Las Vegas- Bright Lights, Good Friends, and Zombies

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Our Memphis Wolf Pack in Las Vegas

 

Las Vegas, a shock to they system after the peace and serenity of Zion National Park.  Hard to believe the two are only a couple hours drive apart.  We’ve been there several times before and hadn’t originally planned to visit while on the road, but when we found out our good friends were heading there, and we were already going to be close, we added it to the agenda.  There is a campground on the strip but we decided to use our 3 nights there to take a break from the camper, aka The Cramper.  We spent 3 fabulous nights at Treasure Island, enjoying a big hotel room, cable, and endless hot showers.

So what did we do with the rig during our stay?  After doing some research we decided the best place to park the rig was, believe it or not, at the airport. They have a lot specifically for oversized vehicles and on the cost was only $15 per day.  It also saved us the headache of attempting to pull the camper through the strip.  We parked the rig, grabbed our suitcases, and took an Uber to Treasure Island.  Pretty easy peasy.

We had a great time catching up with our friends! We strolled around the casinos playing the slots here and there.  Neither of us won but I played one machine for 3 hours on $20 while drinking for free, and cashed out with my $20 back at the end of the night, so I call that a win.  Stacey and I cruised the Fashion Show Mall while the boys checked out the sports page at the Mirage.  I also had to grab my favorite drink in Vegas to sip on while we walked up and down the strip.  In front of Caesar’s Palace by the Spanish Steps is a delightful Bacardi stand that makes several different types of mojitos, including a mixed berry one full of fresh strawberries and blueberries.  It’s amazing and refreshing, perfect for the dry Vegas heat!

Our last evening we attended a performance of the show Zombie Burlesque at the Planet Hollywood shops.  It was Burlesque style show with a twist that instead of humans the cast were Zombies. The storyline worked out well and it proved to be an excellent choice, the cast were amazing, very talented singers, dancers, and actors.  The host was hilarious and did a great job getting the audience involved.  The icing on the cake was watching our friends going up on stage for a zombie version of the newlywed game.  It was hilarious and a story our group will laugh about for years to come.

After a wonderful time with our friends and being back among civilization we were ready to get on the road again and back to nature.  We hugged our friends goodbye with plans to see them again for Thanksgiving, and Ubered back to the airport parking lot to pick up The Cramper, which we were relieved to find intact and untouched.  We headed down the road singing the Wind and the Wave’s “Grand Canyon” excited for our next adventure.

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A Canyon So Big It’s Grand

Grand Canyon National Park is a bucket list item for many Americans (including my dad) and foreigners alike. After a 4 hour drive from Las Vegas we arrived in the dark at Mather Campground located inside Grand Canyon National Park on the South Rim.  This was our first stay inside a National Park and we were excited to see what it was all about.  We had made our reservation several months before and were able to book a full week.  The campground was great! There were hot showers for $2 and even laundry onsite which is a big plus when you live on the road.  Our spot was located right next to the bicycle trail which made getting around the park super easy.  We were really happy to park the rig for the week and not have to drive anywhere.  In addition to the bicycle trail is a free shuttle bus taking you all over the park and into the closest town.  We took full advantage of the bike trails and used them to get around during our week stay.

One of our favorite activities at the Grand Canyon was attending the ranger talks.  We learned about the endangered California Condor and the efforts to save the species from extinction.  We listened to several other talks on wildlife found in the canyon like elk (we saw lots of them!), coyotes,  and rattlesnakes (thankfully we saw none), and we took part in a hawk watch after a talk on birds of prey.  One of our favorite evenings was spent riding our bikes from the campground over to the visitor center for an astronomy lesson.  The group walked out to Mather Point on the edge of the canyon where a ranger used a powerful laser pointer to point out constellations in the night sky and tell the stories of them. Beautiful!

We spent a day riding our bikes from camp over to the South Kaibab Trail Head where we parked our bikes and hiked the narrow trail down below the rim 1.5 miles to Cedar Point.   About a mile down we stopped at Ooh-Ahh Point to enjoy the view and some sandwiches before continuing down. This trail is not for the faint of heart! It’s pretty narrow with the canyon wall on one side and nothing but air on the other, in a few places it’s air on both sides!  There are also mule riders that use this trail, luckily the mules were just exiting the top of the trail when we started our descent and we didn’t have to worry about meeting them on our hike.  One of the best moments of our entire trip was running into a Big Horn Sheep right on the trail.  He was walking up as we were walking down.  We stayed to the inside wall and he just kept walking right towards us, as he got closer he sort of picked up his pace and scuttled past us quickly looking at us out of the corner of his eye like “don’t mind me, just passing through.” He was gorgeous! A great hike and it was funny to see how cheerful people were on the way down but not so cheerful hiking back up.  If you want to do the mule ride down to the bottom of the canyon, they book out 6 to 8 months in advance.  If you want to hike all the way to the bottom of the canyon a back country permit is required and you must camp down there, it is not recommended to hike all the way down and back out in one day. Permits have to be applied for 4 months in advance but they only grant so many.  We had applied but didn’t win the lottery.  I’m glad we were still able to do a day hike below the rim, even though we didn’t get to go all the way to the bottom it was a great experience!

The Grand Canyon is rich in history and the National Park Service does a wonderful job of preserving the architecture and the stories of the people who made their lives here.  Go check it out!

 

 

Zion National Park

Zion was a big must-see item on our trip list so we were stoked to finally be there!  We found an awesome free camping spot about 15 minutes away from the park. Our site had 360 degree views of towering rock formations, a cave nearby with bats that entertained us at night, coyotes howling all around us, and miles of biking trails.  We had plans to meet up with friends in Las Vegas, so we only had one full day to absorb Zion as best as possible.  After my girls weekend in the Midwest I was all out of whack from traveling back and forth through so many time zones in a short time, and found myself awake to watch the sunrise over the pink, white, and red rock formations.  Watching the stars give way to the sun over the towering rocks is something I will never forget!  It was so peaceful and serene, a confirmation of why we are out here on the road living like nomads.  I woke Ryan up and we headed into town to enjoy some veggie omelets and fresh fruit at The Park House, a quaint café with outdoor seating and friendly service. They even used herbs fresh from their own garden!

Fueled up from our delicious breakfast we headed into Zion.  With only one day to explore we wanted to see as much as possible.  A portion of the park is closed to vehicles but there is free shuttle system that takes visitors through, stopping at 9 different spots for people to get out and explore at their leisure.  We spent the morning driving through the portion of the park open to vehicle traffic, stopping to take a moderately strenuous hike to an overlook of Zion’s most notable rock formations.  We also got to drive through a tunnel cut in the rock that is  one and  a half miles long.  Only one way traffic is allowed through the tunnel so a ranger hands the last car a baton to carry through and hand to a ranger at the other end, signaling the tunnel is empty and traffic can pass from the opposite direction.  I was super excited to be the baton carrier for our caravan through the tunnel!

We spent the second part of our day riding the free shuttle around the remainder of the park.  The bus offers a narrative on noteworthy spots around the park as well as a description of what riders will find at each shuttle stop.  We opted to ride all the way to the last stop, the Temple of Sinawava, and then disembarked for a nice afternoon hike along the Virgin River to the mouth of the Narrows. We saw several deer on the river bank and enjoyed gazing up at the pink and white sandstone walls from the bottom of the canyon.  It was a very comforting feeling to be at the bottom of the canyon, probably because of my aversion to heights, but overall there was just a really serene and peaceful feel to Zion. 

We jumped back on the shuttle and rode it back to the visitor center where we took a short bike ride as the sun began to set and moon climbed above the cliffs of Zion.  Another full day of wonder and adventure came to a close and we retired to our camp to watch the bats fly and the coyotes howl. 

 

 

 

Utah with a side of Indy

After two months on the road together Ryan and I were ready to separate for a bit, so I made arrangements to head back to the Midwest for my good friend Kaci’s bachelorette party, and Ryan set up shop in Wasatch Mountain State Park.  The park is situated at the bottom of the Wasatch Mountain Range in the Heber Valley.  We had one day together in Wasatch before I headed to Salt Lake City to grab a flight to Peoria, so we decided to check out the WOW (Wasatch over Wasatch)mountain biking trail.  We picked up the trail head right from our campground and all I can say is WOW is right!  The difficulty level was perfect for a beginner but still challenging with lots of climbing.  The higher we climbed the better the views, and sailing back down was a blast.  One thing I’ve learned on this trip is the view is always worth the climb!

After a day of mountain biking we decided to take a scenic drive up Pine Canyon Mountain Pass to check out Park City, Utah where they were gearing up for ski season.  As we climbed higher up the twisty mountain pass snowflakes started to fall, then they started to pile up…quickly.  We reached a good turnaround point and decided to head back down since the white powder was still falling steadily and slickly. After a scary moment passing another car from the opposite direction we headed back down the mountain, stopping to snap some pictures of the Aspen trees with their leaves glowing a bright fiery orange against the snow. It only took a few minutes of winding our way down for the snowflakes to become nothing but a memory, as the precipitation turned to rain in the warmer valley below.

The next day I flew to Peoria where I met up with my girlfriends and headed to Indianapolis for an epic girls weekend.  Downtown Indy is a perfect spot for a bachelorette party.  Our group rented a house on AirBNB that was within walking distance to all downtown Indy had to offer.  We enjoyed lunch at the famous Shapiro’s Deli, mechanical bull riding at Cadillac Ranch, dancing, karaoke, blues bands at the Slippery Noodle Inn, delicious happy hour appetizers at Claddagh Irish Pub, and more.  We also took a handlebar bike tour of downtown Indy (basically a moving bar powered by the peddling of it’s patrons) and enjoyed a drag show.  It was a memorable weekend with some truly awesome ladies! Can’t wait for the wedding Kaci!

After a whirlwind weekend with the girls I was happy to reunite with Ryan (who totally enjoyed his alone time mountain biking in Wasatch), and head on down the road again.