Grand Canyon and Las Vegas

The two brothers weren’t smiling much the morning we said good-bye after staying with Carl for over two months. It was a sad day and I had tears in my eyes, because when will we see him again?  We’ve had a wonderful time here and it was a gift to stay here and see him get back to good health again.

Carl’s oldest daughter and her daughter stopped by for a visit. That afternoon we went down to the river to visit Peggy’s grave. Her urn is buried here.

We’ve left New Mexico and have crossed into Arizona where we spent the night before moving on to the Grand Canyon.  I’m wondering if the canyon can live up to my expectations, or if Carsten has “oversold” it.  I was unbelievably impressed with the Black Canyon of the Gunnison in western Colorado.  Carsten said – “If you think this  is big – just wait until you see the Grand Canyon”.

On our way out of New Mexico we ran across these two elk fighting their way through the deep snow in the Jemez Mountains.
Not your everyday sign.

As I’ve noted before, the Rocky Mountains were, millions of years ago, flat and covered by seawater.  The water disappeared when the tectonic plates crashed together, raising the earth’s crust and forming the Rocky Mountains.  Through those millions of years, the Colorado River has cut its way down through this plateau.  This erosion has dug a 275 mile long chasm down through Arizona and is now known as The Grand Canyon.  The chasm is almost 1 mile deep and can be seen from space.

It isn’t possible to drive the entire length of the canyon, the road only winds its way 20-25 miles along the rim (both north and south).  We’re here at both the right and the wrong time of year.  The right time because it is winter and there are few visitors.  The wrong time because it is winter, cold and there is some snow.  The north rim is closed in the winter due to adverse weather and snow.  The southern rim is open all year, despite being at 2000 meters over sea level.  The southern rim, easiest to get to is also the most visited.  Here you find a visitors center, hotels, campgrounds and more.  Fortunately, there are very few tourists here at the moment.  In the summer, the place is swamped.  We have found a campground just outside the park that is much cheaper than those inside.

Before we reach the east entrance to the park, we stop and get a “taste” of what awaits us.

The “little” Colorado River and the beginning of the Canyon – 10 miles before we get to the park.
This is the American west. There are rattlesankes everywhere.
Rattler’s coloring lets them blend in with the ground – you have to keep your eyes open. In Golden Colorado, I got so close to one on the path that it shook its rattle at me.

First stop inside the park is the Desert View Tower, a fire tower built in the old Indian building style.  The tower is no longer used to watch for fires, but is now a tourist attraction.

Here is the fire tower built in adobe and in the style the Indians built centuries ago.

Along this 30 km drive along the rim are a number of viewpoints where we are treated to a series of indescribable panoramas of the canyon. 

This landscape is BIG, picturesque, unique and impressive (did I leave any adjectives out?).  Carsten hasn’t “oversold” this.  The Grand Canyon and the Black Canyon are completely different but both are well worth the trip to visit them.  Black Canyon is 1 kilometer deep, but very narrow compared to this colossus.  At its narrowest, the Black Canyon is only 40 feet wide.  The Grand Canyon (as you can see from the pictures) enormous, not only in length, but in width.  The Black Canyon, as its name implies, is dark due to the granite it winds its way through.  The Grand Canyon, on the other hand, is rose and red colored because the chasm winds its way through sandstone and chalk.  These rock types are very porous, allowing water to seep in and when it freezes, creating cracks in the walls that later become small waterfalls.

Words fail when I try to describe this surrealistic panorama.

The Paleo-Indians that immigrated from Asia during the last big ice age, have populated the Grand Canyon since about 11,000 B.C.  The river and the warm climate at the bottom of the canyon have given the Indians excellent conditions for agriculture and good hunting grounds.  They dug caves at the base of the cliffs near the river. 

We stop at the Grand View viewpoint, the place where the first Spanish soldiers exploring this area saw the canyon.  One at sight and one can only imagine their reactions (something like Shit! Now what?). The Spaniards tried for three days to find a way to the bottom but failed.

They probably enjoyed the view, but gave up trying to reach the bottom after three days of trying.

There are many trails that go down into the canyon, some go all the way to the bottom (minimum a five hour trek).  There is a hotel at the bottom, the Phantom Ranch or you can bring your own tent.  If you can’t make the trek on your own, you can ride down on a mule.  There is a maximum weight for passengers – 200 pounds (Ooops Carsten – you might need to diet for a couple of days).  We better plan to make the trek on foot.  Of course, if you have deep pockets, you can buy a helicopter ride.

The first hotel here had this view. Not too shabby.

This time of year, many of the trails are closed to do snow and ice.  South Kaibab Trailhead is open and we plan to take a run at it the next day.  The best laid plans of mice and men however.  When we woke the next morning, Caprise, the ground and our surroundings were covered by 3 inches of snow and it was snowing like mad.  The snow kept up the entire day and by dusk, we have almost a foot of snow.  Here we are, snowed in at the Grand Canyon.  No chance of trekking into the Canyon the next couple of days, so instead we took in an Imax movie at the visitors center – well worth the 10 bucks it cost.

The following morning, the roads are clear (Americans are good at preparing things so they can earn money) and we drove into the park to see the Canyon covered with snow.  We’re surprised when we see that the snow only extends a few hundred feet below the rim.  The trails are still slippery and we decide to forego the trek to the bottom – it is too cold here anyway.  Besides, Las Vegas awaits…………………

From the parking lot out to the rim we walk through 8 inches of new-fallen snow.
Only the first couple of hundred meters of the trail are covered in snow, but we decide to drop climbing down. This is a challenge we will have to take up in our next lives.
Grand Canyon is an impressive sight, even with clouds floating below the rim.

Las Vegas – Here we come!

We stayed at Hotel Walmart in Kingman and provisioned, knowing that everything is probably more expensive in Las Vegas (the money flow there).

Why are we going to Las Vegas?  Carsten says he has no burning desire to go, he’s been there, seen a show and doesn’t suffer from Ludo mania (gambling addiction).  But I want to see Las Vegas.  Friends, family and work colleagues who have visited all say that I have to go.  It is a once in a lifetime experience.  How often do you get to see an entire city that is an amusement park?  Even my godchild, Karina and her husband got married there.

The renowned Welcome sign. Tourists stand in a line over 100 feet long just to have a selfie taken in front of the sign. This picture is taken from the internet.

We lucked out and got four nights at a luxury RV park (with a big discount) close to the center of the city, only a mile or two from the Strip – the street with all the hotels, casinos and restaurants.

Caprise is parked here between all these gigantic motorhomes and trailers. Ours is the oldest (and smallest) one here. We’re sure when we pulled in that they all said, “Well, there goes the neighborhood”.

The first day we ended up walking almost the entire way to the Strip because we couldn’t figure out the bus system.  A double-decker bus runs the length of the Strip, stopping at every casino (you wouldn’t want to miss a chance to lose your money).  The ride the length of the Strip doesn’t disappoint.  Neither does the long walk we took the next day when we marched the entire length of the Strip, first on one side – then the other. 

We are there early, the tourists haven’t gotten out of bed yet, but after just one hour, the mobs begin to appear.  Amongst the tourist we see lightly clad show girls walking the streets wo tourists can get their picture taken with a “real live Vegas Showgirl” (actually, none of these young women are in any of the shows.  Most of them are college students earning a little extra money).  Carsten says “no thank you” when they approach him. 

Fake “showgirls” who make money having their picture taken with tourists. These girls are obviously fake – real showgirls are much prettier.

I have to admit that the facades of these casinos are much more than impressive.  Just look:

This is the New York Casino and Hotel. Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, New York Public Library and the Chrysler Building plus more. Note the red roller coaster that runs throughout.
All the casinos have different themes – this one obviously is Egyptian.
MGM Grand with the iconic roaring lion.
Only in Las Vegas can you have a store devoted solely to selling every single type of Coke that exists.
Let me guess – The Hard Rock Cafe?
Le Belle France is also represented. You drive through the copy of the Arch de Triumph to get to the hotel. The Eiffel Tower is also here – you’ll see a picture of that later.
No Vinni – we can’t afford to go to the casino.
Hotel Bellagio: Carsten says, “This is where the truly rich stay”.

The fountains in front are world-renowned.  Here’s why:

Caesars Palace is neighbor to the Bellagio, indescribably huge, there must be thousands of rooms.

Further down the street is “Little Venice” where gondolas sail between the hotel and casino.

A few years ago, when we were in the real Venice, my darling husband invited me on a romantic evening trip in a gondola through the canals.  Nothing can beat that, so I don’t feel the need to ride one of these gondolas.

At the other end of the Strip lies the Trump Hotel and Casino.  It is off the Strip, but lies amongst lower lying buildings and since the windows are gold colored, they shine like gold when the sun hits them.  I suppose it appeals to his egomania.  We didn’t take any pictures of his hotel.  We don’t need to be reminded of him.  We may end up with him as President again – he seems to have an unearthly grip on the Republican Party and he apparently pans to run again in 2024.

We are in a city with more casinos that you can “shake a stick at”, so obviously we need to visit a casino.  We chose a “lower class” casino where we can get in dressed as the wandering hobos we are.  The gamblers here seen to be middle class tourist, all here for a weekend or weeks visit.  Even early in the morning, the blackjack, roulette and craps tables are crowded.

I stop to watch some of the players.  Each player pushes a stack of chips out onto the table, one of the players throws the dice – bad luck – The croupier gathers all the chips – no winner (except the house).  In just seconds each player has lost $100 or more.  None of them seem to be affected – they simply pony up another ante and wait for the dice to be thrown.  Amazing – I would have wept if I’d lost that kind of money.  Admittedly, I’m a bad loser, even when I lose to Carsten every night in double solitaire, but we don’t play for money.  I just could never be a gambler.

Carsten has decided that I need to experience Las Vegas by night and have a dinner in town.  We reserved a table at a restaurant directly across from the Bellagio for Saturday night so we can enjoy looking at the fountains while we eat.

On our way home, Carsten falls as we are getting off the bus, hitting his back and side on a seat.  He manages to get off, saying he’s fine.  The bus drives off and Carsten stands next to me gasping for breath.  I’m thinking he hit his knee, but he’s holding his back.  Carsten has broken a number of ribs in his life so he knows exactly how it feels.  We’re not completely sure if it is a fracture or if “only” bent a rib – but is obviously is painful as all get out.  He can breathe and can’t feel the ends of a broken rib scouring against each other, so we decide he doesn’t need to see a doctor.  If it is a broken rib, the treatment is take some painkillers and let it heal by itself.  The combination of 3 painkillers seems to help, but after two weeks it still hasn’t gotten better and we take him to a doctor (more about that in our next blog).

Our “dinner on the town” was canceled, but we moved the reservation a couple of nights so Carsten could get better and also enjoy it. 

Here you have some pictures of Las Vegas by night:

Las Vegas by night – a fantastic light show.
Here is the Eiffel Tower – what a sight!

We had front row seats and could watch the Bellagio fountains by night (an experience well worth waiting for).  So, here you have it – The Bellagio Fountains accompanied by Ol’ Blue Eyes himself – Frank Sinatra.

Early the next morning, we left Las Vegas bound for Joshua Tree National Park with me driving.  Carsten was knocked out by the morphine and the painkillers the entire 300 miles.

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