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Old 23rd June 2011, 08:56   #1
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Default Wild west: Vegas, canyons, arches, salt flats, lake tahe, San francisco and more.

It was only a matter of time before we head to the west coast, since we had been to the most popular destinations in mid west and east. So we decided to fly to Las Vegas and take a road trip thru Arizona, Utah, Nevada again and California to San Francisco, from where we would take our flight back home. Here is the route we followed.

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And here is a little travelogue of the points of interest we covered.

Las vegas: Doesn't need an explanation. But a tip for parents, we stayed at palms resort around 1.5 miles from the strip which has a kids-quest. We left the kids there once each of the three days for 2-3 hours and that is really a nice option if going with children. The cost is around 8 dollars per hour per kid. Also, since we stayed away from the strip, we got a really nice view of the strip from our window. in the images you see the circular pivot irrigated fields, rocky mountains and grand canyon from the plane.


Page arizona: While searching for grand canyon options, I realized there are not many places to stay nearby, and almost none of the popular hotel chains are there. So we decided to stay at page AZ from where grand canyon would be around 2.5 hours. In page the places to see were horseshoe bend on colorado river which looks small but you realize the size only when you zoom into the the boats down in the river, glen canyon/lake powell area, and antelope canyon. The bad part is there are only two marinas to access lake Powell, everything else is only accessible by boat from there onwards. I would recommend booking a boat in advance if making a trip to lake Powell. Also, the area is well known for movie/ad shoots and has a very random booking schedule for the hotels. Another thing I had in mind was "the wave", but I discovered that bureau of land management only issues permits for 20 persons per day in that area and I have to appear in a lottery 4 months in advance for the same. thankfully after visiting antelope canyon and other areas in page I realized I did not miss much. The same sandstone formation can be found for miles and miles, only that it's much more beautiful in the wave.

The hike to horseshoe bend was around 1.5 miles. It was not hot although the sun was at its peak, and the up and down grade with soft sand made it worse, especially since I had Shreyans on my shoulder. Vikrant was happy to hike by himself.

The other images of various rocks including the tower butte, glen canyon, and the sandstones we found on our way to page.



The worst part of the trip was the drive to grand canyon. we drove from page to Grand Canyon and on the drive all we found was a lot of small mobile box homes. I felt I was driving on mars, and it really sucks no matter how geeky that sounds. We did not find good food near grand canyon, apparently Navajo Indians are given the control in that area, and I have a strong feeling they would do much better if they sold food and gas instead of navajo jewelery, but I understand they may have their own reasons to not embrace new economic and industrial revolution. In hindsight we would have been better off packing our lunch from page.

As far as grand canyon is concerned, there are 20 or so view points from where one can see the grandeur of the canyon. It can be easily covered in a day. If one is inclined to hike, I don't see how it would be different from any other long hikes in other areas of the west. I think the best way to see it is on a plane ride. When we were flying to vegas, at one point the pilot banked sharp right and for a few seconds grand canyon was put in front of us like a giant painting. I have no words to describe the feeling of seeing it so close, yet altogether. A tip for photographing the canyon though, If you want to photograph from the east side, be there in morning because sun will be illuminating the west from east where you will be standing, and vice versa. Else sun would be in front of you and you will get a strong glare. I was able to cut some of it using the polarizer but still it was not perfect.



Antelope canyon: The second important attraction at page was the antelope canyon, and from what I understood, it's made from the water stream that goes thru it every summer when it floods. the access is thru a dense sand bed and they run huge offroaders with big sand tires for the tourists. I saw some SUVs stuck in sand when they tried it on their own, and we also saw an exhaust pipe somebody had lost. I asked the guide and he said it floods every year. That means one needs to know when not to go there before planning a trip ( I forgot to ask that part).

The magical experience in the canyon comes from the vertical light that illuminates the horizontal streaks created by the water on sand stones. And this is probably the only thing I saw where camera shows much more magic than what eye can see. somehow as soon as one raises the camera, the preview looks much more magical than the live view. Just to prove that it's all because of the vertical light, I took two photos with flash to see it's really very ordinary stones.


On the way to page from vegas, we also stopped briefly to look at mount zion national park. The geological formations there were really awesome.


Monument valley: From page, we moved on to moab to see the arches, stopping at monument valley. There are many rocks in that whole stretch, but the mitten buttes indeed look majestic. I had a lincoln towncar (sedan de ville as the french or cadillac would call it) and decided I could go down in the dirt road. It was not bad, we did not go all the way down though, once we realized we would be seeing the same terrain from different sides. They did have tours but we decided against it for the comfort of seating the two children in their seats and not having to move around. Once we came back up, we went to the monument valley hotel and even from the dining area where we were seated, one could see the mitten buttes very well.

Moab: In moab the two attractions were canyonlands on a rented jeep and arches national park. I had booked a jeep wrangler for around 150 a day, it had 2.5 inch lift and oversized tires, just perfect to go trailing. We did the long canyon which took about an hour, and I had to mute the video to block out the kicking and screaming from passenger seats. Once we came out we went to the onion creek and fisher towers. The structures looked less like a rock formation and more like ruins from inca or something. too bad there are no good trails within arches park.



So the next day we explored arches national park on our towncar again. and again it was like walking in ancient ruins.


Salt lake city: If I was asked the biggest surprise of the trip, it has to be the weather in our northern part of the trip. I did not know that I would be seeing ice capped mountains in june in salt lake city. We had not taken any warm clothes and ended up buying jackets for the kids in San Francisco. Coupled with train tracks and windmills, for a moment we thought we were teleported to a european country. In salt lake city I had planned some activities but we decided to take it easy and just visit the mecca of motoring, Utah salt flats where all the land speed records are made and broken. All you see is salt for miles and miles. Since it had rained and was still wet, I did not take my car on the flats. If I did, I would have to give a thorough wash especially at the underside regardless of whether it was wet or dry, and I did not want to add more to-do items to my trip.


Lake tahoe: Salt lake sity to lake tahoe was the longest drive. I had made sure that I included the drive time in the trip and not have an rush/exhaustion. More than myself, I was afraid my kids could get fed up, or worse sick, if I tried o squeeze too much in too little time. I also did not exceed the speed limit on any stretch in the whole trip. Drive to lake tahoe was no surprise, we saw ice capped mountains thruout and the scenery was awesome once we hit the tahoe area. just before crossing reno, NV I was stopped by a cop who told me I was having trouble staying in my lane, he must have been looking for DUI. Understandable because on moutain twisties I often tend to give more space to 18 wheelers.

Lake Tahoe was again a treat to the eyes.It was really beautiful, probably better than what I saw in pictures. The readers can not say the same since I have taken better photos as proof :-). We did a boat cruise and then a drive to the emerald bay to get both the perspectives.


San francisco: The last stop on our trip was SFO. we went around trying to follow the scenic 49 mile drive but the roads were closed in some parts and my GPS often thought I had not yet seen a point and would bring me back to the same point again and again. Finally we gave up and just picked up the points we wanted to see. We strolled on pier 39, smelled sea food on fisherman's wharf and ran away (I am partially and suman is purely vegan). I was made to drive the towncar on the crooked street. visited the twin "my name is khan" peaks. Saw the golden gate bridge thrice (because anywhere we went, we tend to hit CA-101 and the construction would cause us to go all the way to the GG bride and back) and city civic center 4 times, thanks to the GPS which would route us back again and again. we spent a nice part of afternoon in golden gate park (no relation to GG bridge, everything in the city seems to have been named after golden gate). Skipped alcatraz tour on recommendation from a friend, and enjoyed a nice dinner at his place instead. I will let the pictures do the rest of the talking, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words and that will do a better job on the log.

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Old 24th June 2011, 09:44   #2
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Default Re: Wild west: Vegas, canyons, arches, salt flats, lake tahe, San francisco and more.

Thread moved from Assembly Line to Travelogues section.
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Old 24th June 2011, 10:15   #3
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Default Re: Wild west: Vegas, canyons, arches, salt flats, lake tahe, San francisco and more.

first three days: Vegas

view from our 22nd level room.
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these were taken from bellagio
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grand canyon from plane
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pool
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hoover dam
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Old 24th June 2011, 11:35   #4
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Default Re: Wild west: Vegas, canyons, arches, salt flats, lake tahe, San francisco and more.

Cool pictures, more details regarding stay/cost would help.
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Old 24th June 2011, 19:51   #5
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Default Re: Wild west: Vegas, canyons, arches, salt flats, lake tahe, San francisco and more.

The stay was pretty much standard (go to hotels.com/priceline.com and choose the hotel that suits your budget) except Page and Vegas. The palms resort costed us 99 on weeknights and 199 on the weekend for the two bed(queen I think) room. Looks like its their standard rates. In page prices fluctuate a lot because of demand, we paid 89 a night for a very mediocre rodeway inn.

The cost of entering national parks can also add up very quickly, it's usually 25 per park or 80 for an annual pass for most of the parks.

And I am not exaggerating when I say everything in vegas can cost a lot. from water to internet in room to any service on street, be ready to pay thru your nose and then some in tips.

The other major cost was one way car rental (pickup in vegas, drop off in sfo) and came to around 850 for the lincoln towncar. The jeep in moab was 150 a day (including taxes and fees).

And lastly, always budget for food. when out in open, a lot of times you have limited choices and prices are not in your control. Specially in grand canyon area.
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Old 24th June 2011, 19:59   #6
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Default Re: Wild west: Vegas, canyons, arches, salt flats, lake tahe, San francisco and more.

Page Az:

Lone rock
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Horsehoe bend
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tower butte
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glen canyon/lake powell
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Old 24th June 2011, 20:06   #7
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Default Re: Wild west: Vegas, canyons, arches, salt flats, lake tahe, San francisco and more.

Antelope canyon

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following two photos were taken with flash



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Old 24th June 2011, 20:30   #8
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Default Re: Wild west: Vegas, canyons, arches, salt flats, lake tahe, San francisco and more.

Wow! Thanks for sharing all the pictures and information.

I am not sure when I will do the SW trip but keen on doing it.
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Old 25th June 2011, 02:40   #9
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Default Re: Wild west: Vegas, canyons, arches, salt flats, lake tahe, San francisco and more.

Grand canyon:

We spent half a day, the lack of food and facilities (or rather, lack of planning on our part) was the reason we spent less time at GC. I would have tried to stay more if I had found anything better to do there.

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on the way to grand canyon. The hills in foreground are at least 40 miles away. We could also see a snow capped mountain thruout our trip which I think was in flagstaff AZ.

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Old 25th June 2011, 20:20   #10
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Default Re: Wild west: Vegas, canyons, arches, salt flats, lake tahe, San francisco and more.

Nice pics. Thank you for sharing.

I can use this thread to plan my SW trip in near future. I heard most people visiting Grand Canyon will prefer to say at Williams or Flagstaff, probably will have some decent food options instead of Page. Also has some popular chain hotels.

I am not sure about permits to visit Wave, but another issue if you have small kids is...its 3 miles one-way hiking trail to reach the wave formations.
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Old 25th June 2011, 21:38   #11
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Default Re: Wild west: Vegas, canyons, arches, salt flats, lake tahe, San francisco and more.

Yes, I was planning to hike to the wave alone, if at all. But you need to be in lottery 4 months in advance, and the odds are pretty slim.

Monument valley and moab:

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I call it the finger rock.

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Mexican hat.

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Dead horse point

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offroading in moab

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onion creek and fisher towers.

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Old 26th June 2011, 06:10   #12
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Default Re: Wild west: Vegas, canyons, arches, salt flats, lake tahe, San francisco and more.

Arches national park

delicate arch, I could not hike to see the front view because the parking lot at hike trail was full

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delicate arch again
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Old 27th June 2011, 20:38   #13
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Default Re: Wild west: Vegas, canyons, arches, salt flats, lake tahe, San francisco and more.

Salt lake city: Bonneville salt flats.
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Old 28th June 2011, 07:42   #14
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Default Re: Wild west: Vegas, canyons, arches, salt flats, lake tahe, San francisco and more.

lake tahoe:

From hotel room. We stayed at firelite lodge on tahoe vista CA.

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from the boat cruise

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from emerald bay vista point.
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Old 28th June 2011, 07:46   #15
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Default Re: Wild west: Vegas, canyons, arches, salt flats, lake tahe, San francisco and more.

San francisco:

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