Sin city and beyond

Somewhere on Route 66We left Kachina Lodge in Grand Canyon Village with Tina behind the wheel and drove straight up to the neighboring El Tovar hotel, so I could check out. When I got back, Tina was in the backseat and not behind the wheel.  Her vision was disturbed somehow, and she didn't want to drive. She thought that she had looked directly into the sun, and after half an hour the disturbances had passed, but Tim and I continued to drive the rest of the day. We left the national park by the south entrance and headed for Williams, which is located off I -40. Halfway to the city we refueled the car , but besides that, we didn't stop until we reached the interstate. We continued west on I-40 to Seligman, where we left the interstate and used the old Route 66 to Kingman. F We made one stop along the way within the boundaries of the Hualapai reservation, to use a restroom and to have a cup of coffee.

From Kingman we contimued north on U.S. Highway 93 towards Hoover Dam and Nevada. We didn't stop here either. Tim and I had visited the dam on earlier vacations, and Tina was in a hurry to get to Las Vegas. Why? Well, she knew that there were two outlet malls in Las Vegas, one in the north end of town and one in the south. She was very keend visiting at least one of them, and as this was about the only time she would have time for shopping, we let her :-). We had studied the map and as the southernmost mall was just off the freeway, by which we were entering town, we decided on that. We drove to the mall and left Tina there. While she was shopping, Tim and I would do some shopping of our own in a Radio Shack where Tim needed something for his iPad , and we also shopped for water and stuff in a Walmart. Finally we checked in at Stratosphere, the hotel we had booked from home.

Las Vegas showgirls on the StripWhen we had been in the room for approx. an hour and a half, Tina called as we had agreed and Tim went to pick her up. When they got back Tina showed us the five dresses, she had bought for herself, and the gifts she had bought for Carsten, her boyfriend. Suppertime was now approaching and we decided to eat at the hotel buffet, which proved to be great, with lots to choose from. After dinner Tim went up to the room to read while Tina and I walked over to the  monorail which terminates not far from the hotel. We stayed on the train to the other terminus at MGM Grand. Tim had been there before and did not think it was worth the effort. MGM Grand is a large hotel, once the largest in the world, and we took our time getting out of there, but eventually left for The Strip and the heat. Even here at 9 pm, it was about 100 degrees! We walked up the Strip and enjoyed the people and lights and took some pictures. Tina wanted to see the Venetian,but we agreed that it was too far to walk, so we walked to the nearest monorail station and took the train to the station closest to The Venetian. From here we walked through Paris casino, where Tina got to see a Parisian urban environment with streets, shops and cafes - everything inside the hotel. After that, she decided not to visit The Venetian after all, as she wanted to play the roulette at our own hotel.

We therefore went back to the station and drove back to the terminus at the Sahara (now demolished). From here we walked back to the Stratosphere where we first went to the room to get Tim. Tina took a quick shower and put on one of the newly acquired dresses, and so we took the elevator 20 floors down, walked around 250 yards inside the hotel  took the stairs up one floor - and then took the elevator up to Stratosphere Tower, 108 floors up. Tim and I visited the tower in 2010, but it was the first time we had been up there in the evening and it was impressive to see the city with the lights on. When there were no more we wanted to see,m we took the elevator down again. Tim went to the room, while Tina and I went to the casino. Tina to play, I to take pictures of her while she played. As it appeared that I was not allowed to take pictures, I also went up to the room, and approx. 10 minutes later Tina arrived. She had spent all the money she had set aside to play for - and she claimed it was the first time that she hadn't won just a single game of roulette, but it had still been fun to try.

Aliens and the valley of death

After the visit to Las Vegas we had another day of just driving. The goal of the day, was Barstow, California, and we could takenb I-15 all the way, but decided otherwise. We took it easy this morning and left Las Vegas around 9 and headed north out of town. We soon located U.S. Highway 95, which begins down at the Mexican border near Yuma and leads all the way to Coeur d'Alene in northern Idaho, but we didn't go that far :-). The first Area 51 Alien Centerpart of the road was a freeway, but leaving the Las Vegas metropolitan area it becomes a four-lane highway and later looses two of the lanes to become a 2-lane highway, of which there are a lot of in USA. We stayed on the road for 75 miles to the small Nevada Road 373 , which runs from the highway in a southwesterly direction. On our way north we passed a state prison, which was a little off the highway. Here we warned on signs that we shouldn't pcik up hitchhikers. I wonder why not? Another interesting phenomenon, not on the road, but the area around was the many small, probably private airports with just a single runway that we passed. More than 10 just on the stretch from Las Vegas to NR 373. In the town of Indian Springs is even an Airforce Base with a fairly large airport . Here we made our first stop at a gas station so I could get coffee, but we didn't stay long because there were too many wasps - Tina thought - and there were also quite a lot of them I have to admit.

Just before we left the highway in the small settlement of Amagosa Valley we stopped once more at a general store/ gift shop/gas station for a biological break before we entered Death Valley, which was the goal of this part of the trip. The place was called Area 51 Alien Center, and there were pictures of assorted aliens both inside and out. Next to the store was the Alien Brothel and Bar! I don't know if it's a brothel serving aliens, or a brothel where you are served by aliens, as we didn't visit? The alien interest is due to the proximity of "Area 51", located in the desert, around 50 miles north of Amagosa. For many years folklore "knew" that an alien spaceship and maybe even surviving aliens were examined here. Later it was revealed that it was actually a secret CIA base, used for developing and testing spy planes like the U2 and the Blackbird. Despite these revelations there are a great many who maintain the idea of the area covertly being used to work with alien technology. A rather new novel, Library of the Dead by Glen Cooper, has a completely different story. Here, the area contains a huge library with exact dates of birth and death of everybody that has ever lived, and will ever be born!

Badwater BasinBut I digress. After the visit to the gas station, where we actually didn't meet neither aliens nor working girls, we headed south on NW 373. After a while we should turn due west, but we missed the spot and drove a few miles too far before we discovered it, and returned to Nevada Road 190 which was very small. It leads into Death Valley National Park, and it was the whole purpose of the side trip. Death Valley National Park is the largest national park in the contiguous 48 states and a 1.5 times as large as Yellowstone, which is the second largest, and there was a limit to how much of the park, we had time to visit. We therefore decided to drive directly to the Badwater area in the southern part of the park. Here we made a stop. Badwater is the lowest point in the U.S., 282 feet below sea level. The specific point is several miles away, somewhere in the "lake" where you can't go, but it's only a little lower than Badwater Spring near the road, where a sign is posted. So we walked to the spring, and Tina was duly photographed next to the sign. Tina and I went for a walk on the part the lake bottom, where you are allowed to walk. On the way back we took some pictures of the rock behind the lake, where a painted line high up on the rock indicates where the sea level would be if it had been there.

In Death Valley the highest air temperature ever recorded in the world was meassured in 1913 with 135 degrees. The average temperature in July is however "only" around 116 (and these temperatures are measured in the shade). It wasn't that hot when we were there, as it was rather cloudy, so the temperature probably wasn't much over 105, which almost felt cool compared to Las Vegas. When we had finished out visit to the Badwater Basin we continued towards the park's south entrance, even though you are actually driving in an arc to the north to get to it. On the way out of the park it started to rain, but it wasn't that much. It's actually a little strange that besides the thunderstorm in Jackson, Wyoming, all the rain we got on this trip, hit us while we were in deserts, like Moab and Death Valley.

Well out of the park we met California Road 127 and within a few miles we got to the small town of Shoshone, where Tim three years earlier bought the cowboy hat, which he dumped this time in favor of a newly purchased Stetson. Here we made another stop and bought something to drink. Fortunately, we didn't need gas, as here we found the highest gasoline prices on the entire trip, namely $ 5.78 per gallon. We continued to the highway (I-15), which we took west. We passed the road with America's weirdest name, Zzyzx Road (pronounced sai six), and the ghost town of Calico before we reached Barstow. We found a hotel and got a room. When we were accommodated, we discovered that the place had only one washing machine, and that it was busy. Using our GPS we located a launderette, and while Tim who didn't need to do laundry, stayed at the hotel, Tina and I drove there. On this random launderette on a random afternoon in a small California town we met another Danish family who was also doing laundry. We didn't exchange many words though, but wished them a continued good trip, when they left sometime before us.

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