Red Rocks and Fountains

Saturday 28th April

Today Diana (a.k.a. She Who Must Be Obeyed) and I had a very pleasant 30 mile drive to Red Rock Canyon and then followed a scenic loop of some 13 miles around the canyon. The colours are fabulous and as the name implies there is an abundance of red sandstone rock over limestone. The Keystone Thrust Fault is, on which this Canyon is part of, like the famous San Andreas Fault (a break between two major rock bodies along which the break is vertical) the Keystone is horizontal. It began as gray limestone layers were pushed east during the end of the age of dinosaurs and ultimately “ramped” up through Jurassic Aztec Sandstone. Estimates of total eastward movement along this fault are as high as 40 miles. No, I haven’t overnight become a geologist but gleaned this information from their web site . However, the photographs are mine and please view the entire shoot by clicking on the Flickr link in the right hand panel of this blog and select the road trip day 11 set. This was a great day out and we thoroughly enjoyed the scenery.

Upon our return to the Bellagio Hotel I took the opportunity to stand, stare and gawp at the marvelous fountain show that take place at the front of the hotel every day from 4.30 pm until midnight at 15 minute intervals. You will have to imagine the most effective syncopated fountain, light and music show which was beautiful to perceive. Have a look at the photographs on my Flickr site.

To round off the day we attended our group dinner at Le Cirque restaurant and later we retired to bed happy, tired and overfed!

Until my next post, Toodleoo!

A Dam’ Fine Excursion

Friday 27 of April

We’re off with the group to a tour of The Hoover Dam. A monumental project that was finished in 1938 two years ahead of time and beneath budget!! Where have we gone wrong?

The coach ride out was through pleasant scenery and then upon arrival the coach and the assembled company was subjected to security which has only to be expected in today’s age. In a few minutes we were whisked down into the depths of The Hoover Dam where we were treated to an overview by the dam’ tour guide, Eric. While in this chamber we could feel the floor vibrate from the flow of water through one of the tunnels beneath, at an impressive speed likened to the emptying of 144 Olympic size swimming pools every minute! One side of the dam is in Nebraska and the other in Arizona and on each side, buried in the structure of the dam, lies nine monstrous turbines which generates electricity for well over a million homes in the area.

Having regained the surface and with the sun beating down upon collective bodies it was time for a stroll across the top of the dam. It was a pleasure to see a number of Morgan Sports cars roll by in convoy particularly as they are one of the last British hand made sports cars still in production!

Now it was time for lunch aboard a paddle steamer, The Dessert Princess, while we cruised Lake Mead which is the largest man made lake in the USA with a coast line of over 550 miles!

All too soon it was back on the coach and back to Vegas stopping at a chocolate factory that manufactured M&M’s. Having whizzed through the factory and dutifully munched my free sample I was able to spend some happy minutes in the Cactus Garden photographing some of the more unusual species.

On the way to our hotel we stopped at the famous Las Vegas sign and were able to get a group photograph underneath this illustrious structure. Back at the hotel there was just time for a quick shower and change and then we attended our gala dinner where a good time was had by all.

To see all the photographs that were taken on this day and some of them are really cool, just click on the Flickr link in the right hand side of this blog.

Until my next post, Toodleloo!

Viva Las Vegas!

I was up early this morning and out running just after 6 am and did my 3.2 miles. While I was out pounding the pavement I observed a youth of school age meandering along and when he reached the stop light he pushed the button in order to change the lights so that he could cross the road. However, on this long straight road there was no traffic in sight and the youth waited patiently for the light to change. Obviously, this young man has been so well trained that his decision powers will not stand in him good stead in later life!

By 8.45 am I was on the road having had an enjoyable evening at The Papago Inn, Scottsdale, AZ. It’s already 74F and overcast. My journey took me on US93 through Joshua Tree Parkway. A very enjoyable twisty, mountainous road with very unusual boulder formations and after 185 miles I joined  the I 40. At 276 miles I had crossed the border from Arizona into Nevada. This whole stretch of the I 40 in both states was besieged with radar speed traps awaiting the unsuspecting motorist.

I arrived at The Bellagio Hotel in Las vegas and was duly greeted by my good lady wife, Diana, a.k.a. She Who Must Be Obeyed and my car was emptied of luggage and duly whisked away before I could note today’s running statistics.

Having unpacked my bags in our very nice room Diana and I had a leisurely stroll and did a little light shopping! Light, in so far as the purchases did not weigh very much but quite heavy in other respects but when She Who Must Be Obeyed decides upon an article then my wallet seems to lose all sense of reason!

Tomorrow we have plans to visit somewhere famous but very unique!

Until my next post, Toodloo!

Time zones and unexpected meetings!

I awoke this morning refreshed after a very good nights’ sleep at the Hampton Inn in Las Cruces, so much so that I did not start my journey until 9.20. The sun was up, the sky was blue and the traffic was light but all of a sudden, 20 miles on and I’m in a slow moving line of vehicles and to my amazement we are all being inspected by the US border patrol. Somehow, I was able to convince the very nice officer that I was not an illegal immigrant but an honest, legal alien with a B1/B2 Visa in good order. Somewhat ironic as in today’s newspaper (USA Today) one of the lead stories on the front page is that more Mexicans are leaving the USA than are entering it!

The landscape is becoming more and more arid as I travel west on this high plateaux ringed by majestic but near barren mountains. I pass several large bright yellow signs warning me to be aware of possible dust storms and not to stop in travels lanes and that visibility could be reduced to zero!

Sixty-seven miles into my journey and I have just gone past a stationary Union Pacific locomotive looking like its been abandoned by the side of the road and just six miles later I overtake a person on a push bike! I have to say person because the human figure was shrouded in a voluminous yellow garment and the head was similarly covered with a helmet while the face of the mystery rider was obscured by a mask. I suspect this protective clothing may have been in place not just for protection from the sun that by now is beating down fiercely upon the highway but perhaps as a precaution agains a sudden dust storm! This human form was certainly a change from the more usual figure clad in Spandex which can, upon occasion, be quite revolting and surely should only be worn at private parties but I digress.

I shifted time zones yet again and I’m now in Mountain Standard Time which means as I write this it’s 10:30 pm here in Scottsdale, Arizona; 12:30 am in Huston Texas, 01:30 am in Florida and 6.30 am in the UK. If I’m feeling evil enough when I have finished this post I might just start telephoning a few people in the UK to make sure they are up and working!

Meanwhile, 140 miles into today’s journey and I have crossed the state line into Arizona. This is the centennial year of Arizona. On February 14, 1912, after nearly 49 years as a U.S. territory and thousands of years as a sacred home to indigenous peoples, Arizona became the 48th and last of the contiguous states to enter the Union of the United States of America.

The landscape becomes increasingly arid and large cacti are now a prominent feature of the roadside vegetation.

I decided to take a break and do a little shopping in Tucson (I needed some clean socks before I meet my dear wife, Diana, a.k.a. She Who Must Be Obeyed tomorrow in Las Vegas) and while in the mall I met a lady that I haven’t seen for eighteen years! Bonnie Allen and her husband Rod were part of a business that Diana (S.W.M.B.O.) and I pioneered in the UK. We had a ten minute catch up and went our separate ways, Bonnie back to her retail managerial position and me back to the Corvette!

Three hundred and forty six miles into my journey and I espy traveling in the opposite direction on the railway track adjacent to the highway a colossus of a freight train. This behemoth was double stacked with containers and seemed to slither like a serpent for a considerable period of time. It was interesting to note that each container had painted on its side the words “China Shipping” which may be indicative of some of our western economic challenges.

Finally I have arrived at my hotel in Scottsdale and I’m looking forward to my journey tomorrow to Las Vegas and willingly subjecting myself to She Who Must Be Obeyed.

For the techies out there the mileage covered today was 414 miles at an average speed of 68.4 mph and achieved 18.5 mpg.

Until my next post, Toodleloo!

Remember The Alamo!

My journey today was interesting to say the least! I left my hotel at 8 am and 47 miles later I was still traveling on the Interstate through the suburban sprawl of Houston TX. I know that one of the nicknames for this city is Space Town because of its history with NASA but why oh why are all the houses made out of ticky tacky and they all look the same?

Ten miles later on I have started to run into open countryside. The six lane highway (each side) has been reduced to three and now to two and I’m motoring along through pleasant pastureland with the occasional forested area populated with a mixture of evergreen and deciduous trees. The latter’s grey skeletal structure can be clearly seen against the clear blue sky. The roadside and quite a lot of the pastureland is covered in wild flowers and the bright yellow, blue and magenta blooms are gently waving as I zoom past.

I see a Denny’s restaurant up ahead and my body tells me it’s time for breakfast. As Denny’s go this is a quite a large one and the car park is quite full of a variety of cars, large motor cycles (mainly Harley Davidsons) and clumps of what looks like Hells Angels or clones of the Hairy Biker chefs as per the TV show. I fall into step behind two of the aforesaid Bikers and as we got to the restaurant (that’s how Denny’s see their food operation) my biking neighbours throw open the entrance doors and with the utmost respect invite me into the eatery. It’s now obvious to me that a Corvette owner in the order of petrol heads is at a higher level than a hairy biker! Being a Sunday morning, Denny’s was busy. Apart from the biker crowd, there were the folk who had been gospel singing at the church that morning and of course there was a plethora of gentlemen wearing their ten gallon hats while eating!

Soon, San Antonio was in sight and having checked in at my hotel I walked down Crockett Street to Riverwalk. This most attractive area is beneath street level and is protected by a series of flood gates. There are lots of people promenading alongside the river which is a type of green in colour. The best way I can liken this shade would be the green you see in old stained glass windows. I decided to have lunch in the Cafe Ole and enjoyed a Fajitas Chicken Salad.

After lunch I left Riverwalk and perambulated along Alamo Street to The Alamo. I was very surprised to see how small this original Spanish mission was. Unfortunately, photography is not permitted within The Alamo shrine which is dedicated to the 189 men who lost their lives against a huge force on March 6 1836. We, of course have been indoctrinated by the movies and television as to why this battle was fought and it is true that the Texians were determined at first to be a separate governed state from the central government of Mexico but as the campaign progressed the goals changed and the Texians wanted to become an independent country. The movies have made the names Bowie, Crockett and Travis famous and Santa Ann infamous. Having listened to an excellent audio tour and studied the exhibits I was puzzled why the action was fought in the first place by the defenders of The Alamo rather than a strategic withdrawal followed by a guerrilla campaign. I was fortunate to meet one of the museums military historians, Jeffrey Passmore, and had a fascinating conversation with him. Although there is no doubt of the courage that was displayed by the volunteer garrison force their demise was due to a mixture of politics, ill-health, misinformation, and lack of experienced military command and most importantly, lack of manpower to remove the canon but I don’t have the time or space to write about it here!

Later that day I did the tourist bit and took one of the guided tours onboard one of the boats that plies up and down the San Antonio river and canal system which was most enjoyable. Towards the end of the day I ventured up The Tower of The Americas in Hemisfair Park (built for The World Trade Fair that was held here some years ago) and viewed San Antonio bathed in golden light as the sun sank beneath the horizon. Then it was back to Riverwalk for dinner at The Republic of Texas restaurant where I enjoyed a T-bone steak slathered with cheese and salsa, served with rice, beans and guacamole. Delicious!

For the techies among you the mileage covered today was 226.5 mles at an average of 67.2 mph and achieved 21.5 mpg.

Until my next post. Toodleoo!

Houston…It’s not a problem….honest!

Up with the larks this morning, well not exactly but I was out and did a 3.26 mile run on a cinder track which I’ve never done before. While doing my thing the sun was rising in the blue, cloudless sky I observed a group of about half a dozen ladies of indeterminate age but not of indeterminate size lying prostrate on some rubber mats. Had I stumbled upon some peculiar Texian cult? Then the leader of the group started barking orders in a shrill high pitched voice cajoling her disciples to rise and exercise vigorously. As I crunched around the cinder track the air was permeated by ever increasing commands from the sergeant major like trainer. What a way to start the day! Having completed my run I was off to the hotel for a shower and a Western Omelette, not at the same time I hasten to add.

Breakfast completed I was off to the Johnson Space Centre on NASA Parkway. This is a working NASA facility and employs over 10,000 people just on this site alone. The exhibit was a worthwhile experience and very different to the NASA visitor centre at Space Kennedy Centre in Florida which in my humble opinion is better organized. However, it was still worth doing and I particularly enjoyed the Astronaut Training area and the very impressive Saturn Five Exhibit. You can see titled photographs of these exhibits and more on my Flickr site, just click on the link on the right hand side of this blog.

Lunch was a desultory affair of a very well chilled Turkey sandwich. It was so cold I swear it must have been made on the dark side of the moon by an alien life force which summed up most of the counter staff.

I decided to have a wander through downtown Houston and journeyed to The Galleria Shopping Centre. The shopping centre was an upscale affair with all the designer names one would expect, Jimmy Choo, Salvatore Bergammo, Prada etc and the largest Chanel store I have ever seen! It was quite incongruous that one could shop for something exquisite while watching hordes of young people hurtling at speed on an ice rink directly below you. I decided that I had enough of the city, which is very functional but in my opinion is a soulless sprawl of a conglomerate of buildings thrown together by someone who was learning to play SIM City and I decided to drive down to the seaside at Galveston.

Galveston is quaint. It reminded me very much of Victorian Blackpool in Lancashire with a similar range of shops, an unprepossessing beach but populated by a Spanish speaking people with exactly the same type of manners as their Lancastrian cousins. Hell bent on not giving you any service.

Now don’t get me wrong I have had an enjoyable day and have been fascinated by the people that I have interacted with. However, should, for any strange reason, the Houston city fathers read this I would like to offer them some advice. Import some nice people from Alabama or Mississippi or Louisiana or Florida. Alternatively, you could blow the whole damn place up, appoint a sensible architect and re-populate the area!

Tomorrow I am visiting a city who’s reputation is a little more cultured!

For the techie people out there I have covered today 138.4 miles at an average speed of 38.4 mph with an average consumption of 21.8 mpg.

Until my next post, Toodleloo!

T Minus 2.

My Dear Reader,

Today has been christened by my dear lady wife, Diana (a.k.a. She Who Must Be Obeyed) as T Minus 2 while the excitement builds before I depart north and then west from my vacation home in Lakewood Ranch near Sarasota in South-West Florida on a 5000 mile round trip to Las Vegas in my Corvette Grand Sport. I think I now have an inkling how Yuri Gugarin felt when being strapped into his seat on top of his Vostock 1 spacecraft on April 12 1961, or perhaps a little of the excitement that Neil Armstrong felt when he uttered those imortal words on July 20 1969 “One step for man etc.” Actually I was rivited by his third sentence “This one is for you Mr Kempinski” but I’m sure you already know that story.

Sunset Chevrolet

This morning I took my trusty steed to those nice people at Sunset Chevrolet on Bay Road in Sarasota where I was duly met by the effervescent Pat Sweetnich. There was nothing that needed doing to my car but I decided that due to my impending adventure it would be prudent to have the vehicle given a good going over, oil change etc.

Shortly afterwards having signed my life away in triplicate, my faithful four wheeled velocipeed was duly whisked away and entrusted into the hands of my favourite mechanic Denis Bilodeau who duly changed the oil and filters and gave my beautiful chariot a good fettling.

Greeted this morning by cheerful Pat.
Denis prepares to fettle.

While waiting for Denis to complete his fettling and having had a fabulous cup of coffee and resisting a vast array of Danish pastries in the solubrius customer lounge I decided to buy a bra. Now this was not some lace trifle purchased as a gift for She Who Must Be Obeyed but a large piece of lined vinyl.

Denis fettling my car.

The intention is to fit said bra to the front end of my luscious horseless carriage in an attempt to protect it from the counteless number of insects that will be comitted to suicide en masse like a horde of airborne lemmings during the next few thousand miles.

Having returned home I spent a few happy hours washing and waxing the silver body of my illustrious automobile and tomorrow I will endeavour to fit the largest brassiere that I have so far encountered. Finally, dear reader, it would be an honour if you would be so kind to join me on this adventure by simply clicking on the follow button which will either be in the bottom right hand corner or the top left hand corner of your browser depending on which one you use. Please feel free to leave comments etc as you wish. Today I would like to sign off by thanking all at Sunset Chevrolet and in particular Denis for being such a fine fettler!