A future trip…

2794715363_0a65217e29_oSeveral years ago, Deanna and I visited Washington DC. It was an awesome trip. I’d love to take my teenagers there. Obviously, my medical condition, as it now stands, makes it quite a while before I can do it. But you know me, I look far down the road, dream a little, and start planning.

Without my ability to drive, I’ve already been thinking about places to visit, once allowed by my medical team, where I won’t need a car. San Francisco jumps out quick. Public trans rocks, and it’s not far away.

And since y’all know I’ve fallen in love with Amtrak, I may just go that route. It’s more expensive than flying, but I’m sure I’ll be clear for the train before a plane, since I’m already taking the train for clinic visits with approval. So off I go, planning away!

This would be our route, on Amtrak. Why not a straight shot? Well, the northern route, via Chicago, is the “straight” shot. We’d us sleeper cars, the whole back and forth. But, the path back has us stopping for a night in New Orleans, then taking a bus to Shreveport, to spend the weekend with our Texas family, then back on the train, home to Guadalupe, that’s where the Santa Maria station is located.



Family Road-trip to the Grand Canyon

My fave shot of the whole trip

Yes, we had a good time. Great memories were made. (See my photoset on Flickr.)

With that said, our little trip to the Grand Canyon didn’t pass by unscathed. I had chosen a time of the year that it appeared was on the cusp of too late to be comfortable. We knew it was going to be warm, but not too warm for us to have a good time. I was wrong.

We set out driving across the southLAnd, almost perfectly eastward bound. I had worked a long week, up until the day before, so Deanna started behind the wheel. Our Honda Odyssey has served us well since 2002, and with the recently rebuilt engine (covered by Honda Corp.), we knew it would continue to get us where we’re headed, with low MPG, and decent comfort. This trip was no different.

Road-trippersWe rented a small U-Haul trailer, to carry along all of our crap, and THAT was an awesome decision. For $150, for the week, we had not only the additional space, but also a decent sized container to lock our belongings in, at the campsite. Oh yeah, we were camping!

We took our fairly new 8-man Coleman tent, and adapted what we’ve learned from tent-trailer camping, to a more rural, tent-camping opportunity. We were sure that it would be just fine. Well, in most locations, it would have been great. We visited several of the important spots nonetheless. It really is breathtaking! This trip also marked the second time we had the opportunity to celebrate #3’s birthday camping. He turned six.The Junior Ranger

There were two variables that made the Grand Canyon not the best choice for tent-camping, with 4 little ones.

#1, The temperatures were supposed to be in the high 70’s, with a touch of very low 80’s. That would have been great. Unfortunately a record breaking heatwave rolled in, the day we arrived. Yeah, it was much hotter than we had planned. By our last day it was over 90 degrees. Not cool, literally!

#2, The uniqueness of the Grand Canyon is 90% awesome and 10% difficult. You see, there is no water for play. Most camping situations have some sort of river, ocean, or lake to play in or around. Of course there is water at the Grand Canyon, but it’s at the bottom of the massive canyon! Since there’s no way our little ones could have made a hike down the canyon, let alone back up, water play was out. And so was our respite from the heat.

DSC_4703This actually forced me to consider an alternate ending, to our little road trip. On our third day, when the temperatures had risen into the 90’s, I took our little Dell-buntu Netbook down to the Park HQ, and piggy-backed on their WiFi. A visit to Travelocity found me a very low cost motel in Prescott. “Why Prescott?”, you ask. Because it was not a long day’s drive away, and it would take us through Sedona. Have you been to Sedona, AZ? You should! In fact, a trip to the Grand Canyon should include Sedona, every time.

So we ended up leaving the Grand Canyon a day early. We packed up on Sunday morning, taking our time, and hit the road well before lunch. I chose to take the casual, windy path. This showed us more of beautiful Northern Arizona. In fact, I think I fell in love with the state, by seeing the northern half. The upper canyon area above Sedona, near Slide Rock State Park, was just gorgeous. We’d love to stay in one of the lodges, and visit that area alone.

Downtown SedonaA short stop in Sedona, for t-shirts and ice cream, was worthy even though the 100 degree temps were uncomfortable. Hey, it’s a dry heat! Back on the road, we stuck to the state highway, instead of the large multilane freeway. Yes, slower, but more direct and prettier. Plus, we’d have missed the unique township of Jerome otherwise!

The Prescott Valley area was quite beautiful. So wonderful that I checked their county sheriff’s website for job listings, when I got home. Yeah, that nice. No, they’re not hiring my kind right now. We stayed in an America’s Best Value Inn that night, in Prescott Valley. It was the lowest priced place, on Travelocity. The quality of the place was reflected in the amenities. Yeah, it was on the cusp of being a dump. We did have the blessing of Papa John’s Pizza for dinner though! (There aren’t any on the Central Coast of CA, so we miss it.)

The road.

Being over 2 hours closer to our planned overnight visit to great ol’ friends, the Lunds, allowed us to not be rushed the following day. However, it was also the end to the beautiful northern Arizona views. Within an hour out of Prescott Valley, we were in the Arizona you all picture; flat desert. I did get to make a shot I’ve wanted for quite a while though. (See photo on the right.)

Our road trip slowly came to a close, first with the visit to the Lunds in Temecula, then stopping off at my parents in the VC the following day. Splitting up the long trek home was a worthwhile option. I highly recommend it!

Above all, we made great family memories and we supported the great state of Arizona!

Grand Canyon Family Photo

Family trip to the Grand Canyon

Hey folks! First, I’m writing this post with WordPress for Android. Cool, but not quite the same.

Later this week we’re taking the family to the Grand Canyon. It’s everybody’s first time but me. We’re expecting to have a great time, see God’s awesome creative handiwork, and get some great photos.

We’ll be camping the whole time, and Deanna is frantically building a menu, with the help of her Facebook friends.

Here’s the thing, I too want some help from my ‘net-friends. What tips do you have? Photo opp locations? Any must-visit destinations for the kids?

Comment away!

Any tips on DC?

For the few of you who read this blog, you were advised of our 10th anniversary celebration trip, this August. We had planned on taking a huge trip to the UK and Ireland. Well, due to some unforeseen circumstances, we had to change that trip a bit.

We swapped the green, rolling hills of my ancestors for the history-making monuments of my forefathers. We’ll be enjoying the wonderful Washington DC area. I’ve been there a couple of times, and loved it. Deanna will be visiting DC for the first time.

We’re both lovers of American History, and the building blocks of our republic. We’re planning on hitting all the major locations, right in DC, off the National Mall. If we have time I want to travel just outside the city and see a few more locations, like Ford Theater.

Do you have any suggestions? Have you been there and seen some off-the-beaten-path locations? Suggest away!

Oh, and we’ll be photowalking with the local photowalkers too! I’ve helped organize a fun dusk to evening photowalk, on the Mall. My hope is to be able to capture a beautiful sunset, then wander around and shoot all the well lit highlights. How can I leave DC, without a night shot of the Capitol?

All photographs in this post are the copyright of Shawn Duffy.

Zion National Park – family edition

You may already be aware of this, but last week we took the family to Zion National Park, in southern Utah. Man, it was awesome!


We hit the road quite early on Tuesday morning, with the goal of being near Las Vegas by lunchtime. We stayed on schedule all the way to St. George, Utah. That’s where we hit the local Wal-Mart Supercenter, to collect all the groceries we’d need for our short week.


Behind our family mini-van we towed our family’s pop-tent trailer. Once there, it was a bit small for our family of 6, but we made it work. On Wednesday we even got to celebrate The Wookie’s 4th birthday. I spent part of the afternoon baking him a chocolate cake in our dutch oven. It even turned out!

DSC_1423DSC_1294DSC_1253 (1)DSC_1182DSC_1286

The gorgeous scenery in Zion National Park is amazing. All around you are the most wonderful red-striped rock mountains. The US Park Service does a fine job keeping the park flowing and active. They have a 5-minutes-apart shuttle service that runs from the early morning hours until 11pm. This makes it quite easy to visit the park without having to deal with parking.

We stayed in a private campground, just outside the gates. Since the shuttle runs in the small town outside the park, Springdale, UT, we were able to catch the shuttle and get to anywhere we needed. The main canyon has multiple hikes for all levels, including our 4 small kids. We were able to spend a nice day walking along the Virgin River, at the north end of Zion Canyon.

Overall, we had a wonderful time, and hope to get back there next year. In fact, we might even hit Bryce Canyon, just up the road, in the early fall.


Huge announcements, just huge!

I have two, unrelated, things to discuss right now. I really, really want your input.

#1 WordPress 2.5

WordPress 2.5 is finally released. I haven’t upgraded yet. Mostly because I was a little afraid. You see, the administration panels are drastically different. I’ve been listening to WP podcasts, and reading WP blogs so that I can learn as much as possible.

Someone suggested a test blog. So, this morning I decided to launch a test blog, at http://test.trevorcarpenter.com, and play around. I have been wanting to play with a few plugins, and decided that this would work best for them too.

Once the blog was up and running, my plan was to mess with the plugins first, then upgrade to the 2.5 beta. But, when I sat down to begin, I saw that 2.5 was out of beta, and official. So, I tossed the plugins for now.

The test blog is running 2.5, and the admin dashboard is very different. I’m excited. I like new things.

#2 Moab Photography Workshop

I have the days off, and I really, really want to go to this exciting photography event in Moab, Utah. I can drive it in 10 hours, and I’m willing to take my car. I plan on camping, to save cash and have a bit more fun. If you can make it, you should try and attend this one. Ann Torrance, who helps plan and organize the Salt Lake City Photowalks, is speaking and she give it a good review.

For those SoCal photographers, who want to go, let’s carpool!

10th Anniversary British Isles Cruise

Here’s the skinny…I’m taking my wife on a cruise for our 10th Anniversary. We’re going to visit many cities in Great Britain and Ireland. I hate the pre-packaged excursions you buy through the cruise-line. I’ve written a detailed page, you can see the tab above, and I’m interested in your input.

I need tips and ideas on what to do and where to visit. I’m especially interested in photographic locations and places you live or have actually visited.

Please head over and read the article I wrote, and comment there. Commenting has been turned off for this post.