Sunday, October 19, 2003

Southwest USA, October 2003

Sunday 19 October 2003: Amsterdam-Chicago-Las Vegas
Check in 08.30 at Schiphol uneventful apart from when security discovers a razor blade in Dads hearing aid case. “For my corns” he says and they believe him. United Airlines flight leaves on time. Cabin crew fine apart from a gum chewing Whoopi Goldberg impersonator who seems less involved than the rest. Lunch really couldn’t be better: wine / pasta / salad / cheese / ice cream. Arrive Chicago a little early at 12.45. Customs takes a good 45 min. Dad trips over baggage and falls nastily but doesn’t seem to break anything. Drop off unlocked baggage in terminal 5 and off to terminal 1. No need to check in again, straight to gate. Long wait for security but plenty of time for our connecting flight. It’s 14.30 when we finally get through to the gate. Dad gets a good search but the razor blade slips through the x-ray check. Find an ATM and withdraw $400.
The flight is overbooked and United are offering free round trips for anyone who is willing to get the next flight 3 hours later. Sit next to a couple with Dutch roots. He’s Gary L. Vanden Heuvel, President of the Bank of Little Chute in Wisconsin, where Dutch names abound. He’s got a windmill on his business card and is currently trying to funds to get a windmill built. Warm welcome in the plane, one of the attendants walks through the aisle chatting as if they were old friends. There was a 45 min wait for take-off but the pilot manages to make up time and we land at 18.30. Short wait for baggage.
The Bell Trans shuttle at $5.50 each to The Orleans takes an odd route but we see plenty of sights on the way. Hotel not very busy, they admit at reception. Room 864, 2 queen beds, as requested. $57 a night. We walk through the part of the casino to get to the lifts. Show our key to an old timer who keeps an eye on the guests. Room more than adequate. Reasonable view, not of the strip but over the pool to the mountains.

Monday: Las Vegas
Quite a good night, considering the time change. Awake at 01.00 and 05.00 and up at dawn, 07.00. Good beds. Air conditioning is noisy we leave it off. Breakfast is a couple of slices of the bread and cheese that Dad has ‘imported’. There’s a free shuttle to the strip but the first one goes in 50 min at 09.30 so we decide to walk. Fairly busy road into town but OK except for a difficult crossing of the Interstate 15, where the sidewalk more or less disappears. Escape without causing any accidents. Takes about 25 min. Fairly hot already, headgear essential. Turn right – South – down the strip, with the intention of buying a digital camera at Fry’s, a big electronics store recommended by someone on a travel forum. A free draw at the Tropicana slot machine only gives us the regular prize of a deck of cards and some vouchers. Go into the Luxor to look around, quite impressive. Chat shortly with young gardener outside, asking the way to Fry’s more or less as an excuse for talking to a local. He advises not to walk but get a bus because he thinks that “Pops” would appreciate it. At 10.30 we’ve been walking for quite a while but no sign of a shop as yet. Stop at the Klondike hotel and have a meal: diced ham and cheese omelette and New York steak and 2 eggs (“medium over”) with fries, toast and coffee. Give the complimentary Bloody Mary a miss. Good value at just over $15. We ask various people directions, including a young family in a car stopped at lights who point us in a different direction, which we consider suspect and ignore. Five minutes later a car draws up. It’s the young family who, realising they’ve given us wrong directions, have doubled back to correct their mistake. They insist they give us a lift for the last few hundred yards. Very kind. Fry’s comes up to expectations. Big store, good prices. See a sign about “open box” prices and enquire about that. Happy to accept $20 discount for having had somebody else open the box.
Take a bus back to the strip for $2 each. Walk through very big Bellagio property with botanical gardens inside and lake outside. Shuttle back to Orleans from sister hotel Barbary Coast. It’s very hot in the sun. About 34c and 44% humidity. At 15.15 we’re back at the hotel. Leftover toast and marmalade from our brunch makes a nice snack. Dad nods off for a while. Have a meal at the Orleans: corned beef and cabbage, carrots – sweet and with cloves – boiled potatoes and a chicken pasta dish for $16.50. Shuttle back to the strip at 19.30. Just catch the ending of the fountains at the Bellagio dancing to Frank Sinatra, but this is repeated every 15 min. Caesars Palace is even more impressive, with roman roads and artificial skies. Lots of exclusive shops. “Shoppus ‘til you droppus”.  Back to the Orleans and have a couple of free beers with the vouchers in our ‘fun books’.

Tuesday: Las Vegas-Hoover Dam-Kingman
Dads leg is painful enough to warrant a check-up, which we get done a block away at the Fremont Medical Centre. We’re there at 08.30 and fill in various forms, leaving a deposit of $100 and in about 45 min getting seen to by a doctor who’s previously worked in the UK, in Nottingham. Not seriously damaged, is the diagnosis and he gives some pills and prescribes a compression stocking, which we get at a Walgreens pharmacy a couple of blocks back past the hotel. Back at hotel at 10.30. Clear up for leaving. Have some egg and sausages at the restaurant in the hotel for $11. Check out at 11.50. Taxi to airport to pick up car, $13. The Alamo desk just redirects us to the shuttle to the cars, seeing as we’re pre-booked. Long wait, about 30 min, despite the fact that 6 people are helping customers, until we get served. Chat to young mother visiting Las Vegas for the first time and recommend Bellagio and Caesars Palace as two sights to see. Our car turns out to be at least one size bigger than the economy model we ordered, a dark green Pontiac Sunfire parked in the ‘sub compact’ area. Very pleased that it’s got cruise control. The Alamo girl misdirects us onto Interstate 5 North so we take the Tropicana turnoff and cross Las Vegas to the Hwy 515, them the 93 to Hoover Dam. Parking $5 and $18 for a guided tour. Informative but nothing special: the main attraction is the dam itself, which you can view from the road. After 1½ hours on at 15.30.
Stay at the Hilltop motel in Kingman, $43. Eat well at friendly Silver Spoon Family Restaurant: bean soup, salad, liver and onions, cheese and tomato omelette for $13.50. Hotel 20.45. Warm inside, a/c on but still 29c, 46%.

Wednesday: Kingman-Grand Canyon-Monument Valley-Mexican Hat
Early start from Kingman along Route 66 though Seligman and Williams. Route 66 nothing special; it’s more the idea of having travelled down the road which used to connect Chicago with the West. Stop at a Safeway in Williams for gallon of water, energy bars. Arrive Grand Canyon 11.30. Buy National Parks Pass $50 (GC alone would be $20). Views are beyond belief and difficult to describe. Such depth. We walk along the rim of the Canyon. Try to phone home but no cell phone reception here. A ranger has a telescope (100x?) set up on one of the small bits of the Colorado River that are visible from this angle. I get a lucky picture through the eyepiece, with a boat floating along. Dad is bit on thumb by a ‘friendly’ squirrel. Leave after a couple of hours. Decide to try to reach Mexican Hat for the night. Drive out of Grand Canyon along Desert View Drive. Through Cameron, Tuba City, Kayenta. Gas up; we’ve done 34mpg so far. Reach Monument Valley at sunset. John Wayne country. Spectacular views but should have been there 30 min earlier for the best light. Reach Mexican Hat at 18.00, now quite dark.
Book into Mexican Hat Lodge for $68 plus tax. Unsure whether we’re now in a new time zone as the credit card receipt shows no change in time but the alarm clock in the room does. Anyway, it’s not that important as we’re on sun-time.
We eat outdoors at the steak house at the Lodge, authentic but not cheap. Cooking over an open fire on a metal grill that swings back and forth. Cool enough to warrant a jumper. We split a 12 oz steak at $16 but lose the profit on 4 beers at $3 each. Dogs hanging around on the road, chasing the occasional truck. Exchange pleasantries with a Texan couple at the next table who have also come from Grand Canyon and were very pleased with their air tour. I had expected to see and hear lots of aircraft but only remember seeing one. Steak, salad and beans: real cowboy stuff, apart from the salad. Some guys really looked like cowboys but the waiter was taking a break from being a teacher from NY, NY. Very good meal; first real one today, having survived on old toast from last night, cheese sandwiches and energy bars. Still drinking plenty of water, which you need to do. Grand Canyon was 7000 ft up but effect of altitude seemed limited, although others were puffing away. Dads leg seems much improved. Signs on the road warn about ice, which seems strange as it’s around 30c but it does cool down a lot at night. Have driven 390 miles today and have now covered 3 days of the planned trip in 2 days so we’ll have to start thinking about what to do with the spare days if we keep up this tempo. No cell phone reception here. Down to $170 of the $400 and charge the meal to the credit card. Lodge OK. Coffee maker, unlike the other places. Thin walls so bit noisy but neighbours settle down early.

Thursday: Mexican Hat-Moki Dugway-Natural Bridges-Capitol Reef-Torrey 
Up at 6.20. Have a bath to pass the time. Quite chilly outside. Discover that my little ‘weather station’, a thermometer and a hygrometer, is missing. Must have left it in Kingman. On the road at 07.25, just after the Texan couple. Sun not yet up. Soon turn left and take Hwy 261. The road heads directly to a steep rock face, about 1000ft high, and Dad asks whether we’re going to skirt around it. We’re not. We’re going to climb it along a narrow gravel road with a 10% grade and sharp hairpin bends or switchbacks as they’re called here. We stop regularly to enjoy the view. With the sun coming up it’s a fine sight back over monument valley. One of the highlights of the trip up till now.
Hwy 261 leads us to Hwy 95 where we turn left, west. Stop at Natural Bridges National Monument ($6 if you don’t have a National Parks Pass) for at least an hour and a half, doing a few walks to the bridges, which are best viewed from below, which we’re not doing today thank you. The one-way loop is about 8 miles. 11.00 sees us on Hwy 95 again, on the way to Capitol Reef National Park and Torrey, where we plan to stay. Hwy 95 is most enjoyable. Landscapes that could be the Moon or Mars. Also yellow trees – cottonwoods, as we’re told later on – which brighten up the scene to great effect. Stop at the overlook over the Hite Marina; a wonderful view from high up looking down onto the Colorado. See some petroglyphs in Capitol Reef NP. Stop at the visitor centre and get info on the scenic drive. Get fixed up with accommodation at Bolder View, across the road from the Capitol Reef Inn, which was recommended in our Lonely Planet guide because of their café, but was full. Bolder View is new and clean. Large rooms. No coffee maker but continental breakfast included in the rate of $52. Lady says that the weather is just about to cool down a lot: today 80F, tomorrow 60F. Back to Capitol Reef National Park; the scenic drive ($4 if you don’t have a National Parks Pass) is worthwhile and we walk for 30 min at the end of the 10-mile one-way drive and for an hour at the Grand Wash Trail on the way back. High rocks on both sides called the Narrows. We return to the car at 18.00 and are the last in the area. Stop off at Panorama Point and Goosenecks Overlook just as the sun is setting. Only a few other people hanging around and taking photos. Great changing colours and dark clouds threatening.
Back to the motel. Across the road to the Capitol Reef Inn to eat. New Age sphere. Table and chairs on a slant, must pack a small spirit level next time. Salad and stir fry vegetables very good but Dads chicken sandwich not much good. Flask full of weak coffee. A chat to a couple on the next table about what to do with our spare days gets us thinking of Salt Lake City or Sequoia NP and Lake Tahoe in California. Chaotic and indifferent service, which I report on when asked when paying our $30, and the indifference is confirmed by lack of interest. “Who’s in charge?” I ask and Barbara, who’s part of the problem, replies “Not me, otherwise things would be run differently”. Still no cell phone reception.

Friday: Torrey-Scenic Byway 12-Bryce Canyon-Zion-Hurricane
Wake up late, just after 07.00. Much colder, about 5c? Continental breakfast simple but good. Self-service. Take 4 extra buns for snack later on. Scenic Byway 12 lives up its reputation. Varied scenery. Cottonwood trees, lots seeming dead but probably just resting. Hunters with guns on the edge of the forest. Mountain ranges – Escalante. Five outlooks an hour. Arrive at Bryce Canyon at 12.00. $20 entry if you don’t have a National Parks Pass. Fascinating area of Hoodoo’s – eroded rocks - with lovely warm colours. Walk down a little bit. Quite steep. Probably worth the walk all the way down but we leave it at that. After 1½ hours and two viewpoints leave for Zion. Less interesting road now, as we’re now used to such spectacular views. 15.15 in Zion ($20 if you don’t have a National Parks Pass, so we’re now in the plus with our $50 Pass). Tank up just outside the park. Info about park on the radio, just like at Bryce. Cross from east to west through 1-mile-long tunnel and zig zag down to visitor center. Take the free shuttle to the end and back to get an idea of what to do tomorrow. Takes just over an hour, back at 17.15. Driver points out cliffs being climbed by what seem to be tiny ants. Some climbers also sleep up there. Must get very cold up there. 20 miles south west of Zion we find lodgings in Hurricane, aptly named because there’s quite a wind blowing. Stay at a Days Inn for $55, not bad for the vicinity of Zion. Back to town for a meal, a couple of $8 salads at Ted and Allen’s Sports Grill and a $4.25 speciality beer – at 3.2% as strong as it gets in Utah. Make the mistake of asking for a non-smoking table: it’s all non-smoking in Utah. Salads are good. Little chat with a young father while his wife calms down a crying daughter outside. I reassure him that it will pass. In about 15 years’ time. He thinks Death Valley is cool, especially at sunrise or sunset. Waitress must have asked 5 times whether everything was all right. Days Inn suits us fine. Big clean room but still no coffee machine. Bit of noise from busy Hwy 9. At last we have cell phone reception and several messages to be answered. Puzzle a bit more on the itinerary, planning on doing Death Valley after we’re finished in Zion.

Saturday: Hurricane-Zion-Beatty
Phone home. Carolien tells of troubles with drains in the garden, which is being renovated. Back in Zion at 08.30. Enquire at the visitor centre whether they have a Lonely Planet guide to California but no luck. Take the shuttle to the start of the Lower Emerald Pool trail, classified as an ”easy” hike. It’s 4-layer cold. Start on walk at 09.00. Pass waterfall, not much water now but falling from a great height. Decide to walk along towards the Angels Landing trail and see how far we get. According to the guide it’s strenuous: “Long drop-offs and narrow trail. Not for anyone fearful of heights. Ends at summit high above Zion Canyon. Last 0.5 mi (0.8 km) follows a steep, narrow ridge; chains have been added.” We start at 10.00 and take it easy, stopping frequently. Two series of zig zags, the second ones, twenty of them, are called Walters Wiggles. Chat to a Californian couple of about 50. He’s tried the trail before but is not keen on heights and didn’t make it the first time so he wants a second go at it. He can’t stand seeing anyone standing close to the edge, which Dad always seems to be doing whenever he’s looking. He avoids the heights by looking at the rock face on the inside of the trail. We reach Scouts Outlook pretty easily, an elevation of about 1100 foot, in just more than an hour. From there on it’s more difficult, having to hang on to chains while climbing the rocks. Not very steep but disconcerting when you consider the possibility of falling off. The final climb to the top is a very steep ½ mile and we’re not doing that anyway but we do tackle the first third or so of the transverse, several yards wide but with steep drops of 1000 foot on either side. Confronted with a steep little climb we decide we’ve had enough and turn back. This is certainly another highlight of the trip. Plenty of people around, young and old, professionally kitted up and with ropes slung around their necks or just like us – well almost – without climbing gear. Lots of chipmunks. The walk down is hard on the knees and takes about an hour. Man with dark glasses and a light walking stick unknowingly does a plausible impression of a blind man finding his way down without falling over the edge. Take the shuttle back to the visitor centre, leave the Zion behind us at 14.00. Call in at a recreation centre in St George and get well informed about the route to Death Valley, lodging options, a supermarket and a bookshop in St George. Stop at a K-Mart for energy bars and have a very good hamburger meal with the best French fries so far for $2.99 each, including a drink. After finally finding the bookshop – they didn’t have a guide but kindly phoned two other bookshops who also had nothing – we’re on the road again at 16.15. Several small places on Hwy 95 don’t have any motels so it’s Beatty that provides us with a Motel 6 at 19.45, $48 and just out of town. We eat at the neighbouring Stagecoach Hotel & Casino. Liver, bacon and onions plus the usual “soup or salad?”. And a couple of beers. $17.30. Just as in K-Mart we notice pretty old staff around. Two $1.50 ice creams at a homemade ice cream emporium. Watch an enormous family devour what must be $10 ice creams. Frightening. 

Sunday: Beatty-Death Valley-Mammoth Lakes
Clocks back 1 hour. Also 1 hour earlier in Nevada. Coffee at Motel 6. Leave 07.50. Ask a fellow traveller in the car park about the best route through Death Valley and he helps a little. Tank $10 fuel along the way, miss the turn off next to the gas station and lose 50 miles before we’re back on track. Save another $10 on entry with the NP Pass. Stop at the two main lookouts on this side of the Park: Zabriskie Point and Dante’s View. On to Badwater, the lowest part in the western hemisphere, just below sea level. Students doing experiments with gravity. Low on gas so turn off a/c. Amusing Garrison Keiller on the (public broadcasting) radio. Artists Scenic Loop takes us past impressive rock formations and the Artists Palette, rocks coloured with mineral pigments. Another $10 of fuel in Stovepipe Wells. From there on it’s west through the park from sea level up to 5000 foot. Very good outlook at Father Crowley Vista if you walk from the car park to the end of the track, looking back over the flats that we’ve just covered. We leave the park at 14.55. Through Lone Pine. Hwy 395 North. Sierra Nevada to our left and the sun setting behind it. Still climbing. 6000 foot. Unusual luminescent light blue sky to our rights. Fuel getting low. “Check gages” light comes on but we make it to Mammoth Lakes at 17.30 and they have a couple of gas stations. Motel 6 for $63 and off to restaurant The Stove. Friendly folk. 2 specials: prime rib, horseradish sauce, 1 beer $27. Back at hotel for 19.45. Busy little resort, summer and winter. They’re planning to start making snow on Nov 6. Longest drive yet, 419 miles. Highlights are the outlooks over Death Valley but just as much the views from the car, especially in the mountains. Cell phone reception here, so can give an update on our travels.

Monday: Mammoth Lakes-June Lake-Yosemite-Fresno
Long night, from 21.00-07.00. Bread starting to get mouldy at one end. Leave at 08.15. Phone home. News about garden progress and troubles with drains. Forrest fires in San Diego area. Weather forecast for Mammoth Lakes is 66F and 76F in the valleys. We’re at 4000 foot here. Snow (the first of the season) is forecast for Thursday night. Return to Hwy 395, stop at outlook over Mono Lake with an old volcano in the middle of the lake. Read about an attractive-looking scenic route on a notice board so we double back and take the 158 to June Lake. Lovely area, lots of fishing going on. Very quiet and peaceful. Road sign “Dream Mountain Drive” just about sums it up. Country and Western music on the radio. Chat to a fly fisherman from Long Beach at the Silver Lake, the second of the three lakes we will pass. Return to the 395. Get $200 ($2 fee) at a store. We’re on the Tioga Pass to Yosemite at 10.25 and climb up to the entrance and highest point at 9945 foot. Save another $20 with our NP Pass. Yosemite has lots of lookouts but less information than in the other parks. Stop at a few lookouts and make our way to Yosemite Valley and the visitor centre. See a bit of a film about the park and decide to take a look at Bridalveil Fall. A little walk up from the car park. Couple of folk struggling along. Pass an older couple in traditional dress (Mormon?) on the way back. Out of the park, stopping briefly at a viewpoint just before a tunnel at 15.50. Busloads of people stopping. We zig zag for 15 minutes to Wawona, the south exit. The roads are generally very good, we remark. Drive on to Fresno. Busy road with light industry and car dealers leading us into town. Bit seedy. “Cruising prohibited” signs on the road. Motel 6 costs us $49. Room at the back. Noisy a/c. See 89F on a thermometer outside. Cell phone reception but no messages. Nothing attractive in the way of eateries so try a Wendy’s. BLT Salad and a Double Classic Burger Combo for $11. ¾ litre cola?! Back to motel just after 19.00. Room warm even with a/c on. Turn it off for the night but with the neighbours a/c on it sounds like we’re sleeping in the hold of a ship.

Tuesday: Fresno-Kings Canyon-Sequoia-Barstow
Off early at 07.15 but quickly lose ground by getting lost in Fresno looking for Hwy 180 east. At least 15 miles extra, and not particularly attractive miles either. Finally find the way out, along Olive and then Kings Canyon. Get lost again and ask at a gas station - “check gages” showing again – where the lady tells us that they’re always helping people who get lost there.
The route is straightforward after that. Enter Kings Canyon / Sequoia Park (another $10 saved). Visit the General Grant area. Busload of tourists being loudly informed by their guide who waves his arms around to illustrate different kinds of trees - “Like a banana”. Off to General Sherman area and a long walk. Beyond belief that some trees are 2000 to 3000 years old. Plenty of memorable sights. Fallen trees, burnt trees. Members of a large Jehovah’s Witness family shout to each other over great distances. They also have an exchange with another group, asking whether they’re Jehovah’s as well. “No, we’re Baptists”. Helicopter drowsing a (managed?) forest fire on the way out of the park. We note the highest part at 7335 foot. Finally down to ‘normal’ levels and like yesterday a long winding road with well banked bends here. Warm considering the altitude. Not many visitors today. Decide to drive a fair bit to Barstow. Stop in a mall in Tulare for eats: an Italian Ziti (kids size, $2.20) and a Chinese spicy beef, mandarin chicken and steam rice ($6.30) and 2 ice creams, the best yet at $1.80 each). Tank up. Stop at a Walmart looking for bananas – which they don’t have – and as we haven’t found the cheap ($36) Motel 6 we’re looking for we ask the way and are helped along with a smile. Dad walks to a Vons store across the main street for banana’s and cans of beer and discovers that there’s a picket on so the store’s pretty empty. But he’s let in and they do have bananas and (Mexican) beer. Clean out car and sort out baggage for the transfer to Venetian tomorrow. Another long drive today, 379 miles, the total mileage will be about 2500.

Wednesday: Barstow-Las Vegas
A good Motel 6, this one. Nice and quiet. Leave at 07.40. Notice that the road is part of the old Route 66. It’s cloudy. No, the wind has changed and it’s smoke from the forest fires a couple of hundred miles west. The sun’s red. Turn off to ghost town Calico but it’s a tourist attraction and costs money so we turn back. See lots of adverts alongside the road for the Mad Greek Café in Baker so we stop there. Quite busy. Two coffee and a large baklava. The “bakalava” as the waitress calls it is nothing special and the girl at the checkout seems to sense this and doesn’t charge us for it, despite me questioning the check. We make a run for it before she changes her mind. 11.00 in Las Vegas. Spend a bit more than an hour in the campy Liberace museum, quite worth the $20. A little old Jewish woman with a nasal voice leads us around. Lovely glitzy waistcoats for $59 in the shop. Return car at 12.30. Fuel is into the red, which is satisfying, although “Check gages” would have been better. Average 35 mpg. Car is quickly registered and we’re off to the terminal, getting a shuttle to the Venetian. Leave baggage with bell hop as we’re early and walk slowly to the Stratosphere, hoping that we’ll be able to see people on the spectacular ride in the tower but it’s only for paying customers. Notice curfew signs on the road, from 21.00 onwards. Wait for 301 bus for a while but as it’s full we walk on. Eat at Westward Ho, fish and chips, lots of it but nothing special. $17. Two $1 Beers from the bar. Walk back to the Venetian. Checked in very courteously by Michelle who offers us a $35 upgrade for 2 queens and/or a $35 upgrade for a view of the strip, both of which we kindly decline. She does give us a high-ish floor the 22nd. They have 36 in total. Fernando has the bags up just before we’re up and shows us around the enormous room, pointing out the minibar with items that get billed when they’re moved! We assure him we won’t even think of it. After a while we walk around the hotel. Big place. Lots of beautiful people with money to spend. Just like Caesars Place with the artificial sky. Canals and Gondolas inside. Shops. Restaurants. Everything. Shop with gadgets. One of the staff tells about the conference rooms and that 5000 staff work at the hotel. Volcano at the Mirage. Couple of $1 beers at Casino Royale next door to the Venetian. Back to room at 21.30. Snack of banana and granola (bran) is all we need and anyway, it’s all we’ve got. $100 left.

Thursday: Las Vegas
Chucked out the last of the cheese yesterday – gone mouldy – and we have a banana sandwich with the part of the loaf that is still OK. Long hot bath. Bathroom doesn’t steam up in the slightest. New attraction on top of the Stratosphere on local TV. Doubtful whether it’ll open tomorrow if the wind’s this strong. 70-75F forecast for today and in the 60’s Friday. 74F is average for October. Out for a look around. Smoke has gone, it’s sunny. Couple of cops on mountain bikes on the sidewalk. There’s a guy painting the sky in the Paris. 2 ‘small’ coffees – we could have split one - for $3.90 in Paris. Out through adjoining Bally’s. Cross to corner Bellagio and to Caesars Palace for a second look there. After a 15 min wait we eat at the Cheesecake Factory Café. Ham omelette and a Renee Special (bean soup, Caesars salad and half a turkey sandwich). The untouched turkey sandwich and a bagel we take with us. Watch the hourly Atlantis show at 13.00. The Mirage – home of Siegfried and Roy – brings us tigers and tropical rainforest. Cross back to our side of the strip. 2 $1 beers at Casino Royale. Venetian: canals and gondoliers, waxworks, living statue: woman on the phone caught by surprise! Room at 16.45. Gambled 2 found quarters away in a slot machine. 23% humidity today, according to TV. Confirmation of dropping temperature: we’ve been very lucky. $63 left. Happy to wind down and just watch TV: Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, Outdoor Nevada, Antiques Road show.

Friday: Las Vegas-Chicago-Amsterdam
Check out via TV and fax in room. Bagel, banana last of bran for breakfast. Leave 08.00. Taxi driver from Ethiopia, a Christian, chats about the homeless in LV, Ethiopia – lots of rivers, no direction. $13 with tip. $60 left. 08.30 airport. Flight leaves 30 min later at 11.25. Baggage, left unlocked, disappears until Amsterdam. Sunny day. Nice view from seating area of aircraft landing and taking off. Flights to Chicago and then on to Amsterdam, arriving around 09.00.