Personal accounts of a family road trip

Not everyone’s dream post-wedding activity would be a road trip to the hottest place on earth with your new in-laws, but what can you say? We are not your typical couple. Plus, when it is the groom’s mother and father’s first time in the USA, you have to fit all the traveling in you can!

Married on Saturday night, family brunch and pool party on Sunday, and by 6 AM Sunday we are on our way. Traveling from Ventura to LA, LA to Death Valley, with a night in Mesquite, Nevada. Followed by hopping the boarder to Utah, breakfast at the Bear’s Paw in Saint George, and a few days exploring Bryce and Zion National Parks, while staying in a marvelous cabin at Zion Mountain Ranch.

The drive from LA to Death Valley took a little over 5 hours. We had packed a solid picnic, which was lucky due to the rarity of restaurants. With summer in full swing, our picnic was ate in the car while driving from Badwater (salt plains and lowest place in the western hemisphere) to the Artist’s Pallet (scenic drive). Sara ended up making tri-tip sandwiches on her lap, wrapping them in a napkin and passing them around. Yes, they were made to order! Extra BBQ sauce, no onions, the works – it was up to you.

Family Photo at Zambriskie Point, Death Valley

Family Photo at Zambriskie Point, Death Valley

Death Valley was exquisite, even if it lived up to its deadly name. There is no amount of water that is too great to pack if you are heading there mid-summer. Even without any hiking, we were chugging more liquids down than a truck does gasoline. The uniqueness of Death Valley is no one area or view. It is the juxtaposition of salt flats and sand dunes, of volcanic rock and sediment hills filled with red and yellow hues. The landscape is one of contradictions. The eye is surprised with every turn because nothing looks like the former area. No resemblance, but as you stand at the newest viewpoint, taking in the magnificent dunes, the mountains are still viewable in the background, reminding you that everything fits together into this one puzzle named Death Valley.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes July 29, 2013

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
July 29, 2013

As we drove out of Death Valley the terrain remained dessert, with chalky ground and cacti. The degrees stayed high, even into the night. We crashed at the Casa Blanca hotel and casino in Mesquite, Nevada. A fine hotel (request smoking free) for a quick layover, but do not eat at the hotel restaurant. We picked Mesquite as our night’s destination because it was the closest we could get to the Utah boarder without pressing too many hours of driving into one day.

Waking up early the next morning, we headed 45 minutes east to Saint George, Utah. We stopped here for your classic American breakfast at the Bear’s Paw cafe. Nothing special, but with a big menu and large portions – it was the typical family place.

From Saint George, we continued through Zion National Park ($80 annual membership to all National Parks) to check in at our cabin, located at Zion Mountain Ranch. The cabin was wonderful, with two large bedrooms, a pull out couch in the living room, and two large steeping tubs in the full bathrooms. The patio offered a view of the buffalo roaming the fields. There was also a small duck pond and horses.


Late afternoon at Zion Mountain Ranch


Tzachi and one of the three miniture ponies

After check in and some how getting behind schedule, we decided to make our way to Bryce National Park. It was an approximate two hour drive to reach the park entrance.  This was the first section of the drive that the mother in-laws stopped chattering for a mere few seconds and took a quick nap. Nothing like the beauty of silence, though it did not last long! So much for family not getting along, our seems to be too inseparable.

Bryce National Park

Bryce National Park

The amazing thing about Bryce is the red rock and hoodoos, a rare rock formation created from plate tectonic movements that created a crinkled crust. With the continuation of rain, ice, and snow, these rocks continue to be shaped (yes, I skipped a large section of the geology lesson – read about Hoodoos under the section of Bryce National Park, within our site). The mountains, valleys, and hoodoos are all regularly stripped red and yellow rock. Sara felt like she was walking through a cartoon set, while Tzachi and Vicki (Sara’s mother) felt transplanted to Mars. Whatever your reaction is to the landscape, we can promise that you will feel our of this world.

The Navajo loop trail led us into the valley bellow, giving us the experience to hike downwards, past each strip of time. Until we were finally at the base of the hoodoos, looking up at their magnificent structures, lined with cracks created from the ice of winter, and sides sheered by the wind.

Mothers and Daughter catching their breathe on the Navajo Loop Trail

Mothers and Daughter catching their breathe on the Navajo Loop Trail

Racing the sunset, we drove part of the Rainbow trail. Stoping at the viewpoints along the way, taking in the natural arches and continuing rock formations. For the sunset finale we headed to Inspiration Point, hiking up the short trail. With each step we grew higher and were able to see the land bellow with clearer eyes. Shocked and awed, we continued to take photographs, not knowing what else to do with our dazzled minds.

Inspiration Point at Sunset

Inspiration Point at Sunset

The next day we headed to the Narrows, a trail that runs up a river filled canyon in Zion National Park. Sara had luckily found $15 water shoes the day before at the local grocery store and was pleased to not be wrecking her perfect running shoes. Everyone else made due with their rattiest pair of sneakers or Teva sandals.

Due to our early arrival, we missed the hurricane of people on the way up the stream, while coming back down felt like salmon season. Vicki was in her happy place, falling into the water with every misstep. The day grew hotter as time progressed, and the water made for a refreshing cooling system. Ovad and Lea (Tzachi’s parents), crossed each section, hand-in-hand. While Brent (Vicki’s boyfriend) was more of an empathy faller, taking a hit into the water only moments after she did.

Lunch followed the hike in cute Springdale. Nothing like artichoke and pizza to re-carb after a long hike. Too bad the carbs are suppose to come pre-hiking. Oh well, more hikes are just around the corner!

The rest of the afternoon was spent lazying around the cabin, looking out upon the buffalo herds while  sipping down Blue Moons and Shock Tops. Brent was in bliss. And for dinner, on our small little two burner hot-plate “stove” Tzachi made Vicki birthday curry, complete with chicken and broccoli.

As the alarms went off early the next morning, Sara leaped out of bed (an odd event) and quickly got ready. Throwing on running shorts, sports bra, tank top, and hiking boots. Then dashing about the kitchen making breakfast burritos with egg, salsa, and fresh slices of avocado. Ovad stirred coffee for everyone (Turkish). And quickly, breakfast was eaten on the patio, burritos in hand, before piling into the car.

Parking at the visitor’s center, the parents and children split. The adults headed for the Lower Emerald pool, while Tzachi and Sara faced Angles Landing. Tzachi is a nice husband, but carries a camera everywhere. A fact that makes Sara grateful, but due to her knee pains, she hates stopping for photos every three seconds. Since the trail is a there-and-back, it was agreed upon that most photos would be taken on the way down, and they scurried up to the top in an hour – without a single break.

Angels Landing

Angels Landing

The mountain top offered breathtaking views of the valley bellow. There was a quick nap at the top, before the photo session began with them each taking turns at attempting to capture the perfect shot. The trail was easier up than down, as the cliff edges were made harder by the mass amounts of people that continue to arrive as the day progressed.

View from the top of Angel's Landing

View from the top of Angel’s Landing

Sara descending

Sara descending

After descending the edges and then switchbacks, Sara and Tzachi were back on the bus. Hoping off at the next stop up for a quick hike to the Weeping Rock. After a refreshing shower in its mists, it was onto meeting the parents.

Tzachi blowing kisses at Weeping Rock

Tzachi blowing kisses at Weeping Rock

The day concluded with a late lunch of Buffalo burgers and buffalo Ruben sandwiches at the restaurant next to their cabin. The restaurant had a rustic western feel, with exposed light bulbs, heavy wooden tables, and wooden framed squares of windows. With homemade challah buns, fresh vegetables and herbs from the garden, and the local roaming buffalo meat, it was a perfect meal.


Tzachi, Sara, and Lea taking in the summer afternoon

Lunch was followed by an afternoon conversation with the horses and rounds of bullshit (card game) in the cabin. Be it known that Vicki won all rounds, not a hard feat in our family.

A goodbye rainbow on our final morning at the Ranch

A goodbye rainbow on our final morning at the Ranch

The final day, we all awoke early. Took a last drive through Zion National Park, continued on through the boarders, until we arrived at Hoover Dam. Where we walked across the dam itself and then the new bridge, letting us gain a perspective of the magnitude of the dam.

Ovad at the Hoover Dam

Ovad at the Hoover Dam

Brent, Vicki, Sara, and Tzachi picked up their new car from Hertz. Not having their vehicle in stock they were offered an upgrade to a Mustang. Reluctantly, Tzachi said no, knowing that there luggage would not all fit, and they walked away with a supped up, compact Mazda SUV – also, so American. A group dinner was shared at the Yard House, beers clinking, before the goodbyes were shared.

Lea and Ovad made their way to the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas, while the other four continued on the road, all the way back to Ventura. It was time for Sara and Tzachi to pack their bags and head back home to their waiting dog, Sauvy.

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