It’s been over a month since posting on here and that’s because we haven’t been sitting around long enough to type this stuff down. Time has now arrived to give it a crack…
We sat in 1024 East for a few days whilst Mark eyeballed dream bikes and mused over cliffs rides and enchiladas (the Moab kind). Reality struck and a plan to at least ride Durango was made. As a warm up, a spin on the Road Apple in Farmington and the Alien Run in Aztec were conducted. Whilst some have blogged that these are just big BMX tracks, I love them for it, and after seeing Durango and Moab (below) I do prefer the fast flowing single track – must be missing the speed as I’d normally have with engine power!
Durango was next: time to get into the hills – well, let’s call them mountains – and do some riding. Surprisingly the 10,000ft elevation was not too difficult though as Murphy’s Law would have it, a flat occurred on the first ride. Turns out the Stan’s ‘no flats goo’ had expired after 3 months! Engineer Mountain trail and Molas section of the Colorado trail were ridden and are amazing. By far the most amazing bit was the Alice in Wonderland flowers that grow above head height with the trail weaving through them.
Moab also had to be tried and after the usual bike choice delays we hit the MOAB trails and then Slickrock. My lasting memory will be the first proper hill at Slickrock that is about 10m high with 40 degree off camber rock, turns out you can just ride down it but a few minutes were spent psyching up for it. The rest of the trail had similar hills to go down and up and is a great experience that all MTBikers need to complete. The other achievement for Moab was getting out to the delicate arch after missing it on my previous 4 tries. Even got some photos of it!
Vegas: The target was to get Lacey out to Zion Canyon and do both Angels Landing and the Narrows. Our hire car was the first experience, a Mercury Grand Marquis, apparently a 2009 model that looked like it was out of the 70’s and had a boot sufficient for at least 2 bodies. Whilst we can bemoan the fuel guzzling V8 power, it makes for a smooth ride and a car that can dispatch speed bumps that way has to be tried to be believed. We only made it to Angels after a travel distance miscalculation, but it did mean we were back in town for a Black Bear Diner feed and some hot tub relaxation.
California: It’s a busy place and needs a different approach as there are no quiet corners. We tried Sequoia Park – it has big trees (as you’d expect). We missed Kings Canyon due to delays and swung through Yosemite again. California has a bear on its flag – I was a bit skeptical about this choice, but whilst taking some photos in Yosemite Valley (where the camp sites and hotel are) a bear and its cub wandered past the bridge we were on and continued on down to the campground! Guess they can justify the flag.
The drive from Vegas west was to meet Lacey in the Napa Valley. She was flying over for Opening the Kimono, an entrepreneurs event held at the Meritage Resort. The resort worked well for me as I could spa, swim and laze around, which was what I needed after 10 weeks on the road. Unfortunately, the Meritage food met Americans standards of quality requiring trips into Napa to eat. Luckily some great food is available in town, look up the tapas on main if you are there. My Napa highlight was hearing a big block again: it has been a few years and there is no better sound than big pistons spewing fuel out truck pipes. See my favourite car of the show below.
The focus of the trip was definitely on the natural wonders, but we happened across a few funky cities along the way.
After a time consuming border crossing, Seattle was a welcome surprise. In the space of an afternoon, we managed to cram in:
- Pike Place Public Market – famous for the hustle and bustle of its seafood sellers and as the home to the original Starbucks (no, we didn’t partake – the queue was out the door and across the street!
- Space Needle – offers a brilliant view of the city, and all the more special when Mt Rainier looks like its floating!
- The Sculpture Park on the foreshore – pretty impressive, even to a bunch of heathens like us
I liked it so much, I’m going back in a few weeks to catch up with some ex-pats! Definitely worth a visit.
No trip along the west coast would be complete without a stop in San Francisco. China Town and the botanical gardens were high on the list, but most impressive was the Golden Gate Bridge:
You know you’re in the tree-hugging hippie state when leave the redwoods to discover they’ve been replaced with their metal brethren:
On the home stretch we stopped in Las Vegas as our launching pad (literally – Jeneen and Mario took a helicopter ride from there) to the Grand Canyon. From the Stratosphere and away from the noise, Las Vegas actually looks quite pretty:
And of course, admiring the Bellagio water fountains was a great excuse to partake of the Bellagio buffet… again 🙂
Travelling in June/July has distinct advantages – warmer weather, open roads, awake animals and the benefit of the melt: copiously flowing waterfalls and rivers. Then there’s the stuff that water carves in its path – canyons, valleys and other curious rock formations that need to be seen to be believed.
The goosenecks at Dead Horse State Park in Utah were the first insight into what the desert hides. These winding waterways carve a giant snake into the land.
Then there’s the rocks that get left behind, only to slowly weather away in the wind and heat.
Some of the structures are so extraordinary they seem man-made. The Double Arches do not seem like something that could be formed naturally. You can almost imagine a giant holding a chisel, shaping the rock into this spectacular formation.
Yellowstone was a direct contrast to the deserts we travelled – instead of cutting deeper and soaking into the ground, water here shoots up into the sky from the sheer pressure caused by heat.
St Mary Falls is at the end of a short walk in Glacier National Park. Not huge, but the area is so peaceful and so obviously natural that it was a special experience.
Marble Canyon is on the road through the Kootenays and carves a deep groove into the rock. This is the head of the canyon, where the water barely cuts a groove. Further down, the canyon is dozens of metres deep and funnels the water into a raging torrent.
Athabasca Glacier on the Icefields Parkway offers a chance to walk on ice. Buses on giant tyres traverse a 30% gradient (you should have seen Jeneen’s white knuckles on that leg!) to drop you in the middle of the flow. It’s a cold and awe-inspiring experience.
Slightly warmer, much smaller, but just as special was Tangle Creek. The map clearly states ‘Watch out for goats!’ – for once, the maps were right.
The Athabasca Falls are several miles from the Glacier, but the roar was loud enough I reckon it would carry to its origin.
Not sure of the name of this cute little falls, but was so impressed with Adam’s photography I just had to include it…
You can climb to the top of Yosemite Falls, but why would you when you can see the entire cascade from ground level?
And after the magnificence of Grand Canyon, we thought Bryce would be dull. No chance!
Ah, so many incredible sights! We could go on forever… but we won’t 🙂
After a couple of warm-ups (Ouray and Santa Fe) it was time to hit the road on Tuesday 21 June for the Filipich Road Trip. Adam had been planning for weeks, and Mario and Jeneen were relishing the opportunity to see some of the diverse landscape of the States. The map below roughly shows the trip, minus meanderings, mistakes and repeats:
Yep, it was HUGE! Here’s the key stats:
- 6,000+ miles (Google tells me it’s 4750 miles, so we must have done a fair bit of wandering off the track)
- 2 cars (first one broke)
- 2 countries
- 15 states
- 2 land border crossings
- 2 public holidays (Canada Day and Independence Day)
- 16 national parks – Yellowstone, Glacier (USA), Kootenays, Jasper, Banff, Yoho, Yosemite, Grand Canyon… the list goes on
- 25 hotels/motels (or maybe more… they all blend into one another after a while)
- Too many amazing sights to name (or count!)
In fact, there were so many sights we decided to split them up into 4 separate posts that follow this one, be sure to check them out:
- Flora and Fauna
- Lakes and Mountains
- Moving Water
Here’s the stuff that didn’t fit into those posts:
Okay, we’re exhausted just looking at these photos! It was a truly epic adventure. We farewelled Jeneen and Mario on Wednesday, and four hours later welcomed Mark – so there will be more travels to come. We promise to update the blog more promptly next time…
Not what you would expect, actually.
We had four drinks each in total, did not gamble a cent and didn’t visit a strip club – though we had many tap-tap offers. There are no embarrassing photos, no tattoos and no weddings. Perhaps a less-than-traditional visit to Vegas, but we still had a great time!
Arrival was early Saturday and after checking into Wyndham (thanks Phill!) we headed back into town and met up with Craig and Nicole at MGM Signature. Following this we had rapidly booked a show, canyon tour and were wandering north up the Strip. Casino saturation by the time we reached the Wynn, and cured by jumping in a taxi for some shopping at the outlets. Amazingly (or perhaps not) it looked just like the Gold Coast Harbour Town. On the way home we rewarded ourselves with some delicious sushi from our local shop, Sushi 21. Australians could learn a lot about how to prepare and serve sushi from the Las Vegas Asian community! There are apparently 400+ sushi joints, so competition is tough. Our obliging chef made us an “Aussie special” with lots of seafood. We’re drooling just thinking about it…
The night’s entertainment began with a rushed tapas dinner at Sea Blue (MGM). The streets had filled up in the evening and MGM was full after a boxing match, making rapid progress impossible. Of note at Sea Blue was the massive wine list with its equally massive prices: it must have been 20 pages with prices from $60-4,000 …we had a beer. The rush was to get to the Bellagio to see O – by Cirque du Soleil. Turns out the show is a Vegas special due to the waterworks required to pull it off – think of mixing half an Olympic pool, 20m dive platform, zip lines and hydraulic booms with 50 odd performers. Oh and the pool floor rises and falls and has scuba divers! Unfortunately it only shows in Vegas, but if you are there, do it! Also remarkable is the quality of the performances, they must recruit ex gymnasts and divers as there was only one mistake noticed and the splashes were 10-point material, eat your heart out Chinese girls.
We avoided the bars as we needed to get up at 5:30 to be ready for our Grand Canyon tour. It was quite an epic adventure: we took 2 airplane flights, 2 helicopter flights, 1 dinghy ride, 7 bus rides and a short hike, and amazingly it felt like we were sitting around for hours waiting for stuff to happen! With that off the chest, the overriding memory is: awesome! Three of us were helicopter virgins so it was super-exciting as we dropped into the canyon: the feeling was sensational! It’s surreal to be so relatively quiet, maneuverable and resilient to the gusty winds.
The first helicopter ride was to the Canyon floor, where we walked down to the Colorado River. The River moves fast, which is not the impression you get a mile up on the Canyon rim. The boat ride was a bit tacky, but it led to the ride out: it was a great feeling to soar out of the depths. Following the heli rides we (literally) paid tribute to the local Indians out on the glass-bottomed Sky Walk and had a photo shoot with the eager guy hired to snap the cotton-bootied tourists (turns out you need to wear booties to protect the glass). Two foods for thought grow from the following observation, the walk has a 70 tonne capacity yet only 120 people are allowed at once. And yet, the restriction was 12 people on our turn… litigation or obesity, we ponder?
Following a brief siesta, we went in search of dinner. A TV show had recommended the buffet at the Bellagio: brilliant! We got to eat trays of frenched lamb cutlets, crab legs, kobe steak, duck, rabbit, sashimi etc. in the 45 minutes we had left in the session. Great eating after the limited variety, quality and tastes we’ve had to date. Of course, the great grub slowed the energy levels and the agenda (previously more shows and finding a bar) lost its appeal next to our bed at the Wyndham. We did catch the Treasure Island skank show before retiring after missing the Bellagio waterworks and Caesars Atlantis due to wind and rudeness. Turns out Craig and Nicole were just as pooped and bailed half way up to meet us.
Monday morning was designated relaxation time – sleep in and spa! We eventually headed back to the Strip for lunch. After being amazed by the interior of Caesar’s Palace (including the ivory carvings and replica Roman fountains), we opted for some comfort food (i.e. noodle soup) at Beijing No. 9 – like everything in Caesar’s Palace, we spent half the time gawking at the surroundings. We followed it up by buying the obligatory T-shirts and replica drinking glass, then it was on the plane and back to reality (*sigh*)
The verdict on Vegas: worth a visit. We’ll definitely be back.