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Grand Canyon / Meet The Family

Aaron and just made it home from Arizona. I am not sure yet, how much was work, how much was vacation, how much was fun and how much was just plain tiring. The best bit was that after a year and one half I was finally able to introduce Aaron to my family. I’m sure he probably came back to Dublin feeling he knows and understands where I come from a bit better.

The trip started out great. We were lucky enough to get upgraded to business class. A definite plus when you have a 10 hour flight ahead of you. I think it was a real treat for Aaron. It was his first time going business, He just better not get spoiled. I think I was probably about 40 before I was lucky enough to go business for the first time. It turned me into a real mileage whore. I have learned how to work all the angles and always looking for new ones.

Aaron on plane to Arizona.

In addition to the great seats/beds it is wonderful to be treated like a person and not a piece of cattle. From the moment you walk in the airport and get in the priority line you can feel the difference in the way you are treated by the employee’s of the airline. My only complaint is with the new seating pods you are basically traveling by yourself. We did have the window open between our pods so we could shout back and forth at each other to talk, but it was impossible to hold hands or anything else. When the plane was dark for the evening we did manage to sneak in the galley for a few quickies, I am only talking kisses. Aarons stewart liked him so much he gave him a bottle of champagne when we got off the plane.

We arrived in Scottsdale Thursday evening and were picked up by my brother whose house we would be staying at until Saturday morning when we planned to leave for our Grand Canyon adventure. I had told my brother no crowds for dinner on Thursday as we would be exhausted and I didn’t want Aaron to have to meet all 20 plus of us at once. I figured I would break him in slowly. We had a few shots of excellent Tequila before dinner and called it an early night. Friday we would be getting up early and getting ready for our GC adventure.

One of the things I was most excited about when we made our plans to go to AZ was to finally be able to get some food I loved and was practically lusting for. On Friday morning we started my 10 day feeding frenzy at New York Bagels. I had an Everything bagel toasted, with cream cheese, smoked salmon, onion, capers and tomato. I was salivating from the minute I ordered until it was brought to the table. I believe Aaron had an egg bagel sandwich or maybe 2. I was happy when he agreed with what I had said about the bagels in Dublin.

After breakfast I took him to my favorite store Costco and proceeded to buy many of the things that I have been missing, including 3 bottles of 500 Tylenol. In Ireland you are only allowed to buy ten aspirin at a time if you ask for more they want to call a social worker thinking you might want to kill yourself. Come on, who would try to overdose on Tylenol. I know I have felt deprived by the food options in Dublin and after Costco we had a little time before picking up our rental car and I took him to an American Supermarket to see the selection of foods and the quality. Aaron was pretty surprised. Although there were probably at least 20 brands of butter he still insisted Irish butter was the best and I do agree with that.

When we finally arrived at Budget to pick up our car I received quite a surprise when they told Aaron that his licence was expired and he would not be able to drive. His licence had expired during Covid and they were not allowing renewals in Dublin. All I could think is great I hate to drive, I have barely driven in the last 30 years and will now be stuck doing all the driving, through the mountains no less I kept my mouth shut as I am sure Aaron was thinking that he was going to have no control and he was going to have to trust me. By the way he doesn’t even trust me on a bicycle.

Gay couple, Aaron and Mike driving to Grand Canyon

After my brother outfitted us for our hike up and down the Grand Canyon we spent the afternoon laying out at the pool, eating lunch, having a few beers and Aaron played hoops in the pool. What a change from the weather in Ireland. I don’t think I had seen the sun for at least 6 weeks. Scottsdale weather was perfect about 75 and sunny. After the sun went down Aaron was going to meet some more of the family. I was pretty excited about it. Shortly my older sister and husband dropped by, next my brother’s two girls and their boyfriends came. A fun time was had by all but Aaron still had about 12 more people to meet. Luckily we would have three days away before he met the rest. Aaron does not realize how lucky he is that my whole family doesn’t winter in Arizona. If they did he would have about 34 people to meet and that's just my brothers and sisters, spouses, nieces and nephews.

The next morning we woke up early for our 31/2 hour drive as we had to be at the Grand Canyon by 2:00 PM for our helicopter ride through the canyon. We started out on our drive and all was fine. Aaron was actually impressed with my driving skills. About an hour in the weather started to change, first rain, then hail and finally blizzard conditions with snow. In the time frame of about two hours the temperature had also dropped about 40 degrees. Although I had grown up driving in weather like this it had been about 20 years since I had driven in it and I was not a happy camper. I was also trying to hide the fact that I was uncomfortable about it from Aaron since he was not able to drive and I did not want him to feel bad. I was just happy we had listened to my brother-in-law and brought warmer clothes than we had planned to. I thought we were going to be fine with shorts. I had not taken into account freak winter storms.

The best part of the day was that the hotel allowed us to check in early. This was especially good since our helicopter ride was cancelled due to strong winds, snow and zero visibility. After hot showers to warm up and a shitty lunch we investigated the 2 block long Grand Canyon Village which offered nothing. The only reason to ever go there would be if you were going to the Grand Canyon.

aaron and Mike at Grand canyon in snow storm.

It was probably about 3:00 PM now and we thought despite the snow and freezing temperature we would try and see some of the canyon. We were told one of the best viewing spots was Mather Point which was by the visitors center. We parked, looked at the map and tried to navigate our way to it. A habit of mine that Aaron cannot stand is that I will stop anyone and ask anyone directions or other ?’s. I must have stopped 100 people and asked where Mather Point was and I always got the same answer, we don’t know we have been looking all over for it too. It was no wonder with the wind and snow swirling around you, you could barely see two feet in front of you. When we finally did get to Mather Point there was nothing to see because of the snow.

Aaron and MIke in Sedna.

At this point we would have given up and driven back to Scottsdale except the helicopter company told us the weather might clear and we might be able to go on our ride the following day. We decided to stay but to forget about our hike up and down the canyon which would have been impossible anyway due to the weather conditions The next day the weather seemed to be clearing up a bit. We drove around to some of the viewing sights until the afternoon when hopefully we would take off. Unfortunately this did not happen. Cancelled again. Although we were disappointed we made the best of it by getting drunk on margaritas and stuffing ourselves on Mexican food which was substantially better than the steak dinner we had the previous night.

aaron and MIke enjoying some Mexican food.

Monday morning as soon as we could we hightailed it out of town. It was snowing again and since we were the first car on the road we had to make our own path through the snow. We were both feeling good though as we would be going down to a much lower elevation so the weather would be getting better very shortly. Hopefully our stop in Sedona would be a bit better than the Grand Canyon. About an hour into the drive we stopped in a town called WIlliams for breakfast at Goldie’s Route 66 Diner. A friend had told us about it. It seemed a throw back to the 60’s, the type of diner you see in the old movies and Aaron loved it. We were starved and the stop was worth it, we had great eggs, bacon, hash browns, pie and milk shakes. Forget lattes and cappuccinos they only served drip coffee.

On way to sedona stopped at 66 Diner.

Sedona is definitely worth seeing. It is an artsy little town in the desert surrounded by red rocks, pine forests and canyons.

The town itself is filled with galleries, restaurants and lots of new agey types of shops. There are also plenty of spas, hotels and bed and breakfasts from inexpensive to very expensive. If we were not on limited time we would have spent a night or two there recovering from the Grand Canyon. It is about 125 miles from Scottsdale.

The day had turned fairly sunny and we decided to stop and do a hike. Sedona is also known for great hiking. We decided to do a hike called, “The Devil's Bridge.” I guess everybody liked the name of it as we had to park about a mile from the start of the hike. It was a pretty good hike, but I have been on prettier one’s there. The highlight of the hike was of course the Devil's Bridge which is where the trail ends. It is a sandstone bridge or arch overlooking a beautiful canyon. If you do the hike go early it is packed and at the end there are hoards of people waiting in line to go on the bridge and have their picture taken. The hike itself was probably only about 4 miles but due to the parking we probably did about 6 miles. Before we left Scottsdale my brother outfitted us with packs that hold water and then you suck it out when you're thirsty. Much like us we forgot to bring them with us on the hike and by the time we finished all we could think about was water.

Aaron and Mike hiking in Sedona.

We arrived back in Scottsdale late Monday afternoon to 75 degrees and sunny, It was hard to believe The Grand Canyon, the cold, the snow and the rain were all only 3 hours away. When we were just about home we decided what we would do first was jump in the pool, and lay in the sun drinking nice cold beers. This is exactly what we did, while I fantasized about what I wanted for dinner.

I’m not sure who loves food more, Aaron or myself but regardless we both love to eat and eat a lot. I was pretty excited to share some of my favorite foods with him. I don’t know how many Jews there are in Ireland but I promise you there are no Jewish delicatessens in Ireland and I was really beginning to miss some of the foods I grew up on. In Scottsdale we found a Jewish deli called, “Chompies.” I was pretty impressed with the food. Good Jewish delis are pretty hard to find outside of New York, LA and Chicago. At most delis the sandwiches are so big most people split them. Not Aaron and I. We started out with an order of potato pancakes with sour cream and applesauce, and an order of matzo ball soup, next came our corn beef sandwich and Reuben sandwich, which is about 3 inches of pastrami on rye bread with melted swiss cheese and sour kraut. In addition we managed to go through 3 sides of pickles and desert. I don’t think Jewish desserts are the best but I wanted Aaron to try Rugelach which is a flaky dough usually filled with chocolate or cinnamon. We should have brought someone to roll us home.

We were finally starting to feel a bit more relaxed. It was hard to believe it was Tuesday and we would be leaving back for Ireland Saturday night. In the morning my brother took us on a hike up Camelback Mountain which is one of the many trails in Scottsdale. For any of you not familiar with AZ it is mostly desert. Being a water and green person myself it took me many years to see the beauty of the desert. March and April are usually one of the prettiest times if there has been a lot of rain and the cactus are blooming. The weather was great again and we spent our afternoon at one of my sister’s pools soaking in the sun so we would be golden by the time we got back to the bad weather in Ireland.

Mike and Aaron soaking up the sun.

On our way home that evening after a great barbeque I suddenly remembered how much I loved Dairy Queen Blizzards. Aaron had never had one and I was determined to find one. The Blizzards were just as good as I remembered and Aaron also loved them. Better yet was Aaron’s reaction when he mentioned to me in the movies he saw them turn the Blizzard upside down to show how thick it was and I asked the counter girl to turn his upside down. Aaron has been to America before but there are some things that bring such a big smile to his face when he sees America like it is in the movies. It was the same reaction he had at Goldie’s Diner and when he saw a yellow school bus.

Mike and Aaron enjoying dairy Queen.

Although this was technically a vacation, it did not seem that much like one. Our Grand Canyon excursion was a fiasco. (Well, at least we can say we saw it and never have to do it again.) Also when you have a family as large as mine as great as it is to see them it is also exhausting especially for 5 days. After being virtually by ourselves for the last two years because of Covid I don’t think my socialization skills were quite up to par. Every night we fell into bed totally tired and barely able to talked to one another.

Wednesday was going to be our day. Just the two of us. For breakfast I took him to this Pancake house that I loved for only one item on the menu. They have an apple pancake that is delicious but hard to describe. I am not a lover of pancakes but this is more like an apple pie. It is like a crepe on the bottom then layered with apples, cinnamon and brown sugar. I am not sure if it is cooked in an oven but it comes out with a crust that is chewy and just about melts in your mouth with each spoonful. I have been having them since I was a kid and whenever I see a Walker Brothers Pancake House I have to have one. Thank God there are not a lot of them. When I told my sister we each had one for breakfast she was horrified we did not bring one home for her. That is what you are supposed to do with my family.

Eating a great breakfast.

That night we were planning on going out to a good restaurant, go to some bars and I wanted to show him Old Town Scottsdale. Old Town is where most of the restaurants, bars and clubs and is a real scene in the evenings. During the day it is much like Sedona filled with art galleries and such. Of course our plans were derailed when one of my sisters and her husband who had not yet met Aaron asked us to come by late afternoon for cocktails. After too many martinis we nixed the fancy dinner and instead had great cheeseburgers at a place appropriately called Cold Beer and Cheeseburgers. It was only about 8 when we were finished but so much for our big night out, we called it a night.

Thursday and Friday were pretty much family days from start to finish. We hiked, we swam, we layed in the sun and visited. We did sneak off one or two times to make sure we got everything we needed and wanted from Costco to bring back to Ireland. In the evenings we had family dinners which by this time were getting a little large for me but fun nonetheless. Aaron had now met a large portion of my immediate family. I am sure it must have been a little nerve racking at first but he did great. I am sure he did not notice but I loved stepping back sometimes and just watching him interact with everyone. In my craziest dreams I never imagined I would one day be bringing home a husband to them for them to meet.

Hiking with the family in Scottsdale.

Saturday was a bittersweet day. We started the day with our last family hike. After that Aaron and I had wanted to spend the afternoon in the sun finishing up our tans so we had a good base for Spain over Easter when we visit his parents. I had a feeling that this was not going to happen as we had to pack and I had the hunch that plenty of family would be stopping by to say goodby. Our packing took quite a while. I had brought an extra suitcase the size of a trunk to bring back all the things I could not get in Dublin which turned out to be a lot. I was quite weary about how to pack incase we were stopped at customs. I worried too much though, we strolled right through customs when we arrived back in Dublin.

My prediction was correct. No sunning. The family started dropping by in twos and threes to say goodby and before we knew, it was time to leave for the airport. It had been over two years since I had seen my family and it had been one of my better visits. Usually there are always so many of us that it is hard to really catch up and have quality time with one another. Maybe it was because Aaron was with me but there was a lot of visiting with just a few of us at a time in addition to our regular gatherings that are too big for me. I was actually sad when all the goodbyes were done and we were leaving. When we were on the plane flying back to Ireland I came to the conclusion that I was going home. As much as I love to complain about Dublin and Ireland, my home is with Aaron. It may sound trite but what they say is true. Home is where the heart is and mine is with Aaron.


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