Vegas baby!

Sleeping in our lush hotel in the kingsize bed is quite nice, I can get used to that! The only thing is that the constant ringing and plinging and zinging of the slotmachines is getting to you after about 15 minutes…

Having bought a full day pass to the buffet at the Luxor we had breakfast and git ready to board the bus to to to the Bellagio to get our tickets for their 7:30pm show. Because of the double bus system they have on the Strip with a slow bus which stops at every stop and an express bus which only stops on selected stops the ride up took us ages on the slower double decker bus called the Deuce.

After the lady at the Bellagio box office helped us out great with refunding double booked (and charged!) tickets we watched and even filmed a couple of the fountain shows the hotel offers. These are as crazy as one would imagine, complete with super high water jets, light show and music to top it all off. The best free show in town.

We dove straight back into the bus to ride it all the way to the Stratosphere Hotel to take a look at Las Vegas from the tallest building around. From 185 meters up, it is really impressive! As Kirsten was not feeling well, we did not go on any rides up there, which is too bad as they looked like a lot of fun. Unfortunately, as the elevator system is really weird in the tower, we waited for around half an hour to get a ride down and finally got one.

After this ordeal we went on to visit some more hotels, and the whackiest stores in the strip: M&M’s World, next to Coca Cola World. Both have 4 floors of merchandise, and both are equally expensive. Good fun though!
Since it was nearly time for dinner we boarded the Ace again and made our way to the Luxor to eat at the buffet. Weird as it sounds, it was actually great! The food was pretty good and it has a true Vegas feel to it to eat together with the gamblers and the likes.

After dinner we got dressed properly for the show and headed out to the Bellagio to go the latest Cirque du Soleil show O. Simply put: it is really expensive but one should go see it. It is mindblowingly good and an absolute joy to watch. For those interested in theatre techniques, it is even better!

Right after the show we got back to our hotel where we spent money like the high rollers at the slotmachines and git a net profit of -10 dollars. Oh well, the casino always wins…

It’s getting hot hot hot

Right after we woke up in our western style bed over at the Historic Pioneer Lodge in Springdale, we started our day off with a healthy *ahum* breakfast at the local saloon, also known as the hotel’s restaurant. We’re getting tired of the western style by now, and are quickly on our way to Sin City.

With a quick stop over at Fabulous Freddie’s car wash in St. George (go there for cheap gas and a nice clean car!) We went for a d-tour from the I15 to go to the Valley of Fire state park. Being the oldest state park in Nevada that particular feat is being mentioned at every possible opportunity.
We think it’s a hidden gem which shouldn’t be overlooked as the way it is right now. The bright red rocks are the weirdest thing you’ll see in quite some time as they just appear to emerge from the desert.
There is one minor disadvantage to this SP: it is blistering hot out there. We were hitting the lower 40’s degrees Celsius but it gets warner some days, even regular peaks over the upper 40’s!

After this, me moved on to find the big black pyramid in Las Vegas’ make street: the Strip. The Luxor hotel & casino is the place where we were to stay for 2 nights and thus 1.5 days. Right off the bat, we started off by getting checked in and walking the full 15 minutes through the heart of the hotel (and its gambling floor) to our car. And back.
All hotels have specific shows, rides and features to attract visitors. The hotel adjacent to ours, Mandalay Bay, has an indoor seaquarium with predator fish only and this year it’ll welcome its 10 millionth visitor in a decade. We also bought tickets to see the sharks and piranhas. Awesome!

We had dinner at an unnamed fastfood restaurant and proceeded to flaunt our stuff walking the Strip at night. We walked all the way from the Mandalay Bay to Treasure Island and back, which left us with sore feet and a whole lot of impressions. Las Vegas is just nuts! You’ve never seen a couple newlyweds, Darth Vader, a limousine and a homeless guy in just under 10 seconds until you’ve been to Vegas.

Tired, but knowing the next day will be stuffed with more Las Vegas, we went to sleep. Tomorrow a full day, and even some added entertainment!

Boarding the bus

Zion National Park has, like two other NP’s, a free shuttle bus system. You can safely ride the bus from the local town to the park, transfer to the park’s line and travel inside the park with those buses. All free!

We did just that to and in Zion, and I can tell you: it’s great. There’s no parking drama as the car stays at the hotel and inside the park buses are on a 6 to 10 minute schedule so there are no long waiting lines.
Besides, today the buses are very convenient, as I parked our car in a place where the lawn sprinklers were hurting the car. So early in the morning we woke up yo find our car covered in white stuff, which wouldn’t come off easily.
Luckily, after buying some bathroom cleaner (!) we got rid of the majority of it on the windows so we were able to see out clearly.

Zion NP is a great place to be, as beautiful as it is. I would recommend renting special water shoes to hike through the river to a place called The Narrows. This is where the gorge gets so small that the river fills up the place from wall to wall. We didn’t and kind of regret that.

On the way to a viewpoint called Weeping Rock, we found ourselves confronted with the only venomous snake in the park, the Diamondback rattlesnake. It just sat there minding its own business. I’m pretty sure it knew we were there but it simply didn’t bother to slither away out of our sight. The encounter with this majestic creature left us wondering how safe the trip really was…

Zion NP has a really interesting geology, and is part of the Grand Staircase. This means that all earth’s layers are fully exposed and that Zion’s oldest layer is Grand Canyon youngest layer. Bryce Canyon’s layers are even younger than Zion’s!

Finally, after a long and very hot day filled with scenic views and short hikes, we returned to our lush Western hotel to sleep in our timber built bed. Tomorrow the trip to Vegas!

More Western

After waking up from the alarm set way too early, we set out to see the sunrise at Bryce Canyon. Let me tell you: 04:45 is not ok.
Logically, we watched the sun rise above the horizon and the mountains at Sunrise Point, while last night we looked at the sun setting from Sunset Point. There is logic to that, don’t you think?

At the time, it was about 7 degrees outside, and while the sun was not shining yet, before sunrise remember?, it was quitting chilly. My hands were going all tingly and Kirsten was ready to go home. After all, the regular daytime temperate is about 32 degrees! It was the first sunrise together, and it was not at all that romantic as one would think. You’d be better of with a sunset, romantically speaking…

Bryce Canyon NP has a lot of wildlife. Among other animals, we’ve seen chipmunks, Utah Prairie Dogs, Pronghorn Deer and assorted birds. Especially the Prairie Dogs were fun to look at, back home they’re our favorites in Rotterdam Zoo.

Also, we hiked between Hoodoos at Bryce Canyon NP. This was a quite strenuous walk with really scenic views of the red cliffs and stone pillars found in the canyon. We made a ton of pictures there, and are sure there’s nothing like that walk anywhere!
After this, we quickly left the National Park and left for Zion NP.

As the road to Zion NP is temporarily closed on weekdays between 9 am and 4 pm due to construction work, we had to make a major 74 mile d-tour. This brought us ti Cedar Breaks NP. As it is situated a lot higher than most other places, it’s very much colder. At Bryce Canyon, the temperatures were up to 30 degrees celsius while Cedar Breaks was at about 18 degrees. Cold! It is a lovely National Park though, with similar views and scenic as Bryce Canyon, but with different types of stone.

After leaving Cedar Breaks, Zion NP was quickly reached. The hotel was quite a surprise though, when we found out the hotel quite easily lives up to it’s name Historic Pioneer Lodge. Yes, more Western style sleeping for us. Complete with a bed made out of logs and riding cowboys on the walls. Nice.

Springdale is quite fun, but tiny! Almost fully made up of hotels and restaurants, it’s hard to see the original stuff. Oh well, we’re here for Zion NP…

image

Diving into the Old West

Very early in the morning, we got up and got ready for an exciting day. First up: Antelope Canyon. Named after the African animals, the original settlers thought the cattle held by the native Indians were antelope but they were mistaken.
The trip was on a huge pickup truck with two rows of seats built in the trunk driven by this petite lady. She picked us up at the hotel and brought us after a stop at their HQ and a 20 minute trip over the freeway to the Indian park of Antelope Canyon.
I’m going ti be short on this one too: when in doubt, go there! It’s the best!

After checking out from our hotel, we met Mark & Christa who, due to the time difference between Arizona and Utah, were very close by. Seeing them was really weird, but a lovely interruption in our schedule. It’s been great fun guys!

The trip that day lead us to Bryce Canyon. Because of the fact that Bryce Canyon is smack in the middle of the Old Wild West, our hotel, Ruby’s Inn, was built to resemble this era in American history. Either you like it, or you totally dislike it: I found it to be amusing at best.We are there for the scenery, and not for the enjoying of our hotel. Besides: we were there only one night; and a very short one too.

Directly after arriving at the hotel, we took off to go see the sun setting over Bryce Canyon as we were told this was very spectacular. I can safely say that, compared to.the sunset at Grand Canyon this was not the case. Yes, we are spoiled!
Bryce Canyon is not so much a canyon but more of an eroding mountain where the most spectacular views are of an amphitheatre in the middle. It makes for some very scenic views and a great day out. We immediately drove all 17 miles to the far end of the park and got out at all designated areas. Great pictures were made! Below some I took with my phone. Tomorrow the rest and off to Zion NP!
image>

Scenic drives

After our full day at the Grand Canyon, “the cookies were all eaten” and we were due in the next hotel. As it was in Page, AZ the pressure was on to get there in time.

Unfortunately, there are a whole bunch of fun things to do on the road between Tusayan and Page. We started our day off with the last part of the Grand Canyon which we didn’t do before: the Desert View Drive. This road takes you from the center of the park vis the west rim to the Painted Desert (hence the name) and out of the park. Along the road, there are a lot of stalls with native Navajo Indians trying to sell the tourists hand crafted jewellery, pottery and paintings. I’d say it’s not the best way to make a living…

Somewhere near Tuba City, on our way to the ever so grand Monument Valley, we ran across some dinosaur tracks. These were set in hard stone lying under softer limestone which washed away a few million years ago. The tracks were said to be 165 million years old (at least by our guide, Roger, a true Navajo tribesmen) and are being cared for by his chapter of the tribe. After those, we arrived at the windy Monument Valley.
The scenery over there is radical, yet it can only be accessed through a bumpy, strenuous, badly maintained dirt road. The local Indians offered tours, but these unfortunately did not fit in our schedule. So we took our Dodge to the road and drove the first mile ourselves, leaving the other 16 as they were. Too bad! I would’ve loved to see more of it! I’d highly recommend going there; the 110 mile d-tour is definately worth it!

After this, we quickly proceeded driving towards Page and quickly visited a famous curve in the Colorado river known as Horseshoe Bend. Am I a happy boy; having a 12 mm lens! Also, the Glen Canyon Dam was on our itinerary; this is the dam that holds back the water in Lake Powell.

Our hotel was great! Back to the old standards after our poor experience at the Grand Canyon. On Monday: more good stuff! Antelope Canyon, Bryce Canyon and everything in between!

image

Canyoning

Let’s make this an easy post: the Grand Canyon is both a canyon and definately grand!

On Saturday we’ve visited and seen pretty much everything there is to see and visit apart from the Desert View Drive. This included an epic flight on a helicopter over the south rim towards the north rim over one of the widest and most majestic parts of the Grand Canyon. The folks over there are pretty greedy when it comes to money (apart from the quote hefty fee, there’s a $20 “temporary” fuel fee to be paid, which is not included in he regular fee) but they do offer a unique product.

Unfortunately, the seats in the craft are assigned by the ground crew based on weight and not on personal favorites, so we got separated. Luckily, we were on the same flight!

Our hotel was, how to put it, better than shabby, but it was mediocre at it’s best, compared to the other hotels in our itinerary. It was not bad, but certainly not good. I guess it was, back in the seventies. 😉

Sunday, fathersday, is the day we’ll be driving all the way up to Page, Arizona with possibly a d-tour to Utah for Monument Valley. It’s going to be great!



Indian summer

After a very early start this morning (05:30!) we left our lovely and cosy hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona at around 7:15 to be on our way around 8 am after the necessary groceries. We were heading for the Grand Canyon, but we planned a few stops to do some sightseeing.

The journey led us from Scottsdale to Verde where we stopped at Montezuma’s Castle and via Walnut Canyon, Flagstaff and Sunset Crater to Grand Canyon Village. Unfortunately, our driving instructions were pretty crappy so we had to search for it. We found it though, and after a long and busy day we’re lucky to be able to ly down and prepare for a cramped day filled with Canyon related activities.

We’re definately looking forward to it!

The eternal blowdryer

Whoever went to California, probably knows the phenomenon: an ever present high temperature low humidity wind, which basically acts as a blowdryer stripping anything in its path from its moisture. Today we have been in its grip for over 4 hours. Luckily, we were prepared and bought a huge tray of bottled water to keep us hydrated.

The route was from Palm Springs, CA to Scottsdale, AZ and led us over the infamous I10. There’s one thing for sure about this Highway 10, it’s long, straight and pretty much boring! Probably all highways are like this, but as it’s our first, it’s boring. 😉

We made a little d-tour, and rode straight through Joshua Tree National Park. We can be very short about that one: you should go there! It’s a beautiful place with mad flora and an even crazier scenery. The backdrop of mountains with the weirdest names make for a perfect day out. The drive took us about 3 hours extra in total, but was worth every second!

Right now, we’re sitting in our hotel Indigo after a great meal in a lobster restaurant (in the middle of the desert!) contemplating tomorrow. Only a big drive and a huge gap stand between us!

image

Travelling and such

Coming to you live from the US, it’s me!

After a grueling 8 + 5 hour flight, with a very tight 1.5 hour transfer where we were met only by angry looking US customs men on Washington Dulles Airport and a huge buzz on LAX.
It’s safe to say Los Angeles is a huge city, and that it has two major problems: smog and traffic. Both of which we have been in contact with…

Right after our arrival on LAX we took the transfer bus to our rental company, where we were to pick up our car. The guy at the teller made us a good offer by upgrading us about 2 classes from a medium to an intermediate size, but added a little extra as a bonus because we were from Holland. 🙂
I’m keeping the make and model a secret, but we upgraded from a 1.6 liter engine to a 3.5 liter version. Nice!

The trip from LA to where we are now was a meager 2 hour drive which took us about 3 hours because of the bad traffic in and around Los Angeles. When you think the traffic in Holland is bad, come see for yourself in LA!

Right now, we’re in Palm Springs, in the wonderful Renaissance Hotel, enjoying our drinks and thinking about the trip for tomorrow. It’s going to be a long day, filled with driving and sightseeing, but that’s what we came here for!

image

image