BootsnAll Travel Network

Moab and Las Vegas

After leaving Monticello, Utah, I drove the last fifty miles to Moab where I was to meet up with Tiphanie (whom I previously met in Nepal) at the Love Muffin (a muffin shop not a strip club or adult themed store). Moab is a very trendy and somewhat hippy or artsy town. It is most well known for its world class mountain biking trails. The downtown is full of outfitting stores and shops offering tours into the surrounding countryside. Arriving at the Love Muffin, I went into the shop and it took me a little while to find her as I haven’t seen her in nearly 1.5 years. After spending some time catching up,  we headed out to do some sightseeing. We first stopped at rafting company to reserve two duckies (single person inflatable rafts) to do some rafting down the Colorado River the next day by ourselves. Then we headed to Arches National Park which isn’t far from Moab.

Arches is a very small national park know for its many rock arches. Because of its small size the majority of the park can be seen in a few hours which is exactly what we did. We spent about 3 hours or so driving around the park and hiking to some the of the arches. The LaSal mountains provided a great backdrop to the red rocks in the park as their tops were still heavy with snow.

After we left the park we stopped out a thrift store called Wabi Sabi which is a hippy outdoor version of the Salvation Army. The store sells used clothing, books, and outdoor gear. Tiphanie and I both needed river sandals for the rafting trip the next day. I had left mine at home as I had not orginally planned on doing any rafting. I managed to find a pair for $5.00 that fit reasonably well. Now I have two pair. A nicer pair for those fancy whitewater rafting occasions one will sometimes run into and an everyday pair. Shoes in hand we went to the house of some friends (Cody – a humvee offroad tour guide and Melissa – a cowgirl at a nearby ranch) she had in Moab where we would be staying while in town. After visiting with Cody and Melissa for a while the four of us went out to the movies to watch the new X-Men movie.

In the morning, Tiphanie and I picked up the duckies and drove to the take out point on the river. We left one car there and then drove to the launch site. At the launch site several rafting companies were launching boats in addition to us. We got in our boats and set off down the river.  The rapids on the river were class II and one very mild class III. The water was mildly cold. While the rapids were fun, it was the scenery that made the trip. Red rocks rose up on the river banks with the snowy LaSal mountains in the distance. I was more inclined to float down the river whereas Tiphanie wanted to paddle a bit more so it took us a while to find a compromise. We spent about three hours are so on the water. After loading the boats onto the car we drove them back to town and returned them to the rafting company.

We ate lunch at a Thai restaurant and then went to a winery that we had passed on the way to the boat launch point. We did a wine tasting and I ended up buying a red wine that I originally intended to be taken to dinner that night. Returning to the house, we waited for Cody and Melissa to get home so we could go mountain biking. I originally wasn’t going to go as I didn’t have a bike. Melissa who is pregnant ended up not feeling well so I used her bike. Cody, Tiphanie, and I drove a long distance down a dirt road to get to the bike trail.  I had to get them to give me a few pointers before we set off. While I can ride a bike and have rode down dirt trails in the past, I have never had the opportunity to ride on anything so extreme. The trail was very narrow in spots and went up and down inclined rock faces. I walked my bike in quite a few spots as I didn’t feel my skill level was up to the challenge and I didn’t have a helmet. Despite my precautions, I still ended up with a bruise when after descending a very steep section I ran into a sawed off tree. This caused the pedals to slam back into my leg. The trail went along a ridge with a steep drop off. As it was nearing sunset, we got some great views over the surrounding countryside. We celebrated the bike ride by drinking the bottle of wind I had bought. When we returned to the house, Melissa still wasn’t feeling well so we ordered take out Mexican food instead of going out to eat.

After a breakfast at the Love Muffin the next morning, I left Moab to begin the long trip back to Las Vegas. I planned to make the trip in two days and stop at several national parks along the way. After going down some very desolate highways, I reached Capital Reef National Park. This national park is somewhat out of the way and not visited by lots of people (relative to say Zion or Bryce). The road through the park went through a narrow belt of farmland and orchards surrounded by a red walled cliffs. My first stop was to look at some petroglyphs. I then diverted from the main highway and took a side road that ended in a dirt road through a very narrow canyon. The canyon, in the past, had a trail and then a road all the way through it and in spots one could see graffiti from the late 19th and early 20th century. Today the road ended at a parking lot and you had to walk the rest of the way through the canyon (thats progress for you).

After leaving the park I turned on Highway 12 which was to take me through Bryce and Zion National Parks. The road was amazing to drive down. It soon began to climb in altitude and the terrain changed from scrubland to Ponderosa Pine forests. As the road continued to climb the pines gave way to forest of white Aspen trees. The road topped out at 9600 ft. All along the way one could look out great distance over the rocky Utah landscape. The highway then entered Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Here the drive took on an unusual twist. I have been on many paved roads that have sheer drop offs on one side of the highway. Here the road had dropoffs of hundreds of feet on both sides as the road followed an exposed ridgeline.

As it was getting late in the day, I decided to try to find a place to camp. My first choice was a campground 10 miles off the main road in a state park. After driving 10 miles out of my way, I found out it was full and had to return to the main highway.  I drove on to Tropic, Utah. I saw a sign for motel, RV park, campground. They let me use an RV space for $10 which was a great deal as it also had free showers. I parked the car and set up camp for the night. I cooked some noodles on my camp stove and then watched a movie on my laptop before going to bed.

Waking up early, I headed for Bryce Canyon. Bryce Canyon is known for its rock formations which rise in skinny spires called hoodoos. The entrance fee to the park was $25 which I thought was steep for its size. I decided not to go into the park and instead I took a detour to a scenic overlook which gave me an idea (albeit on a small scale) of what the rock formations in the park would have looked like.

 Having skipped Bryce, I was able to make to Zion Park early enough in the day to spend a few hours there and still make it to Las Vegas in a reasonable time. The road into Zion Park was built around the 1930’s. It was considered very expensive in its day as it clung to the canyon wall to avoid disrupting the ecosystem on the valley floor. The road was built using local rock from the area so it was red instead of the usual black or grey asphalt.  The road passed through the Mt Carmel tunnel which is too small to accommodate the size of modern RV’s in both lanes of traffic. If you bring an RV you have to pay an extra $15 to hire an escort to take you through the tunnel. The entrance fee to the park was again $25. After paying the fee, I parked my car and caught a shuttle into the park as most cars are no longer allowed.

Zion National Park is known for its white limestone cliffs which are some of the tallest in the world.  They line the canyon rising hundreds of feet into the air. The scenic park road takes you through the canyon along side a stream. The inside of the canyon is full of large cottonwood trees. A landslide once blocked up the stream causing a lake to form which lasted a few thousand years. This caused a lot of silt to build up the canyon and when the lake finally drained away fertile topsoil was left behind. I did several hikes in the park to various waterfalls. The park road ended where the canyon got too narrow and the stream began to take up the entire canyon. People can normally hike further up the canyon in the stream but the water levels were too high making it dangerous to do so.  An interesting side note is that Zion appears to attract Germans just like Death Valley seems to attract the French. Unfortunately I only know a few phrases in German.

1. Was ist das? (What is that?) As the park was full of informative signs, I didn’t need to use that phrase.

2. Ich würde ein Eis mögen. . (I would like some ice cream.) I am sure the German tourists would be fascinated to know this but it would make for a short conversation. I also didn’t see many of them with ice cream as no eating was allowed on the bus. When I went to Germany a few years ago, this was the only phrase I knew. After several days I managed to find an ice cream shop and was so excited to get to use my one phrase. I went for it with what I thought was perfect pronunciation and enunciation. Expecting to see the workers behind the counter all hold up signs with big 10s written on them, I looked up and saw only a sea of blank stares.

3. Schnarchen ist verboten. (Snoring is forbidden.) I didn’t see many Germans suffering from sleep apnea so again not so useful.

4. $*#$% ($#^&#) This would probably just get me slapped.

As you can see, I didn’t interact with the German tourists so much.

After leaving Zion National Park, I returned to Las Vegas and checked back into the Luxor. Before sitting down to lose some more money, I decided to go take a look at the Bellagio Hotel and Fountain. The hotel is made to look like immense overgrown version of an Italian Villa. I was very impressed with the inside. The ceiling was covered with Murano glass sculptures and Roman style tyle mosaics covered the floor.  There was huge tulip garden right in the middle of the lobby. The fountain in front of the hotel is basically a lake with water spouts in it. Every thirty minutes or so, the jets in the fountain put on a show to music. The one I watched was set to Italian opera. The jets are very powerful shooting water high into the air. I was a little concerned as the fountain was also full of ducks. I kept waiting for one of the water sprays to erupt in a sea of feathers.

When I returned to the Luxor, I sat down to do some serious gambling. I was playing a linked penny machine with the top prize being 3.6 million dollars. You had to play the max bet to win which was $3.00 a pull. I sat down with a $200 and got to work. I almost immediately won $200 dollars. It wasn’t 3.6 million so I kept going. A German couple (they really are everywhere) sat down at the next two machines by me. The lady seemed to have trouble understanding how to bet and kept really making bad choices with the machine and losing her money. I finally decided to help her. She didn’t understand  me but her husband did. The first time she took my advice she won $20. After that everytime she deviated from my advice, her husband would start fussing at her in German. Right before I leaned over to help her, I pushed the button on my machine and let it run. When I came back from helping the German lady, I saw I had won another $300. I played a while longer but my luck seemed to be running out so I gave up for the night and went to bed.

The last full day of my trip I decided to once again try to see Hoover Dam. If you remember last time I went, the elevators were broken. Once I got to Hoover Dam, I paid $19 extra to do the complete tour which takes you through not only the power plant but also into the maintenance tunnels in the dam. You get a nifty thin plastic yellow hard hat as well. The first part of the tour involved a movie about the history of the dam. After the movie was over, one of the workers came in informing us that the elevators were no longer working properly again. As a result, we could only see the powerplant. Those of us who had paid extra were given a refund but they let us keep the plastic hardhat.  (Yayyy!) I was dissappointed but the powerplant tour was interesting as well. There are seventeen turbines which are fed through massive pipes. The dam produces electricity for a large portion of the area.

 After returning to Las Vegas, I once again decided to try to win the 3.6 million dollars. When I went back to the machines, I saw the jackpot was down to $1 million. Someone apparently had won it during the night. One million is nothing to sneeze out so I decided to try for it. Luck was not with me this time. Not only did I lose all the money I had won, I also lost my original $200.  Broke in more ways than one, I returned to my hotel room to get some sleep as I had an early flight the next morning.

My flights back to Baton Rouge the next morning were a lot calmer than the ones to Las Vegas. In a bit of strange coincidence, my third grade teacher was on the same flight as me from Dallas to Baton Rouge.

 For now its back to renovating the house. I will soon be laying down the wood floors.  I will be pretty much staying put until September or October when I plan to head to Peru for two weeks.

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