Trip Start Sep 20, 2005
Trip End Sep 19, 2006

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Flag of United States  , Nevada
Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Greetings from the mid West!

Well, since the last update we've travelled a lot of miles, Claire has managed to injure her ankle and Steve's brand new (and very expensive) camera has stopped working. So, most of the pictures on this site are from Claire's little (perfectly good) digital, but you can tell the quality just isn't the same..... Hopefully we'll be back up and running with Steve's by Fiji, but until we are I'm afraid we can't load any pictures.....we'll let you know when we're able to update this entry with photos.

So, the first place we went after leaving the Yellowstone area was to Dinosaur National Monument, basically a quarry on the Utah / Colorado border where literally thousands of dinosaur bones were found, just sticking out of the ground! The geology is a little complicated (well, for me at least) but the bare bones (ha ha!) of it is that the dinosaurs all died near a riverbed, which then over many millions of years stopped being a river bed and turned into rock, rose up by 6000 feet along with most of mid West America and turned on it's side - I said it was complicated!

Next, we drove many more miles to the Canyonlands / Arches National Park area. Wow! Out of endless boring scenery you come upon amazing canyons and crevices, red sandstone cliffs and gullies, and the most beautiful red sandstone arches. We hiked, clambered over many rocks, saw stunning Arches, Mesas, buttes (yes, really) and needles. We even got up before sunrise (it was VERY early and one of us complained a lot - not me!!) and walked some way on a bad ankle (well, one of us did!) in order to see the sunrise on one particularly stunning arch, and clambered a long way up to see the sunset over another (Delicate Arch). Unfortunately, the top of the hill/mountain we'd climbed was the place Steve's camera decided to stop working, so we saw the most amazing sunset making the arch glow brilliant orange - one of the most photographed sites in America - and we have no photos of it at all. Hmmmm. We also stayed at Canyonlands to see the amazing sunset (before the camera broke), nice romantic idea, just the two of us. Well, the sunset was RUBBISH, and to cap it all a busload of French tourists arrived just in time to see the sunset, took all the best spots, and talked incessantly. Not very impressed, and then we met them again the next morning - luckily we were coming back from our pre-sunrise trip when they were going to the same place.

Down to Page, about a hundred miles north of the Grand Canyon next, to see a fabulous slot canyon called Antelope Canyon. So many people miss it, yet is is incredible. The Upper Canyon is pretty accessible, although reasonably narrow. You walk in at the base of the canyon, which varies from about 5 feet to 2 feet wide. It's Navajo sandstone, which is a beautiful red colour, and the light penetrates from the top, creating real changes in colour and shade. The canyon was formed by water rushing through, and the incredible thing about it are the twists and curves within it - no straight walls here! The lower canyon involves a bit more effort - you climb into a very narrow hole in the floor, then down lots of steep ladders, and the width ranges from about 3 feet wide to about 1 - lots of the time you can't even get one foot flat on the bottom, never mind two! It is the most amazing and unusual place - very high on the highlights list so far! And yes, we didn't have Steve's camera for this one either, but mine took some decent photos, some of which will be attached.

The Grand Canyon was vast - so vast, in fact, we couldn't see very much of it and it's vastness made it difficult to grasp just exactly what we were seeing. It probably didn't help that it was very hazy and cloudy, followed by a thunderstorm.

Zion and Bryce national parks next. Zion is a beautiful canyon on a manageable scale, with lots of great walking and marvellous views. Bryce is surreal - a huge natural ampitheatre full of hoodoos - columns of multi-layered (and therefore multicoloured) rock which just cover the floor of the ampitheatre. Stunning - the only problem is the fact you have to walk down into them, which means all the up is on the way back! Sounds ok, other than the fact you're already at 8000 feet above sea level - it's hard going!

One of the most bizarre things about this section of the trip was the radio station - the only one we managed to tune into, and hang onto for the whole of south Utah, was Radio Loha - from Hawaii!!! It was lovely to hear what the weather was like in Hawaii (much hotter than Utah). I think the only time we managed to get a different station was when we heard "Tequila makes her clothes fall off" - yes, a country and western song, and we switched back to radio Loha pretty quickly!

Feeling a bit sad to leave Utah - we've really enjoyed our time here. Major Mormon state, with some funny laws though- buying a bottle of wine was an experience! You can only buy alcohol with more than 3.5% volume in special state run "Liquor Stores". Doesn't sound too bad, until you go to one and realise it looks like a sex shop! I suppose I should explain we can only make this comparison because there is a "Private Shop" in Bath which I had to drive past to get to the supermarket - and I lived in Bath for 3 years not knowing what this "Private Shop" was until someone pointed it out to me! So, Steve had to go into this dingy, furtive looking building with a tiny sign indicating the dreadful nature of the purchases you could make inside, and came back out with a suspicious looking package wrapped up in plain brown paper! Well, it entertained us!

Well, we couldn't come all this way and not go to Las Vegas! It was just as over the top as we expected - we particularly enjoyed the talking Roman statues in Caeser's Palace, and the erupting Volcano outside the Mirage. We did gamble - we limited ourselves to $10, and won back $17.50!!! Who says the system can't be beaten! We're feeling very chuffed with ourselves for cracking the Vegas gambling scene! Actually, the real reson for going to Vegas was the cost - it was only $24 a night in a posh hotel (well, actually a hotel/casino) wich is about 13 UK pounds. Wow!

For those of you who know us both well, you'll know how much we HATE Hallowe'en. Normally we'd go out to dinner straight from work, and stay out late enough to ensure no guisers* could possible still be about. It's proving a bit difficult to avoid here - there are cards (why???), costumes for kids, adults and dogs (again, why????), pyjamas, underwear, t-shirts, dog leads, tablecloths and mats, candy collection buckets.....and the list goes on. Not only that, people decorate their gardens and houses! Ever since we arrived in the US (4 weeks ago, and 6 weeks before Hallowe'en) we've seen houses with straw bales, pumpkins and hallowe'en scarecrows in the front gardens, and those are all out the front of every supermarket, so you can buy them with your weekly shop. We've seen baubles for trees (yes, as in Christmas trees but for Hallowe'en) and even, in a Pizza Hut, Hallowe'en tinsel! The world has gone mad! And we won't be sending you all Happy Halowe'en cards!

*For those of you not Scottish and therefore need a translation, like my husband, these are the kids who are dressed up and going round houses trick or treating (to use the American phrase)
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