Another Convoluted Migration

June, 2019
By Jack Welsch


This year’s northeastward migration was timed to allow us to attend the wedding of our niece, Ashley, in Oswego, NY.  That was near the end of June and we didn’t want to settle into the cottage, just to leave almost immediately for upstate NY, yet we were ready to be on our way so...  We agreed to visit Lake Powell as well as Bryce Canyon and Capital Reef National Parks.  After that, it would be the trek through the center of the country.  With apologies to those who happily live there, we enjoy driving in the west and the east but find the center of the country pretty boring so that portion of every trip is a bit of a chore.

Thursday, June 13 – Sun City to Lake Powell

We both awoke about 6:30, closed up the house, packed the car and were away at 8:05 for a stop for breakfast at George's at Bell Rec Center.

Our destination was Lake Powell in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Traffic was rather heavy on I-17 and we experienced periodic hold-ups on AZ 89.  We arrived at Lake Powell Resort a bit before 2:00, where we quickly discovered that, while the location is magnificent, the place Is a dump!   To be charitable, it’s only slightly above Day’s Inn quality.  In fact, I’ve included the link solely so you can see where NOT to stay.  After checking in, we booked a boat trip for the morning and had a so-so Iunch at the hotel’s “Driftwood Lounge”.

I’d intended to have an oil change before leaving AZ but neglected to do it.  With a very long trip ahead of us, I went to the "Lube Shop" in Page for an oil change.  They had to order a filter, so I was there over an hour.  On the way back to the hotel, I stopped at scenic overlook and had a long, difficult walk. About the time I got where I wanted to go, I realized I'd forgotten my hat so hurried back to the car.

We wanted a nice dinner and it appeared the best option in the area was the Rainbow Room at the hotel.  After sitting in the room a bit, we walked to the "good" restaurant and found it was a buffet!  After checking out the Wahweap Grille grill, which is essentially fast food and Latitude 37 at the marina, which involved catching a golf cart shuttle, we settled on the&^%$# buffet.  Before eating, though, we returned to the room and booked a hotel in Bryce for Saturday.  We decided that, even if we were stuck paying for the third night we’d reserved, paying and NOT staying was better than paying and staying!

When we arrived at the restaurant, we saw that there were many empty window tables, so we asked for one.  Not surprisingly, we were told that they were available only with a reservation.  What was surprising was that the hostess said that could reserve one on the spot for 5 minutes later!  Weird!  Our waitress, Abby, was great but meal SUCKED.  Choices were limited and food was bland and dried out.  We chocked it down but did have a nice bottle of wine with which to drown our sorrows.  The manager stopped by to ask about our meal and I described it as “horrific”.  He didn’t seem at all surprised and offered to comp the meal.  He asked whether the wind was OK, I said it was, and he asked if we’d be willing to pay for the wine.  I said that I would.  I THINK his name was something lime Elijia; nice guy.

After dinner, we went to the desk and bitched about the hotel.  As happened in the restaurant, Gregory didn’t seem at all surprised and arranged for a Saturday checkout without penalty.

After checking out the pool, we hung in the room.

Friday, June 14 - Lake Powell

Because we’d booked a morning lake cruise, we were up at 6:30 and had an OK breakfast in the Rainbow Room.  Checked in at 8:00 for the 9:00 AM boat tour of Navajo and Antelope Canyons. It was a rather long walk down a rather steep hill to the boat and we’d been told a shuttle would be available.  Of course, when we got to the door, the person organizing the tour know nothing about it!  Rather than wait an undetermined time until that could arrange for a shuttle, we ended up walking to the boat.  The very good news is that it was a GREAT tour!  The boat was not at all crowded and most people opted for the upper deck in spite of there being no shade at all.  Consequently, we had most of the main deck to ourselves.  As a bonus, the two very knowledgeable and friendly guides Ursula (Navajo) and Matthew spent their time down there, so we got some added attention. After passing through Castle Rock Cut, the boat went into Navajo Canyon and then the very narrow Antelope Canyon.  I took countless photos but doubt they’ll do justice to the place. When we arrived back at the pier at noon, they had shuttle for us.

Lunch was at Latitude 37 at the marina.  The food was OK but we had to order it at a counter and then sit down.  While they touted the place as spectacular since it was at the marina, It had only a few narrow, widely-space windows!  What architect thought that made sense? I fairness, there was an open upper deck with a view, but it meant a long climb. 

I sat at the pool and Lin in the room from 1 to 4.  We took a nap, then drove into Page for gas, a nice dinner at El Tapitio and a quick stop at Safeway.

Saturday, June 15 – Bryce Canyon Nat’l Park

We checked out without a problem and were on the road a little after 9.  Eager to get away, we gabbed breakfast at a gas station and headed to Bryce Canyon National Park.  In initially, the scenery was nice, though uninspiring.  The drive got much more interesting once we turned northward at Kanab, though.  Even before we got to the park, I stopped several times to take pictures. 

Arriving at Bryce, we were eager to see the sights so we initially skipped lunch.  I’m sure the crowds are even worse at the height of summer but even this early in the season parking was an issue.  It might have made sense to park the car and take the free shuttle but that involves repeatedly waiting for another shuttle and hoping there’s room to get on, so we passed on that option.  Our first stop was at Sunset Point where I searched in vain for a good parking spot and ended up parking at the General Store and hoofing it.  Linda wasn’t up to the trek, so I left her at the store.

Next we tried nearby Sunset point but there was absolutely no parking, so we passed it by, hoping for better luck on the way back.  Deciding to take a different approach, we bypassed Inspiration point and made for Bryce Point.  The parking lot there is basically a loop with limited parking and rangers keep traffic moving so there is no hope of waiting for a spot to open.  I was on my back down the hill, not having found a place to park but, fortunately, there was a pull-off on one side and traffic was light enough to enable me to turn around for a second run.  Second time was the charm and the spot we got was such that Linda had some god scenery without walking a lot.  I, of course, wandered farther and was absolutely floored by the stunning sights.  WOW!  A short detour took us to Paria View, where the crowds were virtually non-existent, and Linda got to see some great sights here as well.

Our last stop was at the aptly named Inspiration Point.  Even though this is offers phenomenal views, there were several parking places.  Here again, neither words nor pictures can possibly do the place justice.

We took a last shot at finding parking at Sunset Point without success, so we missed that one.

Our late lunch was at Ruby’s, across the road from our hotel.  Food and service were good but it’s obvious that this is a BIG operation.  The waiter told us they were expecting 38 buses [sic.] for dinner!!  We decided to make other plans!

We checked into the Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel and, after hanging around the room, made 6:15 dinner reservations at the Stone Hearth Grille in nearby Tropic.  What a great decision that was; the view from our table on the deck was spectacular, food was excellent and service by Victoria was both professional and friendly.  The place is also an inn and I’ll bet it’s a great place to stay.  If we pass this way again. It will be our first choice.

Sunday, June 16  - Scenic Byway 12 and Capitol Reef Nat’l Park

We were up at 7 and, after breakfast at the hotel, we were on the road a bit after 9, heading west on Utah’s “Scenic Byway 12”, with a side trip to Kodachrome Basin State Park. The area's color prompted a national Geographic Society' expidition to name it after the color film in 1948.

The first part of the drive was nice, but the second part was spectacular, even though the roads were a tad scary. 

Based on a recommendation from some folks we met near Kodachrome Basin, we stopped at “Kiva Koffeehouse” east of Escalante where the view is fantastic.  Now for yet another “Small World" story, of which I have countless...

While in line for coffee, a man in front of me was explaining to the woman standing next to him about the strange fact that, while in Istanbul, he had bumped into someone from Northampton, PA, close to his own home.  Having gone to college nearby, I tapped his arm and said, “Excuse me, I went to Lehigh.”  He extended his hand and said, “Oh, I’m so sorry... class of ‘71”.  I said, “Class of ‘69”.  Wereupon we introduced ourselves and we had a long chat.  Turns out he did work for Roger Nagle, who I also know.  BTW, if you do stop at Kiva Koffehouse, be sure to share a “Sticky Date Pudding”; it's wonderful but very sweet.

The day’s destination was Capitol Reef National Park.  It’s based on a dramatic fold in the earth’s surface.  After lunch at a nearby Subway, we passed the hotel and drove through the park as far as we could go on paved roads. Upon entering the park, we bypassed the visitor center and other "touristy" attractions and took the scenic drive south until the pavement stopped. The park is spectacular but nearly as stunning as Bryce. Of course, I stopped countless times to take pictures so the 16-mile round trip took quite a while.

Leaving the main part of the park, we headed east a bit to see the petroglyphs.  Though interesting, they pale in comparison to those at Petroglyph National Monument near Albuquerque.

We were wise (or lucky) enough to have reserved a deluxe suite at the Capitol Reef Resort.  It’s an interesting place as you can stay in a “normal” room or suite, a cabin, a covered wagon or a teepee!  Our deluxe suite had a patio door in the back that overlooked a communal fire pot, some teepees and the magnificent mountains.  Unlike at many places, the patio door had a lock similar to that on the front door so you could wander out back and get back into your room without a hassle. 

Dinner was at the modest hotel dining room where ther servers were as delightful married couple.  She was clearly from Philippines, so I had fun using my very limited Tagalog. 

After dinner, we read a bit on the patio, then took the wine remaining from dinner and joined a couple, Carol and Jeff, at the fire pit.  They live 100 miles north of Boise; Brrrrr!!  We enjoyed a pleasant conversation but it was getting cold, even by the fire so, although others had joined us, we made our excuses and retreated to the room.

Monday, June 17 – Capitol Reef to Golden, CO

With the park visits behind us, it was time for the chore of just driving day after day.  We were up about 7:00, had breakfast at the hotel and were on the road a bit after 8:00 via UT 24.  The drive was initially quite interesting but then less so.  I’d looked forward to the drive over the Rockies on I-70 and admit that some of the scenery, especially near Glenwood Springs, was breathtaking    All in all, though, the drive up over mountains on 70 very stressful.  We grabbed lunch at a McD’s somewhere, then encountered a violent T-storm as we neared Golden.  I’d planned on a nice evening strole through charming Golden, but we were really stressed by the time we arrived at the Holiday Express so did nothing until dinner.  Dinner at Bonefish Grill was good but, as always, the restaurant was loud, and we were in no mood for it.

Exhausted and discouraged, we fell into bed.

Tuesday, June 18 - Golden, CO to Lincoln, NE

We were again up at 7 and on the road 2 minutes before 9.  Our route was I-70, I-76, and I-80.  Fortunately, we encountered little traffic as we skirted Denver.  While I have a nice (and expensive) GPS in my Acura, we back that up with a portable Garmin that cost us only a little over a hundred bucks.  The reasons are three; Linda can program it while I drive, the “Up ahead” feature is excellent for finding food, fuel and rest stops and it has better traffic mitigation than does the installed one. 

We rely on Garmin's “up ahead” feature to select rest stops well in advance so that we don’t forget to get out to stretch every 2 hours or so.  With that it mind, Linda had just entered our destination into the Garmin when it announced that I-76 was closed and we should leave it at the Kersey exit, which was only a mile away! I stopped on the ramp to see whether Google Maps or the Acura GPS confirmed the problem.  Neither did but I’ve found the Garmin reliable and I sure as HELL didn’t want to sit on a closed interstate.  We could not confirm the closing on google maps or the Acura but have learned to trust the Garmin.  I’ll never know whether we did the right thing. Before we’d rejoined I-76 at Sterling, we’d traveled 176 miles on surface roads, some of it through small towns as opposed to 122 miles on the 75 MPH interstate.  I figure it cost me almost an hour but we were at least off the Interstate, saw some of rural Colorado and were moving.

The sky was overcast with a little rain until afternoon, then it rained a LOT. With the time change, we arrived at a Best Western Plus in Lincoln, NE at 5:30.  Dinner was at Ruby Tuesday; I’d forgotten how good their salad bar is!  Afterwards, we just relaxed in room and were in bed early.

Wednesday, June 19 - Lincoln, NE to Joliet, IL

We were again up at 7 and on the road at 8:20. The morning was mostly cloudy but at least no rain.  The kids had been raving about Culver’s, so we tried it for lunch and found it not bad at all.  The rain started about 1 and was on and off, mostly on, all afternoon.  We arrived at a Townplace Suites in Joliet about 4:30 ,hung in the room, then had dinner at “Heroes West” just down the street.  Service was very good.  Lin's salmon was excellent; my perch was not.

Thursday, June 20 - Joliet, IL to Austinburg, OH

Ground hog day; cloudy with a little rain in the morning and rain most of the afternoon.  We encountered a few problems with construction but had timed our overnight stop to let us pass Chicagoland mid-day.  Consequently, traffic through Hammond and Gary was no big issue.  Lunch was a quickly grabbed pizza at a Sbarro’s at a rest stop on the Ohio Turnpike.  Yummy... not!

Ignoring both GPS’s, I exited I- 80 and joined I- 90 at Elyria, OH. Though it was rush hour, traffic through Cleveland was, blessedly, not bad at all.   

I’m sorry to report that we stayed at a Holiday Inn Express in Austinburg, OH outside of Ashtabula.  The place was downright lousy.  While our suite was big, it was Spartanly furnished.  No huge deal but who ever heard of a room with no towel bars and no toilet paper holder.  There was more but enough said except to say that, had this been my first visit to a Holiday Inn Express, it would most certainly have been my last.

There was a bright side to the evening, however.  Based primarily on a photo of tuna sashimi on google maps, we ate at Chops Grill & Tap House.  The sashimi was all I’d expected it to be!

Friday, June 21 - Austinburg, OH to Oswego, NY

Finally, we awoke to a bright light in a sky which was a strange color... blue.  We were up at 8:00 and on the road about 9:00 for the relatively short drive to Oswego, which is on Lake Ontario.  We did have clouds on and off and even a little rain, but it was the first nice day in a while.  It must be said than we’d seen more clouds and more rain in these few days that we’d seen in months.  Of course, that’s why we live where we live! 

We got to the Quality Inn in Oswego at about 2 and ate in their restaurant.  We’d booked a ground floor suite with what was touted as a patio with a view of the river.  The suite was large and a true suite, not simply a large room labeled as a suite. However, the patio was a joke.  It was tiny and, yes, you could see a bit of the river but only after looking through the cars and pickup trucks in the parking lot, then across a small road and past a most unsightly tug and maintenance barge!  Not exactly what we’d expected.

On the drive, Lin had gotten the idea of supplementing our wedding gift card with a Navajo wedding vase, which we bought near Bryce Canyon so we drove to Rite Aid for a gift bag, etc. 

By prior arrangement, we met our two oldest sons, Don and Steve and their significant others, including Don’s new girlfriend, Colleen, at Red Sun Fire Roasting Company for dinner.   It must be reported that Coleen is delightful, and she and Don seem very happy together.  Dinner was very good and all seemed to have a good time.

Saturday, June 22 - Oswego, NY; Ashley’s Wedding

I was up at 7 and Lin at 8.  Linda had hurt her knee walking down the hotel steps so, after breakfast, we again drove to Rite Aid for a knee brace then just hung out.  We ran out to BK for a quick lunch, then hung out ‘til about 2:00, when we showered and dressed for the wedding.  As we were getting dressed, the maid finally showed up, asking if we wanted the room refreshed. I explained that we were dressing and asked that she return in ½ hour, but she apologized that they’d be gone by then.  I asked for two bath towels and a coffee packet and that was that.

The wedding was a very nice affair at SUNY Oswego’s Fallbrook Lodge.  The ceremony was on a lawn, the reception on a deck and dinner in a very large barn.  We were seated with my brother, Tom, and his wife, Rhonda, Don and Coleen, and Steve & Krista and really enjoyed the company.  Food and service were good and dinner music, by some of my brother Dave’s friends was excellent.  Unfortunately but predictably, the great band packed up after dinner and were replaced by a DJ playing horrible music.  We delayed a while and escaped back to the room.  Tom & Rhonda left as well but the kids stayed.

Sunday, June 23 - Oswego, NY to Wrighter lake, Thompson, PA

A sunny day again; who’d believe it?

We were on the road at 9 after breakfast at the hotel.  After stopping at a Wegman’s near Baldwinsville to stock up on groceries and again at a Wendy’s for a quick lunch, we arrived at the lake at about 1:30.  My “oldest friend”,  Allen arrived with his golf cart to help schlep things to the kitchen door, then we all went to their cottage for a chat.

It was a nice trip in some ways and grueling in others; we were glad to see it end!