Christmas, 2021

Happy Holidays!

Although this year has been mired in the pandemic, I am happy to report that everyone in our family has remained healthy and received the vaccine as soon as the opportunity presented itself. I really thought that this would all be behind us by now but as you know without the cooperation of everyone who is able to get inoculated we are facing new variants which test the ability of our immune systems and the vaccines.

Nonetheless we have had some good times this year. Our first venture out of our bubble was a road trip in April to Nevada, Utah, and Colorado. We did some hiking, visited local museums and points of interest, and even ate out in a very limited way.

Mary and John at Colorado National Monument outside of Grand Junction

We got the family together (at last!) for a Memorial Day cookout. Up until then we had mostly just seen the grandkids from a distance.

Memorial Day Cookout with Alex, Sarah, Sam, me, and Jonathan

We also took a trip to our old neighborhood in St. George with Jonathan in August. He loves going to St. George and playing tennis, golfing, and hiking. Jonathan and I plan meals and go shopping together, something we’ve been doing since I took him to Stop and Shop with me when he was a baby.

Jonathan on our fancy dinner out at Entrada
Celebrating a wonderful week together

Our biggest excitements of the year were two cruises back to back in September and October. We had to jump through a lot of hoops to get this accomplished. There was a lot of paperwork and testing to make sure we were vaccinated and safe during the trip. The Viking people tested us every day, took our temperature, had us fill out a health survey, and wear a locator disc so in case we were exposed they would know who had been around us.

Nonetheless we had a great time and explored Athens and the Greek islands on one cruise and Montenegro and Croatia on the other one. Our hub was Malta. We now know A LOT about Malta since our cruises started and ended there.

Mary in fron of the Parthenon
John and I having a good time at a winery in Croatia

In our mundane everyday lives I continue to write my two blogs and keep up with my puzzles and Face Times with my sisters and friends. John has gone back to consulting for Mark Logic and is my patient tennis partner three times a week. Jonathan is headed for a new workplace in January. After 20 years at Stanford University he is headed to the private sector with a job at Apple. Ryan continues at KiwiCo and Sarah works in her garden and keeps me company with weekly lunch dates. Alex is a sophomore in high school and over 6 feet tall! And Sam will become a teenager in January .

We are hoping that you and your family have remained healthy this year and have found joy in the quietude of this past strange year. Hopefully next year will see an end to the stress of the pandemic and we will all be able to fulfill more dreams.

Best wishes for the happiest of holidays, Mary, John, and the whole Pilat Family

Road trip – Grand Junction, CO 4/21/21

This morning after a glacially slow breakfast at the hotel we make our way over to the Colorado National Monument. The Monument is  sparsely attended today so that means we have it mostly to ourselves! Since we are starting at the east entrance we plan on driving the Rim Rock Drive stopping at the viewpoints and when we reach the Visitor’s Center near the west entrance we will do a short hike.

The first stop is Cold Shivers Point. Is that because the wind is blowing and it is still quite chilly this morning or because standing near the edge of the No Thoroughfare Canyon makes one shiver with fear?

Looking down into No Thoroughfare Canyon
Feeling a little vertigo, John?
Mary’s cool with the heights

The next stop is at Red Canyon Overlook.  This is a canyon within a canyon or a hanging canyon. The softer rock eroded quickly (relatively speaking) until it reached the harder rock and then the erosion came to almost a standstill. Only fast moving streams managed to carve out a notch in the Precambrian metamorphic and igneous rock.

The city of Grand Junction is framed by the hanging canyon with the notch at the end.

Back in the car we go to the next overlook, Ute Canyon View, which also has a short Ute garden interpretive trail. On the trail we learn that yuccas have their needles arranged in a spiral fashion to funnel scarce rain into the plant. Also that these yuccas are completely dependent for pollination on one insect, the yucca moth.

Spiky yuccas

The shrubs and low trees that dot the desert landscape at this elevation are pinyon pines and juniper.  The placard informs us that the needles on the pinyon pines grow in pairs.

Pinyon pine needles
View of Ute Canyon

Our next stop is at Fallen Rock Overlook.

The fallen rock which broke off but just slumped down is behind me to the right. I am wearing a neck gaiter. It is easy to pull up and act as a mask when people come by or when we are at the Visitor’s Center.

We are interested now in getting to the Visitor’s Center and only stop at two of the last four overlooks. Some grand views are available to see at Grand View Overlook.

Hoodoos at Grand View
I am taking this picture of John at Grand View when a couple from NC comes up and offers to take one of us.
The wife of the couple takes several shots of us and they are all great. I hope that the ones we took of them came out as well as ours did.

Our plan at the Visitor’s Center is to 1) use the restroom and 2) do a short hike along the rim. Pictures from the Rim Trail –

Hoodoos near the Rim Trail
Another formation with its weathered cap rock
John at the Rim Trail sign post
John standing next to a ledge with layers of sandstone rock

It is well after 2 PM now and time to find some lunch. John suggests we find a vegetarian restaurant somewhere in Fruita, CO, the closest town to the Monument. After finding zero vegetarian restaurants and zero Middle Eastern restaurants we decide on Mi Ranchito, a Mexican restaurant which has gotten 4.5 stars on Yelp. We are tired and hungry which is never a good combination for ordering well.

We start out with some chips and salsa plus beer.
I order one shrimp taco and some beans.

We head back to the hotel and catch up on our email and lie about playing games on our iPads and nodding off (me.) Dinner around 8 PM is a trip downstairs to the restaurant in the hotel for an order of chicken wings (mostly for John) and a salad for me.