Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Bargain Bottle of Water

After checking out of my St. George Motel and before heading out to Zion National Park a few weeks ago, I thought I’d better fill my gas tank so I could zoom directly back to my hotel in Las Vegas after touring the national park.
At the gas station across the street, I decided to buy a bottle of water to wet my whistle while at the park.
According to the park’s website, they don’t sell bottled water once you’re past the entrance gates. Guess they don’t want to deal with empty bottles.
You know what I discovered? Bottled water sure is cheap in Utah. That bottle of Dasani that I picked up only cost me 37¢. Why, I’m so used to paying $1.50 to $2.00 a bottle, that I actually gaped. The cashier must have picked up on it because he smiled and nodded.
The funny thing is, that bottle lasted me all day until I turned my car in to the valet in Las Vegas.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Just a Hole in the Ground

I guess most of us at one time or another have used an outhouse that lacked plumbing. Y’know, the kind that’s just a little shack with a wooden bench that has a hole cut into it, and you plop your butt down over a deep hole in the ground to do your business?

One of my first experiences with an outhouse was at Volcanos National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii. I think it was at the Volcano House, but I could be wrong. Nice wooden structure a short walk away from the main building, really smelly.
Most recently, I encountered one at Zion National Park, at the Weeping Rock shuttle stop. It’s a magnificent area, with huge rock walls streaked vertically with dark marks. I remarked to a nice lady there that the scene was incredible, and her reply was “Awesome!”
Zion Weeping Rock Outhouse
Before I left, I decided to take some business travel advice I once read in a little book: “Never pass up an opportunity to empty your bladder.”
Luckily, there was a nice restroom there. But there was no running water. Nope. No water, no pipes. Just some anti-bacterial lotion.
And, there was a beautiful … hole in a bench. A hole with apparently no bottom. But y’know, it was the cleanest, nicest, classiest-looking outhouse I’ve ever seen in my life. But all I can say is, I’m glad I didn’t have to do a Number Two.
Hmmmm, I wonder how those rock walls got their dark streaks anyway?

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Neon Museum

Once in a while, when I'm staying in downtown Las Vegas, I'll take a long wander east on Fremont Street, from Las Vegas Boulevard to wherever. Many years back, this area used to be filled with bars, pawn shops and tawdry souvenir shops.

The City of Las Vegas and the merchants have cleaned it up quite a bit.

Designed by Raymond Larsen, the Aladdin Hotel lamp was built by Young
Electric Sign Co. in 1966. It became a part of the Neon Museum in 1997.
One of the first things they did once they closed off Fremont Street and installed that blocks-long Fremont Experience light show overhead was establish the Neon Museum, an outdoor display of neon signs that once identified Las Vegas's hotspots.

A few years later, the Fremont East District was established, continuing eastward along Fremont Street, which now sports a median strip and more neon signs. The East District extends the Neon Museum a few more blocks. 

"Oscar's Martini" and "Viva Las Vegas" signs
installed in 2007
The neon signs in the East District are more contemporary, many of them created especially for display and dedicated to famous Las Vegans.

More of the older, classic neon signs are installed on Third Street, at the west end of the Fremont Experience (next to the Fremont Hotel & Casino).

Downtown Las Vegas has changed tremendously since the first time I stayed at the Fremont Hotel when I was in college. I remember taking $20 in cash for gambling, and playing the nickel slot machines. We tossed around 25-cent chips on the craps table, asked the pit bosses for ash trays that we used in our apartments back in Los Angeles, and ate at the 99-cent breakfast coffee shops.

The neon signs bring back the memories; they are nostalgia at its finest.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Used Car Giveaway Night

How’d you like to attend a minor league baseball game and walk away (er, drive away) with a brand-new old car? A used car, all for the price of an admission ticket. Well now, if you time it right, you must might get your chance.
The San Antonio Missions, one of the San Diego Padres’ Double-A affiliates, play in the Texas League, and every once in a while, they have a Used Car Giveaway Night.
And unlike the free stuff you may be used to getting at promotion nights (y’know, little bobble-headed figurines, magnet calendars, cheap painters hats, things like that), at a Missions game, you just might win a car. Y’know how they like to do things big in Texas.
The raffle tickets are given away free of charge, but there is a limit of one entry per fan. Throughout the night, randomly selected fans – sometimes 10, sometimes a dozen – win used vehicles.
I’m not sure what condition the cars are in, but I presume they came off a used-car lot, which means they must surely run, doesn’t it? And who couldn’t use an additional gas-guzzling transportation clunker in the garage!
I rustled up some pictures of cars that I know they gave out. Pretty sure the real cars don’t look as good, but you get the idea:
1990 Cadillac Seville

1991 Jaguar

2001 Ford Mustang

2001 Volvo S60

I love minor league baseball promotions!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Zero Gravity Toilet Instructions

If you saw the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, you might have been intrigued at the scene where Dr. Heywood R. Floyd (William Sylvester) is reading the Zero Gravity Toilet instructions on the Pan Am space plane taking him to the space station orbiting Earth.
Have you ever wondered exactly what he was reading? Well … here are the complete instructions for the toilet’s use:
1.       The toilet is of the standard zero-gravity type. Depending on requirements, System A and/or System B can be used, details of which are clearly marked in the toilet compartment. When operating System A, depress lever and a plastic dalkron eliminator will be dispensed through the slot immediately underneath. When you have fastened the adhesive lip, attach connection marked by the large "X" outlet hose. Twist the silver coloured ring one inch below the connection point until you feel it lock. 

2.       The toilet is now ready for use. The Sonovac cleanser is activated by the small switch on the lip. When securing, twist the ring back to its initial-condition, so that the two orange lines meet. Disconnect. Place the dalkron eliminator in the vacuum receptacle to the rear. Activate by pressing the blue button. 

3.       The controls for System B are located on the opposite wall. The red release switch places the uroliminator into position; it can be adjusted manually up or down by pressing the blue manual release button. The opening is self adjusting. To secure after use, press the green button which simultaneously activates the evaporator and returns the uroliminator to its storage position. 

4.       You may leave the lavatory if the green exit light is on over the door. If the red light is illuminated, one of the lavatory facilities is not properly secured. Press the "Stewardess" call button on the right of the door. She will secure all facilities from her control panel outside. When green exit light goes on you may open the door and leave. Please close the door behind you. 

5.       To use the Sonoshower, first undress and place all your clothes in the clothes rack. Put on the velcro slippers located in the cabinet immediately below. Enter the shower. On the control panel to your upper right upon entering you will see a "Shower seal" button. Press to activate. A green light will then be illuminated immediately below. On the intensity knob select the desired setting. Now depress the Sonovac activation lever. Bathe normally. 

6.       The Sonovac will automatically go off after three minutes unless you activate the "Manual off" over-ride switch by flipping it up. When you are ready to leave, press the blue "Shower seal" release button. The door will open and you may leave. Please remove the velcro slippers and place them in their container. 

7.       If the red light above this panel is on, the toilet is in use. When the green light is illuminated you may enter. However, you must carefully follow all instructions when using the facilities during coasting (Zero G) flight. Inside there are three facilities: (1) the Sonowasher, (2) the Sonoshower, (3) the toilet. All three are designed to be used under weightless conditions. Please observe the sequence of operations for each individual facility. 

8.       Two modes for Sonowashing your face and hands are available, the "moist-towel" mode and the "Sonovac" ultrasonic cleaner mode. You may select either mode by moving the appropriate lever to the "Activate" position. If you choose the "moist-towel" mode, depress the indicated yellow button and withdraw item. When you have finished, discard the towel in the vacuum dispenser, holding the indicated lever in the "active" position until the green light goes on... showing that the rollers have passed the towel completely into the dispenser. If you desire an additional towel, press the yellow button and repeat the cycle. 

9.       If you prefer the "Sonovac" ultrasonic cleaning mode, press the indicated blue button. When the twin panels open, pull forward by rings A & B. For cleaning the hands, use in this position. Set the timer to positions 10, 20, 30 or 40... indicative of the number of seconds required. The knob to the left, just below the blue light, has three settings, low, medium or high. For normal use, the medium setting is suggested. 

10.   After these settings have been made, you can activate the device by switching to the "ON" position the clearly marked red switch. If during the washing operation, you wish to change the settings, place the "manual off" over-ride switch in the "OFF" position. you may now make the change and repeat the cycle.
Oops! Too late!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Excellent Logic!

Save your breath, Dagwood. It's something that Blondie (like my wife) just won't understand.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Shocking Diet Revelation

Once upon a time, many years ago, I was in a board of directors meeting. We were at the end, and discussing when and where our next meeting would be before adjourning. Someone suggested a breakfast meeting, which was something different for us, and we all agreed.

Then, one of the women on the board offered this: “Make sure they have cake for dessert.” And we all laughed, and laughed and laughed.
Just the other day, I watched one of those Cooking Channel programs about comfort food. According to the host, when men think of comfort food, they think of hamburgers, chili con carne, beef stew, nachos, French fries, pancakes … stuff like that.
Women, on the other hand, think of dessert.
Stereotype? Silly women? I think not. Especially after I learned of a study being published in the March 10 issue of Steroids journal.
A 16-week study showed that people who were on a low-calorie diet and had a sweet dessert of cookies, chocolate, ice cream or cake for breakfast lost an average of 13 more pounds over a 16-week period than those who skipped the dessert. In fact, those who didn’t have dessert gained back all but 3½ pounds of the weight they’d lost.
The take-away from this is: Eat moderately, eat healthfully, but eat what you like to decrease cravings.
I kid you not!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Louis Benoist Gardens

You may have seen some of roses that I’ve been posting here and on my "Where’s Pinchy" blog that were photographed at the Louis Benoist Gardens in Almaden Winery Neighborhood Park in San Jose.

It’s funny, but since seeing the gardens several years ago, it never occurred to me to find out exactly who this Louis Benoist was. Silly me.
Louis Benoist was one of the owners of Almaden Winery (I’m sure you’ve seen their wines in supermarkets), having purchased the winery with Brayton Wilbur from Charles M. Jones in 1940.

The winery was already well established, with its roots reaching all the way back to the days of the California gold rush, and having been previously owned by Paul Masson.
Benoist was a San Francisco businessman who revitalized the winery and expanded the reach of its vineyards. He sold the winery to National Distillers in 1967, who eventually turned the historic property into a showplace, creating the rose garden in 1941, and remodeling the original 1850 winery building that’s now used as a community center.
The wife and I love strolling around in the gardens whenever we visit our grandson, who lives just a block or so down the street.
So now, I know. And so do you.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Only One? Just One!

Hey look! Check out what I saw in the supermarket the other day - single slices of Spam, prepackaged for immediate consumption, priced at a buck and a half per slice.

I'm going to have to meditate on this one for a bit. I'm no cheapskate, but the wisdom of buying one slice vs a whole can that you can slice up into at least eight singles kind of escapes me.

Maybe if I'm going camping and don't want leftovers to attract raccoons and bears? Maybe if I'm going fishing and need some Spam bait? Maybe if ... hmmm, I can't think of any good reason so far.

I'll let you know if I get a brainstorm. In the meantime, I'll continue my super-Spam sodium-induced meditation. Spam Singles, eh?

I kid you not.

Monday, February 20, 2012

USC Trojans in 2012-2013

The USC Trojan football team opens its spring practice in a couple of weeks, on March 6, leading up to its annual spring game on April 14. The highly outclassed University of Hawaii Warriors visit the Los Angeles Coliseum for the first game of the 2012 season on Sept. 1.
Finally free of the NCAA sanctions that prevented the team from participating in post-season games for the past three years, the Trojans, who ended the 2011 season with a 10-2 record, will be heavy preseason favorites to participate in the BCS Championship Game at the end of the year.
The Las Vegas odds-makers agree.
When I was in Vegas on Super Bowl Sunday, I visited a number of sports books to see what the futures line for the BCS game was. In all of them, the betting line placed the Trojans at either #2 or #3 to open the season.
Apparently, the early bettors agree as well.
At the Golden Nugget, the Trojans odds were 9 to 2 (or, 4.5 to 1) that they will win the 2013 BCS game. If you look at the photo, they are pictured third from the top. That means they opened in third place. However, because of the early betting, the current 4.5 to 1 odds moved them up between LSU and Alabama.
Interesting, huh?
I don’t usually place bets on USC because when I do, they either don’t make the spread or they lose outright. I think I jinx them.
Fight on!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Internal Maintenance?

Sometimes I run into signs that just tickle the tinsel outta me. I know they have a utilitarian function and that the people who put them up are thinking linearly.

It's just that sometimes, between the time the sign's image traverses that vast empty space in my brain between the eyes and the Center of Warped Cognizance, it passes by the Tickle Box and sends me out into left field.

Take this sign, for example: "Internal Maintenance." It's mounted on a door next to the men's room at the South Point Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. Of course, I know, I know ... it probably means "janitor's room," but perhaps they wanted to boost someone's pride in their work.

But to me, it raised all kinds of questions: "Do they give enemas?" "Are they into brainwashing?" "Can they filter my blood?" "Is it possible for me to order a complete rewiring of my circulatory system?"

Y'know ... maintenance of my internals?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Eight Pipers Pipin'

Have you ever been to the North Atlantic coast of the U.S.? This picture, which I took at Magic Island Lagoon, kind of takes you to the beaches of New England, doesn't it? Like Massachusetts in the summer. Like New Hampshire's Hampton Beach, where I once spent a day.

Every now and then, a person sees sandpipers on Hawaii's beaches. It hasn't happened often enough for me, as I love to watch those little fellas piping on the sand, peeping and pecking and chasing the tide in and out.

I have a thing about small birds ... they bring out the inner peace in a person. I love watching sandpipers skittering on the wet sand, leaving their tiny footprints wherever they've been. Kind of like those left by life experiences on one's spirit. Little trackmarks on your heart.

Can't help but be thankful for life's little pleasures. Like sandpipers on the beach.

Friday, February 17, 2012

So, Tipping Required?

Okay, so I was walking along the Fremont Experience in downtown Las Vegas (as I have done many times before) and I stopped to watch the arcylic paint-spraying artist at work (as I have done many times before) and I snapped a few pictures (as I have done many times before).

But something was different this time. The artist cried out between whooshes of his spray-paint can, "Tips for picture!"

Wait ... what? He wanted me to tip him for taking his picture? Even though he was out there in public view for the world to see? Harumph! That's a lotta bovine defecation. I'm not going to tip the guy, never did, never will. Especially not now.

*Mumble grumble* ... the nerve!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Super Bowl Antics

Recently, I've taken to spending Super Bowl weekend in Las Vegas ... for a couple of reasons. First of all, it's fun watching the game in a huge banquet hall with hundreds of fans. Second, it's a way to place a legal wager on the game, which makes it all the more interesting to watch and cheer.

Finally, well, heck, it's fun!
I've been to Las Vegas "Big Game" (Super Bowl) parties where you pay your money (about a hunnert bucks or so) and sit in a smaller lounge with a large flat screen, and an all-you-can-eat buffet. Those are nice, they toss t-shirts into the audience and you usually leave with a bunch of goodies afterwards.
I've also been to several free ones, especially at The Tuscany (off strip on Flamingo Boulevard, across from Lawry's The Prime Rib). But I've never been to the one at the South Point Casino 'way out there, about five miles south of The Mandalay on the Las Vegas Strip.
So I decided to try that one this year. I got there at about five minutes to 2 p.m. on Super Sunday, just before the doors were supposed to open. It took me a few minutes to walk to the venue, and when I got there, lo-and-behold, they had five ballrooms open.
Game watchers at the South Point Resort & Casino
I checked the first ... full to the gills. I checked the second ... jam-packed. I checked the third ... same thing. Finally I checked the double-sized one ... incredibly packed, with people standing, people sitting on tables, and people sitting against the walls. Same with the last one.

And the TV monitors looked so small. Not a good sign. I asked around, but all the empty seats were saved for guests who had gone to the casino to gamble until the game started. Nary a seat to be had.
When I first got there, I almost bought my snacks and drinks before finding a seat. Good thing I didn't, or I'd be standing there holding my grub with no place to eat it. If I had three hands, I'd have a beer in one, a plate of hotdogs in the second, and would be sucking the thumb on my third hand.
Well hell. I gave up, jumped back in the car and drove back toward the Strip to the one place I'd been to before – The Tuscany.
Super Bowl at The Tuscany
Ah, it was like being home again. Plenty of seating, room divided into the Giants side and the Patriots side, food stations with $2 hotdogs, $3 hamburgers, $3 chili nachos, and all the $2 beer you can drink.

What I like about The Tuscany is that they have two large screens on each side, one helluva sound system, tables and rows of seats. During time-outs, they have drawings and give away cases of beer, beer coolers, and beer-related clothes (all donated by their beer sponsor of the year). No goodie bag this year, though, so no keychains, bottle openers, magnets, tee shirts and baseball caps. Shucks.
But that’s okay. I got to act like a fool in the midst of hundreds of strangers who were acting just as foolish as I was. I had a ball … and I won too!
Guess where I’m going next Super Bowl Sunday.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Utah Adventure 5: Enroute to Las Vegas

Exiting the entrance to Zion National Park was just the first part of my return to Las Vegas. I knew the drive was going to be at least three hours, but I did want to stop by at a couple of places passed earlier in the day.

So I allowed four hours to get back to my hotel in Las Vegas. As it turns out, that’s exactly how much time it took me, from 1 to 5 p.m., to conclude a two-day excursion of a little more than 400 miles.
Rock Shops
My first stop was at a couple of rock shops in Springdale, the little community just outside the park’s entrance. The first was a little house on the side of the road called the Zion Prospector. Cute little place, but for some reason, I was the only one there.
The second place was a lot “shackier” with tables full of impressively colored rocks outside. Now, that store (Zion Rocks & Gem) had quite a few people wandering around wearing heavy gloves and hefting volleyball-sized rocks around the place.
What really caught my eye was that box full of fossil shark teeth, marked for sale at 50 cents apiece. If I didn’t have a bagful of these things already, I would have bought a few.  But, as you know, I was on a time schedule (didn’t want to get into Vegas after the sun had set).
Fort Zion
Then, just down the road in Virgin, I stopped at a place called the Fort Zion Trading Post. It’s like a cartoon version of an Old West town in which one could probably spend an hour or two. Unfortunately, it was closed and the entrance to the parking lot was chained.
So much for that adventure. Still, it was nice to look at and photograph.
As if to compensate me for my interest, a beautiful white rooster with a brilliant-red coxcomb and wattles came rushing out to greet me, running maybe 50 yards from the trading post entrance to peck the ground around my feet.
“Hey, pretty poor timing,” he seemed to cluck at me. “You should have been here yesterday when everything was open. You see that door? Behind that door are Western wonders that will leave you chirping with joy.”
Rotten rooster, rubbing it in.
Heritage Park
My final stop was in the town of Hurricane, at the corner of State and Main Streets – The Hurricane Valley Heritage Park & Museum, which honors the pioneers that trekked the desert to establish towns and settlements in Southern Utah.
The prominent feature of the park is the Pioneer Gratitude monument sculpted by George O. Cornish, who donated his work that depicted a pioneer family working hard to make a life for themselves and their community.
Hurricane had its beginning in 1906 with the arrival of 11 Mormon pioneer families, who faced hatred and religious bigotry.
I didn’t visit the museum as my watch was screaming at me to get back on the road. So, with radio station KURR (“It’s About Variety!”) turned up loud on my car radio, I head-rocked and butt-danced to the music of the Beach Boys (“I sailed on the sloop John B” … “Round, round, get around, I get around”), the Eagles (“Take it eee-eeasy, take it easy”) and Steppenwolf (“Bo-o-orn to be wi-i-ild”).
Ya gotta sing on a road trip, right?
Ahhh … at last, I found myself rolling into Las Vegas, with the bright lights of downtown sparkling before me.
Good trip. Utah rocks!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

We take a short break from my Utah adventure to bring a little sweetness to your life.

While wandering around Las Vegas last week, I came across these cute vanilla cupcakes at Red Rock Resorts' Grand Cafe bakery. Since the theme of the little cakes was Valentine's Day, and since this is indeed that particular day when we're supposed to remember the one(s) we love most, I thought I'd share them with you.

Happy Valentine's Day!

(The Utah adventure concludes tomorrow.)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Utah Adventure 4: Zion National Park, Part 2

“All this is the music of waters.” – John Wesley Powell, 1895

The Court of the Patriarchs (Click on picture for a larger view)
The rest of my Zion National Park experience continued on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Wow, what an experience that was. The magnificence of the canyon and the color landscape can only be described in that highly overused word that’s come to lose some of its meaning due to its omnipresence in today’s language, that tritest of words – awesome.

Truly, Zion will strike awe into your soul, awaken your spirit and as we say in Hawaii, whop your jaws. If you’ve been to the Grand Canyon, it’s something like that, except that instead of looking down and across, you’re looking up and all around you.
The best thing to do is stop at the shuttle stops, get out and walk around a bit, camera in hand, heart a-pounding in your chest. The air is brisk and the sun is bright, bringing out the colors of the canyon walls. There is no sound save perhaps for a babbling brook and the muted voices of your fellow tourists. Mostly what you’ll hear is nature in the raw.
Along the way, you’ll see the famous 7,157-foot-tall Sentinel, the familiar Court of the Patriarchs, take a potty break at Zion Lodge, rest your tootsies at The Grotto, view the 6,744-foot tall Great White Throne, and in one of my favorite stops, develop a crick in your neck at Weeping Rock.
Continue on a little farther and you reach The Bend, where three of the landmarks can be viewed from a single location – Angel’s Landing, The Great White Throne, and The Organ. At the terminus of Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is the Temple of Sinawava and Riverside Walk. I recommend you take the walk, at least partway.
If you want to drive the scenic route yourself, you’ll have to visit during the winter season, as it’s closed to vehicular traffic from spring through fall, due to the volume of tourists. That’s when the shuttle buses run.
A day trip to Zion should prove exciting and adequate. However, if you’re in good physical condition and want to get a little more intimate with the park, you can stay there overnight and do some hiking. Heck, there are enough trails to keep a hiker busy for a week.
All too soon, it seemed, I reached the Temple of Sinawava and had to drive back to the park entrance. It took me a while to get back, however, as I couldn’t resist stopping at pull-offs on the other side of the drive to stop and reflect, gaze and photograph.
Here are some of the pictures I brought back to share with you:

Click on picture for larger view

Click on picture for larger view
Coming Up: Enroute to Las Vegas

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Utah Adventure 3: Zion National Park, Part 1

Since my day’s activities were going to end up with me driving about four hours back to Las Vegas after leaving Zion National Park, the first thing I did was fill up my gas tank, which I’d half-emptied driving from Las Vegas to St. George.

A quick breakfast at Denny’s, and I was on my way. It takes about an hour or so to drive to Zion, but the scenery along the way is breathtaking, what with all those colorful mesas, hills and valleys. I really don’t have the words to describe just how amazingly beautiful the rock layers are; you’re just going to have to rely on my inadequate descriptions and photographs.

The Highway 9 route required a right turn at Virgin to get to the town (more like community) of Springdale, just outside the entrance to Zion. And of course, I passed it. As I drove on, I noticed a parallel road heading up the side of a mountain and thought, “Hmmmm, shouldn’t I be doing that?” Turns out I was heading north on Kolob Terrace Road.
About face! Once back on track, it was smooth sailing from then on, albeit about 20 minutes behind schedule.
Click on picture for larger view
It’s interesting that along the way (I think it was near Rockville), I passed an RV rental/sales lot with hundreds upon hundreds of campers and recreational vehicles just sitting there waiting to be rented or bought. It was like coming across a snowfield in the desert. 
When I finally reached the entrance to Zion, I wanted to take a picture of the sign but had to wait my turn while a couple of families scampered around on it having their photos taken. My travel monkey, Pinchy, was getting a little impatient, but what the heck, I had all day.
Once I was in the park, the first thing I wanted to do was do a pit stop. Luckily, just past the $25-a-car “you pays so you can stays” booth was the visitor center with clean bathrooms and a nice gift shop where I bought a shirt for the wife, a tee-shirt for the grandson, and a cap for myself.
Heading into the park, I didn’t re-consult the map, so I failed to negotiate the left turn onto the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, instead continuing straight ahead to the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway, which wasn’t such a bad idea. Sure, I had to go up the mountain on a winding, precarious switchback that caused the backs of my thighs to tremble and my foot to ease up on the accelerator, but it sure was beautiful.
I experienced a couple of heart palpitations when I hit a big ol’ ice patch on the road that brought back memories of driving up to Lake Tahoe from Reno in a driving snow storm. Driving gingerly for a couple of hundred feet, I got past that hazard. Easy doings, actually.
Now, on that “highway” (I put that in quotes because it’s actually a two-lane road), there are two tunnels, the first of which is 1.1-miles long. Really dark, no lights inside, except for a few holes cut into the side of the mountain every quarter-mile or so. I was so happy to see the light at the end of that tunnel; the second tunnel isn’t quite so long.
You do emerge into an incredible landscape of beautiful scenery:

So the detour was all worthwhile. Although I still had a third of the way to go before I reached the park’s east entrance, I decided to do a 180 and turn around. And I did it at just the right time, it turns out.
At one of the pull-over points, I came across a Rocky Mountain Sheep of the female gender (ewe know what I mean) that was peacefully grazing alongside the road. Snap, snap, took pictures along with a family whose kids were gawking and trying not to squeal with pleasure (great work by the parents, I must say).
Back through the tunnel, down the switchbacks (it’s scarier going down), and then a right turn back onto the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.
Coming Up: Zion National Park, Part 2 (Zion Canyon Scenic Drive)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Utah Adventure 2: Dinosaur Discovery Site

After checking into my room at the Claridge and wolfing down a pretty late breakfast (1 p.m.) at Black Bear, I plotted my route to the Dinosaur Discovery Site, where fossilized bones and footprints of the giant creatures were on display.
The museum is on the site of Johnson Farm, where huge slabs of rock with the dino-prints preserved in them were found during leveling of the land a dozen years ago.
A check with Google Maps revealed there were two ways to get there. The first was the fast way, on Interstate 15. The other was a more scenic route along a surface street called Riverside Drive. That’s the route I decided on, so I was able to pass through business areas, as well as open areas with terrific geologic scenery.
It wasn’t hard to find. There is an admission fee, of course, but it’s very reasonable: $6 for adults, $3 for kids 4-11, and free for kids younger than 4.
The first thing you do is sit on some folding chairs and watch a video on a small TV set operated by the guy who collects the admission (he points the remote control from his counter), which I thought was rather amusing. Hopefully they eventually will be able to get a larger flat-screen to make the experience a little more profession. But what the heck, it works.
There are some large glass-cased displays at the start of the “tour” that are quite informative, with lots of scientific information and pictures. Mind you, there are not a lot of pictures of actual dinosaurs, so kids might be a little bored … even adults who aren’t really into reading information.
What you do get to see are tons of rock slabs full of dinosaur foot impressions, tail markings and swim tracks. It’s pretty incredible when you think of it – dinosaurs become more real whenever you see evidence of their existence, and it’s amazing what we’ve learned over the past century about these extinct creatures and ancestors of today’s birds.
I’ve always wanted to see dinosaur tracks; here’s a taste of what I finally was able to experience.
River bed rock field

Rock slabs with dinosaur tracks

Eubrontes footprint

Grallator footprint

Dilophosaurus model by Cliff Green

Coming Up: Zion National Park