Tues. Feb. 21, 2012- Driving from Las Vegas, NV to Grand Canyon:
Having gone to bed at 9pm the night before, combined with being 3 hours behind in a different time zone, it is no surprise that I woke up at 4:30 in the morning. I tried to sleep some more, but did not make it past 5:30, reluctantly I got up. I took a long time getting ready to go out, even wrote in my travel book, while in the bathroom because that was the only place where I could turn on the light. There was no way they were going to wake up any time soon, so I headed off on my own in search of that enormous shark tank I saw the previous day (insert gangster threat “swimming with the fishies”). First and foremost however, I was in desperate need of coffee. How desperate? In my notebook it says in giant letters NEED COFFEE, so I would say pretty damn desperate. Thankfully there was a Starbucks downstairs right beside the elevators. What a rip off this Starbucks was, for some reason the brewed coffee was more expensive than usual, yet the espresso drinks were not. It was a $1 difference, so I had to indulge. I sat for a bit, nursing my caramel macchiato but I was just too antsy to go out and shoot… photographs.
I found a fish tank, but it was not the one I wanted. It was surrounded by a pool and hard to see. There was another one I had seen where you could walk right up to the glass. I spent the next 20 minutes walking around like a lost child, searching for that aquarium. I finally came across reception and asked the lady, “I was here yesterday and I swear I saw another fish tank, one you could go up close to, where is it?!” and she stared blankly at me, pointed over her shoulder, “You mean that one?” Oops, my bad. I felt like an idiot. But in my defense the lights were not on, so it was hard to see that it was in fact a fish tank. She said the lights would be turned on at 10am. I had a lot of time to kill.
I went back to the room and left my tripod, Mike and his mom were still out cold, despite my thumping around in the dark. I headed out to Fremont to shoot; it was still really early so there would be good quality light. It was eerily quiet and empty, like a beautiful golden apocalypse had swept through. Where there had been throngs of revelers and bright neons there were now long shadows, golden light and a few pigeons. 24/7 party town my ass, I say. As I made my way back to the hotel, paranoid that they had awoken and did not know where I was (I was not at the shark tank as I had said I would be) I caved and went in to the Fremont Hotel for my usual fix, Dunkin’ Donuts coffee (which I was told I would not find this far south, ha!). Yet all that worry and rushing was for nothing, still asleep.
I went back downstairs, yet again loitered for a bit at Starbucks’s tables (I was drinking coffee and had ordered from them earlier, so it was fine) and then decided to go waste some time on a 5 cent slot machine. You would think $1 on a 5 cent machine would take up more time, alas it didn’t. I did manage to win 50 cents, which I also spent on the machine. I sat there for a while but got paranoid that I would get yelled at so I went back to the pool area and this time actually went and shot the shark tank. The attendant was funny about, “just don’t go in the pool”, like I would go in the pool with my DSLR.
On my way back up to the room, again, I ran into a guy who made me do a double-take. For a split second I really thought he was Howie Mandel, but then I remembered that there was an impersonators convention at our hotel. That would’ve been so horribly embarrassing. I grabbed my purse and went to (finally) sit on the deck. I had been wandering back and forth, circling it like a shark, unsure if it was open yet. I finally sucked it up and asked the attendant if I could just hang out there. He looked at me like I was nuts, like why would you not be able to? The deck was nice, the sun was bright and warm and the sparrows were hanging around nearby, chirping and posing for the occasional photograph. It was only about 8:30am at this point. It was insane how slow time seemed to be going.
We reconvened at 9 for breakfast when they woke up. Breakfast was to be had at the Fremont Hotel (where we had tried to get dinner buffet the night before). An $8 breakfast buffet is amazing. I ate so much more food than $8 worth. And they had soft serve ice cream as well! Any buffet where I can drink 2 more cups of coffee (if you are keeping count that would bring the total to 4) and eat ice cream is fine by me. And the fact that there were toppings for the ice cream as well, that was just the cherry on top. Mike took full advantage of the spread, getting creative with the pancakes. He came back to the table with a colossal wonder of true beauty: a pancake with soft serve ice cream, Oreo crumbs, cherry goo, and is if that was not enough, caramel sauce as well. On the way back in to the Golden Nugget I had wanted to play the giant slot machine, alas it was still being serviced (had been all morning). So instead, Mike and I headed over to the fish tank (it was finally after 10am and the lights were on). The people there were nice enough to let us in, even though the restaurant surrounding the tank was not open yet.
As we drove out of Las Vegas, starting our journey to the Grand Canyon, we passed by all the tacky wedding chapels, but did not get to see any newlyweds emerge. We also passed a sad sight, a line up around the block to get into a pawn shop. Before leaving town however, we stopped at The Mirage to go Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden to gawk at dolphins and lions and tigers (oh my!). It was pretty cool, we got to see a baby dolphin and watch a lion snap his jaw at flies and lick his paw and his nose. En route we passed the sad-looking closed Liberace Museum. At this point my 8GB memory card was already half full and it had not even been a day and a half, and we were heading to the Grand Canyon, bad news for me. Luckily we passed by RadioShack and I ran in and got a 16GB memory card (for real cheap too).
We stopped at a gas station, it was so nice and warm outside. At this point we were in Arizona. Yet the gas station seemed to think we were in New Mexico, they were selling fake Area 51 ID badges. Weird. There were some gorgeous views of the desert and of Lake Mead from the highway. The bridge over the Colorado River had a high cement wall, so I could not see the Hoover Dam. I saw so many different cacti out the window, some looked like pineapples and some looked like they were wearing hula skirts. There was also the Joshua tree which looked like it had sprouted pineapples on the ends of its arms. I also misidentified some giant black birds, I thought they were hawks, but they were cactus-pecking birds of some sort.
At one point we were on Route 66, passing through Kingman (“the home of Route 66”), it was so cool. It took me 2 hours to notice that we had long ago left behind the palm trees; I blame the 4000ft elevation having some sort of effect on me. As we kept climbing in elevation, small patches of snow started appearing off in the distance on mountain tops. There was a road sign warning of elk crossing the road, and about 5 seconds later I saw a large animal and got all excited… only to realize it was a cow… on a farm, I blame the 5000ft elevation. There was a train off in the distance and in my semi-boredom I decided to count how many cars it had, I got to 50 when part of it disappeared behind a hill, so my guess is that it had 150 cars. The boredom subsided when I saw three wild boars grazing.
It was getting later in the day and at this point we were racing to get to the Grand Canyon for sunset, but it was not looking too good, we only had an hour until the Weather Channel said the sun would set. I had a possible elk sighting off in the distance but it caused confusion because I was in the backseat so when I said “there!” and pointed, it did not come across very clearly where “there” was. Somehow or other we then passed under a bridge that was Route 66. The landscape was more of a forest than a desert now. We stopped at McDonalds (just outside of the Grand Canyon park) for dinner, but more importantly the free wi-fi. Admittedly as well I had been tempted to try the new McChicken Bites; I really have no idea why I wanted them so bad. And they were not that good; it was more breading than chicken.
When we got to the Grand Canyon it was dark, there are no street lamps in the park. There were so many stars in the night sky but it hurt my head to look up. Mike and I passed through the main lodge and to the rim, where there was a small brick wall (barely illuminated by light from the cabin) and then just a big huge dark empty void (the canyon). It was scary to look and see nothing but dark.
We were staying at the Bright Angel Lodge, right on the rim. There was an ice bucket in our room and an ice machine down the hallway (to which the front desk person had given us directions) and yet on the machine there was a sign stating that you should not use the machine, but to instead buy ice in the main lodge. Who writes these things? We also had a channel guide but no television.
With a sunburnt face, Mike and I headed to the main lodge to get dessert. There was nothing else to do. Too dark to go for a walk, too cold for star gazing and no television. We got chocolate cake and just loitered in the bar until closing.I noticed that there were two bottles of wine, red and white, which were labeled Grand Canyon. I raised an eyebrow and asked the bar tender where exactly this “Grand Canyon” vineyard was, this hardly seemed like the place to grow grapes. He looked at me sheepishly and admitted that it was a wine from California and they just stuck a Grand Canyon label on it. Still, was a pretty good glass of rosé wine.