Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Mike O'Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge Hoover Dam Bypass Over the Colorado River is Open

You are in a helicopter looking down at Hoover Dam and the new Hoover Dam Bypass, officially named the Mike O'Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge.

U.S. Route 93 crosses  the bridge, linking Nevada and Arizona, about 1,600 feet downstream, south from Hoover Dam.

The Mike O'Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge opened on October 19, 2010.

Below you can watch a YouTube news clip video about the opening of the new bridge. And below that you can take a helicopter ride from Las Vegas to Lake Mead for a bird's eye view of the dam and bridge...

Hoover Dam and the Hoover Dam Bypass are about 30 miles southwest from Las Vegas.

This bridge is the first concrete steel composite arch bridge built in the United States. Concrete steel composite has been used in other U.S. bridges in recent years, such as the new suspension span across the Tacoma Narrows in Tacoma, Washington.

The Hoover Dam Bypass is about 840 feet above the Colorado River. Only the suspension bridge across Royal Gorge in Colorado is higher at 1,053 feet above the Arkansas River.

Below you will take to the air in a helicopter and fly from Las Vegas to Hoover Dam and the Hoover Dam Bypass. You'll get a good look at Lake Mead and what the rugged Nevada landscape looks like...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Roadtripping With National Lampoon's Vacation on the Holiday Road

The picture above was taken from the opening credits of National Lampoon's Vacation. I believe the Griswold family is passing through Dallas in this particular picture, as that appears to be Reunion Tower on the right.

I can think of no other Roadtripping movie that I have enjoyed more than National Lampoon's Vacation. The Griswolds travel cross country with Wally World as their big destination. They are on the road in a station wagon.

When my mom and dad took me and my siblings to Disneyland, it was via a Roadtrip in a station wagon. Ours was not as dysfunctional a family, as the Griswolds, nor as amusing.

In the opening credits to National Lampoon's Vacation Lindsey Buckingham's Holiday Road provides the music. This is one of my favorite songs. It's a great Roadtripping tune. You can hear it below...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Roadtrip Over The Hoover Dam Bypass and the Mike O'Callaghan - Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge

The Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge is scheduled to have vehicles drive over it this coming November.

A new crossing was needed across the Colorado River, at Hoover Dam, because traffic had grown too busy for the two lane highway across the dam to handle.

The section of Highway 93 that leads to Hoover Dam is a narrow, twisting, turning, steep, treacherous stretch of road. Trucks had been banned from crossing the dam since shortly after 9/11, routed to cross the Colorado at Laughlin, instead.

The Hoover Dam Bypass will be a 4 lane highway.

The construction of the new bridge has been one of the world's most complex current construction engineering projects.

The arches are made of 106 concrete pieces,, 24 feet long, with most of them cast in place.

The project required using 2,300 ft. long cables, held by a crane system to lift material and workers from river level to the construction site. In September of 2006 high winds caused the cable/cranes to fail, resulting in a 2 year delay in the project.

The arch span is 1,060 feet long, the bridge on top of the arch span is 1,900 feet long. The bridge deck roadway and sidewalk is approximately 900 feet above the Colorado River, and approximately 1,500 feet south of Hoover Dam.

The pedestrian sidewalk will be on the north side of the Bridge, facing Hoover Dam. There will be a parking lot, interpretive plaza and trail leading to the sidewalk on the Bridge.

The bridge was designed to be aesthetically compatible with Hoover Dam. Judging from what I've seen, that goal has been met.

A public grand opening celebration is planned for October 16, 2010, before the opening to traffic some time in early November. The bridge part of the Hoover Dam Bypass has been officially named Mike O'Callaghan - Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge.

When the Hoover Dam Bypass opens vehicles will no longer be allowed to drive across Hoover Dam. I assume tourists will still be able to drive the twisting turning steep road to the Hoover Dam parking lots on the Nevada and Arizona sides of the dam and walk out on the dam, take tours and view the exhibits in the Visitor's Center.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Zion National Park's Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel & Overlook

I am not on the road in the picture. I am sitting on top of a rock at the Zion Canyon Overlook in Zion National Park.

The best moments on a Roadtrip are the surprises. Being some place you've never been before, seeing something you did not know existed.

The best such Roadtrip surprise I've ever experienced was in Zion National Park. I knew nothing about Zion, absolutely nothing.

Earlier in the day I experienced Bryce Canyon National Park for the first time, with it being the #2 biggest Roadtrip surprise ever, topped a few hours later by Zion.

If you have not been to Zion National Park before, trust me on this, enter the park, your first time, from the east. You will be glad you did. You get to the east entrance by heading north or south on Utah State Highway 89, exit 89 to the west, on to Highway 9, at Mount Carmel Junction.

In about 12 miles you will be in Zion National Park. The scenery is impressive as soon as you enter the park. But, it will quickly go from impressive to jaw-droppingly beautiful. You will pass formations like Checkerboard Mesa and will likely stop to get a closer look, not realizing what is to come.

In about 4 miles you'll come to the Zion Canyon Overlook. That's is where the pictures you see here were taken, years after that first visit to Zion.

Just past the Zion Canyon Overlook you will enter a feat of engineering called the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel, a narrow two-lane tunnel bored into the edge of a cliff.

As you drive through the tunnel you will pass 6 portal windows giving you glimpses of where you are heading.

If you look closely at the picture on the right, you can see one of the portals in the cliff, as viewed from the Zion Canyon Overlook. The tunnel is inside that cliff.

Then you pop out of the tunnel and are in the canyon. The road descends into the valley with a series of switchbacks.

To be allowed to pass through the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel vehicles wider than 7'10" and/or 11'4" tall or taller, must pay a fee to use the tunnel. This is because a ranger must block two way traffic to so the big vehicle can get through.

Back in the days before Zion became so popular, getting through the tunnel was easy. But, the last two times I've been to Zion there have been major backups at the tunnel.

Which is why on the most recent visit we stopped at the Zion Canyon Overlook parking lot and hiked to the Overlook. It was well worth the hike. I recommend it, even if you are not waiting for the tunnel to clear.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Tombstone Arizona's Helldorado Days

The day started in the Arizona border town of Douglas, across from Aqua Prieta, Mexico. Heading west on Highway 80 the main destination for the day was Tombstone.

About 22 miles prior to Tombstone we came upon an unexpected little pleasure named Bisbee. Bisbee is an old mining town, with a big open pit mine named the Lavender Pit. Bisbee is now known as an artist's colony.

Bisbee is in very hilly territory, with its quaint Victorian houses built on steep slopes. Bisbee reminded me of Lead, South Dakota, another mining town with a big open pit mine.

From Bisbee it was north towards Tombstone. Arriving in the fabled Wild West town, the first surprise was all the cars. And people.

We had unwittingly arrived in Tombstone during Helldorado Days.

In July of 1881 a luckless miner sent a letter to the editor of the Tombstone Nuggest complaining that rather than find their Eldorado of riches, many men ended up broke, washing dishes or other menial jobs, find their life in Tombstone to be Helldorado, not Eldorado.

The name stuck. Helldorado Days started in 1929, making it the oldest festival in Tombstone.

If you attend Helldorado Days, which this year takes place October 15 -17, and you want to attend in western garb, keep in mind that handguns, even toy ones, are not allowed in any of the saloons or other liquor purveyors. You can check your gun in at the smoke shop before hitting the saloons. In Tombstone you can bring your kids with you in the saloons during daylight hours.

About 2 hours after our arrival in Tombstone, after finding the OK Corral and after having a good late breakfast in a hotel's dining room, the Helldorado Days Parade started up.

This is one of the most unusual and wild parades I have ever seen. Lawmen (or where they outlaws?) marched in the parade, along with saloon girls. The lawmen (or outlaws) would fire their guns into the air as they walked along. You are looking a pair of shooters reloading in the photo at the top.

I found the gunfire very jarring. It was loud and concussive. I'd never heard such a thing in a parade before.

As you can see with the Red, White & Blue float, being in authentic Wild West garb is not a requirement for the Helldorado Days Parade. Unless I'm remembering my history wrong and bikinis were worn in the 1880s.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Roadtripping Through America's Drive-Ins

There are many things I like about a Roadtrip. One of them is taking a risk and driving up to a local drive-in restaurant and getting a hamburger.

This had a bad result only once over the years of Roadtrip hamburgers. A bad case of food poisoning from a burger bought at a Weatherford, Texas drive-in.

Of course, I have no aversion to also driving onto the parking lot of America's chain burger joints. There is something about a McDonald's simple cheeseburger that is strangely addictive to me. A Jack in the Box Jumbo Jack can be very welcome at times after a lot of miles. Same with a Burger King Whopper. I have never been much of a Wendy's fan. I think it may be the square burgers I find offputting.

I have never set foot inside a Whataburger. The tacky orange striped buildings are unappetizing.

I don't know if Sonic Drive-Ins are all across America now. I never saw a Sonic til I came to Texas. A Sonic Drive-In can be a welcome sight when you pull into a small town looking for a place to eat.

Arctic Circle used to be a drive-in you'd find all over the West. I believe there are still a few in existence.

In the Seattle area my favorite drive-in burger joint is Dick's, with my standard order being a Dick's Deluxe, strawberry shake and fries. The Dick's website is a bit annoying. I don't like a website that suddenly starts playing music.

For me, there is one burger joint which trumps all others and would be my go to drive-in in any town I drove through on a Roadtrip. That would be an In-N-Out Burger.

And their website is not annoying.

Sadly, In-N-Out is not a national franchise. You have to be Roadtripping in California, Arizona, Utah and Nevada to happen upon an In-N-Out. You'll find 199 In-N-Outs in California, 26 in Arizona, 16 in Nevada and 8 in Utah.

There are persistent rumors that In-N-Out is branching out and is moving into the Dallas/Fort Worth market.

I have had what were reputed to be good burgers in the Dallas/Fort Worth market. The over rated Dirty Love Burger at the Love Shack in the Fort Worth Stockyards comes to mind. And don't get me started on the supposedly good Kincaid's burger. Very disappointing. The Kincaid's website proudly proclaims it "The Perfect Hamburger."

Speaking of Dallas. If you want to visit what the Travel Channel decided was one of the world's most unique McDonald's, click here. I think it was the Travel Channel that decided this.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

18 Year Old Boy Scout Falls to His Death from Utah's Gemini Bridges

You are looking at a biker crossing one of the Gemini Bridges, 250 feet above Bull Canyon, on a popular mountain bike trail near Moab, Utah.

Gemini Bridges is in the news today due to an 18 year old Boy Scout from Green Bay, Wisconsin, Anthony Alvin, falling to his death, Saturday around 9:30 am, when he tried to jump the 6 foot gap between the twin natural arch bridges.

The news reports are saying Alvin jumped the gap and then fell backwards, landing 100 feet below Gemini Bridges.

I don't quite understand what Alvin landed on only 100 feet below Gemini Bridges. The Gemini Bridges are about 250 above Bull Canyon. Maybe Alvin landed on a ledge of some sort, 100 feet below.

Grand County Search and Rescue, Grand County emergency medical technician, plus National Park Rangers from the Islands in the Sky unit of Canyonlands National Park rappelled off the Gemini Bridges to confirm Alvin was killed in the fall.

The fact that emergency workers rappelled down, sort of confirms Alvin landed on a ledge. Had he fallen all the way to the bottom there would have been no doubt about the fall being fatal, and the rescue workers would have reached his location by driving up Bull Canyon, not by rappelling from the Gemini Bridges.

Rescue workers lowered Alvin's body to the bottom of Bull Canyon. Which further confirms he somehow landed on a ledge.

Alvin was with a group of fellow scouts and scout leaders, when he fell.

As you can see from the pictures, Gemini Bridges is very popular and at time there are a lot of people there. My one and only visit my nephew Joey, 13 at the time, was supposed to come on that trip. But he didn't. When I saw Gemini Bridges I was glad my nephew was not along.

At one point soon after arriving at Gemini Bridges I was sitting off to one side. One of my co-bikers hollered at me, asking me if I realized what I was sitting on. I walked over to where they were and looked back to see I had been sitting on a thin ribbon of rock, cantilevered out over the edge of Bull Canyon.

I can see where a kid might think it a fun doable thing to jump between the bridges. I can also see where it would be, obviously, very dangerous.

Even grown men, who maybe should know better, do goofy things on the Gemini Bridges, like the guy with the jeep, driving out on one of the spans. That was unnerving to watch.

Go here for more about the Gemini Bridges and Gemini Bridges Trail, plus more pictures, including a picture of the thin ledge I was accidentally sitting on.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Tennessee's Gatlinburg Space Needle

Seattle must not have secured the rights to the "Space Needle" name. Because in 1970 Gatlinburg, Tennessee opened an observation tower and called it the Gatlinburg Space Needle.

The Gatlinburg Space Needle is shorter than the Seattle Space Needle.

There are two glass elevators that elevate you 400 feet to the Gatlinburg Space Needle's observation deck, where you can get yourself a good look at the Great Smoky Mountains and look down on the resort city of Gatlinburg.

Higher Learning is the clever name of the museum you'll find at the top, where you'll be able to use free view finders to find the views.

At the base of the Space Needle there is a 2 story playground called Arcadia with a variety of games where you earn coupons and then redeem them for fabulous prizes.

The Higher Learning museum is open year-round from 10:00 am-10:00 pm (Monday-Thursday) and 9:00 am-12 midnight (Friday-Sunday). Admission is free for children under four years of age, $3.00 for children 5-12, $7.50 for adults 13-61, and $5.00 for seniors 62 and older.

The Gatlinburg Space Needle in an all steel tower. When it was built in 1970 it was the second tallest Tennessee tower. In 2010 it is the 5th tallest Tennessee tower. But the taller Tennesse towers are things like TV and radio towers, with no elevators, observation decks or museums at their top.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Swimming Pools of Las Vegas

Among the many attractions that make Las Vegas fun are the hotel swimming pools. Having a unique cool pool is one of the ways the casinos try and entice a Las Vegas visitor to stay with them.

The Travel Channel named the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Beach one of the Top 10 pools in the world. It's an oasis in the desert, with Caribbean blue water meandering for a mile, lapping up against white sand beaches.

In the picture you are looking at one of the Luxor pools. There are 4 large swimming pools at Luxor, Egyptian-themed.

At Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino you can go body surfing in the wave pool, float in a lazy river, play on a beach made with California Pacific Ocean beach sand or go running on the jogging trail before you hop in the pool. At the Moorea Beach Club you'll find an adult swimming zone. As in, both men and women can be topless. I don't know if bottomless is also okay.

The MGM Grand Hotel & Casino has the first saltwater pools in Las Vegas. Wet Republic is an adults only zone. The MGM Grand has almost 7 acres of swimming and sunbathing areas, with several pools, a lazy river and tropical waterfalls.

At the Paris Hotel & Casino you can swim in the Soleil Pool while looking up at the Eiffel Tower. You can't do that in Paris, France.

The Stratosphere Hotel & Casino has the Body and Soul Pool Party at the Level 8 Pool. The Stratosphere's adult pool playground is called Beach Club 25.

The Venetian Hotel & Casino also has an adults only area, called TAO Beach.

The Monte Carlo Hotel & Casino had the Las Vegas Strip's first wave pool. Monte Carlo also has a lazy river.

Excalibur Hotel & Casino has recently renovated its pool zone. Excalibur now has 4 pools with 60,000 square feet of tropical landscaping. There is a poolside restaurant bar called DRENCHED.

Bellagio Hotel & Casino has 5 Mediterranean themed pools, with 2 heated lap pools.

Caesars Palace Hotel & Casino has redesigned its pool complex with 8 swimming pools, surrounded by a luxury level worthy of Caesar.

Aria Hotel & Casino has 3 distinctive pool experiences, plus the Liquid Pool Lounge, which is an adults only pool with over the top opulence.

All this pool talk makes me want to go swimming. In Las Vegas.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Stranded in the Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas

That would be my nephew Joey looking forlornly out at the Las Vegas strip from the top of the Stratosphere Tower on a trip to Vegas late in the last century.

Why was Joey forlorn. Well, it was well in to hour 2 of being stuck high above Las Vegas.

The ride to the top of the Stratosphere Tower is in a double decker elevator. It is a bumpy ride. As we neared the top I could hear siren-like noises. We got out of the elevator to learn that the Stratosphere Tower had lost power.

I don't know how the elevators made it to the top without power, there must have been an emergency back up. But, til power was restored no elevators was returning to ground level.

At that point in time on the top of the Stratosphere Tower there was a roller coaster called the High Roller. The riders who were on the High Roller were stuck. Out in the extremely hot sun.

In 2005 there were a couple incidents where guests were left hanging far above the Las Vegas Strip for well over an hour when the Insanity ride shut down. Insanity dangles you over the edge of the tower then spins you at about 40 miles per hour. Some of those stranded were not happy with the compensation offered. A free pass to the ride for a year.

After about an hour of me and the nephews being stranded at the top of the Stratosphere Tower I stared making a bit of a fuss. I thought we should be giving free refreshments. Due to it being so hot with not air-conditioning and it being well over 100 degrees. A call was made, the libations were released.

Then I fussed that I wanted our elevator ride ticket refunded. I don't remember if that happened then or when we finally got to the ground. I do remember when we got to the ground we were greeted by a Stratosphere Tower executive, all apologetic. I told him we were starving and asked if we could get comped for a buffet. The guy quickly wrote something on a piece of paper and handed it to me. So, me and the nephews had ourselves a free buffet. But, the Stratosphere still made money off us, due to the nephews using me as their legal age conduit to play Keno.

At 1,149 feet the Stratosphere Tower is the tallest observation tower in the United States, only the CN Tower is taller in the Western Hemisphere. It is located at the far north end of the Las Vegas Strip and is the only one of the major strip casinos to actually be within the City of Las Vegas. The Stratosphere Tower is about 2 miles from downtown Las Vegas and The Fremont Experience.

It took a long time to build the Stratosphere Tower. I remember seeing it in a construction stalled state on several Vegas visits. And then on a Thanksgiving trip to Vegas in 1996 I was pleased to see the tower completed.

When rides started getting added to the top, well I found that bizarre. A few years ago a flight from Seattle routing through Vegas on the way to Dallas, at midnight, went directly over the Stratosphere Tower. It was a very startling thing to see. The original intention had been to make the Stratosphere Tower the world's tallest, but interference concerns over McCarran International Airport and incoming and outgoing flights caused the tower to shrink.

In addition to the already mentioned Insanity ride, there is the Big Shot, it being the highest ride in the world. Riders get shot straight that pointy spire at the top of the tower, and then dropped down.

X-Scream is a straight piece of track that pivots, sort of like the see-sawing of a teeter-totter. You sit in an open car that rocks from one end of the track to the other, taking you right to the edge of the tower's top.

SkyJump Las Vegas is the newest Stratosphere Tower attraction, and one I find the most bizarre. It is like a controlled bungee jump. You are stuck in a special suit, given instructions and then something called a controlled decelerator guides your fall to the ground. You jump off a little platform, go in to a fast free fall, with guide wires keeping you from banging the tower. Then, as the ground quickly approaches the fall is slowed down and you come in for a controlled landing.

Now, there have been 5 suicide jumps from the top since the Stratosphere Tower opened. I would think it must be a bit unsettling to some unsuspecting tourists to be driving down the Las Vegas Strip for the first time to see people jumping off the Stratosphere Tower.

I have not had the pleasure of experiencing any of the Stratosphere attractions, besides the elevator, due to that no electricity problem on my one and only visit. I did get to walk outside at the top and see the riders stranded on the High Roller roller coaster.

Links to other bloggings about Las Vegas...

Staying at the Las Vegas KOA, 6 Motel, Excalibur, Luxor, Treasure Island & New York New York

Thinking About a Roadtrip to Las Vegas

My nephews took me to Las Vegas

Las Vegas Fremont Street Experience with American Pie

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Las Vegas Fremont Street Experience with American Pie

By the 1990s the success of the Las Vegas strip had downtown Las Vegas not attracting the number of visitors it had in years gone by.

And so The Fremont Experience was born.

A space frame was built over 4 blocks of Fremont Street in the iconic casino heart of downtown Las Vegas.

The Fremont Experience has gone through several upgrades since it first lit up in 1995, vastly improving the quality of the light and sound show.

Currently 12 million LED lamps light up the Fremont Street Experience. There are 220 speakers under the Fremont Street canopy which can produce up to 550,000 watts of sound.

The Fremont Street Experience Light & Sound Shows start up when the sun goes down. You know a Light & Sound Show is about to start up when all the casinos darken their outside lights.

There are a variety of shows. I've seen a patriotic one where jets zoom overhead, among other things. And I've seen a Viva Las Vegas show.

The Fremont Street Experience has revived downtown Las Vegas. Each night downtown Vegas is now like a street party.

Harrah's is hoping to replicate the success of The Fremont Street Experience on the Las Vegas Strip, by building a complex of bars, restaurants and shops between O'Sheas and The Flamingo. With a very tall Ferris Wheel.

I wonder if the planned Ferris Wheel is of the giant sort like is in Singapore and London? One would hope so.

Links to other bloggings about Las Vegas...

Staying at the Las Vegas KOA, 6 Motel, Excalibur, Luxor, Treasure Island & New York New York

Thinking About a Roadtrip to Las Vegas

My nephews took me to Las Vegas

Below you can watch a YouTube video of a Fremont Street Experience Light & Sound Show. This particular one is Don McLean's American Pie.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Lake Powell Houseboating from Bullfrog to Moki Canyon with a lot of Bats

That would be me swimming in Moki Canyon on Lake Powell. I have houseboated twice on Lake Powell. Both times launching from the Bullfrog Marina. Both times the houseboating took place in mid-October.

The first time the water of Lake Powell was crystal clear. And warm. The second time the water was murky, due to the Colorado River delivering a lot of water to Lake Powell. The water was also cooler.

I do not believe I could be talked into another houseboating expedition. Then again, I know the fleet of Lake Powell houseboats has been upgraded from the houseboats I floated on.

I would like to go floating on Lake Powell again. But rather than houseboating, I'd like to stay in a Housekeeping Unit at Bullfrog and rent a speedboat to use to explore Lake Powell. Returning each day to the comforts of solid land.

Housekeeping Units are what Lake Powell Resorts calls big manufactured mobile home type dwellings. There is also a motel at Bullfrog. The Housekeeping Units are like a motel room on steroids.

Besides Bullfrog there are 3 other marinas on Lake Powell from which you can float a boat. There is Wahweap, Halls Crossing and Hite, in addition to Bullfrog.

In the above picture you are looking down on Moki Canyon. That little white spot in the water is the houseboat. The swimming you saw in the first picture took place above the houseboat location. You can likely guess, from this picture, that there are great hiking opportunities on Lake Powell.

Moki Canyon was the final stop on this particular Lake Powell houseboating expedition. I hiked to the top of Moki Canyon. At one point an old wooden ladder had to be used to get up a steep part. It was easy to imagine that that wooden ladder might have been centuries old, put in place by whatever Native American nation ruled at the time, the Navajo, the Moki, the Anasazi. Or some other tribe.

The sun was starting to set on the hike back to the houseboat. Sunsets and sunrises on Lake Powell are spectacular. The Moki Canyon sunset brought out something I was not expecting. More bats than I've ever seen. It was pretty much a bat swarm all the way back to the houseboats.

Only one houseboater braved the bats and slept outside on the houseboat roof that final night.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Thinking About a Roadtrip to Las Vegas

That would be me in the picture, sliding into the pool at the Excalibur Casino Hotel in Las Vegas.

Right now I've got myself a strong hankering for a Las Vegas visit. It's been a few years since I've last Roadtripped to my favorite town in Nevada.

A few new casinos have opened that I've not had the pleasure of visiting. I saw The Venetian and Paris under construction, with the Eiffel Tower towering above the strip. I've seen The Wynn from the air when I've landed in Vegas to switch planes on the way to other destinations.

It is sort of a form of torture to land in Las Vegas, with Luxor and Excalibur and The MGM and New York New York clearly in view from the airport windows, and not get to leave the airport, but instead wait an hour to get on another plane.

I have not been to Las Vegas since a monorail was added to the strip. Does the monorail still exist that ran from behind MGM to a casino the name of which I'm not remembering. Was it The Riviera?

The new Hoover Dam Bridge is due to open this coming November. I'm curious to see that bridge. I liked the drive across Hoover Dam. I assume that will no longer be a route choice when the new bridge opens.

One of the pleasures of being in Las Vegas during the HEAT of summer is driving out to Hoover Dam and Lake Mead. Particularly Lake Mead. A late night swim in the warm clear water is a real good thing.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Sears Exploring My America Roadtrip

Who wants to go on a Roadtrip with me? Sponsored by Sears.

Sears Auto Center is going to pick 21 teams and send them on one-week Roadtrips traveling some of America's most scenic roads.

You can sign up at exploringmyamerica.com. You'll have to submit an audition video which shows you are capable of recording your Daytripping Roadtripping.

Starting on July 11 three teams will be starting off weekly over the next 7 weeks on the various Roadtrips. You vehicle will get a 21 point inspection from a Sears Auto Center. You will also get $500 in Sears Auto Center credits in case you need help along the way. You will get $1,500 to cover your travel expenses. And an HD video camcorder.

Whoever turns in the best video each week will get a $500 cash prize.

There are 9 Routes to choose from, with the 9 Roadtrips divided into 21 segments. I have been on a few of the Routes, but have only Roadtripped on in its entirety, that being the Pacific Coast Route.

The 9 Roadtripping Routes...(all segments can be done in reverse)

1) PACIFIC COAST---Olympic National Park, starting in Forks, Washington to San Diego, California, Roadtripping on Highway 101

Segment 1: Olympic National Park, Forks, WA to Humboldt Redwood State Park, Weott, CA

Segment 2: Humboldt Redwood State Park, Weott, CA to San Diego, CA

2) ROUTE 66---Chicago to Los Angeles, CA on Route 66

Segment 1: Chicago, IL to Amarillo, TX

Segment 2: Amarillo, TX to Los Angeles, CA

3) COAST TO COAST---Oregon Coast to Provincetown, Massachusetts on Route 20)

Segment 1: Cannon Beach, Oregon to Casper, Wyoming

Segment 2: Casper, WY to Chicago, Illinois

Segment 3: Chicago, IL to Provincetown, MA

4) ATLANTIC COAST---New York City to Key West, Florida on Route 1

Segment 1: New York City, NY to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Segment 2: Myrtle Beach, SC to Key West, FL

5) ROAD TO NOWHERE---South Padre Island, Texas to Bismarck, North Dakota on Highway 83)

Segment 1: South Padre Island, TX to Liberal, KS

Segment 2: Liberal, KS to Bismarck, ND

6) APPALACHIAN TRAIL---Atlanta, Georgia to Gorham, New Hampshire on various routes including Blue Ridge Parkway

Segment 1: Atlanta, GA to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Segment 2: Gettysburg, PA to Gorham, NH

7) LONELIEST ROAD---San Francisco, CA to Ocean City, Maryland on Highway 50)

Segment 1: San Francisco, CA to Arches National Park, Moab, Utah

Segment 2: Arches National Park, Moab, UT to Kansas City, Missouri

Segment 3: Kansas City, MO to Ocean City, MD

8) GREAT RIVER ROAD---Grand Rapid, Minnesota to New Orleans, Louisiana on various routes along the Mississippi River

Segment 1: Grand Rapids, MN to St Louis, MO

Segment 2: St Louis, MO to New Orleans, LA

9) DIXIE OVERLAND HIGHWAY---Savannah, Georgia to San Diego, California on Highway 80)

Segment 1: Savannah GA to Shreveport, Louisiana

Segment 2: Shreveport, LA to El Paso, Texas

Segment 3: El Paso, TX to San Diego, CA


The Loneliest Road Route's first segment Roadtrips from San Francisco to Arches National Park. I believe it is named the Loneliest Road Route because part of the route is on the Loneliest Road in America, Highway 50 through Nevada.

Much of Route 66 is no longer in existence, but there are long sections of it where you drive back in time to a different era, like Route 66 in Oklahoma.

I must go work on my Sears Exploring My America audition video now...

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Hiking the Emerald Pools Trail in Zion Canyon with the Goober Twins

You looking at the Goober Twins, Wally and Big Ed, being Goobers on the Emerald Pools Trail in Zion National Park.

A couple of my fellow travelers, on this particular Roadtrip, were out of control acrophobes.

So, Wally holding on to Big Ed, on the edge of a precipice, really set off the acrophobes. The sudden appearance of the bright light, shining down on the misbehaving Goobers, indicated that, perhaps, something divine was on the side of the screaming acrophobes.

The Emerald Pools Trail is one of the 3 most heavily used in Zion. It is an easily hiked trail, with waterfalls, pools and rock formations to enjoy along the way.

You'll find several trails making up the Emerald Pools Trail. To get to the trailhead, from late March through November, that being the heavy tourist season, you'll have to park at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center and ride the shuttle. The rest of the year you can drive into the canyon and park at the Emerald Pools parking lot.

We simply walked from where we were staying at the Zion Lodge, to get to the Emerald Pools trailhead, taking a footbridge across the road.

The Lower Pool is .6 mile one way with a 69 foot elevation again. The Middle Pools is a 1 mile on way hike, gaining 150 feet. The Upper Pool is 1.5 miles one way, gaining 350 feet. Kayenta Trail is 1 mile one way, gaining 150 feet.

The Lower Pool Trail is paved and wheel chair accessible.

Me and my co-hikers, including the Goober Twins, did not make it to the Upper or Kayenta Trails. A group hike only moves as fast as your slowest hikers. I had some molasses on this particular Roadtrip. I hope to go back to Zion, some day, with no slow encumbrances.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Snowbound by a Blizzard in a Log Cabin at Grand Canyon's North Rim

You are looking at a mid October view of the Grand Canyon from the North Rim Lodge's patio.

We arrived the night before, not long before the sun set. 2 out of my Roadtrip party of 8 had not seen the Grand Canyon before.

We got called for our dinner reservations before we had time to look at the Grand Canyon before the sun went down.

About midnight wind turned wicked, followed by a blizzard of snow that left about a foot of the white stuff piled up. This made the morning view of the Grand Canyon a bit shrouded.

I had never been in a howling blizzard before, let alone a howling blizzard in a log cabin. I rather liked it. That is Big Ed leading Wanda through the snow to our log cabin.

The post-blizzard morning, on the way to breakfast, we learned that we were snowbound. The snow had closed the only escape route from the North Rim. Snow plows were being sent in from Utah, but it was not known how long it would take.

We were advised to be ready to get out of there when the snow plows made it through. Our next reservations were at the Zion Lodge. The National Park people had kindly informed their Zion counterparts of the situation, letting them know we'd be arriving late.

About noon the snowplows arrived. We quickly left. Soon the snow was behind us as the elevation dropped to the 4,000 feet level of Zion.

I highly recommend the North Rim of the Grand Canyon's log cabins in winter. We were told we were very lucky to experience that storm, that usually the North Rim is closed before the snows of winter arrive.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Manual Monument Valley View

New Year's Eve, 1994. I was Roadtripping from Flagstaff, Arizona to Moab, Utah. I'd spent the day before at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The day before that I was in Las Vegas. Before that Southern California.

I was driving my, then new, GMC Safari Van. As I drove along, enjoying the Painted Desert I looked up to see a scene that seemed real familiar. I pulled off the road and got out my van's manual.

The cover of the manual was the view I was looking at through my windshield, which you are looking at in the photo.

This was south of the turn off from Highway 163 that takes you to Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.

New Year's Eve, 1994 started off on Highway 89 out of Flagstaff. Then east on Highway 160. About 10 miles on to Highway 160 I got off the highway in Tuba City and went to one of the most unique McDonald's I've seen. Since I was in the Navajo Nation it should have come as no surprise to find the McDonald's Navajo themed.

Back on the road the next stop was in Kayenta at a Burger King. I'm sounding like a fast food addict. I had a good reason to stop at the Kayenta Burger King. I'd read there was an interesting museum there. And there was. It was dedicated to the Navajo Code Talkers. A story that had not been widely told at that point in time. This lapse has since been fixed. It was the first I'd learned of how the Navajo Nation had helped America win WWII .

At Kayenta I left Highway 160 behind and head north on 163. It was on 163 I saw my van's manual cover staring at me.

Shortly after leaving the Navajo Nation I came to a bridge across the San Juan River and saw the San Juan Inn in Mexican Hat for the first time. I wished I'd stayed there for the night, rather than continuing on to Moab. I didn't make that mistake the next time I was in the area, staying at the San Juan Inn the day I got off a Lake Powell Houseboat.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

California's San Clemente State Beach

That would be me, cooking breakfast, sometime in early spring, likely April, in the 1980s, at San Clemente State Beach in California.

I have many fond memories of this California location.

As a kid San Clemente was our home base for exploring Southern California. I remember so clearly the day we got to San Clemente. Us kids all had our tasks to do when setting up camp, helping set up the trailer, that type stuff.

Mom and dad could tell we were chomping at the bit to get to the beach. I remember mom saying, just go. And we did. To get to San Clemente State Beach a trail takes you down the steep cliffs to reach the Pacific Ocean.

It was in that part of the Pacific Ocean that I discovered the fun of body surfing. And what it felt like to get stung by a jellyfish.

Over the years I returned to San Clemente State Beach many times. I remember one particular time when I realized it'd been 13 years since I'd first stood above the San Clemente cliffs when I was only 13. For some reason this made me feel very melancholy looking out at the ocean and north to the sparkling lights along the shoreline.

When I first saw the town of San Clemente it was a small town. San Juan Capistrano is the next town north. It was also a small town. By the 1980s they were no longer small towns. Instead the towns had all joined together in the type of sprawl that happened all over America. I liked it better when they were still small towns.

Richard Nixon's Western White House, Casa Pacifica, was a very short distance south of San Clemente State Beach. I do not recollect ever seeing Mr. Nixon surfing.

San Clemente State Beach is located on the south end of the city of San Clemente in Orange County.

Location and Directions to San Clemente State Beach

Interstate 5 South
Exit Ave. Calafia
Proceed straight onto Ave. Calafia
San Clemente State Beach entrance will be on your left side in ¼ mile

Interstate 5 North
Exit Cristianitos Road
Turn left and proceed over the freeway
Turn right onto Ave. del Presidente
Turn left onto Ave. Calafia
San Clemente State Beach entrance will be on your left side in ¼ mile

Friday, June 25, 2010

Roadtripping Spirit Lake Highway to Mt. St. Helens Eruption Trail

If you're on a Roadtrip that takes you to the state of Washington, you likely will want to get as close as you can to Mount Saint Helens.

For years after the volcano erupted it was not easy to get close to the volcano.

But now, in 2010, it is easy to see Mt. St. Helens.

If you are driving south or north on Interstate 5, get off the freeway in Cowlitz and head east on Spirit Lake Highway 504 and drive for 52 miles to Johnston Ridge Observatory.

There are several Visitor Centers along the way. Each is worth a stop, with the final one, on Johnston Ridge, being the best, giving you a direct view of the crater and growing lava dome, a mere 5 miles in the distance.

To enter the Visitor Centers you'll need a Monument Pass. A Monument Pass cost $8 for adults. Kids 15 and younger are free.

On the east side of the entry to Johnston Ridge Observatory find your way to the trailhead of Eruption Trail.

This is an easy, 1 mile loop trail, paved and wheel chair accessible, with only 100 feet of elevation gain.

Walking the trail will give you a good luck at the destruction that occurred that fateful day in May, over 30 years ago. You'll see blast destroyed trees still littering the ground.

Interpretive signs explain various aspects of the cataclysmic event. At one point you'll come to the remains of a tree, with the tree leaving you a message in the first person, basically, a talking dead tree that says, “Within a minute, I was struck and scoured by the stone-filled wind. My bark and branches were stripped and scattered toward the edge of the blast zone, 17 miles away. As trees that had stood for hundreds of years crashed around me, my upper trunk stained, then shattered in the nearly 700 mph winds. Only a small part of me remains as evidence of the blast’s power.”

When you reach the top of Johnston Ridge you'll come to an overlook with points of interest pointed out to you.

From the overlook you begin your descent back to the observatory. You'll come to a memorial to the 57 who died that May 18 of 1980, including David Johnston, who's famous last words, uttered nearby, were "Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!"

You'll find other trails to explore, not paved, if you are feeling adventurous and want to see some more views of Mt. St. Helens and the damage done when the mountain blew. You'll also see many signs of Mother Nature recovering from the devastation.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Knott's Berry Farm & Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant

When I was a kid, 13 years old, on our first family vacation to Southern California we had several things we wanted to see. Disneyland, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Universal Studios, Surfing.

And Knott's Berry Farm.

In many ways I enjoyed Knott's Berry Farm the most. Back then it was not as slick an operation as Disneyland. Knott's Berry Farm had a homey feel to it.

And it had a Ghost Town. I've always been a sucker for a good Ghost Town.

When I first visited Knott's Berry Farm, Walter and Cordelia Knott were still alive.

The Ghost Town was Walt's inspiration. Walt began building the Ghost Town in 1940, hauling buildings from old west towns, like Prescott, Arizona. The Knott's Berry Farm Ghost Town took off. Walt added Old Trails Hotel, Bottle House & Music Hall, Covered Wagon Camp, Butterfield Stagecoach, Calico Square, the Calico Saloon, Calico Railway and Calico Mine Train.

By the 1980s Knott's Berry Farm was hugely bigger than when I first saw it. Knott's Berry Farm opened well before Disneyland. The two parks were so different that the two Walt's, Disney and Knott, did not see themselves as competitors. They were friends. The Knott's were invited to the Grand Opening of Disneyland. Walt Disney visited Knott's Berry Farm many times.

The current day version of Knott's Berry Farm is dominated by roller coaster type rides that dwarf the original Knott's Berry Farm and has turned the park into not quite the unique theme park it was when Walt and Cordelia Knott ran things.

Speaking of Cordelia, she is behind my favorite Knott's Berry Farm location, that being Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant.

In 1934, when times were tough, Cordelia began serving fried chicken dinners on her own wedding china. The restaurant was located on Highway 39. Back then a popular route to get to the ocean beaches. The restaurant soon became a stopping point for beachgoers.

Mrs. Knott's signature dessert was Boysenberry Pie. In the 1930s a man named Rudolph Boysen showed Walt a berry he had cultivated that combined raspberry, blackberry and loganberry. Walt bought a few plants from Boysen's farm and started selling the berries at his roadside Knott's Berry Farm stand. When berry buyers asked what the berries were called, Walt told them "Boysenberries."

On my latest visit to the Knott's Berry Farm area I stayed across the street from Disneyland. I went to Disneyland. I did not go to Knott's Berry Farm, except for Christmas Eve dinner at Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant.

I had to have myself some of that Boysenberry Pie. And Mrs. Knott's fried chicken is real good too.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Bear On My Car In Yellowstone National Park

That is a Yellowstone National Park bear talking to me through the window of my antique 1965 Mustang Fastback.

As you can see, this bear has stopped traffic.

When I was a kid, me and my siblings had to prove we could behave on lesser summer vacations, working our way up to going to Yellowstone when I was, I think, maybe 12 years old.

Yellowstone went well, so the next year we got to go to Disneyland and California for the first time.

On our first trip to Yellowstone we kept a tally of the animals we saw. If I remember right the bear total was over 30.

At some point in time Yellowstone changed how it managed the bears, so, nowadays, bear sightings are rare.

I remember camping at the Old Faithful Campground, suddenly we heard our mom screaming, standing on top of the picnic table. Because a big bear was lumbering through the camp, looking for food. I can remember this as if it were yesterday.

It was the weeks before my last year of college that I took myself to Yellowstone for the first time. Which is when the bear visited me in my Mustang.

That Roadtrip to Yellowstone had no particular destination. I remember hiking into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and remarking that this is one really grand canyon, let's go see the other Grand Canyon.

And so that Roadtrip headed south from Yellowstone, dropping in on Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park on the way to Grand Canyon. At that point in time I knew nothing about Bryce Canyon or Zion. They were a scenic revelation to me, the likes of which I did not know existed.

I have digressed away from Yellowstone. Yellowstone is big. On the first visit there were several surprises. One being how extensive the highway system is, complete with cloverleaf overpasses. And that there are several geyser basins, all with boardwalks.

I remember in one of the basins seeing a crowd gathered. A geyser was about to erupt that only did so every few weeks. Suddenly the water drained and then it erupted. People fled the blast of steam.

Yellowstone is heavily developed. The Old Faithful area is like a little town. But, you can easily get away from civilization.

I'm hoping a return Roadtrip to Yellowstone is in my near future.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Islands in the Sky in Canyonlands National Park Turned Me Into a Mountain Biker

You are looking at the Islands in the Sky in Canyonlands National Park in the picture.

The two humans in the picture are the Goober Twins, Big Ed and Wally.

I've been to the Islands in the Sky a few times. The view is an iconic American west landscape.

It is from that view, in 1994, that I decided to become a mountain biker.

It was part of a Roadtrip, near the end of December, 1994, that saw Disneyland on Christmas, the Richard Nixon Presidential Library & Museum (loved it), and then on to Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon and Moab.

It was a very cold, snowy New Year's Day that I saw Islands in the Sky for the first time. There was at least six inches of snow on the ground. But the roads were clear.

As I looked down on the river valley below I saw a pair of mountain bikers. I instantly saw the appeal of riding a bike through such scenery. I vowed to buy a mountain bike and return to Moab.

Within a month of getting back to Washington I bought my first mountain bike. Spring of 2005 I returned to Moab, with a group called MudSluts (a northwest term for mountain bike riders) and biked the Gemini Bridges Trail, the Slickrock Trail and the world infamous Porcupine Rim Trail.

I don't think I would have become a mountain biker if not for that moment of inspiration that hit me hard while enjoying the icy cold winter view from Islands in the Sky.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

My Favorite Hike: Bryce Canyon's Navajo Loop & Peek a Boo Trails

This morning I was on a hike in Texas, on a preserved area of Texas prairie, in Fort Worth, called the Tandy Hills Natural Area. As I hiked I started thinking about all the places I have hiked.

And then I started wondering which of the places I have hiked is a trail I would hike tomorrow if I could.

I thought of the hike to Lena Lake in Olympic National Park, the hike to Ozette Beach in Olympic National Park, the hike up Mount Baker, other Cascade Mountain trails, Delicate Arch Trail in Arches National Park, Bright Angel Trail into the Grand Canyon.

And then I remember Bryce Canyon National Park and the Navajo Loop Trail which leads to Peek a Boo Trail. I believe this is the most scenic, most amazing, most fun and one of the most challenging hikes I've been on.

One reason hiking in Bryce Canyon is challenging is the elevation. In the 8 to 9 thousand feet above sea level range. This makes it really easy to get an oxygen debt.

In the first picture you are looking at the series of switchbacks that take you down to the Navajo Loop. Note, like entering Grand Canyon, you are heading down at the start. That elevation must be regained later. By then you're hungry and likely thirsty.

When you go down below the canyon rim the trails draw you on. With Navajo Loop you soon come to a junction that connects to Peek a Boo Trail.

Before you know it you are several miles from where you started, hiking among an otherworldly display of rock formations.

I have hiked the Navajo Loop Trail on 2 different occasions, about 20 years apart. The first time I was not in great shape. The second time I was easily able to handle the high elevation, strenuous hiking.

Staying at Ruby's Inn at the entry to Bryce is a real good thing. Great restaurants, with a very good buffet to look forward to after burning a lot of calories seeing a lot of incredible scenery.

As I continue to think about it I may remember another hike that I like even better than the ones at Bryce Canyon, but I doubt that's going to happen.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Daydreaming a Roadtrip to Moab, the Slickrock Trail, Porcupine Rim, Arches, Canyonlands & Mexican Hat

This morning I found myself with no one to talk to, so, I asked myself, of the places I have enjoyed Roadtripping to, where would I go right now, if I could teleport myself to a destination.

Moab was my answer.

In the picture that is me on the left, Big Ed on the right, in the area of the Slickrock Trail.

Moab appeals to me for several reasons. One being the setting. Redrock canyon walls hover over Moab.

I don't know what it is about redrock, but just seeing it makes me very happy.

Moab at night is fun. There are a lot of shops to explore. And very good restaurants. And a brew pub, or two.

Unlike some tourist attractions, casinos in Reno and Las Vegas come to mind, Moab attracts a very healthy bunch of tourists. From all over the world people come to Moab to ride the world famous bike trails, like the Slickrock Trail and Porcupine Rim Trail.

I have mountain biked both the Slickrock Trail and Porcupine Rim Trail. Porcupine Rim Trail is the hardest I have ever biked. Exhausting. Incredible. But exhausting.

I am not alone in appreciating the charms of Moab. I read a book called Ghostrider by Neal Peart of the Canadian rock band, Rush. He waxed poetic about Moab being one of those rare tourist towns that you can't help but love.

The entry to Arches National Park is just a short distance north of Moab, Canyonlands National Park's Islands in the Sky district is a short distance further. A little further, to the south, is my favorite place to stay in Utah, the San Juan Inn in Mexican Hat. From Mexican Hat it is a short distance further south, to Arizona and Monument Valley. The treacherous Moki Dugway is just a short distance north and west of Mexican Hat.

In other words, Moab is close to a lot of my favorite places on the planet.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Staying at the Las Vegas KOA, 6 Motel, Excalibur, Luxor, Treasure Island & New York New York

I've stayed in the Luxor in Las Vegas once. Near the end of a long road trip that went through Moab, hiked the Fiery Furnace in Arches National Park, continued on to Durango, taking the Million Dollar Highway from Silverton, then Taos and south to Alamogordo and White Sands National Monument, Yuma and Algondones in Mexico and then Vegas.

I've stayed all over the place in Las Vegas. My very first time in Vegas I camped at a KOA. That sounds pathetic now. The next time I stayed at the Vegas 6 Motel. Equally pathetic and, I think the biggest 6 Motel in the world. It was awful.

After the 6 Motel stay in Vegas, which was New Year's Eve week, hence the unavailability, spur of the moment, of a nicer place to say, the next time to Vegas was near the end of another long Roadtrip, that being my first Lake Powell Houseboating trip, staying at Excalibur.

I like the Excalibur pool.

The next trip to Las Vegas was over Thanksgiving in 1996, staying at Treasure Island. I liked staying at Treasure Island, except my room was about 12 stories above the Treasure Island pirate show, which is a bit on the noisy side, what with cannons and guns booming.

The next time to Vegas was with my nephews, we stayed at Excalibur. I think I already mentioned I like the Excalibur pool.

My most recent time in Vegas I stayed at New York New York. I liked it. But it was in early January, so the pool was not relevant.

Staying in the Luxor pyramid was the most challenging hotel stay I've ever had. I was on, I think, the 8th floor. There are "inclinators" at each corner of the pyramid. When you exit the "inclinator" it is confusing to find your room. Go left? Go right? In the room the outer wall is steeply sloped, due to that pyramid thing. I'd stay in Luxor again. I enjoy the feeling of being lost.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Death Valley Badwater & Zabriskie Point

You are looking at my nephews in Death Valley. That is Joey pointing at his brother, Jason, at Zabriskie Point.

My nephews took me to Las Vegas prior to me moving from Washington to Texas.

The nephews were lounging next to the Excalibur pool when I read that that particular August day there was a good chance that the temperature record for Death Valley might be broken. That record is 134 degrees at Furnace Creek.

The nephews were on board with trying to experience a record breaking temperature. Sadly, it was not to be. If I remember right the high turned out to be 126.

Our route to Death Valley, from Las Vegas, was via Pahrump, location of a legal brothel or two. The nephews saw a billboard referencing those type establishments. I don't remember how hard they lobbied to visit one. I do remember I firmly said NO.

By the time we made it to 282 feet below sea level, at Badwater, it was HOT. Really HOT.

From Badwater we continued on to Zabriskie Point. We had our swimming suits with us. I tried to convince the nephews that a swim at Stovepipe Wells' pool would be a really good thing. But, they preferred continuing with our Roadtrip tour of Death Valley.

Eventually we made it back to Las Vegas to a really good buffet at the Monte Carlo Casino.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Getting Dounts, Coffee, Haircuts and Viagra in Algondones, Baja California, Mexico

You are looking south at the border crossing from California to Algodones, Baja California, Mexico.

Algodones is a short distance from Yuma, Arizona, which makes this Mexican border town a big shopping destination for the army of retired people who populate the area.

There are countless pharmacies in Algodones, with pharmacy hawkers trying to direct you inside. I remember a memorable visit, with my mom and dad, when a pharmacy hawker said to me, "You sir, you look like you could use the Viagra, bargain prices."

Most of the streets are not paved in Algodones. You explore a big labyrinth of shops, like a maze, finding all sorts of good stuff. And things to eat. My mom and dad had a favorite bakery, where they'd go for donuts and coffee after getting dental work or a haircut in Algodones. My mom and dad being so free-spirited surprised me.

I've not crossed the border into Mexico at Algodones since 2000. I do not know if passports are now required, like is now mandatory to cross into Canada. I hope it is still easy to walk across the border to Algodones.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Roadtripping to Disneyland Over and Over Again

In front of the Matterhorn, in Disneyland, stands Maxine & Miss McP, with Big Ed in the middle. This visit to Disneyland occurred sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s.

Disneyland has been the destination of more of my Roadtrips than any other place.

I was 13 on the best family vacation ever, when I went to Disneyland for the first time. At that point in time the pay one price and go on any ride you want, as often as you want, method had not been invented.

Instead, upon entry, you got a booklet type thing with tickets. An "A" ticket got you a ride on the less popular attractions, with the tickets ascending from "A" to "E" with the "E" tickets getting you on the best attractions like the Matterhorn and Pirates of the Caribbean.

When we were kids we'd pace ourselves with the tickets. I remember mom and dad buying us a booklet of just "E" tickets when we ran out.

There were 2 family trips to Disneyland when I was a kid. The week I graduated from high school I took off for California and Disneyland and Tijuana. The years that followed, for maybe 2 decades, saw a trip to California about once a year.

The last time I went to Disneyland was Christmas of 1995. That is a long time ago. Since then new rides have opened, like the Indiana Jones Adventure. And Disney California has opened in what was the parking lot the last time I visited Disneyland.

I came close to a visit to Disneyland over Christmas week of 2000. I'd been up in Washington, heading to Texas, with a visit to my mom and dad in Yuma, Arizona, on the way. The route to Yuma went through the eastern edge of the Los Angeles metro zone, hence within easy distance of Disneyland. But, I resisted the temptation and had a fun Christmas with mom and dad in Yuma.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Delicate Arch in Arches National Park

You are looking at one of my all time favorite pictures, taken at one of my all time favorite places.

Arches National Park in the great state of Utah.

I can barely remember who that is standing behind me, but behind her is Delicate Arch, an arch that is pretty much the iconic symbol of Utah.

Legend has it that a map maker mixed up Delicate Arch with Landscape Arch. Landscape Arch, which is truly delicate, was supposed to be so-named, while Delicate Arch, which does sit like a part of the landscape, was also supposed to be so-named.

Turns out the accidental naming of Delicate Arch is a myth.

The trail that leads to Delicate Arch is my 2nd favorite in Arches National Park, with my favorite being the ranger led Fiery Furnace Hike.

To find Delicate Arch, from the Arches National Park entry drive 11.7 miles to the Wolfe Ranch/Delicate Arch turn-off. Drive another 1.2 miles to the Delicate Arch trailhead parking zone. There is limited parking, so try to go during the off-peak time of the day and year, if possible.

The hike is slightly strenuous, with some elevation gain. Some parts of the trail might make an acrophobic mildly squeamish. You can see part of the trail that might cause some to be a bit acrophobic in the video below.

Soon upon starting your hike to Delicate Arch you will walk past the remains of the John Wesley Wolfe Ranch, built in 1888, abandoned in 1910. Next you will cross Salt Wash on a suspension bridge.

The trail route is heavily traveled and easy to follow. As you get near Delicate Arch you will pass Frame Arch, so named because the arch acts as a picture frame for photos of Delicate Arch. At this point the trail is on a ledge blasted from sandstone, and is the part of the trail referenced above that might make those who suffer from acrophobia a bit weak in the knees.

You turn a corner and are in full view of Delicate Arch. Do not climb on the arch. Do not linger too long under the arch, as this is considered bad manners, making it difficult for others to get the personal photo they want to get.

Delicate Arch Trail
Length: 1.5 miles One-Way.
Time: 1 1/4 hours One-Way.
Trailhead: 4,300'
Arch Elevation: 4,800'
Skill Rating: Easy, there is nothing difficult.
Season: Year Round

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Taking a Mt. St. Helens Roadtrip 30 Years After the Volcano Erupted

Thirty years ago, yesterday, May 18, 1980, Mt. St. Helens erupted in one of the biggest volcanic explosions in recorded history.

Thirty years later you can drive to within a few miles of Mt. St. Helens' crater, looking right into it from the Johnston Ridge Observatory.

The Roadtrip to the Johnston Ridge Observatory is on a new highway that is a feat of engineering, taking you deep into the blast zone.

Watch the video below for a very good idea of what a Roadtrip to Mt. St. Helens is like...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Roadtripping in Texas to New Braunfels & the Schllitterbahn

Who wants to go Roadtripping with me to the Hill Country of Texas, to New Braunfels, where wildflowers are coloring up the hills?

In New Braunfels you can get off the road on into what many believe to be the World's #1 Waterpark. That being Schlitterbahn.

Schlitterbahn means Slippery Road in German. New Braunfels is one of several towns founded by Germans. I believe New Braunfels was founded by a German prince who hoped to start a German town, but his girlfriend, Sophie, balked at coming to America. The prince went back to Germany, married Sophie, and never returned to the town he founded.

I have only been to a couple Waterparks. One being at Cultus Lake in British Columbia. That's in Canada. The other being in Reno. Or was it Sparks by Reno? Both Reno and Sparks are in Nevada.

The Cultus Lake and Reno Waterparks are puny compared to New Braunfels' Schlitterbahn.

The Master Blaster looks fun. As does the Dragon Wave and the Boogie Wave. I may have the names slightly wrong.

You can see Master Blaster, Dragon Wave and Boogie Wave in the below YouTube video...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I Am In A Moab Utah Redrock State Of Mind

It's been a while since I Roadtripped through Utah. I think the last time may have been the Roadtrip that was also my move to Texas.

Moab was on the route I chose to get from Washington to Texas. Keys were accidentally locked in the moving truck while in Moab. This made for a longer than planned stop in Moab. That was a good thing.

Utah has some of my favorite places I've been to on the planet.

There's Mountain Biking in the Moab area, Houseboating on Lake Powell, the Fiery Furnace hike in Arches National Park, the amazing hikes in Bryce Canyon National Park, boating into Rainbow Bridge on Lake Powell, staying overnight at the San Juan Inn in Mexican Hat, hiking in Zion National Park, the view from Islands in the Sky in Canyonlands National Park, driving down the Moki Dugway and a lot of other good stuff I'm not remembering right now.

I saw a State of Utah Tourism ad last night. That ad put Utah on my mind. The video below also put Utah on my mind. I think I need to move to Moab....