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 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.