punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,
punkwalrus
punkwalrus

Las Vegas: Day 4 - A Big Ol' Wall and a Large Rusty Ditch

[Originally posted 2004-06-23]
The Grand Canyon/Hoover Dam tour was awesome. Wish Christine could have made it. :(

When we got up, Christine said she was so sick, there was no way she could have made this 13-hour tour. She was going to call our doctor back home and try and get them to prescribe some medicine. So CR and I went with Sean and Louann.

The Lookout Tours picked us up from the hotel, and dropped us off at a central point where we had to pay (we had only made reservations). I had to pay for Christine because we didn't cancel her reservation with the 24-hour notice, which we knew, but it was kind of like a double slap that she wasn't there with me.

So we all got purple stickers, and started out to the Hoover Dam first. With post 9-11 and all, we had to stop at a checkpoint, and our bus was boarded by police officers and our stuff was searched. They weren't dicks about it or anything, but I still hated the whole ordeal. It was all over in only a few minutes, and we went over the dam. The first thing that struck me was how... nestled the damn was. I mean, all the photos I had seen up to this point made it look like it was just between two mountains, but in reality, it's down deep in some area with quite a few mountains. There are only a few area where you can get a clear view of everything. The road to and from the dam winds around the hills. I got a few good photos, but they don't let you off on the dam anymore, so I didn't get to stop at the famous statues or visit the (empty) gift shop. I don't know if those have just been cancelled altogether or just the day we were there. I do know they are constructing a new highway to go around the dam, and soon, you won't drive over it anymore. The tour guide, Jose, said this was not only for security reasons, but the route across the dam was becoming a huge traffic bottleneck anyway. It seems that a lot of people actually make a daily commute from California to Las Vegas these days, because Las Vegas has better jobs.

Then we started the long journey across Arizona to the Grand Canyon. We watched "Rat Race" on the small video screens, which was a pretty agonizingly bad movie. I just wanted to sleep, but a speaker was right above me, and kept blaring in my ear. Our bus driver Jose was a great guy. He was very funny, often describing some pretty offbeat stuff with hidden innuendos in his suave hispanic accent. We stopped off at the Quality Inn near the canyon to get our "free buffet." It was mostly free, but you had to pay for the drinks, which they didn't tell you until they got to the end of the line. Bottled water was like $2.00, and soda was $1.00 a can. The food was really awful, and it made me sick to my stomach for several hours. So my experience of the Grand Canyon was punctuated with frequent trips to the filthy bathrooms around there.

Then we exchanged guides to a guy named Martin, who had about 50 jobs in his life, faught in 'Nam, travelled the world, was a Park Ranger for many years, and had this happy, "world-weary" attitude that was both charming and endearing. He was retired, and was a tour guide because he loved it so much. It certainly showed. He knew everything, from the names of all the rangers, to the history and science behind everything. I was totally entranced.

The Canyon? Totally, and I mean, totally worth it. Sickness or no sickness, it was so awe-inspiring, I almost cried. It is so big, so huge, so... humbling to be near. Martin called it a "big rusty ditch" as a sort of gag, but the scale of the whole thing is beyond anything I have ever seen in my whole life. It reminded me back to the days I worked with an Earth science professor, Jim Sproull. I kept thinking of him, and how much I wanted to thank him for teaching me ahead of time to truly appreciate what I was seeing on both a scientific and beauty level.

The humor section of my brain kept going, "I must be on the 'Holy Crap, Canyons! Tours' tour bus," an homage to... well, this odd cartoon. Which seemed even funnier because of the "Forget Norway, more like Snoreway" part reminded me that Ander's family was from Norway... Come see the Canyons... only in Arizona... come to Arizona and see Canyons...

But I digress.

The trip back was a straight shot, with two 20 minute stops to gift stores. We saw two movies, "Where Fools Rush In," which was pretty good, and "Rush Hour 2," which I had seen before, and gave me great relief that it was not crappy movie I would never see otherwise (a problem I encounter when forced to watch crappy movies on planes and tour busses). "Rat Race" still had a bad taste in my mouth. We had to be searched again going over the dam, and then we came towards Vegas, which has light pollution so big, it's almost a false sunrise on the horizon. But by the time we got back, I was really sick. My throat had closed up, I had a high fever, and I was terribly cold on the bus. I bought a cheap Mexican blanket along the way to keep warm, and that helped, but I thought, "that's it, I'm gonna die."

Christine, during all of this, had to go to an emergency clinic where she got some antibiotics and codeine. She has a severe bacterial AND viral infection. The places around here don't take our insurance, so she had to pay out the nose for her medications. Ugh. Look what I had to look forward to...

This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000517.html
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