Archive for November, 2010

Hoodoos, Arches and Goblins (Part 2)

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

 The following morning we made a detour to Goblin Valley State Park (elevation 5,200 feet) on the way to Moab based on a recommendation from our car rental agent. The valley, which is only about a mile across and two miles long, is formed by a seasonal wash (Red Canyon) and contains thousands of mushroom-shaped pinnacles or hoodoos a few feet high that someone obviously thought resembled goblins. The formations have large orange-brown boulders of hard rock atop weaker sandy layers which have eroded more quickly, as a result of millions of years (who’s counting?) of the combined effects of wind and rain. Maybe Theresa and I had overdosed on magnificent scenery but we quickly left the park seven dollars out of pocket and were quite unimpressed by what we saw.  I can understand the appeal for families with small children and perhaps we will return one day with a horde of grandchildren. Who Knows?

 The city of Moab was the last destination on our trip where we would spend two nights. It’s in close proximity to the Arches (elevation varies between 4000 and 5600 feet) and Canyonlands (elevation 5,800 feet,) National Parks and afforded us the opportunity to explore the Colorado River which was also nearby. It was a beautiful evening and we drove along the river for 14 miles into Castle Valley to the Red Cliffs Lodge where we enjoyed dinner on the patio overlooking the river and admired another gorgeous sunset.

We were up early the next morning to have a head start on the rest of humanity; well those who were planning to follow us into Arches. More than 2,000 sandstone arches have been catalogued in the park. Born of seeping salt, the formation of the arches began 300 million years ago. Arches are often created from narrow sandstone walls called “fins” which have been isolated as a result of cracks in the earth and subsequent erosion. Water seeps into cracks in these fins, then freezes and expands causing chunks of rock to fall off. Gravity and erosion help complete the formation of an arch The smallest measure three feet from base to base, and the largest, Landscape Arch, is 306 feet wide. Delicate Arch is probably the best known feature in the park. Teetering on the edge of a slick-rock bowl, it is 46 feet high with a width of nearly 35 feet, enjoying stunning views of canyons, the Colorado River canyon and La Sal Mountains.

We grabbed a quick lunch lounging back in the mustang trying to take in all that nature had to offer, but it was quite overwhelming in the nicest sense. The day was heating up but we elected to proceed to the last of our objectives: Canyonlands. This is the Utah’s second largest national park. The centerpieces of the park are the two great canyons carved through flat layers of sedimentary rock by the Colorado and Green rivers. Most of the park is inaccessible by highway and one would have to rent a jeep to appreciate the park’s scale and remoteness.

One of the most photographed features in Southern Utah is the Mesa Arch in Canyonlands. Thankfully, the trail to the Arch is one of the easiest in the park-about a half mile total and has only 100 feet elevation gain. Mesa Arch spans 90 feet and stands at the edge of a mesa precipice thousands of feet above the Colorado River Gorge. La Sal Mountains can be viewed through the arch almost 35 miles away. We had come to the end of our journey.

In a way the trip confirmed the insignificance of man compared to nature. The scale and beauty of the mountain scenery we witnessed was truly breathtaking. It’s difficult to comprehend that the rock formations we witnessed had formed over millions of years, and man is lucky if he is allowed to stick around for his three score and ten. Our 8 day trip merely scratched the surface of what the region has to offer, and we would love to return one day. We really need to do the Angels Landing trail in Zion which is reputedly one of the most famous and thrilling hikes in the national park system. I would also like to visit Cedar Breaks National Monument which some observers have claimed is a smaller but even better version of Bryce Canyon. Praise indeed. I can’t wait to return.

What Charm School did you graduate from?

Friday, November 5th, 2010

 Call it what you will but I have little patience for people who are rude, ill-mannered, lacking social graces or etiquette. I went to vote at the crack of dawn on polling day, bright eyed and bushy-tailed, only to be confronted by a wrinkly old sour puss of a polling clerk. He beckoned me forward with a shake of his clawed hand and could not be bothered to say good morning or even make a sound to indicate that he was still alive. I wish I had brought a mirror with me and stuck it under his nose. I could excuse the old geezer being exhausted at the end of a longing polling day but this was five minutes after the station opened.

I’m sure you have all encountered the arrogant waiter in restaurants who believes he is doing you a favor by serving you and then wonders why you chose to leave him a derisory 5% tip. We usually celebrate our wedding anniversary over a candlelit dinner at one of the many restaurants in the city, and on this occasion I chose the restaurant which was a big mistake!

 I decided to take my wife to a highly rated steak restaurant, but unfortunately the testosterone was dripping down the walls the moment we arrived. The restaurant featured an al a carte menu and I naturally ordered their signature steak with French fries and grilled mushrooms as my over priced side dishes. The steak duly turned up but with a plate of onion rings in place of the fries.

  • “Excuse me waiter, but I ordered fries not onion rings.”
  • He replied: “You ordered onion rings Sir, but I will reluctantly change them for fries if you so wish.”
  • “I don’t like onion rings so why would I order them?”
  • The mealy mouthed waiter was determined to have the last word: “Whatever!”

 We once visited a restaurant in South Carolina and the “maitre de” was armed with a warped sense of humor. He greeted us at the entrance with a disarming $2 smile and asked: “Smoking or non smoking?” Having never succumbed to the evil weed I naturally chose non smoking and he promptly directed us to a table which was immediately adjacent to a table of chimney stacks.

  • “Herr, hmm, perhaps you didn’t hear me properly but we want a table in the non-smoking section.”
  • “You are in non-smoking Sir which just happens to be juxtaposed to the smoking section.
  • “You can’t be serious:” I protested with as much conviction as Charlie Sheen on the sanctity of marriage.
  •  “I have to draw a line somewhere and I can’t afford to have a void between sections, so you just happen to be sitting on the Mendoza.”
  • Not to be considered churlish, we followed the theme and ordered the smoked salmon and suggested that the “maitre de” put it in his pipe and smoke it and left the establishment in a proverbial cloud!

 I work with a bunch of guys who at various times of the day are determined to test my resolve while trapped together in the restricted confines of a SUV. While one hapless avenger is slapping his lips eating a fast food item of dubious quality, his cohort is feverishly slurping his beverage, and they invariably complete my nightmare by sucking their teeth in unison to relieve their cavities of food particles and other unmentionables. I suppose I could be considered impatient and a little intolerant, but I can’t abide poor table manners.

My contempt for flight attendants is well documented in previous posts, but now I have to add another group of malcontents to the wall of shame: car dealership employees with one or two redeemable exceptions.  The number of times I have to pick up a vehicle from a dealership for a customer only to be told that it is in clean up and will be ready in 20 minutes. These people are trapped in a time warp because more often than not twenty minutes translates to 2 hours.

 It was 11.30am one sunny morning when I arrived at a car dealership with a contact name to acquire a vehicle only to be informed by the receptionist that the gentleman was at lunch.

  • I enquired: “What time will he back from lunch?”
  •  The receptionist replied: “3.30pm give or take a cocktail or two.”
  • Unable to control my frustration I replied: “four hours for lunch?”
  • “It’s a working lunch” explained the tiresome, mascara laden receptionist.
  • “It doesn’t work for me:” I exclaimed desperately trying to control my emotions.
  • She asked contemptuously: “Did you have an appointment?”
  • “Not at a precise time but he was expecting me to pick up the vehicle around noon.”
  • “There’s nobody else who can help you, so come back late this afternoon. But call in advance just in case he’s with another customer.”

 The irony of this unfortunate episode was not lost on me. While clicking my heels for twenty minutes at reception I glanced around the dealership and observed a distinct lack of fellow customers, but I counted approximately 20-25 employees idly positioned, picking their noses, filing their nails or chewing the fat with a fellow co-worker oblivious to my plight.

I maybe old school, but I appreciate service with a smile. I like people to say thank you when I hold a door open for them. I appreciate an acknowledgement from another driver when I allow him into the line of traffic. In this depressed economy, one would assume airlines and car dealerships to make a greater effort to treat their customers with courtesy and respect, but it was obviously not included on the course curriculum of whatever “charm school” they attended.