Snowbirding 2017 Postcards: Mormon Temple Christmas Lights

I’m spending a few days at a friend’s house in the Phoenix area and she suggested that we go see the Christmas lights around the Mormon Temple in Mesa, AZ. I’d never been to the Mormon Temple — in fact, I didn’t even know there was a Mormon Temple in Mesa. I’m always game to try something new, so we went.

My friend told me that she has good parking karma and she wasn’t kidding. The place was crowded and full of traffic, yet she managed to find a parking spot almost right in front of the temple. They were hundreds of people there, mostly families, all walking around lighted pathways and trees with the obligatory manger.

What impressed me most, however, were the reflecting pools at various places around the temple. The building itself was evenly lit with bright, white light and it reflected magnificently in the calm water. The colored lights added a sort of magic to the scene.

I didn’t take many pictures, but here are a few to give you an idea of what it was like. (I put an interactive panorama on Facebook.) If you’re ever in the area around Christmas time, I highly recommend visiting it — but not necessarily on a Saturday night.

Snowbirding 2017 Postcards: A Desert Drive

I took my truck out to an old favorite destination near Wickenburg this afternoon: Box Canyon. This is literally a box canyon on the Hassayampa River, partially hidden by massive salt cedar trees. Upriver from there is a narrow slot canyon that the river is always flowing through. I drove through that, too, then exited on another road I know to make a loop drive. 

I was scouting for tomorrow’s trip with friends who are new to the area — I wanted to make sure it was possible to reach Box Canyon in my truck before I tried bringing my friends. I can. I’m beginning to think my truck can go anywhere

Here are a few photos from the drive. I’ll likely have better ones if the canyon tomorrow, since we’re going at midday. 

Snowbirding 2017 Postcards: Laughlin, NV

I left Vegas and headed south today. My goal was to find a campsite along the Colorado River near Needles, CA. The direct route took me down Route 95, a typical, mostly straight, desert highway. But when I saw the turn for Laughlin,NV, on the Colorado River, I made a detour. I wanted ice cream.

Laughlin is, in my opinion anyway, a poor man’s Las Vegas. It’s a cluster of about 10 high-rise casino hotels right on the edge of the river. Named for the man who developed the area, Don Laughlin, it attracts mostly seniors from the Sun City area near Phoenix, as well as snowbirds passing through. Indeed, the parking lots were jampacked with motorhomes and trucks pulling fifth wheel trailers.

I’ve been to Laughlin a few times. My wasband and I flew in together at least once, probably in my first helicopter. Back in those days, the airport across the river in Bullhead City, AZ was very close to the river. You’d land and park and then get out and walk to a dock right on the river. A boat would come across the river to fetch you and bring you to Laughlin. I’m pretty sure the boat shuttle was free. 

The time we went there, we went for one of the cheap buffets for lunch. I remember seeing an elderly couple there stuffing food into the pockets of their jackets. I suspect they might’ve been homeless or close to it and had somehow gotten up the money to come to the buffet. It was very sad.

Nowadays, the airport runway is up the hill a bit, farther from the river. The old runway has been turned into a commercial area; there’s a Home Depot on part of it now. When you come in and land, you can still get a shuttle across the river, but it’s in a shuttle van that drives across the bridge. Funny how things change.

Anyway, today I stopped at the Colorado Belle and asked the valet parking attendant where the closest ice cream was. Penny and I walked along the Riverwalk to the Aquarius hotel casino, which I don’t recall being there the last time I was there. I tied Penny up outside, went in, and got ice cream in two cups. We sat by the river and enjoyed them. A lot of old people walked by. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that I was the youngest visitor around.

I took these photos before we walked back to the truck. Amazing how blue the water and sky are, eh?

Snowbirding 2017 Postcards: Behind the Scenes at KÀ

I saw the Cirque du Soleil show KÀ yesterday at the MGM Grand Hotel. I didn’t realize it, but it was the third longest running show in Las Vegas. It’s also the first Cirque du Soleil show to actually have a storyline.

The show was amazing — no doubt about that. Then I had great seats: seventh row center. But I still came out feeling a little disappointed. I like Cirque du Soleil with various acts within the show. And the costumes, of course. And the music. While this show had acrobatic acts and costumes and music, I felt that it relied too heavily on the special effects made available through the incredible stage set up. Simply said: it was a technological marvel more than the amazing human performance i’ve come to expect from Cirque du Soleil.

Yesterday evening, on my way to the show, I heard an announcement that they were going to have a “open house” at the KÀ theater at 11 o’clock today. Because my schedule is sort of free-flowing, I made time to go see it.

It was a half hour presentation led by a man who is involved with the show. After discussing some of the items on display in the lobby of the theater, he brought us inside where we sat in seats and he told us about the various stages and sound system. The theater has 10 stages, several of which move. The most amazing one is the giant flat stage that can be raised, lowered, tilted, and spun. As he told us about this large stage, someone demonstrated the various things it could do, including instantaneously deploying dozens of rods that the performers can use for acrobatics. They then put the stage on its side in a vertical position and used it as a screen for projections they gave us further information about the production.

In all, the open house was fascinating and I’m very glad I stuck around to attend. Here are a few pictures I shot of the theater.

I should mention here that I love to do behind the scenes tours. If you use the search box for this blog, you could find a post about a tour I tagged along on of the Kolb Studios at the Grand Canyon.

Snowbirding 2017 Postcards: The Las Vegas Strip Walk

One of my very favorite things to do when I come to Las Vegas is to take a very brisk walk along the Strip, walking through hotels and their shopping areas. I start at one end — normally Mandalay Bay or Luxor — and walk along the west side of Las Vegas Boulevard northbound. If I’m feeling very energetic, I can usually get up to Treasure Island. Then I cross the street and I take an equally brisk walk down the other side. This is not a straight line walk; sometimes I’m on the sidewalk, sometimes I’m on a casino floor, sometimes I’m in a shopping area. I zigzag my way north and then south. I do this early in the day, always before noon, and I usually start around 8 or 9 o’clock in the morning. That’s when Las Vegas is just starting to wake up but not yet fully engaged.

I did that walk today, although I only got as far as Caesars Palace. I like Caesars, although I’ve never stayed there. I always visit it when I come to town. It was kind of neat to see sashes over the statuary proclaiming Caesars 50th anniversary. It’s really an historic hotel casino, mostly because it’s one of the first on the strip. It used to be a very classy joint inside, but now not quite as much. Everything gets tacky over time in Las Vegas.

One of the reasons I didn’t get any further than Caesars is because of time constraints — I was supposed to meet some friends for lunch. The other reason is that I’m simply out of shape and couldn’t keep up that brisk pace for more than what turned out to be a total of 5 miles. Who says hiking needs to be done in the woods?

I did do some shopping in Caesars Forum Shops. I bought a couple of pairs of jeans and a sweater. I also bought dark chocolate Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in the Hershey’s store in another casino.  As I mentioned on Twitter, it was a real pleasure to be able to walk through a shopping area without having to stop at every single watch shop or men’s shoe store. That’s one thing about my wasband that I don’t miss it all.

Anyway, these are some of the photos I took along the walk. One of the things I love about Las Vegas is how surreal it is; I think some of these photos illustrate that.

Snowbirding 2017 Postcards: Luxor and Blue Man Group

After a 5 hour drive from Walker Lake to Las Vegas, which included a harrowing drive on slippery roads near Goldfield, Nevada, where cars were spinning off the road everywhere, I arrived in Las Vegas shortly after 2 PM. With tickets to see the Blue Man Group at 7 o’clock, I thought I had plenty of time to relax, take a shower, get dressed, and go get some dinner before the show. I made dinner reservations for 5:15 and at 4:30, I headed out. That’s when I actually looked at my ticket. It said the show time was 4 PM.  

Shit. 

Long story short: The very nice folks at the box office traded my 4 PM ticket for 7 PM ticket. The amazing thing about this? I still had a third row center seat, on the other side of the aisle from where I would’ve been sitting at 4 o’clock.

So I had dinner and saw the show exactly as I had originally planned. It was a great show and afterwards I got a selfie with one of the cast members. I also took some photos of Luxor before leaving. 

I first stayed at Luxor when it was about a year old and there was still a boat ride that went around the circumference of the pyramid. That was back in Las Vegas’s idiotic family days, when they thought they could build casinos to attract families. Luxor had game arcades in the space currently occupied by restaurants and shows. It was a weird place but I could get a suite in the corner of the pyramid that included a Jacuzzi right in front of the big window. I could soak in the tub and watch the happenings on the Strip far below me while tour helicopters flew by. 

I’ve been to Vegas more times than I can count and I’ve been there by myself most of those times. I seem to enjoy it more on my own, making my own decisions about food and shows and how to spend my time. I don’t gamble and I’m not much of a drinker but I do love to walk through the casinos to see what outrageous new things they’re showing off. I’ll do my casino walk tomorrow morning — it’s a great way to get exercise.

Snowbirding 2017 Postcards: Camping at Walker Lake

After a very long day of some very boring driving through the high deserts of Oregon and Nevada, I finally approached my overnight destination of Hawthorne, NV. I had only a vague idea of where to stay so I was quite pleased to see the sign for BLM “dispersed camping” on the shore of Walker Lake. I pulled right in. Five minutes later, I was parked on a level (!) spot on a little hill overlooking the lake. Managed to take a few last light photos from my back door. Note the blowing dust — it’s windy here!

Dispersed camping, if you’re not familiar with the term, refers to an open camping area where you can pretty much camp anywhere you like. This is common in the area around Quartzsite, AZ, where I usually spend most of January. Camping like this is usually free and there usually aren’t any services, although this one appears to have pit toilets and a garbage dumpster.

The wind has died down with the disappearance of the sun. One good thing about this spot is that when the sun rises, there’s nothing blocking its warmth from reaching the Turtleback at dawn.