The BTW Weekly Log: Week 5

Begin Day #26

Quick Stats for today:

Today was: September 25, 2000 
Day Number: Twenty Six
Miles Travelled: 310 miles
Region Travelling in:  New Mexico, Arizona
Approx Money Spent: $77

For the Lazy Ones who can read through:

Oh god, we are into fifth week! We started of the week with a mostly travel day. We started from Antonito, Colorado and skimmed the northernly parts of New Mexico. We were planning to get close to the Grand Canyon area as soon as possible. This area has a large concentration of the sites that we want to visit. The drive initially was good. We drove through the San Juan mountains following a scenic route (rt 17- Cumbres Pass) and reached a place called Chama. We gassed up and were on our way. Soon we were driving through mostly desert country. This part consisting of the states of New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and Utah is mostly rural and dry country. It also sounds like poor country. Most of the houses do not have anything fancy about them. We did mostly local driving and when we reached the town of Blanco, we saw an accident. The road was closed since it was a major one killing one old lady. So, we detoured and drove on a mostly sand/stone byway to reach the town of Aztec. Our car was covered with dust by the time we reached Aztec. It looks like the toughest jobs around here must be the postman and the local school bus drivers! We drove on to Farmington, 10 miles away. By now the morning heat had picked up and we were hot, dusty and tired. We parked ourselves at a Subway for lunch.

After lunch, we proceeded to drive along the Shiprock monument. This monument is an unnatural stone formation more than a thousand ft high. It is sacred for all the american indians. This part of the country also houses lots of amrican indian reservations. These reservations are sovereign and have their own laws and regulations.

We cruised past a town with a funny name -Teec Nos Pos and then visited a place called four corners monument - it is a place where the four states meet. This is not such a great place to justify the dollar two entry fee per head. Later we reached the town of Kayenta. The three motels here are all very costly, close to 120 bucks. So we were in a fix. We talked to the visitor center folks and they suggested that some of the local folks put people up for the night.

Thus we came to know about Mr John Bornefeld. We called him up for directions to his house. Instead he came and picked us up from where we were - this is the first time something like this has happened to us in the US. It seems that these small towns do not have very well named roads. So Mr John felt it would be better to pick us up rather than give us directions. He showed us into his simple house which had a couple of bedrooms that the guests could use. It would be 50 bucks for the two of us. He sounded like a very good gentleman and we accepted to stay there. Later we learned that he works night shifts and would be gone away for the whole night. So we had the whole house for ourselves. We ate baked beans and bread for dinner in the kitchen. We watched the Sydney Olympics with Mr John. Later we excused ourselves for bed.


SOTD (Saying Of The Day):

Don't forget your pens at gas stations.

 End Day #26


Begin Day #27

Quick Stats for today:

Today was: September 26, 2000 
Day Number: Twenty Seven
Miles Travelled: 255 miles
Region Travelling in:  Northern Arizona
Approx Money Spent: $68

For the Lazy Ones who can read through:

We got up pretty early and noticed that, as promised Mr John had disappeared in the night. We ate a quick breakfast and went to visit the Monument Valley Navajo (pronounced as Na-va-ho) tribal park. The Navajo is the name of the American Indian tribe that lived in this part of the country. The monument consists of large stone formations pretty much like Arches NP. That is why we did not find it anything new and got out pretty fast. But it is a good spot to visit if you have not seen anything like that.

Our next stop was called as Betatakin Ruin in the Navajo National Monument. Here are the ruins of a village that was constructed in the 1300s. We hiked for a mile to get a view. When we returned back to the visitor center we had Macaroni and Corn for lunch. Then we saw a fantastic 20 minute video on the ruins. It said that the Indians who built the village were called as Anasazi.

Then we drove on closing our distance with the Grand Canyon. When we got close (at the town of Cameron) we saw that the motels were pretty costly. So we decided to stay further away at Flagstaff which turned out to be a good decision. On the way we visited another Indian ruins site at Wupatki National Park. We also visited a dormant volcano at the sunset crator national monument. We saw a lot of solidified lava and black mud, surprisingly fertile. These two sites are pretty if you have the time to make a detour of 20 miles.

We entered Flagstaff at 5:30 pm local time. We mentioned local time because there is hajjar confusion about time in Arizona. The part of Arizona which is not the Navajo Indian Reservation, does not follow daylight savings time (they dont turn their clocks in April and October). However the Indian reservations do follow this like the rest of the country. Hence you could travel a few feet and gain or lose an hour - major confusion! At Flagstaff motels are surprisingly inexpensive. We got the Rodeway Inn for 33 bucks. So we celebrated with a chinese dinner. We were glad to jump into a clean bed.


SOTD (Saying Of The Day):


End Day #27


Begin Day #28

Quick Stats for today:

Today was: September 27, 2000 
Day Number: Twenty Eight
Miles Travelled: 195 miles
Region Travelling in:  Grand Canyon
Approx Money Spent: $71

For the Lazy Ones who can read through:

Because of the confusion that Arizona does not follow day light savings time we got an extra hour since yesterday. Today we had coffee in the room and started towards Grand Canyon around 9:30 am. Since we planned to stay late we started late. We visited the Flagstaff visitor center - nothing big here. Then we gassed up and started towards the GC on the Sanfransisco peaks scenic road. This drive goes through endless pine forests and is an excellent drive. The pines change into desert territory abruptly as you approach the town of Valle.

Before you enter GC, you hit a town called Tusayan. Here is the GC IMAX theater. We saw a movie titled The Hidden Secrets. The IMAX movie is an excellent experience and is a perfect way to start visiting the GC national park. Some of the shots in the IMAX movie are not available for us common folks to see unless we hike for a few days or raft for a week.

After Tusayan we entered GC and started with cooking lunch at one of their picnic areas (sambar-rice and pickles). Then we started with one of the three trips that you do in GC. This trip is called as the East Rim trip, about 25 miles. It is dotted with some spectacular view points like Grand View pt, Moran pt etc. It terminates in the desert view point where a watch tower was built in earlier times. Now it is a museum/gift shop providing good views to GC. Here we saw an old red indian lady weaving indian carpets. SOme of them were really exquisite.

Grand Canyon as the names suggests is the grandest of all the canyons we find in this red rock coutry. It is carved in sandstone by the Colorado river and other natural forces going on for billions of years. The canyon has rocks that is dated back to thousand billion years and is a geologist's pleasure. The canyon at places is about 5000 ft deep and now the Colorado river is but seen as a thread down in the valley. However the river is still as powerful and as turbulent as ever. It takes a solid days hike to get to the river from the top. The hike back up takes twice as long. Hence it is not recommended for faint hearts.

Another way to see GC is to raft through the Colorado river which can take anywhere from three to seven days. We viewed GC the regular way turing the rim drives and hiking between the view points. We hiked for a total of about 2 miles. Some of the hike was real close to the canyon rim and precarious but fun. We waited for the sunset at Mather point. Sunsets are always brilliant in Canyon country and we enjoyed it to the fullest. Later in the night we drove to a town called Williams and ended up finding a desi motel for 31 bucks. We cooked dinner of baked beans and bread and crashed to bed.


SOTD (Saying Of The Day):


End Day #28


Begin Day #29

Quick Stats for today:

Today was: September 28, 2000 
Day Number: Twenty Nine
Miles Travelled: 325 miles
Region Travelling in:  GC/Nevada
Approx Money Spent: $47

For the Lazy Ones who can read through:

Today we packed up and started early since we had a long site seeing day and intended to travel too. Our todays site seeing was spread out on the West rim. We ussed the national parks shuttle system to do this. These served the purpose are not very comfortable (probably they have square wheels :) ). Of the 8.5 miles on the west rim, we hiked about 1.5 miles. The scenic points today had names like the Abyss, Hopi etc. SOme of these points seem so precarious that we feel almost ready to plunge down. It will be a nice scenic 5-10 seconds ride down to the canyon bottom if you do take the plunge :-) !

GC as we said before is not as accessible as other canyons because hiking down to the bottom is not easy. It is definitely something that we will consider doing sometime later. The other thing we want to do when we return is to visit the north rim. Did we tell you that the GC is laid down east west and thus has a south and a north rim. Though the canyon is only ten miles wide (!) we still need to travel more than 200 miles to reach the north rim. In all, GC is a great experience but we feel it will be better if you do either hiking down or rafting.

After the west rim sojourn we had lunch and then visited the slide show at the visitor center. It was good too. We left GC at around 3 pm and started driving towards Las Vegas, Nevada. Soon we were driving across lonely deserts. The monotony was broken when we reached Lake Mead national recreation area. We crossed over a dam called Hoover dam at around 8 pm. It is an excellent site in the evening. We reached the town of Boulder City and started searching for a motel. It was not easy - more so with the temperature around 80 in the night! After a few enquiries we found whose managemet had just started and gave us a room for 32 bucks. We turned the AC on and slept for the night.


SOTD (Saying Of The Day):


 End Day #29


 Begin Day #30

Quick Stats for today:

Today was: September 29, 2000 
Day Number: Thirty
Miles Travelled: 60 miles
Region Travelling in:  Las Vegas
Approx Money Spent: $92

For the Lazy Ones who can read through:

Today was a sweaty start: we were feeling terrible by 8:30 in the morning. Moreover gas was damn costly too. We had breakfast at a burger king and planned to visit Hoover Dam more intimately. By the time we parked and were into the visitor center we sweating profusely. We took a simple (8 bucks) dam tour. They showed us the power plant and of course the dam closely. The best part of the tour was our guide who had a great sense of humour. He started of with "I am Bill, your dam(n) guide. and lets start the dam(n) tour". He ended the tour by saying "If you like the tour my name is Bill, otherwise its Don!"

Other than humour, there is a lot more in Hoover dam. It is a massive structure stopping the Colorado river in the Black Canyon. It is truely amazing how this structure was built and how it is still standing out there since 1930's. It was built mainly for controlling the Colorado river from flooding. However today it also serves as one of the major sources of water, electricity and tourism in an area where there is nothing much else except an arid desert. Contructing the dam has created an artificial lake - Lake Mead, which is the largest artificial body of water in the world.

We the had lunch at a Taco Bell and drove towards Las vegas - the gambling capital of the world. On the way we had picked up a motel cupon. Surprisingly it worked! We got a motel for 36 bucks in downtown Las Vegas on a Friday night!! We checked in and took reief from the heat and went into the town around 6 pm.

The best way to see Las Vegas is of course in the evenings when the city lights up and comes to life. There are atleast a thousand casinos where you can gamble. Each of the casinos also stars an attraction, like a show, circus, comedy act, 3D rides etc. We picked some of the ones that we felt are the best and planned a strategy to view them. Here is what we visited.

Circus Circus is a casino that stages a circus act every half hour. We saw an acrobatic act for about 15 minutes and spent sometime in the games room. There is also a bungee jumping center outside this casino. Those who do not know what it is better dont try to know it. A person ties a rope around his legs and jumps from a ten story building!! Treasure Island is a casino built on the themes from the popular novel. There are pirates and characters from the 1800 era. The casino is complete with a moat around and a drawbridge. Their grand act is a classic fight between the british troups and the pirates staged in the moat. There are fireworks and sound effects which are excellent. The last casino we visited today was the The Mirage which has a fire spewing volcano on its lawns. Inside is a complete tropical forest with exotic plants, a tiger and the like. By then it was midnight and our legs were buckling under us. We had a late dinner at a burger king and crashed back at the motel.

100.5 is a good FM station in Las Vegas - Soft and Contemporary.


SOTD (Saying Of The Day):

Coupons do work sometimes!

End Day #30


Begin Day #31

Quick Stats for today:

Today was: September 30, 2000 
Day Number: Thirty One
Miles Travelled: 70 miles
Region Travelling in:  Las Vegas, Nevada
Approx Money Spent: $105

For the Lazy Ones who can read through:

Las Vegas has corrupted us: we are staying up late until midnight, we are getting up late etc. Today we had coffee in the room and had to shift to another motel in the morning. We had lunch at Dennys and had a well deserved nap in the afternoon.

At around 4 pm, we started out with visiting a casino called Caesars Palace. This casino is built on the theme of a roman palace, that of Julius Caesar. It comes complete with waitresses adorned in midiveal costumes, Julius Caeser himself and believe it or not, Cleopatra too! Julius and Cleopatra are available for photographs at no charge :). It is a magnificient palace that they have built. Some of the sculptures are imported right away from roman times. The star here is a show about the city of Atlantis. The show has some very nice sound and fireworks effects. Then there is the 3D show called Race for Atlantis, well worth the 8.5 dollars you pay. However, cappucino here is not worth the 4 bucks you pay. Still Ajay threw away the 4 bucks. We also gambled for a while, of course with no luck and headed to the next casino.

Our next stop was a castle straight out of the fairy tales. It is beautifully lighted up in the night and is called Excalibur. The name comes from the story of king Arthur with his sword named Excalibur. (Aravind, do you remember our excaliburs with which we used to squash mosquitoes?!). Again, we were left speachless with the splendour in decorations and appointmets inside this castle. It is just too good. However, the show that is staged outside in the moat is not too good. The fire breathing dragon is pretty mechanical. One other good thing is that they had a tram to get to our next destination.

Our next destination was the exquisite Luxor. Whoooo ... it blows you away. This casino is built on an egyptian theme. The entrance to the casino is a huge sphinx. The casino itself is a much bigger pyramid built out of black glass. It has about ten stories of guest rooms. The waitresses inside wear dainty egyptian dresses. The pyramid from inside looks colossal. The other thing we liked here was a 3D ride called Search for the Obelisk. This one was well worth the 7 bucks. When we came out we were groggy and our stomachs were churning. We walked out of Luxor and headed to the MGM casino. Remember the growling lion in the Tom and Jerry cartoons? Thats MGM. In the casino, the biggest attraction is the lion habitat. They have a lion family of which some members will be on display in a glass enclosed artificial forest. When we entered, they had two playfull lion cubs. It was fun to watch them for sometime.

After all this we had to walk a mile or so back to where we had parked our car - fortunately we found it! Parking in most casinos is free but remember, you have to walk a lot. We had dinner at a Taco Bell and drove around town for some more time. Finally after the last drop of energy ebbed out we crashed into bed after midnight.


SOTD (Saying Of The Day):

If you want to save money, stay away from Las Vegas.

End Day #31


Begin Day #32

Quick Stats for today:

Today was: October 1, 2000 
Day Number: Thirty Two
Miles Travelled: 220 miles
Region Travelling in:  Las Vegas, Death Vallley
Approx Money Spent: $85

For the Lazy Ones who can read through:

We started of today with getting ready to leave Las Vegas. But before that we visited a casino called Sams Town. Folks here have a fullfledged tropical forest complete with a waterfall, singing birds and all. We spent about a couple of hours and the last bit of change we had. Lunch was inside the casino at Sbarro. Finally we left the smoke filled rooms and got into the hot day outside. Interestingly Las Vegas does not look as good, in the day time. We realized that this is because at night, only the good things are lighted up. Anyway, we were now getting tired of the crowds, smoke filled casinos and the like. We were ready to hit the road again.

At about 2 o clock, we were headeded west towards the famed Death Valley national park. We were travelling through some big time desert country sprinkled with sage brush, cactus annd joshua. Gas around DVNP, is $2.50 per gallon, so watch out!!

Around 3 pm it was about 108 F (3 dig C) when we entered DVNP. Boy, it was hard to get out into the sun for more than a few minutes. We crossed points like Mormon Point, Devils Golf Course, Badwater etc. At Badwater we got to do our days share of good things. Four people had got locked out of their Ford Explorer. Believe it or not, our sprint PCS phone (though in rome mode) worked and we could call 911. Since help was on the way, we gave them a bottle of water and cintinued on our way.

One of the best things in DVNP is a 9 mile drive called Artists drive. It takes you through multicoloured peaks, valleys and unusual formations. Finally, it was dark when we reached a town called Furnace Creek. Here we made sure that help had reached the guys mentioned earlier and continued onto Stove Pipe Wells. What a town name! For 53 bucks we found a beyond excellent room here. It was a pleasure to stay in the heart of DVNP in such class. We cooked bisibyale bhaat for dinner ad were almost instantly re-invigorated.


SOTD (Saying Of The Day):

You can hide the bad things by lighting up only the good ones.

End Day #32

We have entered California and that means only one thing. BTW is closing in to the end. Kind of feels sad that we are reaching the end. But we are also looking forward to get back into settled life. However, we still have one more week to go and it will have the star of all national parks - Yosemite. So please keep tued till the end!! By the way this was a high spending week - we spent 540 dollars. Our grand total now is $2291.

To Week 4 Go To Calendar To Week 6

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