The Mallers' Southwest Safari
December 2001 - January 2002

On Friday, December 21, 2001, Steve, Doreen, Max and Sam Maller departed Burlingame on our first truly ambitious road trip, scheduled to take in some of the most notable sights of the American Southwest. As a family we have traveled the world extensively, but ironically we've never even driven outside of California.

Page 1: December 21 - December 25
Page 2: December 26 - December 29
Page 3: December 30 - January 2

Friday, December 21: An Auspicious Beginning

Steve had a bunch of work to complete before we could leave, so it was 1:00 PM before we actually hit the road. Milo (our dog) had to be dropped off at the kennel in Mountain View, so we headed south. We arrived at around 1:30, only to find (to our horror) that the kennel was closed for the day. Apparently the proprietress had failed to inform Doreen of their hours of operation. So there we were in Mountain View with the Land Rover packed for a 10 day trip, 20 miles from home, and we were basically dead in the water.

To make a long story short, a christmas angel (a neighbor of the kennel) took pity on us and our dog and offered to take him in! She was wonderful, and after letting Milo run around in her backyard for a bit, he apparently passed inspection and we gave her his food (including his beloved cottage cheese!) and instructions for his care.

Once we hit the road, we settled into the drive and, despite some sticky traffic leaving the Bay Area, the drive down Interstate 5 was mostly uneventful. Our new Garmin StreetPilot III GPS navigation system performed flawlessly, much to Steve's amusement. At any point in the trip, we can instantly calculate the distance to our destination or the nearest rest stop, and get such obscure and useless data such as our altitude (accurate to within 20 feet!) and the current location and phase of the moon. We arrived at Grandma Judy's house in LA at around 10:30, and all collapsed for a good night's sleep.

Saturday, December 22: Interstate Shenanigans

After a requisite stop at Starbucks for some real coffee, we left Encino at 9:00 AM. Thanks to the KNX 1070 Newsradio traffic reporter's suggestion, we steered clear of a big traffic jam east of LA and headed east on highway 60 through Pomona. It only added about six miles to the route (according to the GPS), but we were at the speed limit the whole way. We made the California/Arizona Border just after noon, and stopped for lunch to redeem some hard-earned Chalupa coupons.
Footnote: We have season tickets for the Golden State Warriors, our local NBA basketball team. Despite their mostly dismal won/loss record, occasionally they manage to score more than 100 points in a game. The Warriors have an endorsement deal with Taco Bell whereby whenever they manage to break 100 points, everybody in the Arena gets a coupon good for a free Beef Chalupa at Taco Bell. Doreen, Max and Sam always manage to get a few coupons each (Steve invariably only gets one).
After catching up on some voicemails and stretching our legs, we all piled back in the Rover, with Doreen at the wheel for the next leg of the trip.

After about 20 minutes, Steve all of a sudden realized that we had forgotten to gas up the Rover. Much to our horror, we realized that the low fuel warning light was already on, and Doreen hadn't noticed when it had lit up. We quickly pulled off the highway. According to the beloved GPS, we were about midway between Beaumont (where we had stopped for lunch) and the next exit on Interstate 10 with "Services", which was the hamlet of Vicksburg. It was about 18 miles in either direction, and at about 15 miles per gallon, it seemed as though we were probably better off continuing forward.

Doreen was still driving, and after about 10 minutes, the Rover began that fateful bucking and skipping, and it was apparent we were going to have to ditch. Or at least pull to the side of the road. Steve was very concerned about Doreen navigating the 4,000 pound vehicle to the gravel shoulder with no power steering and no power brakes. But she rose to the occasion (as she always does) and got us safely off the road.

The GPS said we had landed exactly 2.1 miles from Vicksburg, which was actually visible in the distance. We got out of the car and surveyed the lunar-like landscape. Steve attempted to contact the auto club, but the cellphone service, which had been remarkably available throughout the trip, failed us. Fortunately, the phone was able to reach a 911 operator, who referred me to a "DPS" person. I assume that meant "Department of Public Safety", but it wasn't clear. Nevertheless, the operator said she would dispatch "an officer", and we began our wait.

Steve set up a few pieces of random garbage on a nearby barbed wire fence, and the kids passed the time trying to knock the flotsam and jetsam from the fence. Much fun was had, and fortunately the scorpions and snakes were kept at bay.

Nevertheless, after a half hour and hundreds of passing cars, we were still stranded with no sign of assistance.

Doreen encouraged Max to try to be "part of the solution", and Max fashioned a sign. Finally, after what seemed like hours (but was just one hour), a man arrived in a pickup truck with a couple gallons of gas.

He cheerfully filled our tank. While doing so, I said that he could stop after a gallon or so. He muttered something about me getting "my five dollars' worth". I thought I would take an extra five dollars out of my wallet as a gratuity. However, when the gentleman finished his services, he (again) cheerfully detailed the charges for the service:

Service call $25.00
Travel time $25.00
Gasoline $5.00
Total $55.00

I offered him $40.00 cash, and fortunately he accepted. It still seemed steep. But we were back on our way, wiser for the experience!

We arrived at the Westward Look Hotel in Tucson just after 7:00 PM. Our dear friends the Zalls from Colorado were there, and we had a wonderful reunion pizza feast in our hotel rooms. Doreen's parents Al and Sylvia joined us, and the kids hung out in the other hotel room. Much fun was had by all, and our second day came to a happy conclusion.

Sunday, December 23: Sun and Simchas

Sunday dawned as a magnificent Arizona winter's day.

We decided that, despite the rather brisk air outside, we would throw the kids in the pool (which was, thankfully, well-heated).

Even the adults had some R&R poolside. Here's Stuart looking very much the spa guy.

After a few fun-filled hours in the pool, Steve fired up his DVD-equipped laptop with a thoughtful gift that Stuart brought, "National Lampoon's Family Vacation", from which we are gleaning many helpful and informative travel tips and techniques. We only hope to be the well-oiled traveling machine that the Griswolds are.

Sunday was also the day of Howard and Bobbi Paley's 25th wedding anniversary party, which was held at the Old Pueblo Grill. Here are some photos from the evening's festivities.

Monday, December 24: In Transit

After some minor repairs to the Land Rover, we departed Tucson early in the afternoon headed for Sedona, Arizona. 225 miles of videos, fun with the walkie-talkies, and some really deranged drivers, we arrived in time for a spectactular sunset against the red rocks of Sedona's beautiful peaks.

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