Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Sorry for the interruption

I've been laid low with a tummy bug for a week. Since I suffer from IBS as a daily thing, I first thought that was the sauce of the cramps and sessions in the small room. But it has now gone on for over a week and while I am not running to the loo as frequently, things are very gurgly, sore and uncomfortable. I see my GP tomorrow. My arm is almost healed. It still hurts when I lift anything or pull, but the rest is fine now.

To return to the trip narrative, before Vegas we stayed for 5 days in Kanab, Utah, which is just over the border from Arizona. This was an AirBnB trial and it was perfect.  Our host was as nice as anyone could ask, and his house was charming and beautifully decorated. He had gorgeous roses out front that would be the envy of any gardener, and hummingbird feeders for the black-chinned hummingbirds that were constant visitors. We watched the male staking his territory, calling females and doing aerial acrobatics.

A most typical north rim photo. Near Bright Angel Point
Kanab is about equidistant from the Grand Canyon north rim, Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park.  We did them in that order. What I didn't know and was unprepared for was that most of these sights were at over 8000 feet and some at 9000. I know I don't do well at high altitudes. I was gasping for breath after the shortest of walks. I do have compromised lung capacity and I felt it!

Angel's window. To give you scale, there are people walking on the top and you can just see the Colorado  River thru the hole
The Grand Canyon is certainly the most awe-inspiring place I've ever been. The scale is almost impossible to get your head around. It's over 10 miles from the north rim to the south and the north is 2500 feet higher.  I had the most problems with J, who is very afraid of heights. I am not, but he was constantly telling me to get back from the edge and not to walk to lookouts

Me in purple defying the admonitions

We were visiting at the beginning of the season but the place was still full of people. We went thru the Grand Canyon Lodge and out to Bright Angel Point and then drove to the various other lookouts. There were lots of trails and places like to top of Angel's Window we didn't do because of my inability to climb up or down or someone else's fear of heights.  It was everything I had hoped for and is not over hyped in the slightest. Every American should do it and the attendance figures (especially the south rim) seem to indicate that they are trying. Do be aware of the heights issue because I know J is not the only person who feels that way and be aware of the altitude.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


I had always said I had no interest in ever visiting Las Vegas. That was before we decided to visit the north rim of the Grand Canyon and it made sense to get there via Vegas. We didn't have enough time to drive to our destination in Utah after flying in from DC, so I got us 2 super cheap rooms at the Tuscany Casino & Hotel. It's an older casino off the strip but had huge rooms for $69. One could do worse. 

Of course, it was hot. 98F when we arrived, but a delightful (to me) dry heat like Canberra, after humid East coast. It's also very flat. We drove around so J could show me a little and, even after years of watching CSI, I was astonished at how bigger than life everything is.  I might warn potential visitors that the place changes constantly. I had read a Lonely Planet guide to try and figure out what was worth seeing and found it quite out of date. 

We came back for 2 days after Utah. I must confess to taking advantage of air conditioning and resting most of the time. J went out walking and reported that distances were very deceiving: what looked close was really a long walk away. This from someone who has visited several times. 

We stayed in the Jockey Club, which is not a casino and doesn't even have a restaurant. It's a block of time-share apartments squeezed between the Cosmopolitan (very hip) and the Bellagio (very luxurious). An ideal location and we had a 2 bedroom apt for $160 a night.  It's not swanky, but ticks all the necessary boxes. Across the street are Planet Hollywood and Paris. If you are lucky (we weren't) your room overlooks the Bellagio fountains. 

Our one splurge was an evening at the Bellagio, playing penny slots (and losing), seeing Cirque du Soleil's "O", and having a steak dinner at Fix. Not cheap but I really enjoyed myself. We walked around the hotel to see the Chihuly glass ceiling installation in the lobby, which was lovely, the Botanic Garden, acres of marble floors  and lots of gambling. "O" was astonishing. They have somehow constructed a stage-sized tank (and it's a BIG theatre) that fills with water and seconds later is a solid floor. I don't know how they do it so stealthily you don't even notice it's happening even if you try to 
catch them at it. Added to the usual Cirque acts are high diving and fancy-dress synchronised swimming. The usual acrobatics often end with a plunge into the pool. I couldn't decipher the story but the costumes are great and I could have easily seen more of everything.

I wanted to go to the Pinball Hall of Fame but fatigue and heat wore me down as well as the prospect of the long flight ahead of me. I was surprised to actually like Vegas. But I wish I were wealthy to see everything! 

Monday, June 09, 2014


I have decided to try and revive my blog. Facebook does not lend itself to ramblings and after my trip I realized how many friends don't do FB. So I'm back and hope to continue to post stuff on a more regular basis. At this point, I think there will be less craft stuff; it will still be a part of my life, just not as central.

I'm going to start with reviewing the 3 week trip I just had in the US. JD was with me the whole time and it was very nice spending time with him after Skyping for so long. I'm going to do my review in sort of reverse chronological order with what's fresh on my my mind: a diatribe on airline travel. 

This trip was made in 3 segments: Canberra to Washington, Washington to Las Vegas, and Las Vegas to Canberra.  The middle one was the only one that was on time, but shared the physical impracticalities of the others. I had airline agents make all the scheduling of flights so they can't blame me for not giving myself sufficient time to make connections, but I missed them on each end. Going over I missed my LA-DC flight, one of the replacement flights was 3 hours late due to weather in the Midwest and electrical faults that shut down Chicago O'Hare airport and therefore messed up all flights passing thru it. A trip that usually took me 24 hours door to door was now 32 without sleep. Flights were late consistently, airport organisation requires extremely long walks, and very little consideration is built in for transporting luggage. It's almost as if airlines expect you to travel without any luggage at all, because they make collecting it and moving it from one part of the airport to another (domestic to international, or airline to rental car, and vice versa) very difficult. It will all get worse with an ageing population with more limited abilities. 

I refuse to fly economy class on any flight longer than 90 minutes.  There simply is not enough leg room, with my already sore knees right against the seat in front, and I pray that person doesn't want to recline. There is now a class called something like "premium economy", depending on airline, that offers more comfy seats and much better legroom. While it costs roughly twice economy class rates on Qantas, I don't recommend economy unless you are young, short, or a Japanese gymnast. Even premium economy can get interesting when headsets are plugged in, blankets and pillows in use, seats reclined, and someone (even you) wants to use the toilet. Practice the limbo before your flight.

Airport design mystifies me. I'm sure there is some logistical reason for a flight to arrive at the very last gate in one wing of the terminal and you must walk to the very opposite end to get a connection, pick up your luggage, or get to the shuttle bus you must ride to get a rental car.  These are things thousands of people do daily but little concern is shown for their ease of travel, again something that will get worse as we all age, and are tired from traveling. In Las Vegas there were 23 baggage carrousels, all empty but the very last one where our luggage arrived. In LA, United had 2 very overloaded carrousels for all luggage. Traffic in airports is a nightmare of 
mazes, with insufficient room for drop off and pick-up causing 
universal disregard for parking restrictions, and further problems for shuttle busses required for connections. In LA they were announcing repeatedly that their shuttle bus system was being overhauled and to allow sufficient time for moving about. I didn't know this till I was standing there waiting for one, so it was a little late to tell me this. Never sighted a shuttle bus.

This can make it sound like I don't want to fly, and right this instant I don't! But it's the only way for me to visit folks in the US and the only way I can lure them to me. My advice is to expect the worst, allow LOTS of time for connecting flights, and try to pay extra for comfort. If any of you are really serious about coming but flinch at the cost, let me know and I'll gladly help. All the airlines and airports tell us they are improving things but that usually means more shopping opportunities in airports, and a reliance on technology, which is great when it works. Australia's electronic passport system was a failure for about a third of the folks using it because you have to do each step exactly right. Sleep-deprived elderly people are not used to whiz bang systems. 

Next post I promise to be more upbeat. I hurt all over so I will ned some rest but I will return with photos. Great to see everyone I did. I had a great time in Utah.