Well, I'm now back in my Chicago apartment enjoying the cool 82 degrees of the Midwest. Thanks be to God.
So, first things first: vacation round-up. On Friday the family decided that we had had enough of early mornings and three hour drives in the car. So, we nixed Flagstaff from the itinerary and decided to go back into Vegas after a late morning brunch. However, I had more than enough of Vegas on the previous time in and decided (with Stephen as well) to stay back on the compound. This was a good decision all around as I got to almost finish Paradise Lost (which was subsequently finished the next day), go for a run at dusk on the back roads of the town, and take a little nap even. That night we cooked steak and chicken shish kabobs on the barbecue, which were delicious. We made a ton and thought we would have a bunch leftover. I guess we underestimated our hunger/gluttony.
The next day may be the highlight of my trip when we headed up to Zion National Park in Utah. It is a gorgeous place, and we followed some advice and went on the Angels' Landing trail, a 5.1 mile hike round trip that takes you up to a point overlooking the valley. The last .5 mile is this steep and dangerous climb (6 people have died since 2004) navigated with the help of chains bore into the rock. Everyone but Mom started out. About 100 yards in Jessica turned back, then Anna, then Dad. The four of us (even Stephen!) soldiered on through some treacherous terrain until we got to the apex with its breath-taking view. Here's one from google images (sort of an inside joke because I told Isaac, with his penchant for only taking scenery photos, that it was sort of a waste to take pictures without people since you could find much better simply by google imaging the destination. It then became a joke whenever we saw something beautiful to remark cynically, "Oh, you could google image this easy!" or "This would look way better if it was google imaged." I will post some actual pictures when they are sent to me. I don't take pictures or own a camera, for that matter.):
I think it's one the most awe-inspiring natural spot I've been to in the U.S. I would definitely return to Zion before I went back to the Grand Canyon. There, I said it. Get over it. That night we drove back (stopping at a Chili's along the way for some fine local cuisine) and all got to packing. Overall, I would say this vacation was a smashing success. It was a little ambition schedule-wise, but you've got to make some sacrifices when you're with seven other people. Again, more pictures will follow as I receive them.
The lowlight of the trip was probably my flight back. After having an aisle seat on an exit row on the way here, I was crammed between two guys in economy class on the way home. There is no leg room on these airlines, and I'm not a BFG by any means. Heck, I think some of their standards would fall short of the Geneva Convention's rules for POW's. You can't get water or food unless you are willing to pay, you have to pay to check bags, and I think the cramped seating that only afforded one sitting position could be considered a stress position or at least sleep deprivation (there was no way to get comfortable!).
After arriving at O'Hare, taking the blue line to Irving Park, and the Irving Park bus to my house, I can say that I am very happy to be home. It's nice to call "home" the place you live and not some other place you daydream about. I like this "city of the big shoulders," as Carl Sandberg once famously coined it. Driving down Irving Park made me realize how familiar and close this place has become to me. I might just listen to Frank Sinatra's "Chicago" and eat a hot dog deep dish pizza while I'm at it.
Now that I'm back I have to get right back to work as I'm preaching on Sunday and have plenty else to do besides that (writing, working, studying, napping, etc.). If you're looking for something to do on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. in Chicago, come on over to Resurrection Covenant!