Posted by: M.J. Bolstad | April 13, 2012

Viva Las Vegas: Turning Thirty in Sin City Day #4

Walking along the Hoover Dam, a picture of the memorial bridge.

Well its a beautiful morning in Las Vegas (probably), and I am sitting in my bed eating cold leftover pasta for breakfast while RubberDuckie sleeps in the next bed.  We had a very late night last night, and while I had the benefit of dozing in the car back, she did not have that luxury.  She is, however, a trooper and a champion for not only braving the interstate and Las Vegas traffic, but for doing so at night.  As for the pasta, it makes for an interesting breakfast, though I do wish the hotel room had a coffee maker.  It is the one thing I think is missing.

Our day began relatively early.  We woke up at 6:3o in the morning, to give the both of us time to shower and dress and then eat before picking up our rental car at 8 o’clock. From there, we hit the road toward the Hoover Dam.  It took a little time for RubberDuckie to adjust to the GPS I bought for travelling since it is different than hers at home. (I bought a Maggellan on sale for just over $100.  At $12 for a rental, given the fact I use one 3-4 days every time I am in Alberta, and I am in Alberta 3-4 times a year, I figure the savings should start by the end of the year at least.)  And then it took a little extra time to stop because in the 45 minutes since eating breakfast, getting the car, and starting on the road, the coffee and water I’d had with my (very expensive) fruit and yogurt bowl from The Coffee Shop at Treasure Island (yes, that is its boring name) had worked through my system and I need to find a bathroom. On the positive side, I can say the bathrooms in the Albertson’s we stopped at is very nice.

Taken from the bridge, the hoover dam.

Our next stop, however, was the Hoover Dam.  The drive is a good hour’s drive, but definitely worth checking out.  It costs $7 to park and check it out, and there weren’t any tours (which might cost more money), but they had some information to read and even a little broadcast over speakers.  And it is free to walk around and check it out.  RubberDuckie and I had fun walking back and forth across the very large dam on either side, because we got to say that we’d walked to Arizona, to Nevada, back to Arizona and then Nevada again.  We also stopped to use the bathrooms right on the Hoover Dam, because despite the fact that I am now 30 years old and RubberDuckie is on her way there, we giggle like seven year olds at the idea.

Next, we stopped at the parking space to walk up to the bridge we’d seen that stretches out across the Hoover Dam. It is very, very long and very, very high up. We took a lot of pictures (and walked to Arizona and back again!) before making our way back to the car.  It was about 11:00 at this point, I think, and we’d spent a little more time than anticipated at this spot, but we had a good time.  We did have to bypass the stop at Lake Mead, however. Instead, we hit the road toward Grand Canyon National Park.

We made a few stops along the way of this 3-plus hour drive from the Hoover Dam.  First we stopped for jerky.  That sounds weird, I know, but we saw this sign for Gus’ REALLY GOOD Fresh Jerky (beef, elk, buffalo) and laughed, and then half hour later or so, another one. By that time, I had to use the washroom and so we thought “Why not?  Jerky is great for road trips.” So we stopped.  The little store was out of the elk and the buffalo jerky, so we just had the beef jerky, but it was probably the best jerky I’ve ever had, and they make some pretty nice stuff at home (We caught the website – if you want to check it out yourself). I grabbed a package of the sweet and spicy while RubberDuckie had a terriyaki one. She also choose a brisket cut – I didn’t even know you could have different cuts of jerky.  It was seriously tender and delicious.  It is REALLY GOOD just like the sign said, both kinds, and now RubberDuckie and I are in danger of becoming jerky snobs.  We also had to stop for gas, because as good as our Kia Rio was, it was not a miracle car and a 4-plus hour drive requires fuels ups, especially when you don’t want to end up stranded.

A snippet of the glorious Grand Canyon

We kept driving, and it was interesting to watch the relief change from desert and craggy stone, to forest and shrubs, and back to the rockiness.  It is about four-and-a-half hours from Las Vegas to the National Park, and we pulled in at about 3 o’clock.  From the first sight of the incredible chasm, however, it was worth it.  If the Hoover Dam is a testament to what man can make, the Grand Canyon is mother nature laughing at man’s efforts.  What the river has carved is enormous.  It is the abyss, and it is staring back at you.

We spent about four hours driving through the south rim of the park.  We started by taking the dessert view road, to the very end of the tourist map, essentially.  Now, here’s what I didn’t think of when I was packing – the elevation is very high, and even though we were in Arizona, it is quite cold. I had on pants and I brought a sweater, but in April you probably want a jacket and maybe even a toque and mitts, even if you are from the Arctic.  I actually do have gloves and a hat here, but I left them in my hotel room, since I thought I’d need them for the Alberta portion of my trip, not the U.S. leg.  So if you don’t want to end up buying a hoodie in a gift shop and contemplating the mitts and hats there too, pack them into your car.  (The hoodie is super cute, though, so you might buy it anyway.)

On of the pullouts at the Grand Canyon included a little museum and some Tusayan ruins.

Since RubberDuckie and I stopped at all the little pull outs to take pictures, because they are each incredible and different.  We also explored a watchtower that must have been built by the First Nations many, many years ago.  I’m afraid I didn’t see any information stops that could give further details; I suspect if we were on a tour they’d have told us, but alas, we were on our own.  We managed to catch a little of the sunset, too, on the canyon.  I was hoping it would light up red like fire, but we weren’t quite at the right spot – I think the north rim might be a better sunset spot, but the sunrises at the south rim probably can’t be beat.

RubberDuckie and I then went to the Canyon Cafe for supper.  It is kind of cafeteria style, but the food is good.  I had a chicken pot pie with a spectucular crust, and I even had a tiny bottle of wine.  RubberDuckie had some delicious stuffed peppers.  The cafeteria style also helped in that we were able to hit the road by about 8 o’clock.  It was dark and cold by then, and between the wine and the early start and also, probably, the Bonine I

Spectacular scenery everywhere - so many beautiful photos, cannot post them all!

took so I didn’t get carsick, I snoozed on and off on the road. It was black as pitch, so I didn’t miss any scenery.  I did wake up periodically to check that RubberDuckie was doing alright (she was, the champ!), to pay for gas, and then finally to make sure there was a second navigator beyond the GPS in Las Vegas proper.  We managed to find our hotel, but then needed to fill up the

tank or face a doubled rate if the car rental had to do it.  Our first attempt lead to failure – the GPS found us a 7-11, but didn’t seem to get that it wasn’t one with gas pumps.  We did manage to fill up and then drop off the car in the lot, but it was nearly 2 a.m. by the time we got in.  It was definitely worth it, but there are some things that could be done differently to get even more of an experience.

If you are planning a day trip from Vegas, and want to do more than snap a few pictures before coming turning back so you can get in before we did, you might consider staying near the Grand Canyon.  An overnight might have been pretty spectacular, and then I could have let readers know whether the sunrise theory did pan out.  An overnight would have also allowed for more stops along the road, particularly since we were on the historic Route 66.  Still, it made for a good road trip in a day, and we are glad we went.

Given it is going to be noon before we get going today, I’m not sure what will be on the plate for today’s adventures. So stay tuned until tomorrow!


  1. Exciting adventure! Looking foward to reading more! =)

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