Monday 30th May 2011

Wednesday 25th – Well having got the puncture fixed and filling up with propane across the the Eagle RV sales company where a very nice lady just wouldn’t let Steve go, chat, chat, chat we were finally on our way to Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam. Because of our delays we didn’t arrive at Hoover dam until 6:30 pm to encounter a Homeland Security check to ensure we were not about to blow-up the dam. They were absolutely charming and exceedingly polite again, not as we had been led to believe. Somebody we had met told us that Obama had ordered “personality transplants” for all Homeland Security officers, if that is correct then they have done an amazing job. Perhaps UK Tax Inspectors and call centres could benifit from the same course!! (don’t even get me started on French beaurocrats)

The officer told us that the Dam tours were finished for the day but we might like to visit the new bridge and then if we drove back a couple of miles the Hacienda Casino allowed RV’s to park for free overnight. Then we could get a good idea of things before our visit to the dam in the morning.
The bridge was amazing right next to the dam and giving a great birds-eye view. Quite a feat in itself spanning the canyon only a few hundred feet down stream of the dam. It had only been open for a few months and had relieved the bottle-neck of the dam, which before was the only road. After walking right across the bridge and taking many pictures of the dam we went back to the casino we had been told about and pulled in behind a large 5th wheel RV also stopped for the night. A 5th wheel is a large articulated caravan which uses a pick-up as it’s tractor unit. They are popilar with full timers because they provide the size of the largest RV’s with the convenience of having the towing vehicle to go around in. Like a caravan but far more maneuverability and more stable.
We went to search out what food the casino had to offer and met the owners of the 5th wheel Rudi & Jackie who suggested we visit Sedona, their hometown, which they said was beautiful and said we could park on their drive while we did so.
The casino food did not look very good so we cooked-in. But they had a free film about the construction of the dam which was very informative.
Thursday 26th – An early start to visit the dam which meant driving across to park then walking back over the dam to the visitor center. We caught the first tour which was really interesting, after some lunch we left about 2pm to drive north beside Lake Mead the man made lake as a result of the dam which has been made a National Park.
We stopped at Echo Beach Campsite which had about 120 spaces but we were the only ones there, $10 a night again in an envelope into the safe. We had a really nice evening sitting in the warm outside having dinner.
Friday 27th – a fairly early start to drive to Zion National Park. The scenery was getting much more like we see on the cowboy films now with small towns of wooden buildings with horse trailers and pick-ups outside. The country got even grander with towering red cliffs as we arrived at Zion.
The park was heaving with people, we hadn’t realized it was Memorial Weekend, something like our August bank Holiday and everybody was heading for Zion one of the more accessible parks.
The Ranger at the gate told us that there were no camp pitches left in the whole park and if we wanted to leave by the east exit we had to pay another $15 for the rangers to stop the traffic to allow us to go through the Mount Carmel Tunnel 1.1 miles long cut through solid rock by hand before they had large vehicles like the RV we were driving.
We checked at the campsite and they had nothing then chatting with one of the staff in the visitors centre when we bought a map she told us we may be able to find space at Coal Pits Wash ten miles back out of the park if we didn’t mind “Primitive Camping” we certainly didn’t so headed there to get about the last spot between the bushes with about forty other tents and vans. We had a really nice evening chatting to other campers and carefully drinking a couple of beers. We had been warned to take care with alcohol in Utah the Mormon area!
Saturday 28th – We started early and managed to get a spot at the camp ground at 7:45 which was 6:45 to us because Utah is on Mountain time, so we could get a good day’s exploring in. Luckily a Swiss couple waved at us to say they were leaving in half an hour so to claim their spot with our cash in the envelope. The park had a really good system of shuttle-buses as they didn’t allow vehicles in the canyon. Which was great for Steve as he could explore wuthout driving. We had a really full day investigating as much as we could and did a couple of hikes of 5miles and 2 miles the one to the emerald lakes was particularly beautiful but heaving with people because of the holiday weekend. We decided to get up early next morning to get through the tunnel.
Sunday 29th – The tunnel was no problem and we only had to wait about ten minutes for the Rangers to stop the traffic to allow us through. It was very low and narrow without any lights so we saw the reason for the one way only for large vehicles.
Out of the tunnel and the scenery dramatically changed and as we got nearer to Bryce Canyon we could see giant monoliths of red rock in the distance. But the temperature was steadily dropping from the 80degF of yesterday (sory the Americans only talk deg F). We arrived at the park and were told that there were only a few camp spaces left so to grab one quick which we did. Then went to the visitors center to sort out what to do. Bryce had a similar Shuttle-Bus service and an extra bookable 3½ hour trip to the very south of the park. We decided to book that for tomorrow but for now just to ride the first bus that came right round the circle just to see the sights then do a hike later. The first bus turned out to be the one we intended to book for tomorrow but the driver said he had space so to climb aboard. The driver “Spike” gave a continuous knowledgeable and witty commentary and took us walking at every view point to point out the sights. At one point though we were at over 10,000 feet and it was so cold. There were still patches of snow from the mornings fall! The scenery was breathtaking looking down into a prehistoric lake with towering intricate sand spires and temples that defy belief. Hopefully we can put up some pictures on the blog soon.
Unfortunately Steve lost his new glasses somewhere on the coach trip so we visited the Rangers desk and called the coach office with no luck.
Because we are now at over 8,000 ft the temperature at night really dropped we ran the heater as much as the battery would allow but still had a cold night. This motorhome is not as winterized as our one at home. After meeting a couple of Dutch and German people who had brought their vans over we are beginning to wish we had done the same. Although a smaller engine our van is far more powerful and much warmer and of course we would have all our bits and pieces and gadgets around us. And our fuel consumption would be half but we have what we have.
Monday 30th – After our cold night we woke early cooked Bacon and eggs then set out on our first Moderate Hike taking in the Queens garden route and part of the Navajo loop, which involved a 1.6 mile decent of about 800ft then a 0.6 mile assent of 900ft it sounds easy but the 8000ft altitude was really getting to us. It was impossible to get enough oxygen through the nose but breathing through the mouth had a very uncomfortable drying effect
Interestingly our pedometers registered enough strides for ten miles because of the climb and decent but the total from the camp site was only five. But the scenery here was just unbelievable these towering sand spires looking from above like the Terracotta Soldiers in china but when we were down amongst them they were enourmous probably the eighth wonder of the world.
In the afternoon we decided to take the long bus ride to see if we could find Steve’s glasses but unfortunately had no luck so after checking in with the Rangers again to see if they had been handed in did another two mile hike frome Bryce point to Inspiration point to finish off the day. We must be getting fitter, not bad for a couple of “Old Fogies”.
We will be heading off tomorrow towards the Grand Canyon North Rim which is supposed to be much less commercial than the South rim which many people have advised us to avoid.
So more next time, Hopefully we can send this from the visitor centre tomorrow which Steve discovered today has Wi-Fi.
Till next time………………………
Steve & Judy

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