Friday, August 07, 2009

A Haggis in NYC

I was given a stone haggis as a gift last spring and I thought it would be fun to take it around the city to welcome it to its new home. I spent a week photographing it all around the city which resulted in this photo book. The book was originally created as a gift to leave for my relatives in Scotland after I stayed with them, but it was so well received that I decided to make it available for sale on the web. It was a way to blend an icon of Scotland with the sights, sounds and smells of New York City. Anyone with Scottish heritage, who is living or just visiting NYC will enjoy this book. To look through the book, or purchase it click here or on the link below.

Here are a few haggis facts you may not have known:

The present World Record for Haggis Hurling has been held since 1984 by Alan Pettigrew, who threw a 1.5lb haggis an amazing 18 feet and 10 inches on the island of Inchmurrin on Loch Lomond. The sport is said to date back to early clan gatherings where wives would throw a haggis across the stream to their husbands, who would catch them in their kilts. The contemporary version is for the haggis to be hurled as far and straight as possible from an elevated platform (quite often a whisky barrel).

Americans often put haggis hunting on their must-do list when visiting Scotland.

According to the Guinness Book of Records, the largest haggis on record weighed 303.2kg (668lb 70z) and was made using 80 ox stomachs by the Troon Round Table, Burns Country Foods and a team of chefs at the Hilton Hotel, Scotland on May 24, 1993.

A Haggis in NYC

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Harley Trip

This blog entry is a bit of a departure for me. I recently took a week long motorcycle around the Grand Canyon visiting numerous National Parks along the way. When doing research for the trip I found very little info on trips other people had taken. The AMA site had some suggestions which I used as a starting point to plan out my trip. Here is the route I took, with places to stay, where to get gas, and the daily mileage totals for anyone thinking about heading out on a motorcycle adventure of their own.

Day 01-Pheonix to Holbrook, Az (225 mi)
We started our trip in Pheonix, AZ . It was a good launching point for the adventure to begin. We rented Harley’s from Chester's Harley-Davidson in Mesa AZ. Chester’s HD was a short cab ride from the airport; about 15 miles and cost around $35. They offer a free shuttle service, but because we arrived on a Sunday, it wasn’t available. Once we got there we picked up our bikes, a Heritage Softail Classic and a Road King which were both in tip top condition. We headed east out of the city on our bikes towards Tortilla Flats, an old stagecoach stop on the Apache trail. The Superstation Saloon is a great place for lunch with saddles as barstools and dollar bills from all over the world decorating the walls. The next 22 mi we weren’t ready for though. From the Saloon to the Roosevelt Dam the Apache trail turns into a steep twisty turny dirt road. Not exactly the best road to take on a Harley. By the time we arrived at the Dam we were exhausted and extremely hot. We rested for a few minutes, then headed south on Rt. 88 south to Globe where we connected up with Rt 60. In hindsight, we should have taken Rt. 60 all the way from Phoenix and avoided the second half of the Apache Trail. The Salt River Canyon Road (Rt. 60) loops around then down where you cross the Salt River over one of the prettiest canyons in Arizona. At Show Low we headed north on 77 to our first nights rest in Holbrook, AZ. Holbrook was a frontier town in 1881 and it has been a frontier town ever since, there is nothing there. Rt. 66 runs through Holbrook and is home of the famous Wigwam Motel, which is still open for business. They were booked up for the night so we stayed at a Super 8 up the road.

Day 02-Holbrook, Az to Bluff, Ut (217 mi)
The next morning we headed 28 miles south to the entrance of the Petrified Forest National Park and drove through the colorful Painted Desert with stops along the way to see the 200 million years old petrified trees. We continued north on one of the only highways (Rt. 40) we rode for the entire trip until we reached Chambers and headed north on 191 to the historic Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site. Inside, you can watch a Navajo woman patiently weave authentic, intricately patterned blankets like the ones that have been used by the Navajo for thousands of years. This was a good place to have a picnic and a short rest. There aren’t many options for lunch in the area so bring a picnic with you and enjoy it under the shade of a tree to escape the heat of the day. Back on 191 north until you reach the reach the Canyon de Chelly, a short detour east for a glimpse the ancient Anasazi Indian cliff dwelling ruins thousands of feet below on the canyon floor. From here we pushed onwards to our next stop for the night, the Desert Rose Inn in Bluff, UT. We ate at a great local restaurant, the Cottonwood Steakhouse which was walking distance from our hotel.

Day 03-Bluff, Ut to Boulder, Ut (226mi)
On your way out of town gas up and then stop for breakfast at Twin Rocks Café. We headed north on 191, then East on 95, but if you are up early you can take a little detour to check out the amazing Goosenecks of the San Juan River overlook, then pull out your map and choose one of two main routes for the day. One option lets you work your way through canyon country down to the edge of the immense Lake Powell, a man-made lake created by the Glen Canyon Dam in the 1960s. A short ferry crossing will bring you to the other side, where the road will eventually lead you back onto the main route.

Ferry service runs daily between Bullfrog Marina and Hall's Crossing. The crossing takes approximately 25 minutes to cover the 3.1 mile distance. The ferry in effect is an extension of Utah State Highway 276 in that it connects northern and southern portions of the roadway across Lake Powell. This was a good place to gas up and grab a cold drink before we got on the ferry.

The other optional route takes you over a bridge that crosses the northern end of Lake Powell. Our two routes then join together for a great ride on some of the best motorcycling roads around, as they twist and turn through the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Capitol Reef National Park (Rt. 24), the northern section of Utah’s Grand Escalante, or staircase region. Capitol Reef also has some interesting, ancient petroglyphs that are very accessible from the main road. Head south on Rt. 12 through a gorgeous birch forest over a 9,200-foot pass through the high country of the Dixie National Forest, before the road drops you down into Boulder, Utah. We stayed in the bunk room at the Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch 3 miles south of Boulder on Hell's Backbone/Salt Gulch Road. The ranch had a great cowboy dinner waiting for us at the end of the trail which we arranged ahead of time.

Day 04-Boulder, UT to Springdale UT (156 mi)
Another full breakfast and we headed back to Route 12, which is commonly proclaimed one of the top 10 motorcycling roads in the United States. Next we stopped at Bryce Canyon National Park with its thousands of pink and white spires, known to the Indians as Hoodoos. After exploring Bryce Canyon we had lunch at the trading post just outside the park and continued on our route into the eastern entrance of Zion National Park. Once in the park we passed through the 1.1 mi tunnel to emerge on the other side in the middle of the towering rock formations and sheer walls which extend up vertically thousands of feet above you. Just past the western entrance of Zion is Springdale, where we stopped for the night at the Quality Inn at Zion Park. We parked the bikes for the evening and jumped in the pool to cool off before we caught the shuttle which takes you back into the park for an evening hike. We just made it back in time to grab dinner in town before getting a good night’s sleep.

Zion would have been a good place to stay for a second night if we had had an extra day. If we had stayed, we could have checked out a nearby ghost town or headed out on our bikes to fully explore the Cedar Breaks region north of Zion or even taken a day trip to the north rim of the Grand Canyon.

Day 05-Springdale, UT to Grand Canyon (256 mi)
After a great breakfast of waffles and bacon at the hotel, we hit the road again back through Zion National Park and the famous Zion Tunnel that carried us on our southbound route into Arizona. Along the way we passed Pipe Spring National Monument and rode through a section of the Kaibab Indian Reservation on the scenic Route 89 alt. After a climb past Jacob Lake and through large sections of Ponderosa Pine forest, we skirted the southern edges of the Vermillion Cliffs before we crossed the Colorado River at the Navajo Bridge. A great place to pick up some native jewelry sold at the foot of the bridge. Then back on 89 south to the East Rim Drive of the Grand Canyon. The East Rim Drive offers numerous opportunities to pull over and take in the views of one of the Natural Wonders of the world. By the end of the day, we reached the Grand Canyon Yavapai Lodge, our home for the next two nights. We booked a dinner at El Tovar, the canyon’s premier restaurant, which was great and I highly recommend it.

The next day we spent off of the bikes and used the canyon’s shuttle network to get around and hiked down into the canyon. But if you wanted to get back on the bike you could take a quick run down to Flagstaff or tour the famous Lowell Observatory, which was used to help plot the locations of the Apollo moon landings. You could also choose to visit the moon-like setting of the Meteor Crater, which was violently formed over 50,000 years ago by an enormous space rock traveling an estimated 40,000 miles per hour when it impacted. The more adventurous types may opt to take a short helicopter ride across the Grand Canyon, or at least get the feel of a helicopter ride from their seats at the Grand Canyon’s IMAX Theater.

Day 07-Grand Canyon to Phoenix, AZ (246 mi)
For the last day of our tour, we headed out on Route 64 south, to 180 into Flagstaff which was the last of our scenic roads. We had to have the bikes back by 4:00 so we hopped on the highway to make short work of the miles and get us there in a couple of hours. The temp was 110 deg F, so a leisurely ride in the desert sun wasn’t on the itinerary. We took the bikes back to Chester’s HD in time for a BBQ they were having. Everyone there was so nice and I would rent a bike from them again anytime.

For those who can’t seem to get enough bike-time, follow Route 89 A into the gorgeous Oak Creek Canyon, then continue to the red rock country of Sedona. Check out an art gallery or two in Sedona, then ride south for some lunch in the old mining town of Jerome. Take it slow through the zig-zagging streets of Jerome, which are mostly 10 mph narrow lanes in a town that appears to have been sculpted into the side of a mountain. Some of the best riding in Arizona is on tap from Jerome south toward the desert region surrounding Wickenburg. If you like the twisties, you won’t be disappointed.