May Vacation – Zion, Bullhead, Oatman, and Vegas Baby!

Zion Slideshow –   Oatman Slideshow –   Vegas Slideshow

We had such a great vacation last week. Nothing crazy, different, or earth shattering, just fun.

Falcioni 'Tour Route'

Falcioni 'Tour Route'

Before we left, we serched for options besides driving our 15-year-old 240k+ Stanza, but airline flights didn’t happen when we needed them, and rental car prices are through the roof (this makes no sense to me, everything else about travel is cheap now).  After exhausting all the ‘easy’ possibilities, we resigned ourselves to driving.  It’s not that we don’t love a good road trip, it’s just the drive back is such hell.

On the ‘schedule’ (I use that term loosely) was Zion with our friends Thomas and Susan, a night with them at their place in Ivins (near St. George Utah), then down to Laughlin for a few days of scoping out property prices in Bullhead and Fort Mojave.  Our final three days would be in Las Vegas.

Hotel rooms are cheap.  If you’ve ever had a jones to see Vegas, do it now! I’m in the process of creating a Vegas on the Cheap page like our Disneyworld page – hopefully I’ll get that done soon and post it here – but until then, go to Vegas before prices rise!  How cheap is it? We stayed in a 3-star hotel 1/2 block off-strip for $35 a night – during a weekend.  A few years ago, this same room would have cost us more than $170 a night on Friday and Saturday, and probably $90 or more during the week.

I’m getting ahead of myself though!  Our first day was just driving the 800+ miles to Cedar City.  Arriving there after dark, the Stratford Court Hotel Cedar City parking lot was deserted.  Not very welcoming!  Fortunately, the room was nice, and by morning other guests were in evidence.  The free breakfast was worth the cost of admission – they had everything including fresh waffles.

We met up with Thomas and Susan outside Zion and got into the park around 8am.  We needed an early start since temps would be rising into the 90’s later today.  Our goal was Hidden Canyons Trail http://www.zionnational-park.com/zion-hidden-canyon-trail.htm although it did have some exposed faces, information we saw showed it as not nearly as crazy as Angels Landing (which we did a few years back).  This turned out to be an excellent choice, and this quiet trail led not only to a great viewpoint over the canyon, but back into a slot canyon with sheer walls and hanging gardens.

Mike, Thomas & Susan

Mike, Thomas & Susan

After that, and a short trip down Riverside Walk, we headed back to the car and towards Ivins and Thomas and Susan’s house.

The next morning we said goodby to T&S and cruised down to Laughlin and Harrahs.  This was the one hotel I was a bit worried about – I’d pricelined it for $20 a night. Fortunately we were pleasantly astonished at this great place.  Check in service was efficient and friendly, we did have to change rooms when our first room had an odd smell, and they took care of it instantly.  The room was very nice, and the best part is the NON-SMOKING section of the casino!  Fully half of this property is non-smoking.  A very welcome and unexpected amenity!  Buffet here was excellent also.

So, why were we in Laughlin?  We’ve driven through this area a few times, and thought it would be a great place to own some bare property for future snowbirding after retirement.  Now that prices have dropped, it seemed like a good time to get serious.  We found out that although prices have dropped in Bullhead/Ft. Mojave area, bare property still commands amounts we’re not willing to spend.  We looked a bit further afield, and also put in our name with some realtors.  We’ll wait and see if something shows up.

After our “realty check” we decided to head over to Oatman and spend the day with a bunch of asses – er – burros.

This little old mining town on Route 66 has grown into a quirky artist community that caters to locals of the four-legged variety.  The burros are descendents of miners helpers from years’ past, and now spend time wandering town and begging for carrots.  It’s a fun spot and we really enjoyed ourselves.  We took Route 66 on the way back and stopped at an old homesite along the way.  This was a gorgeous and quiet drive through the late afternoon desert sun.

The next morning we got up and headed into Vegas, and again to a Priceline hotel deal.  Royal Resorts is a timeshare property 1/2 block from the strip and next to the Wynn.  This was a very well-appointed hotel and our room was excellent.  The location was perfect, with easy entrance and exit on Convention Center Drive.

Our next stop in town was at Tix4Tonight – they sell discount tickets for that evening’s shows. We decided to skip the show this evening, but try again tomorrow morning.  Next we headed to Stratosphere for our all-time favorite lunch.  Salads and dessert at 900′!  After lunch we went out to the observation deck, and watched the crazy people ride Insanity – a rotating swing ride which would be pretty tame on the ground, but its location 900′ above the strip does add a bit to the intensity.  Mike challenged me to ride it, and for some stupid reason I called his bluff.  Before I could chicken out, we’d bought tickets and next thing I know I’m seated in this ride, held in by a lap bar and being swung out over the abyss.  I kept my eyes open for the start of the ride, but I’ll admit I had them tight closed when the ride chairs tipped us facing downwards.  Definitely the scaryiest thing I’ve done in forever!

We spent the evening downtown, watching some great shows on the Freemont Street Experience (Don McLean’s American Pie is awesome) and drinking $1 margaritas (stay away from Brain Freeze, it’s made from Everclear)!

The next day after some hemming and hawing, we decided to get 1/2 price tickets for Peepshow with Mel B and and Kelly Monaco.  Mike and I agreed the show was okay – there were some good bits, but overall nothing really impressed us as different or interesting.  It would have been a good show at $30, but some folks were paying over $100 a ticket for this one.  We stopped by Arlen Ness Motorcycles, and had a great time touring their property and oogling the bike art.  Even if custom isn’t your thing, this is a great place to waste an hour.

For our last day in town, we again stopped by Tix4Tonight and picked up cheap seats for Nathan Burton, a magician and comedian.  We enjoyed the heck out of this show, which was worth way more than the price of admission.  Fun, interesting and unusual – Mike and I both highly recommend this one!

The next morning we got an early start and were driving past the last few houses on the outskirts of Vegas by 6am.  This drive is Mike’s absolute least favorite.  For some reason, it always seems like the never-ending trip down long straight nothing.  By early evening, we were happy to get home with the cats and have a day to relax before getting back in the work swing.

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