Monday, February 23, 2015

Summer Southwest Road Trip

Grand Canyon Road TripAfter a lot, really a lot, of thinking and picking through our choices we have settled on the route of our next road trip. And now it’s all booked. The centerpiece of our trip is going to be Grand Canyon — probably the most beautiful place on earth that I’ve been to. We’re going to visit some other natural wonders that southwest of this country has to offer.

The road trip will start in Phoenix and will end in Las Vegas. Only four of us will go — Arosha, Anna, Alena and I. We haven’t flown anywhere with Arosha without parents yet, and this time we’ll go with both kids. We’ll have to bring a lot of stuff (like two car seats) and we’re hoping we’ll be able to manage it all. We do have a lot of stops in our plan, but the drives themselves are relatively short and should be easy enough on the kids.

The plan is simple. We fly1 out to Phoenix early in the morning of Friday, July 10th and we will be back home on the late night of July 21st flying back from Las Vegas. Right upon our arrival to Phoenix we rent a car and go an a mandatory tour of the capitol. Without spending the night we drive out to Sedona2 where we are staying for 1 night.

After Sedona we drive to Grand Canyon National Park itself. We’ll spend 3 nights3 on the southern rim staying right inside the park. I only hope that the canyon doesn’t make Arosha experience his fear of heights. He was never afraid of any mountains or anything in nature, but who knows.

After the southern rim we go to Page, Arizona where we spend another 3 nights4 on the eastern end of the canyon. While Alena and I have been to all the other places of our road trip, this will be one new location for all of us. We want to see the famous Horseshoe Bend and take a hike through Antelope Canyon.

The next destination of our trip takes us to another gorgeous place — Bryce Canyon. Bryce Canyon has a very unique look due to the natural structures called hoodoos. We’ll spend 2 nights5 at Bryce and we’ll take off to our final destination of Las Vegas through a scenic road that runs right through Zion National Park.

And our final 2 nights6 we will spend in Las Vegas which has been becoming a family destination for a long time now. There are a lot of things to see for kids there such as a pirate show at Treasure Island, or a volcano eruption at Mirage. It would be great to go to some Cirque du Soleil show, but Anna is way to little to be able to sit through something like that, so not this time.

Overall our nature loving kids should have a lot of new impressions on this trip and we’ll be seeing all the old places anew through their eyes. Should be a fun one.

  1. Delta flight, non stop from JFK at $334 per person. Anna flies for free in Alёna’s lap. Total price for the flight is $1,002. []
  2. Hampton Inn Sedona, $204 total with taxes included. []
  3. Yavapai Lodge, $548 for 3 nights plus tax. []
  4. Best Western at Lake Powell, $767 total with tax for 3 nights. Not cheap at all. []
  5. Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel, $445 total for 2 nights. []
  6. Elara by Hilton Grand Vacations, $260 total for 2 nights. []

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Potato Chips

A bag of potato chips from Utah. Expired one at that.I don’t know why I’m posting this. When we went to Utah we bought a bag of potato chips at the airport, I think. Somehow we ended up bringing them back. And they were sitting on our kitchen table all this time. I was feeling hungry so I ate our Utah chips. However they did expire it seems on June 3rd. That’s it, end of story. O.o teeth
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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Salt Lake City

Alena on Antelope Island.My memories of our vacation go more and more out of focus and transform into a beautiful bright cloud of warmth as time passes by.

The desire to keep at least some details sharp propels me to write this post about our Salt Lake City experience.

Utah State Capitol building in Salt Lake City.Salt Lake City was the last stop in our wonderful journey. The city itself has a rather small population of less than 200,000 people, but its metropolitan area is inhabited with a substantially larger population of over a million.

One of the central streets in Salt Lake City.The city center was clean, wide-streeted and empty. Some of the tallest buildings surprisingly belonged to churches. The Capitol was very impressive, although it looked somewhat uninhabited from afar (probably due to lack of tourists and some construction equipment left sitting outside the building).

The corner of 2nd Avenue and U Street in Salt Lake City. Cozy looking street.Houses on smaller streets looked very neat and cared for. Overall the city felt quite friendly, and for some reason reminded me of Toronto.

Looking down from our 8th floor inside Embassy Suites hotel.We stayed at Embassy Suits Hotel — and it was a pleasure. We didn’t have any energy to visit a jacuzzi, but impressive breakfast and manager’s reception, where alcohol and snacks were served, left me very satisfied.

On the day following our arrival to Salt Lake City we went to visit Antelope Island — the largest island in the Great Salt Lake. The island is inhabited by a variety of wildlife, including pronghorn antelopes and bison.

Pronghorn antelope on Antelope Island in the middle of Great Salk Lake.We were lucky enough to see an antelope peacefully resting not too far from the road side. Danya, who originally claimed that it wasn’t an antelope but a rusted bucket, ran closer to the animal and took a couple of decent shots.

We also saw a bunch of American Bison. According to Wikipedia, American and European bison are the largest terrestrial mammals in North America and Europe.

American bison on Antelope Island.To be honest, I imagined bison to be even bigger than they are. They look kind of funny with their big furry heads and patches of naked skin on their massive thighs and backs, which are caused by winter coat shedding. Their somewhat lethargic calmness is deceptive though, since bison can attack if provoked and are able to run as fast as 35 miles/hour.

European Bison (Wisent), which is called Zubr in Russian, is one of the animals that stroke my imagination many years ago. Zubr is one of the symbols of Belarus, and I always wanted to visit Belovezhskaya Pushcha — a national forest where those animals can be viewed in their natural habitat. Now that dream in a way came true.

American bison on Antelope Island.It is almost painful to think of bison’s fate throughout the 19th century, when multi-million bison population was almost driven to extinction by commercial hunting. I can’t fathom what purpose such a brutal extermination could have served.

We also saw a small animal, resembling coyote, and a big brown rabbit. On the lake’s shore numerous little birds fussed around looking for something to eat.

View of Wasatch mountains from Antelope Island.The lake itself was beautiful, and mountain peaks, covered in snow, added a lot to the view.

"Алёнка вертолётчица."Vase filled with sands and stones from different parts of Utah.After our return from Antelope Island, we drove some more around the city, and stumbled upon a military museum. It was rather small, but still interesting.

On our last day we walked around the city again, and then took a shuttle to the airport, which was kindly provided by the hotel. Delta oversold tickets to our flight, but luckily, it did not effect us in any way.

We brought some Utah soil and stones from our trip, and arranged them in a glass vase. This home-made souvenir makes me smile every time I look at it.
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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Zion National Park

Blind Arch, Zion National Park.The stay in Ruby’s Inn at Bryce Canyon was the only 3 night, 2 day stop during our trip. We assigned the first day to the exploration of Bryce Canyon National Park and the use of the second day was to be decided upon the arrival of the said day.

At first I (and others seemed to agree) thought that maybe we should have spent that extra day in Moab, but when the evening rolled around and the day was behind us we knew that we did the right thing. In the morning it was decided that Zion National Park was too close for us not to explore it.

The plan was to go to Cedar City first, through Route 14, which lies close to Cedar Breaks National Monument. I have to say that Bryce Canyon official driving instructions page notes that “this route is not advisable during winter months due to storms, as it involves travel over steep twisting mountainous roads with a summit of 9,200 feet elevation.” Cedar City itself places us within 20 miles of Kolob Canyon entrance (much less explored location then the main one) to Zion.

Road through Red Canyon.That was exactly what we did. On our way to Route 14 we passed through the Red Canyon which had some great looking passes through the mountains. We noticed that the visitor center was closed due to off-season, but that the new schedule was just starting and that it would be open during weekends, which, luckily for us, included Fridays. That meant more stamps on our way to Salt Lake City.

The road passing by Cedar Break resembling landscapes of Kyrgyzstan.Route 14 itself passed through parts of Dixie National Forest which lies on top of magnificent mountains. My dad told us that all those views remind him very much of his youth years spent in the high mountains of what now is called a sovereign country of Kyrgyzstan.

Road to Cedar Breaks National Monument.Most of the mountains surrounding us were covered by a thick layer of snow. So was the route to Cedar Breaks National Monument itself, which was expected. It was funny to see a 40 miles per hour speed limit sign sticking from a snow covered field.

Welcome to Cedar City.Soon after that we arrived to Cedar City. We were pretty surprised by its size. Normally placed that we passed had a total of 10 houses and not a single person on the streets. Cedar City turned out to be a university town with a nice center and lots of people. We stopped by the visitor center, walked around the downtown for a short while and proceed to drive to Kolob Canyon.

Kolob Canyon at Zion National Park.We got our passports stamped at the ranger station at the entrance, showed our National Park pass and drove off into the park. This side of the park has a relatively short paved road going through the mountains. What stood out the most was the road itself or rather its color. I’ve never seen pavement that was brownish red. I guess they used something from the local mountains for building material.

At Kolob Canyon, Zion National Park.When we reached the end of the road we took a short hike up the mountain for a scenic overlook, taking pictures on the way and enjoying Utah’s beauty. When we were done with the walk we figured that we were too close to the main entrance of Zion (about 30 miles) not to go there. Plus this way we wouldn’t have to return using the same road, which gave us a chance to see more.

Route 9 is the road that you take to get to Zion’s main entrance. It passes right through the park, and everyone traveling on it has to pay $25. Luckily for us our NP pass worked here as well. Before it the road reaches Zion it goes through the a town called Springdale. Zion being one of the most popular parks in the nation provides a lot of tourists, so Springdale had a lot of little restaurants. However before eating we passed through Zion visitor center to get our stamp. And a good thing that we did. Right after we go into the building the doors were looked, since it was already 4:30pm and the visitor center was closing.

Blooming Cactus on I-15 down to Zion National Park.After having a dinner in a nice place after all the Burger Kings and other, nastier places we went back to Zion to check the park itself out. We found out that you can’t drive your own car through the park (that’s a first one like that on our route), but they provide free shuttle service with tour guides. We thought we would go for 2 stops or so, since it was getting late and we had a long drive back to the hotel, but we ended up going all the way to the end.

When we got into the bus the driver asked us where we were from. “Brooklyn, of course. And Russia before that,” we gave our standard answer. The driver told us that he’s been to Russia many times and that he’s actually been to many places before. Turned out that he’s a retired (at the age of 48) owner of a tour company. His company does about 2,000 tours a year and he has other people running it at this point. He told us that he understood very quickly though that doing nothing is really boring after a short while, so he gives tours of Zion when the park needs more drivers.

Zion National Park.I really thought that we’ve seen everything there is to see in Utah before Zion, but I was wrong. As the tour went on I was more and more impressed. First of all you get a feeling that you’re driving through the mountains, when in fact you’re on the bottom of the canyon. What makes it different from other places is that you seem to be surrounded by walls as opposed to mountains that gradually get higher. These were going straight up from the bottom of the canyon at 90 degree angle. And most of theme were higher then Sears Tower, the highest building in USA.

I actually checked Wikipedia and Zion Canyon is over 800 meters deep in certain places. Sears Tower is only a bit higher then 500 meters. I wondered if Zion was close to the size of Grand Canyon, but was astonished to find out that Grand Canyon is 1,600 meters deep at some places. Holy crap!

Sunset at Zion National Park.Back to Zion. We saw male turkey trying to attract female turkeys with his big tail (and I do mean tail). Our tour guide told us a story that several years ago a full bus of tourists saw a porcupine trying to cross the road and mountain lion jumping down, turning the porcupine over with its paw, grabbing it with his teeth and running off. We also saw a lot of deer again. Turns out that their huge ears serve them the same way tongues serve the dogs — heat regulation.

Then we saw 2 people, which appeared to be like tiny dots, climbing one of the mounts. It takes them 2 days to get to the top and their are forced to spend a night, sleeping in a hanging position — there are no ledges on those cliffs. Turns out that spring and fall are the only season when those rocks can be climbed. During the summer mountains heat up to over 20 degrees over the temperature of the air and air reaches 100-110 degrees during summer.

Zion National Park.All of this was impressive, but the experience of being surrounded by these ancient monoliths probably was the best part for me.

After we were done with a tour we hopped into our car, drove through an enormously long tunnel inside a mountain and were on our way back to our hotel in Bryce. Now that’s what I call a day well spent.
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Friday, May 2, 2008

Bryce Canyon

Entering Bryce Canyon National Park. Did you spot the hidden agent?Tuesday (April 22nd) night we arrived at the Bryce Canyon. Hotel we stayed in, Ruby’s Inn, is located right near the entrance to the park. We quickly checked in into our pretty decent room with two king-size beds, and drove to the canyon to see the sunset. The park is open 24 hours a day, and the fee per car is $25. We don’t really care about fees to national parks though, because Danya’s dad bought a senior national park pass for just $10 (you have to be at least 62 and an American citizen at that), and it is valid indefinitely at any national park. Anyway, after a certain time there are no rangers at the entrance to the Canyon, so anybody can enter the park for free.

Bryce Canyon National Park.I saw Bryce Canyon on the pictures before, but to see it with my own eyes was still truly amazing. Tall columns of rocks, called hoodoos, are carved by water and wind. They look nothing like any rock formations I’ve seen before. It seemed as if I accidentally found a magic city built with red, white and orange material by some fairy-tale creatures.

Bryce Canyon National Park. Agua Canyon Point.We didn’t catch the sunset though. Moreover, as we discovered the next night, the spot dedicated by the administration of the park for sunset viewing is not the best one for this purpose, because the sun rays are mostly blocked by the mountains.

Bryce Canyon National Park. Agua Canyon Point.We spent the whole Wednesday viewing the Canyon from different points and outlooks. Since the Canyon is located high above the see level (8000-9000 ft), the weather was pretty chilly. I put on my warm gaiters, 2 tees, a sweater, leather jacket, gloves, and a warm scarf. Overdressed you say? Oh well, you don’t know me enough then. ) I did have to take off and then put on some parts of my wardrobe from time to time, as the winds were blowing less or more vigorously. But I would prefer this little exercise to being frozen on any day!

Bryce Canyon National Park. Inspiration Point.I really like those big black mountain ravens, which we first saw in Grand Canyon a couple of years ago, and then in the Petrified Forest National Park, and then in the Bryce Canyon. They seem so intelligent, and are not at all afraid of humans. The raven that we saw in the Petrified Forest looked very old, and was obviously using the park’s parking lot as a place to get some snack. Too bad we didn’t have anything to feed him.

Walk through Dixie National Forest at the edge of Bryce Canyon.At some point we took a path leading us through the part of the Dixie National Forest which grows on the edges of the Canyon. I really liked our little walk — the air, the sun, the beautiful view of the canyon, the smell of trees and wet earth.

Bryce Canyon National Park. Sunset Point.Danya’s mom wanted us to take a hike to the bottom of the canyon, but for numerous reasons (lack of hiking shoes for Danya, accumulated tiredness from all the little hikes we’ve done up to this point) we didn’t do it. We saw a pretty big group of people on the mules taking the trip down the canyon later in the afternoon. If you ask me, I’d rather walk down there by myself — I’m sure mules know the trail very well, but even imagining myself looking down the narrow curvy road from the hight of the mule’s back frightens me.
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Thursday, May 1, 2008

Arches NP & Capitol Reef NP

В Моабе мы были две ночи. В первый вечер, голодные и уставшие после дороги, мы поели супа, попили пива в местном баре-пивоварне, и рано пошли спать.

Entrance to Arches National Park.На следующее утро мы отправились в Arches National Park. Пожалуй, этот парк произвёл на меня наибольшее впечатление из всей поездки. Красота там ну просто необыкновенная. Красные причудливые горы возвышаются над такой же кирпично-красной землёй. Земля же покрыта кактусами и скромными растениями пустыни, стыдливо раскрывшими свои незамысловатые соцветия навстречу слепящему солнцу.

Balanced Rock at Arches National Park.Даниным родителям очень понравились три скалы, которые д. Боря величал тремя гангстерами (потом мы узнали, что эти горные образования носят название “три сестры”). Произвёл впечатление и огромный каменюга, непонятно каким образом балансирующий на высокой каменной подставке. Но, конечно, самого большого внимания заслуживают сами арки.

On the trail to Lanscape Arch.Лично мне больше всего запомнились две арки — Landscape Arch и Delicate Arch. К первой арке пришлось шагать по довольно пыльной и извилистой тропе под палящим солнцем. Но она того стоила! Самое интересное, что ни я, ни Даня, ни д. Боря эту арку сперва не заметили. Мама оказалась самой внимательной, и “раскрыла” нам глаза на это чудо природы. )

Alena across the canyon from the mountain with Delicate Arch.Вторую арку мы видели издалека, потому что идти к ней было далеко (3 мили), тропа была сложной, а времени до запланированной экскурсии по реке Колорадо оставалось не так много. Но даже издалека она нам очень понравилась.

В 3 часа дня мы приехали обратно в Моаб, чтобы покататься на лодке. Изначально мы планировали взять 4-х часовую экскурсию, но так как их в тот день не проводили, мы удовольствовались 2-х часовой. Честно сказать, этого оказалось более чем достаточно. ) Нашим экскурсоводом оказался забавный паренёк.

Arch on top of the mountain on the banks of Colorado River.Было познавательно узнать про небольшую экологическую проблемму, созданную (догадайтесь кем?) людьми из наилучших побуждений. Для того, чтобы укрепть берега реки, из Азии были превезены определённого сорта деревья (не знаю как называются). Берега они укрепили, но, так как естественных вредителей у них нет, эти деревья превратились в своего рода сорняки. Они “выпивают” слишком много речной воды плюс вытесняют местные растения, нарушая таким образом хрупкий баланс. Их выжигают, но они очень живучие и вывести их не получается. Скоро планируется посадить на них жука, который питается исключительно этми деревьями (его изучали в лабораторных условиях несколько лет). Будем надеяться, это не приведёт к каким-либо еще худшим и непредсказуемым последствиям.

Еще наш гид рассказал нам, что когда-то в этих горах добывали Уран — это и было главной причиной возникновения городка Моаб. Теперь, конечно, ничего подобного там не происходит, и городок выживает в основном за счёт туризма.

Sawmill in Hanksville.А на следующее утро мы уехали из Моаба и отправились в Bryce Canyon. По пути мы делали много остановок, например, в очень безлюдном городишке под названием Hanksville, где мы увидели старинную лесопилку (может, и не лесопилку — я точно не поняла, для чего именно это здание изпользовали).

Canyon inside Capitol Reef National Park.Еще мы проезжали через Capitol Reef National Park. Там мы тоже прогулялись по достаточно недлинной туристической тропе. Погода была очень хорошая, и мой горный загар взялся еще сильнее. Что мне запомнилось в парке — это какстусы, цветущие ярко-красными цветами. Ну очень красивое зрелище!

Blooming Cactus inside Capitol Reef National Park.Еще там была очень красивая земля — я наковыряла пол стаканчика белого песка, пол стаканчика розового, и д. Боря набрал мне пригоршню оранжевого (земля эта теперь лежит в отдельных мешочка на шкафу, и ждёт достойного сосуда для хранения).

Parents on the peaks of the mountains inside Dixie National Forest.После знойного парка мы заехали на горно-лесную дорогу по краям которой лежал снег. Мы, конечно, не упустили шанс прогуляться среди елей и осинок, и сделать парочку фотографий.

Boulder, Utah.Еще мы проехали через городок с очень знакомым названием Boulder (в Boulder же, только в штате Колорадо, живёт Эльдар). Правда, Ютинский Болдер оказался намного меньше и провинциальнее Колорадского.

Driving on the ridge of a mountain through Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.Еще мы испытали острые ощущения, когда ехали по вершине горного хребта. Представьте себе двухлинейную дорогу (по одной линии в каждуу сторону), оба края которой обрываются в глубокое ущелье. Брррр….

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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Moab, Utah — Day 4

This was the first day when we didn’t have to pack and move out to the next stop. Today was dedicated for local sight seeing and there was a lot to see.

Our first destination was Arches National Park. This is probably one of the most popular parks out there as the number of people here was much greater then at the previous parks that we visited. And there is a reason for that. I don’t think any words or pictures will do it justice.

Park Avenue at Arches National Park.We spent around 5 hours admiring the beauty of this park. First it starts off with huge vertical walls which are mountains. There is a point which is called Park Avenue, because it looks like the mountains are like a row of huge skyscrapers.

Then there are columns with huge boulders on them which just can’t possible be hanging on there, yet they are. One such point is appropriately called Balanced Rock.

Landscape Arch is the longest natural arch in the world.And then of course there are multiple arches. Arches National Park is a home to Landscape Arch. The span of the arch is over 290 feet, which makes it the longest natural arch in the world. There is a 1.5 miles hike to it, and even though the day was very hot we couldn’t pass up the chance to see that with our own eyes. The arch itself is very thin at this point and there seems to be a crack in it, so who knows for how long it will be around.

Delicate Arch is probably the most famous arch in the world. Note the size of the people in the photo.Delicate Arch is probably the most recognized natural arch. I imagined it to be much smaller then it really is. It’s about 52 feet tall. It’s depicted all over Utah, including license plates. We didn’t hike directly to the arch itself, but we went to an overlook point, which is across the canyon from the mountain on which the arch is located. Look at the size of the people on the photo to appreciate the real size of this one.

Tour on Colorado River.At this point our time was running out, as we had reserved a two hour jet-boat ride on Colorado River into the Canyonlands National Park. Originally we planned to go for 4 hours, but they only had 2 hour trips that day, which was a good thing. Even though the trip was very interesting and had many amazing views it gets pretty cold going at high speeds over water.

We saw multiple mountains, huge cliffs and arches. We saw people climbing some of those cliffs, we saw some of the hardest 4×4 trails and we saw an arch located on the top of the mountain which people ride bikes over. It’s hard to believe that there are people crazy enough to do all those things. I however can now proudly say that I actually did touch the waters of the mighty Colorado River.

This was yet another unforgettable day.

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Friday, March 7, 2008

Utah Road Trip

Utah TripWe have booked our mega road trip two days ago. It took us approximately 3 hours to do. If somebody will want to repeat this in the future below is a full plan1 of action.

On the morning of Friday, April 18th, we fly2 out to Albuquerque, New Mexico. We rent a car3 and proceed to drive to Santa Fe, New Mexico. We return to Albuquerque the same day and spend a night4 there.

In the morning we drive to Cortez, Colorado, making a stop at Four Corners — can’t pass up an opportunity to Continue Reading

  1. Visit Google Maps for a larger map. Green pins are for the hotels, blue ones are for the points of interest and tour destinations. []
  2. Delta Air Lines, $397 per person, round trip. []
  3. Avis Rent A Car, estimated at $701 for the trip. []
  4. Hilton Albuquerque, $120 for the night. []
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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Spring Break Vacation

Another vacation time is nearing and we starting thinking about our possibilities. One of the best ones we had was a trip in October of 2005, when we drove from Phoenix to Sedona to Grand Canyon and to Las Vegas. Road trip seems like a good idea this time around too.

First we considered where we could go from New York without repeating something that we’ve done before. Cincinnati, Indianapolis maybe? Then we remembered that we’re not Continue Reading
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