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Last weekend, I embarked on another road trip through some of the Southwest. We went to Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands, repeats for me, and also to Petrified Forest National Park, a place I have not been to since I was quite small. I naturally took many photos, and they are now posted.

Besides myself, some friends from work also went on the adventure: Steve, Eric, and Chi. Chi also flew his girlfriend to meet us in El Paso, which was our first stopping point on Thursday night. From there, we went to Carlsbad the next morning, but not before passing a border patrol station. Apparently they have these within the U.S. now. The border agents asked for the three Asians' IDs, but neglected to request the IDs of the two white guys. Clearly racial profiling at its finest.

After Carlsbad, we headed back west to White Sands, but we ran into a very nasty rainstorm on the way. I could barely see the road. We did eventually make it though, and just in time for sunset. We then drove the rest of the way to Albuquerque to spend the night.

The following morning we drove the few hours to Petried Forest National Park, where we spent most of the day completing most of the scenic hikes the park has to offer. We left just as the park was closing and made our way to Show Low, a town of just under 12,000. Despite its small size, it was host to the largest Hampton Inn I have ever seen. The following morning, we made our way back to Tucson.

Posted by nick.steinbaugh at 7:05 PM

Sorry for the lack of updates recently, but I haven't really done anything very exciting until recently. Most of my free time at home has been spent painting, though I am now nearly done; all that's left is the vaulted ceiling. The rest of my time has been spent in Tucson working.

Two weekends ago, however, I took a few days off and went with my mom and dad down to Albuquerque to see the annual balloon fiesta. My mom had wanted to see the balloons for many years, so I used some of my many HHonors points to get a room for Mother's Day. We stopped in Santa Fe along the way, mostly so my mom could shop, but my dad and I had fun wandering around as well. Perhaps the strangest thing was that while in Santa Fe, I ran into some of the people that I traveled around Australia and New Zealand with. It was an incredible coincidence to see them there. After Santa Fe, we drove the remaining 60 miles to Albuquerque, eventually arriving at the local Hampton Inn. We only had a few hours to sleep, though, as the hotel receptionest recommended leaving for the balloon park at 3:45 in the morning. It was great advice; there was no traffic, and we had front row parking. My grandfather, however, who also went to the fiesta, had to wait in traffic for over an hour before getting to the parking lot.

Dawn Patrol started bright and early. A handful of balloons launched before sunrise, so the others could get a better idea of the wind's direction, and also to provide a good show for those who were there early. A bit later, shortly after sunrise, Mass Ascension began. Hundreds upon hundreds of balloons launched from the enormous field, with the process spanning many hours. Finally the field was empty, though, and the crowd began to disperse. Later that night, a balloon glow and fireworks were scheduled, but the glow was canceled due to weather. The following morning's events, a duplicate of the previous morning's, were also canceled. Fortunately, though, that evening's glow and fireworks were able to go forward, and we were fortunate enough to see it. The glow was a sight to behold. Of course, I was able to capture some photos of the various events; check the photos page to see them.

Posted by nick.steinbaugh at 10:00 PM

Well, I have been back from my trip to the Southwest for a week now. The trip was great; I shared a hotel room with Matt Johnson and James Stevenson, and we bummed around Phoenix when I was not occupied with wedding duties (I was one of two ushers). Tracy and Eric's wedding was a success, though one of the bridesmaids did faint during the ceremony. However, water was quickly administered, and the ceremony resumed. The wedding and reception were held in the Desert Botanical Gardens, with a nice backdrop of dozens of saguaro cactuses. I finally got to meet "Grandma from Loveland," and I even danced with her, at the behest of James, who danced with Tracy's other grandmother.

Besides going to Phoenix for the wedding, my trip also consisted of visiting a few national parks. On the way to Phoenix, I went down to Carlsbad to see the gorgeous caverns near the city. The drive from Loveland to Carlsbad was a lengthy 630 miles, the longest leg of my trip, but the time to get there was reduced by New Mexico's US highway speed limits of 70 and 75 mph, or at least on the ones that are divided highways. The next day I got up early to go see the caves, and was greeted by very strong winds. The winds were so strong that they were blowing the shingles off of the roofs of the trailers that were set up as the temporary visitor's center. I was told that after I went into the caves, the park would be closed until the winds died down. This meant that I got the caves mostly to myself, which was very pleasant. After the caves, I traversed the Sacramento Mountains to visit White Sands National Monument. Finally, I spent the night in Lordsburg, near the Arizona border. The next morning I began the trek to Phoenix, stopping at Saguaro National Park, where I saw more cactuses than anyone could ever imagine, including hundreds of the gigantic saguaro cactus. After that, I made my way to Phoenix. Little did I know, and much to my delight, my hotel was just a few blocks away from an exotic car dealership. I went there the next day to take pictures. This included countless Ferraris, a Dodge Viper, and a half dozen Aston Martins. My dream car, the Aston Martin DB9 Volante, turned out to cost a mere $190,000. I guess I will have to live with my Civic for a while.

After staying in Phoenix for three days for the wedding, I made my way to the Grand Canyon, where I stayed for sunset. It was absolutely stunning. I stopped at every viewpoint I could find on the south rim. After sunset, I made my way to Tuba City, where my hotel reservations for the night were. Despite being the largest city on the Navajo reservation, there wasn't a whole lot there; in fact, my hotel was the only major chain. While deciding how I was going to get to Moab, I discovered that the route I had initially planned on taking went through something called Monument Valley. I had never heard of it, but when I looked it up, it looked gorgeous. Indeed it was. In fact, US 163 in Utah is the most beautiful stretch of highway I have ever been on. Not only were there the mesas of Monument Valley, but there was also a good deal of other rock formations, including a place called Valley of the Gods, and also what appeared to be part of the painted desert. I took my poor little Civic onto the dirt roads for some of it, and the offroading paid off. I had so much fun that it took me roughly four hours to go the hundred miles from the Utah border to US 160, which goes to Moab. I finally made it into Moab at around 5:30, checked into my hotel, and went to Arches National Park in hopes of a nice sunset. Unfortunately, the clouds did not cooperate, and the sunset was somewhat disappointing, though I did get a few nice photos. The next morning, I went back to the park until just after noon, and I managed to see the rest of the more popular locations. I then made my way for Grand Junction. I originally planned on staying an additional day to see some of Canyonlands National Park, but I decided against it. Once in Grand Junction, I made my way up to Colorado National Monument, where I got many more pictures of cliffs, but this time from atop them. Afterwards, I made my way up I-70 to the Eisenhower Tunnel, which proved to be a very painful experience in my Civic. On some of the climbs, I was in third gear. Once I made it to the tunnel, though, it was mostly downhill and much more pleasant.

Anyway, all of the photos from this trip, along with my trip to New York, have been posted. I have not gotten around to giving them captions yet, but at least they are up! Also, I know that my site is quite slow right now. With the posting of these pictures, it has become woefully obvious how inadequate this site has become. I am hoping to do a rewrite in the near future, but for now, it is what it is.

Posted by nick.steinbaugh at 1:01 PM