Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Our own adventures

After a relaxing couple of days in Vegas we spent an excellent day at Red Rock Canyon on the outskirts of the city rock climbing - lovely grippy sandstone and a really great day out (just to wear ourselves out again!) Then moved on westwards to Pahrump - about 60 miles away. Drawn by the promise that the RV resort had it's own winery on site!! Excellent! Have done the wine tasting and bought a bottle or 10! From here we're heading separate ways for the next 10 days. Chris is off on a Buell owners Biking weekend in Santa Fe, NM - about 650 miles away. 3 days to get there, 3 days organised biking and 4 days to get back. In the meantime I'm chilling out for a couple more days in Pahrump, then heading to Death Valley...

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Our Grand Canyon Hike

Our hike into the canyon was brilliant. Nowhere near as hard as it was hyped up to be.

7.6 miles and just under 5000 feet downhill the first day on the South Kaibab Trail, which was really tough later that day once our muscles and joints had ceased up. We started about 9am which was way later than we'd been reccommeneded (beacuse of the heat - we just weren't very organised that morning) but even that was OK - nothing compared to Palm Springs and SoCal only days before!! Got to the bottom - Bright Angel Campground and Phantom Ranch about 1pm and chilled out, had a nap. There were a couple of ranger programmes that afternoon and evening so we went to both (brilliant ranger - Soooooo enthusiastic and interesting!). Cheated a bit on the first day - we'd booked evening meal and breakfast next morning at Phantom Ranch (for the grand total of $90 for both of us for both meals - expensive but we didn't have to carry the food!). Temps at the bottom of the canyon are about 20-30 degrees hotter than the south rim - so about 90 degrees for us and a low of 65 at night so nice. 2 funny old residents at the campground - 2 wild turkeys called Bill and Mark. They wandered away from their 'flock/gaggle/gang' that normally reside on the north rim last thanksgiving and wandered all 14 miles to the bottom where they obviously rather enjoyed - they've been there ever since! Apparently though they're getting a free ride out soon as they have become a bit agressive and nipping at people - plans are in action to helicoptor them out! (Chris was wondering whether if he hung out at the Bright Angel campground being agressive towards fellow campers and generally being a pain whether he could've got a heli out instead of walking!!!!)

2nd day was just a 5 mile hike up to Indian Gardens along the Bright Angel trail. The first 2 miles of which were along the river and the trail was really easy going - we had our new camp set up by 10.30am!! Rest of the day to do not very much - lots of lounging around, chatting to some of the other campers. Around 4pm we walked out to Plateau Point where we had a great sunset view up/down the canyon and the river below.

Our final day was another 5 miles uphill back to the rim. Started fairly early, although the majority of the hike was in the shade. A bit steeper gradient than yesterday, and we walked a little slower (those achey joints!) Got to the top around 9.45am. Much cooler temperatures which we really noticed as we ascended and up on top quite breezy too! Had a much needed shower and left the grand canyon by noon in search of the nearest Cheesecake Factory!! (I was in need of a big lardy meal). So we're back in Las Vegas!!!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

We've got our kicks & London Bridge

And we still didn't get to the Grand Canyon the next day either! Drove via Lake Havasu - a rather dull town on a nice lake, but it's one claim to fame is it has the original London Bridge. Bought by the millionair developer of the town in 1968 it was dismantled into 10,000 odd bricks of granite then shipped over here. They even made an island for it to go across!! It was re-dedicated here in 1971. It's got a nasty tacky hopeless attempt at an 'olde englishe village' but there was a great brewpub overlooking the river so it kinda re-gained a few brownie points for that!!

Next day we started from Kingman, AZ which is one of the key towns on what remains of the old Route 66. The road did stretch from Los Angeles to Chicago until the interstates and freeways did a better job. Much of the old road doesn't really 'exist' any more and one of the longest stretches that does in in Arizona - from Kingman to Seligman. Actually do I dare say it but it was a pretty dull road....not as dull as the interstate I admit!! A few roadside curios, shops, cafes, saloons but since we were driving at 7 in the morning most everything was shut. But we have had our 'kicks on route 66'!!

Finally Friday afternoon we made it to the Grand Canyon!!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Fixed RV in Palm Springs

The last couple of days we've been in Perris California. A somewhat unscheduled stop on our trip, we've had an ongoing problem with one of our water tanks - fixed (or rather bodged) last summer, it went again whilst Pat was out. The only thing for it we decided was to have the factory do the job. Quite a rare task your average garage will probably never have done the job before - at least the factory do it every day. So lots of money later hopefully everything is lovely and leak free....

It was about a 300 mile trip out of our way from Vegas, now we're heading back east to the Grand Canyon. Looking forward to's been one of the biggest 'must do's for me the whole trip. Don't expect to be online much since we hope to stay in the park.

As it happens we got as far as Palm Springs cruising down the highway when I commented on a really nice looking RV park on the side of the road - it was one of our membership campgrounds (we get to stay in for free) so despite being 11am we checked in for the night and spent most of the day by the pool. Will drive on tomorrow...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A Surprise for Tess & Steve!!

So Tess and Steve arrived in Las Vegas late last night from Cyprus. Little did they know we were in town (I haven't been able to update this blog for the last week in case she read about our whereabouts!!). With the help of Janet and Larrie (Steve's folks - thanks guys!) we arranged to meet this morning at the local Einsteins Bros Bagel shop for breakfast!! I just love surprises!!!!!

Fantastic to see them both again - twice during our trip so far (we hooked up with them in Seattle last fall too!!)

Friday, September 08, 2006

Las Vegas Showtime!

Well, I can honestly say I have never, (ever) been as impressed by a performance as I was tonight! We’ve just got back from seeing ‘O’ by Cirque Du Soleil and there really is no way to adequately do it justice without dragging you here to see for yourself! Just the most spectacular entertainment I’ve ever witnessed. I don’t even really know how to describe it; a musical, a circus, an opera, a ballet; actually all of them. The cast were all dancers, synchronised swimmers, high divers, gymnasts, athletes, actors, comedians… and whatever they get paid – it’s not enough!! The whole ‘show’ was done to live music and was all performed in, over or under water! The stage, (inside a hotel) is a huge, (as in American huge!) circular affair which goes from being a solid floor to a deep, (as in 100 ft high diving) pool. It must be built like a jigsaw as one minute people are dancing on dry land, the next they’re splashing through inches of water and then bodies appear from under water; you never know which bit of the stage will be wet, dry or what! Much of it is aerial on trapezes and which ever performance you’re watching at the time, another equally impressive act/dance/display is happening in your peripheral vision. I could go on and on but I’m all too aware of over emphasising a point so I won’t. But I could trust me; and the more I go on about it, the more I wouldn’t be able to do it justice. It was expensive, being the most raved about show in Las Vegas; but I would pay twice the cost, and I could watch it every night for a week and still see new stuff!!!

Anyway, enough going on… what else have we been up to? This morning we took the bike into town to go and see “Bodies” the exhibition. These were real (dead) bodies in all sorts of states of dissection. Muscular, skeletal, respiratory, reproductive, coronary systems on show. Every bit was real human tissue, bone, muscle, arteries, skin, tendons, and organs exactly as they are inside us. The only change was the moisture that holds our bodies together had been replaced by a silicon polymer as it wouldn’t dehydrate like the real stuff does when you’re dead! It was fascinating stuff, but then we went to ‘O’…

'O' was in the Bellagio hotel which is the flashiest hotel in Vegas and has a large pond/small lake in front of it and every 15 minutes has an incredible fountain display to music. The word fountain makes it sound so average. Of course it’s not, this is Las Vegas! The water comes from hundreds, maybe thousands of moving, swivelling jets under the surface and are all lit up from underneath; and the whole thing is choreographed like a dance troupe to 29 different pieces of music from classical to jazz to modern dance music – have I used the word impressive too much yet??

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Penn & Teller

We decided that since we're in the show capital of the country we should at least make some effort to see a show or 2. Got tickets this morning to see Penn & Teller - the magician duo. Have seen a couple of their TV shows and they're so funny. Held at the Rio Casino & Hotel we got there early and ate at the World Festival Buffet. $24 All-you-can eat. It was HUGE! We were slightly pushed for time which was such a shame - next time we aim to get there early and eat at a more relaxed pace!!

The live show was great, a few tricks we'd seen before but just very funny - stand-up style (by Penn of course, Teller doesn't talk!). Got my picture taken with Penn after the show!!!

Did we mention what a great campground we're staying in. We just started chuckling when we drove up the several hundred yard driveway which was lined with fairylight-clad palm trees. There's a fountain outside the reception area and the whole clubhouse/store is glass and marble - this is unlike any other RV park we've stayed in - but then it's Vegas!! It is JUST a campsite for goodness sake!!!! Gorgeous pool & spa area - and since schools are back there's not many people about - we had 1 pool just to ourselves for the afternoon!!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


So, today’s hike; ‘The Keyhole!’ Why ‘The Keyhole” I hear you ask? Coz if you aren’t shaped like a key, you ain’t gonna fit! The hike is only ¼ mile long – when you get to the start of it…the start is about a mile from the parking area to the start of the actual canyon; a mile in the mid-day desert heat, up a steeply climbing rock face, wearing a wet suit and carrying a pack with a 200 ft climbing rope plus abseiling gear, extra clothing, water etc.

Anyway, back to the job in hand; the hike through the keyhole consisted of four different abseils, numerous ‘climb downs’ into the darkened canyon that never sees sunlight and is therefore cold as you like, especially considering the heat outside. Each abseil and ‘climb down’ of course ended up in water; no, not nice fresh river water but (very) cold, murky, stagnant water that had laid there since the last flash flood! How deep? Anywhere from knee deep past waist deep, to full on chest deep and at one point a full on swim, and all of it through what smelt like old sewage!

So there I am; the guy who always wears appropriate biking gear, riding helmetless, dressed in a very wet, wet suit, a climbing harness, and carrying a rucksack full of wet heavy rope and stuff, probably harbouring all sorts of dead things hidden away about my person – mmm, very attractive!!! Why? Because it was there I guess and someone mentioned on it which was enough for me to need to do it!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Zion National Park

Arrived in Zion National Park after Harvey's little hiccup! Have a campsite just outside the gates, where we can pick up the excellent free shuttle bus services into the park. It's so nice to not have to get ourselves anywhere - can just be lazy and be driven everywhere in Zion Canyon between 5.45am and 11pm!! Yesterday morning hiked up to Angel's Landing - 1500ft above the valley floor with fabulous views up & down the canyon. It was a very 'trecherous' walk - very narrow paths - sometimes only a couple of feet wide along the top of the fin of rock that is Angel's Landing - with long drop offs either side of us back to the Canyon floor!!

This morning we walked 'The Narrows'. Basically the top of the canyon where it gets really narrow. The path IS the Virgin river. Without a permit we could walk 5 miles upstream then turn around and come back out the way we came. We hired 'Canyoneer' boots - great things! Chunky ankle boots worn with neoprene socks and heavy duty rubber tread soles, along with an essential walking pole to use to 'feel' your way through the enormous 'pebbles' and rocks lining the river bed. In places the canyon narrowed to 10 feet wide with wall to wall water. Had to watch for high ground opportunities as it's prone to flash floods!! (great!) Much of it was wading in water mid thigh deep but apparently there were 3 swims to get to Big Springs which is the day-hikers turn around point. We only found 1 of them! (Lucky us!) And in fact with a little probing Chris did actually find a route through that only involved chest high water (by which time I'd taken the plunge and swum my way through 10 yards of water!). Awesome hike to have done. Took us 4 hours 45 mins to do the 5 miles to Big Springs which is super-slow for us as it was hard going. (In comparison we did the downstream hike in just 3 hours and normal hiking we'd have down the one-way distance in about 2!)

As it's Labor weekend here it was busy and at the outfitters yesterday every man and his dog were kitting themselves out with boots for the Narrows so we'd figured on an early start to beat the crowds (in the water about 7.30am - it was fresh!) - in fact we saw just 5 other people heading upstream in the morning (Along with a handful of down hikers who'd camped along the full 16 mile route) Coming back was a different matter though - it was a zoo! Most people apparently don't make it as far as the Big Springs - and we saw many turning around at the deep water (they missed the best bit!) By the time we were heading downstream it was way warmer - around noon the sun hit overhead so we did see sunlight for a while, we were quite happy about the getting wet part by now - in fact at times it was quite refreshing!

Absolutely shattered now - and I have very sore inner thighs from 8 hours of wet shorts rubbing have taken their toll - ouch! And we now definately deserve a good lie-in!

Friday, September 01, 2006

RV problems...

Hopefully fixed already though. Broke down last night on our way to Zion National Park. The engine started mis-firing then we lost all power altogether. After a 2 hour wait on the side of the road we were recovered about 10.30pm last night and towed back the way we'd come (very, very slowly when you're towing a 10 ton vehicle!) - to Cedar City, an hour and a half away to a garage that was shut, wasn't expecting us and couldn't even neccessarily fit us in to have a look at it!! Thankfully this morning they were able to look at it and after a relatively painless 3/4 hour labour and a $85 part things seem to be working fine again. So back on our way to Zion.....