Posts tagged Arizona
While watching the ball drop in Times Square last night, I got to thinking about the time Shannon and I went to see that happen in person years ago. This got me thinking about the remarkable life I’ve somehow lead over the past [insert obscure number to make my age seem insignificant] years.
So this morning I present: “the story so far.”
- Went to the top of the World Trade Center. (That’s where the photo above was taken.)
- Saw the Rockettes perform at Radio City Music Hall on Christmas Day.
- Got engaged on the top of the Empire State Building.
- Saw a couple of Broadway shows.
- Visited Central Park, the zoo, and a few museums.
- We’ve driven as far north as New York (from Florida.)
- We’ve driven as far south as Key West (to the Southernmost Point.)
- Magic Kingdom
- Animal Kingdom
- The Hollywood (aka Disney/MGM) Studios
- California Adventure
- Universal Studios Florida
- Universal Studios Hollywood
- Islands of Adventure
- Busch Gardens Tampa
I’ve been to the Daytona 500 with my pal Joey Snackpants.
- Went white water rafting again the next year… in class five rapids.
- Drove to the top of Mount Evans (the highest paved road in the U.S.)
- Went tubing in Clear Creek near Golden, CO.
Other Washington D.C. adventures include:
- Did a tour of the White House during Christmas.
- Walked ALL of the Smithsonian Museums.
- Visited all the major monuments including the Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt.
More Mexico zaniness that ensued:
- We went diving at Cenote Ik Kil Mexico (a giant sinkhole in the ground.)
- We ate tacos and drank beer and tequila.
- I went to a 24 hour Walmart with some friends. (Trust me; this counts as an adventure in Mexico.)
- We once saw the Spice Girls perform at Mandalay Bay.
- We saw Holly Madison’s real fake boobies in Peepshow at Planet Hollywood.
- We saw the Beatles Cirque de Soleil show “Love.”
- Going to the top of the Willis (Sears) Tower.
- Eating pizza (at Gino’s East.)
- Visiting that Art Institute and other local museums.
- Joey Snackpants and I crashed the Occupy Los Angeles protest and grabbed food in Chinatown.
- Shannon and I drove down the Pacific Coast Highway and saw the sights.
- Phoenix, Arizona. It was really boring both times I’ve been. Sorry.
- San Diego, California. We didn’t have much time there, but it seemed nice enough!
- Biloxi, Mississippi. Shannon won money in the casinos there. She still hasn’t let me forget that.
- Miami, Florida. More times than we can count. Food, fun, concerts and more.
- St. Louis, Missouri. I went there one business trip and saw the Cardinals play in series game while there.
Last Monday I wrote a post about the spoils from my travels over the past few years: my Starbucks mug collection. Today, though, is the collection in our house over ten years in the making… Shannon’s Hard Rock Cafe Teddy Bear collection.
In case you missed it, read this post about my epic adventure walking in (and out) of the Grand Canyon.
My legs still hurt when I look at the post.
The Grand Canyon defies words. As glorious as it looks in photographs, textbooks and PC desktop wallpapers around the world, nothing can effectively convey how spectacular that place is unless you see it in person.
It honestly and truly took my breath away the first time I looked into it.
I’ve seen a lot of amazing things in my life: pyramids, monuments, skyscrapers, mountains, oceans, and dozens of majestic sites in between. None of them compare to the size and scope of the Grand Canyon. Being so close to it, you get overwhelmed with the feeling of how small you (as a human) really are compared to the entire planet. Epic. Majestic. Grand. The place is everything everyone who went before you told you about and much much more.
When we made the decision to go, I knew that this would probably be a once in a lifetime trip – so I opted to make sure I did it right. The closest you can stay to the southern rim of the canyon is a place called the El Tovar. The El Tovar opened its doors in 1905 (over 100 years ago!) and has housed the likes of Albert Einstein and Teddy Roosevelt. How close is it? About twenty feet away. Check it out:
(Click here to see the larger version. That’s Shannon on the far right.)
Not one for just idly watching from the sidelines, I decided that we should trek down into the canyon to see it up close. We walked out of our hotel room at 6:30 AM to watch the sunrise over the canyon and, with latte in hand, we started the walk down the trail. It was 18°F and it had snowed the night before so OF COURSE I was wearing shorts. Along our way to the entrance of the trail, we ran into this:
Up until that moment, all of the elk we ran into were docile and just ignored the passing humans. This one, though, was not in the mood to put up with anything from anyone and would make noise and charge at you if you walked by on the trail. SO, I took that picture and we snuck around by entering and exiting the resort behind us. The photo doesn’t do justice to the fact that those things are HUGE.
So we walked six miles into the Grand Canyon by way of the Bright Angel Trial. I continued to get cell phone signal all the way in and, as a result, I managed to score a check in on Foursquare at the end of the trail at Plateau Point. (Kudos to Sprint and my Samsung Galaxy S Epic 4G phone for pulling it off!)
Here we are looking around at the bottom:
It could babble on here for hours about it being a whole different world, connecting with nature, the peacefulness of you feel… or I could just tell you to do it yourself. No amount of grammatic gymnastics on my part will ever do the experience justice. This photo, though, is one of my favorite ones from the trip that kind of captures the “feel” of being there.
After the moment of Zen in the canyon, we started the hike back. Then I saw this:
(No, I didn’t see a red arrow; I added that to the photo.) I saw how far we had to walk back. The arrow is pointing to the small speck that was our resort – a six mile walk away. Refer to the post I mentioned at the beginning of this one for details after that.
THE EL TOVAR
The El Tovar is expensive and it sells out fairly quickly; if you ever plan on staying, make reservations months in advance. The money you pay for staying, though, isn’t for amenities or comfort. The rooms are small and, while they have been kept up well, they show their age. Every penny paid is the price for ambiance and location.
The place is as much an old museum as it is a hotel. We loved it. The lobby, aside from the addition of modern furniture, is almost identical to they way it was in 1905. After a cold evening in the canyon, nothing tops sipping hot chocolate next to the fireplace. It was all so, well, grand.
My only complaint was the food. The restaurant in the El Tovar is the top notch/reservations only class of eatery. This is great except when you’re lying half dead in your hotel room jonesing for room service. Room service to me means a burger of chicken fingers (neither of which are available there) – not roast duck. If you have kids, the El Tovar is DEFINITELY not the resort to stay at.
The mornings are just as amazing. This was the view outside our window:
You just don’t get much more “back to nature” than that.
Thus endeth the Vegas Vacation posts!
You know you’ve heard the song before…
Now you go through Saint Looey
and Oklahoma City is mighty pretty.
You see Amarillo,
Gallup, New Mexico,
Don’t forget Winona,
Kingman, Barstow, San Bernandino.
Won’t you get hip to this timely tip:
when you make that California trip
Get your kicks on Route sixty-six.
We rented a car to drive from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon and the quickest route turned out to be by way of old Route 66! For those of you that know me, I am what people refer to as a “road trip” kind of guy. I’ll take three days in a car over a plane flight any day. There’s a charm in trekking across a stretch of highway and seeing the small bits of America along the way. I’m a sucker for a good tourist trap and I live for discovering old things that are new to me.
Driving on Route 66 was a dream come true. There were three key things of note during our ride on the fabled stretch of highway:
As noted before, Kingman is one of the towns mentioned in the popular song about Route 66. Driving down Highway 93, you pass by Interstate 40 and enter the town. The place is pure classic America… sadly, though, many of the shops down the main strip were closed and boarded up. It seems that once the Interstate was built, folks would hop on and didn’t make it far enough into Kingman anymore to see what a gem of a town the place was.
ROUTE 66 MUSEUM
I opted to drive past the Interstate since we had time to kill and drove around Kingman for a while. There we discovered the Historic Route 66 Museum.
That’s right, kids: ZANY!
The museum was full of classic items from dating back to the 1950s. You can check out some photos we took starting with this one (click here.) The museum was worth the couple of bucks each and I walked away with a snazzy Route 66 key chain which now holds my Mustang’s keys.
And I loves me some Five Guys!
We stopped in Kingman on our way back from the Grand Canyon and tried our very first burger from In-N-Out. The first thing you notice when you walk inside the restaurant is the menu:
That’s it folks. No chicken sandwiches of McSomethingorothers – just burgers, fries, drinks and shakes.
Get in, place your order, and get out really quickly… thus the name makes sense.
The place had some pretty big hype to live up to, so I was nervous when I ordered my #3. The nervousness was for nothing, though, BECAUSE THE BURGER WAS F***ING AWESOME. Seriously. The payoff was there. It was great. The fries were great. The soda tasted better because the food was so epic.
I had died and gone to food heaven on Route 66.
Thus, I will now make the time for a pilgrimage to In-N-Out whenever on the west coast again. The place is worth it.
aka “The Quest for Micheal Bay’s Megatron!”
The Hoover Dam is one of those man made objects that helps people understand that, yes, playing with Legos as a child can eventually lead to something productive. The place is massive!
As soon as we got there, I checked in via Foursquare and read all of the local tips folks had left from their visit. This one caught my eye immediately:
Joshua’s wants to visit where the government kept Megatron. – Carmen S.
For those of you that have never been, the Hoover Dam is one of those great places to screw around with time zones. On the west side of the river is Nevada which exists in the Pacific time zone. On the other side – Arizona is in the Mountain time zone. Thus walking back and forth is the closest you can come to time travel outside of a souped up Delorean. Notice the blue clock on the structure:
There’s one on each side so you can keep yourself amused. There is a plaque to mark the exact point so you can walk back and forth and confuse and children (or slow relatives) that you may have with you.
If you’re ever in the area take the time to stop. You’ll be there and hour or two MAX and it’s a fulfilling experience for such a short period of time.
I can remember being really exhausted at various times in my life. The moment that always sticks most firmly in my memory was the first time I was told to run laps in full pads during football practice in high school right after I started playing on the team. All exercise related activity up until that point had been fun: going to the beach, playing soccer on a public league, skateboarding, etc. Running on a high school football team was (in the mind of fourteen year old me) serious business.
After doing my laps, my body was mentally and physically done. Standing up hurt. Breathing hurt. Trying to move hurt.
Since then, I’ve had similar moments working out at the gym, exercising with a personal trainer, and other physical related activities. High school football was the first, though, so it’s the one I remember the most distinctly.
THAT was nothing compared to what I endured yesterday.
I have a mental defect install by my parents at a young age that makes be believe that I can do ANYTHING if I put my mind to it. I still believe that, but yesterday was the first time that my body had to remind me that there’s only so much I can force it to do via the aforementioned brain induced anomaly.
I walked twelve miles to take this photo:
That’s Shannon and I in the Grand Canyon. Note: IN the Grand Canyon. That river behind us? That’s the bottom of the Grand Canyon. The area we’re standing on (called Plateau Point) is six miles down from the southern rim. It’s nice and warm down there and the view is amazing. (Expect dozens of photos in a later post.)
The walk back is six miles worth of uphill terrain (think “very rocky staircase”) where you eventually return to an environment of snow and eighteen degree weather. During the last two miles of the hike back up the canyon my body finally gave up. The overwhelming exhaustion had my physically drained to a point where I could only walk for five minutes and then have to rest for five minutes. It was excruciating. With less than half a mile left to go, my wife (who runs 5ks and half-marathons for fun) went ahead to the top of the rim and bought me some coffee. The caffiene and sugar helped.
Upon making it back to the resort, I couldn’t stand. I started shaking from exhaustion and the cold. I could type on a barrage of adjectives and metaphors for the pain I felt last night and none of them – NONE of them – could do justice to how I felt. My mind was yelling at my body to move: stand, walk, shift around. It wouldn’t respond. I have never felt that helpless in my entire life. Seriously.
I didn’t leave the bed. Shannon, being an angel, went and got food for us and brought it to the room. After downing pizza with a lot of salt on it, I passed out. I woke up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat and feeling fatigued beyond belief.
This morning, as I type this, I can walk again… but I am thankful that my day will be spent sitting in a car for four hours and then sitting on a plane for four hours.
File this under “one of those stories Tom will tell over and over until the day he dies.” My trip to the Grand Canyon will live on as one of the most distinct moments in my life… and it was EPIC.
A couple of details got confirmed yesterday for a trip out west this November. While there, Shannon and I plan on staying an extra week to visit someplace we’ve never been: The Grand Canyon. Here’s a photo of the hotel I just booked us at: