Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Las Vegas, Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon

17th, 18th and 19th July

This morning we started heading west towards Las Vegas and the desert...a lot of desert. It was an interesting drive with some stunning flat scenery and the hills in the background half hidden in a heat haze. And boy was it hot!

Arrived in Las Vegas in the afternoon and I couldn't stop looking around as we drove in. I could already see an Egyptian pyramid, and we drove by New York and a medieval castle! The strip did look a bit dull in the daytime but it was still fascinating and pretty tacky in a good way.

We were staying at the MGM Grand and after driving around endless roads and carpark levels, we finally worked out where to go. Neither of us was too keen to leave the bikes on the back of Hobbes the jeep, so I asked at the desk if we could leave them in the luggage storage. But no we couldn't, so the only thing to do was get Birdy and Alan's bike and wheel them through the lobby and the casino, though it was tempting to ride them through. Luckily we were on the ground floor and didn't have to negotiate the lift full of people.

The MGM Grand.

So....I have to tell you about my big Vegas win. As we were walking through the MGM casino, I said to Alan I have to play a pokie machine at least once while I am here. I had no small change so he gave me $5 in coins and told me to walk around until a machine "spoke" to me. Well none did, so I sat down and put through $4 and won zero, then I lent over to the machine next to me, dropped in the last dollar and won $20! You would have thought it was $200,000 the way I reacted. So off I went to collect my winnings, well actual Alan's winnings as it was his dollar that won but I was feeling very pleased with myself that I won in Vegas!

Now it was time to explore The Strip and check out all these casinos. Alan wanted to take me to The Venetian which is his favourite one and it was unbelievable. Once you go inside these casinos you have no idea what time it is, there are no windows, no clocks, the ceilings was painted exactly like the sky on a sunny day and they are huge. The shops are amazing...very much designer label in the Venetian and well out of my price range but it was fun to stroll by and window shop.

After having total sensory overload wandering around The Venetian, we strolled up the strip, grabbed some dinner in New York, New York (I think) and made our way back to the MGM Grand for something I was really looking forward to. 

I have never seen a Cirque du Soleil show and it is one of the stage shows I always wanted to see. Alan knew this and it was a big part of why we came to Vegas on our roadtrip. He got us tickets to a Cirque du Soleil show!! They have a permanent stage set up in one of the theatres at the MGM Grand and stage his favourite show Ka.
I can't even begin to describe how wonderful this show was...it was brilliant. The costumes were incredible and the acrobatics were amazing. The time just flew by and I didn't want the show to end. It was all so stunning and also very personal, it didn't feel like I was sitting in a large theatre with other people, you just get so engrossed in the performance and everything else fades away.

After the show we went to look at the fountain show at the Bellagio Casino, then wandered back to the MGM. The strip at night with all the lights is pretty spectacular and its a great place to people watch, especially the ones drinking daiquiri slushies out of plastic pint glasses or even worse...plastic Eiffel Tower glasses that are about a metre long!

I did enjoy seeing Las Vegas and its the sort of place that is kind of a must see, but only once. One night was enough for me, unless you are taking in a few shows, it could get pretty boring if you don't want to sit in a casino and gamble all day.

Leaving Las Vegas.
So we headed off the next day to a place called called Williams. This was our overnight stop so we could get the train to the Grand Canyon, but first we had to go visit the Hoover Dam. It was on my "to do" list, we have a thing about dams in our family. My dad worked for the Sydney Water Board as the Principal Survey Draughtsman, and we would often go visit the Water Board dams and have family picnics. I do love dams.

What can I say. The Hoover dam is an amazing feat of engineering and to appreciate it you really need to do the tour that takes you down inside the dam wall. Once inside you can see how beautifully designed and built it is, the floors are all terrazzo with inlay motifs. Well worth paying the money for the tour.

After the tour we started to walk across the top of the dam but it was sooo hot. There was a hot breeze blowing that felt like someone had a hairdryer on high pointing at you. We did walk to the border between Nevada and Arizona on the dam wall so I could hop from state to state and two different time zones. The picture below shows where the water level use to be on Lake Mead, and where it is now due to the drought. When you multiply that by the size of the lake, that is an awful lot of water.

Leaving the Hoover Dam the scenery was very barren desert country and it really does have a beauty to it. The colours in the rocks are so subtle, it makes the whole desert look pastel.

So it was onto Williams...we didn't really have time to investigate the town, but driving through it to the hotel it looked slightly like a wild west film set to me. I'm not sure if it was built to look that way for the tourists or if towns like that actually exist!

We were up bright and early the next day to catch the train to the Grand Canyon. I really enjoyed the trip up, just staring out the window watching the scenery go by. It was a great way to get there and gave Alan a day off driving too.

Walking up from the train station to the edge of the Grand Canyon I wasn't sure what to expect. Of course I had seen photos of it and thought I "knew" what it looked like, but nothing can prepare you for the sheer beauty of it. To say I was overwhelmed doesn't seem to be enough, seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time made me cry. It is so beautiful, so vast, the size of it is mind blowing and the colours, the way they change all the time is spectacular. The weather was perfect and the clouds added so much to the experience, watching the shadows they make playing over the canyon.

We had all day to spend walking around and that's exactly what we did. They have a great walking track all around the edge of the canyon, you can walk down into it (or ride a mule down) but that is not a quick nor easy hike. One day I would like to go back and hike to the bottom and camp, just to see the view looking up.
Its so hard to explain how seeing something like this makes you feel and that is also something that you can't capture with photos. 

There are a few buildings on the edge of the canyon that have now been converted to galleries/gift shops and a museum.

We were due to catch the train back to Williams in the afternoon and about lunchtime the rain clouds rolled in. Its an amazing spectacle watching the weather change over such a vast landscape and it changed the whole look of the canyon. Then it all cleared and the sun came back out for a while.

Just as we were walking back to the train station it started to pour with rain, a real deluge and we both got saturated. But hopping back onto the train we had a couple of glasses of red wine and soon warmed up. They have entertainment on the train and we had a singing cowboy for part of the way back. (Its amazing how 2 glasses of red wine can make a person think they are singing Zip a dee doo dah in tune!) Then the train got held up by bandits on horses, riding alongside the carriage before jumping onto the train and trying to rob us. It was all pretty touristy but sooo much fun!!!

So back to Williams and then we headed off down the road to Sedona. Alan had booked a place in Sedona for 5 nights and we both were looking forward to being in the one place for a while.

Thankyou Alan for taking such beautiful photos of the Grand Canyon, most of them are his.

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