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October 31, 2014 / 7 Heshvan, 5775
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An American Odyssey (Part 7)

Gilor-Dov

We left Santa Fe on our way to visit the Painted Forest and the Petrified Forest in Arizona. Part of our day was spent traveling on the historic Route 66 and we stopped at the state visitor’s center as we entered Arizona. At each state visitor’s center, we stopped to gather information about interesting sites and to request coupon booklets with reduced entry coupons.

The Petrified Forest National Park features one of the largest and most colorful concentrations of petrified wood in the world. It includes the multi-hued badlands of the Painted Desert, historic structures, archaeological sites and displays of age-old fossils, making it a surprising land of scenic wonders and fascinating science.

The park, like many other attractions, had public tables and benches set up for visiting tourists. We stopped for lunch and finished the cold cuts and fried chicken from our ice chest. When we could not purchase fresh meals, Avi and I ate our La Briute self-heating travel meals or our microwaveable Meal Mart meals. Barbara and Martha preferred tuna, sardines and cottage cheese.

These rest areas often had free Internet service. We used my laptop not only to store tour information and contact our friends and family, but my wife, Barbara, also wrote a daily blog documenting our trip to keep our friends and Israeli family up-to-date with what we did and what we saw. In the mornings, to keep in touch, we usually Skyped our great grandchildren in Israel.

Barbara and Dov Gilor with Hedy and Don Jacobson in Flagstaff, Az

We continued on to the home of our hosts for the evening, Hedy and Don Jacobson, in Flagstaff, Arizona. We enjoy home hospitality because it provides an interesting glimpse into the local Jewish community and we often hear enchanting personal tales of how and why the local residents live where they do and how they keep kosher in a very non-Jewish environment. Cold and impersonal motels may be convenient, but they are not as interesting as the life stories of our many hosts. It is wonderful that even when our hosts are not personally religious, they go out of their way to provide paper and plastic tableware and packaged kosher products for us.

Early the next morning, Barbara and I went for our daily walk and were surprised by the coolness of the weather in Flagstaff. The elevation in Flagstaff is over 7,000 feet and it was very cold that morning in the middle of the summer. It was fortunate that I had the van key so I could retrieve our sweaters and jackets without having to wake Avi or my sister-in-law, Martha.

We left Flagstaff and drove to the Grand Canyon National Park where Avi’s Golden-Age Pass allowed us free admission. We drove the Southern Rim route of this awesome, amazing canyon, and we stopped at various lookout points to take pictures and view the magnificent grandeur of Hashem’s creation. At the visitor’s center, we watched the beautiful movie depicting the history of the canyon and stopped for our picnic lunch at the tables provided for tourists. The Grand Canyon is some 277 miles long and 18 miles wide. At one point the canyon bottom is 2,400 feet above sea level, 4,500 feet below the South Rim and 5,400 feet below the North Rim – making an average depth of almost one mile.

Dov Gilor at the Grand Canyon

We spent most of the day touring and then decided to head straight to Las Vegas, which boasts a growing Jewish community, hoping to find home hospitality there. We weren’t able to, but we did find an inexpensive motel on the strip and spent a few very interesting days in the vicinity.

We enjoyed three of Las Vegas’s kosher restaurants, the Sababa, an Israeli style grille restaurant; the Panini Cafe (chalav Yisrael), a fish and pasta cafe run by Chabad; and Adar Kosher Pizza (chalav Yisrael). We also visited the school, named for Barbara’s cousin, Marvin M. Sedway, who was a Nevada State assemblyman. As we are big gamblers, each family must have dropped about two dollars in the nickel slots and we did watch several free shows and enjoyed the special Las Vegas ambiance. Next stops: the Hoover Dam, Red Rock Canyon and Death Valley.

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