Sunday, March 20, 2016

Grand Canyon, Valley of Fire, Las Vegas Part Two

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After a grand trip to the Canyon, we had scheduled a week in Las Vegas staying at the Las Vegas Blvd. Worldmark Resort by Wyndham.  Our timeshare home for the week was a one bedroom second level unit with kitchen, dining room, living room, master bedroom, full bath, and patio overlooking the lazy river pool.  Five Star accommodations.  
Liam Foster

Eleanor Foster

Our first full day in Vegas, Sunday, was family day.  It started with a breakfast at Egg Works with my sister and brother-in-law, my nephew Nathan and his wife and children.  The busy restaurant did a lovely job of taking care of all of us.  We said good-bye to Dee and Chuck (we’d see them later in the day) and followed Nathan, Jennilee, Liam, and Eleanor out to Spring Mountain Ranch State Park 

where the six of us hiked around a small lake—actually we sort of ran along behind Liam (8) and Eleanor (5)

—observing the wildlife (check the photo).  

The ranch house was once owned by Howard Hughes although he never lived there—he bought it for one of his wives.  

The park would be a nice spot for a family gathering or picnic and the history of the house added to the experience.  In the evening Anne and I drove toward Los Angeles on 15W.  We turned at Jean and drove a ways to Goodsprings and our dinner and music spot, the Pioneer Saloon.

Built in 1913 and now on the National Register of Historic Places, the saloon has quite a history as a film location and includes a small memorial to Clark Gable and Carole Lombard.  The saloon has also been featured on the TV show “Ghost Adventures” and is reported to be quite haunted.  We were there mainly to listen to my brother-in-law Chuck Foster play guitar and sing.
Chuck Foster on vocals and guitar

It was the first time we had heard him and we were quite impressed.  We enjoyed some good pub grub with my sister Dee while Chuck sang and played.  It was a good crowd in the saloon and they got louder and freer with tips and requests and Chuck just kept entertaining.  Dee showed us the bullet holes in the wall from a past altercation—this night’s crowd was definitely not that boisterous.  
The next two days were golf days for us.  This is a good time of year for golf in Las Vegas.  The temperatures are mild, 60s and 70s, and there are still decent prices to be found.  Certainly, you can find golf at $250-$350 a round at the upscale resort courses, but with some searching decent and relatively inexpensive golf can be found, especially using or for daily discounts.

This year we were two for three in our choices with our first golf, Black Mountain GC in Henderson, being the poor choice.  The course was in poor condition—dried out (when other courses weren’t), lots of divots, burnt out greens that were almost unputtable. The people we were paired with (a nice couple from BC Canada) almost walked off on the back nine.

The next day we played LasVegas National GC which was in much nicer condition for the same discounted price, proving that Black Mountain was a rip-off.
On Wednesday we took a break from golf and visited Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve.

Eight ponds set up with viewing stations form a sanctuary for hundreds of species of birds.

We saw a hummingbird feeding its young,

The ducks group together and swim in a circle creating a vortex which brings food to the surface.

several different species of duck, innumerable species of small birds, and a couple of Cooper’s hawks (aka marsh hawks).

It was actually more enjoyable than our evening show Cirque du Soleil KA at the MGM.  We had gone in earlier to pick up our free tickets (a premium from Worldmark for attending an owner’s workshop) for the evening performance.

While there we had lunch at Wolfgang Puck’s Cafe in the MGM.  Wow!  A 10” pizza (like a $5 frozen pizza at the store) for $16, a veg salad (with about $3 of fixings) for $15, and two small cokes for $9.  A total with tip of about $50.

The food was tasty, but the price left a sour taste for lunch.  Oh, well, it is Wolfgang Puck’s and it is the MGM Grand in Vegas.  The show in the evening was entertaining, but I’m glad I hadn’t paid the $70 a ticket (our free seats were in the next to the last row) for our seats.

Thursday we drove about fifty miles northeast of Las Vegas to the Valley of Fire State Park.

This is a great park if you like Native American history and/or geology.
Atlatl Rock


Spotted Lizard

Arch Rock

We hiked around several rock and canyons and took plenty of photos of both the rock formations and petroglyphs left by early American cultures such as the Anasazi (“ancient people” to the Navajo).
On the trail at Petroglyph Canyon.

A Native American newspaper.

A Chuckwalla; not a Gila Monster as one lady thought.

It’s intriguing to look at the petroglyphs and try to figure out what they represent, who might have left them, and what purpose they served in the culture.  I find the chipped figures fascinating.
Big Horn Sheep

In the evening we had a pleasant family dinner with the Fosters.  Our last day in Vegas was the last and best golf of the trip. 

Chimera GC at Tuscany (an exclusive gated-community in Henderson) is an upscale desert course which with discounts wasn’t any more expensive than either of the other two.

Again we played with a friendly couple (from Oklahoma) who were very encouraging and gushed a little too much over our good shots.  This is a course I’d go back to anytime.  
We flew back to Oregon the next day with a little tan, some of the money we’d planned to leave in the casinos [That makes us winners!], and some grand memories.
Coming into Portland

No wonder Portland's traffic is so bad--look at what's waiting out near the airport.

That’s just the way a road trip is supposed to be.

NEXT: Getting ready to return to Scotland.  

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Grand Canyon, Valley of Fire, and Las Vegas, Part One


We finally got a late winter road trip (after flying and picking up a rental car).  We took off for Vegas on Thursday morning with Southwest Airlines and picked up a Ford Escape to drive to the Grand Canyon for two nights.  Our first stop was at one of our favorite breakfast spots, the Coffee Cup Cafe in Boulder City—

they make the best pork chili verde omelet.  From there the rest of the drive is rather boring.  Seventy miles from Boulder City to Kingsman, 129 miles from Kingsman to Williams, and then a final 55 miles to Grand Canyon.  

We drove right to Mather Point on the South Rim for our first Grand Canyon sunset.  

Weather was a little cloudy and we had missed the early sunset, but still got to see the effects of the falling sun on the canyon.

After a pleasant night at the Best Western Premier Grand Canyon, we drove the six miles to the Rim for our first Grand Canyon sunrise—

not very spectacular because of heavy clouds, but the weather was to improve during the day.  

There is a person sitting on the ledge in front of the person standing where neither should be.

     Breakfast was back in town at RP’s Stage Stop, a cafe/coffee shop/gift shop, which made nice bagel breakfast sandwiches and lattes.  

With breakfast out of the way we went back to the Canyon.  

We got views from most of the south South Rim vantage points—Moran, Navajo, Lipan, and Grandview Points. Each of the lookouts had a slightly different view than the next, although at some point the rocks began to all look the same.  We spent some time at Tusayan Village and Museum (Ta’-sa-in like “just sayin’”), 

an ancient Native American stone village. We also spent time at the Desert View Watchtower, designed by

famous woman architect Mary Colter.

The last of our day at the Rim was spent in Grand Canyon Village, the old main area that Anne remembered from the 60s with Bright Angel Lodge (1935),

Lookout Studio (another Mary Colter design),

Hopi House, a nationally registered historic building from the early 1900s,

and the famed rail station.   Our light lunch was an expensive and forgettable Wendy’s burger back near our hotel.  Good or interesting restaurants is not a strong point of the Canyon area.
After a little rest in the hotel, we went back to the Rim for our second sunset. 

This was quite spectacular.  With clear weather we could get the full effect of the play of light and shadow on the cliffs and bluffs of the canyon. 

       Then in the morning we got a fantastic show again with clear weather.

The temperature at 6:00AM was about 25ยบF (that’s minus something or other C for our Scottish friends)—cold and clear. 

Again the light did an increasingly bright dance in the canyon—just the opposite of the night before.  

Fortified by another breakfast at RP’s we made a quicker trip back to Vegas—I just kept up with traffic, 85mph most of the way—in plenty of time to check into our Worldmark Las Vegas Blvd. Resort, our home for the next week.
Got to work on this Selfie thing.
The story of the rest of the week in Las Vegas will be the subject of the next post.