KURUDAVE was kind enough to drive us to the Philadelphia Airport. His funny stories made the usually dull ride the fastest ever.
IT WAS AT THE M CASINO POOL THAT ANDREW FOUND OUT ABOUT MICHAEL JACKSON'S DEATH. IT TOOK HIM QUITE SOME TIME TO FIND THE RIGHT WORDS TO BREAK THE NEWS TO ME.
AT THE VENETIAN, MADAME TUSSUAD'S WAX MUSEUM WASTED NO TIME IN GETTING A MICHAEL JACKSON TRIBUTE OUT INTO THE STREET.
Our casino hopping extended till after 1:AM with the outdoor casino shows at the Bellagio, Mirage and Treasure Island.
ITS NOW WRITTEN INTO A CONTRACT, I MUST REFER TO ANDREW IN ALL SHOTS SUCH AS THIS AS; "MR. BEEFCAKE."
AT THE SITE OF THE FORMER JOLLY-TROLLEY CASINO, THE SELF-PROCLAIMED, "WORLD'S BIGGEST GIFT SHOP" HOLDS SWAY. PERSONALLY, ALL IT IS, IS A VEGAS-THEMED SPENCER GIFTS. AND TRUST ME, LIKENING THIS SCHLOCK STORE TO THE GIFT SHOP AT HERSHEY PARK, SIZE-WISE, IS LIKE COMPARING RHODE ISLAND TO ALASKA.
We finished our trip's Vegas segment with a near-disastrous trip to the outlet center. Sue was on the clock for 90 minutes and went her own way. While Andrew and I cased this outdoor mall in the early evening 102 degree swelter, I stopped at a bench to get a pebble out of my sneaker. When Sue was done, I volunteered to get the car. At the car I realized I didn't have the keys. I didn't panic because I knew the only place Andrew and I stopped was that bench...I hurried back, but they weren't there. While Sue searched for a lost and found and security...I stupidly decided to re-trace all my steps. I'm guessing the forces of evil went back to hell to cool off because a little farther up from where I THOUGHT I stopped...was an identical bench and the keys were there.
The Grand Canyon when you drive a rented, 4-cylinder Ford Focus at 90 MPH, is less than four hours. To break-up the trip we had a "pit-stop" in Ash Fork, Arizona.MOTHS LIKE THIS WERE UBIQUITOUS AROUND THE GAS PUMPS. WHEN I ASKED THE ATTENDANT WHAT THEY WERE SHE SAID, "THEY'RE SOME KIND OF BUG."
OUR SECOND SUNSET WAS AT THE SCENIC OVERLOOK CALLED "THE ABYSS." THEY DON'T ALLOW PRIVATE CAR TRAFFIC TO THE WESTERN END OF THE PARK SO YOU HAVE TO USE THE FREE SHUTTLE. WE WANTED TO GO ALL THE WAY TO THE END...TO THE BEST PLACE TO SEE THE SUNSET, "HERMIT'S REST." BUT BECAUSE WE HAD TROUBLE PARKING, WE WERE RUNNING LATE. INSTEAD WE BAILED-OUT AT THE ABYSS. AS WE GOT OFF, THE DRIVER INFORMED US THAT THERE WERE ONLY TWO MORE BUSES BACK TO CIVILIZATION. AS THE BUS PULLED AWAY, WE REALIZED THAT WE WERE THE ONLY PEOPLE THERE...ITS KIND OF SPOOKY BECAUSE THERE ARE CROWDS EVERYWHERE. ABOUT 10 MINUTES LATER, ANOTHER BUS CAME JUST BEFORE THE SUN WENT DOWN. WE EXPECTED THE NEXT BUS...THE "LAST BUS" ANOTHER 10 MINUTES AFTER THAT. WELL IT DIDN'T COME. IT GOT DARK AND SWARMS OF GNATS ATTACKED. SOON HUNDREDS (one at a time) SMALL BIRDS STRAFED JUST ABOVE OUR HEADS. I THOUGHT IT WAS A GOOD IDEA TO NOT MENTION THAT THEY WERE BATS. SOON, SUE WENT INTO AFRAID-OF-THE-DARK MODE AND STARTED TO PANIC. SHE WANTED TO WALK THE 3.5 MILES BACK TO THE CAR. I SOMEHOW TALKED HER DOWN. IN THE ENSUING 40 MINUTES, I TOLD HER THAT THE LOW FLYING BIRDS WERE BATS. SHE WAS TOO WORRIED ABOUT GETTING EATEN BY BEARS AND/OR MOUNTAIN LIONS TO CARE. WE WERE THERE ABOUT AN HOUR WHEN THE LAST BUS INDEED SHOWED UP.
The highlight was the hike down into the canyon. Its 9 miles to the bottom (Colorado River). We decided on the mile and a half route...about 2 hours round trip. We followed the safety suggestions and understood that its a lot harder coming back up. We didn't quite make it to our goal. Still, the slow walk up was terribly exhausting...but we all proudly survived the challenge. At the top I proclaimed, "Diet Cherry Pepsi for everybody!"
A RARE SHADY SPOT...ITS A GOOD THING I MADE RESERVATIONS THAT DAY. ON THE OTHER HAND, MULE RESERVATIONS MUST BE MADE A YEAR IN ADVANCE. ON THE WAY UP, I WAS INCREDIBLY TIRED BUT THE AWFUL DUNG SMELL MOTIVATED ME TO KEEP GOING.
On two separate nights, we attended outdoor lectures. Afterwards, at 9:30PM, the park is virtually empty. Seemingly alone on the road back to our hotel, the RED FEATHER LODGE, (10 miles away in scenic Tusayan Arizona), I was spotted by a park ranger. He told me that I rolled through two stop signs. I was convinced that I was getting a summons because it took so long to process my info...but he let me slide.
We finished our stay with a jaunt to the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert...a three-plus hour drive. The Grand Canyon is a tough act to follow and although these are beautiful places and we have great memories...they were rather dull.SUE WAS UNIMPRESSED AND SAID OF THE PETRIFIED FOREST, "IT'S A BENT HUB-CAP AWAY FROM LOOKING LIKE A JUNKYARD." AND ANDREW SAID, "WE CAME A LONG WAY TO LOOK AT GIANT, CUT UP HOT DOGS." I LIKED IT MORE THAN THEM BUT DEEP DOWN, I COULDN'T HELP BUT AGREE.THE PAINTED DESERT HAD IT'S MOMENTS BUT BY THIS TIME, ALL WE WANTED WAS LUNCH.
Our last stop on the way to the Las Vegas (McCarron) Airport was Hoover Dam. Highway-93 runs across the top of dam. Due to heightened security, cars are spot checked. The traffic back-up along the steep, twisty road was awful. To reduce the chance of sabotage and to relieve the traffic crunch, a new bridge spanning the gorge is being built. Please notice the cables and partially completed roadway in the background of the photo below. Hoover Dam is much lower and can't be seen from this angle.WE ONLY TOOK A COUPLE OF SNAPS THERE BECAUSE IT WAS 110 DEGREES.
Our flight back to Philadelphia was smooth...except for the old woman with a loud coarse voice behind us that kept harping on the death of TV pitchman Billy Mays...who died three days earlier...when his USAIR "air bus" had a rough landing and baggage fell out of the overhead compartment and onto his head. He seemed okay but two nights later he didn't wake-up.
Our great vacation was over. Kurudave faithfully picked us up in Philly and of course it was raining.
EDITOR'S NOTE - An additional 25 different vacation photos...with snappy captions...can be found on my FACEBOOK page.