Saturday, March 28, 2009

500 Miles

I tried to live blog from the rim of the Grand Canyon on J's iPhone. There was decent reception - we each took calls while on the rim - but the connection was slow and it was 4pm - the time that Blogger decided to take the system down for maintenance. So no blog entry direct from the source. After our visit to the Grand Canyon, we had the option of finding somewhere to stay and either coming back the next day or heading over to Flagstaff or Sedona and spending a couple hours there before heading back. We decided we were pictured out, full up on new stimuli, freezing (27F when we left GC), and staying longer would not get us enough bonus to make up for a late drive back. So we stopped just outside the park for pizza and caffeine, and drove directly back to my place, arriving at 5am. We slept until about 11 or 12 then got up and about. And anytime we were here, J has hijacked my cable modem, so I didn't blog. Right now, he's out on a coffee quest while I use his computer.

Quick Trip Synopsis
We were able to rent a Prius for normal rates (not "exotic vehicle") rates from Avis. We picked that up on Saturday morning, finally booked some hotel rooms, loaded stuff up and headed out into the desert. I'd seen the Mad Greek place on Diners, Drive Ins and Dives. I'm always looking for good Greek food and wanted to stop. It was ok, but not worth going if you're not already going to be there. It was rather pricey too. The restaurant was over decorated with kitch and I know why - it's 'at the corner of No and Where' and there's just not that much to do out there. I wouldn't recommend against stopping there, but it's only OK, not great.

Around 6pm Saturday we pulled into the first of our 2 hotels. We were unable to get a good rate on the strip at the last minute for saturday, so we were at South Point Place. They know they're off strip so they have lovely rooms and good amenities to make up for it. Like all casino hotels, you must cross the vast expanse of blinking, beeping casino floor to get anywhere. But in Vegas, they have all sorts of people working for tips. For a modest tip, you can get bellhops to drag your bags the 3 miles to the back of the place and up to your room, after leaving you car with the valet so you don't have to cross both vast tracts of parking AND vast tracts of casino.

We went on saturday instead of friday to save a little cash, but that made our decision for shows on saturday a little more critical. I really wanted to see a good Vegas show on a Saturday night, figuring they'd have their best people working on the biggest night. We decided on the Cirque show "Ka" at MGM Grand. There were no half price tickets but we got the cheap seats at the hotel concierge desk. Turns out there are no bad seats. That show was fantastic. All kinds of people doing stuff like human plinko down the side of a 85degree vertical stage with poles sticking out from it, or jump roping on top of a spinning cage. I just kept thinking "no, no, and hell no would I ever do that". I would have liked a tour of the stage mechanics, but we didn't pursue it past asking a few people who thought they used to give that tour but not anymore. Highly recommend this show for stunning stunts. Get any seat you can.

Sunday, we started off with the Sunday Brunch Buffet. It was ok, but J's assessment was that it was trying too hard to be inoffensive to everyone and therefore not exiting for anyone. It was vast but meh. I still had a good meal out of it though. Interestingly enough, this was our last big meal of the trip. Usually when J & I get together, we enable ourselves to overeat to the point of portliness. This time, we just didn't feel like eating. Maybe all the people, lights, and sounds were enough system overload that we didn't think to eat. But by the time monday morning rolled around, we realized we'd split a cup of gelato for dinner and should probably get some breakfast before the helo flight, but weren't inspired to have anything much.

Back to Sunday, I decided I needed to figure out how to play the slot machines having never done so before but for once (free) at a friend's house. I wanted to do it at South Point because we'd checked out so if I did something really foolish, we could flee and never come back. We wandered around for a while until we saw "Lumberjack Dam Beavers" and some Monkey game next to each other. We both put in $5. J got nothing. I was up to 1800 credits but cashed out at 1000 credits (there was some posting about how 1000 credits was $3 so I didn't mind losing the 800 points... until I cashed out the 1000 credits and found out it was $20. Huh. So I could have had closer to $35 for my $5. I guess it was my $15 lesson in how slots work. Later on in the trip, we searched out animal themed slots and one gemstone one. I kept winning $20 and jacob kept losing $5 for several iterations. At some point our luck reversed and I think we quit while we were about even.

Sunday night, After transferring to the Flamingo, we dressed up and went to see Wayne Brady of "Whose Line is it Anyway" fame. He's one of the best improvisors around. The first half of the show was mostly improv and funny, although I could have stood for less audience participation. The second half was him trying to get the word out about his singing and album. I just plain dislike that genre of music. Aside from one song with a chorus containing "Thundercats Ho", I could have done without. On the plus side, he did have some fine looking dancers out there and that distracted me enough to enjoy it. All in all, if you like improv or Wayne Brady, try to get tickets cheap, otherwise you can safely miss the show. It's shown in a theater adjacent to Blue Man Group, which I saw twice in Boston and don't have a continued enthusisam for but is fun to see at leas once, at the Venetian.

After the show, we wandered through the "Grand Canal" shops which are topped with an extremely convincing ceiling of blue sky and clouds painted on an arch. It honestly feels like daylight in there. It was 11pm going on midnight and it perked me right back up. I was ready to hit the town. We wound up watching Karaoke in the bar next to the Flamingo and having a pretty late night.

We got very little sleep sunday night and had to get up "early" for our 11:30am pick up for the helo ride. They send a limo around to pick up riders. Thinking about it, it makes a lot of sense. People feel pampered to be in the limo, and it makes sure everyone gets there early enough for the safety briefing (the most important part being to never approach a helicopter from the rear or side-rear). I had arranged for a friend's brother to be our pilot, but he got called out for an emergency charter to somewhere really cold and couldn't make it. Our actual pilot (Sonny at Sundance Helicopters) did a fine job in his place. We had a fantastic trip. I expected the ride to be super noisy, jittery, bumpy and unpleasant. It was anything but. There was some noise -we wore headphones - and some vibration, but it mostly seemed confined to the instrument panel. Our views were fabulous, it felt like it took no time at all, and we flew over Vegas, directly over the airport, over Lake Mead, Hoover Dam, and then over and into the Grand Canyon where we set down for a picnic lunch. The trip was expensive but worth it. I think I'll be saving my pennies for more helicopter flights. (I did have the transdermal scopalomine patch on to avoid motion sickness and it worked great. Not even a twinge of sick.) One really cool thing I noticed about the landscape was the strata of the hills between Vegas and the GC are very slanted - some vertical - which is a stark contrast to the very level horizontal strata of the canyon itself.

Monday afternoon we napped a bit then walked down to the Tropicana to see a "Vegas Showgirl" experience. We saw the early (non-topless, but barely) Folies Beregere in its last week. It was a monday show and I think a little less fluid and coordinated than a saturday show would have been, but I got the essence. There was very little jumping around due to all the moves also needing to be performed topless at the later show. I'm still not sure why "top on with G-strings" is called "family friendly" on their information sheet - it's still mostly naked women parading around and flashing a lot of skin. We sat across from a mom and her two kids - her youngest a boy around 7 years old. I wonder about some people's childrearing decisions. Anyhow, I was glad to see a "classic Vegas" show and J was willing to humor me since we got half price tickets.

Ok, so this synopsis is neither a synopsis or quick. But I need to leave off an pay some more attention to my guest who is leaving tonight. I'll upload some pictures too. In the meantime, here's the remaining synopsis.
Tuesday: Day trip to Lake Mead and Valley of Fire (red rocks are gorgeous but wasted on colorblind J.) Dressed up after to wander around some of the Casinos we hadn't yet seen and Freemont Street.

Wednesday: Checked out and headed to Hoover Dam. Seeing it up close is cool because it's all Art Deco. Too cool. From there, we continued to drive across desert, chose to take the Rte 66 path up from Kingman. Saw a few Burma Shave signs but was otherwise not much of a kick. I suspect one could get more kicks on Rte 66 back when it was still ok to drink and drive and one measured distance across the desert by 6 packs consumed. Using the magic iPhone, we were able to get a cheap room in Williams, about 60 miles south of the park. The room had a cute little booth in a kitchenette which we didn't use because we went out for two very good meals (dinner and brunch).

Thursday: Grand Canyon day. Stunning hole in the ground. Even the paved paths are pretty scary when the wind is trying to blow you to Kansas. We stayed on the rim trail - much of it was fine, but after one section that was a little less travelled and had one too many washed out or otherwise precarious cliff edge areas, we got on the shuttle busses and just got out for various spur trails with lovely safety railings. We stayed for the ranger talk about the stars at 7:30, because we were looking forward to seeing the sky sans light pollution, but with 27F weather and 50+ mph gusts of wind, even with a ground blanket and overblanket we were COLD. I had on 4 layers up top and was still shivery. I tripped on the way back to the car (love those safety rails!) and scraped my knees, right palm, and knocked my right shoulder.

As I already mentioned, we decided not to try to see a mere 2 hours of Flagstaff the next day and set out right after warming up. the drive home was almost exactly 500 miles through a vast unlit desert which was akin to driving through an abyss. J did the first 100 miles and I did the remainder while he slept. I was actually more awake for that drive than I was on the Rte66 drive the night before thanks to 3 glasses of Dr. Pepper.

Anyhow, we're back. We had a grand time, but wore ourselves out with all the stimuli and picture taking. This makes it tricky to think of what to do today (we went shopping in Ventura yesterday) since I kind of don't want to do anything. So I'm blogging, J returned with coffee a half hour ago, and I'll post more later.

went on a quest for a way to link iPods to the radio. This involved exiting the 210 3 times to look for Best Buy stores - the first was a fakeout as the sign was next to the road, but the store was still under construction. Then, the iPhone directions led us astray, but the third time worked. After all that effort and passing a couple Targets, J forgot to use my BB gift card! We lucked out though that there was an aux port so we only needed a $10 cable instead of a $50-$90 FM transmitter.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great vacation! I'm so glad you had fun. I wanna see pictures. :) -SandyCo-

gail said...

Thanks for sharing! Sounds like you had a great, relaxing and stimulating time all around.

RE: Vegas --- everyone should 'do' the strip at least once but my fave part of Vegas is Fremont. The dh and I used to go and stay at the Golden Nugget when it WAS the Golden Nugget and the street wasn't covered --- always got steak and eggs at Binyons ... stood in the street and watched as they shot off fireworks from atop the Fremont Hotel one New Years Eve along with a huge crowd --- ended up with black faces, stiff necks and tons of memories.

The light show on the canopy is neat --- but I'm old enough to miss the 'old days' 8-)

I don't comment often but I try to visit your blog at least several times a week --- so glad your are still doing it now that our old playground has been paved over for a parking lot 8-(


We've gone bac

Anonymous said...

I miss the old part of Vegas before it had the cheezy food court-esque cover too! Thanks for the mini mental vacation.