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3/21/14 thru 3/29/14 - Visitors from the North

Yay! - We have visitors from Chicago! 
Sarah's first airplane ride

She made it!
We have a grapefruit tree right next door!
We have had a wonderful whirlwind of a week!  My sister Sue and her granddaughter Sarah came to spend their Spring Break with us.  They arrived Friday night (3/21) leaving temperatures in the 30's back in Chicago.  Mesa's temps have been in the 70's and the 80's so they may never want to go back.

On Saturday we took it easy to let them enjoy the warm temperatures.  A good part of the day was spent at the pool and we had lots of fun taking pictures in the water and under the water.  Sarah was a very happy young lady.

 A Group "Selfie"
Sarah's first underwater photo
Marty underwater
Sarah and Aunt Mary sharing a little pool time

Say "Cheese"

Our route north from Mesa
On Sunday morning we hitched up the rig and drove north about four hours to visit the Grand Canyon.   Sue was slightly embarrassed when she started sorting clothes to pack in a smaller bag so she could leave the large bag behind.  We reminded her there is no leaving anything behind, where we go everything we own goes too.

We arrived at the Grand Canyon Trailer Village Park around 2:00 and once we unhitched and ate some lunch we were ready to go exploring. 

Lunch outside is always a good thing!

No Campfire, No Problem! 
As we drove into the park we saw many of these young elk along the side of the road (and in our campground). 
We are camping at the Trailer Village which is inside Grand Canyon National Park.  The Visitor Center is about a mile from our campsite so we can walk or take a bus.  There is a shuttle bus that  runs from the campground all day, starting very early in the morning until about an hour after sunset.   There are three different routes and the buses take you to various spots along the rim.

Picking up Sarah's Junior Ranger Packet.
Once we got settled in at our campsite we took a walk over to the Grand Canyon Visitor Center.  We got some information there about the Junior Ranger program and picked up an activity booklet so that Sarah could work on getting a badge and a patch.

One of the activities that she needed to complete was going to a ranger program.   Since there was one starting in about 20 minutes we took the 15 minute walk along the rim to get over there.  Of course, since this was their first time actually seeing the Grand Canyon our walk took a little longer than 15 minutes.   Sue and Sarah haven't been here before so it was fun to see their expressions when they got their first glimpse of the "big hole in the ground".   I believe Sarah's words when she first saw it were "oh my goodness gracious" - at least that's what she tells me she said (it sounds a little dramatic to me for a nine year old).

The Ranger explained some of the history of the canyon and passed around rocks from the different
geologic ages.  It was very interesting and a good introduction to the Canyon.   Did you know that the Grand Canyon is 1 mile deep, 10 miles across and 277 miles long?  Sarah knows this because she was paying attention to the ranger (and he told them to write it down because there would be questions later).

Our next stop was Yaki Point to watch the sunset (and take a few photos).
Yaki Point at Sunset - Breathtaking!

As long as there is a railing, I'm good.  

We decided to skip the shuttle bus and walk the mile back to our campsite.  It was dark but Sarah had the flashlight and we had no problem (except that Sarah thinks I'm the one who threw something in front of her to scare her - she can't believe Uncle Marty would do such a thing and I can't believe that she thinks I would). 

Sarah reciting the pledge and receiving her badge
On Monday morning we took the shuttle back over to the Visitor Center.   Sarah worked very hard on completing the required activities in her booklet and we took her over to a Park Ranger so she could take the Ranger pledge and pick up her Junior Ranger badge.

We also wanted to see the Grand Canyon movie and get a little souvenier shopping in.   Sue didn't find everything she wanted at the center so we took another bus to the Market Place (two gift shops, a Chase Bank, and a post office).

Once our shopping was done we dropped off our packages at our trailer and took another bus to the Village - it was time to hike down into the canyon on the Bright Angel Trail.  It's possible to hike all the way down to the bottom of the canyon on this trail but it takes hours and it's not recommended to hike down and up in one day.  There are also many signs reminding you that "what goes down must come back up".  Marty, Sue and Sarah wanted to hike a little ways down so they made it just past the first tunnel which was equal to about 4 blocks.  I went about 15 feet and turned around, I just can't get past my fear of heights. 

Hiking down into the canyon
This pictograph can be seen just past the first tunnel on the Bright Angel Trail
See - it's a good thing I stayed behind so I could take this picture from above
Wow! What a climb!

When Marty, Sue and Sarah hiked back up we continued walking along the rim for about 2 miles.  Then we hopped a bus back to the Market Place and grabbed some lunch at the cafeteria.  Sue and I made the mistake of ordering burgers, they cook them to order and it took forever!  Sarah almost finished her pizza before we even had our food.  If it takes this long in March what is it like in the summer when it's really crowded?  BTW, the burgers were very good.

We headed back to the trailer for a little while and then hopped a bus back to the Village for sunset at Hopi Point. 
Hopi Point

More Hopi Point
Tree Huggers at Hopi Point
We had a wonderful time at the Grand Canyon, it's an amazing place and someday I'd like to go down to the bottom (not quite sure how I'm getting down there but I'd really like to see the bottom). Everybody needs to visit this National Park, it's the definition of awe-inspiring.
Rest Stop Sign Honoring our Military, Sarah is pointing out the USMC (I wonder why - Tom?)
Sign seen at Rest Stop
We headed back to Mesa on Tuesday and Sue and Sarah spent some more time in the pool.  On Wednesday we welcomed another guest into our home.   My favorite fourth grade class from St. William School sent Flat Stanley to us!  We wish he could have been here in time to visit the Grand Canyon but we will make sure to tell him all about it.  He enjoyed his first day in Arizona by taking a dip in the pool.
I miss you guys too!!

Flat Stanley really enjoyed his time in the pool!

Yes, he's wearing sunscreen.
Sarah and her new best friend, Flat Stanley
Walking to the Ballpark
We were very excited on Thursday to go to the Cubs Spring Training Game.   They were playing the White Sox so we knew it would be a good game.  The ball park is brand new and holds 15,000 fans.  We walked all around the inside and took lots of pictures. 

It's always nice to be welcomed
Pete LaCock is a former Cub (for some strange reason I was in his fan club when I was a teenager) and, for you trivia buffs, his father is Peter Marshall of the game show Hollywood Squares.
Hall of Famer,  Fergie Jenkins - He won 20 games six years in a row!
You can't beat fun at the new ball park!
It's especially sweet when we beat the White Sox

Sarah, Stanley and Matt Szczur who made an incredible catch during the game. 
 After the game it was back to the rig and more pool time.  Sarah is determined to get in the pool as much as possible and has even met some other kids on Spring Break there.    Sarah and I are also working on two scrapbooking projects for her.  One to document her trip down here and another one that will be like the ones I've done for her cousins, A to Z. 

On Friday, we met my cousin Nancy and her husband, Richard for lunch.  We had a wonderful visit with them and a delicious lunch at Cornish Pasty Company in Mesa. 

Richard, Nancy, Sue, Sarah, Mary and Marty
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Later that evening we drove over to the the Organ Stop for pizza.  We had so much fun!  They have a huge pipe organ and live music every night.  The organist takes requests and plays everything from polkas, to the Beatles, to Phantom of the Opera,  to Stairway to Heaven - incredible!  It was a good way to end our visit with Sue and Sarah.  
Look at that little girl's face, could she be any more dramatic?

We had a wonderful time during March in Mesa and are looking forward to visiting family in Southern California during the first two weeks of April.