USA – Death Valley National Park, 21 March 2011

For a trip to Vegas, we certainly did not spend a lot of time Vegas. We actually chose Vegas due to its proximity to numerous National Parks, and after Grand Canyon, next in line on our itinerary was Death Valley National Park.

I think I picked this one. I think the only reason why I picked it was because I thought it has such a cool name! Well, unless of course, I become a reason why it is called what it is called. The Death Valley National Park spans the states of California and Nevada. California mainly, really. At its lowest point, it is actually below sea level. For some reason or other, that makes it quite a dangerous place. After some googling, I figured out a route that will bring us through a ghost town or two, and given my fascination with what nature does to places after humans abandon settlements, obviously, it was a must see.

Anyways, after the ‘training’ of the Grand Canyon trip, driving to Death Valley was a breeze by comparison. The landscape on the way was actually very breathtaking. The road was surrounded by mountains in the distance, and an expanse of desert. And of course, the mirage.

Our first stop in Death Valley National Park was Rhyolite Ghost Town. Not quite sure why it was abandoned, but the sight of semi-decrepit structures against blue skies and desert made for great pictures. It did seem to be quite a developed town. There was even a Rhyolite Casino.

Next, we kinda just followed the driving trail, and stopped by some structure that we thought was fascinating (my research is awesome … not). Turns out it was pretty fascinating. The Death Valley used to be mined for some material nicknamed white gold by Chinese. To cut costs of purifying them, they were done on site, so there were pretty big settlements of Chinese. Looking out from the look out point, you can still see some remnants of buildings. It was quite a desolate landscape.

There were, however, some pretty out-of-place spots in this landscape. For instance, there was a golf course, and some really garish-looking resorts. I am not quite sure why, but the tale of immigrant labor and abandonment of settlements seems to be detracted by these new features that capitalize on tourism.

Endless Road in Nevada

Rhyolite Ghost Casino, Death Valley National Park

Former residence of migrant workers in Death Valley National Park


USA – Las Vegas/Boulder City, Nevada to Grand Canyon/Flagstaff, Arizona, 19 March 2011

Long driving day, and we had a late start, as I needed to finish my assignment, oops! 😛

The main attraction of today’s trip was actually the Grand Canyon, but it involved quite a long trip, as I persuaded the other two to do a detour to the Hoover Dam, and we were spending the night at Flagstaff.

The drive to Hoover Dam was actually took quite a while. There was traffic going there, and getting parking there was tough (well, free parking anyway). But I think this piece of engineering marvel was not to be missed. If I don’t remember wrongly, this is a legacy of the Great Depression, whereby there were many mega construction projects to try and pump money into the US economy. It is also the raison d’etre of Las Vegas. Without irrigation, many of the places in desert Nevada would not have come into being. For popular culture reference, I think I was enraptured by it being featured in Transformers. It was definitely worth the detour.

After our brief stop at Hoover Dam, we pretty much drove straight for Grand Canyon. With my lead foot, we managed to arrive about 1.5 hours before closing. Thankfully, we were able to ditch the car, and take the shuttle buses that run around the Grand Canyon. The main thing I remember us doing (I kinda napped for most of the shuttle bus ride due to exhaustion) was us getting off at a look out point, and seeing the Canyon, which was made of many multi-coloured layered rocks. I guess it is some sort of geological feature. I thought it’d be interesting to see it from the bottom, but that was basically my only encounter with it – a grand total of 1.5 hrs (on my priorities in life, later).

Following the brief tour of the Grand Canyon, I drove for another 1.5 hours for the place we were going to room for the night – Flagstaff. I chose the spot, because it was nearish to the Grand Canyon and also near Peoria, my next destination. Also, I was attracted to its old-school charm, and its location on historic route 66. Sorry there were no pictures, as we arrived pretty late. But it had some old-school charm. Perhaps I’ll return some other day.

Hoover Dam – Powering the Area

My only photo of the Grand Canyon

USA – Las Vegas, 18 March 2011

After spending pretty much the whole of yesterday getting to Las Vegas from Seattle, today was our first touring day of our road trip. As the two have never seen snow or ski-ed prior to this, I suggested that we go to the Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort, after finding out that there’s skiing in Vegas (who would have thought!)

It was a pleasant drive for us getting to Indian Springs, where the Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort was located (about 1hr from Vegas). Along the way, we passed by a penitentiary, where hitchhiking is prohibited! It was quite a desert landscape, with a lot of mirages. I probably wouldn’t want to be stuck out there!

Skiing – this was my second go at it. I definitely wished that I actually started out with this beginner hill, and not the one at Stevens Pass, and its steep straight stretches. This was definitely easy peasy, and not hard on the beginner. I did contemplate trying the intermediate slopes, but I chickened out in the end. I do have some slight regrets.

After we were done, we still had some time. After seeing the frozen custard of Las Vegas on some foodie show, I decided I had to try it (see Luv-It Frozen Custard . So, the other two obliged, and that brought us to north of Las Vegas Downtown. Instructions on the website are slightly vague, and while it was near the Stratosphere as mentioned, it did take us walking in four different directions before we found it. So you might want to download the specific address and check it out on google maps if you decide to go. Also, even though it might look closed from the road, walk towards the parking area. They have a window there.

I got a regular Western sundae with chocolate. At about five bucks, it was huge, and very rich and thick. For someone like me who can eat a whole pint of ice cream at one sitting, even this was a little hard for me to chow down. Lesson? Do not be greedy and go for anything more than a regular. It was worth a try.

After my fulfilling the foodie in me, I drove the two to outlet shopping south of downtown Vegas. Well, I can’t comment on that, since I just sat there while they went Singaporean shopping crazy. After their shopping trip, we finally headed to check out downtown Vegas. It was quite a fantasy land. It reminded me of one of those theme parks in China, which was supposed to showcase the world, with the Eiffel Tower of Paris Hotel and New York imported to the middle of the Nevada desert, and condensed into a one mile strip. It was quite an experience, and it was also crazy crowded. Driving through this took some patience.

We had an early night, as the next day involved a lot of driving.

Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort

Luv-It Frozen Custard

Western Sundae with Chocolate

Downtown Las Vegas

Eiffel Tower in Vegas

US Spring Road Trip: Nevada, Arizona, California, 17-26 March 2011

Took a road trip during Spring break. Here’s the itinerary:

17 March 2011: Seattle, WA – Long Beach, CA – Las Vegas, NV

18 March 2011: Las Vegas, NV (Ski trip)

19 March 2011: Las Vegas, NV – Boulder City, NV – Grand Canyon, AZ – Flagstaff, AZ

20 March 2011: Flagstaff, AZ – Grand Canyon, AZ – Peoria, AZ – Grand Canyon, AZ – Las Vegas, NV

21 March 2011: Las Vegas, NV – Death Valley National Park, NV/CA – Las Vegas, NV

22 March 2011: Las Vegas, NV – Los Angeles, CA

23 March 2011: Manhattan Beach, CA

24 March 2011: Los Angeles, CA

25 March 2011: Santa Monica, CA

26 March 2011: Los Angeles, CA – Seattle, WA