Our current time zone: GMT +8 (We're home in Singapore!)

Monday, April 27, 2009

RV there yet?

From Wikipedia: In North American the term recreational vehicle, and its acronym RV, are generally used to refer to an enclosed piece of equipment synchronously used as both a vehicle and a temporary travel home.

We got a RV from Salt Lake City for 8 days, which should be enough to allow us to visit (yet) another 2 National Parks - The Grand Teton and Yellowstone. We could have driven and gotten motel stays like what we have been doing, of course, but one of the purposes of our trip is also to try new experiences that we normally would not be able to get at home. First thing that really hit us about the RV was its size.

One of the smallest RVs is the biggest vehicle I ever drove

I mean, we drive a Suzuki Swift back in Singapore. And so far, we've only needed to rent Compact or Economy cars to get around. The RV is probably 4 times the size of any of the cars we've driven - I felt like such a bug.


The size of the RV makes the rear-view mirror pretty useless. So I also had to learn how to use only the 2 side mirrors to tell if there are other vehicles coming up beside me.

Oops! Big truck coming!

The second thing about the RV is how compact the interior is. Our RV can comfortably sleep 4-5 pax, which was just nice for all of us.

We have a "bedroom" near the rear of the RV, right next to the toilet/shower cubicle.

The rear bedroom, which became our "bag dump"

Facing the back of the RV

Facing the front

Then, moving towards the front of the vehicle, we have a wash basin, stove, kitchen sink, refrigerator, freezer, sitting/dining area, then the driver and vehicle commander's seats. The sitting/dining area can also be converted to bedspace, and there is one queen-sized bed above the cab as well.

A skylight above the bed above the cab! And windows too!

The third thing about using the RV is resource management. The RV comes with a fresh water tank, a grey water tank and a black water tank. Fresh water is what we normally use from the taps. The grey water tank contains water that we have used for washing dishes, brushing our teeth, shower, etc. The black water tank contains all sorts of pea and sheet from the toilets. Obviously, we need to constantly top up the freshwater tank, and dispose of the contents of the other two.

One bathroom shared by all of us. A tough juggle for fresh water, grey and black!

In addition to water and waste management, we also have to work under limited power sources. The thermostat runs on propane, as does the stove. The refrigerator runs on a mixture of battry and gas, whichever is more energy efficient. Visits to RV campsites are therefore a necessary part of renting an RV. Sure, we try to manage our costs by sleeping in free campgrounds - either in approved park spaces or the "unauthorised, one-eye closed" carparks of the nearest supermarket, but we also alternate those with campsites that offer hookups, so that we are able to tap on additional electricity to power our laptops, charge our cameras and phones, obtain fresh water, and also to dump the our waste.

Clearing the waste from our RV:

Step 1: Wear your gloves, and grab the same sewage hose that everyone who rented the RV before me has been using

Step 2: Connect one end to the designated dump point, and the other to the waste tanks. Black water first, then grey water - so that the grey water also rinses the hose

Step 3: Open the valve and watch in horror as the hose leaks while it empties your waste.

All in all, renting an RV is a pretty interesting
experience. It's a little scary at first, but you learn to manage. And it is great, as long as you have good friends with whom you can get comfortable with, and not worry about nudity or snoring. So far, it's been a great time!

Ben & Jerry - Our friends who travelled with us

Sunday, April 26, 2009


22 April - we left the Utah's red desert lands and headed north towards the Great Salt Lake and its city.

Before we left Panguitch, where we were staying when visiting Bryce Canyon, we headed for Arby's drive-through to pack lunch AND dinner. Arby's is a fast food chain specialising in roast beef sandwiches and we've only seen them in Utah so far. We saw a promo on telly where US$5.95 gets you:

(a) TWO boxes of popcorn chicken (but that's SO ordinary!);
(b) THREE beef and cheddar sandwiches; or
(c) FOUR regular beef sandwiches

We had taken option (b) the night before and had discovered that Arby's roast beef sandwiches are REALLY good! The portions are generous and stuffed with layers of thinly shaved beef. And it dawned on us that $5.95 could feed two people for an entire day. Oooohhh... So we hit the road to Salt Lake City with a huge serving of option (c).

This is only half of the FOUR regulars we got for $5.95. What a deal!

An entire cow squeezed into a bun.

So off we went munching on beef and driving past lots of farms with beef-to-be. It was a beautiful sunny day to be on the road - check it out:

What a wonderful world....

And soon, we were heading into a mountain range, which provided us with a really scenic drive.

Ohhh, home on the raaaange....

The traffic that morning was really calm... smooth roads, considerate drivers, consistent speed limits... and soon, I started wondering if I could muster up the courage to take the wheel...

And I did! I've finally gone over to the LEFT side. It's not as scary as I thought it would be. Maybe it's from watching Dan get used to an opposite world and helping him watch out for traffic.

That's me driving a Chrysler Cruiser! Vrooooom!!

I think I didn't do too badly, albeit driving on the right lane (that's the sloooowww one) most of the time. And I got a bit of a kick from overtaking trailers and RVs in our little Cruiser. I covered quite a few miles and got us to Nephi and Dan took it from there to Provo, where we were staying for the night.

Provo is a not-too-small town just south of Salt Lake City. It sits happy in a beautiful location surrounded by snowcapped mountains and green fields. It's a really surreal experience to be pushing your trolly out of WalMart, and the auto doors whip open and a blast of chilly fresh air greets you as you walk into a breathtaking scene right out of your Desktop wallpaper:

Did I just step into a postcard?

We enquired about room rates at Day's Inn and were aghast that a room would cost more than US$80 (before 14% tax) on a weekday night! The receptionist claimed that we wouldn't be able to find a room less than US$50 within 30 miles of town cos families of graduates from the Brigham Young University were descending upon Provo for the graduation ceremony that weekend. We were glad that Colony Inn just down the road proved him wrong - we got ourselves a SUITE for US$50, inclusive of tax and hot breakfast (albeit the only hot items were the DIY waffles.) Nyeah nyeah Mr Day's Inn. So there.

The entrance to our hotel and the mountain ranges all around.

As we've been told (and try to believe), spring (not winter) is in the air and the spring blossoms within our hotel compound and along the road outside were in full colour. So we hit the road again - this time by foot and with our cameras swinging from our necks - to photograph the blooms. We saw boldly-coloured tulips in waxy purple, pink and red, dainty daffodils in their sunny star-shaped dresses and dandelions - some decked out in their golden frills and others in their poufy white frou-frou frocks.

Dan de Man likes the Dandelions best.

Walking down the red carpet.

This pink tulip seems to be stretching and sighing "aaahhh... the sun is out!"

A young 'un - still in the first flush of pink.

Ladies in red

I love the way they catch the sunlight in their petals

A daffodil - just missing a flower fairy sitting pretty on its petals

My favourite photos - for the way the tulip cups the warmth of the sun so gently in its petals and the waves of fresh green for leaves.

Now if only these could bloom along our streets back at home.

Comments fixed!

Was wondering why there were still no comments on our new blog. We thought we had fans! Anyway, found a problem in the settings for the blog. Anyone can comment on our posts now!

Comment away! :)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Why Did The Wife Cross the Road?

A couple of pics taken on the way to Bryce Canyon:

Deer crossing the road


It is so great to have a partner who is willing to along with my suggestions for pictures! :)

Hoodoo You Think Did This? (A Lesson In Geography)


1: a natural column of rock in western North America often in a fantastic form.
2: to cast a spell on.
The red pillars of the Bryce Canyon certainly leave one spellbound by their queer forms and incredible numbers - each one painstakingly chipped into an unique intricate shape.

So how are hoodoos created? And how did the Bryce Canyon come about?

Actually Bryce isn't really a canyon because canyons are primary carved by flowing water - a stream or a river. But water still is the main agent in carving out this amazing red rock landscape - but not in its flowing form.

Bryce - not your usual canyon.

So walk with us into the Bryce amphitheatre - a stunning gallery of hoodoo formations - to find out more about these strange creatures.

Take a walk onto the dark side of hoodoo.

At the Colour Country Motel which we were staying at in Panguitch, a town about 21 miles from Bryce, we were wondering how come our room was ice-cold when we walked into it on a sunny afternoon. That night, it got even colder but the next morning turned out to an incredibly warm and sunny day.

Well, it turned out that the temperatures in Bryce can fluctuate above and below zero degrees Celcius about two hundred times a year! On any day of the year, the temperature can fall 27 deg Celcius between late afternoon and dawn. That creates alot of opportunity for water to fall, melt or freeze in various forms of rainwater, snow and ice. (It also means that we could have ended up witnessing yet another snowfall!) Apparently, these weather fluctuations are nothing surprising for a plateau at 8,000 to 9,000 ft above sea level.

Look closely at the picture below. See the white stuff near the rocky summits?

The Bryce amphitheatre as seen from Inspiration Point.

Well the white stuff is basically frozen water - which is 110% its original liquidy volume. So... remember your geography now? The expanding water in its very hard state exerts enormous pressure on the rocks, forcing them apart from inside the cracks.

The innocent fluffy white stuff that can tear rocks apart.

So after lots of cracking up and the debris is removed by rain, what's left behind is a sheet of rock called a 'fin'. Yups, pointy and triangular like a shark's.

Fin-ished with that photo, dear?

Then comes step two - the frost continues to wedge bigger cracks in the fin, making holes called 'windows'.

They say that the eyes are the windows to the soul.

Then as the windows collapse, what's left are pinnacles called 'hoodoos'.

Sun rays streaming in through the pinnacles.

Some hoodoos take on really different shapes, making you stop in your tracks...

Hoodoo you think is out there?

... such as this one wielding the hammer of mighty Thor!

Thor's Hammer

Hoodoos are really huge - giving you the feeling of walking amongst the giants.

Feeling small?

But when they stretch out as far as the eye can see, they look like many really really tiny pinky fingers in a distance.

Guess how many fingers I'm showing you now!

It's nice to gaze far out over a massive army of hoodoos standing in formation before you. But when you take a look at them up close, you will realise too that they have very pretty peachy complexions.

Wearing the latest spring palette.

Anyway, all that thawing and melting and freezing can be rather taxing on Bryce Canyon's other residents.

Getting twisted up just trying to keep up with the weather.

But it's amazing how nature has a way of letting the young ones survive amidst the harsh times.

I will grow, I will grow, I will grow...

And it's amazing that all after the chaos that water wrecks in these rocks, they still turn out so uniform and neat.

See how neatly the clouds are lined up too. Strange!

Hoodoos are really thought-provoking things aren't they? There's so much to learn about the ancient processes that shaped our land millions of years ago and it's amazing that the very same processes are still taking place today. I feel privileged to have learnt more about our world just by spending a day at the park.

Knowledge is power.

The world is a living museum.

"...to promote and regulate the use of the...national parks...which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."

National Park Service Organic Act, 16 U.S.C.1.

For the enjoyment of future generations.


We might not have internet access for the next few days. Just thought we'd let you know.

But once we get access, we'll catch up on the blogging again! :)

Find Your Own Zion

Zion: A place of sanctity and refuge. Also a biblical place.

Here in Utah, Zion refers to the land colonised by the Mormons (also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) upon their exodus from Nauvoo in the 1800s, a sanctuary in the Salt Lake Valley where they could practise their faith in peace.

As we're here in Utah, I'm reading 'The 19th Wife', a novel based on the theme of Mormon faith and history. Apart from pushing forward with the main plot (a very good dual storyline), the characters talk about their beautiful lands - the majestic snow-capped mountains, the lush valley, the great basin and the red sands. The beauty of Utah is truly breathtaking - similar in its red rock landscape, yet unique in each national park. Zion Canyon was conferred national park status in 1909. It was an honour to be fortunate enough to visit an amazing nature reserve that has been valued, treasured and protected by its people for the past 100 years. People with utmost pride for the history, heritage and beauty of this place.

Zion is a relatively small park - too small for its 5,000 daily visitors to squeeze into the 400 parking spaces available. To ease the traffic congestion within the park, the National Park Service started offering free shuttle services to ferry visitors comfortably from point to point. The most popular route, the Canyon Scenic Highway is closed entirely to private vehicles.

So, we arrive in the park in the late morning. Dannie, being the night owl and even more so with free Wifi and a good selection of American TV entertainment every night, is in desperate need of a snooze. So we park our Chrysler Cruiser (this is off the Canyon Scenic Highway - so cars are allowed) at a turnout and I busy myself snapping some pictures of the gorgeous red/pink/cream cliffs around us.

When he woke, we trekked a little along an relatively easy trail which offers wonderful viewpoints of the Zion canyon below us, leaving a trail of footprints in the red sand and carrying shoefulls of the red dust along with us. But the deep red walls themselves alone cannot take credit for the beauty of the trail - the broken trees with their brittle bare branches that form intricate patterns against the sky, the splashes of green foliage, the impossibly blue desert sky that forms the backdrop for everything were all part of it.

At the trail summit, an unblocked view of the canyon broke out before us. It was almost impossible to imagine that a single river - the Virgin River - carved out a canyon as huge as this. At Death Valley, wind had felt like the most powerful element then in shaping the landscape. Water is a tough competitor here - tirelessly gouging out a wall of rock that stands in its way. Being amongst the red giants was a humbling experience which yet gave us the top-of-the-world feeling! Whoo!

We hopped onto the park shuttle and zipped off to The Grotto, a picnic area for yet another lunch of sandwiches - Nutella instead of Spam, apples and mini chocolate bars. (Last night, I was wondering how many more Nutella sandwiches I can eat. While writing, I just ate another one.) We got bitten on the ears by nasty little bugs and made a hasty retreat back into the shuttle to the Temple of Sinawava stop for the Riverside Walk, a scenic journey dotted in the colours of Zion - red, blue and green.

Walking along the river as it wound its way through the canyon was pretty enough - but it got rather monotonous after awhile. We turned out attentions to the sky, which, interfaced with the red cliff faces and darkened tree branches, gave us alot more photography options.

John Muir, a renowned naturalist who played a key role in preserving what are now America's national parks, once said by keeping close to Nature's heart, we can "wash our spirit clean".

Tis' true, a simple afternoon spent walki
ng amongst these warmly glowing cliffs did wonders in renewing my spirit.

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