Our 1997 trip to Arizona, Nevada, and Utah

Barbara and I decided to take our mothers on a trip to the Grand Canyon.
This developed into a 10 day trip around the Northern Arizona region.

Friday April 4: "Getting there is half the fun"
I was the only one with a confirmed seat flying to Las Vegas.  So I took
Barbara and her mother to the airport at 5:00 in the morning.  They got
to Atlanta and met my mom, and they all had standby seats to Vegas at
9:25PM that night - LONG layover.  So they began shopping for earlier 
vacant seats and found them.  This let them sightsee in Vegas most of 
the day.  After a couple of trips to the airport, they managed to get
all of their luggage.

I left Fort Lauderdale around 5PM and got in to Vegas a little past midnight.
I picked up the rental van and headed into town.  I was so amazed at
the strip at night that I just drove up and down Las Vegas Blvd. for about
a half an hour.  Finally I drove up to the front of our hotel, Circus Circus,
which I had seen blinking in the night from the airport.  After walking 
through about a quarter mile of casino, I finally found the registration desk.
I picked up a key and hauled my luggage through another casino up to the room.
Everyone was asleep except my mother, who lay awake worrying about me.
The first words I heard were, "It's about time!"  Now she could finally
go to sleep.

Saturday April 5: "Hardhats required"
Saturday was our only whole day in Vegas, so we decided to head to Hoover
Dam.  Of course, this was a wonderland for an engineering type like me.
The drive to the dam is beautiful and gave us our first close up look
at the massive mountains made of red rock.  When you come over the ridge
at Boulder City, you get a wonderful panoramic view of Lake Mead, which
is the product of the dam.  Then you wind down a steep and curvy mountain
road into Black Canyon where Hoover dam resides.  We drove across the dam
and took a few photos from the Arizona side.  Then I dropped off the
females at the dam entrance and went off to locate a parking place.  In
the tourist center, we discovered that a new "hardhat" tour had been
added which is more of a "behind the scenes" tour of the dam.  My mom
opted out of this because she was concerned that the huge generators
might disturb her pacemaker.  But she is great at making friends with
strangers and wound up talking with just about everybody who walked by
to pass the time.

During the tour, we saw the first holes drilled that were the beginning
of the dam construction site.  They were drilled to blast a tunnel that
was used to reroute the river around the site of the dam during 
construction.  We walked through these 50' diameter tunnels and saw the
30' penstock pipe that now carries water to the turbines.  In the tunnel
deep inside the canyon wall, we could hear the rumble of water power
under our feet.  We saw the 200 ton generators up close - I walked right
up to one and read the spec plate: 110000 horsepower each!  And there
were about 17 of these.   They supply power for the region and cities
as far away as Los Angeles.  We also went under the generator room where
the actual turbines are housed.  This required not only a hardhat but 
also hearing protection because there was such a loud cacophony.  I was 
amazed to see the 2 foot diameter steel shaft spinning at exactly 180 RPM 
and all the control machinery required to keep it going.  Occasionally,
you could see the system make tiny adjustments to the way the water
was flowing.

We also saw the transformers, a staircase that runs the whole height of
the dam (stairs as far as you can see in both directions), visited the
spot where part of "Vegas Vacation" was filmed, and looked out the grate 
in the center of the dam (down the river).  The latter required walking
through a tunnel where I had to stoop over, and to cross over a floor grate 
that covered a vertical shaft that went down as far as the eye could see.
As you can imagine, some in our party had a little hesitation in walking 
over this.  It was a great tour and gave us a better appreciation for the 
immensity of this project.

After all the walking, we were glad to get back in Vegas to our hotel,
Circus Circus.  This hotel was so large that there was a tram from the
front to the back.  It had three huge casinos, a wonderful buffet (which
didn't do me a bit of good since I was still on the mule diet), an arcade,
and a continuous set of circus acts.  The amazing thing about the Vegas
strip is the way all the hotels try to out-do each other.  Every hotel
has its own "draw."

We went down to Caesar's Palace and had a walk around.  It is amazing
all the effort they put into decorating this place.  There are statues
and ornate columns and ceilings that go on and on.  
 Click for full picture
The females decided
to play the nickel slot machines for a while.  I tried to help out
but didn't do any good.  Barbara hit a jackpot and got about 90 coins
out of the machine, but then sat there and put them all back in.  Didn't
anyone take statistics in school?

Sunday April 6: "Get your kicks on Route 66"
This was the day we totally lost track of what time it was.  We crossed
into Arizona from Pacific time to Mountain time, plus changed to Daylight
Savings time, but oops - Arizona stays on standard time.  Good thing we 
were not on a schedule!

Just driving in Arizona is mind-boggling.  There are unusual mountains,
rock formations, and desert life everywhere.  We took the scenic route,
old US 66 that winds from Chicago to LA.  We passed close to the Grand
Canyon, and since there was a little road on the map, we decided to take
it and see this part of the canyon.  We were still over 100 miles
downstream from where all the sightseeing takes place.  We started out
on pavement, then gravel, then just a dirt road.  It kept getting more
and more isolated and we eventually were driving through cow pastures
in two narrow ruts.  We had to drive over some rocky hills that really
put our minivan to the test.  With a little careful maneuvering and LOTS
of stern advice from the females, I managed to get us within sight of
the Grand Canyon.

This portion of the canyon is very different from what we would eventually
see.  There is no sudden dropoff, but rather rolling grassy hills that
just gradually give way to the erosion.  We could see the majestic North
Rim rising up about 10 miles away.  We were there about 1 hour before
sunset, so it was quite a sight.  We bumped, slid, spun, and dust-trailed
our way back to Route 66 and continued on into Flagstaff, where we found
snow on the ground.  We checked into our timeshare that would serve as
base for the week and made ourselves at home.

Monday April 7: "America's largest ghost city"
We got a late start, so we decided not to make the 80 mile trip up
to Grand Canyon this day.  Instead, we went west from Flagstaff and toured
Verde valley, Sedona, Oak Creek Canyon, Clarkdale, Cottonwood, and Jerome.
Sedona had charm and beauty in a class by itself.  There was a nice mountain 
stream that cut out a lush green canyon with lots of sheer cliffs and 
amazing formations.  Again, just driving to anywhere is amazing in itself.

We popped out of the mountains and crossed the huge Verde Valley (about
25 miles across) and climbed up a mountain on the other side to Jerome.
This was a quaint little town, about half of which has been abandoned.
It was a spectacular view of the valley, and some houses seem to
precariously hang onto the edge of the cliffs.  It was a mining town,
where tons of copper, silver, and gold had been produced, but when the
mine shut down, so did the town.  We saw all the old mining equipment
all over the town and the old mine shaft.  We visited the Jerome Hotel,
which was undergoing a total renovation project.  If you want to stay off 
the beaten path in Arizona, Jerome hotel is the place for you.  It is like
stepping back in time with its antique but functional operator switchboard
and manual open-cage elevator.

From Jerome, we worked our way over to I-17 and back up to Flagstaff as
the sun was setting.

Tuesday April 8: "We're finally here!"
Tuesday was our first visit to Grand Canyon National Park.  Well, what
can I write?  Words and even pictures do not do this wonder justice.
Theodore Roosevelt was right: every American should see this.  It is
so amazing that you can just stand there for hours and look.  Of course,
my mom had a fit every time I got within 20 feet of the edge.
 Click for full picture
There is just so much to see and you get a different view from each point
along the south rim.   The view also changes with each position of the

We worked our way west along the South Rim, making an important stop
at Bright Angel Lodge, where I weighed in for the mule trip.  I passed
with flying colors at 193 pounds, where I was at 210 five weeks prior.
We also let Barbara and my mom take a good look at the mules and the
trail.  Barbara and I walked down Bright Angel Trail (one of the two 
main trails into the Canyon from the South Rim) for about 1/4 mile.
She didn't feel comfortable with the mule ride. There was no way
my mother would try it. Barbara's mother didn't even consider it,
so it was up to me to conquer the canyon!  After 5 weeks of unlikable
dieting and walking or cycling into work, there was nothing that was
going to stop me from going.  But my actual trip wasn't until Saturday.

We booked a helicopter ride for around 5PM that day when the colors would 
be nice.  None of us had ever been in a helicopter before, so that alone
was quite an adventure.  We had a great pilot.  It was such a strange
feeling to just lift off the ground, slowly turn, and then hover about
10 feet off the ground.  We gradually moved to the "take off" portion
of Grand Canyon Airport and then "whoosh!"  Suddenly we lifted and
accelerated at the same time.  We flew about 200 feet over the trees
of Kaibab forest.  It seemed like we were just floating along very
casually, but our speed over ground was about 90 MPH during the 45
minute flight, so we covered quite a bit of territory.  They provide
you with headphones that both subdue the noise and provide gentle
instrumental music to help you get in the mood to view something
awesome.  An occasional soft voice narrates what you are seeing in
whatever language you prefer.  It helps take your mind off of how many
moving parts are required to keep you in the air, not to mention 
that most of them seem to be moving in the wrong direction.

Approaching the rim is a whole new experience.  You suddenly go from
200 feet off the ground to 4000 feet off the ground.  Then there is so
much to see and it all changes minute by minute.  This is another one of
those things that words just cannot describe.  We saw a completely new
part of the canyon, none of which we could see from where we had been 
on the south rim.  Moving over the canyon gives you a perspective of
the dimension of everything that is really cool.  We saw the junction
of the Little Colorado River and the [big] Colorado River.  We got a
close look at the North Rim, towering 1500 feet higher than the
South Rim, which was now about 12 miles behind us.  This was our closest 
look at the snow-covered North Rim, since the road that goes there is 
closed until May.  We made a big circle over the "East Canyon" area 
and returned to Grand Canyon Airport for a very comfortable landing.
This trip was well worth the money and exceeded our expectations.

We quickly drove back into Grand Canyon National Park for the sunset
in the canyon.  We continued west along the Rim all the way to Hermit's 
rest, which is the end of the road.  From there you can see about another
20 miles downstream and see point after point jutting out into the vast space
over the river.  We went back to Pima Point and watched the awesome sunset 
from there.

Wednesday April 9: "Dust"
This was our longest driving day.  We left Flagstaff and headed
northeast to Monument Valley, at the Arizona-Utah border.  Our first
stop was just north of Flagstaff at Sunset crater.  This was a place
that has both a volcano and a huge lava flow (now cold) that looked like
nothing we had ever seen.  It was very jagged, all black and desolate.
We also saw a mountain - or actually a half a mountain because the other
half had been blown away.  The remaining face was covered with black
basalt and was so smooth that it looked like it had been paved with
asphalt.  An adjacent mountain was completely covered with basalt, so
that it looked the same way.  Only one or two trees had managed to make
their home in the scorched hillside.  Very unusual.
 Click for full picture

We then passed through the Painted Desert, where you could see sandy
plains for miles. They were surrounded by red rock cliffs and
interesting formations.  Truly a geologist dream!  Once-level
sedimentary layers were now tilted as a testimony to the regional
up-faulting that had occurred, possibly caused by continental drift.  We
crossed lots of bridges over creek beds, but didn't see a drop of water.
It was dry and windy, and we saw our share of dust storms.  There were
places where the sand was crossing the road in a steady stream, causing
a spooky wavy effect.  At one point we were in a "white out" of dust
such that visibility was only about 20 feet.  But being the valiant
tourist that we are, we pressed on to our goal, passing through the tiny
towns of Gray Mountain, Tuba City, Cow Springs, Kayenta, Rough Rock,
Many Farms, Steamboat Canyon, Holbrook, and Winslow.

Monument Valley is the place where countless western movies have been 
filmed.  The monuments are very big, and all have flat tops that are
all level with each other.  Likewise, the valley below is almost flat.
We visited Gouldings trading post, which served as a base in the old
west and headquarters for Hollywood filming.
 Click for full picture
Much of the original
house was preserved, which our mothers really enjoyed touring.  The
post was built right into the corner of one of the monuments, so you
could get an up-close and personal feel for the sheer cliffs, bizarre
erosion formations, and balanced boulders.

Turning back south, we made a circle out toward Chinle, home to Canyon
de Chelley.  (pronounced day shell-A)  This is a beautiful canyon.  Of
course, it is not on the scale of the Grand Canyon, but has an unusual
plain at the bottom of the canyon.  The plain was once inhabited by an
Indian tribe, which cultivated it and built homes in the cliffs back
around the 1100's.  Some of their buildings still remain down in the
cliff.  It was very windy and rather cold at this canyon, so I did most
of the sight-seeing while the females stayed in the heated van.

We took a scenic road back to Flagstaff, but unfortunately the sun set
and we were not able to see whatever it was that was out there to see.

Thursday April 10: "That cactus is HUGE!"
We made a road trip to Phoenix to visit some friends of Barbara's
mother.  We took the scenic route south through Strawberry, Pine,
Payson, Rye, and Sunflower.  We saw the world's largest travertine arch
(grown by mineral and organic deposits, not eroded), Tonto Natural
Bridge.  It is so large that you can be on top of it and not even know
it.  The top of the arch is covered with trees and bushes, and the
tunnel underneath is about 400 feet long.  Under the arch is cut a
scenic little canyon surrounded by steep mountains.  The road down to
the national park is a constant 14% grade.  The stream of water that
deposits the minerals and plant matter that built the arch still flows.
Even today this huge natural bridge is ever expanding.

About half way to Phoenix, we began to see a few Sagura cactus.  At first
it was just a few here and there. Then suddenly they were everywhere.
These are the large cactus that look like big green pipes that you see
in the movies and on the Arizona license plate.  In stark contrast to
driving through the middle of nowhere the day before, we spent what
seemed like hours in the heavy Phoenix traffic.  Also amazingly different
was the need for air conditioning as opposed to the snow we had left that
morning.  The difference is not so much in the 136 miles south we had
traveled as in the 3000+ feet of elevation we had come down.

Barbara's mothers' friends, Grace and Walter, were great hosts and fed
us a nice home-cooked meal.  They have a beautiful home in Sun City
West.  The yard doesn't have a single blade of grass, but does have
lots of interesting desert plants.  Their neighbor has a Sagura cactus
that is about 30 feet tall with lots of arms coming out of it.
 Click for full picture
These cacti do not put out an arm until after about 75 years of growth.  We
all had our picture taken next to it, thinking - "you don't see anything
like this in Florida!"

Friday April 11 "Whew!"
Since we have been traveling a great deal every day this week, and since
we had to get up at 4:30 the next day, we decided to just take it easy
this day.  I took my mom to see Meteor Crater, about 30 miles east of
Flagstaff.  This is the best preserved crater on earth, since it almost
never rains there.  It is in the middle of flat desert.  When the meteor 
hit at the speed of about 30,000 MPH, it created a hole deep enough to 
hold the Washington monument and large enough to hold 20 football fields.
Rocks and minerals were vaporized or melted by the crash. Once again
there are lots of weird formations in the area.

The rest of the day we just goofed off around the condo and relaxed.  We
did go for a short drive through the town of Flagstaff.  It's a small
city where everyone is friendly.  We went out to the movies that night.

Saturday April 12 "Wilford"
Mule day had finally arrived.  I have been dieting and exercising for
6 weeks in preparation for this wonderful day.  I had carefully read
over the information they sent me to prepare.  Today the females were
very patient and cooperative with me since I had them up at 4:30AM.  I
was due at Bright Angel Lodge, 80 miles away, at 6:30AM.

It was cold that morning.  To an thin-blooded Floridian like me, it
was extremely cold.  I was wearing two of everything.  Two hats, two
pair of socks, two jackets, etc.  I felt like the Michelin man I had
so many layers on.

The park rangers are very gracious to the mulers.  First they take you
out to the overlook and point out where you are going.  They keep you 
out in the wind long enough to see if you'll be able to stand the cold.
They tell you that you will have to whip the heck out of your mule if
it lags behind the group.  They check your equipment to make sure
everything will be tied on.  Sitting on the back of a mule, I would have
to handle a camcorder, a camera, a water flask, kleenex for my runny
nose, and oh yes - the reins.  All this with Barbara's ski gloves on.

They took us up to the corral and explained everything to us again
very carefully.  They told us that even after we get on the mule that
if we chickened out they would refund our money.  They told us that
most of the mules will walk along the outside edge of the trail "because
they want us to have a good view."  Then they loaded us up in groups
of about 7.  That was when I met Wilford, my mule for the day.
 Click for full picture
Wilford turned out to be a great mule.  I only had to whip him one time at
the beginning of the trip.  Once he knew I meant business, he was
totally cooperative.  But Wilford did not like the idea of just doing
what all the other mules were doing.  Whenever we came to a fork in
the trail, Wilford always went the opposite way of everyone else.  But
once I caught on to his adventurous spirit, we got along fine.

That first hairpin turn in the trail is the toughest one.  At that point
we were not yet accustomed to that part about the "outside edge of the
trail."  When you are sitting on the mule, you only really see the mule's
neck and a head in front of you.  Well, when the mule walks up to the turn,
if his front feet are on the outside edge of the trail, his head is
hanging out over the edge.  This gives the rider the illusion that he
is just going to go right over the edge.  It takes a few turns to get
used to this.  After two turns, I realized that it was standard operating
procedure for the mule and that we weren't going to tumble down the
canyon together.  So I was able to look around and the amazing scenery
that we were passing through.  
 Click for full picture
Most of the other mulers were looking
down to try to see that the mule didn't step off the edge.  One lady
in our group was so terrified that after 10 minutes she got off her
mule and walked back up to the top.

Going down the trail to Plateau Point is a fantastic experience.  You
get such a better appreciation for what you are looking at when you can
actually go down in there.  There is so much to see along the trail that 
you cannot see from the top.  There are sheer cliffs, cracks, fissures,
boulders, and Indian markings to marvel at along the way.  When you look 
down from the rim, everything more than about 1/2 mile away sort of blends 
into the same dimension.  But when you pass down through the canyon, all 
the layers and canyons-within-the-canyon come to life in a new perspective.
Wilford required no control on my part (except for the forks), so I could 
just let go of the reins and snap pictures, record with the camcorder,
or just gawk.

We reached our destination, Plateau Point a little behind schedule.  We
spent a half an hour there, which included lunch.  I gulped down my
lunch because there was so much to see.  We were about 200 feet above 
the Colorado River.  The point is the convergence of two sheer cliffs.
There is a great view of the river and the trail that leads down to it. 
It is also neat to look up at all that you were looking down on from the
rim.  There is a little pinnacle next to the point with about a 10x20
foot area on top.  Of course, I had to climb up on this thing and get
my picture taken.  
 Click for full picture
Our 30 minutes went by real fast, and it was time
to head back up the trail.  I gave my apple to Wilford as thanks in
advance for the job he was about to do.  When you are down at the bottom
of those cliffs and look up, you think it is impossible to ever get out.

After a quick stop for the bathroom at Indian Garden, we began our trip
upward.  We didn't mess around, because there was some nasty weather
rolling in from the North Rim.  Going up, we have to stop about every
30 minutes for the mules to rest.  Although the weather was quite
pleasant at Plateau Point, it kept getting colder and colder as we gained
altitude.  The last 30 minutes of the trip it was snowing so hard that
we could only see for about 1/4 mile.  As we approached the top, we
could not see any of where we had just come from.  The South rim was
also fogged in, so the people on top couldn't see anything at all.

The mule ride is well worth the effort and the money.  I had an
experience that I will never forget.  I would recommend it to anyone
who visits the Grand Canyon.

While I was on my mule adventure, the females went for a ride along
the South Rim toward the east, which we had not yet seen.  They were
waiting for me when I got back to the corral.  It sure felt good to
get out of the snow and into the heated van!  Since the weather had
turned sour and we were so tired from getting up a 4:30AM, we decided
to head back to Flagstaff.

While Don was having his Mule ride, we all had lunch with a cousin of
Don's that lives at the Grand Canyon.  Her name is Karen and she is a
nurse at the clinic.  Her husband Matt is a park ranger at the Grand
Canyon.  She is so nice.  We had a nice lunch with her and got to know

Sunday April 13 "Arizona Strip"
Sunday was our day to check out of Flagstaff.  So we loaded up the
van and headed for Utah.  We crossed the Colorado River at Marble
Canyon.  Amazingly, this was the first place that could be crossed
by car upstream from the Hoover Dam, over 100 miles away as the crow 
flies and about 300 miles down the river, downstream from the Grand
Canyon and Lake Mead.  Around Marble Canyon is a vast plateau that 
is surrounded on 3 sides by huge cliffs of red rock (Echo Cliffs 
and Vermillion Cliffs).  After crossing the river, we learned that 
we were in the "Arizona strip" - the part of Arizona that is cut 
off from civilization by the Colorado River.  There are no cities 
in the Arizona Strip - just tiny towns and mostly open land.

We visited Pipe Spring National Monument, which is a fort/trading post
once owned by the Mormon church.  It was a ranch built around a spring
(water is quite scarce, so a spring is like a gold mine).  It supplied
food to the Mormon community in St. George, Utah.  At the time it was
built, they thought they were in Utah, but later discovered that they
missed the state line by about 5 miles.  Our mothers especially enjoyed
the tour of the old fort with lots of interesting homemade quilts,
looms, spinning wheels, Arizona's first telegraph, and dairy equipment.

We also came up on an unexpected surprise at a tiny town called "Cliff
Dwellers, Arizona,"  not even on the map.  There is hardly anything there,
but there is a mesa from which boulders have fallen down.  Keep in mind 
that everywhere you look in Arizona, there is a form of geology that you 
have not seen before.  After these boulders fell, most of the supporting 
dirt eroded away, leaving them miraculously balanced on pedestals.  
Cliff-dwelling Indians had made their homes in the shelter of these boulders,
adding to the intrigue.  My mother especially enjoyed this unexpected 
attraction since she has an interest in cliff-dwellers.

We crossed the state line into Utah and then passed through the city of
Hurricane and on into St. George.  We passed within 10 miles of Zion
National Park, but sadly it was too late to see it.  If you are ever in
the area, don't miss Zion.  If you saw the movie "Broken Arrow," much of
the footage was shot in Zion Park.

We settled into the Hampton Inn at St. George.  I was very glad to
discover that they had a jacuzzi, of which I was in dire need after
the mule ride.  I spent about an hour blasting my aching muscles with
the hot water.  We went out to dinner at the Red Lobster and took it
easy.  St. George was a very pleasant little city.  Everyone we met
there seemed especially nice.  We had to get some cardboard boxes from
the hotel manager because we had accumulated so much stuff (like hardhats,
dirt, rocks, literature) to take back that we couldn't fit it all in the 

Monday April 13 "Where are my nickels?"

We got up Monday and packed one last time such that everything could
go on the plane.  This time, we couldn't just throw it in the van and
go.  After breakfast, we headed down I-15 toward Vegas.  En route, we
passed over the northwest corner of Arizona for 29 miles. Our last time 
to see this amazing state.  It had even more wonders to the eyes to offer 
us on the last day.  As we approached the Nevada border, we passed 
through another incredible mountain range different from anything we had
seen thus far.  Steep canyons had been cut by the Virgin River through these
dark mountains and they built the interstate to follow the path of the river.
When you looked down the road, it seemed to just disappear into the
mountain and it didn't look like there was any way to get through.
After winding down and down, we finally came out onto a plain and worked
our way down to Las Vegas, which was clearly visible from 20 miles away.

We arrived just in time for lunch and went to the buffet at the Excalibur.
I was so glad the mule diet was over!  In one meal, I had chicken, fish,
beef, turkey, and pork, plus about 3 meals worth of side dishes.  At the
buffet, they give you a plate that is about 50% larger than your typical
kitchen plate.  Boy did I have fun eating that meal - definitely got more
than my $5 worth!

We enjoyed a few of the free shows at the Excalibur and contributed a
few nickels in the casino to help pay for our huge meal.  Then we moved
on to the next hotel, New York New York.  It is built to look like
the NY skyline, complete with the Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn Bridge.
We blew another dollar or so in their massive casino, and walked around
to see what they had.  They have a roller coaster called the Manhattan
Express, fashioned after a NY taxi ride.  The ride was out of the question
for Barbara and my mother, so I went with Barbara's mother.  Well, it
was the roughest coaster I've ever been on.  It pulls you down so fast
that you stomach flips.  After a few loops and twists, the track rolls
over 180 degrees while traveling horizontally, so that you are hanging
upside down.  Then a half loop brings you back to upright again.  It'll
mix you up!

From NYNY we went over the the MGM Grand.  Tossed in a few more nickels
and looked around in amazement.  This hotel has an amusement park.  Next
we went over to the Monte Carlo and looked around in that hotel.  Barbara
and my mother couldn't pass up the nickel slots.  Finally, my mother hit
the jackpot and got about 100 nickels.  I took her nickels away from her
before she could be tempted to give them all back.  I went to the change 
counter to convert them into bills, then gave them back to her if she
promised to take them home with her - at least she could tell everyone
she won.

We took a taxi down to the Luxor.  I think this is the most unusual
hotel we saw.  It is the 2nd largest hotel in the world and is built
in the shape of a pyramid, decorated in an Egyptian theme.  
The hotel rooms are in the walls of the pyramid and the center is a 
huge atrium with the casino and attractions, including an IMAX theater.
This atrium is large enough to hold nine Boeing 747 planes.  My favorite
part of this hotel is the elevators.  Think about it - you can't put
them at the outside base of the pyramid because the building narrows
as it rises.  You can't put it them in the middle because the walls
don't connect in the middle.  The elevators in the Luxor start at the
4 corners at the base and move at a 39 degree angle upwards toward
the tip.  (You know what a propeller-head I am - I used to dream about
elevators that worked like this when I was a child.)

We took the moving sidewalk from the Luxor back to the Excalibur, had
a light dinner, then headed for the airport.  I turned in our rental
van with 2400 more miles than it had when we picked it up.

Well, if you've had the patience to read this far, you have a good idea
of what our vacation was like.  I would recommend a visit to the area
to anyone.  So many things are beyond description, and even photos and
videos do not do them justice.  We are all so grateful that we had an
opportunity to make this trip.  It was one we will never forget.