Visiting Arizona and the Grand Canyon: A Cautionary Tale

ArizonaA desert sunset, hiking around the rim of the Grand Canyon, the flavors of Southwestern cuisine, Sedona’s red rocks and cactus after cactus after cactus – there is so much about Arizona that I’ve wanted to experience for years. And I’m not just saying that because it’s the latest place I’ve been. I don’t really remember what first sparked my intrigue, but I’d romanticized the idea of Arizona in my mind since I was a teenager and I knew I had to get there some day.

Growing up among the red clay and lush oaks of Alabama, and now living a few sandy steps from the Gulf of Mexico on Florida’s northwestern coast, I knew Arizona would be otherworldly.

The diversity of geography and plant life throughout the Western United States fascinates me because it is so very different from every place I’ve ever known. I’d checked visiting various places in California and Nevada off my bucket list before – all good experiences – but I hadn’t ventured to Arizona until this year.

Grand Canyon

South Rim, Grand Canyon National Park

My husband and I planned to visit Phoenix and the Grand Canyon over a long weekend to celebrate our 40th birthdays and our 13th wedding anniversary, all of which occur this year. Our plans came together beautifully. We flew into Phoenix Friday afternoon. We’d decided to stay in Scottsdale, a resort community and suburb of Phoenix, and devote a day to driving to the Grand Canyon and seeing Sedona along the way.

A very early wake up call on Saturday put us on our way north toward Flagstaff and ultimately Grand Canyon National Park. It would be a lot of driving, but when else are we going to see this great American wonder? And what could be more poetic than setting out on an adventure through the wild, wild West culminating 7,000 feet above sea level to say goodbye to our 30s?!

40thatGC

 

Well, it turns out…

Forty years to the day – and almost to the exact hour and minute – of your birth, having reached the coveted destination and exploring for about 20 minutes, you can lose your lunch all over yourself (on your hair, shirt, shorts and shoes)… and the rented vehicle you’re traveling in, mind you. That’s pretty poetic, too, I guess.

Happy 40th to me!

This was definitely not the climactic 40th birthday I’d envisioned, but it’s certainly one I won’t forget. I even got a souvenir t-shirt, baby wipes and a giant roll of paper towels (out of necessity) that my husband was so kind to purchase from one of the two or three gas stations that represented all of civilization on a long a stretch of desert highway heading back toward Flagstaff. I cleaned myself and the car as best I could there in the gas station parking lot, but we were still hours from our hotel.

You see, that minor detail of reaching 7,000 feet at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon less than 24 hours after you left your home at sea level, flew across the country, and ascended by car nearly 6,000 feet was something I should have considered more carefully as one who’s reached the wise old age of 40. What was I thinking? Dora the Explorer and Map would have had a smarter game plan than this!

Temperatures were comfortable at the Canyon, hovering around 70 degrees during our visit. I drank a lot of water the entire time we were in Arizona. It’s possible I was dehydrated before we landed in the desert, but I really think the rapid changes in altitude were the problem. When you only have a few days to cover a lot of territory, you try to schedule all of the things you want to do but Mother Nature doesn’t necessarily accommodate. My idea of seeing the Grand Canyon on Saturday and relaxing back in Scottsdale on Sunday was shortsighted, for this reason: altitude sickness is real (or, I’m just allergic to 40).

If I had it to do over again I would have given myself time to get acclimated in Phoenix and gradually traveled north to the Canyon, but we didn’t have that luxury in our schedule. If I had it to do over again, we’d see the Grand Canyon by helicopter from Las Vegas. The three-and-a-half hours or so each way in the car from Scottsdale are too much, despite the breathtaking scenery, when you don’t feel well.

Sedona_AZ

Sedona, Arizona

And Sedona, beautiful Sedona. I’d come clear across the country to see this stunning red earth. In the condition I was in, I only got to look out the car window while praying I wouldn’t get sick again as we drove down Sedona’s winding roads through campgrounds and scenic overlooks. I made a few feeble attempts at taking photos at one stop, then we continued on back to Scottsdale.

That evening I slept, and later attempted to eat the In-N-Out Burger my husband picked up for us for dinner. It is normally such a treat for those of us living east of the Mississippi when we visit the West Coast, and I was so looking forward to it, but I could only manage about three bites.

In_N_Out_Burger

So while this wasn’t exactly a happy birthday as it unfolded, it is laughable now, and I can add the experience to a long list of adventures with my husband. I’m so glad he took care of me that day, and that he didn’t get sick. If it’s the un-luckiest thing that happens to us as we approach our 13th Anniversary, I’m okay with that.

I’ll share more from the rest of our Arizona trip (it gets better) in a future vomit-free post.

mule_Grand_Canyon

Have you ever taken a vacation that didn’t go according to plan? Or did you learn a major lesson about traveling to a new destination? Please leave a comment! I’d love to hear your stories.

The U.S. National Park Service is celebrating its 100th anniversary on August 25, 2016. Despite my illness, I enjoyed seeing Grand Canyon National Park and look forward to visiting others.

 

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Stitch Fix Review – June 2016

Have you tried Stitch Fix? Would $700 help? This month I’m sharing the results of my latest Fix and letting you know about a big Stitch Fix gift card giveaway.

(If you’ve never heard of Stitch Fix, you might want to read one of my earlier Stitch Fix reviews that explains it in greater detail.)

It’s been a few months since I’ve blogged about the personal styling/clothing delivery service. A few of my friends have tried it, too. Mostly, I’d say we’ve had mixed results. I actually kept 2 of the 5 items in this month’s Fix, which is pretty good for me. I’ve often purchased just one item and sent back the rest, and once I kept nothing. This month I really needed some summer tops for my 40th birthday trip to Arizona. I mentioned my trip in the note to my stylist. I thought it was a little odd that she didn’t mention the trip or wish me a happy birthday in the note included with my Fix. It’s not that I take this service that personally, it just seemed like a missed opportunity for good customer service. I will say the shirts in this Fix reflected a definite Southwestern vibe so maybe she was trying and just didn’t spell it out in the note?! At any rate, let’s take a look!

THML Dejen Embroidered Top

 

THML Dejen Embroidered Top

I’d pinned this shirt to my Stitch Fix board on Pinterest, so I appreciated that the stylist assigned to me had taken a look at items I’d pinned. Unfortunately, when you see an item on Pinterest you cannot always tell much about the material. I thought this shirt would be knit or something other than a see-through imitation linen. I really wanted casual pieces I would not have to iron. I knew right away that I would return this shirt.

Collective Concepts Tobar Keyhole Front Top

collective concepts tobar keyholeTobar Keyhole sleeve detail

I really liked the style of this top when I saw it. It is loose and flowy, and the pattern is interesting. Best of all, it is not see-through! I like the fit and I can dress it up or down depending on the occasion, so this one was a keeper.

Skies are Blue Jonston Braider Neckline Top

skies are blue jonston braider

Part of the fun of Stitch Fix is being surprised by what the stylist picks for you based on the information you’ve given about your tastes in clothing. Occasionally you’ll try something different that you would not have picked for yourself and end up loving it. But many times – like this one – you don’t!

I must have indicated that I’d be willing to try a floral print on my style profile, but this one was terrible for me. The material was soft but that’s about the only good thing I can say about it. The style card that  comes in each Fix to show you styling suggestions showed this top paired with a black leather mini skirt. I cannot fathom any occasion for which I’ll be wearing a black leather miniskirt. It didn’t look good with my jeans either, so it went right into the return envelope.

Papermoon Wayland Racerback Top

papermoon wayland racerbacksheer back racerback tank

This top was attractive. It fit well and the print was nice. It would look great on some women I know, but I am pretty conservative. Between the thin straps, large arm holes and the sheer racerback, this was all kinds of wrong for me. I tried it with a regular tank top underneath, too, but that didn’t really help either. I recently bought a sleeveless top for the first time in years if this tells you anything about my tastes. I’m not ready to take the plunge into slinky, sheer racerback tanks! Return.

Bay to Baubles Maeve Feather Drop Earrings

bay to baubles leaf earrings

I’d originally decided to keep just these earrings so I wouldn’t lose the $20 I’d paid for the Stitch Fix styling fee (it gets credited to your purchase). But then I decided to keep the Collective Concepts top above so I probably could have parted with these. I liked them though so I kept both.

Overall, this Fix was okay for me. Two pieces were great. The other three were big misses. I wish all five pieces had worked out so I could have earned the 25 percent discount – the total for the whole box would have been around $160, but no such luck.

So I’ve had mixed results, but I still like Stitch Fix. I have cut back on the frequency of shipments I receive, and I like that it offers that flexibility. It is still fun and great for times when I am busy but could use a boost to my wardrobe. I’ve been very happy with the pieces I’ve kept.

So why do I blog about Stitch Fix? Sharing reviews of my Fixes through this blog has introduced me to several other bloggers who review their experiences with the service. It’s also brought new readers to my blog and hopefully they’re enjoying the other content they find here on Sand in my Minivan, too. And, heck, I’m just a girly girl who likes to talk about clothes!

To make it even more fun, this month fellow bloggers and I are bringing you a $700 Stitch Fix gift card giveaway. You can enter the giveaway and see what other bloggers received in their recent Fixes over on Crazy Together blog. The giveaway will end at 11:59pm Eastern Time on Wednesday, June 8, 2016. Good luck!

Stitch Fix 700 Summer giveaway

I hope you’ll try Stitch Fix, too. I am not compensated by Stitch Fix for writing this review, but they do offer me and all customers the chance to earn a small credit toward a future Fix when someone we refer signs up and orders their first Fix. Give it a try!

stitch-fix-link-up

 

Happy 40th, Bicentennial Babies!

40th-birthday-cakeIn 2016, turning the page on a New Year has also meant turning the page to a fifth decade for me and my contemporaries – all 3.1 million or so of us born in 1976. My 40th (there, I said it) birthday is still a few months away, but I’m keenly aware of this looming milestone.

When my parents were this age, my concerns were hanging out at the local skating rink in tight rolled, acid washed Guess jeans and buying the latest cassette tape at the mall. (Incidentally, it’s USA Today official: Guns N’ Roses is reuniting. Pigs are in fact flying. Although, how many in the 40 plus crowd will go see them at Coachella of all places? Midlife crisis, much? Kind of odd if you ask me.)

I digress, but these are the things (not Taylor Swift’s birth) that colored my 1989. Turning 40 wasn’t given a passing thought.

Now that it looms large, I’m looking at 40 as just another day and year to enjoy in this life. If there is one thing that my 30s have taught me, it is that life is a marathon and not a sprint. As cliché as that is, I don’t think there is any better way to sum up what I’ve learned in the last decade.

In many ways, approaching 40 feels like stepping out of a fog. My 30s were filled with corporate mergers, moves, childbirth (x 3) and associated health challenges, just to name a few of the curves life threw my way. There were many good times, to be sure, like watching three babies grow and develop into the sweet little people they are, starting a business, and continuing to pursue freelance writing. But the gravity of changes certainly put the brakes on the fast-moving future I thought I had all figured out in my late 20s. Ah, those carefree dual income, no kids days of the early to mid-2000s – that was the life! And then things got real.

It’s kind of a whirlwind to look back on, but I’m not mourning the loss of my 20s anymore, which is what my 30s have often felt like (good riddance to that!).

Not everyone’s journey looks exactly like mine, but I’d venture to say, by 40, we’ve all lived enough to have experienced some ups and downs along whatever path we’re traveling. My faith and the support of my husband and family have helped me through the tough times, and if I stop to reflect on the things that I most want out of life, I have much to be thankful for. That’s a pretty good place to be.

I’m finding the joy in 40, and I’m open to whatever the future holds.

Happy birthday, Bicentennial babies! How are you feeling about turning 40?