Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Best of the Best...Cookie Jar on Vacation

As we have travelled over 8000 kms and been through 8 States on this vacation, we have compiled a list of the coolest places and things that we saw. Thinking of a trip to the American Southwest? Well read on, and you may get some ideas.

Best Restaurant:

This one was hard to pick because we encountered two places that we couldn't choose between. So it's a tie.

Moab Diner-Moab, Utah. This little place doesn't look like much from the outside, but it's the staff and the giant portions of yummy food (not to mention those colossal ice cream cones) that won this place top honors. The staff we so cool that we felt like we were adopted as part of the town. Not just that, but when Kevin decided that he wanted a taco and it wasn't on the kid's menu, they took the time to find out exactly what he wanted and created a special dish just for him!

Mimi's-Tucson, AZ We went to a Mimi's across from Disneyland in LA, California on our last vacation. We love this place. Partly because of the funky New Orleans atmosphere, and because the food is just down right delicious! For the entire 6 days we were in Tucson, we ate here every single day. The chicken pesto ciabatta sandwhich is soooooo yummy and they have the best kid's menu of any place we've been to.

Best Pool:
Kevin chose the pool at the Sheraton Tucson Hotel and Suites as the winner of this catagory. It's large, has a big deep end, is open 24 hours, and he had a great time jumping in it.

Funniest Signs:
On the way to the Grand Canyon you pass through Navajo Country, and at every little pull out there is stalls with people selling jewelry, pottery, etc. Some really try to do the hard sell thing. Signs along the road read like so.."Nice Indians behind you. Turn around now, it's okay."

The runner up in this catagory is the "Drowsy Drivers cause accidents" and then "Drowsy Drivers pullout ahead" signs along the highway through the Salt Flats in Utah. We began to wonder if the pull outs served coffee or something.

Biggest Culture Shock:

Cracker Barrel Restaurant earns this honor, hands down. The food, combined with the people chatting in their southern drawls, the bill being referred to as a 'ticket', and half the customers on cell phones really made it a strange experience. I have never felt so distinctly Canadian in my entire life. The food that we ordered was delicious though...but even Asian food is more familiar to us then most of what they served.

Most Comfy Beds:

Oh. my. GOD. If you ever visit a Sheraton, they don't call those bed "Sweet Sleepers" for nothing. We wanted to BUY one. Kevin's response..."I don't want to get out of bed. Ever."

Nicest Surprise Hotel:

Best Western Greenwell Inn in Green River, Utah. Clean, comfy, large rooms, nice pool. I recommend it. Bring bug spray though because mosquitos get'cha in the evening.

Best Hotel Breakfast:

Considering that we are toast and coffee people, we're happy with pretty much anything. However, these hotels put on a mean breakfast....
-Sheraton Tucson Hotel and Suites (Tucson, AZ)
-Best Western Greenwell in (Green River, Utah)

Interesting Discovery:

We already knew that the portions of food at restaurants were twice to even triple that of in Canada. But did you know that even a stick of chewing gum is twice as big in the USA? Also, we couldn't find cans (350 ml) of pop/soda. Everything was 20 oz, which is strange for us.

Most Burning Question(s):

Everywhere we went, from Montana to Tucson and in between, we passed towns that had a hill or mountain with a big letter painted on it. We never figured it out. Can anyone tell us what that's all about? And, to add to that, why do so many Americans talk on cell phones ALL the freakin' time? You'd see people sitting in restaurants, and half of them are either stabbing at a Blackberry or carrying on a conversation with a cell phone while the person with them sits staring into space. People driving and talking on their cell phone. It felt like everyone and their dog had a cell phone and that if it ever became fashionable, many would agree to have it sugically attatched to their head.

Hottest Temperatures:

Tucson wins this one. When people said to us, "ohhh...it's going to be hot there." they weren't kidding. It was about 105 F at least every day. It was pretty toasty. Honestly though? We quite enjoyed it. You just make sure to do things early in the morning and have a good nap and swim in the afternoon. And sunscreen. Wear TONS of sunscreen. How can you tell we're Canadian when we're the whitest white people at the pool?

Best National Park:

We have a tie here. Arches National Park (Utah) has the most amazing scenery, I must have taken about two rolls of pictures just in that park. However, Mesa Verde's (Colorado) ruins are so incredible that we just stood and said, "Wow."

National Park with the most interesting gift shops:

Mesa Verde wins here too. This place had three shops with everything from jewelry to rabbit skins, pottery, and other Native American crafts. Kevin was in souvenier heaven and came home with a Katchina doll, rabbit skin, and books.

Best tourist attraction:

This is hard to pick because we liked them all. However, in Kartchner Caverns in Arizona, when we got to the end and saw the beautiful rock formations in the limestone, Kevin was stunned to silence-which is a feat in itself.

Best Lightening Show:

Hell's Revenge in Moab, Utah. We saw a lot of lightening over the course of our holiday since it's monsoon season in Tucson, but the best (and closest) show was in Moab during our Hummer tour as a thunderstorm broke over top of us and caused a flash flood, and then lightening struck directly behind us. Yes. It was freaky.

Best tour guide(s):

High Point Hummer in Moab, Utah wins this one by a long shot. Our Hummer tour guide Deirdre was SO much fun, as was our ATV guide Aman. I very highly recommend these guys, our tours were the highlight of our trip for sure. I was totally impressed by Deirdre's driving...there's no way I'd be doing HER job, thanks.

An honorable mention is the older gentleman at Old Tucson Studios in Arizona that took us through the haunted mine shaft attraction. The mine shaft itself is reminicient of an old fashioned haunted house and wouldn't have been nearly as funny or interesting if we didn't have this character leading the way, cracking jokes and teasing us. He literally MADE the attraction.

Longest out of the way stop:

Hovenweep National Monument. On the map it looks like it's right off the highway, but it actually took us 75 miles off the highway in a very round about trip out in the desert. We began to think that it was a planned thing by whoever wrote those stupid tourist maps to draw people out there.

Most disappointing place:

I really hate to say this, but it was really disgusting how all through Monument Valley the road was lined with PILES of garbage. Beer cans, bottles, etc just lined the road all through the Native lands we went through, which really deterred us from stopping anywhere. We just blew right on though.

Most annoying moment:

A certain hotel along the way boasted lots of amenities but when we arrived, we found that the hair dryer, fridge, and air conditioning didn't work. The worst moment was when our toilet overflowed, and Kevin went to the front desk to ask if he could use a bathroom before we left for a tour. He came back to the room with a plunger, towel, and instructions to fix it himself. That night we got somewhat angry with them and they fixed it. At 11 pm.

Coolest local American:

We met a guy from Idaho in Wendover, UT just outside our hotel. During Speed Week at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, many guys with hot rods bring their cars up to the flats to run around out on the salt. They park their cars in front of the hotels and the tourists come out and look at them. He took a real liking to Kevin and promised that if he saw us out on the flats the next day he'd give us a ride. We didn't think it would actually happen, but it did! We each got a ride out on the flats with him in his car, which is a really, really cool experience.

States with the best rest stops:

Arizona and Colorado

States with the worst rest stops

Idaho and Montana...uh...where are they? We didn't see any and at times contemplated having to pee on the side of the road. Word to the wise, don't drink lots of coffee when driving in those states.

Most confusing speech:

In restaurants, the bill, as we call it here in BC, is a "ticket". First time I was asked if I wanted a ticket I had no idea what they were talking about. The farther south we went, the more Canadian we sounded, and the more everyone else became hard to understand-especially if they were from southern or midwestern states. We said, "huh?" and "pardon me?" a lot.

Most ironic moment:

We're in Wendover, Utah. There isn't a hotel room to be had. We finally find a room...and not just any room, but a room with a king sized bed, double bathtub, piles of pillows, a jaquzzi and a ton of mirrors. A room for romance. Maybe even honeymoon type room. And there we are, too tired to move and with our 10 year old. John and I laughed as we watched Kevin float around in the hot tub asking, "why do they have a hot tub here, and all these mirrors?"

Spiciest food:

We ordered chili at Mesa Verde and our poor virgin taste buds weren't prepared for chili, Southwest style. Don't order anything that may be spicy without asking first. These people eat jalapenos whole for breakfast, for God's sake.

Most often asked questions:

"Is that all? Are you sure?" when we ordered just toast for breakfast. No, we don't eat eggs, bacon, grits, and pancakes. Yes, we're freaks.
"Is that true that you don't pay anything for medical????" Actually we do pay for medical, but not much, and ya I know we're lucky that way.

And the stats....we went through...8 states..2 provinces..2 countries
stayed in 6 hotels
saw 7 national parks
and drove a grand total of 8773 km (or 5451 miles)

We're tired now.

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