The Poudre River Canyon

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The Poudre River Canyon near Fort Collins, CO

I have to give my son Jackson credit.  He chose a pretty great place to go to college.  Jackson is currently a junior at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado where he studies political science and runs on the track and cross country teams.  We visited him for the weekend of Oct 28-30, 2016.

While we were there, we all took a short drive up the Poudre River Canyon.  You quickly get out of the city and climb up into the Rocky Mountains along a beautiful river.  We stopped for a hike at Gateway Park and after a short distance, got some great views of the canyon and river.

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A little further up the river, we stopped for lunch at the Mishawaka Inn.  A friend at work had recommended this spot and it did not disappoint.  We ate lunch on the patio overlooking the river and walked around the concert amphitheater.

A beautiful day in Colorado with Jackson!

 

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Toroweap Overlook

 

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The Colorado River from Toroweap Overlook

On October 8, 2016, I took a day trip with some friends from Vegas to Grand Canyon National Park’s Toroweap Overlook.  The motivation for this trip was in part to be out of communication range while the Washington Huskies played my Oregon Ducks.

This is a rather grueling trip that takes you north from Las Vegas into Arizona, Utah, and back to Arizona again.  The final 80 miles are on a progressively rougher dirt and rock road that ends at a little known and visited part of the Grand Canyon.  Four wheel drive is needed and I have gotten a flat tire on 2 of the 3 times I have been there!

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Colorado City, Arizona

On the way to the Overlook, you pass through Colorado City, Arizona.  This little town is right on the Arizona/Utah border and is the home of the Fundamentalist Mormon Church.  The former leader, Warren Jeffs, was a resident of this town before being arrested in 2008.

On a family trip in 2007, we stopped at the service station pictured above to repair a flat tire.  As we were waiting for the car, local children began to appear to look at us.  The girls all had on their calico dresses and the boys long sleeve shirts with suspenders.  It was a real time warp!

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Looking 3000 feet down at boats in the Colorado River

While the view into the canyon is incredible, the remoteness of Toroweap is what makes it special for me.  You can drive right up to the rim and climb over rocks at the edge of the cliff with no hand rials in sight.  The largest crowd I have ever seen at this spot is 4 people.  You really have the canyon to yourself!

If you are lucky, you can watch a boat float through the canyon and tackle Lava Falls, one of the biggest rapids in Grand Canyon.

Big thanks to Glenn and Larry for a great day!  And yes, the Huskies did crush the Ducks.

Italy, Summer 2016.

For 2 weeks in June and July, 2016, we traveled to Italy.  It was the first time we had been back since 2003, when we were chaperoning a group of middle school students from Oregon.  On that trip, we started in Rome and traveled north.  This time, we started in Rome and headed south, through Sorrento and on to Sicily.

Jolie created a great Video Overview of our trip.  You can also see some additional pictures in the album title ‘Italy, 2016’ to the right.

Part 1: Rome

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The skyline of Rome

We began the trip with a 5 day stop in Rome on our own.  We rented a great room at the Hotel Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps.  This was a perfect central location to explore from.

In Rome, we hit the major highlights including:

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The dome of St. Peter’s from the Vatican Museum

Vatican City (St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel).  We were able to take the Scavi Tour underneath the basilica to see the necropolis and what is believed to be the resting place of St. Peter.  This is a very holy site for Christians and several members of our tour were overcome by the significance of this place.

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The Roman Colosseum

The Colosseum and Forum.  This was the center of ancient Roman life.  I am always shocked by how these stunning historical sites exist in the middle of a modern city.  We popped up out of the Metro and boom, there is the Colosseum.  Paris and London are like that too.

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‘Venus Victorious’ by Canova in the Gallery Borghese

The Villa Borghese and Gallery Borghese.  This huge park once belonged to the wealthy Borghese.  In addition to providing a beautiful natural space in the middle of Rome, the park houses the Gallery Borghese, one of the most amazing collections of sculptures (many by Bernini) to be found in Europe

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The ruins of Pompeii

Pompeii and Naples.  We took a day trip from Rome to the ruins of Pompeii via Naples.  The ruins were spectacular.  I was surprised both by the size of the ruins (it is really a large town), the window it provides of life at the time of the 79 AD eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, and how much more there it to excavate.  I was also excited to see the Amphitheater, where Pink Floyd performed their Live at Pompeii show in 1972.

After Pompeii, we took the local train to Naples.  The train ride was a trip with a band playing in the cars as well as a mentally unstable man yelling in Italian!  Then we got to Naples!  Naples moves at 1000 miles an hour and has the most crazy traffic outside of Beijing we have ever experienced.  We played our own game of Frogger for a while and then hit the train back to Rome to get ready for our tour of Sicily.

Part 2: Southern Italy and Sicily

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Our route through southern Italy and Sicily

After a wonderful few days in Rome, we met up with our tour group for a 10 day trip through southern Italy and Sicily.

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Sorrento, Italy

Sorrento.  Our first stop was in Sorrento near Naples and the Amalfi Coast.  This cliffside town is a favorite vacation area for the rich and famous of Europe.  It is also the center of Lemocello production.  Jolie was in heaven!  The whole town smells like lemons (except for the areas that smell like amazing pasta dishes).

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Taormina, Sicily

Taormina and Mt. Etna, Sicily.

After a long bus ride south down the ‘boot’ of Italy, we took a ferry for the short trip to Sicily.  Our first stop in Sicily was the resort town of Taormina along the eastern coast.  For some context, this is the area that provided the Sicily footage for the Godfather I and II movies.

The town was beautiful and capped by our first Greek ruins of the trip.  The Greek Theater dates from the 3rd century BC and overlooks the town and the Mediterranean Sea.  Besides being a tourist destination, the theater also hosts concerts and an annual film festival (they were setting up for this when we were there).

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Mt. Etna, Sicily

This location also provided us with a base for a day trip to Mt. Etna, one of the most active volcanoes in Europe.  We took a combination tram and 4×4 ride to get to the top where the wind was blowing over 80mph.  It was everything I could do to stand up.  Jolie retreated quickly to the lodge (which served wine…smart girl).

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Agrigento, Sicily

Greek and Roman Ruins.  Sicily houses some of the best preserved Greek and Roman ruins in Europe.  The dry climate and limited pollution has kept these sites well preserved over the centuries.  On our trip, we visited several sites, including an amazing Roman Villa that was recently excavated after being covered by a mudslide for years.

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Erice, Sicily

The Fortress of Erice.  As we approached the main Sicilian city of Palermo, we stopped at what was for me the best site on the trip.  The mountain top town of Erice has been occupied by Greeks, Romans, Phoenicians, and Normans over the years, each adding their own culture and architecture to the village.

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Palermo, Sicily

Palermo.  Our final stop in Sicily was the capital city of Palermo.  Palermo is generally know as the home of the Sicilian Mafia.  We felt totally safe walking around this beautiful town, but as we were preparing to leave for our ferry ride to Naples, huge fires broke out in the hills surrounding the town.  We later found out that the fires had been set by the mafia as a protest against a new government law.  It made for a great ending to our Sicily journey!

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Our ferry surrounded by smoke from Mafia set fires