Art Community near St George

Driftwood horse and chaulk artThe community of Kayenta is a community designed sensitively to blend in with the desert landscape. All of the homes are in adobe looking in hues from chocolate to sand. The development is low density with native plant landscaping. We approached from St George passing through Ivins. Almost as soon as we entered the community we felt a kind of peace and tranquillity.

Also curiosity: how much do you think these homes sell for? Can you rent one on luxury homes for the week? It is hard to turn off the real estate orientation when you travel. You imagine yourself living there and of course wonder how much money it would take.

The first visit we stopped at the art village and most of the shops were shut. The Xetava Garden Cafe was open and I bought a coffee. It was free-trade, organic and a couple of other wholesome modifiers, including delicious. We wandered around looking at the chalk art on the ground from the competition from earlier in the week. I admired the driftwood horse and Carole admired the interesting garden benches.

The next visit we did some serious jewelry shopping. We browsed in several art galleries. And we ate lunch at the Xetava Garden Cafe. Carole enjoyed the waffles on the brunch menu and I had the tacos made with filet mignon. We both gave thumbs up to our choices. The service was excellent.Xetava Garden Cafe

We also sympathized with this bubble of liberalism. We saw a poster for a marriage equality fundraiser and felt like cheering. St George is a lovely community with loads of friendly people. Seventy-five percent of them are Mormon and probably conservative. A friend shared how we could spot polygamist families and we saw at least one group watching the Triathalon. So we threw up a small cheer for the organizers of an event hoping for a long shot–or a Supreme Court decision.

Gem of a Park: Snow Canyon State Park

Snow Canyon State Park is just the right size!

Snow Canyon State Park is just the right size!

St George is centrally located making it possible to do day trips to Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park and the north rim of the Grand Canyon. An Ironman Triathlon made driving to Bryce Canyon complicated and we could not shift our spa appointments. Locals raved about Snow Canyon State Park, so we decided to give it a go.

Jake the Snake at the Ranger station at the campground.

Jake the Snake at the Ranger station at the campground.

From the Inn at Entrada on the Northwest side of St George it is just a few minutes drive. You drive past the Ivins roundabout with the beautiful sculptures of mustangs and Paiute Indians. The entrance fee is a modest $8 per car and it allows access all day, so you could plan an early morning hike and then return after dinner for some stargazing from the rocks at Upper Galoot picnic area.

The ranger at the gate gave us lots of good information about the hikes in the park. She also mentioned that if we came across a tortoise, and if it pees out of fear, then we need to bring him to her or the ranger station so they can rehydrate the tortoise. Turns out the only wildlife we saw in the park was Jake the Snake in the ranger station.

The ranger station at the campground is also a gem. It has high quality exhibits and gift shop. Volunteers man the desk and offer good information about the park.

A group hiking on the Petrified Dunes.

A group hiking on the Petrified Dunes.

We went back the next day to hike a little. A group was setting up for a wedding, people were enjoying the campground, and groups of hikers and cyclists were enjoying the trails.

You can easily combine a half day at Snow Canyon State Park and a visit to Kayenta art village and the Xetava Gardens Cafe.

If you think Snow Canyon State Park looks familiar it is probably because it has been used as the setting for many popular films.

If you think Snow Canyon State Park looks familiar it is probably because it has been used as the setting for many popular films.

Hymn to Zion National Park

All day I kept thinking of the lyrics from the hymn: We’re marching to Zion, beautiful, beautiful Zion. We’re marching to Zion, Beautiful city of God.

Red steep canyon walls are the backdrop pretty much everywhere along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.

Red steep canyon walls are the backdrop pretty much everywhere along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.

Zion is an awe inspiring sight. I thought maybe these Zion fans had never been to Yosemite. We are so blessed in the United States of America because we have so many truly special beautiful natural places. Zion National Park is among the best.

It was about an hour drive from the Inn at Entrada in St George. Highway 9 is very pleasant with small towns dotting the way. Go early in the morning for two reasons. First, the parking lots fill up quickly. Do not panic though because you can park and ride a shuttle from Springdale. Almost everyone moves about the parks on the shuttle buses or on a bike. Bring a daypack and remember water and sunscreen. Second, on the first of May it was 93 degrees in the afternoon. And it only gets hotter throughout summer.

The Visitor Center is a good stop to plan your trip. We got great advice from the volunteers and rangers.

The Visitor Center is a good stop to plan your trip. We got great advice from the volunteers and rangers.

The main Zion Canyon Visitor Center is on the edge of Springdale. It has a large selection of hiking gear and books just in case you forgot something. Even if you think you have your whole day planned, check in with the fabulous rangers or volunteers at the desk. They are full of useful information. Most importantly there are good bathrooms and you can never go too often if you are planning to hike.

Do not feed the animals.

Do not feed the animals.

We boarded the bus and laughed at the cute ads admonishing us not to feed the animals. Judging by how aggressive the squirrels are, I believe we should stop feeding them. The deer are also acclimated to crowds. Careful though, they are wild so admire from a distance.

We rode the shuttle bus to the end of the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive to hike the Temple of Sinawava trail. It was a relatively easy hike. Just right.

IMG_7260When we told colleagues that we were going to Zion National Park, they proved they did not know us very well by suggesting we hike Angels Landing Trail. Right, a trail that is so steep they provide chains to hang onto. They sell a t-shirt in the gift shop for those who finish! Or they’d say, “You have to do the Narrows.” Seriously? It requires a swimsuit and water shoes and you the water is above your waist on some parts of the trail. We were perfectly happy with the short and beautiful hikes we chose.

Hiking the trails in Zion.Next up was the lower Emerald Pools trail we started from The Grotto, ending at Zion Lodge.

The Zion Lodge on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive in Zion National Park.

The Zion Lodge on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive in Zion National Park.

The Zion Lodge has accommodations, a couple of food options, and a gift shop. It is not one of the grand lodges of the National Park System, more Yosemite Lodge less Ahwahnee. It would be super convenient if you wanted to do some of the longer hikes. We got some refreshments and did a bit of shopping and then caught the bus to the Zion Human History Museum. We were 20 minutes from closing and this was enough time to take in the views from the patio and look at the exhibits.

One more short ride on the bus and we were back at the Visitor Center and our car. We were tired and extremely saturated with sun and beauty. It was a great day and we still had our stop at the Iceberg Drive-In to look forward to… milkshakes!

The view of Zion Canyon from the lower Emerald Pools Trail.

The view of Zion Canyon from the lower Emerald Pools Trail.

5 Top Places to Eat in St George, Utah

The challenge is to rank all of the great places in St George and choose only 5.  So I’ll just say it now, I plan to cheat a little and mention a few honorable mentions as well. Prices are very affordable for a vacation spot and low compared to California or Washington, DC.

Chocolate and strawberry

Mini shakes at Iceberg Diner.

1. Iceberg Drive Inn

Iceberg Drive InWe drove by the Iceberg Drive Inn on our way to Zion National Park. The sign “famous thick shakes” caught my eye. After a day hiking in Zion it was an easy choice. We stopped for dinner and bought the combo: hamburger, fries and mini shakes. We could have easily filled up on the shakes alone!

2. Xetava Garden Restaurant

Chocolate pie and cherry pie

Drive to Ivins outside of St George and keep going a little way to the Kayenta Art Village. Among the great places to shop is a cafe with terrific coffee and very good food.

3. Croshaw’s Gourmet Pie

If you have read my blog you know that I break for pie. When I read taht there was a place called Croshaw’s Gourmet Pie I made my friend go there. We started with scrumptious pot pies. Then moved on to amazing dessert pies. So good.Meat pie

4. George’s Corner

We ended up at George’s Corner because few places are open on Sunday. Lucky for us the food and service is very good. There is live music on the weekends on the bottom floor. Enjoy it or ask to be seated upstairs where conversation is possible. Of course they also have awesome pie.

Touch of chocolate at the bottom of banana cream pie is delish.

Touch of chocolate at the bottom of banana cream pie is delish.

5. Egg and I

The breakfast at the Egg and I was delicious. The portions were generous and the service was top notch.

Honorable mentions: Grandma Tobler’s Bakery is a solid place for breakfast or to pick up sandwiches before a hike. The women who work there are super nice.

Grandma's Bakery

Cliffside Restaurant is a place with a heck of a view.The food tasted great too–we split the Chicken fried chicken. Then both of us got upset stomachs and we were less enthusiastic about the place.

Glorious Spa Weekend in St. George, Utah

nn at Entrada in St George

Saint George is very peaceful, especially after Las Vegas!

Meeting girlfriends for a spa weekend is a wonderful benefit of easy travel and personal resources. For a number of years we went to the Enchantment Resort in Sedona, Arizona. This year we wanted to try a different place and I had read a few articles in travel magazines about Saint George, Utah. It had the advantage of being close to Zion National Park.

Our room was half of a duplex.

Our room was half of a duplex.

It turned out to be a terrific choice. First, it is inexpensive to fly into Las Vegas, Nevada and then it is a quick 2 hour drive to Saint George. Second, not surprisingly for a community with 75% Mormons, people are really friendly. Third, food and lodging are less expensive than in Sedona or Santa Fe.

golf course at Inn at Entrada

The view from our patio.

We stayed at the Inn at Entrada in St George and close to Ivins. Our room had a fireplace, a small kitchen area with a bar and a roomy bathroom with huge tub. Plus we were able to park our car in the garage so it was always comfortable even in the heat. he Entrada’s spa is in the modern fitness center and the treatments were all terrific. We especially recommend the Heavenly Hair with extra massage. Our room was on the golf course and a pair of mallards visited us each morning to splash in the stream that went by our patio. Each day we received a fresh supply of water and cookies. The registration area offered sweet rolls.

Double rainbow The biggest advantage to Saint George is how beautiful it is in every direction. There are dramatic mountains, red rocks, and volcanic lava flows. Then the sky! The clouds, rainbows and stars are a continuous show. It is hot even in the beginning of May with temperatures in the low 90s.

3 Reasons to Love Bicycling in California

1. Oh my gosh! If you did not see the finish to the Tour of California then you need to get on YouTube and watch some video. All 8 stages excited, but the last couple of days amazed. Stage 6, the time trial, had to moved because of snow in May. This is just plain weird, especially for Southern California. At the end of the time trial Peter Sagan had the overall (general classification) leader’s jersey. After 5 years winning the green points jersey for sprinting, Peter has found another gear and he is winning sprints on the hard days and, thanks to time bonuses for the top finishers, leading the race.

I believe he loves California. When I was following the Tour de France I staked out his team bus one morning when I had a VIP pass. I waited patiently as all the other team members collected their bikes and rode off to the start. Finally, Peter Sagan emerged from the team bus. The crowd pushed forward. I stood my ground with my California flag and sharpie (and a friendly smile). He fine tuned his bike with the mechanic for about 10 minutes and then turned to leave. I was the only person he stopped to give a signature and I believe it was the California flag!

Now he has even more reason to love California. While he lost the leader’s jersey by just a few seconds to Etixx-Quickstep’s Alaphilippe. However Sagan turned himself inside out to finish so close to Alaphilippe on Mt Baldy on Stage 7.  This performance shows how Peter Sagan is really in a league of his own by finishing so strong.

I remember when Tour de France had time bonuses for the top 3 finishers of stages in addition to the intermediate sprints. Now they just give points toward the green jersey. The Amgen Tour of California does give these time bonuses and this makes it possible for Peter Sagan to be in contention for the GC. Mark Cavendish and the Etixx-Quickstep team did everything they can on Stage 8 to thwart Sagan and keep Alaphilippe in the leader’s jersey. Cav did win the intermediate sprint at 40k from the finish–but Sagan got second. And Alaphilippe got third! (Thanks to teammate Mark Renshaw.) Now only a second separated them so if Sagan got a time bonus for one of the top three at the finish then he would win the entire race.

Watch the finish! And remember to never give up.

2.  California is usually in the top ten lists for bicycle friendly states, but often edged out by Washington or Oregon. But seriously, there are so many fantastic places to ride. I have been reading Ann Marie Brown’s book Northern California Biking with more than 160 suggested rides. I am using to identify rides as I train for RAGBRAI. I need to be riding 20, 30, and up to 60 miles in a day. And I need to ride 4 days in a row, so my go-to ride is on the American River Parkway. It is 1.8 miles from my doorstep and I can ride 60 miles if I ride to Folsom Lake and back. It is wonderfully entertaining–I see deer, woodpeckers, wild turkeys, snakes, turtles, and more. Yesterday I also saw women plowing with draft horses on an urban farm in Rancho Cordova.

The paved bike path hugs the American River. Many river rafters pull their boats out at Ancil Hoffman park.

The paved bike path hugs the American River. Many river rafters pull their boats out at Ancil Hoffman park.

3.  Putting aside a freak snow storm in Big Bear, California aside, the weather is fantastic for cycling. One of the benefits of drought is perpetual sunshine.

As I get ready for RAGBRAI, I am also working on my friendly factor. People in Iowa are much friendlier than people in California. So I am developing the habit of saying “good morning” to cyclists and joggers I pass before noon, and “G’day” to those I pass in the afternoon. By projecting friendly energy I have had many great interactions and conversations with people–including Jens Voigt!

20 Hours in Las Vegas

I met up with a college chum in Las Vegas, Nevada for a brief stopover on our way to St George, Utah.  We live on opposite coasts so we like to meet up in the middle of the country for spa weekends. It is only a 2 hour drive from Las Vegas to St George, so an overnight is not required, but why not?

Unfortunately we were oblivious to “the fight”. It was only Wednesday and the boxing match was on Saturday. Who knew that people would already be pouring into Las Vegas for this event. It impacted our car rental at Hertz (we could not pick it up early).

In front of the pervy mirror.

In front of the pervy mirror.

We checked into the Cromwell Hotel. It is in a great location right on the Strip. The staff at the Cromwell did a super job. Dana, our bellman was outstanding including pointing out a “special” feature of the room. If the lights are off in the bedroom and on in the bathroom then the giant mirror on the wall becomes a window into the shower. Combined with the bordello decor we decided the decorator was a pervy man.The Mirage Steakhouse

We changed for dinner then dashed through the smoke filled casino to the Strip and walked to the Mirage. We had reservations at Tom Colicchio’s Heritage Steak House. The restaurant is a calm oasis in the middle of the casino. The steak, asparagus, and potatoes were pricey and good (not great). We were enjoying a nonstop conversation. The service was attentive without interrupting.

The new ferris wheel, the High Roller, in the background.

The new ferris wheel, the High Roller, in the background.

We walked back to our hotel via the Cinq, stopping at Starbucks and Sprinkles for cupcakes. We wandered through the Flamingo. Carole had a go at the Batman penny slot machine in memory of her brother Timmy. Eventually we made it back to the Cromwell.

Our beds were comfortable but the noise in the room was odd. It sounded like a monorail was just outside. At first we thought we might be by the elevators, but we were not. Sleep came eventually.Batman penny slots

The next morning I participated in a conference call while Carole collected the rental car. When she returned we went down for a late breakfast in Giada’s restaurant. It is the Cromwell’s main restaurant that also prepares room service. The menu was created by the chef of same name on the Food Network. Our food was delicious and the view of the Strip was even more amazing. Our wait staff all had charming Italian accents and provided excellent service. We would have lingered over lover coffee except we were anxious to get on the road to St George, Utah.

Extra notes: Carole introduced me to the podcast, Satellite Sisters. We listened to it on the Stitcher app on our drives. One podcast included a sister’s report on her recent trip to Las Vegas. She gives the Cirque du Soleil Beatles Love show 2 thumbs up.

Breakfast at Guy Fieri'sOn the way home Carole stayed an extra night in Vegas before flying to East Coast. She offers: I went to Guy Fieri’s restaurant for breakfast this morning and had the French toast with maple candied bacon. It was delicious. The service was great too. I would go back there. On the way to the M&M store I stopped at the chocolate shop we saw at Paris Hotel and had the most delicious cup of hot chocolate I’ve had outside of Switzerland. Highly recommend going back there too.