Spring Break 2016 (Arizona)

It started not long ago, another Arizona trip was in the works and the details were being ironed out. Before I knew it, the family was feverishly packing and final work items were being completed, all the night before.

The morning came quickly and after coffee and hot chocolates, we were on the road to SEATAC. Checking in at the Southwest terminal it was the usual breeze; however, security was a different story. After a painful wait, and scarfing down food, we made it to the gate only to be delayed. Ah well.

Not to be brought down, our spirits were high and our patience were long. It is hard to be in a bad mood when leaving on vacation, no matter the circumstances. The flight was smooth and short, one nice thing about going to Az, and before long long the wheels touched down and off to baggage claim we went.

With bags in hand, we awaited our ride – Joy’s dad. Two bonuses with this trip were: didn’t have to rent a car and didn’t have to rent a hotel.

Being Monday afternoon on our arrival, the family settled in and took a load off. It was a relaxing evening with dinner, catching up, and seeing the in-laws again. They’re such nice folks. That evening, no one went to bed early – imagine that – even though there were two big days ahead.

The following morning and after a power breakfast, we loaded up in a borrowed car and set our sites on Tucson and a rendezvous with my brother, nephews and sister, their in-laws and family (who just so happen to be traveling to AZ at the same time). With the hammer down, and driving the trusty Forrester, we met up at Old Tucson Studios for wild west action and adventure.

Old Tucson started with a bank robbery that led to the outlaw gang having some infighting over a unscheduled murder – No Honor Among Thieves. The fist fighting, dirt rolling, and shoot out lasted about 10 minutes yet had the kid’s attention, and us adult’s, from the start.

After the show, the family walked down the main street taking in shops, buying waters, and seeking souvenir treasures to take home. The walk finally lead us to the Haunted mine tour.

The youngest (8) didn’t want any part of the Haunted Mine and firmly stayed outside with another while Joy made the oldest (9) do it since all the other kids were doing it. Being sorta cheezy, yet fun in scope, we walked through yet at the end we seemed to arrive in a Star Wars light saber fight crossed between the Twilight Zone intro. Laughing, we continued on.

Being well into lunch time, it was food at the Pony Express Pizza. The food was good (I had a bratwurst, potato salad, slice of combo pizza, and Coors Light – don’t judge me) and didn’t cost much. $40 after tip for the family of four.

There is so much in Old Tucson that we just kept going. Us boys set off to shoot a Colt 45 ($5 a person) and air-rifles ($1) while the girls when to drive the horseless carriages. Wrangling the gang, we made our way to the Stunt Show.

Mad Props go out to the three guys in the stunt show. While guests were being seated and walking in, they took this opportunity to joyfully heckle patrons. Some of their jokes were down right hilarious and when they got to my big brother, I was roaring. My brother is a stout individual, and built like a brick-shit-house, and it was noticed as the stuntmen made made a flexing gestures and that is when I lost it. My brother turned red and took the joke with strides.

The Stunt Show was more comedy and theatrical stunts than anything yet that is what what the us old kids and young kids alike enjoyed. It made the show fun and totally worth watching. I personally highly recommend waiting for it if you’re already visiting Old Tucson. After ice cream, another cold beer, and endless rides on horseless carriages, we decided it was time to move-out.

The whole gang unanimously voted to stop at the top of Gates Pass was in order. With the Sun setting, everyone grabbed their phones, cameras (big bro had his mega camera), and settled in on the surround rock formations for the view. I took the drone out for a flight and captured some aerials before the batteries drained. After the flight, another drone pilot showed up and we talked drone shop, DJI Phantoms, and GoPros for a few minutes – props to that guy as well.

After a Texas sized dinner at the Texas Roadhouse, we called it a day and took refuge at the Baymont Hotel near the Tucson Airport.

With little sleep and another power breakfast, the whole gang made their way to Kartchner Caverns for a 12:20 tour. Upon arrival it was confirmed that no photography or videos were allowed. This GoPro geek was very unhappy yet followed the rules.

The Kratcher tour started with Judy dropping knowledge on the formation of the caves with my oldest nephew (11) answering all sorts of questions the adults didn’t even attempt – that kid is going places. Hermie arrived with the tour bus and took the group to the cave entrance.

Being a live cave, the tour group passed through a few air locks and a mister to keep debri minimized and protect the air inside from outside contaminants. At this point, I was still bummed about not carrying a GoPro but that feeling soon faded.

Upon gazing at the natural formations and living in that moment, it was soon realized that cameras were not needed for the tour. We saw sights of wonder and intrigue while carefully walking on the designated path. Judy pointed out ‘bacon’, stalagtites and stalagmites, and many other wonders along the way. This particular tour culminated at Kubla Khan, a 58 foot collumn that was more than breath taking.

The tour party took seats over looking the great Kubla Khan and Judy put on a song (I’ll write it once its found on my Enigma Pandora playlist) and we watched a variety of lights shining in variety of direction on the great structure until it was fully lit. At this point, the whole group was in awe and I was just memorized by what I was looking at.

Go see the great Kubla Khan if you have a chance as its totally worth it.

The group downsized fter this tour and my brother’s family and mine set the GPS for another historical destination – San Xavier del Mission.

Arriving at day’s end, everyone was blessed with having the San Xavier almost exclusively to ourselves. Big bro took epic pictures from the Mission’s courtyard and interior while I used a GoPro 3+ for interior pictures and the drone for the exterior. Being no one around, the drone pictures and flight were memorable.

Sadly, that following morning while drinking coffee back in Mesa, we learned that the historical mission was vandalized with Satanic messages that previous evening. It takes a serious asshole to spray paint, shitty spray paint at that, to vandalize a church that was built in the late 1700s. I hope those people are caught, sooner than later.

This marked the halfway point of the Az vacation, a much needed pool day was in order. The pool at Las Palms was refreshing and the excerise was rejuvinating. The four of us, big bro’s family was back in Surprise with his in-laws, played and played in the pool and I took GoPro video and pictures of us because that is what I do. That evening was food, jammies, and a movie.

Another day of vacation in the history books, we arose that following morning for a street arts festival on/near the ASU campus. I bought some Seahawks garage art for home and ate ice cream, drank lemonade and all the while looking at pictures and photography of things I cannot afford. Defintely tailored for the rich Az snow birds.

On the way home, we detoured to the The Lost Dutchman State Park for a walk, pictures and a drone flight. However, the drone’s batteries didn’t take a charge and so it was walking and pictures for us. The park is so astounding and memorizing that it is worth it just to go see and take in the majesty as well as dream about finding the Dutchman’s lost mine.

That evening culminated with some pool time, a couple of beers, and a glutany of dinner at the Golden Corral. I’m still a fan of all you can eat places.

Now at our last day, I roped Joy’s dad in a walk back at the The Lost Dutchman State Park. With two fully charged batteries, we walked to the Green Boulder fairley quickly. From this point, I took flight and soared the Phantom up, sideways, away from, and upto trying to get that cinematic shots of a Az icon.

The two flights where joyful and smooth even with the gusty winds and ever changing light. Putting all my skills to the test, with keeping the Phantom stable, the depth perception (being a line of site pilot) was the one thing I struggled with. Mountain was so big, the drone so small, and the Sun light directly in my eyes – have the sunburn to prove it – the flight was one of the more challenging of my short flight record. It was the largest subject matter to-date.

Upon landing, folks there asked many questions about the drone, licensing, flying in the wind, cameras, and what I did for a living. It was fun sharing the positive side of drones with those poeple as there is so much good and postives uses for drones that the media, and idiots out there, cast a bad shadow on this emerging industry.

What a great place to fly and happy to have had the chance.

Joy dad and I had a great walk down from the Green Boulder and a hearty lunch at The Kitchen.

Then it was home to pack and off to the airport. Until the next vacation, keep traveling and having fun while seeing this beautiful world we have.

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