Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The week with Mom (Part 1)

Shannon, Thomas, Amy and Diane

 This was our busiest week of the trip, with Amy's Mother and Sister (Diane and Shannon) joining us for a jaunt across the Central Western States, zig-zagging from National Park to National Park. This landscape was full of surprises, landscapes of unbelievable proportions and small friendly desert towns. This was a busy week planned down to the second, so it was nice for the week to just go with the flow and drive where I was told. Diane did a excellent job of cramming so much into the week but after the week it was nice to revert back to our casual less planned wanderings of the country.

Zion Canyon
The first trip we ventured from Las Vegas to the Hover Dam, just and hour or so away, doubled by traffic unfortunately. Quite the impressive structure, but I was expecting it to be bigger. Departing our pyramid hotel we headed for Utah, to Zion National Park. Having had a big and busy experience in Vegas this was an appreciated transition back to nature. We got to Zion perfect timing for a picnic, graced below towering canyon walls cut through the red Navajo Sandstones. Using the Parks bus service we shuttled around the park for small walks, sights and to reach the head of the canyon where it narrows to a slot canyon only meters wide and hundreds tall, with a small creek flowing through. This the driving creator of the canyon over millions of years! Again we had stumbled upon a place like no where we have ever been before. A colourful towering predominance above with a light cover of greenery blanketing the valley floor.

Bryce Canyon Hoodoos
Heading that afternoon out of the park leading along a stunning drive that continued everyday for the following weeks. The next day in Bryce Canyon National Park, the surprise gem of the trip. Have you heard of Bryce? . . . We had not either! Have you heard of a hoodoo? . . . you might recognise them from the odd western film. Anyway, a cool start to the morning below 0°C high up on the Paunsaugunt Plateau, these fluctuating temperatures is how the hoodoos formed. Driving ourselves this time we follow the amphitheater rim stopping at endless views of the strangest, brightest, colourful orange landscape, questioning how such unique formations come to being. We took the most rewarding 3 hour walk down right into the hoodoos, snaking down around and through. This day was completely unexpected, just another dot on the map, but something truly spectacular!

Getting amongst the hoodoos

Our first sighting of the Grand Canyon
 Really getting our zig-zag on now we headed south back into Arizona, and today being my brithday, and the way to spend it, at the Grand Canyon! We cruised in and were initially just blown away with the grandeur of the chasm beyond. Layer after layer of rock beds disappearing so deep down to the turquoise river far below. Amy and I took a walk meandering on the crater rim walkway, a track that really just hangs to the edge of the cliff.

My Birthday beers

Crater rim walkway
  I would have loved to head down into the canyon but unfortunately not the time on our schedule. They said lots of people die each year trying to get to the bottom in one day, that's about what I would have liked to do, so guess that's good I didn't try. We sat with our legs dangling over the cliff and I had a bottle or two of my birthday beers. Some fantastic IPAs, sitting in the sun at a remarkable place. We went out later to view the sunset followed by a really nice dinner. And I got a fossil for my birthday too!!!


to be continued......

Friday, July 6, 2012


Our arrival to Vegas was anxiously anticipated by my sister, as apparent by the assault of call and texts received on the journey from Death Valley! I hadn't seen my family in a year, the longest by 7 months I had ever been away! So I couldn't wait for my reunion with my sister Nicole and her husband Tom especially. We ran into their hotel, rushed through the lobby to the pool, pushed past people and in the doorway and just hugged and cried our eyes out!!! The puffy eyes just enhanced the "not having showered for 7 days look." It was just wonderful to finally be together, and felt like we had never been apart. They bought us drinks and we sat in the pool. Tom and Nicole had the most amazing view of the strip from their hotel room, and we were finally able to shower at theirs, and get ready for our night!

Amy and her sister Nicole
Having been to Vegas a few times, my brother-in-law Tom warned us about the strip: 1. You are allowed to carry open bottles of alcohol around the streets and 2. There will be a people every meter shoving cards for prostitutes into your hands. Thomas decided to make it into a game and he collected as many cards as he could.

The Strip

Hitting the strip in style we took occasional stops  to either gamble, grab a drink or just take a look at the extravagant casinos. We were just blown away by the crowds of people, the lights and the energy. It was all a bit much for Thomas who ended up not really liking Vegas much, but I was just mesmerized by it all. There were street performers with unbelievable performances, one group made up of 4 young African American kids, doing the most amazing break dancing routine! It was   awesome!

The Luxor Pyramid Hotel
We stopped into Caesar's Palace (he actually lived there right?), the Venetian, the Mirage, and finally gambled at the Bellagio. With the fountains erupting in the front, I felt like we were in Ocean's Eleven, just minus the large payout. I gambled once and put $20 on a roulette table only to lose it immediately, but hey when in Vegas!! Tom however was throwing round stacks of twenties thinking that he was actually going to end up on top. Naat!

Another reunion  for Saturday, with my mummy! Again, the reunion was amazing, with hugs and tears. She couldn't stop touching me and saying she couldn't believe I was actually there in front of her! Staying at the Luxor Pyramid hotel, this was to be the first of our beautiful accommodations while traveling with my mom for the week!!! The inside is pretty spectacular with a humongous sphynx, and other Egyptian statues. We road our elevator up to our room, and to our discomfort felt a weird shaking sensation. Thomas was the brilliant one to point out, this must be our elevator making the awkward journey up to our room on an angle of the pyramid! Crazy!

New York, New York Hotel

We were impressed with the New York, New York, the Eiffel Tower and France themed Casino, and we got completely lost within the monstrosity which is Caesar's Palace. Every hall we went down led to another fountain, statue or painting.

Amy and her sister Shannon playing slots

We took a  wander down the "Old Vegas Strip,"  saw a sexy pirate show, with sinking ships and all, and a volcano erupting at the Mirage, the night had finally arrived.

Shannon, Thomas and Amy outside Beatles LOVE
The one thing Thomas and I wanted to do most in Vegas, was to see the Cirque du Soleil Beatles LOVE show. We were completely blown away with the spectacular, and we loved the music, acrobatics and theater. I sang along with every song, and the effects, dancing, costumes and performers was just fantastic.