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From Hangovers to Hoodoos

Well, finally found time to fill in a few details on our trip that some of you may be craving or, at the very least, will replace the useless jokes that I haven’t been sending. I can only imagine the void that must exist for you when my name isn’t constantly present in your Inbox.

Driving, driving, driving. That would more or less sum up days 1 and 2 (Fri and Sat). After the standard strip search and firehosing at the Monchy border crossing we made our way to Great Falls. Then a really long day which found us at a motel in Fillmore, Utah and from there to the City of Lights.

Highlights of the drive – the scenery in Montana (right out of Legends of the Fall), the transition to desert in Southern Utah, Arizona and Nevada, and the chance to enjoy feeling like a white-belted, 80-year-old snowbird getting passed like at a standstill on the I-15. Anything under 125 literally makes you a pylon down there.

Anyway, we roll into Vegas around 1:30 on Sunday and decide to get onto the Strip right at the top and do a lap or two, kind of see the sights. Well, my god, somehow we completely failed to anticipate their time-warping Sunday afternoon trafic jam. I mean, why woundn’t it take an hour to go 20 blocks in 105 degree heat?

Finally we rolled into the Stardust, one of the originals, famous (see Swingers), right on the strip, yet outclassed enough by the newer regime to be down in our price range. World-renowned Sports Book (got the Giants at 15-1). After some casino-hopping I played blackjack until 4:30 am, taking full advantage of their “free drinks at the tables” policy. As usual, their generosity paid off on all accounts – they got back nearly all my profits in my last hour playing (the rest the following day) and I was rewarded with a hangover worthy of the former hangout of the Rat Pack.

Wallowing in my aforementioned hangover, Laynni took me to the free buffet where I opted to check my common sense at the door and sample everything on offer from bacon and sausage to beans and potatoes, all topped off with chocolate cream pie. Needless to say, that didn’t exactly do the trick. Not surprisingly, neither did the Canyon Blaster, an insane rollercoaster Laynni dragged me to next. She assures me that this inhumane torture inflicted on my internal organs was not intentional, merely a pleasing side effect.

Eventually I did recover enough to go casino/hotel-hopping. We were amazed at the sheer scale and extravagance. I mean, you know all about it coming in but actually seeing them really brings home the truth of the phrase “money is no object”. The fountains at Bellagio were particularly impressive.

So, from the ultimate example of man-made splendor to the ancient natural scenery of Southern Utah.

Zion Canyon: A massive, rugged canyon with a picturesque river rushing down the middle. All sorts of short hikes and amazing viewpoints. While admiring a 3-foot long rattlesnake at the edge of one of the trails we were inadvertantly drawn into conversation with a well-meaning hippie couple well-versed in the art of conspiracy theorism. While incessantly combing his beard with his fingers the guy explained their fear of the US government’s ability to take away their citizenship and confided their plan to flee the US before the “Third Reich” is fully mobilized. They also asked if we were offended that they claim to be Canadian while travelling abroad (they’ve been to India 6 times) but we assured them not, but chose not to add that embarrassed was probably a better description.

In the morning we hiked up to Angel’s Landing, 1500 feet up to a pinnacle in the centre of the canyon.
“Not for anyone fearful of heights……follows a steep narrow ridge; chains have been added for safety”
That is just an example of the many warnings we did not take seriously, assuming them to be directed toward more portly, arthritic types. In fact, however, that quote turned out to be extremely accurate. We’ve never before encountered a trail that we considered turning back from (with an obvious exception for laziness). You would not believe some of the places along the final ridge, high above the canyon floor, sheer dropoffs just feet away, high winds, and, sometimes, a chain bolted into the rock as your only sure handhold. Easily the freakiest climb we’ve ever done, but amazing views and a more definite feeling of accomplishment than after our usual strolls.

After that we moved on to Bryce Canyoin, the 2nd national park in a chain of 6. While also a canyon, everything at Bryce is situated up on the rim, not down in the bottom like at Zion. The canyon itself is filled with thousands of “hoodoos”, sandstone pinnacles created by millions of years of erosion. It’s like looking down at a gigantic bed of rusty, phallic nails. Since almost all the hiking trails entail hiking all the way down and back up, and easily-reached viewpoints were plentiful along the rim, we noticed the crowd tended to be a bit more geriatric and photo-oriented than the hiker crowd at Zion.

A memorable moment at Bryce Canyon: emerging from our tent to a swarm of moths big enough to have carried us away (had they shown the necessary organizational skills). We attempted to fight them off as they persistently, and inexplicably, dive-bombed our faces. Eventually we gave up and fled, although it turned out the car was infested as well. For every one we forced out the window by spastically flailing our arms another shot like a tiny cannonball out of the vents. It was truly a scene straight out of a half-wit’s nighmare.

Well, that’s all for now. We’re actually in Moab now but I’m tired of typing so I’ll catch up later. Talk to you all then.

ps. It was 2 full days before we got the last moth out of the car.

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