And it ends with hobo death, a creepy laugh, and a bag of pickling lime. WE HAD FUN, IS WHAT I'M SAYING.
First up, she endured my family for a weekend, the kids asked dovil about the hobbits she raises (doesn't everyone in NZ raise hobbits?) and we had a small dinner party with some friends that I thought she'd like. And she did. SUCCESS. Sunday we went into Dallas to see the sites and eat buffalo (no, really) and happened upon the site where JFK was assassinated. She wanted to get out and look around, so we did. And as we made the walk to the Book Depository, we saw the freaking CAR that the President was in getting cleaned up because that very day National Geographic was filming a documentary about it. The car is NEVER seen. It's in a private collection to preserve it. Damn.
We got up early Monday morning, slipped into our lovely rental (Chevy Impala, hey-o! American car for an American trip.) and started the looooooooong ride out of Texas. It's a big state, y'all. We were NOT tempted to stop off in Amarillo and try the 72 oz. steak. Mostly because we didn't want our arteries to explode. And also because that is ridiculous. And it's a huge cut of sirloin. Also, it's 72 ounces. OF STEAK. No me gusta. We finally got to Tucumcari, NM where we were going to stay for the night, but we made amazing time (I apparently am used to scheduling multiple bathroom stops for children, whoopsie-doodle!) and were there SUPER EARLY.
I don't know how many of you have been to Tucumcari, but there's not a lot to do. At all. We did find an iconic Route 66 joint, the Pow Wow Inn, and had some good Mexican food. Dovil forgot her passport back at the hotel, and they didn't believe she was old enough to buy a drink, which made her extremely happy. Not the not having a drink bit, but what woman over 30 doesn't want to be carded?
We avoided the hotel registrar coming back in, because she evidently wanted to be BFF with us and told us to come back and see her, and we could all go out together (and not in that chatty, "I'm from the South and we're just friendly!" way, but in the "holy shit I am sad because I live in Tucumcari, take me away from it all! way. Yeesh.) Up and at 'em early the next day and we were on our way to the Petrified Forest (must be sparklepires in there scaring the trees) and points beyond, AKA the Grand Canyon.
SUPER windy out there, which kind of sucked. But what really sucked was that Dovil got sick. Like, feverish, coughing, sinus gone crazy sick. Noooo! I slapped some Alka-Seltzer Cold Plus down her, it immediately perked her up, and we dubbed it Magic Water. We were never far from Magic Water after that. But because Dovil lives life like a boss, she wasn't going to let a little infection and illness bring her down (unless it actually brought her down) so we wandered around the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert for a bit, as we left we were asked by the rangers if we collected any bits of petrified wood (no, there were warning signs everywhere that it's illegal) and then turned out of the park to connect back up to the highway. And passed about ten different "GET YOUR PETRIFIED WOOD HERE!" shops, all with burgeoning piles of purloined petrificated pine. LOL.
In Flagstaff, before cutting up to the South Rim, we had dinner at the Galaxy Diner, one of the few awesome Route 66 diners left. Super cute and clean clean clean. They have swing dancing night and rockabilly night, and it's a thriving joint. And holy crap, servings are huge, be forewarned. Good stuff! We made our way up to the Grand Canyon, and got there just as night fell, so no hikes on Tuesday. We stayed at the Yavapai Lodge, and it was fantastic. Super clean, great amenities, COMFORTABLE beds and a fridge. What more could you ask for?
It had been a long time since I'd been to the GC, and massive changes to the facilities have happened, all in a good way. First, they want to discourage people driving around there, unless it's to get to your lodge. They have a series of trams that take you pretty much anywhere you want to go, and they run every 10 - 15 minutes. Nice! There's a general store next to where we stayed, and even though that was a big traffic spot for tourists, our lodge room was far enough away that it was never any trouble, noise-wise. There is another village to stay in, closer to the rim, but that was like a bustling city, so keep that in mind if you plan a trip. I would stay in Yavapai again. More magic water for Dovil (sadface!) and we went to bed.
Early Wed. morning we catch a tram to Mather Point, the iconic spot for pictures of the South Rim. I'd say we got there around 7am, a short while after sunrise. (It was 11 degrees that morning, we didn't feel like staggering out there in the dark when it was that cold) I will not lie to you. I totally started crying when I saw it in all of it's glory. Dovil thoughtfully looked away, frightened by my creepy jingoism. AHAHAHA. She was pretty awe-struck, too, but how could you not be?
These pictures do not do any justice to it. Honestly. It's just.... huge. You might even call it grand, hurr.
It just goes and goes and goes. This was first thing in the am, so it's hazy.
We walked the rim, which is a lovely pathway that is accessible for people in wheelchairs, so that's nice. That entire walk is just over 13 miles, if you're feeling up to it. We walked to the Visitor's Center, caught another tram, and took that to the eastern edge to catch a hike called the South Kaibab Trail. This is the famous donkey/mule train trail. It's steep, I'm not gonna lie. If you follow it all the way down to the Colorado, it's over 5000ft in a drop. I should mention that on top of being ill, Dovil is also terrified of heights. Who's the most awesome trip planner? ME, THAT'S WHO. I suck.
However. We had both decided that there was nothing wrong with her bailing on a hike because of her fear, we would meet up in X locations. To her credit, she got down about four turns on the switchbacks leading down before she saw that there was ice on one stretch, she would have to walk on it, and there were no guard rails preventing her from falling several thousand feet. Can't fault her for that. I carried on to the Ooh Ahh! point (it's actual name) snapped pics, and turned to head back instead of going down further. On my way back I saw the mules coming! They walk them up and down the path for both exercise and to keep the roads packed and nice. They were so sweet and fuzzy faced, but I didn't try and pet them, they were working. The park rangers were cool and chatted me up a bit. MULES! <3
This is the point where Dovil turned back. I mean, come on. You can't blame her. See how you can't even see the Colorado here? Each of those people you see are ONE TURN away from each other. That's steep, yo.
Halfway to Ooh-Ahh Point:
Actual Ooh Ahh! You can keep going down, but I didn't want to completely abandon her. It's an additional 3 hours to get down and back. That little rectangle is the mule barn. :)
Looking back at the path while standing on the point:
Just some pretties on the hike back, this is where I stood and waited for the mules to pass me by. Not a ton of space on the trail, btw.
We met back up at the top and hiked around the rim some more, then headed back to the lodge for more magic water and to clean up. Dinner was at the Arizona Lodge, and it seemed to be the place that favored adults more, which was nice. I obviously have nothing against kids, having 3 and all, but I didn't want to be around grumpy, cranky kids and their parents. Good dinner, super good. It has a window that looks right out at the Grand, so you can watch the sun set. How awesome is that? Very.
Back to bed and then back up at 6am, just as the sun was rising. We checked out and took a leisurely drive along the Desert Watch Trail stopping to hop out and take pictures as the spirit moved us. Keep in mind that all of this time we've only seem glimpses of the Colorado River. It's just too deep to see without hiking far, far down into the canyon. We get out of park, head north through Vermilion Cliffs and Marble Canyon (going from an elevation of 7000ft+ to 2000ft) and pull over at the Glen Canyon/Navajo Nation bridge.
Here's the view:
From there we continued north through the Arizona Strip and ended up at the Marble Canyon tunnel, which is pretty amazing to drive through. I.1 miles of tunnel blasted through rock. And then....home. Oh, how I love Zion National Park. It is my FAVORITE place on earth. There are no colors like there are there. It's hard scrabble desert, sure, but there are forests of birch and quaking aspen along the river bed, flowers galore, shrubs and grasses and all of that soft, pale green against the coral and hot pink rock is really a site to behold. Dovil even said at one point that while the Grand Canyon is amazing (and it is), she thought that Zion was all the more impressive because of the diversity.
Not gonna lie again, I totally started crying with happiness when we got there, too. To see Angel's Landing and the Great White Throne again after not having climbed them in 15 years? Awesome. Since we got there mid-day, and since I am a bossy boots (but she wanted me to make her do stuff, why come all the way from two different hemispheres to sit in a hotel room, sniffing?) I got us sun-screened, watered, and on our way to climb the second most strenuous hike in the park. I KEPT THAT LAST BIT FROM HER.
Again, we agreed that should she want to bail, she would, and that I could continue on, no harm no foul. This is why we're great travel partners. BUT. I would like to take a moment and MARVEL AT THE AWESOME THAT IS dovil. Not only was she sick and continued upwards, not only was she terrified of heights but continued on, sometimes stopping and leaning against walls to close her eyes and catch her breath, but she climbed that mo-fo in 2.5 hours, y'all. When I was my fittest I used to climb the whole thing in 2 hours (1 hr. 45 minutes up, 15 minutes down. That should tell you how steep it is.)
HARD. CORE. Sure she didn't go out on the fin with me where you have to grab hold of a chain to drag yourself along the slippery sandstone at 6000ft above sea level. BUT THAT DOESN'T MATTER. I took her camera out there with me and got some shots of the peak for her to take back home. We only took her camera, so I just have a shot of it from the ground.
(The second point? That's where I stood. She stopped at a place just beyond the low point of that second peak where you can see parallel cracks running vertically. Pretty impressive.)
Seriously, she's awesome. We also rode into town on their tram system (which is awesome) and hit my favorite place to eat, the Bit-n-Spur. Fabulous food, fabulous cocktails that aren't watered down <-- hard to find in Utah, folks, and just a generally hip place. If you go to Zion, you must also go to the Bit-n-Spur. Get their vegetarian burrito. YUM.
Water fall at Weeping Rock:
Another shot as the sun burst through - look at that coral color!
The color from my phone's camera just does not do it justice, so sorry. We got to see some serious rock climbers (this place is their Nirvana) scaling up the face of the Temple of Shivawa. It's a two day climb. In case that didn't hit you, that means you tie yourself to the rock wall at night, sleep, then continue climbing the next day. HARD CORE MOFOS, yo.
From here it was time to hit Vegas! And let me tell you that you very quickly tire of singing Viva Las Vegas. We made a pit stop to my friend Chrissy's dad's place to pick up the horses for Stallioncrest, and I had NO IDEA how big (or how many) there would be. AHAHAHA, oh my god, you guys, there's a Skidoodle!! And a SAD Skidoodle! If you read the story, you know that Skidoodle had a bad happening at a circus, hence his patched eye. LOL. Anyway, very exciting and very hilarious.
We dropped off the car (I jammed all of the horses into my luggage and an extra bag I brought with snacks) and met up with marenfic at the airport, hit a cab to our hotel (The Westin) and I instantly set up a creepy tableau with the horses to freak the housekeepers. Ha. Here's one third of the horses.
We were all VIPs at the hotel and stuff because of my husband's travel and because of that, they gave us free booze for two hours. OKAY, SOUNDS GREAT. After we had more than plenty, we headed off to Freemont Street, because it's truly the craziest, scariest, shittiest, glitziest part of town. It's not as clean as those pictures make it look. Once we saw sad strippers in training, we just grabbed some food (we think our waitress was on meth. Like, while she was serving us.) and then headed back to the hotel for some shut eye.
The next day was time for forum shops at Caesar's Palace because a) it was hot outside b) a lot of the stores here don't exist back in NZ and my girl needs to look good, and c) THEY HAVE VOSGES CHOCOLATE. Back to the hotel - quick note about the Westin. It's right off the strip, separated by the Flamingo and a parking lot, so while that makes for much nicer accommodations (quieter, less drunken nightmares in the hallway at 5am) you do have to walk across an empty parking lot at night to get there. BUT! We decided that sobered us up, which isn't a bad thing, so we didn't mind. I really like the W hotels, they're super comfy.
We got gussied up in our fines, got our hurr did and some makeups on, and it was time to hit dinner (Italian) a show (a local comedy show. Eh, not bad, but not great, but the price was right!) and then to Paris (the casino) for some gambling. There were some DIIIIIIIIICKS out there. Lemme 'splain: I am a gambler. I am a GOOD gambler. I look like a "little lady" but y'all should know by now that it's just the appearance, ha. I like to smile and be sweet, but I will have no problem standing up for myself.
I was watching the tables (I play craps, and craps only) looking for one with a good shooter (the guy with the dice) and chatting up people at the tables, getting a feel. It's typically men that play craps, so it was men I was chatting with. Usually it was fine, they would get flirty, no harm. I walked by one table and tried to talk to this one guy who immediately barked out at me in a thick Brooklyn accent, "Jesus Christ, what the fuck are you doing, trying to jinx the whole table? That's like asking a blackjack table if they're all getting 21!"
Dude. I asked how your night was going, asshole. Which I said, "Hey asshole, I just asked how your night was going. I guess Lady Luck will mosey on over there," and I went to the table behind him. Where I proceeded to triple my money, I thank you. :D
Hot hot HOT table, fabulous roller, sweet young kid next to me chatting me up (and who said I look like Hilary Swank? The hell? I got that TWICE in Vegas) and a table runner that recognized that I knew what was what and kept his eye out for me. That's the secret, folks, tipping the table managers. That and taking your winnings OFF the table and putting them in Dovil's hand so you keep your winnings. So that was fun.
We played some penny slots, because they're freaking penny slots. You can play on one dollar for HOURS. And I doubled my money on Kitty Glitter. YES. KITTY GLITTER. You match up kitties, have the bonus square of GLITTER FOOD, and there is a wild card picture of a handsome man.
I ASK YOU. I just wonder who their demographic is? LOL x forever. So yeah, I'm a high roller whale that turned that one dollar on Kitty Glitter into TWO. *sizzle touch*
We all fell back into our beds at 2am, Maren had to be out of the hotel by 4:30 am (ouch) and Dovil and I skedaddled at 7:30. Weepy hugs, hopes for good times on the rest of her adventures (she won't be back home until next week) and I settled my butt in First Class and had a mimosa and a nap. LIFE IS FINE, folks. Best trip I've had in I don't know how long. Such a great group of girls, non-stop laughing and fun, who could ask for more?
Aside from making her move here so we can do it all again, that is. :)