Monthly Archives: November 2015
We are about to leave from LA for Oz and here are some snaps from our time at the Houston Zoo. It’s not a big zoo but has most of the main beasts and a few unusual ones. The new gorilla display is particularly good with a few of them wandering around in a jungle / savanah type environment. Only 2 Aussies, a couple of tired looking kookaburras and a cassowary.
But its an easy place to get around and Piper enjoys it greatly. We had a good time and enjoyed some cup cakes over dinner while we waited for the zoo lights to come on. These were really tremendous. An enormous amount of work must have gone into lighting the place up with fairy lights. Not sure what the animals thought about it.
Indeed that is one of the things I wonder about zoos. Who is looking at who. The animals at us or us at them? The lions look regally disinterested, the gorillas nonchalant, and the giraffes just seem above all the fuss. Who cares anyway, the animals don’t seem to.
We are now not far away from boarding, Piper had her picture with Santa today, quite calm and composed! Not a bad effort!
Until next time………..
Thanksgiving has passed and not many turkeys survived this year’s festivities. A few on special in the stores but by now most have passed into various turkey left over dishes, along with the remnants of the pumpkin and sweet potato pies.
We were invited over to one of Mitchell’s friend’s friend’s place for the festivities and it was great time for the gathering of various overseas visitors. As well as us, there was a couple from the UK visiting family and they would soon be off to NZ to see some grand children there. Others present were well traveled (including to various parts of Australia) and we all had some interesting tales to tell.
As always the deep-fried turkey was good and Allthego is learning the technique, apparently the secret is to drop it in when the oil hits 350 degrees F. Allthego was subject to some eating supervision and partook of modest portions only, leaving the party as fit as a fiddle. A new man!
David, our host, had not long ago constructed a herb box on wheels. A very interesting build and one that we might try to recreate back in Oz. It is pretty heavy and could do with larger wheels to move it around, but a good idea and should help us beat the possums as well as make it easy to pick the herbs.
Today was also Piper’s 3rd birthday and before heading off to Thanksgiving we had a parcel opening. She was quite excited with big smiles. Particularly when watching the video, which Libby had emailed to Mitchell, of her Australian cousins singing ‘Happy Birthday Piper’.
There will be more birthday celebrations tomorrow when we head to the Houston Zoo. It seems Piper thinks birthdays go on for a week!
Here we are in Houston with Mitchell and Piper. After a couple of days hanging around recuperating from a hectic trip along Interstate 15 from Bryce Canyon down to Las Vegas and then peak hour traffic in the city where the party never stops we are now ready to continue the adventure. Piper has helped decorate the Christmas tree with Grandma (aka Homealone) and is all excited because it is her 3rd birthday tomorrow. It is also Thanksgiving and we are off to the celebration at one of Mitchell’s friends places.
Today we have been down towards Galveston to visit the San Jacinto Monument and the old WW1 battleship USS Texas, which is moored on the river nearby. San Jacinto is where Sam Houston leading an ‘army’ of all sorts……..Texas rangers, farmers, mercenaries, adventurers as well as the Texas Army finally defeated Santa Anna the leader of the Mexican forces who were trying to recapture Texas. Santa Anna and his troops were the chaps who slaughtered the inhabitants of the Alamo, in San Antonio, which we visited about 4 years ago. After Texas’ independence from Mexico it later joined the United States. The city of Houston is named after Sam Houston. So much for the potted history.
The USS Texas, built in 1914, was nearby and we spent an hour or so wandering around its decks, playing on the guns. The deck of the ship is wooden planks and Sopwith Camels were launched from a couple of its gun turrets. A massive ship for its time, it was decommissioned after WW2 and has been resting here in Houston ever since.
Piper’s birthday and Thanksgiving are tomorrow. An early night is needed to cope with the turkey and condiments.
There was a major blunder in the last blog! Homealone spotted the error and it is now corrected. You get into Zion NP at the bottom of the canyon not the top! At Bryce Canyon you come in at the top and look down a long way! It is cold at Bryce, snow still on the ground and below zero at night. Parts of Bryce are at about 8000′ whereas Zion is more like 6000′. Today was a good day with clear blue sunny skies, crisp air no wind about 14/16 for most of the day.
Smokey Bear was warning of a small chance of fires, Allthego thought there was zero chance.
Big photography day as we drove up and back down the rim. The rim stretches about 20 miles with 19 stop off points to catch the views. These stops are simply fabulous look outs over the canyon and formations. The dusting of snow they have had provides great highlight to the underlying rock colours. Various walks run away down the canyon from these spots. We did not have the time to wander off, tempting as it was. Half way through we enjoyed a sandwich at the picnic tables under the conifers, snow under feet.
Returned to the motel rather tired, ready for dinner and an early night in preparation for the drive back to Vegas. The next day we fly down to Houston for a week with Mitchell and Piper.
PS There have been only 2 brother & sister singing acts. Donny and Marie and the other one (according to D & M) was Richard & Karen Carpenter.
It was a cold night at Zion, even colder on Monday night at Bryce Canyon where there was a big dump of snow. We head for Bryce after dropping into Zion NP for a few hours to have a look around. Zion is an interesting place because unlike many of the other canyon parks in the south-west you arrive at the bottom not the top! At Zion a road runs up the base of the canyon beside the Virgin River. There are various stop offs to look up at formations and to wander off on walks. This suits Homealone who doesn’t like being up and looking down. We only had time to drive up and down the road with a couple of brief stops. Some wonderful rock formations in this place. A few of them are here.
Getting out of the Zion Canyon to head for Bryce is a different story. It is a long climb up the canyon on a series of switchbacks. The road is good, but it is not guard railed and there are some enormous drop offs. Allthego was even a bit edgy. About half way up you enter a tunnel that runs for nearly 1.5 km through the side of the Canyon and you pop out near the top. It was constructed in the early 1930s, so its not quite as flash as our modern day tunnels. There are windows out the side of the tunnel that give views over the canyon. But unfortunately you can’t stop, so it’s just a quick look-see as you pass by.
From there on the road to Bryce is fairly flat as you pass among the rock formations atop the mesa, caught a close up view of some mountain goats and buffalo.
Arrived at Bryce as the sun was setting and got a quick view of the canyon, quite amazing but that is the story for the next blog. Snow still on the ground and at about 7 pm it was 1 below zero, clear sky and not much wind. So that snow will be there tomorrow!
Hoover Dam is only about a 30 minute drive from Vegas and has been on Allthego’s bucket list to see.
We have never seen a real Roadrunner, this one is stuffed.
This was a seriously big dam to first plan and then build it back in the 1920/30s. It broke many records and developed new engineering techniques. The Dam wall acted as the roadway from Route 93 which connects Las Vegas and Phoenix in Arizona. It was a real traffic bottleneck and lead to the construction of the bypass bridge. This bridge has a walkway for tourists to stroll along looking down into the Colorado River and across to the Dam wall itself. It’s a great view. You can then look back from the Dam wall to the bridge and down the Dam wall to the river far below.
Lake Mead behind the Dam wall is well below its historic high points which are marked by the white canyon walls. One suspects it will never reach these levels again because of the demands for water from Vegas and the surrounding agricultural regions. This and the 3 other dams on the Colorado have certainly tamed the river. Now a bit over 80 years old one wonders whether it would have been built in today’s environmental times. We left the Dam and drove around Lake Mead’s edge heading for Zion National Park for the night. This was a great drive along the Park road through the bad lands type desert environment.
The Nevada police are very nice chaps alerting Allthego to the 25 mph speed limit through one of the small towns along the way. He was so friendly he advised us to visit one particular desert park on our return trip. We thanked him for his advice and slowly moved on.
Its getting colder as we head further north and to higher altitudes in Utah. Nice and warm in our Best Western at La Verkin about 20 miles from Zion NP.
We have now come back to earth. Time to do a bit of wandering around at street level to see a few more things from that angle. There are all sorts of characters on the streets, including us. You come across Micky and Mini Mouse, Elvis in a scooter, Superman, various police women trying to arrest you, ticket scalpers, go-go dancers, street musicians (a loose description), Transformers. The list goes on. Hard to avoid some of them. All part of the never-ending party.
We have also entered into the spirit of things by going to some of the attractions at the various hotels……….Titanic memorobillia, Body Parts (actual dissected humans, various cuts to show the bits) and CSI (solve the murder mystery). Madame Tussauds wax museum.Unfortunately, we couldn’t get to the Zombie Apocalypse or the Zombie Burlesque show. But we did manage to fit in ‘O’ one of the Cirque du Soleil shows and just couldn’t miss Donny and Marie (of Osmonds fame) at the Flamingo show room. What a night of nostalgia that was. Here is a question for my readers. How many brother and sister singing acts have there been? Can you name them? Answers in a later blog.
The ten of us on tour had a bit of a flash dinner at the Steak house in the Flamingo to celebrate Leanne’s 60th. A great meal and company was ok too for that matter.
Well it is now time for us to all move on from Vegas and leave the party. Allthego and Homealone head off in a car for a week. Hoover Dam is the first stop and then Zion and Bryce Canyons to get a fix of the great outdoors.
Well, when in Vegas you can go along the Strip, down the strip, up the strip or you can go ‘up up and away’. Vegas is a flat place so to get up and see the place you have to get up. This can be in all sorts of ways. Tall hotels and attractions, helicopters and small aircraft.
We chose to go up a couple of ways to see things from above.
Allthego went for a balloon ride, Homealone was just not into this and stayed at the hotel. It meant a 4am rise, to be all over by 8am or so. It was just great drifting around to the east of the strip. Landing in a new ‘field’ of rock and dust behind the latest IKEA. Great views. We got up to 4000 ft above sea level, actually 1600 feet above the ground at Vegas. It is only where water is available that there is greenery. So the golf courses have green fairways and greens but the rough is just dust and rock.
Now, most of those in the basket were a bit younger that Allthego. But, Allthego knew the name of the 60s (or was it the 70s?) famous ballooning song. Our pilot thought no one would know it! UP, UP AND AWAY IN MY BEAUTIFUL BALLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOON. He played it loud on some sort of gadget, transmitting it to the other two balloons up there in our group. The Fifth Dimension would have been thrilled!
Later in the day , it was up the High Roller to get a closer look at the Strip. This was a bit like being in a balloon. There is little sensation of movement. Takes around half an hour, rises to 550 feet so you get great views of the Vegas skyline.
The Eiffel Tower at the Paris Hotel was the next site for going up. It looks over the Bellagio and the famous water fountains. It certainly goes up and is a great look over the city. They provide you with an I Pad that shows the skyline of Paris from each angle. So you can pretend you are in Paris. Mitchell and I didn’t do this, just happy we were in Vegas!
By this time Mitchell had joined us from Houston: Peter, Cheryl and family from Queanbyan, as well as Stuart and Marie. They had arrived for Homealone’s 60 th celebrations. Not sure where these were to beheld but they certainly weren’t to be up!
Made a mistake in the last post. Vegas is not the ‘town that never sleeps’ that’s New York. Vegas is the town where the ‘party never stops’.
Anyway, Frank Sinatra turns 100 this year and one of the reasons for coming to Vegas was to see him in a comeback concert at the Palazzo. The Palazzo is actually built on the site of the former Sands Hotel which is where he performed in the 50s and 60s along with the likes of Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jnr and Tony Bennett. In fact Frank told us at the concert that where we were sitting was actually where their old concert room used to be. It’s a pretty good spot for a concert and Frank looks pretty good too for 100. Now for those of my readers who might be a bit puzzled it wasn’t Frank in the flesh but a chap called Bob Anderson. He actually looks a bit like Frank, sounds a bit like Frank and moves a bit like Frank. If you shut yours eyes you might even think he is Frank. He was pretty good at being Frank. And the band was good too. There were a few in the band, including the band leader, who were actually in Frank’s last band. These guys weren’t spring chickens but they were good. Bob Anderson at the end said he wasn’t actually doing the show as a ‘tribute’ type entertainer but more as a tribute to Sinatra. It was a great night’s entertainment.
Earlier in the day we had caught the bus up to the iconic ‘Welcome to Vegas’ sign. This rates like the ‘Hollywood’ sign in Los Angeles. Long queue to get a picture under it. The bloke in front of us took ours and we took is. It turns out he was from the Gold Coast and formerly of Newcastle. He said he felt he had to escape Newcastle lest he was caught there for the rest of his days.
It was then back to the Flamingo. Along the way we stopped off at the M & M shop.
Amazing array of merchandise and M & Ms. We picked up a few items for later and saw the 3D movie short ‘I lost my M in Vegas’. Somewhat amusing. Back to the Flamingo to continue the party.
We have arrived in Vegas, been here a couple of days actually. Internet a bit frustrating here in the Flamingo Hotel so Allthego has been a bit slow in getting on the air.
We had a good trip over from Brisbane to LA aboard the Qantas Longreach. Only half full, so we had 4 seats to our self to stretch out in and enjoy the in flight entertainment and lovely airline food. The granola yogurt was pretty good, the mini meat pies and hot dogs ………..well they were so so and should be a no no for Qantas!
Left LA on South West for the short 40 minute hop up to Vegas, just time to sink a coke before we landed around 10am. By 11.30 were in our room at The Flamingo looking out the window at the High Roller. Biggest ferris wheel in the world. A touch on 500 ft high I think, to be confirmed. Takes half an hour to go around. This is a must do.
Met the flamingos in the garden and had a short walk around the hotel. Harrassed by hustlers ‘giving away’ free shows and dinners as part of a ruse in getting you to go to presentations flogging real estate and hotel loyalty programs. Hard to avoid them but we have. Early dinner and off to bed.
Next day, after a long sleep in we were off for more wandering around town catching the sights. Last time here was about 3 years ago and there have been a few changes, some buildings are down, a few more vacant allotments, new buildings and revamped hotels. We found ourselves in Caesars Palace at the Trevi Fountain among the statues for a rather late lunch. Pizza and salad under the dome watching the clouds change colour.
We trudged back to the Flamingo for a rest and snooze to ready ourselves for the next days action in the town that never sleeps!