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Diary 13

15 Sep.

Picked Nick up at the airport last night.
Got a hire car (they didn't have the car we wanted so we got a minivan for the same cost).

Quick shower & change and hit the strip.

We drank & chatted till 2 am.
Just catching up with the few months we haven't seen each other.

Wandering through the MGM a cute girl walked up to Nick and hugged him saying "Pete, how are you, I haven't seen you for ages". She stepped back & continued very quietly "There's a guy bugging me & I want to loose him".
She then hugged me saying loudly "Dave, long time no see".
At that point her friend came over & said "That worked, he's gone"
She thanked us & her and her friend wandered off.
A distinctly odd experience.

This morning we headed for Death Valley.

Damn it was hot.

Artists drive & Dante's peak were both closed for road construction, which was a shame, but Devils Golf course was as strange as usual.

Mid afternoon we were back in Vegas on the strip.

Wandered through Mandaley Bay and Luxor.
Huge and strange buildings.

After a couple of pints of Guinness in 'Nine Fine Irishmen' we went looking for a casino with low table limits.
If we were going to gamble then losing money slowly seemed like a good idea.

Three card poker.
After about twenty hands where we stayed about even, Nick got a straight flush.
A few hands later I got a straight flush.
We both started with $60, Nick left the table with $225 & I left with $300.

Roulette wasn't quite as profitable.
Nick lost $20 & I lost $4.

16 Sep.

Nick followed in the car as I rode the bike to Escape Eagles Motorcycle Rentals on West Desert Inn.
They had agreed to stash my bike for the week that we are touring.
I drove down the road but couldn't see the shop.
Pulled a U-turn and headed back down the street.
After a while I noticed that Nick wasn't behind me.
I pulled over & waited but he didn't turn up.
I guessed that he had found the shop and was waiting.
I U-turned again and that was exactly what had happened.

The folks at the shop were real friendly, and seemed happy with the bottle of 12 year old Highland Park that I gave them as a thank you.

A couple of hours later we're in Zion National Park.
Nick is suitably impressed with the scenery.

After doing the shuttle bus trip and a bit of hiking we headed east through the tunnel & hiked to the viewpoint looking down on the entry.

Kanab for the night.

'Denny's wigwam' is as always - full cowboy gear & tourist heaven.

17 Sep.

Gassed up and headed for Bryce.

So Nick - What's Bryce like ?
"It's not real is it !"

As an introduction to the strangeness of southern Utah perhaps I was a little harsh in dropping Nick straight into Bryce.
It is one of the weirder places.
Beautiful - but weird.

Nick - "There's a quiet spirituality about it"
Strange and exotic scenery does effect people. The landscape of southern Utah is so very different to anything you find in Europe that it does grab people by the gut, or heart (I'm never sure), and drags their perception to somewhere new.

Wandered south checking the viewpoints till Rainbow Point at 9,000 ft.
That (as has been pointed out to me) is two Nevises - a third of an Everest.
Hiking down to the valley floor looked wonderful.
Hiking back up is something that other people do.

Lunch and a final view and we headed north on Hwy. 12.

The views change every few miles.
The variety of scenery is always stunning (writing this the following day Nick has become blasé - the brilliant rock formations have been changing every half hour for the last day and a half).
Nick - always acutely observant, accurately stated "You don't see that in Surrey"

We took a side tour (me writing this Nick just said "Oh yes" - There are so many absolutely gob smackingly stunning sights that he had forgotten one from yesterday - it really is that full on). The first 15 miles of the 'Burr Trail' drops into a canyon with sheer red cliff faces. Just another beautiful southern Utah site.

By the time we got to Torrey for the night it was getting dark & we were both shattered.
A great meal at 'the usual diner whose name we can't remember' was a fitting end to a great day.

18 Sep.

Up and out early in the cold.
Fall really has reached here.

A couple of early stops in Capitol Reef National Park before hitting Blondies in Hanksville for breakfast.

Torrey is a small village with maybe 100 residents.
Approaching Hanksville "What's Hanksville like ?"
"Like Torrey - but smaller"
I'm not sure I was believed.
These places are marked on the map but they are tiny. Two minutes and it's in the rear view mirror, but here they are the biggest community for hundreds of miles.

Twenty miles north is Goblin Valley.
A small state park.
Nick - "Wow - I think I'm going to like this place"
It looked like it had rained recently so the ground was remarkably virgin, few footprints in the sand.
Strange formations on every side, each with it's own personality watching us patiently as we meandered through their domain.
They change shape behind your back and open and close gaps when you glance the wrong way.
Don't get me wrong - I'm not imbuing these rock structures with any intelligence - but they do sneak up behind you and follow you through the desert.

Back to Hanksville for lunch (Blondies of course) then the boring road to Blanding.
Boring meaning twisty roads through red cliffed canyons, Henry Mountains on the side, a stunning overview of Lake Powell, bridges over the Dirty Devil and Colorado rivers, strange selection of mesas & buttes before taking the turning to the top of the Moki Dugway.

We didn't drive the Dugway - just went down to the first overlook.
That was enough.
That view is enough reward for a trip like this - and isn't the best view of the day.
Nick was somewhat wary driving this section "Honest, it is a road and this car will do it, just down a few corners".
"You're kidding"
"Trust me"

Back at the top of the Dugway we took the dirt road to Muley Point for the overview of the Goosenecks of the San Juan & Monument valley (Tomorrow's tour).

Another day in the strange and beautiful scenery of southern Utah.

19 Sep.

Beautiful blue sky.

Headed south to the Goosenecks of the San Juan.
Another "Wow" moment for Nick.

Continued south through Mexican hat.
"What's Mexican Hat like"
"Like Hanksville but smaller"

Monument Valley Navaho Tribal Park.
I'm kinda running out of superlatives here.

After a look round the gift shop we booked a back country guided tour.
Tom turned up in a Jeep, Nick climbed into the back with me & Tom in the front and off we set, bouncing from rock to rock down the trail that can only be roughly described as 'road'.
Two and a half hours of John Ford country.
We got the history of all the movies filmed here, with prompting we got the history of the Navaho and a little personal history of Tom.
We stopped at the usual sights, Eye of the Sun, Ear of the Wind, Big Hogan, Sand Springs, North Window and a few others.
The mesas and buttes change shape & colour as you tour the valley and, even though I've been there a few times before, still constantly surprise and confound.
It's difficult to describe Monument Valley to someone who has never been there, and the pictures only do it a little justice.

Late lunch in Tuba City.
A quick stop at the Little Colorado overlook and into Grand Canyon National Park.

Just said to Nick "Grand Canyon?".
He smiled & shook his head.
No words.

20 Sep.

Every year I have a summer picnic.
At last year's picnic I informed people "sorry guys, there won't be a picnic next year coz I'll be in the US"
I was greeted with a chorus of "That's not good enough"
So I decided to have the picnic today at Grand Canyon.
I informed all the picnic regulars of the place & time knowing that there was little chance of anyone turning up but the challenge had been set.
Because I had published the fact I would be in this area at this time, Nick said "I wouldn't mind holidaying in that area". That thought turned into Nick's current trip.

Sitting in the bar last night, Anne & Ian walked in.
They are here for the picnic and I'd arranged to meet them in that bar at 8 p.m.
For some strange reason I neglected to mention to Nick that they would be turning up.
The surprise for Nick was total.
It's good to be able to drop happy surprises on friends.

Met up with Anne & Ian again for breakfast then took in the IMAX show (recommended).
Quick stop at the store for picnic supplies then off to wander the Grand Canyon rim.

We walked the first three or four viewpoints then the rain came in.
I've seen the Canyon in many lights but never before in the rain.
Parts of the view came & went as areas of cloud and rain obscured the scenery.

On a couple of occasions the air became highly charged. We started getting static shocks from the railings and everyone's hair stood on end. I got real nervous as ionising air is a good sign that you are about to be struck by lightening.
We did watch the lightening bounce around us and the thunder echoed around the canyon for up to twenty seconds but thankfully no strikes were within a mile.

Picking up busses to dodge the rain we made our way to Hermits Rest (the end of the rim road) stopping only at overlooks without rain. Obviously as soon as we were off the bus the rain would start again in earnest and we spent half the time sheltering under mostly porous trees.

At Pima Point a story board with a roof provided enough shelter for the four of us to actually have the picnic.
Rolls, cheese, salami, oddly eaten tomatoes, occasional fruit for a main course with 'artificially flavoured chocolate donuts' for desert (it is a bit of a culture shock to discover that Americans can consider these 'food').

Hermits Rest provided a chance to buy stuff, shoo off over fed squirrels, drink coffee and plan the return trip.

The two return stops that the shuttle makes were the two that we hadn't stopped at on the way up so we picked up Mohave Point and stayed at Hopi point for sunset.
When we got there the sun was cloud hidden but it looked like there was a gap in the distance for the sun to light the canyon just before setting.
We didn't get to witness a full sunset, but the final few minutes when the light broke through were magnificent.
The other side of the coin being that if the sky had been totally clear we wouldn't have had the lightening display and the view of distant rain storms.

Steak house for supper with the scary waitress then a couple of beers.
Up early tomorrow for sunrise.

21 Sep.

Up at 05:30 for sunrise at Yavasu point at 06:28.
Well that was the plan, but the alarm clock didn't go off.
Nick woke me at 06:05. We were out the door by 06:10 and at the overlook by 06:30.
Bastard !
We did catch most of the 'sun picking up the monuments inside the canyon' but missed the 'first orange over the end of the world' moment.

Breakfast, packed up & headed south.

Wandered east a bit and spent an hour or so at Barringers crater, the best preserved meteor crater around.

Back into Flagstaff & into a hotel in the middle of downtown.
Freshen up then a wander found us in an Irish bar watching Liverpool Vs Man U (probably recorded. Nil nil dull game).

Today is a down day, no big monuments, no timetable, no huge mileage.
Chilling in a bar that served Guinness was a good unwind.

Later we ate some & drank some.

Like I say - a down day.

22 Sep.

I'm in a Vegas casino hotel room & I'm not sober - let's see how the diary goes.

Flagstaff is a real nice place. The evening there was pleasant & relaxing.
There are trains running through Flagstaff.
There are rail crossings in Flagstaff next to downtown.
Trains blow their whistles before rail crossings.
I had ear plugs in.
Nick didn't.
He now hates the sound of train whistles and is a little tired.
I feel wonderful.
(I gave him a set of plugs but he didn't use them)

We were up early for some reason.

Breakfast in Williams then we picked up Route 66 at Seligman.
I got Nick to drive this section coz it sounds better to say "I drove route 66"

North from Kingman to the Hoover Dam.
We did the tour - Having spent time in natures created wonders, man made wonders provide an interesting contrast.

Checked into Circus Circus.
Cabbed down to the Tropicana junction to meet up with Anne & Ian again.
Drank & walked our way up the strip.

No details - Vegas is Vegas.
If you've been here you'll understand how time & place blurs.
If you haven't been here then a thousand words wouldn't start to explain.

We did check three Bellagio fountain shows.


23 Sep.

We drank beer last night.
We didn't get up too early this morning.

I said to the folks at work before I left that I didn't want an MP3 player coz I wouldn't use one.
I bought an iPod.

We went and picked up the bike from Escape Eagles - the guys who had stashed it for the week.
I am stunningly grateful to those guys.
Some sportsbike rider that they have never met want's to stash a bike for a week & this Harley rental shop says "yea, no problem, leave it here"
And they were enjoying the whisky.

Back to Circus Circus to dump the shopping & play with the iPod.

In the afternoon we walked to the Stratosphere & got a view of Vegas from the sky.
The tables in their casino held our interest for a few hours before we called it a day.

Nick heads home tomorrow.

24 Sep.

Up, breakfast, packed then parted.

Nick headed for the airport.

I rode across the Mojave desert.

Diary 15