaks  and it took us almost two hours to go the final 20 miles into Flagstaff.  The pain meds wore off and I was up to pain, pain by the time that Wes dropped me and Jim off at the hospital in Flagstaff.  My arm felt like a block of ice and they put me shivering in a wheelchair in the waiting room.  The surgeon who had also gotten held up in traffic, came right out.  He said he would be doing another surgery first because of an ankle fracture that had also come in from the Grand Canyon.  He asked if I wanted him to do my surgery afterwards.  I asked for his recommendation, so he looked at the X-rays that we had brought with us on a CD (I thought that was cool, my first set of X-rays on a CD).  He then said that since we were scheduled to be on a plane home at 10:20 the next morning, we could wait and do the surgery at home if we wanted with no harm done to my wrist by waiting.  We chose that route and he graciously wrote us a prescription for pain & nausea meds and ERASED us from the ER registration – i.e. NO BILL.  What a prince.

TAXI, TAXI: A very helpful young man in a battered cab took us on a tour of Flagstaff looking for a Walgreen’s pharmacy that was open on New Years Day.  When we finally got there, the driver and I chatted while we waited for Jim.  Just dropping off the prescription was a ten minute wait.  The plan was to have the cab take us back to the condo, leave me to rest, while Jim drove the rental car back to the Walgreens to pick up the prescription once it was filled.  Anyway, while waiting outside Walgreen’s, I start whining about how hard (impossible?) it was going to be to teach since I would not be able to write with a broken left wrist…

WHY WE NEED UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE Come to find out that the cab driver also fell on the ice a couple days previously. Has such pain in his 4th and 5th fingers that he can’t bear to write.  Talked to his neighbor who works in the ER.  Says there are probably some cracked bones in his hand.  Doesn’t even say he can’t afford to go to a doctor.  Does say he can’t afford to get a cast and miss driving his cab.  Oh lordy do I feel like a spoiled brat…

BACK IN THE CONDO: So that $45 cab ride was worth it for all of us.  After a late (9:00 PM) supper of leftovers from our New Years Eve supper at the Himalayan Grill, Poor Jim had to go back out for the medicine and then come back and do all the packing.  I tried to keep him company as I lay on the bed making suggestions about how to pack, but the pain meds finally kicked in and I drifted off.  What a way to start the New Year!

January 11, 2010

Day 5 a starry New Years Eve

Filed under: Travel — datagal @ 3:41 am

What happened to Day 4?  Day 4 Wednesday was spent in the condo watching the snow fall, reading and writing and starting this BLOG while poor Jim worked his way through the stomach flu, oh dear…

Day 5 New Years Eve Thursday was our first day of full sun and Jim had to brush the snow off our rental car so that we could drive up our steep and unplowed street.  It was a piece of cake, not one spinning wheel.  This was our first trip through downtown Flagstaff and we climbed Mars Hill Road to the Lowell Observatory.

the telescope lens from Galileo till now

LOWELL HILL OBSERVATORY: In the lobby of the visitor center is a dramatic visual of the growth of telescopes since Galileo invented the first telescope.  I am pointing to the black dot representing Galileo’s 5/8 inch lens.  The brown circle on the wall represents the 24 inch Clark telescope that was first placed at the Lowell Observatory in 1896.  The yellow circle represents the 72 inch telescope used by the Lowell Observatory starting in 1961 and the blue circle is the new Discovery Channel /Lowell telescope that is a whopping 4.2 meters in diameter (about 14 feet)

AMAZING DISCOVERIES: A guide took us to the dome where the 24 inch Clark telescope still stands within a wooden dome constructed much as it was a 110 years ago.

Lowell Obs Clark telescope - all six tons

This six-ton telescope is perfectly balanced and can be swung easily by one person to the position desired.  I felt some awe that in 1912 Vesto Slipher attached a spectrograph to this telescope and measured the first doppler shift of numerous spiral galaxies.  The doppler shift he observed showed that those galaxies were receding from earth and implied that everything in the universe was moving outward at a rapid clip.  Seventeen years later, Edwin Hubbell used the 100-inch Hooker telescope at Mount Wilson Observatory to calculate the approximate distance to distant galaxies. By comparing these distances to Slipher’s measurements, Hubble discovered a correlation between distance and the “recession velocity.”  Thus the Big Bang Theory of an expanding universe was born in the room we were standing in using the telescope we were looking at.  I mean wow!

Galileo's Journal - a nifty children's boo

“Galileo’s Journal” is a beautifully written children’s picture book which I can read aloud to my second grade students.  In an age appropriate way, the book introduces Galileo’s discover of the newly invented spyglass and the improvements he made to allow him to observe things in the night sky.  The book describes how his improvements allowed him to be the first person to observe and record the cratered surface of our moon.  But most importantly, it shows how he used the scientific method to figure out that there were 4 moons rotating around Jupiter.  He was the first person to show physical evidence of Copernicus’ theory that the earth and other planets go around the sun and he did that on January 7, 1610, almost exactly 400 years ago.  I mean double-wow!

AN EAST INDIAN NEW YEARS EVE: After a week of cooking in the condo (or reheating frozen food that we cooked at home and brought in our suitcases), we went to our favorite kind of restaurant: East Indian!  Internet research

Himalayan Grill in Flagstaff is excellent

on the Himalayan Grill (which also serves met) was all rave reviews (best Indian, best ethnic, best family, best lunch) of Flagstaff 2007, 2008, 2009) and we also loved the food.

We decided to try something different from our favorites: Jim usually gets vegetable Biriani – a vege & rice dish and I usually get Benghan Bartha – a spicy eggplant served with jasmine rice.  Jim had a Himalayan vege soup with noodles that was yummy and I had a vegetable korma spiced Himalayan style also wonderful.  We went home and finally got to see “Slumdog Millionaire” which was riveting, especially the childhood scenes in the slums of Mumbai…

December 31, 2009

Flagstaff Vacation Day 3

Filed under: Travel — datagal @ 12:48 am
 Sunset Crater: Tuesday we woke up to a new snowfall of about an inch and a continuing trickle of very fine snow falling.  About 10 AM the sun came out and the “snow dust” stopped.  We drove to the two national monuments just northeast of Flagstaff and were properly awed by both nature (the formation of a cindercone) and humanity (a 100 room pueblo).  

Sunset Volcano from the viewpoint

The Volcano Story: Sunset Crater is a 1,000-foot-high volcano that started from a crack in the ground some time between 1040 and 1100.  After six-million-years of volcanic activity in the Flagstaff area (known as the San Francisco volcanic field), this was the last eruption (at least until the next one which park exhibits say is a certainty).  The growth of this massive cinder cone over a period of 6-12 months was witnessed by native Americans living in the area at the time and profoundly impacted their religious beliefs. 

On the national monument website there is virtual field trip of the “Lava Flow trail” at the national park website which will be very useful for me to share with my second grade students when we study geology in May.  In that “field trip” it is explained that after the basalt lava erupted from the volcano, hot gasses chemically reacted with the basalt on the rim changing them from black basalt to red, yellow, purple and green basalt. These brighter rocks at the top reminded an explorer of the Colorado River named John Wesley Powell, of a sunset, hence the volcano’s name.  

Jim and I wandered through the “sculpture garden” of spatter cones surrounding the base of the volcano.  The heavy snowfall of the previous week remained in the cracks and crevices of this twisted black landscape of basalt rocks so we think it would look very different if we came back when there was no snow.  We also couldn’t walk on the “Lava Flow Trail” which was closed because of snow cover.  Two good reasons to look forward to visiting again in the future.

Jim on the path out to this amazing pueblo

Wukoki: On our way to Wupatki, we took a turn and visited an amazing three-story structure which is thought to have housed up to three families.  As we drove the two miles of desert towards it, it could be seen clearly, if incongruously, popping out of the flat landscape.  When we got there, periods of sun cheered me immensely as it made the reddish rock of the pueblo virtually glow.  We were able to walk all around the structure and go into the rooms revealing to us the virtually seamless connection between the enormous boulders that were there to begin with and the rock walls built onto those boulders to construct the pueblo. 

 Wupatki: We walked behind the visitor center to the largest pueblo in the park, built during the 1100s.  By 1182 it had become a 100-room pueblo with a community room and a ballcourt.  It is thought that several thousand people lived within a day’s walk of this amazing construct.  We walked throughout the ancient “complex” as the sun was setting and the temperature dropping.  In the distance we could see sections of the painted desert, still in the sunlight.  It was a spectacular view.  This was a pueblo that had taken full advantage of Location, Location, Location.  Because of the dusk and the cold we left before finishing our tour of the other pueblos at the monument.  But there’s always the next time… 

Jim and I above the 800 year old Wupatki complex

The Wupatki Pueblo in the setting sun.

At the far end were the amphitheater and the ball court and an amazing thing called a blowhole. In the picture my hand is pushed up from the hole by a powerful current of warm air from an opening in the limestone that inhales and exhales air depending on the barometric pressure. A natural barometer!

Wupatki Ball Court adjacent to the giant pueblo

December 30, 2009

Flagstaff Vacation Day #2

Filed under: Travel — datagal @ 11:52 pm

Standing on the edge of Meteor Crater

 Meteor Crater: Monday we drove east to Meteor Crater which is almost a mile across and the most well-preserved crater in the world due to the dry desert conditions which have reduced the effects of erosion.  They have a really cool website with a video that has a wonderful 50 second dramatization of the meteor striking the Arizona desert 50,000 years ago.  Just go to and click on the “Play Video” button near the upper left corner.  I am looking forward to showing it to my second graders next week.   Notice the sprinkling of snow in the crater.  We arrived on the heels of a big snowfall. 

Walnut Canyon National Monument: After spending a couple hours at the crater, we ate our picnic lunch and went to Walnut Canyon National Monument. Having just turned 62, I was able to buy a lifetime pass for $10. This pass allows me and the passengers in my car free access to all National Parks, Monuments, Recreation Areas and Forests.  Walnut Canyon is one of many National Monuments in this area which have cliff dwellings.  The people who settled in those dwellings lived there for about 100 years ending in about 1250 AD.  We normally would have hiked to the bottom of the canyon where it is possible to walk by dozens of dwellings, but my right knee “shifted” on Sunday.  It does that once or twice a year, not good timing.  We did do the rim walk and got some beautiful views down into the canyon and appreciated the many cactus peeking from the snow on the rim. 

If you click on this picture you will actually be able to see the path around the island with people on it and the cliff dwellings.

Jim at the rim of Walnut Canyon

Flagstaff Vacation Day 1

Filed under: Travel — datagal @ 9:07 pm

Getting There: We began our journey early Sunday morning in Chico, December 27, 2009.  After getting up at 3:30 AM, we started driving to SFO at 4:40.  By the time we found a parking spot, unloaded luggage and waited for the shuttle, and checked into the airport it was 8:40, two hours before the flight.  Bottom line: 4 hours door to door.  We ended up going through security in less than 30 minutes so we waited at the gate an hour and a half.  In Phoenix we waited a LONG TIME in line for the Hertz Rent a Car which we had booked as part of a “great” package from B of A “Add It Up.”  After refusing various pricey upgrades (GPS for $15/day!, a bigger car for $15 per day, extra insurance for $25 per day) they hit me with about $100 in “taxes and fees.”  Something to look into…

View from the deck Wyndham Flagstaff

The Condo:

We finally started our 2 ½ hour drive north at 3 PM, about 90 minutes after landing.  We arrived late Sunday evening and checked into our one-bedroom condo at Wyndham Flagstaff.  It is a large unit with lovely views of large pines and a snow-covered hillside from our living room/dining room windows as illustrated.  The bedroom has a comfortable king size bed and the bathroom has a large hot tub!  We went to New Frontiers, the local health food store and bought some groceries for the week.  It is a very fancy store, kind of like Whole Foods in the bay area.

Why am I here?

Filed under: Reflection — datagal @ 5:54 pm

I’ve decided to enter the world of blogs as a personal diary as well as a way that I can share my ideas, my travels and my pictures with family and friends.  As a child and later as an adult, I was so inspired by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books, which she did not even begin until she was 60.  Having now turned 62 and seeing no opportunity soon for turning to book writing, (I am a second grade teacher in California with no retirement in sight) perhaps a blog will be a way to put down my thoughts and experiences, at least for myself.  I am launching this in the middle of a trip to Flagstaff, Arizona, so I will be adding descriptions of the trip with pictures in my next entry.

Create a free website or blog at