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Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon

Jim Colyer

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My son and I flew to Las Vegas June 7, and returned June 13, 2007. We spent the first two nights at the Sahara at the north end of the Strip. The third and fourth nights we were in the Red Feather Lodge at the Grand Canyon. We stayed at New York-New York the last two nights. We flew Southwest Airlines. I bought tickets at the airport using my check card. We concentrated on the new side of Vegas. We rode the monorail which links the Strip from the Sahara to the MGM Grand. Themed hotels are the stars in today's Vegas.


We landed at McCarran Airport at and took the shuttle to the Sahara. We travelled light, taking things which were necessary. The city of lights came to life on our first night. We relished the view from the Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas. The Tower is a 1/2 replica of the real thing. Vegas sprawled across the desert. Its population has grown to 1.8 million.


Las Vegas has changed since I was there in 1993. There are mega-hotels: New York-New York, Bellagio, Paris Las Vegas, Venetian, Mandalay Bay and Luxor. They exist for the purpose of making money for the people who own and operate them. We spent conservatively and aimed for an experience consistent with our needs.


We knew why we were there and what we were going to do. We bought a digital camera, and Michael got 163 pictures. We walked through the hotels. The Bellagio fountains put on a spectacular show while Elvis sang Viva Las Vegas. The Bellagio was Michael's favorite. He called it a "5 star high roller." It was built by Steve Wynn. We saw Bob Dole in the casino.


Our second day began with Michael getting his picture with a showgirl at Harrah's. He glowed! We visited the antique car collection at the Imperial Palace. I posed behind a 1955 Cadillac Elmerado.


People were everywhere. We kept moving and doing things. We played video poker. I helped Michael with the hands, having played poker in my younger days. We ate well while keeping the cost down. When we were tired, we rested. We walked to Mandalay Bay at the south end of the Strip. We watched the Yankees play the Diamondbacks. The Bay is home to Mamma Mia! I told Michael we would see the movie.


They had started on the Luxor the last time I was there. I kept thinking, "That looks like a pyramid." Then someone told me it was. The beam from the top can be seen 250 miles away. The Sphinx and the obelisk are out front. An obelisk is a four-sided needle of stone with a pyramid top. The idea of a curse always surrounds Egyptian stuff. It is not true, of course, but it plays with your head.


Phase 2

We rented a car and drove to the Grand Canyon. We stopped at Hoover Dam on the way. A bypass is being built. The dam provides electricity for California, Arizona and Nevada.


Michael drove. We took 93 south to Kingman, Arizona, and went east on Interstate 40 to Williams. We headed north on Highway 64. It is a 4 or 5 hour drive. We had reservations at the Red Feather Lodge in Tusayan, near the park entrance.


I spotted it, the most awesome spectacle on the planet! The Grand Canyon! We pulled over for a picture. We stopped at a number of overlooks along the south rim.


We attended the star party at Yavapai Point. We saw Jupiter and Saturn through telescopes. I pointed out the Big Dipper and North Star to Michael. The Grand Canyon Star Party (GCSP) takes place each June. I want to be in the Valley of Fire for the Perseid meteor shower in 2010. There will be no moon.


We drove to Desert View Watchtower at the eastern end of the south rim. The tower was built by architect Mary Jane Colter. We climbed it. At Desert View, Michael and I saw the Colorado River at the bottom of the Canyon.


We saw hikers rehearsing at Bright Angel Trail for their descent the next morning. Michael said the next time he comes, he will go to the bottom. The length of the Canyon is 277 miles. The Colorado River cut it over 7 million years. The rocks at the bottom are two billion years old.


The Colorado River flows from the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains through the Canyon. It dumps into the Gulf of California. The Grand Canyon became a national park since 1919.


We were at the Canyon two nights. Michael thought one night would have been enough. I insisted it is not every day that two guys from Nashville see the Grand Canyon.


Valleys are in the east. Canyons are in the west. There is a sameness about the red buttes and mesas which makes it hard to concentrate on the Canyon.


Phase 3

Back in Vegas, we checked into New York-New York for two nights. Our room was on the 25th floor.


New York New York is a replica of the New York skyline. There are the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty and The Bar at Times Square.


I soaked in the tub each morning and wore my straw hat to keep the sun off the top of my head. I had the bag Charlotte bought me when I went to Sweden. Michael took a suitcase. We watched TV in our room before going to sleep.


Michael sat by the pool while I visited the Atomic Testing Museum. We checked out the Palms because it had a Playboy club. We ate at the Outback, my first time. I had "shrimp on the barbie."


The Beatles' Love was at the Mirage.


We went to Fremont Street downtown and got pictures of Vegas Vic and Sassy Sally.


We saw Jubilee! our last night in town. I saved it for the finale. Jubilee! was started by Donn Arden. He exploited the showgirl persona.


We went to Red Rock Canyon the morning before we left. Red Rock is a National Conservation Area protected by the Bureau of Land Management. It is a 13-mile loop out Charleston Boulevard. The red sandstone formations make an interesting drive. The Las Vegas Astronomical Society meets there. Maybe I will join them. Michael saw Joshua trees for the first time.


We made our way to McCarran Airport and flew to Nashville. It was a direct flight. Karen met us.


My goal was to introduce Michael to one of the country's most exciting cities and to give him an experience in the west. I try to bolster his confidence and his ability to get around the country. Chances are, he will attend a convention in Vegas in the future. I told him the city is a magnet and he will return.

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