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Yellowstone Tour 2008

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           Last updated: October 17, 2011 Link to 2008 MyPublisher book
Click on any photograph to enlarge the image then click one more time to see more detail
We are SO excited about this years vacation to Yellowstone!!  We did this trip in 2004 and we just have the urgings to do it again and this time with our Granddaughter Molly.  It is a gorgeous area and hopefully we can find bears and moose this time!! Dave, Dee and Molly

Saturday May 24th, 2008.

      We were originally going to hit Yellowstone first but had to reverse our planned trip route due to heavy spring snow in the Yellowstone area.  So off we went like people who had good sense toward Grand Canyon.  Molly was in her typical travel position of horizontal and we would wake her when something of interest came up.  That horizontal thing changed pretty quickly when we got to all the interesting parts of the trip pretty earlier that we expected.  Dee was doing a lot of the driving and I was sitting on the other side complaining.  Sometimes that's the way we travel, she drives and I complain.  We headed south to Oklahoma City and then west to Amarillo and Moriarty New Mexico where we would stay the first night.  Although we have seen the interesting sights on this leg before we still get a kick out of it.  Molly had not seen this stuff since she was about 10 so for all practical purposes this was a new experience.  West of Oklahoma City the country side turns into those famous Oklahoma slow rolling hills covered with green prairie hay, grazing cattle and wheat.  There is a new modern view of those old prairies now days, huge fields of wind driven turbines.  Gosh there must have been a hundred of those tall white pillars with slow turning blades along the hills to the south of the highway.  The size of the windmill is very deceptive when you're driving down the road but later in the trip we got to see one of the blades on the ground. WOW!!  They're really big!!  There is the famous "leaning water tower" near Groom Texas that is a left over from the route 66 days when many of the businesses had "something" unique to attract customers.  Not far from there is a huge white cross that's pretty impressive.  If you should stop at the big cross, they have a full sized replica of the "Shroud of Turin" and statues with the stations of the cross.   Somehow we managed to miss seeing the Cadillac ranch and the Volkswagen ranch.  We like stopping at other states visitors centers and the more interesting rest stops.  So Texas was the first one we ran into and then New Mexico's DOT rest stops.  We once again tried to contact the staff at Zia RV park in Moriarty New Mexico but they just had a phone message that said "come on in".  When we arrived there was still no staff around, just a box telling us to "drop the money here."  The park was a bit shaggy but we stayed anyway.  Interestingly we never saw a living sole while we were there and as best I could tell this was the first "self serve" RV park I've seen.  Molly took a picture of the sign with office hours and I think it says it all.  We just stayed one night you know.  The view from the park at sun set and at night was really great.  You could see the valley below to the west, Moriarty well lit in the valley and mountains behind that.

Leaning water tower

Rest stop in Taxes where the awl biness is gwd.

Taxes rest stop

Zia RV Park sunset

Zia RV park the next morning. Euwh!!

Huge cross

New Mexico rest stop

Back of Taxes rest stop. A really great view of the landscape from this spot

Panorama from Taxes visitors center

Sunday May 25, 2008.

      Leaving Moriarty about 9:00AM for our RV Park in Flagstaff we stopped at a tourist shop just west of Thoreau New Mexico and found the Continental Divide passed through.  We find more interesting things by accident than we do on purpose.  Moving west toward Flagstaff the rest areas changed to the red dirt and rocks common to that area.  Really quite pretty.  One of the New Mexico rest stops looked a whole lot like a red rock mountain with restrooms and a visitors center built in the middle.  This whole center was really artsy.  We literally ran into an exciting adventure somewhere between Moriarty and the Arizona border.  We were watching dust devils that are common in our part of the country skittle across the fields off to our left.  While watching a couple of them off to our left and and thinking they would cross the road in front of us.  One of them seemed pretty close and it looked like we might get to see it up close and personal.  As we went under an overpass Dee asked where it went and Molly and I said "I think it's right over us".  Dee gave a little fake scream and then we found out It really WAS over the top of us!!   And it was a LOT stronger that the little ones back home.  It pushed us around quite a lot.   From that point on we watched those big dust devils more carefully making sure we didn't intercept any more of them.  The road into Flagstaff from the east is a really pretty ride.  You can see Humphreys Peak off to the north of flagstaff from quite a ways out and for this time of year the top was covered with snow.  The climb up to Flagstaff is a winding uphill road through the pines and if you look carefully you will spot some of the white domed telescope observatories.  Our destination for the day was Circle Pines KOA on the west side of Flagstaff near Williams Arizona.  This would be our third stay at Circle Pines KOA and find it to be nice but as usual, it's a little more expensive than most of the places in the area.  It's really a pretty park just off the highway and in a stand of what appear to be lodge pole pines.  The staff lead you to the assigned site with a four wheeler and extremely helpful.   The ground at the site is covered with the little red cinder like rock that is so common to this area and the whole area is hilly with lots of pine needles and cones.  After we got the RV setup there was some time to appreciate the park nestled in the pine trees with kids playing nearby.  It's always fun to hear the kids having a good time.  There were several people tenting nearby and it reminded me of the days when we would camp out with our two kids.  The early morning bird calls, the smell of wood smoke and getting the coffee cooking over the hot coals while momma fired up the Coleman stove to cook eggs and bacon.  You can play the video to see a panorama of the park from our site. It's not very spiffy but not bad for a first attempt.  You can double click the image to make it full screen.

Route 66 - Molly's

New Mexico visitors center

Circle Pines KOA

Panorama of the Continental Divide


Coming into Flagstaff - Molly's

Circle Pines KOA

Sunday May 26, 2008.

      Grand Canyon is always an awe inspiring sight the first time you see it and no different the second and third time.  Years ago my dad tried to get me to go see the canyon and I told him I wasn't much of a fan of big holes in the ground.  However, the first time I looked out across that valley I was hooked.  Funny how dad's are always right and we learn that too late in life.  This trip would prove to be a little different than previous ones.  The Grand Canyon had experienced a "late in the season weather change" and it was windy and cold.  And, after we had been here a few hours we found out that a significant part of the canyon was closed for repairs... Hermits Rest.  What a disappointment!!  We did something different than last time and came in from the east on highway 64.  There is an observation point along that route that is really impressive and I am still not sure how we have missed it in the past.  Yavapai Observation Station.  It's a covered and enclosed observation platform with large glass windows overlooking the canyon.  This is a really impressive view and has several exhibits on the inside that explains the formation of the canyon.  I'm not sure how we missed this in past trips but it should be on everyone's "must see" list.  We are always amazed at the chances people take when visiting parks that have some built in hazards like the Grand Canyon.  The picture on the left was taken during our 2004 vacation but exhibits the excessive chances people take.  Take a close look at the two guys out on this ledge. One is on his hands and knees.  When we got in touch with a ranger about the guy in this picture he said "unfortunately there is no law against being stupid".  Apparently the rangers are not allowed to remove people who "appear" to be taking a chance.

      There were lots of things to see in the Flagstaff area that we simply didn't have time to do on this trip.  Lowell Observatory is well worth the trip and you will be to look through Percival Lowell's "Alvan Clark" 24 inch telescope.   Did you know that Flagstaff uses street lighting that is directed toward the ground with no upward light scatter so the Lowell Observatory telescopes can "see" better at night??

      And.. there is the Wupatki Indian ruins and Sunset volcano crater to the northeast of town.  Just go east on 40 until you see business 40 north and take that to 89 north.  Go about 12 miles north on 89 and you will see an exit to Sunset Crater (officially known as highway NF-545).  If you continue on this road it will take you through Sunset Crater, Wupatki and back to highway 89. If you go to this link you can get a preview of the Wupatki area.

Molly's Self portrait

Looking toward the shuttle loading area

More pictures of the locals

Another self portrait

One of the views from Yavapai

We always get pictures of the locals

Bright Angel trail


Williams Grand Canyon


Molly on the path to

 Bright Angel trail

The EL Tovar Lodge

From Yavapai

Dee and Dave

Tuesday May 27, 2008.

      Sick and tired of the cold and wind we pulled up stakes from Circle Pines KOA and headed toward Las Vegas.  We knew that Las Vegas temperatures were in the 80's and 90's and that sounded pretty good when compared to the windy 50's.  Las Vegas is always fun to me and has two modes of operation, under construction and changing.  The streets AND the buildings!  And if they aren't putting in something new then they're blowing them up.  We went through Kingman Arizona and headed up that long straight highway 93 that leads to Hoover Dam.  There are still police manning inspection stations on the highway just before crossing the dam.  Good!!  They're keeping all of us safe and a lot of people with electricity and water.  There is a very high and long bridge being built that will cross just to the west of Hoover Dam that will be really impressive to drive over when completed.  I guess the objective is to keep anyone driving across the dam from blowing it up.  When we were here a few years ago they said it would be finished in 2008 but now they are saying 2010.  If you enlarge the top left picture you can see a car parked on top the bridge.  That will put the size in perspective.  The water at the dam is still VERY low and we wondered when they would start having problems generating electricity and supplying water.  Did you know some of this water goes downstream to Mexico??   You can double-click the video image to make it full screen.  The first title says something like "the new bridge that will bypass Hoover Dam" and then there is a tag that points out the cars WAY up on top the bridge being constructed.  We got to town early and after setting up at the Sam's Town Casino RV park we headed to Fremont street downtown to get our feet wet.  We camped out at the Starbucks located across from Binions Casino and waited for the overhead display to kick off.  In my opinion it is the largest TV set in America.  Officially it is known on Vegas.com as the "Viva Vision canopy and light show. The canopy towers 90 feet above the ground and spans the length of five football fields. Featuring more than 12 million LED modules and 555,000-watt sound system, the light show attracts tourists and locals alike".  You will have to see it to appreciate how special it is.  Fremont is also a great place to people watch!!  People watching is one of our favorite pastimes when away from home.  Fremont street has a laid back intimate atmosphere so people seem to behave differently and that of course adds to the people watching experience!!  This area downtown has live entertainment as well.  The first night we were there they had a live band.   I'm not sure what time we got back to the RV but you can bet it was late (or early depending on your viewpoint). 




The new bridge - Molly's

The new bridge in the top left of this picture


Hoover Dam Panorama

Part of the Viva Vision display

Just before the new bridge and Hoover - Molly's

Close up of the new bridge

How low will it go?

Giant overflow pipe. This is so big that it is scary! - Molly

Aw the first day in town.  Is this fun or what?

Will this child EVER get off the cell phone?

Cell phoning


Wednesday May 28, 2008.

      Death Valley.  Molly and Dee got interested in the new National Park sign so we stopped to have a look and get pictures.  It wasn't nasty hot at Death Valley today as it has been in the past.  Normally in the summer months it routinely is 113 degrees or so.  You probably know that Death Valley is the lowest place in the U.S. so we took the opportunity to get some photographic evidence that we had been there.  I mean, you know, you need some proof in case someone says "no way"!  We snapped a picture of the Furnace Creek Inn resort located near the entrance to the valley.  Couldn't visit it because it's only open during the winter months.  There was a steam train further down the road that was once used to haul ore (Borax?) and just across from that was one of the old "20 Mule Team Borax" wagons.  Most of the people reading this blog are probably not old enough to remember the TV program sponsored by "20 Mule Team Borax".  Holy cow!!  I have never seen such a inhospitable place as this.  Why in the world would anyone consider living here?  Their jobs must have offered one heck of a good dental program.  Here is a map of Death Valley provided by the National Park Service that is about 1.8MB.   Small Death Valley Map   And a very detailed Death Valley map that is about 7.5MB.  Death Valley Detail Map   How to get there from Vegas.  Travel to Death Valley from Las Vegas After we got duly tired of Death Valley we headed back to Vegas.  Along the way we began noticing that many of the cell phone towers in the area were camouflaged to look like pine trees and palm trees.  Dee caught a picture of a "pine tree" cell tower on the outskirts of town and then got a picture of a "palm tree" tower located at the edge of the strip.  We headed back to the strip for some coffee at Paris Casino and along the way a couple of gals with bright red hair caught our attention.  Molly and Dee said they had no interest in getting their hair dyed red just for this trip!  We dropped by and got a picture of Molly next to a display that had a million dollars in it and Molly said the stack looked pretty small for a million dollars.  That is sort of like the attitude of the politicians in Washington D.C.  Having been to Paris in the old days I can tell you that the shops and stores in Paris are very nostalgic for me and bring back fond memories.  You need to go have a look, it's really close to the real deal.  We bounced into the Boulanger for a snack and some coffee.  It was great and we got in some people watching as well.  The other reason we came to Paris tonight was to go up the Eifel Tower and survey Las Vegas from "up top".  I have forgotten what it cost to visit the top but it was well worth it for a night view of the city.  Las Vegas at night is a spectacle to behold from the top of the tower.  We had to admit that sometimes they let too many people on the top at one time which makes you have to stand in line to get up to the screen to look out over the city.  The ride up and down in the elevator is a pretty good view too with the glass front that lets you see out across Las Vegas as you near the top. 

Molly's million

On top the Eiffel Tower

 El Monte RV Rentals & Motorhome Rentals

Self Portrait in Vegas

Da plane, da plane - Molly

Death Valley Resort

Ballys - Molly's

Paris - Molly's

The strip from the Eiffel Tower - Molly's


Molly's Breakfast

Low enough for you? - Molly

Cell Phone Tower



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Yellowstone Tour 2008