Day 149

Friday, October 21, 2005Leavin' Las Vegas
From Concord to Vegas in 17552 miles...BIG FINISH...

Well, it's over. That's all we planned. We figured that by the time we got to Vegas, we'd have a plan. We'd know where our dream home was. We'd have the meaning of life, the universe, and everything in our little human minds. Yeah. Not so much.

We do know where our dream home is. We'd been driving it around all this time. [Insert pithy cliche here.] Vantom is home. The road is home. Settling down got progressively less and less attractive the more places we saw. Now, with five months of hindsight, and a whole month and a half in one location (it's really March 2006 in Hawaii) we're really getting stir crazy. Oh, let's quote Hank Williams here:

Some folks might say that I'm no good
That I wouldn't settle down if I could
But when that open road starts to callin' me
There's somethin' o'er the hill that I gotta see

Now that Keath is overdrawn on the vacation time (up to applicable corporate limits, of course), we need to figure out how to see the rest of America. And Canada. And maybe Mexico. And those other six continents. Well, maybe not in Vantom. He's got European cousins, eh?

So far, the most lasting effect of our trip is that when we see car commercials on TV, we invariably say "Hey! We've been there!" There's something gratifying about that. Plus, we're making good progress on the checklist in Hank Snow's version of I've Been Everywhere.

We've had a great time and have enjoyed sharing our travels with you. Since we plan on continuing to vagabond, we will continue to post to this site, but we are closing the portion with this post. Future posts will stem from our home page and will not endeavor the foolhardy assumption that we can post (or that you want to read about) every day of our lives. After all, with less vacation days, the excitement is sure to slow down a bit.

So thanks for reading. Check back soon. And drop us a line once in a while. We'd love to park in your driveway!

Day 148

Thursday, October 20, 2005Las Vegas, NV
Miles: 17537...Still In Vegas

Holy running out of energy, Batman! Our trip plans pretty much ended with "getting to Vegas" and the excitement of the whole Bryce Canyon/Zion/Grand Canyon staircase sort of overloaded us for fun. We don't have thousands of dollars to spend living it up in Vegas, and we're not big gamblers to begin with, so we wandered around a bit more and played a game every here and there. All things said and done, we left Vegas with about $90 more than we went in with. Unless you count the hotel. And the food. And the Zumanity tickets. And the monorail. And the booze. But at least we know what we got in return for that.

So why not see one more show? We really enjoyed the Cirque du Soleil and there are four shows in Vegas, so we checked out Mystére. They had drummers hanging from the sky and many many cool acrobatics. Although this was a significantly more clothed Cirque Du Soleil than Zumanity (and there was less water involved), it was far more acrobatic. Yay!

Day 147

Wednesday, October 19, 2005location
Miles: 17537...Stays in Vegas

So we were going to be all cool and not actually tell you anything about Vegas and be all shady about our goings on. But it wasn't that exciting, so we figured you'd be amused by our loser attempts at "doing Vegas."

We started the day at the classy cafeteria buffet at the Imperial. We ate way too much and learned about the many many forms of Keno you can play while sitting on your butt and stuffing your face. Wow.

After work, Keath discovered that they had a Star Wars slot machine and managed to run our "gamblin' money" down to 3 cents. But the machine has many bells and whistles and you can bet on whether Darth or Obi Wan will win the duel. (No - it's not always Darth.) We later learned that the machines right by the front door are not the ones to play. They almost always have the worst payoffs.

We spend most of the day strolling around the strip (at a much more relaxed pace than last night's sprint) and checking out the excessiveness of all the casinos. The Venitian was particularly cool. There's a canal, but you have to pay to ride in the gondola, which was significantly smaller than they made it out to be in their ads. So we didn't. But we did watch as a school teached taught a class of elementary school kids about Italian architecture by bringing them to the casino.

We actually played more than one slot machine in Harrah's and managed to recoup the money lost on Star Wars and walk out $4.60 ahead.

We took the monorail to the Hilton, since it's a loooong walk to the other end of the strip. Thinking we'd be all cool and hop on and off it all day, we bought the daily passes. But we are apparently not that cool. It only really cost a couple of dollars more than one round trip ticket, but we felt kind of silly anyway.

The Hilton has a spaceport themed casino. They have large vaulted ceilings painted to look like steel, big video screens all over the place (apparently, in the future, we will all watch 80's hair band videos), all the science fiction themed slots they could find, a restaraunt called Quark's Bar and Grill, the largest collection of authorized Star Trek memorobelia in the world, and people wandering around in Borg and Klingon costumes. Keath managed to loose another $2. Damn that Men In Black slot.

We headed out to find Circus Circus and spend a little time in the arcade, where none of the machines pretended to have any interest in giving us any of our money back. We stuck around for a couple of the shows. First we saw some trapeze artists, then some great Polish guys painted gold balanced on each other in various ways. Most impressive. They were difficult to photograph, due to the dim lighting, but we tried valiently.

After a brief stroll around the depressing "old Vegas", we headed back to the Hilton for lunch at Quark's Bar and Grill, where we enjoyed a large, fogging green drink called a Borgsphere. Mmm, big fish bowls of alcohol. It (and one of their other signature drinks) is actually served out of a replicator. It looked an awful lot like a strobe light and drips of liquid, but the bartender assured us it was a replicator. It was just broken, so it couldn't make anything but Borgspheres at the moment. After consuming about a gallon of Sprite with alcohol in, we came up with a brilliant plot for the remainder of the afternoon. We would go back down the modern bit of the strip to drink and play slots. (As opposed to our previous plan to "see the sights.")

The highlight of the afternoon was Ceridwen discovering her love of video poker. The interactivity and implied control over the outcome made it decidedly less boring and monotonous than slots. We played for a while at the MGM Grand, where she managed to win back all the money Keath had lost at slots (and then some.) We of course spent at least this much at the bar doing shots to keep the buzz. For some reason, though neither of us have been carded since we were 22 or so, we got carded when we wanted to do slots of Goldschlager in Vegas. Go figure. And the ceiling of the bar was dripping on us. That's not good.

We stopped at the Luxor to ride the infamous "Inclinator." (It's like an elevator, but rides up the side of the pyramid at an . . . incline. Get it?) But the Inclinator has no windows. They have a regular ol' glass elevator, but it only goes up to the fifth floor. What a waste. So, no sights for us. But we took some pictures and played some games and kept a souvenier dollar chip. Oh yeah, and more booze.

We finished the night off at Bally's, somehow managing to eat dinner twice.

Day 146

Tuesday, October 18, 2005Las Vegas, NV
Miles: 17537What Happens in Vegas...

We had reservations for a helicopter ride, but it was pouring rain and the trip was cancelled. Harrumph. Instead, we went to the Imax to watch the very cool movie about going through the canyon on the river. It was a very cool movie and made us feel bad about not being able to take the helicopter trip.

We headed to Las Vegas, stopping to take a photo or two of the Hoover Dam. Once in Vegas, we drove around trying to figure out where to stay. After settling on the Imperial Palace, we checked in and looked at the show schedule. We decided to go to Cirque Du Soleil's Zumanity. Keath ordered tickets, then found out we had half an hour to get to New York, New York, a block and a half away. Sure, that doesn't sound hard, but the blocks on the Vegas strip are about a half mile long. We sprinted down the strip, running by frightened looking tourists and calling out directions to each other (dodge left, no right).

We arrived with just enough time to down some bowls of Thai food before heading into the theater. It was an amazing show, with naked people doing normal Cirque Du Soleil things like the trapeze and acrobatics, plus a lot of writhing about in fabic and water and whatnot.

On our way back to the hotel, we checked out the Bellagio Fountain and watched it dance to Hey Big Spender and the Pink Panther. Then we made out and tried to make people think we were about to make a big mistake at an all night wedding chapel.

Day 145

Monday, October 17, 2005Grand Canyon NP, South Rim
Miles: 17233They Said It Couldn't be Done. Ha.

WAHOOOOOO! We finally got up early. When it counted the most, we got our asses up and out of the campground by 4:18. Unbelievable. Because of this, we made it to the South Rim by a little past 8 am. Which means we got to check out some very cool viewpoints before other people got there. The ride was pretty as the sun rose.

It is said that the Grand Canyon takes too long to see. It is said that you should never endeavor to try and see the North Rim and the South Rim on the same trip. It is said that you should plan at least a week to enjoy it all. We don't know what it is these people think takes so long, because they are certainly not the people who are actually hiking down in to the canyon. If you're not planning an overnight in the canyon itself, a day ought to do you well...

We spent the day walking along the rim, driving out as far as we could and then taking the bus out to the end of the park. It was nice to see the canyon from all sorts of different angles. The Grand Canyon is gorgeous, but hard to write about, because it's so vast, and also very overexposed. Not a lot to say that hasn't been said. Oh well. We had dinner and hid in the van from the rain.

Day 144

Sunday, October 16, 2005Grand Canyon NP, North Rim

Ceridwen woke Keath up with the classic birthday pancake. Last night she had snuck around the grocery store purchasing icing and candles. She had a bit of a problem getting the candle lit in the wind, but when she did, Keath was entertained by his birthday 'cake'.

After packing up, we headed out to the Grand Canyon's North Rim, via red rocks and tunnels. There's just not an ugly place around here, apparently. There were some unexpected forests, and some even more unexpected cow warning signs. The cows hang out in the woods? Uh, okay.

We arrived at the Grand Canyon to find it deserted. We scored a campsite (we had been warned by every guidebook in the world that this was nearly impossible without reservations) right on the rim and headed to the visitor center. The place was only being run by three rangers, and the stores and hotels were about to close for the year. We looked at the lookouts, walked along the rim and pretty much marveled at the beauty of the canyon. We then drove out to some other scenic viewpoints that looked at some of the canyond leading into the Grand one. Then we drove back to the habitated bit and had a drink and watched the sunset from the lodge.

On the way back to the campground, we decided that we would get up super duper early to head to the South Rim. After all, we had seen as much of the North Rim as we wanted, so we ate the eggs we purchased for the morning for dinner instead and headed for bed.

Day 143

Saturday, October 15, 2005Zion National Park
Miles: 16763Angel's Landing

Today we got up early to hike up to Angel's Landing before it got hot. We had looked over our hiking options and chosen this one for its views. The hike itself was fun, steep and windy, straight up the side of a cliff. Along the way, the views of Zion were stunning. Zion is compact, a valley surrounding by pretty mountains, but somehow, it's still amazing to study in the changing light. There's a sense of size to the park, even though it's almost always completely visible once you hike to a thousand fee or so.

Once to the top of Angel's Landing (via some steep parts requiring chains) we had a snack and checked out the awesome view we had worked so hard for. Regardless of why Zion was named, from here it really did look like some sort of promised land. We headed back down, just in time to miss a thunderstorm. We hid in the van, then went in search of the local specialty of Bumbleberry Pie. It was tasty and came with a clever tale of where the Bumbleberry comes from. We hid in the van from the rain some more and went nigh nigh, for tomorrow was a very special day, the birthday of booboo!

Day 142

Friday, October 14, 2005Zion National Park
Miles: 16763One Hell of a Promised Land

We started the day with an oh so exciting oil change. The high altitude here makes it sort of like the Northeast. Pines, birch and cold, crisp air. It was a gorgeous drive to Zion, through forests and striped formations.

Once at Zion, we checked into the campsite before heading out to the Riverwalk, a nice paved path along the river at the very end of the road. Zion has the best idea that we've seen in a National Park: a bus that takes you from point to point. The best part is that they do not allow private vehicles past the hotel along the road. It made it a very quiet, low stress trip. The walk itself was pretty, easy, and ended at the Narrow, where the Canyon, well, narrows to about ten feet at the bottom.

After our walk we ate some food we had purchased earlier at the fruit stand that Vermont had misplaced in Utah. The store was surrounded by green grass and apple trees and had a stream running by it. If we didn't know better, we would have thought we were in Rutland. The food was tasty and meant we didn't have to cook. Sweet.

Day 141

Thursday, October 13, 2005Bryce Canyon NP
Miles: 16675Land of the Hoodoos

Bryce Canyon rocks!! There are rocks there, and it is awesome. We headed into the park first thing in the morning and started to walk the rim trail, but the allure of the path into the canyon was just too enticing to pass up. The trail wound down the canyon along a red path. Halfway down, the sun disappeared except for the glow around the rim of the canyon. Sadly, the loop trail was closed due to erosion, so we had to go back the way we came.

After climbing out of the canyon, we headed out the road of the park to Rainbow Point. On the way back to the campground from the Point, we stopped and checked out the viewpoints. Hoodoos abounded and became Ceridwen's new favorite rock formation. We settled into our campsite amid ponderosa pines. Because the campground was closing the next day, some of the bathrooms were closed, but it was still a very nice site.

When the sun went down and the moon came up, we headed down to one of the lookouts for a moonlit walk. According to the literature, it's so dark at Bryce that Venus put out enough light to make shadows. But not if the moon is full like it was tonight. It was cool though, to see the formations bathed in crisp white moonlight. The glowing rocks and quiet made it worth the trip out.

Day 140

Wednesday, October 12, 2005Ruby Inn, UT
Miles: 16618The Amusing Shapes of Kodachrome Basin

Today we drove to Ruby Inn, UT by way of Scenic Byway 12. It was gorgeous, yet slow going, as we kept pulling over to look at the scenic beauty. It was getting chilly, which after the heat of Phoenix was very nice. It was a beautiful day, dry and crisp and blue skied.

Our drive took us through Escalante National Monument as well, seeing some beautiful colors of rocks. Kodachrome Basin State Park was also very beautiful, with layers of colors in odd shapes.

Ruby Inn turned out to be pretty gross and overpriced. Ah well. It set us up nicely for Bryce Canyon the following day.

Day 139

Tuesday, October 11, 2005Torrey, UT
Miles: 16404Mmmm... Early Morman Settlements

Today we drove through Capitol Reef National Park. It was very pretty, and we took quite a few photos, but there's not a lot to say. There were some remnants of old Morman settlements - including an old one-room schoolhouse - in the area and we stopped at a farm stand in the middle of it all to grab some lunch. When all was said and done, we wound up in Torrey, UT.

Day 138

Monday, October 10, 2005Moab, UT
Miles: 16170It's time to be a robot, not a man!

Today was quite cold. It's been getting colder, but when we woke up today, it was freezing. The rain that had fallen on us the night before had been snow on La Sal Mountain a few miles away, and it was a beautiful sight.

We headed into Arches and checked out all the roadside attractions while bundled up in our parkas. The arches were very fun to climb around, especially when we got away from the tour buses. Our ranger lead hike was soon to start so we headed for the parking lot to meet up with the group.

The hike lead us through a confusing route of fins, boulders and alcoves. It was fun to see a different, more secluded part of the park. Our guide was very fun and informative and explained the geology involved in making such a place to us.

Day 137

Sunday, October 9, 2005Moab, UT
Miles: 16170The Other End of Moab

Once again, it was too windy to cook again, but this time, instead of having some eggs, we had amazing whole grain waffles at quite possibly the most popular place in Moab. The waffles were worth the short wait, as was the coffee and the fruit. Yummmmmy!! On our way to the second section of Canyonlands, we stopped at the Arches Visitor Center and bought tickets for the fiery furnace tour. This tour has to be taken with a guide, since the National Parks frown on tourists getting lost in the middle of nearly impenetratable rocks. We couldn't wait.

As we drove out to Canyondlands, we decided that Utah should just designate all the roads in this area as scenic byways. Everything was towering and gorgeous. We hiked out to Island in the Sky, a peninsula of land sticking into the middle of a canyon. We hiked out to the end of the peninsula and marveled at the beauty while eating our peanut butter sandwiches.

After lunch, we checked out all the overlooks. You can see the beauty for yourself in the photos.

Day 136

Saturday, October 8, 2005Moab, UT
Miles: 15,881It's really an Army Hummer...

This morning it was waaaay too windy to cook, so we headed to some sort of pancake restaurant for breakfast and plotted. Our stay in Moab would be a little longer than some of our other stints, so our options were more plentiful. We decided to save Arches National Park for later, so we headed for the Needles Section of Canyonlands National Park. We viewed some wonderful formations and took a few short hikes. The rocks are unbelievably big rocks.

After getting back to Moab, we decided to take a Hummer ride through the Slickrock area. Sweet. Our guide was a really cool guy with a broken arm. It was an amazing ride, and we went down a cliff and he did some other really cool things. We went to a place called the top of the world, and with the clouds, and mist, it was amazing. a really bright rainbow. It was unbroken and gorgeous. We hung out and watched the sunset, then headed back to the campground.

Day 135

Friday, October 7, 2005Moab, UT
Miles: 15881Happy Birthday, Dad!

Our deer-y friends greeted us again this morning and kept us company while we made pancakes. We went out on a nice hike along a ridge line and saw some beautiful views, as well as a very gross carcass. Apparently, we had interrupted a lunching hawk. Ew.

After our hike, we headed to Monument Valley, which wasn't originally in our itinerary, but it was so pretty there, with red rocks jutting into the sky, that we decided we had to. And it was well worth it. The views and formations were amazing and it was so peaceful when we got off the highway. Vantom enjoyed the red dirt bath.

As we drove towards Moab, the sun set and the moon rose in a beautiful, dusky moment. The sky was so big, that the sunset took on ridiculous proportions. We made it to Moab and took in the giant crimson wall that hems in Moab.

Day 134

Thursday, October 6, 2005Mesa Verde NP, CO
Miles: 15565Four states in one!

Since we hadn't had time to hike around the day before, we decided to get up early and watch the sunrise and hike. Uh, yeah. Instead we got up early and watched the sunrise while cuddling in the bed of the van. Ahh, the convenience of a house with a windshield. It was also way too creepy to shower in the horror movie-esque showers. Shudder.

We went to the Echo Amphitheater, yelled some stuff at it, and drove on. We realized that today was Rosh Hashannah and we had no Challah. So we bought some Apache challah from a guy selling tasty food out of the back of his station wagon. We even bought some honey to go with it. Score.

We drove to Aztec National Park and looked at some more ruins. By this time we had gotten to the point where we could recite the signs along the way and didn't take a whole lot of time there. Ruins tend to get redundant after a while. We drove on to the Four Corners, which, it turns out, is not in fact at the point at which the four states meet. Ah well. We had our photos taken anyway.

We arrived in Mesa Verde late in the afternoon and got in touch with Joe, who Ceridwen had met in Romania and who lives in Cortez, the town closest to Mesa Verde. We had dinner with him at a great Mexican restaurant and chatted. We got back to the campground and we greeted by some nice little deer hanging out and munching on the grass near our picnic table. Hello!

Day 133

Wednesday, October 5, 2005Ghost Ranch, NM
Miles: 15,529Georgia O'Keefeness

We tried to get up early, but it was so cold we just couldn't. We didn't need breakfast, though, since we were stuffed from last night's dinner, so we saved time there. We headed to the Georgia O'Keefe museum to check out the exhibit showcasing O'Keefe's works with Andy Warhol. I don't know if they thought that Warhol would hold up under the comparison, but he didn't. O'Keefe's works are older, but more timeless and elegant, and Warhol's were obsolete and felt a little desperate to be relevant.

After the museum, we left Santa Fe for Bandelier National Park. We got to walk in some real woods and even saw a red leaf. We climbed up into a high alcove and saw some amazing views from the top. The place was overrun with some sort of outward bound type group, but it was still fun. From there we headed to Ghost Ranch, NM, where O'Keefe painted. We saw Pedernal, the mountain she painted over and over again. We spent the night hanging out and watching the sunset over the mountains.

Day 132

Tuesday, October 4, 2005Santa Fe, NM

After Keath's work day, we headed into Santa Fe. It was pretty much commercially, storey goodness. It was also the Feast of Saint Francis Day, so we couldn't even visit the Saint Francis Cathedral. We had a nice walk around the mall that is downtown Danta Fe instead.

We went out to dinner at a Tex Mex restaurant, since where else in the country would we find better? It was a good choice. Keath got revenge on the prickly pear species of cacti by dining on one, and Ceridwen had an enchilada covered in cocoa mole sauce. Yummmmmmmy! Dinner was accompanied by a very good flamenco performance.

Day 131

Monday, October 3, 2005Santa Fe, NM
Miles: 15080Petroglyphs too!

Oh dear, it's flashbacks to Wyoming: Look dear, New Mexico! Flat, scrubby, then mountains, and scrubbiness. Albuquerque was sprawlilicious. In fact, they were quickly banging together some condos right up to the border of Petrolglyph National Park. It was a little odd to walk along the trails looking at old petroglyphs while listening to the sounds of backhoes and bulldozers ripping the rocks up.

Albuquerque was another city we had thought about living, but we quickly dropped off the list. So we headed up to Santa Fe and the Santa Fe KOA. It was in a very pretty area in the mountains, surrounded by yummy smelling trees, pinon pines, which give us the pine nut. In fact, people staying there were collecting them by the bucketful. After s'mores and dinner, we went to bed.

Day 130

Sunday, October 2, 2005Truth or Consequences, NM
Miles: 14827'TorC' to the hipsters

What is The Thing? Well, we didn't know, but we were asked numerous times by billboards that were placed every few miles along the highway. So we stopped and, for a dollar, the kind people let us find out just what the Thing was. It was a mummy. Or something. In order to get to the Thing, we walked through an assortment of oddities, cars, and some weird carvings. The also had pecan rolls. Yum.

After our morning touristy constitutional, we drove to the Gila Cliff Dwellings. These are a very cool spot that is just a bit inconvenient, given the teeny tiny winding road we had to take to get there. It was well worth the drive though.

All the dwellings were built into caves in the mountains. We started taking a tour, but it became loooong, and seemed a lot like the video we had already watched, so we toured on our own, checking out the rooms and ladders and such. Fun! They were built very cleverly, to let in the sunlight in the winter and to keep it out in the summer. Air conditioning.

After our tour of the cliff dwellings, we drove to Truth Or Consequences, NM to spend the night.

Day 129

Saturday, October 1, 2005Benson, AZ
Miles: 14511Look! It's a bird! No - It's a plane!

Mmm. Eastern Arizone is depressing. Falling apart houses amid cacti. Lovely. We headed out to Casa Grande in the heat. It's under 100 though, which apparently means that it's Autumn.

Casa Grande was neat, though our trip was cut short due to the heat. If it seems like we're mentioning the heat a lot, it's because it's so intense that it invades everything. We drove down towards Tucson and checked out Saguaro National Park. Something about the giant cacti made us happy. The Native Americans thought of the saguaros as their ancestors, which is easy to see.

On our search for a place to sleep, we stopped at the Pima Airforce Base and checked out a whole bunch of weird planes (click on the Super Guppy below for way too many photos of them). But, alas, heat leads to grumpiness, and after an hour or so, we left to go find a hotel to sleep in.