National Parks Trip

March 2005

Wed. March 23, 20005- Amherst, N.Y.

      We were up early, having slept little. We had tried to check in on-line, with Southwest Airlines, after midnight , and had no success. Given our tight time frame today, we were apprehensive about boarding our flight later this afternoon. Whatever happened to assigned seats for paid tickets? It was cold, 32 degrees out and a light snow was falling.

      Mary had worked today and was leaving early. We took seperate cabs and met at the airport around 2:00 P.M., for the 4:05 P.M. flight. We were surprised to be able to sail through everything and make the ÒBÓ sectionÓ of our Southwest flight. We would get decent seats for the 4-hour run to Phoenix ,on flight #1464. Snow was falling, as we off-lifted, but we experienced no problems.

     The flight was standing room only, but we managed well enough. I was reading Deception Point by Dan Brown. The time passed quickly enough. Four hours later, we touched down at PhoenixÕs Skyharbor airport. We found our way, in th

e busy terminal, and retrieved our luggage. Someone from Collette Tours was supposed to greet us at the airport and transport  us to the Doubletree Hotel in nearby Scottsdale. We searched around a bit, before realizing we were on a foolÕs errand. A few phone calls revealed that we were on our own, so we hailed a cab outside. It was a cool 60 degrees outside. Our hotel is located about 13 miles from the airport, so we settled back to enjoy the new surroundings. The Southwest is so very different from everything we know as normal . Shortly, we arrived at the Doubltree. I paid the cabbie ($33) and we checked in at the desk. They said that a tour was scheduled for us that afternoon, before we arrived. They also werenÕt aware of any breakfast plans for the next two days. Okay, things like t

0his happen. We made our case, got checked in and even had coupons, provided by the manager, for breakfast tomorrow morning. I didnÕt need all this aggravation after a long flight, but we made the best of it.

     The Doubletree is a lovely hotel, with well flowered grounds that spread out everywhere. Two pools, tennis courts, exercise facilities and a restaurant and bar make this a comfortable place to stay. We unpacked our gear, glad to be here. It was only 7:00 P.M.. because of the time difference. We walked down to the lobby and decided to try the restaurant out. Salads, crab cakes and some Calamari were accompanied by a decent cabernet. We enjoyed the meal and the restaurant. The day was waning and so were our energy levels. We returned to our room, settled in with our books, and let the sandman clai

gm us. We were glad to be here. Scottsdale itself looked interesting even at night. A former collection of huge citrus groves, and named for 19th century army general Winfield Scott, the area now bustles with 225,00 residents.

Thursday, March 24,2005- Scottsdale,Arizona

   We were up at 4 A.M. The time difference always does this to us for the first few days. We enjoyed some coffee in the room, while we watched the morning news programs. The sun rose shortly and we dressed and headed out for a walk. The cacti, flowers and other flora were a delight to us, just coming from the frozen tundra of Buffalo. We walked across the busy boulevard and headed through a subdivision towards Camelback Mountain in the distance. We were now walking into Paradise Valley. The one-acre building lots here start at $900,000. We ogled the Grand Cassas stretched out before us, in n

yeat rows, like small movie sets in the desert. The huge suguaro cacti, of all sizes, looked almost surreal to us. The sky was a bright, turquoise blue, and the sun was shining benignly on a wealthy land of milk and honey. We walked back to the hotel, impressed with the relative wealth of the area.

     We sat, on the outside patio near the pool, enjoying some coffee with the morning sun. Colorful flowers, of all types, made the greenery lush and inviting. Next, we sat down in the restaurant for a breakfast of mexican omelets. It was the beginning of a delightful caloric onslaught that would stretch out over the next 10 days and engulf us in some memorable tastes and aromas. We then showered in our room and prepped for the day. We had called the local tour company and arranged for a Phoenix city tour in the early afternoon.

     At 12:30 ÒChetÓ, from ÒOver the Road ToursÓ pic

ked us up in a twenty seat tour van. George and Geraldine, from Poughkeepsie N.Y. were already aboard. The back door of the bus was loose and rattled noisily. The seats were cramped and uncomfortable. Was this to be an endurance test? Chet drove us to downtown Phoenix where we picked up ÒEnriqueÓ from Cuba. Luckily there were only five of us on the tour, so we could spread out and minimize the noisy and cramped seats. Chet started the narrated tour. He had all of the breezy charm and rapier-like wit of day old bread.

    Downtown Phoenix itself had undergone a rebirth of sorts since the early 1970Õs. Several shiny new bank buildings, a huge sports arena and convention center compliment the state capitol building complex to make an attractive downtown area. Green

d Park areas, several restored 19th century homes and a general aura of clean prosperity greeted us as we drove around the bustling city. We were also in the home of the famous Maricopa Tent city Jail system.

      The city itself is enormous, stretching some 40 miles in  across and encompassing several large mountains. Camelback, South and newly named Piesowa Mountain, which was renamed from Squaw Mountain, to honor the first Native American woman soldier recently killed in Iraq dominate the skyline. Miles of hiking trails lace these three mountains and comprised an enormous city park. The entire area is set in the huge Sonorran Desert that stretches for 2,000 square miles all around us. Early city leaders had built 130 miles of aqueducts to carry water in from the Salt and Colorado Rivers, in the nearby White Mountains, to nurture the city. It has never

s yet experienced a water shortage in spite of its desert locale. Much of Arizona was a surprise to us. Huge forests, high mesas and mountain ranges, with suguaro cacti everywhere, are beautiful. Much of Arizona is federal land (54%) Another 17% of its land is on native American reservations. Only about 27% of ArizonaÕs land is held privately.

     The huge Suguaro cacti were all around us. They grow very straight and tall for the first 75 years. They then  start to sprout Òarms.Ó The Cacti can grow to enormous size, live without water for up to seven years and exist for over 300 years. They are also a protected species in Arizona. They are eye friendly and attractive in all of the settings we were to see them in.

    Chet drove us through the grounds of the very exclusive Arizona Biltmore Hotel. It was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and has two eighteen hole golf cour

ses on its grounds. The nightly tab starts at $400. In a previous generation, you had to be invited there to stay. The homes surrounding the Biltmore grounds are equally impressive. Paul Harvey and Glen Campbell still called these impressive haciendas and faux Roman Villas home.

    Next, we drove by the 50,000 sq. foot ÒHormel Mansion.Ó It is enormous. Describing it would take forever, suffice it to say it is an architectural wow. Then, Chet dropped us off at ScottsdaleÕs ÒOld Town.Ó It is a few square block collection of Jewelry stores, native american tourist centers and other Òtourist attractions.Ó We wandered through some of the shops, rediscovered our distaste for people under five feet in height, and then stopped for coffee in the afternoon sun. The bouganvilla, cacti and other flora are very attractive. Chet picked us up and showed us finally through something called the ÒIndian Bend Wash.Ó It is an old Òcement riverÓ like the L.A.River. The Army Corps of Engineers had turned it into lush parkland an

d a golf course, much enhancing the area. We had had enough of ChetÕs rapier wit and were glad to disembark at our hotel. It was till sunny and in the 60Õs out.

    We chilled out in the room then dressed and set out for dinner. The concierge had recommended a nearby Southwestern restaurant, called the ÒTequila Grille.Ó It was a great find. Casual and comfortable, we had some Dos Equis beer and a plate of Que Sedias that were wonderful  A basket of Mexican corn chips and several tangy dips were also great t

o the tatse. We left there stuffed like Mexican Burros. The hotel drove us there and picked us up with their courtesy van. We enjoyed the service and the meal. ($50) We had enjoyed the entire day in Scottsdale. A full moon was shining high overhead, but these two Pilgrims were ready for the corral. We settled in with our books and let Morpheus embrace us.

Friday, March 25,2005- Scottsdale, Arizona

     We were up at 4:30 A.M. again, disoriented by the time zone change. We had coffee in the room, as we watched the television news. Breakfast, at 9:00 A.M. in the hotel restaurant, was pleasant.They even do bagels and lox out here in the West.

      By 9:30 A.M, we set off walking along busy Scottsdale Boulevard. We were headed for the very pricey ÒFashion Island Mal

l.Ó The sun was shining and it was warm and in the 60Õs out. We enjoyed the mile walk. The Mall itself is enormous. Sitting over  a large parking complex, it is three stories high, with an airy open court. Row after row of shops, like Nieman-Marcus, Nordstroms, Gucci and dozens of other fashion names command your attention. We wandered, browzed and sometimes ogled the wealth on casual display. Crowds of kids were headed to the Cinemas and more crowds of locals were off work for Good Friday.This is a very busy place, especially during the Summer months, when the outside temps can reach and stay in the 100-plus temperature ranges for weeks on end.

     We enjoyed a few hours of shopping, then stopped at a Starbucks for some of that strong nectar.Then, we walked back along the

c boulevard to the Doubletree, enjoying the sunshine and warm temperatures. We had decided to make a pilgrimage to Frank Llloyd WrightÕs ÒTaliesin West Ò this afternoon.  It lies about 13 miles Northeast of Scottldale, high on a bluff in what used to be an isolated desert area.

     Frank Lloyd Wright first came here, in  1937 at age 72, to found a Winter sanctum, to cure his ailing lungs.He ,his wife and acolytes camped in tents for four years, until the prarie-style masterpiece took shape and was completed. Low slung and angular, the house, in Wright tradition, seems like it is part of the surrounding land itself. Sited on the brow of a desert bluff, (Taliesin is Welsh for shining brow) just below the crest of a nearby Mount McDowell, you can look out over 90 miles across the desert and seeTuscon,on a clear day. The sun and sky and catci surrounding the

place are beautiful. We enjoyed our narrated tour through the small and nautically designed living and sleeping quarters, admirng the many unique architectural features that brand the man a genius. He had a feel for the land and thought of the house as a ship sailing on an ocean of desert. Novel touches, like an acousitcally perfect recital hall, and reflected light everywhere kept our attention riveted to the house and the tour guide. We had seen falling water in Western Pa. and already were Wright devotees.

    The foundation that runs the property is a functioning architectural firm, that admits 11 architectural students a year to mentor with working architects. First year students are required to sleep in tents, for a year, to get the feel of the land and the wind and their relatio

nship to the buildings. Second year students have to design and build their own quarters.They also work the kitchens, to be familiar with what design elements should be incorporated in well designed kitchens. Wright also held many soirees at the school, so that prospective students would  become accustomed to socializing with wealthy patrons and learn how to secure commissions for work.The man thought of everything.

   It was late afternoon and we were tiring, in spite of the arhchitectural brilliance of Taliesin West. We called for a cab, from the Scottsdale Cab Co.  and rode back to our hotel.The bell boy had suggested that we  rent a car for the day.We wish we had listened. The cab fare there and back was over $65. It was close to 5 P.M. when we returned, so we freshened up for dinner. We were to meet our travelintg companions, for the next 7 days, in the hotelÕs Chapparel room, at a Collette Tours dinner.

   We met Jerry and Muriel from Boston, cousins Michelle and Jane from New Jersey and a whole passe

l of friendly Canadians. We had salmon and a glass or two of cabernet, as we chatted and became acquainted with a table-full of fellow travellers.Everyone seemed amiable enough and would prove to be good travelling companions over the course of the next week. Kim Durham introduced herself as the Collette representative and gave us an overview of the week ahead of us. We were ready for the adventure.

    After dinner, we returned to our room and packed our bags for the trip.They had to be ready for pick up by 7 A.M. We settled in with our books, relaxed and rested. We were glad we had come in a day early. Most of the rest of the gang had just arrived, in the last few hours, and looked pretty tired. We were hopeful, as we drifted off to sleep.

Saturday, March 26-2005- Scottsdale, Arizona

      We were up early. The bags had to be ready for pick up by 7:00A.M. We prepped for the day, then had an early breakfast in the hotelÕs reastaurant. We had enjoyed our stay here. It was sunny and cool out at 7:30 A.M.

4 A huge landcruiser, from ÒTour America West,Ó was parked out in front of the hotel, presumably our ÒrideÓ for the next week. The huge tour bus could seat 50 passengers. We were only to be 33, so it promised not to be as crowded and claustriphobic as some we have experienced. We entered the landship and settled in for the day.

     Bill Paige, our driver, set us off along Rte. 101 North. We watched the desert scenery flash by, enjoying the various flora and the remarkable Ògreen carpetÓ on the desert floor.The area had enjoyed bountiful rains this Winter an

d the desert was blooming with flora. We were headed North to Sedona,AZ.

    As we ascended in altitude, we noticed definite changes in the flora. Near the  3,000 foot level, the huge Suguaro cacti began to disappear. They were replaced by scrubby pinon trees , thin ponderosa pines and short, flat, prickly-pear cacti. The flat expanse of desert yielded soon to rolling hills. We could see the white expanse of snow covered Mt.Humphrey, far along the skyline in the San Francisco peaks.

    We followed Rte. #179 into Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona. Just outside town, we stopped for pictures. The huge red sandstone expanses of Bell Rock, Cathedral Buttes, Snoopy and Thumb Peak all stood like vermillion lamp posts in the morning sun. We enjoyed their rust-red beauty and to

ok photos of ourselves with the rock formations as backdrops. The area had been first settled by a settler named Schnebley. Luckily , he named the area after his wife, Sedona. We were surrounded by the Cococino National Forest. The area was filed with the mysticism of the Zunis, Hopis and other early tribes. Mystic figiures like the ÒKokopelliÓ petroglyphs embellished the surfaces of these majestic rock faces. The indians had learned to scrape away the dark, Òdesert varnish,Ó that is a form of algae, and leave inscribed figures on the rock faces, depicting animals, rain and other tribal mysteries.

   Bill continued on into Sedona and dropped us off. Most of the town lies along both sides of Rte.#179 and extends a mile or so along the road. Jewlery shops, art galleries and the entire array of tourist support structure lay waiting for us.We browsed several of the stores and bought some decent Indian je

welry. Then we settled into the ÒCanyon Breeze,Ó on their open back deck for lunch, joining Gerry and Muriel. We could watch ÒMt. Snoopy,Ó and several other red sandstone creations, in the noon day sun.These are the real attractions of the area. You could bulldoze the commercial strip and no one would notice.

    It was sunny and nice out, with an azure sky, as we continued up along Oakcreek Canyon along Rte.#89-A. Rushing streams and even tent campers bespoke of many who enjoyed the forest preserve. We were ascending onto the Colorado Plateau, at the 7,000 foot level,  as we traversed the winding switchbacks. The vistas, back across the valley, were awesome, not comfortable for acrophobics on the narrow road. We followed Rte. #89 to Flagstaff, the highest and most Northern point in Arizona.A snow storm had hit up here the day before last. We could still see piles of the familiar white stuff along the roadways.Then, we turned east for 40 miles

to Williams, Az and finally onto Rte,64-North.This road would take us right into Grand Canyon Village. We were now in the Kaibob National Forest.

     The line of cars, waiting just to enter the Grand Canyon, was an hour long.We sat patiently, awaiting our turn. It was Easter Saturday and the place was SRO. Finally, we pulled into Grand Canyon National Park. Cars were parked everywhere along the roadsways, while their occupants walked the rim path. Bill pulled into the parking area of Yavapai point. We disgorged from the bus and walked briskly to the rim of the Grand Canyon. People from everywhere were walking along the narrow trail. I heard at least seven languages in the first 20 minutes of our walk. We laughed, thinking of doing a ÒChevy Chase.Ó (standing and looking out across the canyon for 30 seconds, then walking back to the bus) It was a scene from National LampoonÕs vacation and we mention it often when we are touring.

     We walked along the n

arrow trail, looking out some ten miles across to the North Rim of the Canyon, 1,000 feet higher in elevation.  A series of eroded terraces leads downwards for a mile, to the CanyonÕs floor. The thought of the Corlorado River eating away those many millions of tons of sandstone, over the eons, was daunting. The shades and colors of the rock face must change with the hour here at the Canyon rim, a photographerÕs dream.  Some of the early rim buildings were of stone and blended well into the environment. Rest rooms were at a premium for women. The Parks guys had dropped the ball here.

    Our brief look was over, as we scurried back to the bus. We were staying at the nearby Maswik lodge, just back from the canyonÕs rim. We saddled up and drove over to move into building #9, room 6904.The rooms were pine-panelled and basic, but clean and had all the amenties. Cell phone reception was non existent in the area. In a brief time we reboarded the bus f

or the short hop over to the Bright Angel Lodge, sitting right on the CanyonÕ s Rim. We were having dinner there. The place is stone flagged and comfortable, with a nice fire roaring in the stone lobby. It was also awash with thousands of other touring Griswalds looking for dinner. We put our name in with the hostess and were told that it was at least an hour Ôs wait. The day was fast cooling, as we stood on the stone flagged terrace of the hotel and looked out ovet the canyon.The setting sun cast a thousand differing shadows, as it set behind the West Canyon walls. We talked with Jane, Michelle, Gerry and Muriel as we watched the lights go out all along the Canyon. The temps were dropping into th 20Õs tonight and we were all lightly dressed, so we ambled ba

ck into the Bright Angel and milled around with all the other Griswalds.

     Soon enough, our assigned buzzer flashed and we walked into the crowded dinning room. It was huge in area, but so were the crowds. Whole families took up tables for eight and ten and were busily going through the various psycho dramas that families endure at dinner time on vacation. Gerry, Muiriel, Mary and I settled into a small booth and ordered up a martini, manhattan and glasses of wine to take off the chill. A pleasant waiter, from Providence, Rhode Island, served us up some decent River Trout, steaks and wondefrul deserts. We dined for 90 minutes, missing the first bus back to the Maswik Lodge. Kim Durham and Bill Paige got to eat late also. By 9:30 P.M. we had finished and boarde

d the bus back to the Maswik Lodge. It was as dark as ink out, and we were covered by a star studded sky. It was also as cold an a well diggerÕs butt. The bus dopped us off and we scurried to our various rooms, to pack for the morning departure, settle in and crash from the long dayÕs travel. It had been an interesting day in the Northen Arizona Mountains.

Easter Sunday, March 27, 2005- Grand Canyon, Az

    We were up early at 5:30 A.M. We packed our bags and put them outside the door.Then, we set off for a sunrise walk to the CanyonÕs rim. We had passed on the sunrise Easter Service, figuring the crowds would be considerable. Our walk would be our service. It was quiet as we walked.Only a few other brave souls were out and about in the morning cold. (24 degrees)The sun was

just rising along the eastern edges of the Canyon. We walked along the rim, past the Bright Angel Lodge, Look Out Point Lodge and a few other early structures, some now undergoing rennovation, enjoying the solitude and the light effects as the sun hit the far canyon walls. One intrepid female was already sitting on a rock face meditating on the rising sun.Another couple read their bible as they looked out over the canyon. The place does that to you, brings you back to the things elemental like nature and religion. It felt good to stretch our legs and enjoy the morning tableau before us. It had been a good, albeit brief, visit to a phenomena that would be here for eons after we shucked this mortal coil.

      We walked back to the Maswik lodge and had coffee and danish in the small lodge.Everyone else was up and about. We walked back to our room, showered and prepped for the day. The bus was due to l

eave by 8:45 A.M. Everyone was prompt. We much appreciated that consideration for each other. The bus took us out of the park and drove through Grand Canyon Village to the small airpark outside town. Seventeen of our tour were taking helicopter rides over the Canyon, at $115 each. We dropped them off and drove to an I-Max facility in GC village. For $10 each, we sat through a stomach lurching visual of an aerial ride over and through the Canyon.The photography was magnificent. A narrator gave early history of the area and included Major Wesley PowelÕs expedtion exploits through the Canyon. When the others rejoined us, they all spoke of the breathless beauty of the helicopter rides. Maybe in another life for me.

    Bill re-entered the park and drove east along the rim. Every time, the canyon came into view an appreciative ÒoohÓ and ÒahhÓ rose from all of us. We stopped at Òdesert View,Ó the easternmost point of the canyon and disembarked. A stone viewing tower

rose several stories above a small trading post. A restaurant, store and rest rooms were back along the trail. We looked out here some 90 miles across the canyon and into the painted deserts of Utah. A heavy magnezium content colored some sands green, iron dyed them red and sulfur, a  yellow to give the far away desert floor a multi colored hue in its vast expanse. We ogled the Canyon from its eastern end and enjoyed the shadings and sculptings of the canyonÕs walls.High above us, a giant condor floated on the heated air currents rising from the canyon walls. It was a beautiful stop and our last look at the Grand Canyon. It is a view that will remain with me for many years to come. It was sunny, warm and in the 50Õs out. We saddled up and exited the park at the eastern most gate.

    Bill drove the huge landship north on rte.#89 .We stopped about an hour later in Cameron, Az, at a trading post. We had coffee and enjoyed browsing the many items on sale. We were entering Navaho country. The Hopi

chave a preserve here that is entirely surrounded by the Navaho Reservation. The Navaho Reservation stretches across 27,000 acres in parts of three states and encompasses mountain ranges, deserts and rivers. We watched the colored deserts surround us as Bill drove northwards. The Vermillion Bluffs, Echo Bluff and Navaho Montain all crowded our skyline and drew our appreciative glances. This area is monumental in scale. Words soon fail as descriptors. We stopped for a picture stop at Marble Canyon.

    We were approaching the Glen Canyon Damn.The huge project had created a 200 mile long Lake Powell and filled the huge Glen Canyon to the top with the water from the Green, the Escalante, the Colorado, the  little Dirty and the San Juan Rivers, over a 17 year period. We drove across the bridge, admiring the chasm beneath us and the huge expanse of the damn it

self. We stopped for a brief time at the visitorÕs center.They have all manner of schema on the damÕs functioning and its construction. Security there was heavy. Dams are apparently favortie targets for terrorists. Curiously,  we saw and photographed a huge slab of stone with dinosaur tracks on it. The area had once felt their tread some 65 millions years ago.

    Bill & Kim dropped us off at the Lake Powell Lodge. It is an entire complex of resort buildings, surrounding a huge marina on Lake Powell. Hundreds of house boats are docked here. Tourists flock here in the hot Summer Months to cruise the lake. A seven-year drought had lowered the lake levels by 150Õ. The locals were hoping that the heavy Winter snows and ensuing Spring run off would put back anot

her 50 feet of water into the huge Canyon.

    We settled into Bld.#2, Room #259 and unpacked our things.We would be staying here for two nights.We washed out some items and sent a few to the hotelÕs laundry for cleaning. We made several calls to friends and relatives wishing all of them a Happy Easter. Then, we walked over to the dining room at 6:30 P.M. The attractive eating area has huge glass walls to look out over the lake area. We sat and sipped some Mondavi Cabernet as we enjoyed the pleasant view. The Mountain trout, for me, and Turkey dinner for Mary were of good quality. Carrot cake and coffee finished off this lovely repast, as we dined quietly, enjoying the momentary lull in the pace. It was a nice dinner. We returned to the room by 8:00 P.M. It

was still mild and in the fifties out. We read for a time and then crashed, tired with the day. Overnight, the rains came and thrashed the area with a deluge. We slept through it blissfully.

Monday, March 28, 2005 Lake Powell, Paige, Az

   We were up early and prepped for the day. It was windy ,cool and in the fifties out. The heavy rains last night had cooled the area down.  We gathered, in the hotel lobby, at 7:45 A.M. We were going to take a breakfast cruise, on Lake Powell, aboard the double decked ÒCanyon King.Ó  The Lake Level was down almost 150 feet. A small bus ferried us down the incline to the new lowered lake level. We boarded the comfortable tour boat and sat in long benches near the windows. A breakfast buffet had been laid out for us down the cente

r of the first deck.

    We sat with a Canadian couple and Kim Durham, chatting while everyone trooped up to the breakfast bar. The skipper was giving us a run down on the shore formations now high above us. Towering white cliffs and eroded limestone formations surrounded us. It was like looking up form the bottom of a milk bowl. The cruise was pleasant enough. We took pictures and chatted with fellow passengers on both decks. It was windy and cool out. Scores of houseboats lay at anchor nearby. Business was down because of the lowered lake levels.

     After a pleasant two hour cruise, we docked in the marina. Kim fed cheesits to a school of enormous fish. They were big enough to have a knife and fork in their fins, as they wolfed down the floating cheesbits. We rode

back up to the lodge, then returned to our rooms for a half hour break, before we were to set off, in the landcruiser for Monument Valley, deep in the Navaho Reservation.

     Bill and Kim rounded us up after a bit  and we set off by 10:30 A.M for the 2 & 1/2 hour ride to Monument Valley. We followed Rte. 98 South, then Rte.#168 east and finally took Rte.#163 North into Monument Valley. Kim gave a continuous narration of Navaho history as we drove into the dusty valley.  We could see cermonial ÒhogansÓ (rounded earthen huts) along the roadway, where several generations shared a farmstead. Mostly, the area topographically is like the high plains, grassed in,  dusty and semi arid.

  Entering Monument Valley is different. You first see the dusty Vermillion pillars from afar. They look mystical and enchanted even during a sunny day like this one. An electrical storm here must be magical. You first encounter the massive red sandstone pillars of Òstagecoach butte, Ò

Òthe two mittens,Ó  Òrabbits earsÓ  and many more colorful stone monuments. They are varied in shape and a dusty vermilion in color.You can read images into them like you do when staring at the clouds. It is easy to see where all of the mystical Navaho legends spring from. Even the cows are well trained in the area. When the bus came to a crossing, the lead cow stopped the ones behind it, until we crossed over the road. How is that for conditioning? Or, are the native animals that much smarter here in the wild west? Who knows for sure ?

   We took a side road into the ÒGouldings Trading Post.Ó It is a complex of gift shops, trading posts, a small museum, two dining rooms and a small hotel. The original Gouldings had come to Monument Valley in the early twentieth century and set up shop. They had helped and befriended the Navahos and were much respected as friends. Harry Goulding had taken pictures of the colorful Buttes and tra

Bveled to Hollywood, in the early 1930Õs.He camped in director John FordÕs  office, until he got in to show him these great vistas. Ford was so taken with the area, that he, John Wayne, Henry Fonda and Ward Bond filmed several classic Western epics in the valley. ÒShe wore a Yellow Ribbon,Ó ÒThe SearchersÓ and ÒStage CoachÓ writ large on the American Psyche in telling the story of the American West. I remember well these scenes, from the many times I had watched the Western classics.And now, I was here amidst them. A small three-room adobe cabin stood near the trading post. It had been the quarters of ÒThe DukeÓ when filming here. It is an enduring shrine to a virtual legend of the American West. A small room, off the trading post, also lists all the films that had been shot in these environs, including the ÒEiger SanctionÓ

y and those crazy car commercials that show a vehicle airlifted onto huge pillars of stone.

     Mary and I walked through the museum, the DukeÕs shrine, the gift shop and then looked all around us at the towering mesas and wierd stone pillars, all covered in a dusty vermillion paint. It was breathtaking in every sense of the word. I couldnÕt stop looking at the images, until they were burned into my retina forever. Next, we droped by the diner, where  efficient and pleasant Navaho waitresses serves us some tasty ÒNavaho Tacos.Ó We much enjoyed them.

     After lunch, we saddled up in the back of two very large pick-ups for a tour of the valley. A see-through, plastic cover spared us from the ever present wind. The red dust soon coated us like everything else. Our guide, ÒRosieÓ was a Navaho. She had a dry, self-deprecating sense of humor. We drove through a smaller Navaho Va

lley and enjoyed looking up at  ÒElephant Butte,Ó ÒThe Camel,Ó ÒMother holding child peak,Ó ÒTotem Pole Rock,Ó ÒThree SistersÓ and ÒMitchell Butte.Ó Even John Ford made the cut, with a Mesa named after him. The terrain is hilly from erosion and the roads earthen and rough, with no improvements.The spiky chapparal and sage didnÕt do much to hold down the dry, red dust that coated everything and everyone. We stopped several times for pictures. Navahos were at every stop selling locally made jewelry, much of which was beautiful. At one stop, an obliging Navaho, sitting on his horse, posed on a stone mesa and let us all photograph him. It was a picture right out of the movies. He then approached and let all the tourists sit on his horse for individual pictures. Through it all,  Rosie filled us in on Navaho customs and even tried to teach us some of the language. It is pretty hard to get your tongue around Navaho. The Movie ÒWi

nd talkersÓ had just aired a few years back. The U.S. Army had used Navaho radio-men during W.W.II in the Pacific. The Japanese could never decipher their language. Most of the residents of the reservation do what they can to survive economically, but I think they fair not well. The Valley is magical. It wouldnÕt take a large mind-blink to revert back hundred of years here, to a land and a time when the gods of thunder had walked the earth and cast large shadows amongst and above  the few primitives who huddled here.

      All good things come to an end. We ended the tour and laughed at the film of red dust that covered all of us. It would wash off later. We reboarded the landcruiser and settled in for the 2 & 1/2 hour ride back to Lake Powell. The images of Monument Valley wo

uld be with us for a lifetime. I can see even now, the ÒDukeÓ charging at the head of a cavalry troop, or riding long, lonely days with Jeff Chandler in ÒThe Searchers.Ó Every time that I see these great epics again, I will think of Monument Valley and smile. Kim put on a video of ÒOctober Sky.Ó  We watched it during the ride back, our thoughts remembering what we had seen, and realizing that we would never this way walk again.

     We arrived back in Lake Powell, just as the sun was settting at 7 P.M. Mary and I elected to wash off the trail dust and enjoyed a welcome shower before venturing over to the dining room. The resort had misjudged its visitor level and the dining service was glacial. We chilled out, had a glass of Mondavi Cabernet and enjoyed a decent, if very slowly served meal. ($66) When you travel, you have to rock and roll with whatever happens,  not get excited about the little things.One table complained so loudly that the manager came by and picked up their check. Squeaky wheels often get

greased first, I guess,  but no one likes being around them.

     After dinner, we returned to our room, to pack our gear and write up our notes. We had to track down some laundry from the hotel or leave it behind. I think the hotel manager has to kick some butt here to get ready for the coming tourist season. We read for a bit and then surrendered to the sandman. It had been a long day, in the dust- dry west. These cowpokes were tired as old logs in a swamp.

Tuesday, March 25, 2005 Lake Powelll Lodge- Paige,Az

    We were up early. Our bags had to be out for pick up by 6:45 A.M. We breakfasted at the Lake Powell Lodge and then made ready for departure. The bus left at 8 A.M. .We waved goodbye to Lake Powell and then the Glen Canyon Dam complex. We might never this way come again. Driver Bill followed Rte.# 89 West into Utah. The land is semi-arid here, with high rolling plains and scrub brush. We arrived in Kanab (Òwillow basketÓ i

n Paiute) and stopped at a very prosperous ÒDennyÕs Wigwam.Ó Besides the requisite jewlery, DennyÕs carries an expensive line of Western clothing. It was interesting to see how fast the transition had occured from native American to ÒwesternÓ in only so few a number of miles. Utah looks rugged but prosperous.

    Kanab, a small metropolis of eight thousand souls, had been an outpost for the early Mormons, who ran their buisinesses under a ÒUnited orderÓ concept, something like a benevolent socialism, where Òeach got according to his need and gave according to his ability.Ó I found it interesting to see this pocket or socialism so deeply embedded in the American West. Kim talked of the Mormons and their history. Mary and I were familiar with the religion. It had

started on a hill near Rochester, N.Y. when the Angel Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism. Each yeah an entire hillside, with hundreds of actors, draws tens of thousands of tourists there to watch a four-day pageant, acting out in light and song, the history of the mormons. It is a spectacular performance. Smith was killed by an angry mob in Missouri in 1844. Brigham Young took over the reigns of the religion, which exists and prospers  today as  the Church of the Latter Day Saints.

     Kanab was also an early practitioner of involving women in govt. An all female city council and mayor had first appeared here in the late nineteenth century and done a good job for the town too. The practice of Polygamy of course is the nettle that stuck in t

he rest of the countryÕs craw. We browsed through DennyÕs., had some good coffee and delicious maple fudge and then took pictures of ourselves standing in front of a large wooden bear and a replica of an old stage coach. The Utah area, comprised formerly of native Paiutes and Utes tribes had first been scouted by the same Spanish priests, who recconoitered Arizona, Fathers Escalante and Dominguez in the late 1700Õs. Then, the Mormons came to this forbidding land in the mid 1800Õs to develop it as a mining and agricultural complex, which it remains today.  Copper, gold, lead, zinc, coal and oil have all been found here in quantities.

    The country side was getting more snow-covered as we rose in altitude towards Bryce Canyon. We could see Mt. Humphrey and Navaho Mountain often in

the distance.They rise above  the 12,000 ft. level and  are snow-capped. Cattle ranching, sheep herding and limited agriculture abound in the area. It looks prosperous enough. I think the Winters here are hard and long. Finally, we arrived outside of Bryce Canyon and stopped at the very large and comfortable ÒRubyÕs Complex.Ó Conference center, lodge, diner, gift store, provisioner and Òold townÓ amusement center, RubyÕs has everything. We wandered around the huge gift store and adjacent art gallery, admiring the western and native trinkets and baubles.Except for the pricey sculptings and paintings in the Gallery, things probably hadnÕt changed much from the time when beef jerky and oxen feed were the staples.

    The air is cold this high, even with the sun shining. We could see ranges of snow capped mountains along the skyline.Winter hangs long and departs slowly  in these parts. We left RubyÕs and drove higher into Bryce Canyon.T

he snow pack was much deeper here, often several feet thick. Our immediate impressions of Bryce Canyon are favorable. It is filled with wide open canyons and lined  with rank upon rank of hoodoos. A hard stone, cap rock made erosion eat away more slowly on some pillars of stone. They are called Hoodoos.What emerged are rank upon rank of wierdly carved stone pillars, all made of  a bright orange, rust color.They looked to me like a visage of the terra cotta warriors found in China, standing mutely on guard.

     At Bryce Point, we could look out over a vast plateau far into Utah. One hundred miles away we could see snow-capped Navaho Mountain. There are vast coal deposits there, a source of much wealth for Navahos in the future, should they elect to  expolit  their most sacred site. You become awestruck easily when faced with such sweeping grandeur before you. You can but  gaze intently and try to capture the images in your minds eye, as you enjoy the vast panaroma before you. We too

k our pictures and enjoyed seeing nature at her finest and most magnificent.

The kids from Florida were laughing and throwing snowballs, unused to playing in the white powder. A parkÕs  ranger was taking several tourist on a snow shoe walk down the trail. Each had on snow shoes, with iron pitons attached to the bottoms, for gripping the slick ice.

    We listened for a bit, as another ranger was giving a geology lesson on the area. In brief, after an uplifting had raised the Colorado Plateau, from beneath an inland ocean to the 8,500 foot level, rivers and winds had eroded a huge portion of the upraised Colorado plateau, shaping it  in the form of a Grand staircase, that runs from here, in Bryce Canyon  at the 8,500 foot level, down through Utah, Arizona and Nevada

and finally reaching the floor of the Grand Canyon at the 3,000 foot level. Along the way, weirdly beautiful shapes of all sizes and colors had been created by the forces of erosion. It gave me pause to think of how to explain it.  I came up with this phrase. ÒThe Gods breathed upon a sandstone canvass and created a weirdly beautiful Grande Escalier (grand staircase), peopled by bright orange hoodoos, dusty vermillion buttes and white ochre mesas.Ó It is a phantasmagoria of stone, left for us by nature,  to wander in and be awed by.


     At ÒSunset PointÓ we saw a vast panorama of bright orange hoodoos, with alabaster tops. Though made of stone, they appeared as delicate as porcelain in their rocky splendor. Terra Cotta warriors, rank upon rank was my imagery fo

r defining them. You could but look and silently admire them as they sat there in quiet stillness and let the wind and the snow swirl through and across them. It is a visage I hope to one day see again, but carry still in my mindÕs eye. It is a portrait of natureÕs wonder in bright orange and alabster.

    It was cloudy and snow was falling, as the land cruiser carried us from Bryce Canyon. The sky looked dark and the clouds pregnant with snow. We were headed along Rte. # 12-West, for Zion National Park and our stop for the night at the Zion Park Lodge. We were descending in altitude as we headed for Zion. The snows were still falling and it was chilly and cold out.  It is only a two-hour ride from Bryce to Zion, so we sat and enjoyed the changing scenery, as we d

escended in altitude. The land was getting softer and greener as we approached Zion National Park, Then, we were there. A large visitorÕs center sits at the two ends of the Park. If you are not an over night guest, you must park here and ride the park shuttles into the Canyon. It is a way of controlling the parkÕs vehicular traffic and much enhancing the quality that you find here. We  passed Òcheckerboard moutain.Ó Huge primordial sand dunes, standing over 600 feet high, had ossified over the eons. Weathering had traced a checkerborad pattern on their surface. I wondered at how long the area had been submerged beneath an inland ocean, to collect 600 feet of sand on its floor, and then the titanic forces that had heaved the entire area well up over 7,000 feet. You canÕt help but be impressed by the geology of the area and the power of nature, and wonder about its connnection to the cosmos and the nature of re

ligion and what lies behind it all. The area makes you think this way, even if unintentionally.

    And then, we came to a man made wonder. The Mt.Carmel-Zion tunnel runs for a mile through solid rock. We entered the darkened tunnel somewhat apprehensively. And then, we came upon the first Òwindow.Ó An enormous  ÒwindowÓ had been carved from the rock and looked out over a vast canyon of stone. It drew an appreciative ÒahhhÓ from the bus passengers. Then, another window appeared and  another. The viewers were into the window surprise,  as we flashed through the dark and winding cocoon of bored rock. And then, we emerged into an even more fantastic lanscape.The Virgin River had carved the canyon into weirdly shaped formations. The movie ÔPlanet of the ApesÓ had been filmed here. It really is otherworldly. A series or road swicthbacks was carrying us down to the canyon below. Huge chunks of red sandstone, some bigger than the bus, lay along the roadside, test

imory to the enormous rock falls that occurr here regularly.  We could but look up, sit and wonder at the red sandstone beauty all around us. Finally, we reached the canyon floor. Eons of river silt, from Springtime flooding of the Virgin River, had created a small valley of grass, cotton willows and gentler surroundings. The temperature was much warmer on the Canyon floor, though it was still chilly.

     The Zion Lodge is a complex of buildings. A peak-roofed,wooden sided, two-story dining room, reception area and gift shop are flanked by several two story wooden lodges with guest rooms. We off-loaded the bus and made our way to our rooms. They were pine-panelled and pleasant enough, with views to the Virgin River just across the grassy entrance way. Our baggage came a bit aft

er. We had to help the young porters, who looked a bit challneged. Kim had called ahead for us and we had dinner reservations. We were dining this evening with Jane OÕNeil, Michelle McKeown, Muriel Irvine and Gerry Godfrey at 6:00 P.M. We freshened up, changed our clothes and walked over to the dining hall.

     The restaurant wasÓsro,Ó with guests. We waved to several of our fellow travellers and then were seated by ÒJonathanÓ at a nice table for six. We enjoyed some decent cabernet, then availed ourselves of the salad bar. Everything was fresh and appetizing. I had a tuna steak, the others various cuts of meat and chicken. We all enjoyed our meals. Service was a little slow, but ÒJonathanÓ was not to be hurried. I had never before heard a ÒlispÓ with a southern drawl. He was funny and a good waiter. For dessert, Kim had reccomened the ÒMoose TracksÓ. It is a chocolate sundae creation that is exquisite enough to be sinful. We ate it with relish, while we dined and enjoyed each others company. It had been a

long day in  natureÕs most elegant backyard. We made our goodbyes, to our dinner companions, and walked back, through the inky and cool darkness, to our room. The quiet  was noticeable and we enjoyed it.  We read for a time and then surrendered to the arms of Morpheus, happy to be here in this palace of ossified wonders.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005- Zion National Park, Utah

     We were up early. It was sunny and very cool out. We set off, on foot, along the Virgin River for a hike. Heavy rains overnight had rendered

the trails a slippery sea of mud. In that the Emerald Grotto trail wound upwards for several hundred feet in elevation, we drew a by. I didnÕt fancy sliding off a cliff on our last day here. We walked along the river enjoying the morning quiet. We saw a few deer and small critter tracks,but nothing of any size.

   We stopped by the Zion Lodge for breakfast and then returned to our room to put our bags out and prep for the day. Kim had scheduled a trolley ride thru the Park at 10:00A.M. It was both windy and cold out as our intrepid crew trammed through the Canyon. A very large wild turkey ambled out on to the road as we drove slowly by. The Canyon walls were  glistening with run off. One small waterfall blew almost sideways with the wind. A few of our passe

ngers opted for a covered tram and set off on their own. The ride was a nice idea, just too cold for an open tram.

We photographed some interesting rock formations named ÒWatchman,Ó ÒAltar of SacrificeÓ and the ÒWest Temple.Ó They are all Mormon Themes and reflect the religion of the early settlers of the area. Then, we returned to the lodge for coffee and a warmup. We would be leaving Zion shortly, by the West gate. Zion National Park is both scenic and quietly bucolic. We would love to visit here for a longer time and spend a few days wandering the hiking trails. Who knows when we will this way return again?

     At the West gate, we exited and drove through Springdale. It looks like a thriving town. Several sheep and cattle farms sit along the fast running Virgin River here, giving the area a visage of quiet prosperity. We followed Rte.#9 West to I-15, the main North-South route thro

ugh Nevada and Utah. It was nearing lunch, so Bill pulled us into a large shopping plaza in St. George Utah. We scattered in different directions looking for lunch. Mary and I found ÒDurangosÓ and settled in for some tasty and filling burritos. It was sunny and in the mid fifties out.

   The terrain was getting flatter and browner as we approached the desert mecca of Las Vegas.The passengers were stirring with anticipation at so fabled a destination. We crossed over the time zone into Pacific Standard Time and all set our watches back one hour to accomodate the change. The traffic was building heavily as we entered Las Vegas.The place grows yearly by leaps and bounds, reinventing it self in the process. Bill drove us down the busy, six-lane expanse of Las vegas Boulevard. We noticed  the graceful, slim brown envelope of the new ÓWynn Casino.Ó It would open in a few weeks. We watched silently as the other towering casinos slid by. It was a mind shift for us, t

o go from the grandeur of erosive stone to the manufactured brilliance of the enormous casinos on the Las Vegas Strip.

   Bill manuevered the bus into the underground drop-off of the Alladdin Casino. We sat for a time until Kim sorted out our room assignments. Then, we all walked into the Alladdin. Mary and I were staying in Room #1090 of the North Tower. The rooms were nicely appointed. We setled in to wait for our luggage. We were already tired from the dayÕs travels. The bags came within the hour and we unpacked our things and settled in for an hour nap. This touring business is interesting but drains you physically.

    We arose in the early evening and set off walking along Las Vegas Boulevard. The sidewalks were awash with families and hordes of young people, streaming up and down the strip. We walked down to the Venetian Casino  and sat down for a light supper and a glass of wine in a small cafe, bordering the canal. We watched a parade of gondoliers singing for their tourist fares, as the poled

up and down the small canal. Even inside the casinos, the crowds were appreciable.

    After dinner, we crossed the boulevard to the huge bulk of Treasure Island. It was dark outside and we thought we would catch the ÒPirate ShowÓ one more time. The sidewalks were thickly jammed in front of the Casino, with other griswalds waiting to watch the show which appears hourly. It was cool and in the forties out. The two huge pirate ships were manned by a motley crew of actors. One crew had transformed itself to female pirates in skimpy costumes. They had some interaction or other and, with lighting and sound effects, one of the huge ships sunk into the small lagoon. Interesting as it had once had been, we now found the whole show somewhat tacky and inconsequential, compared to the physical grandeur that we had experienced during this last week. I found the perceptual contrast, and our reaction to it, interesting.

     After ÒT.IÓ as it is now called, we walked to the Mirage, former home of Sigfried, Roy a

nd their Tigers. We stood patiently, until the water falls in front erupted into the controlled fire of a small volcano. It too seemed smaller and less impressive that we had remembered it. It was getting late and we were tiring. We walked back along the boluevard to the Bellagio and stood waiting for the hourly Òfountains dance.Ó In a small lake out front, computer controlled fountain jets orchestrate an hourly dance of fountain sprays, accompanied by classical music. It is graceful and eye pleasing. This time, we were not disappointed. It is calming to watch and we enjoyed the perfomance. The crowds were still building as we walked across one of the overhead crosswalks to the east side of the boulevard. The Eiffel Tower was shining from the Paris Casino. We could see the statue of Liberty, from the nearby New York-New York Casino. The gajillion neon lights of the las vegas strip danced before our appreciative eyes. This place really is like no other on the earth. It was time for these two pilgrims to retire

>. We walked through the busy casino area, of the Alladdin and rode the elevator to our aerie, where we settled in to let the sand man whisk us away.

Thursday, March 31st- Las Vegas, Nevada

     We were up by 8 A.M., still tired from the weekÕs travels. Mary rescued coffee and scones from the star bucks in the Lobby. We sat and watched the morning news programs, as we let the coffee pry us awake. We then showered and prepped for the day.


    Kim was holding Òoffice hoursÓ in the lobby at 9 A.M, so we stopped by, thanked her for her many efforts, to help us enjoy the trip, and left her a decent tip with a note.She had been a professional and made the trip much more enjoyable. Then, we stopped by the fabled ÒSpice Market BuffetÓ for breakfast. We had noticed the lines here for dinner last night. They are enormous. Fo

r $19 each, we sat down to coffee and an enormous selection, of every type of food available, in the many stations in the huge buffet. We limited ourselves to omelets and some fresh lox. Then, we sat back and watched the hordes. It was like being at a ranch at feeding time and seeing the pigs belly up to the trough. People are not at their best in these situations.

    After breakfast, we walked down the strip towards the Luxor Casino, that huge pyramid and assemblage of all things Egyptian. Throngs of people were even now walking up and down the boulevard. The town must be sro for this busy Easter Holiday. We entered the Luxor and retrieved our tickets for the evening performance of ÒBlue Man Group.Ó ($105 each) A tram took us back to the storied castles of the

Excalibur and we then walked along the strip, past New York, the Monte Carlo and other palaces. We were headed for the Bellagio and their art gallery. The casino was featuring a small impressionist collection of MonetÕs and works by Sissler, Pissaro and Renoir in its gallery. For $20 each, we wandered through the crowded gallery and admired several of MonetÕs dusty mauve works of Cathedrals and seascapes. Pissaro, Sissler and Renoir also had pieces that we admired. I find that if you step back about 12 feet from these works, and catch them at about a 45 degree angle, they snap into sharp focus from their diffused frontal perspective. We ran into Michelle and Jane, from our tour,  and said hello. After the gallery tour, we stopped at a small ice

cream parlor, in Bellagio, and had coffee as we watched the swirl of people drift by. The colorful Dale Chihuli glass ceiling, in the Conservatory, is always worth a look as well.

     It was sunny out and in the fifties. We walked back to the Alladdin and decided to catch some sun on their sixth floor pool deck. We sat for a time, enjoying the warmth of the sun. The deck was crowded with other pilgrims also seeking the warming rays. Then, we racked out in the room for a late afternoon nap. Ozzie Nelson would have been proud.

    We caught an early dinner in the Zanzibar cafe, at the Alladin, before setting our for a walk along the strip to the Luxor and our show for the evening. ÒBlue Man GroupÓ is hard to explain.Three men, with blue make up on their faces, enact a mime-oriented performance that involves the audience. At one point ,during the performance, giant rolls of crepe paper pass over the head of the entire audience. You find your self pulling madly on the crep

e covers and throwing it onto the seats beneath you, in a mad frenzy. If it sounds bizzarre, that is  beacuse it is. Loud music, humorous signage and other visuals capture your attention. It is actually interesting and enjoyable, if you let yourself get into the madcap performance. It lasts for two hours.

    Afterwards, we walked back along the crowded strip, amazed as always at the sheer throngs of people streaming by. At the Alladin, we bought some quarters and fed the video poker machines for an hour, enjoying a glass of wine, as we threw our money away. Then, we packed it in and returned to the room to read and sleep. It had been another long day on the tour.We were almost ready to go home.

Friday, April 1st, 2005 -Las Vegas, Nevada

     We were up

1early as usual. We had scones an coffee in our room as we watched the morning news. By 9:30 A.M., we set off along the Boulevard for CaesarÕs Palace. We walked through the impressive casino to the famous mall and shops. We browsed through the pricey boutiques, admiring the casual opulence on display and wondering who actually buys all this stuff? We sat for a time, at the end of the mall, waiting for the hourly performance of the Òtalking Roman staues.Ó They performed as they always do on the hour, never tiring of their own preprogrammed  ribald comments and hearty laughter. There are  apparently some advantages to being made of stone. We had coffee and muffins, in a small cafe, and then walked back into the casino area, to throw some more money into the video poker machines at CaesarÕs. I was tiring and h

ad come down with some malady or other from breathing all the recycled air during the last week.

    We walked back to the Alladin and caught another hour of sun on the sixth floor deck. This time, a very loud rock band was entertainng the guests. Some musician had finally securred his gig in Vegas, even if it was only playing on the pool deck of a casino. Another afternoon nap was welcome. The plague was settling in on me.

    MaryÕs Brother, Bill Walsh picked us up around 7 P.M. at the rear of the Ca

sino. His new wife ÒShayleenaÓ was with him .Two of her daughters ÒAliciaÓ(aged 4)  and ÒBriannaÓ (aged 7) were also with him. Bill drove us a few miles over to Pannevino, a very upscale Itailan Restaurant. We talked with them , enjoying meeting Shayleena and her daughters. A third daughter (aged 13) was with her father and not available. The kids were tired and so were we. Bill drove us back to the hotel and we made our goodbyes. It was time for us to go home.

Saturday, April 2, 2005- Las Vegas, Nevada

    We were up by 7:00 A.M. My cold was beating me up. I felt like warmed over doo doo. We had scones an coffee, as we watched the news.Then, we packed our bags and checked out. We put our bags in the check room and walked next door to the Paris Casino complex, where

we walked a bit and then settled into sit and watch the throngs go by. I wasnÕt feeling well. At 1:30 P.M., we picked up our bags and then caught an airport shuttle at the Alladin. McCarran Airport was already crowded with departing tourists. The Southwest line was long, but it moved fast enough. We checked in and then proceeded to our gate. A small rail shuttle took us out to the Southwest terminals.They were jammed with Griswalds. We sat, read and waited for our flight. Soon enough, we boarded our plane. It was Òsro,Ó just like the incoming flight. We settled in to read and pass the time, as the overloaded behemoth off-Lifted into the Nevada sky and flew eastward towards the frozen tundra of Western New York. It had snowed all day in Buffalo and we knew not what

we faced.The cold and flu hit me hard, in the air, on the flight back.


     In Buffalo, there was a couple inches of snow and sleet on the ground. The roads were slippery and the taxis all but non existent. A kindly businesman shared his cab with us, or we would have been waiting at the airport still. We managed to get to our castle in time to change the clocks back for the Spring time change. Our internal clocks  and circadian rhythms were now completely  screwed up. We sorted the mail, then collapsed tired into the rack. It had been a long and interesting tour. Morpheus soon welcomed us. We slept like dead logs in a swamp. However humble, it was nice to be home.