Saturday, June 20, 2015

Never in my lifetime

When the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Tampa Bay Lightening in game five I knew they would win the Stanley Cup. There was no way they would lose in a clinching game at home. I never said it out loud because I didn't want to jinx it. Yes, I knew that nothing I did was going to change the outcome, but I was still superstitious that way.

Instead I looked at Daddy and said, "Never in my lifetime." I didn't have to finish the sentence. Daddy knew what I meant.

I have had a long history of sports disappointments. I listened to a lot of hockey playoff games we should have won but didn't. The game seven loss to the LA Kings in 2014 was simply the latest in a string of disappointments. I watched the Bears lose a Super Bowl game. I watched the University of Illinois lose two Rose Bowl and one Sugar Bowl games -- in person no less. I watched as the University of Illinois lost the NCAA championship to a University of North Carolina team that now seems to have cheated their way to the championship. My history of sports losses in big games is legendary. I wanted to blindly believe that the Chicago Blackhawks were going to win the Stanley Cup, but I couldn't say it out loud. I never wanted a win as much as I wanted to win this championship.

Throughout the hours between game five and game six, all I kept thinking was how much I wanted my Dad to be here to watch with us. I wanted him to experience the same happiness we all were feeling after so many years of disappointment. My Dad watched so much bad hockey during his lifetime that I wanted him to see that his loyalty was rewarded with Stanley Cup championships. He always believed they were going to be a good team when the season started. The team finally deserved his loyalty.

He only saw the first championship in this run, so it's up to us to celebrate for him. As I sat watching this year's celebration, I couldn't help but think about how happy he would have been to see this success, especially after the victory rally. There was a moment when Jonathan Towes was at the microphone in front of the cheering crowd talking about how special the third Stanley Cup was for the team. As he closed his remarks, he said something like "You know what would be even better? Four." He smiled and said, "Let's go."

Four? Never in my lifetime, but I do have my fingers crossed. I won't believe it until it happens, but I really, really hope it does.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Anatomy of Stanley Cup championship celebrations

Chicago Blackhawks beat the Philadelphia Flyers in overtime. We watched the game with Mom, Dad, Dave, Nick, Josh and Sami. As we drove home, people were standing on street corners screaming and cheering. Everyone driving was honking and flashing their headlights. The news stations stayed on the air until well after midnight showing people celebrating in the streets.

Chicago Blackhawks beat the Boston Bruins. We watched the game with Mom, Steve, Reenie, Jake and Zack. As we drove home, people honked and cheered from their cars. We honked and flashed our headlights. The news stations stayed on the air showing people celebrating in the streets.

Chicago Blackhawks beat the Tampa Bay Lightening. We drove home in silence. No one was out cheering or honking or flashing their lights. It wasn't that people weren't happy about the win. It was just that people were in shock. Three wins in six years? No one saw that coming. The news stations stayed on the air showing people celebrating, but not very much past the normal news programs.

The first time everyone went crazy because they couldn't believe the team actually won. It wasn't that we didn't think they had the talent, but winning wasn't something we understood. The second time everyone went crazy because they couldn't believe that the team won two Stanley Cups in our lifetime.  The third time we knew they would win. There was no way the team would pass up the opportunity to win at home. And, we finally understood that this team was so special that third time was the charm.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

What is that sound?

The girls softball season is winding down quickly. Tonight's game ended with a blow-out win by the girls' team. When they came home, I suggested the girls call Grammie. The blond twin grabbed the phone and called Grammie.

The blond twin quickly became frustrated. She kept dialing and re-dialing Grammie's phone number. She kept talking about how the phone was making a funny sound. Eventually I told her to leave a message on Grammie's mobile phone. The blond twin left a message and went off to get ready for bed.

After she went upstairs, I tried Grammie's phone to hear the sound for myself. Grammie has had numerous phone issues in the past. If there was some real problem, I might have to drive to her house and let her know her phone wasn't working.

I dialed the number and heard the strange sound which frustrated the blond twin. It was a busy signal. Somehow the blond twin didn't know what a busy signal sounded like.

A while later Grammie called to say that she heard the girls' message. She had indeed been on the phone when the blond twin called. We laughed that the blond twin didn't recognize a busy signal. It was one ore sign of the generational canyon between us. In her always-connected world, she assumed that the only reason she couldn't reach Grammie was that the phone was broken.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Hiking our national treasures

Our Utah vacation started at Canyonlands National Park. We got out of the hotel early to avoid the hottest part of the day. At home it was 40 and raining. In Moab it was sunny with a predicted 105 degree high.

Canyonlands was gorgeous. We hiked several trails and participated in a ranger talk. The National Park Service has a wonderful program called Junior Rangers. Our girls were at the top age for Junior Rangers, but they participated at Canyonlands, Arches and Zion National Parks.

I really wanted to participate in some ranger talks. These are beautiful, massive spaces. There is so much to learn and so little time. The ranger talks provided an overview on an interesting topic. While the girls weren't always interested, a ranger talk was required to complete the Junior Ranger program.

At Canyonlands we also viewed a scientific mystery at Upheaval Dome. The beauty of this hike was at the end, where a sign explained that scientists aren't quite certain what created the interesting formation. One theory was that a meteor hit the ground. Another theory was that a salt upheaval created the formation. It sparked interesting conversations with the girls and captured their imaginations.

Arches had its own beauty with large rock formations rising out of the desert. Our hikes there were fairly short as most lead to and from different rock formation. One hike lead us to Turret Arch, which required some climbing along with the hiking. The blond twin took this opportunity to do some rock climbing. She took the most difficult path, scaling the rocks like a pro. She was exhilarated by the chance to be a daredevil.

We also saw our first petroglyphs at Arches. These ancient rock art drawings were really interesting. We talked about how ancient people used petroglyphs to communicate. We compared the drawing to road signs. Later we saw more petroglyphs on a cliff just outside the back side of Canyonland.

We all agree Zion was our favorite, but we all had different reasons. Daddy couldn't stop taking photos. Every view could have been a postcard. We hiked the Emerald Pool trail to find frogs hiding among the rocks. We splashed in the Narrows.
Bryce Canyon stunned with the hoodoos. We hiked the Rim Trail and Bristol Cone Loop, our highest trail. The brunette twin was a little dizzy on the loop between her allergies and the altitude.

When you plan a trip like hiking our national treasures, you worry that the actual parks won't live up to the hype. We spent every day in awe of the beauty Mother Nature created. No matter where we were, our travels lived up to the hype.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The great wildlife hunt

Everything we read about the national parks discussed the interesting wildlife making their homes in the different environments. We were excited to see animals so different from what we had at home. Everything from Big Horn Sheep to lizards were on the "must-see" list.

The trip started with promising signs. As we drove up to Canyonlands, signs warned us to watch out for Open Range Cattle. Cows weren't on our must-see list, but we liked the idea of cos roaming freely throughout the park. We stared across the open field, but never saw anything other than the bright, yellow signs.

In fact, We spent a lot of time looking for wildlife. The girls were excited to see their first lizards at Canyonlands. By the time we ended our trip at Bryce, they were done squealing at the lizards. In between, we looked and looked and looked, but never saw the wildlife we sought.

We did see an Antelope squirrel, Eagles, lizards, frogs and deer. Other than the lizards, we have all those things in our backyard. Ok, we don't have Antelope squirrels, but their Midwestern cousins are everywhere.

We even stopped at a roadside wildlife viewing area in Colorado. This was an official site, just off I-70. There were viewing binoculars, telescopes and signs explaining how to spot wildlife. A woman already on the platform when we arrived said she couldn't find any Big Horn Sheep. We stared and didn't see anything either. Another group agreed. I said, "I think they just put the sign there to entertain themselves. Somewhere Colorado residents are laughing at the crazy tourists trying to find a Big Horn Sheep." They laughed, and we all got back into our cars to continue our journeys. Still, we never gave up. Until we reached Denver, we scanned mountainsides for Big Horn Sheep. As the girls said, "Maybe next time."

Friday, June 5, 2015

This is why we brought two pairs of gym shoes

When we planned our trip, I was most excited about going to Zion National Park. All four parks were beautiful, but I wanted to hike the Narrows. What makes the Narrows so special is that it's a very narrow part of a canyon, so there is water running on the canyon floor. You hike to the end of the trail and get into the water.

Knowing that we were going to hike the Narrows, we packed two pairs of gym shoes. It's a good idea anyway, given the amount of hiking we planned. You never know when you'll end up with wet shoes. The great thing about the Narrows was that we planned to get wet.

The girls didn't really understand the Narrows. We showed them videos and explained what we were going to do, but I don't really think you can understand it until you see it live.

As we got closer to the trail's end, the girls started noticing how wet other hikers were as they walked back from the Narrows. When they saw the people in the water, they were really excited. They said, "Are we going in?" I said, "That's why we're here."

A few minutes later we were all in the Narrows. It was as much fun as I had hoped. It's a rocky bottom so you navigate different size rocks, moving water and laughing hikers. At any given moment someone was splashing, falling, laughing, hiking or slipping. Sometimes they were doing it all at the same time. All this happened with stunning scenery all around us.

We walked in the water for a few blocks. Around a bend was a bit of a drop, so we turned around and went back. The Narrows were everything I had hoped, and an adventure the girls will never forget.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Everything is scenic

Our trip required two different locations to see the four parks. We started in Moab, visiting Canyonlands and Arches. We drove to St. George to visit Zion and Bryce. The trip took about five hours, driving through desolate landscape. We talked to a ranger at Arches about the second half of our trip. She said something about how the first part of our drive was scenic, but the rest was drab.

As we drove we kept wondering what road she took to Zion and Bryce. Just like our time in Canyonlands and Arches, every view in every direction was stunning. We could have spent days just wandering the state parks and marveling at the scenic overlooks we passed.

We were surrounded by breathtaking beauty at every turn. We openly wondered what road she took that she found drab. We were glad she was wrong as the gorgeous landscapes made the trip go by quickly.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Vacationing with the grandchildren

Overheard at Arches National Park

Stranger: "You have beautiful grandchildren."

Mommy looked around and didn't see anyone else in the parking lot. She said to Daddy: "Is he talking to us?"

Brunette Twin:  "Yep, Granny."

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Always have a full tank of gas

On the first day of our Utah adventure, we drove about 350 miles. There is no easy way to travel to our Utah national parks. No matter which airport you choose, there is a long, long drive ahead of you.

We chose to fly into Denver so we could visit with my cousins on our last day. My familly lives all over the country, so whenever we can get together it's a treat. From Denver International Airport we drove our rental car through the beautiful Rocky Mountains. We stopped in Vail for lunch, taking a few minutes to walk around and stretch our legs.

As we got closer to the Colorado/Utah state line, we stopped for gas and to get some beverages. It turns out our stop was also a good safety measure.

The first sign we saw as we drove into Utah said, "No services for 160 miles." I read it and didn't think anything more about it. As we drove and drove and drove, we saw a lot of town name signs with the words "no services" at the bottom. It turns out that no services meant there was nothing. I mean not a single sign of life between the Colorado state line and our destination, Moab, Utah.

It was a good lesson for our trip. Whenever we left the hotel we made sure we had a full tank of gas and lots of water. Utah was beautiful, but we had no doubts it could have been dangerous to be stranded in the desert heat.