New Years in Las Vegas

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December 26th 2008
Published: December 22nd 2011
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Tamara and Rosanna had always wanted to spend New Years Eve in Las Vegas. Will saw no reason to go since he wasn't 21. I am always ready to go anywhere. The girls finally convinced Linda to go, since Will could take care of the animals. So the day after Christmas, which we always celebrate at home with the whole family, we hit the road.

26 December 2008 Friday. With winter days being so short I wanted to get an early start so the we could get to both Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in Utah while it was still light. But getting everyone up and ready to leave by 8 am proved impossible. I guess I should have been happy with the 9 am departure, but consequently we had to miss Canyonlands.

We drove west on US24 and then north on Rt 9 which took us over Hoosier Pass into Breckenridge and Frisco where we caught I-70 west. Soon we were passing Vail and Beaver Creek; thinking wouldn't it be nice to be skiing. However, this year we had something else planned. We arrived at Arches National Park about 2:30 pm which gave us about an hour and a half before it got too dark to take pictures. We drove first to the Windows section to see the North and South Windows and the Double Arch. We walked to the arches despite the snow and icy path. Then we backtracked a bit and went north to the end of the road, passing through the Fiery Furnace to the Devel's Garden Trailhead. The sun angle and the snow on the red rocks made for some fantastic scenery as can be seen in the pictures.

As mentioned before, by the time we returned to the park entrance it was too dark to visit Canyonlands. We had dinner in Moab, and then returned to I-70 to head west. We wanted to get as far as possible that evening so that we had a full day in sunlight to see Bryce and Zion the next day on the way to Las Vegas. I really wish we had been able to see the dramatic geological formations crossing Utah on I-70. We made it as far as Richfield before turning off the highway to get gas and check into our motel.

27 December 2008 Saturday. We got on our way before 9 am, and soon turned off I-70 onto US89. US89 is one of America's iconic highways, not as famous as US66, but in my view even better as it runs from the Canadian to the Mexican border, passing many of the best national parks including Glacier, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Bryce Canyon, Zion, and the Grand Canyon. It can't get much better than that!

We have been on most of the other sections before, but this time we were only doing the peice leading to and connecting Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks. We arrived at Bryce Canyon about 11 am and stopped at Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, and Inspiration Point to look out over the canyon to see the bright red and gold hoodoos covered with white snow. We had been there many times in the summer and fall, but never in the winter. The snow just added the right touch to the scene. We weren't able to walk far as the snow was pretty deep.

We had lunch at the entrance to the park, and then headed to Zion National Park, about 85 miles to the south and west. We arrived there about 3 pm, and the sun was already shining at a 45 degree angle, adding shadows to the high cliffs. While at Bryce Canyon, we looked down into the canyon, at Zion we looked up. There wasn't as much snow so we were able to walk a bit more towards the gorge cut out of the red rocks by the Virgin River. But within an hour, it was growing dark, made even more so by being in the canyon, so we headed out of the park for the 45 mile drive to St George where we had supper. From there it was only 120 miles to Las Vegas.

We drove along the Strip from the north to the south end where our hotel was located, getting an eyeful of the bright lights and the over the top casino hotels. This was a preview of the days to come. We checked into our hotel, where we had a two bedroom suite and a living room. This came with breakfast and supper, and although the suppers were pretty basic, it helped to save the cost of food. We watched some TV and then turned in so that we would be fresh for a full day of sightseeing in the morning.

28 - 31 December Sunday through Wednesday. During the days we toured attractions such as Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum and the M&M Museum. We walked various sections of the Strip from one Resort Casino to the next; taking in everything.

One day, Linda and I drove to Death Valley National Park, as the girls didn't want to go. We had considered driving to Los Angeles for a day as it was only four hours away, but decided to leave that for another vacation.

In the evenings we went to each of the free shows outside of the casinos, such as the Sirens of TI at the Treasure Island, the Volcano at the Mirage, and the Fountains at the Bellagio. We didn't gamble so didn't win a ton of money...or loose.

On New Year's Eve, we waited to see Evil Kenevil's son leap the volcano at the Mirage with a motorcycle. Actually the ramp and leap was set up on the sidewalk in front of the volcano, but the camera angle made it look like he went over the volcano. No big deal in real life.

I then settled into a comfortable lounge chair to read a good book, while the girls walked around. As the evening wore on the crowds were getting crazier and gangs of guys were getting drunk and starting to grab girls. It was getting out of hand, so the girls called me to meet them and we got back to our hotel about 11 pm. We watched a replay of the Times Square New Years celebration and crystal ball descending to mark midnight, and then went to bed.

1 January 2009 Thursday. We had breakfast and checked out of the hotel, heading for the Hoover Dam. We stopped briefly to take a picture and then continued to Kingman AZ where we had lunch at a Chinese restaurant.

Then we caught I-40 east to Williams where I bought a Route 66 T-shirt and bought gas before turning north on Rt 64 to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Most of our previous visits to the Grand Canyon were during the summer when the North Rim was open; hence, we rarely saw the South Rim. We stopped at the Grand Canyon Village visitor center and made our way along the rim to see the canyon from various perspectives. Again, the snow added just the right touch to the blaze of color.

We retraced our path until the turn off on US180 to Flagstaff. At Flagstaff we checked into our motel and then went for dinner nearby. It was more like a sports bar, so we asked them to change the channel on the TV near our table so that we could watch Virginia Tech play some other team in a football bowl game. We caught the end of the game back at our motel room. I think VT won.

2 January 2009 Friday. We headed east on I-40 stopping at Winslow in honor of the Eagles song "Standin' on the corner in Winslow, Arizona..." We skirted the Painted Desert and stopped at the Petrified Forest National Monument for a brief visit. Then we were off to Gallup, NM for a late lunch.

We by passed Albuquerque in favor of spending the night in Santa Fe, one of our favorite small cities. We checked into our motel. Linda was too tired to go into town with us, so the girls and I went to the plaza at the end of the Santa Fe Trail, in front of the Governors Palace, and had Mexican food for dinner at the La Fonda on the Plaza, which had been a Fred Harvey hotel in the days of railroad tourism.

3 January 2009 Saturday. From Santa Fe we had a quick five hour drive home up I-25. The cats and dog had survived their week with Will providing for them.

Additional photos below
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23rd December 2011

Thanks a lot for this great entry and Merry Christmas!
We plan to do most of the big parks out of Las Vegas in just over a year. Plan is to have New Year Eve in Las Vegas and than hit the road. I was really wondering if we need to be worry of the snow to drive around and between the parks. Our plan is to finish by few days skiing around Salt Lake City. Do you think we should expect snow every year around early January? We will for sure take a little longer than you to drive around. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all your family from our little family. No snow for us this year as we are in Fiji.
23rd December 2011

Merry Christmas
Certainly no snow in Fiji. We plan to visit Fiji next October on our cruise from Honolulu to Sydney, Australia. So we are very interested in reading about your time there. As for snow conditions between Las Vegas and Salt Lake City, you shouldn't have any problems unless there is a snow storm at the time you choose to drive, which can happen as you get into Utah. The state highway department clears the roads, especially interstate highways, very quickly during and after a snow storm. On our trip the only road that were still icy and slippery was I-70 between Vail and Grand Junction in Colorado, but if you are going to the ski resorts near Salt lake City, you shouldn't have a problem.
23rd December 2011

And a Happy New Year
I forgot to add that my son Will will be arriving in Bangkok on January 2 to learn to teach English as a second language, and then teach until at least June. I like Bangkok but loved living in Chiang Mai more. Anyhway, have both a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
23rd December 2011

Hi Bob and Linda
We are in the San Francisco airport heading to Ohio for the holidays. Certainly enjoyed hearing about your trip to Vegas and the Canyons. Glad the animals were safe at home with Will. Happy Holidays
23rd December 2011

Merry Christmas
Have a great time in Ohio. However, we still expect you to drive there in the summer and stop by here on the way there or back!

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