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August 2007 Archives

August 2, 2007

Low/No Sugar Sports Drinks

I'm getting ready for my Adventures by Disney trip to the Southwestern US which begins in less than 2 weeks. As part of that preparation, I've been looking for powdered "sports drinks" to bring with me.

SugarFree Sports PowdersJust what is a "sports drink" anyway and does it really matter?! Ever since I can remember, we were "told" to drink Gatorade to replenish our electrolytes during periods of intense physical activity. When I trained for my 60 mile walks a few years back, we were told it was extremely important to drink sports drinks in addition to water. The reason? Simply put, you don't want heat-related illnesses. These beverages add some electrolytes back into your body.

Properly prepare for your activity and avoid issues with heat exhaustion! Signs of heat-related illness include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness or weakness, dizziness or headache, a "sick stomach" feeling or vomiting, and faintness. Untreated, the much more serious heatstroke can come quickly on the heels of heat exhaustion. (More information can be found reading the AllEars "Summer Sun Survival" page)

According to Wikipedia, "Sports drinks are not to be confused with energy drinks. Sports drinks are intended to replenish electrolytes, sugar, water, and other nutrients, and are usually isotonic (containing the same proportions as found in the human body). Energy drinks, on the other hand, simply provide lots of sugar and caffeine." Caffeine, like alcoholic beverages, can cause dehydration so be careful with those!

Drinking sports drinks becomes important when you are exerting yourself in the heat, be it on the trail or even at Walt Disney World!

Walt Disney World sells PowerAde, a Coca-Cola product. One regular size bottle has 30 Carbs! Gatorade is the brand name of another popular sports drink. It has approximately 14 carbs for every 8 ounces.

As a Type I Diabetic, I can't use the regular sports drinks.. way too much sugar. So, in preparation for my Adventures by Disney trip, I have been experimenting with the low or zero carbs sports drink powders that do not contain caffeine! I purchased 3 different ones to try out during my normal exercise workouts. Each powder packet empties into a bottle of water to create the "sports drink". The packets will be easy to carry when out and about -- on the trail, or in the parks. They are small and easy to pack.

sports3.jpg Here are what I tested:

Totally Light to Go - Cranberry, Pomegranate Antioxidant, sugar free, 0 carbs, 0 calories; sweetened with Splenda. For a 16.9 ounce bottle of water -- 20 mg Sodium and 30 mg Potassium. This product is sweetened with Sucralose (think Splenda).

Propel Vitamin Enhanced Water Powder Packets (I had used the pre-mixed bottles before).
Lemon flavored - For a 16ounce bottle of water: 20 calories, 6g carbs, 4g sugars, 60mg Sodium, Niacin, B6 and B12. First ingredient listed: Sucrose.

Crystal Light "On the go Hydration". Crystal Light has several different varieties of the powder packs, so be sure you use the right one for you. I got both the Lightly Lemon and Lightly Raspberry flavors. For a 16ounce bottle of water: 10 calories, 150mg Sodium and 70mg Potassium 0 cards, 0 sugars. It's sweetened with aspartame, which surprised me, as I usually don't like aspartame.

I tried each one a minimum of two times - once during a one hour energetic step class and once during a 50 minute treadmill walk. Granted, this is not very scientific but then, I'm a traveler, not a scientist. Just thought I'd share what I tried and perhaps it will assist you as well.

Deb's Taste Test Results.

My least favorite was the Totally Light 2 Go. If there were other flavors, it might be ok, but this flavor was WAY TOO sweet for me. It might make a nice sugar free mix with club soda and ice for a refreshing summer beverage. But it wasn't my idea of a sports drink. Besides, it had no post exercise effect for me.

My 2nd least favorite turned out to be the Propel, also made by Gatorade. After using the premix bottles for over a year I was quite surprised this one didn't win out. I didn't care for the taste and it didn't help much with my post exercise recovery. I was really disappointed in the Propel website. All glitz and not much information.

Mixing the Sports Drink Far and away the winner was Crystal Light on the Go Hydration - lemon flavored. I tried the raspberry, but that flavor was too sweet for me. Give me lemon flavoring any day. It not only tasted the best to me, but I felt it helped best with my after exercise recovery.

Each of these has different additives, dyes and what not, so be sure to read the labels carefully if you have allergies or other concerns.

Another thing with the powder packs is that the serving sizes can be screwy so brush up on your math! The serving size on the Totally Light 2 Go was half a packet for 8 ounces of water. Ok, so for 16 ounces of water I'd use a full pack. But wait, my bottle of water is One pint plus 7.7 fluid ounces - ummm. ok, so 16 + 8 = 24 ounces of water... ok 1.5 packs. Now what am I supposed to do with half a pack of powder in the Grand Canyon? (yes, I'll bring a small ziploc baggie).

My plan during the Southwest Adventure is to use the Crystal Light Hydration Lemon every other bottle of fluid, with water being the primary replenishment! If it works well, it will become a regular part of my luggage to Florida, especially during the hotter months.

As with everything, your mileage may vary. If you are under a doctor's care, be sure and check with them before trying any of these powder mixes. Please keep in mind, though, that this article is not meant to take the place of any advice from your doctor or other health care professional.

If you have a favorite NO/LOW SUGAR drink I didn't mention, let me know.

Read my Adventures by Disney Blog Entries.

August 7, 2007

Adventures by Disney - Preparation

It's now 2 weeks until -- let me rephrase that. I started this 2 weeks before the trip, but all the prep work has overtaken a lot of my writing. A little of the prep work does have to do with this trip, but the bulk of it is getting everything in place for the AllEars.net website, newsletter and blogs before I do. Then, there is something called a "Day Job" that pays the mortgage. Oh and I'm on the team currently reviewing the 2008 PassPorter's WDW. Did I mention email? So you can see, I have quite a lot to do before any extended trip out of the office.

Whew !

On Sunday, LindaLou and I will head west for the start of our Adventures by Disney. Joining us on this adventure will be AllEars team member LindaMac, MouseFanTravel notables Beci Mahnken, Annette, and Michelle, other folks we know and love and then a whole group of people we don't know at all. It's always great seeing dear friends and making new ones!

You may recall back in April, I wrote a couple blogs about our early planning. We have a pre-stay planned for Phoenix. We fly out August 12th to spend two days in Phoenix and then the tour begins Tuesday August 14th.

As a recap, since it's been so long since I blogged about this trip.....

Here's how it all began. Dreaming of the Grand Canyon - April 2007

Then in my Planning the Adventures entry, I spoke about our initial plans for the trip.

Now back to today...and we are really getting excited!!!!! I know the heat is going to be very intense, not looking forward to that part, but we are going to be as prepared as possible.

I've already blogged about the SugarFree sports drink powder experiment I did :)

Deb's Merrell Moab Ventilator Hiking Boots About 6 weeks ago, we decided to buy some decent shoes. Based on reports we had read, we really don't need them....but both Linda and I have weak ankles and decided that we wanted something sturdier than our sneakers! We went all over town in search of good hiking shoes.

I ended up purchasing the Merrell Moab Ventilator Hiking Boots - Women's at REI for $75.00.

LindaLou lucked out and found her shoes pretty early in the process at Sports Authority.
Her Women's White Ledge Waterproof Mid Gaucho cost $63.00.

Linda's White Ledge Waterproof Mid Gaucho Next it was time for socks. I learned doing my 60 mile walks that wet feet (from sweating or whatever) cause blisters. It's almost as important to have the correct sock as it is the correct footware. With the temps in the high 90s, sweat will be an issue. I normally wear Thurlo crew socks. Very comfy and good moisture wicking. So for the SW trip, I decided to purchase a few pairs of Thurlo Light Hiking Crew Socks. I've tried them out several times with my new shoes and love them! It's hard to find them discounted online, but Amazon has as good a selection as anyone else. Unfortunately, my Amazon order arrived and they only sent 2 correct socks and 2 wrong ones.

Linda Lou decided to go with her trusty stand by Wright Socks. These socks are double layer. The sock is constructed with two layers of fabric and are made of Dri-Wright polyester, nylon and lycra. The Dri-Wright is for maximum moisture control and the interaction between the layers absorbs friction and prevents blisters. When wearing these socks, my feet stay dry and cool. They can be found on Amazon.com for a discount.

One motto I learned from a walker coach years ago is never use anything for the first time when it matters. In other words, test out your clothing, equipment, etc long before your actual trip or event. You don't want any surprises at the last minute.

We've been out now several times hiking (well, east coast hiking) in our newly purchased shoes and socks. So far so good and we feel confident these will serve us well on our trip out West.

Deb and Wanda on Sugarloaf Mountain
Nearby is a mountain with hiking trails, Sugarloaf Mountain, though I'm sure my friends from out west would call it a small hill - elevation is about 1,200 feet. It's got a 2.5, 5.5 and 7 mile trail. We've been practicing on the 2.5 and 5.5 mile ones. Linda's sister Wanda, who will be on the trip with us, has joined us as we hike. We've all learned a few lessons..or should I say relearned a few things that we forgot about and were reminded of...like not having enough water with us. hmm... well, better to be reminded of that lesson now.

It's not that the Adventures by Disney will be so rough and rugged, but we do want to be in good shape so it doesn't tire us out.

I've also been hiking in the same clothes I wore on the Mediterranean Cruise... my LL Bean sun protect long sleeve pants and shirts. For a variety of reasons, I'm not supposed to expose my skin to the hot summer sun. The clothing is very lightweight and breathable and works well. Of course, it wasn't cheap, but what is?! LL Bean was actually much less expensive than some of the other brands I looked at.

What else? We've put in orders to stop the mail, the paper, have friends watch the house and have our list of last minute items to do around the house.

I think that about takes care of our preparations for the trip. Of course, we still have to gather all our belongs, take small children by the hand.. oh.. wrong trip -- we do still need to pack. Remember that 3 page packing list LindaLou shared with you for our Med Cruise? Well, she's working on modifying it for our Adventure.

Look for our daily (whenever we have internet access) blogs from the SouthWest beginning this weekend!

Deb and LindaLou

August 12, 2007

Adventures by Disney - Phoenix #1

Periodically, I am reminded and yes, reinforced, for my notion that whenever possible plan to arrive at your destination a day early. We don't tend to do it as much with trips to WDW, but for cruises - oh yea! Today really solidified that for me.

Lines at BWI

We got up bright and early, eager to start our adventure. Arrived at BWI about 8:30am for our 10:10am flight and the lines for everything were worse than I have seen since 9-11. We couldn't believe it! Skycaps told us that for the last several weeks there had been lots of cancellations, all over, due to weather and it really messed things up.

At first we were worried we'd miss our flight, but the lines steadily moved. Once the bags were checked, we then got in the even longer security line. Again, it steadily moved until we were walking to the gate. With Southwest there is no reserved seating. Normally not a problem for us flying 2 hours to Florida. Today, however, would be a 5 hour flight to Phoenix so we wanted to have our choice of seats.

There were already about a dozen folks in the A line, and boarding began about 20 minutes after we arrived. Flight was smooth and we were relaxed.

Until, we got to Baggage Claim in Phoenix. The flight we were on started in Baltimore, stopped in Columbus OH to drop off and pick up passengers, then onto Phoenix and from there was going to LA. So now you have the picture! Well, the first 2 bags came out right away and then we waited. You know where this is going, right?

Eventually, we were the only ones left standing at baggage claim. My suitcase with most all of my clothes, my sneakers AND my hiking boots, not to mention everything else...was MIA. I reminded myself that it was just Sunday and we didn't leave on the Adventures by Disney tour until Tuesday morning. So I just looked at Linda, shrugged my shoulders and then went off to Southwest Baggage.

The man who helped me was very nice, but of course, he didn't have my suitcase LOL. He did say they had reports that things were really messed up in Baltimore - uh huh! Took all my information and filed a report. Sigh.

Only one other time we lost luggage and it was returning home. Linda's suitcase was no where to be found. But, when you're back at home, you don't care quite as much as when the trip is starting!

I'll give it until tomorrow afternoon and then I'm going to have a heck of a time getting footwear, not to mention everything else to replace.

So off we went to the Rental Car Shuttle bus. There is a separate building, which actually was very nice and organized for all rental car agencies. We had to sign a zillion papers since we were renting a GPS for the car. Soon, we were off to locate our vehicle. All the National employees were very friendly and very helpful.

Arizona Biltmore Room

Within about 20 minutes we arrived at the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa. We stayed here using Disney Vacation Club points exchange. Our use year ends the end of August and we were going to have some extra points, so figured why not! The resort is simple yet elegant but everything is VERY expensive! Our room was not yet ready, so we got something to eat and chilled until the room was indeed ready. Off we walked and our room is large, simple, yet very nice.

Both of us are exhausted from the long day and screwy meals we had. We are both ready to hit the sack and get a fresh start tomorrow. Our plan is to visit the Desert Botanical Gardens. It opens at 7am and since Arizona is 3 hours behind the east coast, shouldn't be a problem. After that, we'll check on my suitcase and then either go shopping or continue sightseeing.

Hopefully this rocky start is just that and things will be smooth as silk from here out.

Tomorrow some of our friends arrive and we look forward to seeing everyone again.

That's about it from Phoenix! Until tomorrow...

Deb and LindaLou

August 13, 2007

Adventures by Disney - Phoenix Day 2a

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We woke up bright and early this morning. Linda told me that the message light was blinking on the phone "It's your suitcase I bet!" So I immediately called bell services and sure enough, Southwest had delivered it during the night. YEA!!!! I wanted to hug and kiss it when it arrived...but I settled for being very grateful.

Phoenix We wanted an early start today. The plan was to go to the Desert Botanical Gardens around opening time, 7am. At 6am I was off to the Café for some Starbucks. Here's a photo just after the sun came up.

Also, I'm thinking it was the fatigue talking yesterday when I said we really like the room. After considering it is supposed to be such a luxurious resort and the "premium" room category, we have decided it is lacking and we are disappointed. The nice thing about the room is it is spacious, has 2 sinks, and we received nice bathrobes. In terms of amenities, there aren't many. Our "premium" view looks at a fence hiding a maintenance area. There is no hair dryer in the room. Plus there are little annoying maintenance issues in the room. Would be ok if we were not at what is considered an upscale resort. We won't even get into prices for food, Starbucks ($4.75 for a grande regular coffee), $23/day for valet parking etc. If this is a premium room, not sure what the standard is. Grounds are magnificent and well kept. Staff is very very helpful and friendly. But, I wouldn't recommend it on Disney Vacation Club points unless your pockets are very deep!

After a crazy time change day yesterday, the first order of business was a good breakfast! We got several recommendations from the hotel concierge. Then decided to ask the bell services guys, who gave us MUCH better suggestions. And that's my tip. For things like breakfast and lunch, ask the guys and gals working at the hotel where they like to eat! The concierge suggestion was at the Golf Club across the way. Not!

We ended up at U.S. Egg at 3828 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale az. It's owned by 4 brothers and there was plenty of good home cookin! Linda had the cornbeefhash with scrambled eggs, English muffin and hashbrowns. I had the "Protein Pancakes" which were really yummy and reportedly only 15 carbs for the pair, but my blood glucose meter would tell you otherwise LOL. Nonetheless, they were great! Filled with blueberries, sliced almonds and granola. Yea, the granola told me the carbs must be net. But still, I haven't found anything like that at home. The meal with 2 coffees and a juice was around $20. Great service, 2 different managers swung by to ask how things were - overall worth the price. We might even return tomorrow. useggrestaurant.com

Next - the Desert Botanical Gardens

Adventures by Disney - Phoenix Day 2b (Monday)

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After our mighty fine breakfast we looked for a grocery store for some bottled water to purchase, got a few other items and off we went to the Desert Botanical Gardens. Located in Phoenix, the gardens are 145 acres in the midst of the red rock buttes.

Just about everything I read about Phoenix listed this in the top 5 things to do - Linda and I agree. It really was awesome.

Admission is $10. I pulled out the American Express card and the lady told me they offer a 15% discount for using Amex. I almost fell over, no one ever seems to offer a discount for using Amex. LOL.

She explained the lay of the land to us, gave us maps and we were soon on our way. We also purchased, for a nominal fee, the trail booklets so we'd have a more informed way of knowing what we were looking at. For families, there were also "scavenger hunt" booklets for the kids. We saw several groups with them and they looked to be enjoying themselves.

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The main trail, Desert Discovery Trail, was about 1/3 of a mile. If you did that plus the 4 other trails, the mileage was about 1.5. However, don't be fooled thinking "piece of cake". It was already in the mid 90s just before 9am. For us "east coasters" the wide variety of cactus were all new to us so we spent a fair amount of time looking at the different species and reading about them.

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There were a number of placards explaining the terrain and vegetation which were both informative and interesting. The sky was so blue that it made for some wonderful photos. Here's LindaLou at one of the signs.

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We enjoyed looking at the famous "Saguaro" cactus, grown only in the Sonoran Dessert in Arizona and 2 small areas in California. The first branches take 50-100 years to appear. This cactus reaches it's full height of 40 feet in 150-200 years.

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This particular cactus was found frequently on all the trails were walked. While we didn't get photos of any of the wildlife, we were a little surprised to see as much as we did. The expected bees and small lizzards, but also squirrels, cotton tail rabbit, and what seemed like a chipmonk.

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We also explored the Plants and People of the Sonoran Dessert Trail. This area was very well done. There were exhibits showing the huts people lived in, what the cooking area looked like and sometimes even the wooden corals for the livestock.

During the centuries that people lived here they found a homeland with more than 400 ediible plants and many many others will medicinal, construction or other purposes.

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While we never found out the name of this tree, Linda shows how green the entire tree is, including the bark.

Linda headed into the gift shop and I wandered back to take a quick walk through the Wildflower Trail.

It was quite fascinating and we were both really glad we spent time here. After about 1.45 minutes, the heat had gotten to us both and it was time to head back to the hotel and cool off.

Tomorrow is a big day - our Adventures by Disney begins!!

August 14, 2007

Adventures by Disney - It has begun!

It is time! We have been at the Phoenix airport for a couple hours waiting for everyone in our group of 36 to arrive. There are 19 folks in the group I am part of, honcho'd be Beci of MouseFanTravel.

GuideTiffany with Ann and George in the background

After arriving at the airport, we were eventually greeted by one of our Adventure Guides, Tiffany. She arranged to get our bags skycapped and on their way to the hotel. We are now waiting outside a Starbucks in Terminal 4 waiting for everyone to arrive. Tiffany pictured above. Below is Wanda (LindaLou's sister and our friend Ronia).

Soon we will be on our way to Sedona - 1.5 hours to Montezuma Castle and then another 30 minutes from there to our hotel.

Wanda and Ronia

Adventures by Disney Day 1

We finally left the Phoenix airport about 1:30. Loaded ourselves onto a motorcoach and off we went to Montezuma's Castle.


The drive was about 90 minutes. Along the way, both guides, Mike and Tiffany, talked about the area and introduced us to some of the geology, scenery and customs we'd learn about during our week.

At some point, we stopped off and Jack, our local guide, joined us on the bus. He gave some intoductory information about the Castle.

As we got close to Montezuma's Castle, the weather turned decidedly nasty. Mike reminded us it was Monsoon season and that storms could come in very quickly during the afternoon. In fact, we hadn't been off the bus 20 minutes and we scampered into the Visitors Center to escape the short shower.

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It was quite fascinating to sea the Castle built into the rock. We walked along a trail that included the view of a river, then back on the bus.


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As we approached Sedona, the rock formations and color changed slowly and then dramatically. The red rock is an incredible site to behold.

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After 40 minutes, we arrived at the Amara Resort and Spa. VERY nice, comfy rooms, great dinner, fun entertainment. Since it was a travel day for so many, it was an early night and we all went to our rooms happy and tired.


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Breakfast is at 8am. Then at 9:15 we meet up with some Cowboys and take a Jeep Ride in the Red Rocks.

Oh, and be sure to follow my friend Mike Scopa as he blogs live from Walt Disney World!

August 15, 2007

Adventures by Disney Day 2

Our first full day on the Adventure. We all arrived at breakfast around 8am, much more rested than the travel day.

Once again, the Amara Resort provided us with outstanding service and excellent food. (dinner the first night was as awesome). Our breakfast buffet included great coffee, delish fruit, Eggs Florentine, Smoked Bacon, sausage, oatmeal (that was really good), pastries, juice, french toast, cereal. You barely had to look up for a server to refill your coffee and they were there for you. We'll really miss the folks who served us at the Amara. The rest of the staff were equally as wonderful. They get great marks for customer service, food, cleanliness, and view. I'd come back here in a heart beat.

Oh, and they have a spa also. LindaLou had a massage today which she deemed "marvelous". Steam room was wonderful with eucalpytus aromas. Robes, towells, Elemis products to use in the ladies locker room. (Elemis products in the resort rooms too). All the amenities you could want. The quiet area (prior to your treatment) had quiet music, a peach tea with antioxidents, fresh fruit, nuts, cold water with fresh lemon slices. Automatic 18% gratuity, but Linda says, no push to buy products. A win, win, win.

Our first activity today was billed as the Canyons and Cowboys Jeep Tour. We went for an off-road trek into the majestic canyons of Dry Creek Basin! You certainly knew the tour was full of Disney folks as several times on the jeep, everyone's arms went in the air and well all hooped and hollared! There were some incredible rock formations. Our driver, Taz, was great pointing them out to us.

We had a couple stops along the jeep ride where everyone piled out and got to take photos and enjoy the magnificant views. Just breath taking!

Our second stop was the old Van Deren Cabin where the cowboys told us about the Homestead Act and how this "famous" cabin came to be. A number of western movies have been made in this area as well as in this cabin.

As we left the Red Rock area, the jeeps took us to the Sedona Heritage Museum. There were interesting artifacts of a time long gone including cowboy gear, an old schoolhouse room, old kitchen and more. There was even a room celebrating some of the movies that have been filmed in the area.

It was then time for lunch. The food was tasty, but I would have like a full sandwich, not a half. The other thing about lunch is that we were in an open air "barn-type" structure with no airconditioning. It made for an uncomfortable time.

Our cowboys entertained us once again with lots of show and tell and stories of the cowboys of old. It was quite interesting.

After lunch many folks stayed to do crafts - soap sculptures and dream catchers.

I, and several others, walked back to the Amara Resort. LindaLou had stayed behind this morning since she caught a nasty cold. Plus I wanted to take a shower. The jeep ride was very dusty!

This evening a group of us dined at the Cowboy Club in town. The food was excellent. My buffalo filet was as tender as you could imagine. The pork chop special, ribs, everything was very good.

The night air was perfect, a cool breeze and just warm enough to enjoy the walk back to the hotel.

If you have any questions, send them along via the feedback form. I"ll do my best to answer them. It maybe quiet here during the next 2 days. Not sure how much internet access will be available at the Grand Canyon hotel. I understand it's just wireless in the lobby only.

I'll get today's photos up when I can.

In the meantime, check out LindaMac's Southwest Adventure Blog and Mike Scopa's Live at WDW Blog.
Happy Trails from Sedona where it is currently 11:00pm. Our wake up call is 5:30am!

August 16, 2007

Adventures by Disney - Sedona Jeep Ride

When we head out today, we enter a no cell service very very limited internet service period for a couple days.

In case I don't get the other pics up from Sedona, I had to leave you with this one:


Currently 6:18am Sedona time.

Adventures by Disney - the Grand Canyon

Today was an incredible day, with lots of great stories to share...but allow me to skip ahead to this afternoon....... about 4:00pm.

As we pulled up to the entrance of the Grand Canyon National Park, I already felt my body about to explode with anticipation. Seeing the Canyon in person has been on my "life list". You know, those things you really want to do before it's your time to pass.

We drove a couple miles in the bus and finally got out. Most of us walked quickly to the rest rooms after our 2+ hour bus ride.

We gathered as a group and Tiffany went over safety instructions and what we could do with our hour.

As we began walking towards the canyon, our pace quickened. We felt like running...... Time seemed to pass so slowly as we approached the road we needed to cross. We could see in a distance that the canyon was close by, but still could not see it.

Linda and I, with others we were traveling with approached the barrier and each of us stood quietly in our tracks. Our eyes were rivited to the land that lay before us. The tears welled up in my eyes and soon I began sobbing at the magnificant land before me. I looked at Linda, Wanda, and several others in our group and we all stood their sobbing.

No photo will ever do it justice. No words will ever explain the feeling of seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time. We stood there in awe. Then began moving around the walkway. And each time you changed positions, the canyon took on a new dimension.

For some reason the words to America the Beautiful started echoing through my mind. I hadn't heard that song in a very long time...but suddenly, it took on a whole new meaning.

I still don't know quite how to explain to you what it was like this afternoon....

Here are a few photos.....


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August 17, 2007

Adventures by Disney Grand Canyon Day 1 Part 2

We were up early this morning and had breakfast in the Grand Hotel restaurant. We arrived at the hotel yesterday after our fantastic 1 hour taste of the Grand Canyon. We were all feeling pretty great when we arrived at the hotel.

I must admit, I had no idea what to expect from the hotel. I had read the "fair" reviews of the hotel on several places online. Prior to the trip, I spoke to my travel agent and expressed my concerns. She assured me the Disney Adventure Team was working with the hotel to ensure a positive experience.

When we pulled up the grounds were simple, yet clean. The lobby inside, rustic, few amenities, but clean. We got our room keys and had about an hour before dinner.

Grand Hotel Lobby

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The room is basic but, again, was clean. It was no Amara, but no one said it would be. I think the rooms have ammenities of a Disney value/moderate resort. The restaurant food, I would consider Pop Century level (Disney value hotel). This is a no frills hotel. However, our time in the room was going to be very limited considering we are at the Grand Canyon.

Grand Hotel

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Grand Hotel

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During dinner last night, an adult Native American man sung, while a young boy (12 years old), dressed in traditional attire, did several dances for us. He was quite good! The hard part about this was they were explaining the history of the various dances, in the midst of all of us eating a buffet. So it was noisy. After these gentleman, another Native American entertained the dining room with wooden flutes - and he had quite the assortment. Wonderful soothing music and very enjoyable to listen to.

Native American Dancer

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Our great guides, Mike and Tiffany talked to us about the next days adventures and time tables for meals, tour and "on your own" time.

LindaMac, Wanda, Ronia, LindaLou decided to have a night cap at the hotel bar.

LindaMac, Wanda, Ronia, LindaLou

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And as I slowly made my way back to the room, I spotted half of our Dynamic Duo Guides, Tiffany, at the lobby piano!


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We all went to sleep with great anticipation for our full day at the Canyon!

Also blogging on this Adventure is Beci Mahnken at http://mousefancafe.com/.

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August 19, 2007

Adventures by Disney - Grand Canyon Day 2

I have fallen woefully behind in the blogging, but that's because our days are really full of great activities. I really do hope to get caught up.

After another "buffet" breakfast at the Grand Hotel, we loaded the bus about 8:00am for the Grand Canyon. We met up with our local guide, Robin, and proceeded to take a bus tour of several spots along the south rim.

I want to share some photos of the various families and friends on the wonderful Adventure by Disney. Oh, and have I mentioned today how incredibly awesome Tiffany and Mike are? They are!

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Annette, Beci and Michelle from MouseFanTravel.com along with some youngsters!

Annette, Beci and Michelle from MouseFanTravel.com along with some youngsters!

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Ann and George Freeman

Ann and George Freeman

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Deb Wills and Linda Mac

Deb Wills and Linda Mac

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Adventures by Disney Guide Tiffany

Adventures by Disney Guide Tiffany

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Michelle climbed down to a very small overlook rock! She was braver than I!

Michelle  at the overlook rock

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Sisters LindaLou and Wanda

Sisters LindaLou and Wanda

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The Catania Family

The Catania Family

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The Keating Family

The Keating Family

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We had several options after our morning tour of the Canyon. The Adventures bus would make several shuttle runs during the day back and forth from the hotel to the canyon.

Ann and George, LindaMac, LindaLou and myself has prearranged a 1 hour helicopter ride of the canyon. LindaMac plans to blog about that. I'll just say for my 2nd time in a choper.. it was awesome.

After that, we headed back to the hotel. I wasn't feeling good, so I stayed to myself the rest of the day. LindaLou, George and Ann when to see the Imax movie across the street. Tickets provided by the Adventure Guides. Linda really enjoyed the movie and felt it was worth seeing. It included some history of the canyon. Be aware that during the movie there is a sensation of being on the canoe in the river and could cause motion sensitivity.

Dinner tonight was "on our own" and guides Mike and Tiffany invited anyone interested to dine with them. Just about the entire group decided to do W.E. Cook Pizza Pasta for dinner. (I went to McDonalds and had a really good salad with grilled chicken.)

A early bed time for most as luggage was being picked up at 6:30am for our very long bus day.

Other Adventures by Disney Blogs (of this trip)

AllEars team member LindaMac
To be continued.

August 21, 2007

Adventures by Disney Day 5 - Monument Valley Part 1

Saturday, August 18, 2007 - Part 1

t was time to move north and change hotels once again. Today would be the longest day on the bus. Two long trips of 3 hours each! We traveled from our lodging outside the Grand Canyon in Arizona, to the Red Rock Cliffs of Moab Utah!.

Luggage had to be ready to go by 6:30am.

We had breakfast buffet (basically scrambled egg, bacon, biscuits and gravy, coffee and juice. It was a "value" resort type breakfast.

We then left for Monument Valley. The bus ride was 3 hours, no rest stop break, but there is a restroom on the bus. There was water and snacks on the bus as well. The Disney movie Brother Bear played on the small monitors, but with everyone talking on the bus it was kind of heard to hear. I used my ipod with noise reduction headphones and took a nap!

There were lots of scenery changes along the way. We drove out of the Grand Canyon National Park, so got some glimpes of the canyon. Soon we were seeing buttes and all kinds of rock formations. A number of the formations we saw along our entire trip had names. On this drive, we saw Owl Rock:

Owl Rock

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We arrived at the Gouldings Lodge at Monument Valley for lunch and our off road trip.

The menu was basic, plenty of food. The only problem we had was the service was VERY slow. I'll put the menu at the bottom of this blog entry with a couple food comments.

Soon we were off to our tour of the magnificant Monument Valley! Many movies have had scenes filmed here. In 1939, Director John Ford's film Stage Coach, starring John Wayne was the first of many westerns shot here. Just a few of the other movies included Forrest Gump, Back to the Future 3, the Eiger Sanction with Clint Eastwood, Mission Impossible and Thelma and Louise!

Monument Valley comes under the jurisdiction of the Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation Department. The rock formations range from 400 - 1,000 feet tall. Only a limited number of the monuments are available for public viewing. The remainder are part of the Navajo sacred land. Some areas are only available to the public via a recognized tour operator.

Our group of 36 was split into 2 groups and each had their own off road vehicle. Our Navajo guide was very knowledgable, but it was often hard to hear her voice clearly. We were sitting in the open air portion of the vehicle and the driver is in a "cab" like a truck cab.

Off Road Tour Vehicle

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We drove into the valley and then had a photo stop at one of the famous buttes, "The Mittens".

Deb and LindaLou enjoy the Mittens

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Here's a group photo of our entire Adventures by Disney group at the Mittens!


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Goulding's Lodge Group Lunch Menu - Select one.

Navajo Taco

Chef Salad
Soup and Salad Bar (very basic salad bar, soup was good)
Beef Stew with Navajo Fry Bread
Navajo Taco (many folks had these and enjoyed them - very large! - pictured above)
Chicken Strips
Fry Bread and Honey
Triple Decker Club
Tuna Salad
Patty Melt
Chicken Breast Sandwich - very good

Stay tuned for more photos in Part 2.

August 22, 2007

Adventures by Disney Day 5 - Monument Valley Part 2

Our time in Monument Valley continues.......

I decided to play with the camera settings a bit and changed the light source from outdoor sun to indoor Tungsten. You can see how it really brought out the blues and created a neat effect. This spire formation is called the Three Sisters.


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Here's a view of the buttes from inside our Off Road Vehicle.

View from the Off Road Vehicle

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This very nice Native American man posed for photos of himself on the horse, just like in the westerns! Then for $2.00 each, we could get on the horse and have our photo taken. This was very popular with everyone on our tour.


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It was a perfect afternoon. Between the incredible structures, having our photos taken on the horse and our great guides we were all very happy with the tour.

Back on the bus for another 3 hours to Moab UT and the Red Cliffs Inn!!!


August 24, 2007

Adventures by Disney Red Cliffs Lodge and Moab Part I

Saturday August 18, 2007

As mentioned in the previous blog, we left Monument Valley and had our 2nd 3 hour bus ride of the day. We were fairly worn out, not to mention dusty, from the off road adventure, but the scenery was so magnificant it was hard to sleep.

We finally arrived at the Red Cliffs Lodge just outside the town of Moab. Oh My Gosh. We fell in love with this place. Nestled amoung the mesas and buttes of the Red Cliffs, this working ranch was our home for the final three days of our Adventure.

Upon arrival, we were directed to a room in the main lodge for an orientation by the resort manager, Sandy. We had beverages and cookies while she explained everything about the resort we would need to know. Sandy was most enthusiastic and really got us all excited about our stay.

Orientation at Red Cliffs Lodge

We were then given our room keys and when we opened the door our luggage was sitting there. I can't tell you how great it was to always have our luggage taken care of. At every resort we arrived at.... either the hotel staff or our Adventure Guides had all our room keys ready for us in envelopes and we could immediately go to our rooms. Our luggage was always there waiting for us. Then, at our leisure, we provided the front desk with a credit card for incidentals. Whenever we were checking out of a resort, our luggage was picked up in the room and loaded on the bus. It was a GREAT convenience!!!

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When we arrived at the room, we were blown away. Simple, rustic, yet very roomy with a kitchenette, sofa, table, on the lower level and the "loft" had the beds, dressers, tv etc. We also had a very nice patio area to sit and relax. There were 2 room views available: river and creek. We were fortunate to have a river view and were able to enjoy a couple beautiful sunrises and sunsets! WOW! We loved the location.

River View Room at Red Cliffs Lodge, Moab UT

River View Room at Red Cliffs Lodge, Moab UT

River View Room at Red Cliffs Lodge, Moab UT

River View Room at Red Cliffs Lodge, Moab UT

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Our dinner was in the winery tasting room in a separate building and was quite good! As we walked to dinner we passed a wedding taking place on the lodge grounds at sunset. What a romantic location and view!

Sunset Wedding at Red Cliffs Lodge, Moab UT

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After dinner it was time to turn in. We had a big day in store for us at Arches National Park!

August 25, 2007

Adventures by Disney - Red Cliffs Lodge and Moab Part 2

Sunday August 19, 2007

The next morning, LindaLou and I were up bright and early and caught some of the sunrise. The view from our patio was just beautiful.

Sunrise at Red Cliffs Lodge, Moab UT

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Because it was Sunday, the ranch held a special sunday brunch and we were spoiled! Made to order omelets, pumpkin pancakes, huge assortment of muffins, pastries, juices, fruits, sausage, bacon and more. Really nice!

Ronia was very excited about having "Made to Order Omelets". Actually, we all were.

 Sunday Brunch at Red Cliffs Lodge, Moab UT

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I enjoyed a made to order omelet with ham, tomatoes, broccoli and cheese, a pumpkin pancake, strawberries and "meal in a muffin" savory muffin. YUMMMMMM

Sunday Brunch at Red Cliffs Lodge, Moab UT

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At 8am sharp we loaded the bus for Arches National Park. The group stayed together for the first part of the tour. We picked up Dave, our local guide, and then made a quick stop at the visitors center. Those of us with National Park Passports were able to get them stamped and then quickly return to the bus.

From the National Park Service website: "Arches National Park preserves over 2,000 natural sandstone arches, like the world-famous Delicate Arch, as well as many other unusual rock formations. In some areas, the forces of nature have exposed millions of years of geologic history. The extraordinary features of the park create a landscape of contrasting colors, landforms and textures that is unlike any other in the world."

As with most of the places we visited, it is very hard to verbalize the incredible sights we visited. The pictures barely do the majesty of the country justice. Along the way, our guide Dave explained about the formation of the arches. Some of them will not last too many more years, as the erosion will eventually break them apart. In fact, Dave told the kids that some of what we saw may not be there if they returned as adults.

Our first stop was Balanced Rock. The following description is from the plaqard at the viewing location. "The forces of erosion are sculpting more than just arches in the Entrada Sandstone. At Balanced Rock, the caprock of the hard Slick Rock Member is perched upon a base of the Dewy Bridge Member, a mudstone. This softer pedestal weathers more quickly than the resistant Slick Rock above. Eventually, the faster-eroding Dewey Bridge will cause the collaspe of Balanced Rock."

Balanced Rock Arches National Park

Total height of Balanced Rock is 128 feet. The boulder weighs over 3500 TONS!

We then drove to the location where the group split in two. About 2/3rds of the group opted to hike the 1.5 mile Delicate Arch trail. The others stayed on the bus for a tour of several different arches, including a viewing area for Delicate Arch.

Linda Mac will blog about the Arches National Park bus tour and LindaLou and I will take you on our strenuous hike up to the Delicate Arch.

Arches National Park Visitor Guide (pdf)

August 26, 2007

Adventures by Disney - Moab Part 3 - Hiking to Delicate Arch

Hiking to Delicate Arch


Delicate Arch is something both LindaLou and I have been thinking about since we booked this Adventure by Disney. We read about the challenges associated with this hike, especially in August and made it our trip goal to prepare for the hike. We both worked out in our own ways to prepare for the hike. We are both very glad we did.

The Arches National Park website describes the trail as follows:

The first half-mile is a wide, well-defined trail.
Open slickrock with some exposure to heights.
Upon reaching the slickrock, follow the rock cairns.
The trail climbs gradually and levels out toward the top of this rock face.

Just before you get to Delicate Arch, the trail goes along a rock ledge for about 200 yards. This ledge is about 3-4 feet wide with a sheer drop off. The only good thing about it was that the ledge titled into the rock wall, so it was easier to "hug".

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The Hike!


The Delicate Arch hike begins at the Wolfe Ranch Parking area. Though it is only 3 miles roundtrip, the estimated time to complete the hike is 2-3 hours. The Park guide lists it as a strenuous hike!


The Elevation at the Arch itself is estimated at 4,829 feet. As we had a 480 feet rise in elevation during our trek, we started out somewhere around 4,400 feet. The first half mile was a well defined trail. We were slowly but steadily climbing upwards. I was really glad I had my hiking boots on as it helped me with traction and getting a firm stand on the rocks.


Our guides Tiffany and Mike talked to us several times the day before and the day of about the hike. It would be rough, yet worth the view once we arrived. We were encouraged to bring as much water as we could carry as there was virtually no shade along the trail.


I carried 3 bottles of water, one with energy drink; LindaLou carried 4. Our group was well prepared, however we were shocked at how many people we saw hiking the trail with no water at all. I find this very foolish given the heat and nature of the hike.

Soon our well defined trail turned to "slick rock" and we had to follow the trail markers (which wasn't always easy).



We took frequent rest stops.

About 1/3 of the way up the trail, one of the folks we were traveling with stopped in his tracks with possible heat exhaution. LindaLou and Kate were near by as the 3 of them (along with guide Mike) were the "caboose" of our group. Fortunately, after a few minutes, the person was ok enough to return to the bus. Our Adventure Guide Mike superbly handled this medical event and took control calmly. He did everything you could ask for and more.

Here's the last 200 or so yards along the ledge!



Tiffany held up the group so the rest of us would catch up. She's encouraging us by pointing around the corner, where we will finally see the Delicate Arch!


to be continued.......

August 27, 2007

Adventures by Disney - Moab Part 4 - Hiking to Delicate Arch

WE MADE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Our first glimpse. The photos here really don't do justice to the incredible expanse and majesty of this beautiful place.

First glimpse of Delicate Arch

Two hot, tired, but VERY HAPPY hikers!
LindaLou and Deb at the Arch

We sat on the wall for awhile and watched others from our group head across the very slick rock to get to the actual arch. Here's a photo of some of our friends.

Michelle at the Arch

Using my 10x optical zoom, we can now see it was Adventurer Michelle who was standing inside the arch!

Close up of Michelle under Delicate Arch

After admiring the Arch from afar, we decided to climb down and get a closer view. There was an approximate 3 foot "wall" to climb over to get to more slick rock to make our way slowly to the arch.

Walking to the Arch itself

Once we were part way to the actual arch, I turned back around to take a photo of the landscape.

Vista at Delicate Arch

LindaLou and Wanda carefully watch their step as they make their way to the arch.
LindaLou and Wanda carefully watch their step

Sharyne and her family stand under the arch.

Sharyne and her family

Linda and I under the Arch. We could have stayed there for hours, mesmerized by the view.
Linda and I under Delicate Arch

I looked up and took this photo.
Delicate Arch from underneath

Linda got back in line to share the arch with her sister, Wanda. Here, they are looking out on the other side of the arch.

Linda and Wanda under Delicate Arch

Hamming it up for the camera.
Linda and Wanda under Delicate Arch

Our Adventure Guide, Tiffany, photographs folks in the arch!
Adventure Guide Tiffany

One of our Adventurer's...
One of the Catania men

Kate and Bobby and their kids under the Arch!
Kate and Bobby and their kids

One of our Junior Adventurers
One of our Junior Adventurers

Way Way WAY TOO SOON, it was time to head back down the mountain.
LindaLou, Wanda and Guide Mike
LindaLou, Wanda and Guide Mike

Debbie and Glenn
Debbie and Glenn


The final phase of the hike which was on, thankfully, a well defined trail.
Final part of the trail, Mike and Deb

Soon we were back on the bus to check on our friend who was unable to complete the hike. We were very happy to see him smiling and doing great!

A ride back into Moab for some lunch and shopping and then back to the Red Cliff Lodge.

August 29, 2007

Adventures by Disney - Moab Part 5

After our amazing morning, we drove into Moab for Lunch on our Own. We had about 2 hours and thought it would be plenty of time to eat and do a little shopping. Not. While the restaurant we went to had decent food, we can't say as much for the service.

This is as good a time as any to tell you the service out west is not at all like back east. They do things at their own pace, and it's not on your time schedule. We tried to just relax and go with the flow, but sometimes we had a bus to catch or an event to get to. The exceptions to this were the outstanding overall service at the Amara and the Red Cliffs Lodge.

After lunch, we had just a few minutes to shop and LindaLou and I found a TShirt place right next to where we ate. We took the opportunity to get a couple tshirts.

Linda shopping in Moab

About 2:30pm we all met at the bus and headed back to the Lodge. Here are our incredible Adventures by Disney Guides, Tiffany and Mike. They were always taking care of those little details so we didn't have to be concerned with them.

Adventure Guides Tiffany and Mike

There was tons of stuff to do at the Lodge including ATVing, Horseback Riding, Hummer tours and much more. Everyone we spoke to loved their activities!

LindaLou and I decided to hang out at the lodge, relax, catch up with blogging and catch a nap before dinner.

Tonights dinner had the Junior Adventurer's at their own party which also included a showing of High School Musical 2. Adults had "on your own dinner" which most of us did at the restaurant at the lodge.

Soon, it was time for sleep, our last full day was just a few hours away.

Sunset at the Red Cliffs Lodge

August 30, 2007

Adventures by Disney - Moab Part 6 - Our Last Day

A buffet breakfast was waiting for us in the main lodge building. We'd be departing at 9:00am for our River Rafting Adventure on the Colorado River!

The pre-trip materials described this as Class 1 and 2 rapids. Probably because of the lateness of the season, they were mostly Class 1. However, that was just perfect for our morning on the river.


I brought a water camera with me for the rafting, afraid of ruining my good camera. Based on our experience, I would bring a small, inexpensive digital with me next time, along with a good ziploc bag.


We drove to the launch spot and I'll give you one important word of warning! There are "portajohns" at the launch spot, but unless you are one desperate person, AVOID THEM! I usually don't have a problem using park portajohns but trust me, these were the grossest things I have seen in years.. I'll just leave it at that.


You will definetly get WET on this trip. Lots of raft fights with water being thrown back and forth. Some folks enjoyed getting in the water and floating along with the rafts. Some of us prefered to just hangout in the raft and enjoy the incredible views.


No matter what you choose, it's a wonderful time.



Next...our final dinner together and heading home.

August 31, 2007

Adventures by Disney - Final Dinner and Goodbyes

After the rafting we returned back to the Red Cliffs lodge we all had a few minutes to go to our rooms and change, or dry off, or whatever. A box lunch was ready for us and boy was it good to eat LOL.

Again, many folks headed off to a variety of activities, but I opted to enjoy the lodge for the final afternoon and get a head start on packing.

Dinner that evening was on the patio of the Lodge. We had grilled rib-eye steaks and all the fixin's.

The sun was starting to set, not only on the day, but on this awesome vacation.


Our Incredible Adventures by Disney Guides - Mike and Tiffany
They made the trip extra extra special. We can't thank them enough for their knowledge, expertise, friendliness, and willingness to go well over and above!


Glenn, Debbie and their girls

The sun continues to set

Tiffany and Bobby

Raising our Glasses in Celebration of a Great Vacation.

Scott and Tammy

Michelle and Kate

Birthday Man Mike

One final glimpse at the sunrise over the red cliffs

At the airport...

"Til we meet again...."

Next...reflections on a week in the SouthWest....

Return to Blog Central

About August 2007

This page contains all entries posted to Deb's Digest in August 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

July 2007 is the previous archive.

September 2007 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.