Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Roadtripping & The Casinos Of The American West

I don't remember when it was that casinos started to proliferate in America outside of Nevada. I do know that what had been a trickle, by the 1990s, had become a flood.

Now, in 2009, on a Roadtrip across the American West you will find casinos in almost every state, the biggest casino exception being Texas. But, the states that surround Texas all have legalized casino gambling, with Oklahoma having the world's 5th biggest casino, that being WinStar World Casino Resort, right across the Red River border from Texas.

Oklahoma has dozens of casinos. I would guess only Nevada has more casinos than Oklahoma.

With the 3 west coast states all having legalized gambling, times got tougher for Nevada. Las Vegas had to amp up its uniqueness to remain a destination. Reno has had a much tougher time of it. I've lost count of the number of Roadtrips I took to Reno over the years, back when Nevada was unique.

Nevada being so unique ended years before I moved to Texas. The valley I lived in in Washington, that being the Skagit Valley, has two large casino resorts, those being the Skagit Valley Casino, owned by the Skagit Tribe and the Swinomish Northern Lights Casino, owned by the Swinomish Tribe.

Many of the casinos in the west rival Vegas quality in their theming and architecture. The two photos you see here are from the Tulalip Casino Resort in Marysville. In front of the casino there is a large water feature with Orcas, a giant Tulalip Indian spearing giant salmon, waterfalls and sound effects. You walk into the Tulalip Casino with large waterfalls crashing around you.

Click to see more Tulalip Casino pictures and a list of Washington's Casinos.

One nice thing about the proliferation of casinos throughout the west, pertaining to Roadtripping, is you are usually not far from the next casino, where you can take a rest stop, find cheap eats, usually a good buffet. Or, if you are just thirsty, most casinos I've been in have free drink stations where you can get coffee, tea or sodas.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Roadtripping The Hana Highway On Maui In Hawaii

On the island of Maui, in the state of Hawaii, there is one of the best Roadtripping drives you can go on anywhere in the world. That being the Hana Highway. The Hana Highway, also known as the Road to Hana and the Hana Road, is a 68 mile section of Hawaii State Highways 360, 36 and 31, connecting Kahului with the little town of Hana in east Maui.

After you cross Kalepa Bridge the Hana Highway becomes Hawaii Highway 31, continuing on to Kipahulu.

Even though Hana is only about 52 miles from Kahului, the Roadtrip to Hana takes at least 3 hours. Usually more. The Hana Highway is a very winding road, crossing more than 59 bridges, 46 of them one way bridges, like the one you see us standing on in the picture.

You navigate around 620 twists and turns as you make your way to Hana. You will likely run into a traffic jam or two at the one lane bridges, as you wait your turn to cross.

Hana Highway is on the National Register of Historic Places.

You'll see many waterfalls as you Roadtrip the Hana Highway. Some of the waterfalls may be on private property, with no trespassing signs. All beach property on the Hawaiian Islands must provide public access.

At the end of the Hana Highway you'll find the most famous of the waterfalls, 'Ohe'o Gulch, more commonly known as the Seven Sacred Pools. The waterfalls and pools are in Haleakala National Park. An earthquake, in 2006, closed the dirt road that took you to the Seven Sacred Pools. That road reopened in October of 2008.

There are a lot of scenic lookouts along the Hana Highway. Stopping at all of them will make the Roadtrip to Hana and back an all day affair. I highly recommend making the Hana Highway Roadtrip an all day affair..

Below is a high speed YouTube video Roadtrip on the Hana Highway. Not suitable viewing for those prone to motion sickness...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Roadtripping Chuckanut Drive In Washington

Chuckanut Drive was built, I think, in the 1920s, to connect the Skagit Valley with Bellingham, in Whatcom County, in Washington state. An Interurban train ran between Mount Vernon and Bellingham, above Chuckanut Drive. The Interurban train has been long gone. What remains is known as the Interurban Trail, an excellent bike ride that runs from Larrabee State Park to the Alaskan Ferry Terminal in Bellingham.

Chuckanut Drive twists and turns in places. If you are at all acrophobic this road may make you nervous. In places it is a steep drop off to Samish Bay below. There are several scenic overlooks where you can pull off an enjoy the view.

The fact that I lived most of my life in the Skagit Valley and drove Chuckanut Drive 100s of times is why I can be a bit non-plussed when Roadtripping over roads famed for their difficulty and danger. Like the Million Dollar Highway in Colorado. That one really disappointed me. Or the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park. Very scenic, but not too scary, though way more so than the Million Dollar Highway.

The road I have been on that totally out does Chuckanut Drive in terms of drop-offs and twists and turns is the Moki Dugway in Utah. Just like with Chuckanut Drive, every once in awhile a vehicle goes over the edge to a bad end.

If you drive Chuckanut Drive you will find a couple good restaurants along the way, perched out over a drop off. You will find an oyster farm. There is a very good state park, that being Larrabee State Park. Be sure and stop and make your way to the beach. You will be glad you did. Or hike the trails up Chuckanut Mountain to Fragrance Lake. I used to do that regularly and miss it a lot.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Eddie McStiff's Restaurant Brew Pub & Bar In Moab Utah

I've mentioned before that Moab, Utah is one of my favorite places. I've got a lot of reasons why. I love mountain biking, redrock, beautiful scenery, beautiful people and good restaurants. Moab has all of that and with the beautiful people part, they come from all over the globe to the Mountain Biking Capital of the World.

I don't know how many good times I've had at Eddie McStiff's in Moab. Eddie McStiff's is a sprawling, very colorful, very lively, very loud, very fun restaurant, brew pub and bar. McStiff's makes very good pizza.

The first time I was at Eddie McStiff's they had a bottomless pitcher of homemade root beer on the menu. It was very good. On subsequent visits they no longer had the homemade root beer, so we had to switch to the homemade type beer that has alcohol in it. I tried to develop a taste for the stuff.

I am not alone in Moab being s favorite town. I read a book called Ghost Rider by Neil Peart, he being part of the Canadian band called Rush. Peart traveled 55,000 plus miles all over North America on a motorcycle. He had 3 or 4 towns that he came across that he absolutely loved. Moab being one of them. He had stays in Moab twice during his long journey. Peart's reasons for loving Moab mirror my own.

I was surprised when I looked for information about Eddie McStiff's to learn that it was for sale. I hope this does not mean that Eddie McStiff's and Moab have fallen victim to these tough economic times we are going through. More likely the owners want to retire and know they sit on a gold mine.

You can go to Eddie McStiff's website and watch a video about Eddie McStiff's and check out the menu or watch the YouTube video below, which also shows you several of the reasons I love Moab, including Arches National Park, redrock, the Slickrock Trail and other stuff.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Angel's Landing Hike In Zion National Park

My first visit to Zion National Park I attended a ranger lecture and slide show. The ranger told us about the Angel's Landing Trail. I was not equipped for such a hike at the time, but vowed to return. It would be almost 2 decades later I returned to Zion. But that was part of a spontaneous Roadtrip with no destinations in mind, so arriving at Zion was purely unintentional. So, no hike to the top of Angel's Landing

I've been back to Zion one more time, as part of a long Roadtrip that included Houseboating on Lake Powell, getting stuck in a blizzard at the north rim of the Grand Canyon, an overnight in the Zion National Park Lodge, then a few days in Las Vegas, an overnight in Death Valley and a quick trip into Yosemite.

The above YouTube video is the first time I've actually seen, in graphic terms, what the Angel's Landing Trail is like. In the video you watch Susannah, Samantha and Jason make the ascent for the first time. Watching this video gave me the acrophobic willies. I now do not know if I could make this hike.