We began our summer vacation a few weeks ago when we boarded our plane from Maui on our way to beautiful Columbus, Ohio. Our final destination for this trip was Zion National Park, located in Springdale, Utah, where Emily and I got married.
Leaving Maui is so easy, yet so difficult. The airport is small, straightforward to figure out and the security line (as with most airports) is the most punishing or time-consuming part of the entire process. The hardest part of leaving Maui is just that, leaving Maui. As you sit at your gate waiting for your plane and look out towards Haleakala, you start to realize the diversity of beauty that sits before you. If it is an early morning flight, the headlights of cars coming down the mountain from upcountry seem to form an unbroken line of light leading your eyes back up the volcano (it is very reminiscent of the “fire worm” from the movie The 13th Warrior, starring Antonio Banderas…I know, obscure reference, but a fun film). As the sun rises, blocked by Haleakala, the ever present clouds change from white to pink or red or orange and finally the sun peeks out from behind Haleakala and blinds you. Once the sun is high in the sky, you begin to notice the many shades of green that the sugar cane fields hugging the slopes of Haleakala have become.
The flight itinerary for this adventure was as follows: Maui to Phoenix (layover) to Columbus, then a few days later Columbus to Phoenix (layover) to Las Vegas. A week later we got Las Vegas to Phoenix (layover) to Maui. We have become well acquainted with the culinary options and bathroom locations in the terminal four, A-concourse at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport.
Columbus, Ohio was something new for me. I had never visited any part of Ohio, to my recollection, and I found Ohio in June to be lovely. The weather, as with all of our vacations of late (New York and Ireland last year), was absolutely wonderful. I’m beginning to think that all these places that claim to have horrible weather are just lying out loud so they do not have to put up with the tourists.
One of the biggest industries in the Columbus area is the Ohio State University. We got to walk around campus for a bit and explore some of the grounds, but the highlight was walking into the football stadium. The Ohio Stadium, also known as The Horseshoe is enormous. What I mean when I say enormous is that the stadium has the ability to fit just under 105,000 rabid fans onto its aluminum benches. Talk about a home field advantage.
As we ate our way through Columbus, we visited places like Schmidt’s Sausage Haus and restaurant in the German Village and Der Dutchman in Plain City for breakfast (the cinnamon rolls were the size of discus…or if you are not a decathlete, the size of a dinner plate). We also tried two local ice creameries for dessert (on separate days, thank you very much) in which I came to the conclusion that I preferred Graeter’s over Jeni’s and that my heart and stomach disagree about whether vacationing is a good thing or a bad thing.
After Columbus we moved on to Las Vegas. We were in Vegas for just over two days, which is more than enough time to spend there.
People always ask what it is I do when I’m in Vegas. Do I gamble? Do I go to one of the thirty-seven Cirque du Soleil shows? Do I go on the rides? The one thing I consistently do while I am in Las Vegas is walk. We walk everywhere when we are in Vegas. To be out on the street with the masses is worth the price of admission to the show. People watching, jostling for sidewalk space, ignoring the smut smackers, dodging the homeless people all while trying not to spill your beverage of choice is quite a challenge.
From Las Vegas we drove up to Zion National Park, where we got married a few days later. I’m sure I will blog about this some other time, so we can skip over it for now.
Zion National Park was as wonderful as ever. That park seems to get better with age. Every visit brings new light to areas I had not explored in previous visits or I get to see wildlife I had never seen before. I figure in about thirty or forty more visits I may have the park finally covered.
After Zion we drove up north to Park City and Salt Lake City for a total of three days before coming home to Maui.
Some of the highlights from the end of our journey were spending time walking around the historic downtown of Park City, Utah. The beautiful ski town reminded me very much of Jackson Hole in Wyoming, which I love. Park City hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics and the facilities they have are still being improved for future events.
In Salt Lake City we walked for miles and miles taking in the sites, the architecture and the people out and about on the street. We ate our way around the town and hit The Pie Pizzeria, near the University of Utah campus, as well as The Red Iguana, and Ruth’s Diner, a staple in the Salt Lake region since 1930. The weather was warmer, but still wonderful.
On our last full day in Utah we found our way up into Little Cottonwood Canyon among the Wasatch mountain range. This area is a skier’s paradise and is home to several huge ski resorts. We visited Alta and Snowbird, where we rode the gondola from 8,000 feet all the way up to 11,000 feet. Even though it was 1,000 feet taller than Maui’s Haleakala National Park, it was much warmer and we were very comfortable in t-shirts and shorts. We shared the gondola ride with a gentleman who was going skiing in the backcountry and he was wearing the same outfit as us.
After spending a few days in Salt lake City we drove back down to Las Vegas to fly home to Maui. It was a great trip, but it was time to come home to our jobs, our cozy house, all of our wonderful friends.
Oh yeah, did I mention that I played miniature golf at a glow-in-the-dark KISS themed miniature golf course while in Vegas?