Vegas, Baby!

People ask me….. ‘Why do you go to Vegas?  You don’t drink or gamble.’

I go because it’s a fun city to see and it’s close to so many other attractions.

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Some people love it, some hate it.  If you really look around, there’s something for everyone.

I can see lots of pros and cons.  I enjoy seeing the massive and beautifully decorated hotels.  I like warm weather but I don’t enjoy the sizzling hot dry heat of summer, but it doesn’t stop me from seeing and doing.  I don’t mind the casinos but I hate all the smoke.  I like to see the street artists who mostly come out at night but I don’t like the card flickers who make the streets dirty and cluttered.  I don’t like the more than half naked women who flaunt around believing their whole net worth is their body, but they are good teaching tools.  I like all the specialty shops but I don’t care for the high prices, but it’s fun to look.  I love all the photo opps EVERYWHERE!  I love that there are so many shows to choose from and we have seen a lot of great ones.  Most importantly, I love all the excursions we’ve taken from Vegas.  It’s close to some pretty amazing places.

I’ve posted about many of them, but my favorites are:

Bryce Canyon, Utah

Zion National Park, Utah

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Death Valley, California

Red Rock Canyon, Nevada

 

Bryce Canyon, my number 1 favorite – so majestic.

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Zion, a blend of forest, mountains, rocks, sandstone…..

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Grand Canyon – it’s just Awe – Amazing!

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Death Valley – so many diverse areas and terrains – unlike anything you’ll see anywhere else.

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Red Rock Canyon – love the scenery, but the tour puts it over the top.

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I hope you keep reading for all the fun details of our Vegas & Beyond Adventure, but first I’ll tell you a little about me:

I am a photographer who loves to travel. I have always liked photography since I was a kid with my little Kodak Pocket Instamatic camera. I was born in Ohio and had never left the tri-state area of Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana until I was an adult! I flew on my first plane at age 21 (to Hawaii), and on my second flight, I jumped out. What a Thrill! Oh, did I mention that I like adventure too?

I have been married for almost 25 years. We met in 1992 working as IT geeks, I mean systems programmers, doing government contract work. That seems like a lifetime ago. We have 2 amazing daughters, neither of which are geeks – yet, and a very cool Golden Retriever, named Marly.

We got our first real camera in 2005 – a Canon SLR. My husband just brought it home one day. We were leaving for China in about 2 weeks to adopt a baby girl. We didn’t have time to learn how to use it so we set it to auto and started clicking. We were thrilled with our results – until a few years later when we learned how to shoot, but we are so thankful for all the memories our mediocre photos have created for us.

I live in Sarasota FL and I’m thrilled about it. It’s a wonderful lifestyle if you love beautiful sunny days, the ocean, dolphins, manatees, boating, blooming flowers year round…..there’s so much to love.

We all love to travel and have developed quite a passion for it.  We’ve been to many states and a number of countries. I feel very fortunate to live this wonderful life. We have quite a list of places we still want to visit.  From now forward, I hope to do a better job photo journaling our travels.  Photos help keep our memories alive for me but I’ve noticed as I’m getting older, I don’t remember everything as clearly as I used to.

Be sure to check out my website and FaceBook:

http://www.sweetmemories.cc/

https://www.facebook.com/GanleyPhotography/

Other blog sites:

http://www.sweetmemories.cc/blog_china05.html

http://getfitnowblog.com/

https://puertovallartaadventure2017.wordpress.com/

https://thebestofsarasota.wordpress.com/

https://vancouverandalaska.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

 

 

Walk The Strip

You know the saying Walk the Walk, well I want you to Walk The Strip.

There are so many things to see.  I think we’ve in almost every hotel from the Stratosphere all the way to the Mandalay Bay and everything in between.

The Venetian

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The Wynn

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Caesars

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Bellagio

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New York New York

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Planet Hollywood

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Paris

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Have lunch outside.

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Or inside.

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Have fun all by yourself!

Come out at night to see the street artists.  Some are quite talented others are quite entertaining, many are both.

I think my all time favorite is the Mr. Monopoly guy.  He played the role perfectly.  I even got my picture made with him – but it’s lost, but I still remember him well.

 

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After the levitating guy made his debut on America’s Got Talent, these guys were all over the strip.  Everyone wanted to know how they did it.

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We usually see lots Santa’s and lots of Elvis wanna-be’s.  We’ve even seen a few Dolly’s.

Cool structure – shops and restaurants.

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Go to the Wynn early for wide open spaces.

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They have so many flowers.

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Look closely.  Almost everything in the garden is made out of flowers.

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We even found this heavily guarded Disney statue.

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High Roller

Abby and I loved the High Roller, the giant 550-foot tall ferris wheel just one block off the strip and part of the LINQ.  We rode it early in the morning so we could possible get a pod all to ourselves and then we returned at night for a view of the lit up strip.

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Very Cool.  Highly recommend.

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550 feet above the Vegas Strip

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All alone in that big pod.

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Once you buy a day ticket, you get a discount off your night ticket, at least that was true in 2014.

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Guess who loves the gift shop but only got these pictures as souvenirs?

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So Much To Do

So Little Time

We experimented with slow shutter speeds on the overpasses to create some fun light effects.

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One of the days while dad was working, the girls really wanted to go to the wax museum, so off we went.  It was fun.  We saw lots of celebrities there.

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We visited the Bellagio Fountains many time – day and night.  They are magnificent and I love them.  I think I have about 3000 pictures plus some videos, but I’ll only bore you with a few.

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We wandered up the down the strip checking out so many hotels, restaurants, shops…..

We couldn’t pass up the Coke Store, Hershey’s, and M&M’s.  Good thing Abby was on a limited budget – she would have bought everything.

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This was the first time we saw the personalized Coke bottles.

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Do the M&M’s taste better here?  We pay more for them???

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Over the years, we’ve seen plenty of shows including almost all the Cirque shows, Jay Leno, various magicians, comedy acts, a hypnotist, even Barry Manilow!

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Once we even ran into Pete Rose at Caesar’s signing autographs.

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I was such a big fan back in the 70s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old Vegas; aka Freemont

We couldn’t let another trip to Vegas go by without visiting Freemont.

Unfortunately…..lost photos – bummer.  The arched dome that displays the light and laser show is pretty neat – all synchronized to music.  People are zip lining right above your head.  Abby did get this caricature done there.  Some sand artists were working on a large sand sculpture that was looking pretty cool.

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This still hangs in her room today along with a couple of others.

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We also made a visit to the old part of the strip where the Stratosphere is, Circus Circus, Riviera….  I believe the Frontier had recently been torn down.

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The girl likes to jump.

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We checked out some rides and performers.

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We also drove by Pawn Stars.  We had heard that it is actually quite smaller than it looks on tv and from the road that seemed to be true.

 

 

 

 

 

So Many Great Hotels

With so many hotel choices, it was hard to make a decision.  The Mirage is pretty much in the middle of the strip so we chose it.  It’s very nice – HUGE!  When the lady at check in is giving Clark (Vegas Vacation for anyone who is not a fan) directions to his room, it’s spot on.  Down the hall and to your left, past the cafe, not the first bank of elevators, past the 5 flashing slot machines, then take a right, your elevators will be on the left.  If you pass the bathrooms, you’ve gone too far.  Turn around and start over!

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When we arrived, I think there was some sort of ‘shoestring’ convention going on.  The place was littered with 6 foot tall models or wanna-be’s wearing little more than shoestrings!  No exaggeration!  Abby said ‘I don’t belong here!’

The pool is massive but usually very crowded.  This was shot pretty early in the day; before the partiers were even out of bed.

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Food and drinks at the pool bar are pretty expensive.  You expect to pay a little more, but this is ridiculous. First of all, who wants a 32 oz drink?  It’s 100 degrees out here – in the shade.  The ice melts in 5 seconds flat!

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Our room was nice.

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Abby especially liked the bathroom display.

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Yes, we did venture out after dark.

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We even managed to take a few hours away from sightseeing to just hang at the pool and cool off.

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Art by Abby

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The Mirage is also home to our favorite Vegas show……Terry Fator!

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When we first came to Vegas in 2007, we really didn’t know who he was.  We had not watched America’s Got Talent or ever seen him perform.  We arrived late and saw that there was 10pm show so we inquired about tickets.  Almost back row but we took them.

The show was excellent.  We laughed so hard and our seats weren’t bad at all.  There are huge screen on both sides of the theater to help you see close up better.

Since then, we have seen Terry several times in Vegas and even once in Ohio.  I think he is just wonderful and so very talented!!!

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Sights around the lobby.

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Someone loved the Beatles decor.  We have lots of pictures, but I’ll just post a few.

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There’s a little bit of everything in Vegas, Baby!

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This is just WOW!

 

 

 

 

 

Bryce Canyon……My FAV

Bryce Canyon National Park is beyond amazing, over the top WOW!, and just an unforgettable event – it’s much more than just a visit to the park.

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It was amazing how the sun just lit the canyon like it was a masterpiece……and it is!  I believe this was an early morning, just after sun rise, shot.

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When we were here in 2010 it was so cold and rainy and I almost froze.  Most everything was covered in fog and clouds.  I could tell that there was something beautiful under the cover but I really had no idea.

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I’m so glad we returned 2 years later and with both of our girls.

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As we drove from Zion (about 1 hour 30 minutes), where parts of the park exceeded 100 degrees, we watched the elevation signs climb and the outside temperature drop.  By the time we reached the 8000 foot mark at Bryce, the temp topped out at 80 degrees.  Add in the blue sunny skies and low humidity –  NICE!

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We hiked around a little with the girls and drove to all the marked sightseeing spots along the map.

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All were spectacular.

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We hiked through one section where all the trees had been destroyed by fire a few years before.  In some of the areas, new vegetation was starting to grow but other areas were just burned and charred with no signs of life.

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Once again all the original images are lost in space hopefully to return one day and all I have are these small, low quality pictures.  No pictures of the destroyed areas to post.

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I love the arches and someday hope to visit Arches National Park, also in Utah.

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Good thing she got a hiking stick from Zion.  She needed it on some of these steep climbs.  The stick was too big to pack in our checked luggage but it was no problem carrying it on.  It was hung in the closet with the coats.

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We spent the night in a lodge somewhere just outside of the park.  I’m pretty sure it was a Best Western lodge.  Nothing too exciting but our room was clean.  It had a restaurant and a large gift shop.  Very convenient to the park.

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The next morning, my husband and I got up early, before sunrise, to drive back to the canyon and do some hiking.  The girls were tired so we left them to catch up on their sleep.

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We took a moderate trail and hiked to the bottom and of course back up again – a different way of hiking than we’re used to.

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What a great way to see the rocks and the formations.  Would definitely do it again.

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Some the areas and formations have names.  I wish I could remember them, but too much time has gone by and my brain has gotten old.  Maybe one day I’ll look them up and try to match them to my photos.

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My family

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I’m just in awe looking at all these wonderful creations and wondering how all this was formed and how long it will last.

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This crazy bird wasn’t afraid of anything.  I think too many people must have feed him.

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When we were here in 2010, we were in and out of the van several times trying to get a glimpse of something, anything.  We were wet and cold and then had about a 5 hour ride back to Vegas.  We stopped at a roadside truck stop/gift shop and when I returned to the van, my husband asked ‘what did you buy?’  Socks, extra thick, warm socks I told him.  My shoes and socks were drenched and my feet were almost frozen solid.  My shoes had about 5 hours to dry and my feet finally warmed up after a couple of hours.  I think the socks were $12 – money well spent.

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I’m so glad we got to return during better weather.  It was so worth the long drive.  Of course it’s much shorter in a car (or mini van) than taking a tour bus.

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I love these!

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See Bryce Canyon!  It’s my favorite National Park ever.

 

 

 

 

 

Zion National Park

From Vegas, Zion is less than a 3 hour drive northeast into Utah.  St George is a good place to stop for lunch before you get into the park and have limited choices.  We visited in both 2010 and 2012.  In 2010 it was cool and rainy.  I’m not sure we got any pictures worth searching for.  They are lost on a defective drive so I didn’t even look for backups.  The 2012 images are screenshots as those originals are MIA.

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Even before you enter the park, the scenery is amazing.  Different fro m Red Rock.  Different from Sedona.

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Just like our journey to Sedona, most of these are taken from a moving car.  We pulled over where possible to snap a few better images.

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We had time for a little hiking this day.

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Saw some wildlife.

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Waded through the creek to cool off a little.

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I really enjoyed this part of the drive.  I believe there were several tunnels to drive through.

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I loved this formation.  The coloring is awesome!

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This sandstone was just remarkable.  The bright sun made everything just stunning.  So thankful for a beautiful day on our second time around.

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We learned about this shoe tree on our first visit here in 2010 (tour bus) but neither of us could remember why it’s here or how it got started.  Maybe someone will leave a comment.

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Zion is a definite must see.  Do some hiking if time permits.  Don’t spend too much time here if you have to sacrifice seeing Bryce Canyon – it is beyond WOW!

 

 

 

 

 

Jerome

Where is Jerome Arizona?  It is about 30 miles southwest of Sedona.  One of our friends recommended it as a little side trip and told us about a ‘real’ western cowboy showdown with horses, shootin’ and singin’.

Jerome was known as a copper mining town about 100 years ago, so that’s what we’re planning to check out.

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What a super cool rock!

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The copper mine shaft.

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The shaft used to go almost 2000 feet deep into the earth – seems a little scary.

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So after a couple of hours exploring Jerome, we headed back north to Cottonwood for the Blazin M Ranch where we were sure to find cowboys, horses, lassos, guns, and Sarsaparilla.

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I had to bail them out.  Can’t take them anywhere.

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We learned out to lasso a plastic and straw bull.

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Then we got to do some shootin’.

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Yay!  She hit it.

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Nuff said.

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Abby found her Sarsaparilla.  She’s happy.

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Real authentic cowboy food – BBQ pork and chicken, beans, white bread served on tin plates.  It was pretty good!

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Dinner and a show.  Even though it was corny, we had fun.

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After it got dark, the ghost rider flew by our dinner party with only some strobe lights to light his path.  It was very cool.

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The Road to Sedona

What else can I say? It’s a beautiful drive.

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Most of these pictures were taken from a moving car.  I just came across the picture of our rental car….a mini van…..yes, a mini van.

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Don’t let this happen to you!

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Looks like she’s ready for a hike.

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WOW!

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We’re almost here and just in time for lunch.

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The most interesting church I’ve seen.

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And quite the view too.

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We stopped for an afternoon hike.

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We reached the summit and the view of out of this world.  360 degrees of pure uninterrupted beauty.

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Time to celebrate a little and then head back down.  Abby started trotting down the big rocky hill, picked up speed, and then couldn’t stop running. I was yelling from the top but she kept going.  I was starting to panic.  There was no way I could catch up to her.  All I could think was that she was going to trip over a big rock and crash or fall into a giant cactus.  Either way, how painful for her.  Luckily a guy near the bottom heard me yelling and realized that she was out of control.  He reached out and grabbed her, almost like a clothesline, before she had a bad crash. When we finally reached the bottom, she was shaking and so scared.  Then she started to cry.  The funny part…..she was carrying an open cup of water and the water was still in the cup when we got to her at the bottom of the hill. She cried for almost 20 minutes. It was so scary for her!

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When she refers to this incident today, she calls it her ‘death journey.’  Dad says it’s more like a death dash.

We stumbled, not literally, upon this interesting little roadside store somewhere outside of Sedona.  It had lots of ceramics, old signs, pottery, plants, metal art, flowers, chili peppers, I don’t even know what else.  Some of the store was outside and some inside.  You could almost get lost.

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Cool place to stop.

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One of our friends told us the check out a little town called Jerome, so we’re heading southwest to experience some wild west activities.

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Some ‘fun’ finds along the way.

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I love this one.

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So glad we got the opportunity to see Sedona.  Every area we explore out west is different from the others.  Even though I don’t care for the extreme dry heat and I am not interested in living here, this part of the country is lovely.