by Lisa Lipkind Leibow, Author of Smart Women’s Fiction
The idea for my summer vacation grew out of a family movie-watching experience. We saw the movie The Bucket List, starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. In the film, the two main characters, being treated for terminal illnesses, decided to carry out every adventure on their bucket list before it’s too late.
Luckily, my entire family is happy and healthy. But we do have limited time. My oldest is entering high school in the fall. We decided that since we only have five more years with us all living under one roof that we would each make our own bucket list of the places we would like to travel together. Then we compared our lists and came up with our family bucket list.
Last summer, our first bucket list trip was a trip to the Grand Canyon and more. We flew to Phoenix, spent one night in Scottsdale. Drove from Scottsdale to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, stopping a Montezuma’s Castle along the way. After a night and a full day at the Grand Canyon, we headed to Lake Powell for two nights. Then toured Bryce, Zion, and capped it off in Vegas.
As I write this, I’m getting ready for this year’s Bucket List trip. We’re off to the beautiful Hawaiian Islands. I can’t wait! We’re going to visit the Big Island of Hawaii to explore lava tubes, snorkel, see lava flowing into the ocean, and stand on brand new earth. Next, we’ll hop over to Maui where we’ll drive the road to Hana – one of the last undeveloped areas of the island. I’ll have a chance to spend time with the kids in a bungalow on the beach—completely unplugged! I can’t wait. I’m looking forward to having a few adventures with my husband and kids, exploring new surroundings, and reenergizing.
Tell me, what’s on YOUR bucket list?
Best to you,
Lisa Lipkind Leibow
On our last morning of vacation, we ate breakfast in the room and the checked our bags through to the airport at the hotel valet (Great service!) This gave us a couple of hours to explore Madame Toussaud’s Wax Museum. It was silly and fun. We took tons of photos with “famous” wax models, including President Barack Obama, Tiger Woods, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, Evel Kneival, Shaq, MJ, Whoopie Goldberg, and more. One stop for gelato, and then off to the airport.
When I packed-up, I carefully removed Thing 2’s snow globes from the bags to be checked, afraid they might break if mishandled by the baggage crew. Little did I know, snow globes are a hazard! Security would not let them through in our carry on bags.
As I was unwilling to abandon the souvenirs, Thing 2 so painstakingly picked out, I sent the family to the gate, left the secured area, and took the backpack with the globes to baggage check. Then, I waited in line to go through security, for a second time. Forty-five minutes later, I was able to join Hubby and the boys at the gate. I hope the snow globes make it in one piece!
We’re about to land. Vacation’s over!
We wandered around the shops and found funny t-shirts for the kids (somewhat of a challenge to find something not “too risqué.” However, we managed. Oldest found one with the googley-eyed stack of cash used in the Geico ads next to googley-eyes floating in mid-air with nothing, labeled “Before Vegas” and “After Vegas”. Thing 2 found a Vegas snow globe for his collection. I skipped my book on this leg of the tour. But I chose something else with Hubby. We went to the gallery where we purchased an original King Kong poster a few years back and found a similar print of the Wizard Of Oz made with a similar process (using the original three-paneled presses). I can’t wait to see it hanging next to the King Kong print.
On our Vegas Night, we loved Blue Man Group! Thing 2 sat next to me and could barely stay in his seat he was so excited. The show included drumming on a PVC pipe organ, spitting and catching paintballs and marsmallows, and covering the entire audience with toilet paper. It was interactive, high energy, fun! Here’s a link to a video, if you want a taste of what we experienced. http://www.blueman.com/about
We ate a late dinner at Molto Mario’s restaurant in fake Piazza San Marco. Fake Venice was pretty cool, I have to admit. Even though we dined at close to 10:30 at night, the trompe l’oeil ceiling of the sky with puffy clouds made it feel like we were out on a sunny day, amidst canals winding through the place, musicians playing in the square, restaurants and gelato shops.
Our morning was great! After breakfast, we met our trail ride guide and horses for a one-hour ride. Our horses were: Thunder, Lightning, Roany, Ace, and can’t remember hubby’s…
We traversed up and down a steep, sandy path, through high desert land overlooking Zion National Park. We all loved riding and decided we would look for other opportunities to be around horses.
I loved experiencing the canyon trails from a different means in each place.
Oldest, especially, complained of being tired and he seemed to be coming down with a cold. So, we changed our original plan to hike the Narrows thorugh the river and opted for an easier way to explore Zion.
We drove through the park: beautiful mountain road, winding through the rocky hills. We actually drove THROUGH the mountains via a tunnel blasted through the middle. We couldn’t find parking at the visitor’s center se we parked just outside the park in Springdale and took the shuttle back into the park.
We stopped at the Weeping Rock for a short, half-mile hike to see the cliff side dripping water everywhere. It gave the illusion of being in a rainforest in the middle of high desert country – interesting phenomenon.
Next shuttle stop was Zion Lodge for lunch, cafeteria style burgers, dogs, and deli. This is the only park we visited that had the kind of simple, American Junk food I expected (or was worried) to see everywhere along our trip. I’m hoping I won’t hate the scale when I get home. I have made good choices most places.
Over lunch, we took a vote on what was the favorite park and what was the favorite activity. Majority voted Bryce as the most unique vistas, geological phenomenon and Lake Powell a close second. Horseback riding, tubing and three mile hike in and out of the Bryce Amphitheater all made a strong showing for family favorite activities. We couldn’t come to consensus of the best one.
We made two more shuttle stops at Zion, to see the Three Patriarchs – a short 100 yard climb from the shuttle afforded a spectacular iew of the three mountains in a row, named Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Then to the visitor center where I bouth my book of scenic Zion views. We shuttled back to Springdale, where the boys found their t-shirts and a snowglobe.
Hubby did the driving from Zion to Vegas. The resto f us enjoyed the change in scenery.
There were these very cool looking trees. I must look up what is the species. They had thick brances like a palm tree with many branches each with a tuft of broad leaves at the tip.
We checked-in to the Venetian. We have a luxurious suite with a king BR and a LR with pull out sofa, roll away and a dining area. We ate dinner at Cafe Lux. I was bad in the car and snacked on fudge and cheezita and trail mix. So, I had veggies for dinner. It was fine for me, though.
After we ate, we went swimming at the 10th floor pool, which was open until 10 p.m. There was a hot pool with fountains in it. It felt great to hae the warm water on my sore muscles. I have really enjoyed this active vacation filled with hiking, tubing, swimming, horseback riding. Today we slept in and had room service for breakfast. I ate oatmeal, strawberries, yogurt and one small pastry. (I couldn’t resist).
We headed for the main pool on the 4th floor and swam for an hour. Hubby is playing in a poker tournament. The boys tired of the pool (OMG!) so we are now in our luxurious suite, watching a movie, 17 Again.
I woke up early – 5:45 am, got the kids up, and wandered to the restaurant in the Marina for breakfast. Today’s plan was to take a tour boat cruise around the lake out to the Rainbow Bridge and back. When we get back, we planned to rent a motor boat and explore on our own. While we ate breakfast, we ordered some box lunches for our excursion.
We rode a tour boat for five hours through Lake Powell. We were disappointed to be stuck inside the boat instead of up on the rooftop in the open-air seating. However, this turned out to be a good thing due to the heat. Views were spectacular even from the windows.
I began to wonder what the water swallowed up when the Glen Dam was built.
We saw rock formations resembling reclining camels, and the areas used to film Planet of the Apes.
However our destination, the Rainbow Bridge (the largest Natural Bridge in North America) was a beautiful site. The water levels have dropped 40% in the past 20 years, so we had to hike to a site once approached by water.
Thing 1 mostly stayed below deck on our ride back because he overheated a bit. But we all had a chance to ride in the open air surrounded by the buttes and islands of the lake.
Five hours outside without taking a swim made us all very hot and tired. So, we retired to our room to cool off for an hour and then, after discovering no boats were available for the afternoon, reserved one for tomorrow and opted to swim in the pool and on the small sandy beach below the resort.
I’m looking forward to tubing with the boys tomorrow and exploring some private spots on the lake.
Today provided a great lesson in go with the flow as our plan to boat tomorrow will probably cut out Antelope Canyon before we head to Bryce in the afternoon.
Hubby – Lake Powell hat
Thing 1 and Oldest: t shirts
Thing 2: snow globe
Me: Photo book of Lake Powell and book about Glen Canyon-pre Dam
Note: Thing 2 has decided to start a snow globe collection. I think that is really cool!
We woke up feeling fresh, with some of the jetlag tapering off. After breakfast at the Maswik, we caught the Blue Line Shuttle to the Visitor’s Center and walked from there to the rim trail. The paved trail was easy to walk on and offered spectacular views the entire way.
As we walked along, one thing that struck me is how different mindsets experience the canyon.
There is the artist/poet type, who focuses on the way the sunlight alters the appearance of the layers of rock throughout the course of the day, or who tries to put into words the feeling of awe and insignificance that the sight of the vast canyon inspires.
Then, there is the analytical, math-minded, adventurer, who is fascinated with questions like, “if someone fell off of the canyon, how long would it take them to hit bottom,” and “what are the precise dimensions of the canyon?” – You guessed it, my boys, especially Thing 1. Hubby had a great reaction to the gory obsession.
Instead of freaking out in horror, like I was inclined to do, he asked Thing 1, “Well, what’s the distance it would take you to reach terminal velocity?”
From there, they took the formula, using estimates based upon average depth of the canyon and estimates of the speed at which one would fall, etc. Oy vey!
The math-minded and poet-minded fascinations merged when it came to the science of geological, paleontological, and wildlife around the canyon.
We watched the timeline stamped along the path, marveled that the earth at a particular spot was 270 million-years-old or 1 billion-years-old. It’s not easy to grasp the ancientness of the minerals. We looked at the layers of the cliff-sides and plateaus, spotted shale and limestone, and peered down to the Colorado River.
We even spotted a Condor—a huge buzzard-like bird with a 9-foot wingspan.
We finished our hike and ate lunch at El Tovar Lodge, a lovely hotel right on the rim. A restaurant with a view – excellent! I ate a salad with chicken and Meditteranean veggies.
Before walking back to Maswik, we stopped at the Hopi House Art Center to look around. I bought a book of Native American Legends and also a book with photos of the views from Hermit Road. I also loved seeing all of the different styles of Native American pottery and learning about the way they were made. Some coil pots, burnished. Others molded as “greenware” actually poured into a mold and then hand-painted. Amazing.
We drove to Lake Powell in time to take a dip in the lake. But e the drive provided amazing scenic view the entire way. We hugged the Grand Canyon and passed through the center of valleys between roc formations seemingly erupting out of the Earth. Beautiful!
We ate dinner at the Lake Powell Resort and Marina Rainbow Room, overlooking the lake and a boatyard full of houseboats.
I need to get some sleep because we have an early day tomorrow.
After breakfast, we hit the road – that is, after a short errand of picking up a Styrofoam cooler, some ice, and a case of water. The kids were intrigued by the giant cacti dotting the landscape in some spots and thickly settled, like forests of saguaros in others. We stopped to see Montezuma’s Castle (another misnamed ruin, since the Aztecs had nothing to do with building this Pueblo village thought to be a thriving community between 1100 and 1450 A.D.)
Hubby liked the drive on Route 17 as we continued North – speed limit 75 was a first for him. We arrived at the Maswik Lodge in Grand Canyon National Park and walked a short way down Bright Angel Trail, where the mules walk and then climbed back up and caught the Hermit Road Suttle to explore a little more. The boys reacted with anticipated awe.
Thing 1 immediately wanted to know the dimensions of the vast canyon. After hearing 270-something miles long, none of us could wrap our heads around it.
We ate a small snack, a short rest in the room, dinner at the Lodge, and then took a shuttle to Arena, where we walked a paved path to the rim trail and walked along the rim trail to watch the sunset. We’re back in our room and ready to get a good night’s sleep before tomorrow. I will dream of the vivid hues that filled the sky and the way the white shelves of rock turned to burgundy layer by layer as the sun set. Phenomenal!
Our flight was delayed about 1 ½ hours but we made it to Phoenix and saw my aunt, said good-bye to Noah and rented our car. Hubby upgraded to an Esplanade and we juggled our luggage, trying to figure out the best way to fit it in and still have room to sit.
After a half-hour drive from the airport, we pulled up to the Fairmont Scottsdale –beautiful resort. Our suite is huge!
We swam in the pool from 5-7 pm (got a snack at 5 o’clock of tortilla chips, salsa, fruit smoothies, since we hadn’t eaten lunch. We ate dinner at the resort at LV Bistro. Organic fare, dinner was delicious! Fresh salad with heirloom tomatoes and radishes, beets, cucumbers. Salmon with haricot vert and mussels. Oldest son had hanger steak. Thing 1 and Thing 2 both ate chicken tenders. Hubby enjoyed his scallops and shrimp.
We returned to the pool for an hour after dinner. Now we’re trying to stay up a little longer to adjust to the time change. Phoenix/Scottsdale was 116 Farenheit when we arrived today. But as they say, dry heat is easier to take.
Hubby and I have decided to lay off the wine and cocktails this week to stay as hydrated as possible while hiking in the desert and at higher elevations.
As for being with my boys tonight after they were away at camp for three weeks—I loved it! Hearig all of their fantastic tales of color wars, dippies, the new campers from Spain and France, the Apache relay race, freeze games at mealtime, loomster cocntests, and more. I’m thrilled they have these fond camp memories.
I’m lucky my children like one another. So far this first bucket list trip is a hit and we haven’t even started yet!