September 2004

Western US Vacation

Posted on September 18, 2004 at 5:42 pm in

We decided to do our vacation this year as a tour of the Western United States.  I was born in California so we planned to swing through my hometown along the way too.  We flew into Phoenix Sky Harbor and then planned to head toward the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Death Valley, Ridgecrest, CA (Paul’s birthplace), then come back through Lake Havasu and end up back in Phoenix.

First stop was Pioneer, Arizona.   It’s a re-creation of an 1800′s town with some buildings that are original.  They had some shows and museum type displays.  Very cool – reminded me of some of the ghost towns out there in the desert that we would visit when I was a kid.


Next we stopped at Montezuma Castle.  It’s a cliff dwelling that is supposedly about 1,000 years old.


As we passed Flagstaff, AZ we saw the after-effects of a forest fire and saw an old train – the geography really started changing from desert to mountainous.


We spent the next full day at the Grand Canyon. We not only drove around it, we also took a helicopter ride over it. Pictures really can’t capture the magnificence of the place. Yes it’s just a big hole in the ground – but you’ve never seen a hole that big anywhere else so that makes it cool all by itself. Then you throw on the beautiful textures and the incredible scale of the thing and you start to feel like a miniature action figure.


The Planes of Fame Air Museum in Valle, AZ was up next.  A very impressive collection of old aircraft (and some cars, too) especially considering that this is not the main site of the museum.


On our way to Vegas, we made a stop at the Hoover Dam. Imagine all that water in the middle of the desert.


At last, we made it to Las Vegas! We were here for two nights and one day – definitely not enough time to take the place in, we need to go back in the future.


As we were heading to Death Valley, we found out that the entire place was closed down due to flooding. Flooding?!? – isn’t Death Valley like one of the driest places on Earth? So we decided to skip Ridgecrest as that would require a massive detour around Death Valley to get there and we turned south toward Lake Havasu. Mid-September is not exactly tourist season there, so it was really dead.


Back to Phoenix, we stayed a few days at the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort.
This place was awesome – we didn’t have our own room, we had our own house.


Since we were spending a couple days at the resort, we ventured out into town and visited the Desert Botanical Garden. It’s amazing how much stuff you can get to grow in a desert!


After an awesome but quick week, we headed home. It’s funny how most of the stuff we saw on this trip is awe-inspiring to an adult but when I saw a lot of it as a kid, I was bored to tears.  Here are some miscellaneous pictures we took along the way: