Tuesday, August 14, 2007

We made it to the Salt Flats!!!!

In Salt Lake City, Robyn and I split up for a day. She had to meet Ray at the airport and I had to head to Ogden to pick up the bikes and trailers so that we could get them to Bonneville the next day so that Randy and Werner could take them home.

I had a nice visit in Ogden with Erica and a great time on the Wendover shuttle bus, playing bingo with the old casino addicts!

We all met up in Wendover and after loading the bike onto Randy's van and checking out the salt flats, Randy treated us to a buffet dinner. We ended up staying so long that we had to be asked to leave since they were closing! Oh and there was a chocolate fountain...my first ever, super exciting!!!!

We had some fun taking some perspective photos on the salt flats...here they are:

That night we camped on the salt flats. The next morning we went for a swim and then headed out to the pit with Randy and Werner to see what was going on at the races and take some more photos.

Since Randy will not be racing until October, we headed off for Zion in the afternoon...it took us about 7 hrs of driving...but it is well worth it!

CSI Pilgrimage; In the shadow of Grisham

So after spending less than a day at the overly busy South Rim of the Grand Canyon, we headed to the even busier Las Vegas...you have to go there at least once in your life, right?????

The guy who we were meant to be couchsurfing with ended up being kicked out of his apartment, so we were lucky that another couchsurfer, Tim, was able to host us for the first night. He even took us for a walk down the strip and it was really interesting since he knew lots about the things that had happened...so we got the inside scoop on all the hotels and stuff. Also we ate some really yummy Indian food, which was really good after our Kraft Dinner diet.

Tim had suggested that we get in contact with two other couchsurferes, Cindy and Andy....and they offered to let us stay with them for a couple of nights (which turned out to be four nights, but who's counting right). Cindy and Andy were super cool people and we had a lot of fun just hanging out with them, being treated to some yummy buffets and throwing paper airplanes of the balcony of the 21st floor apartment building. They were able to get us some tickets to an improv show at the Flamingo, Granville Island is still better though. On Friday, after stuffing ourselves at the buffet, Robyn and I went to Bikrim Hot Yoga with Cindy. It was really great, although it is not advisable to eat so much before going. One night we went out to a small bar called the Double Down (according to the sign outside, it is the happiest place on earth, and maybe the only place where you can order a bacon martini and an ass juice) to see a burlesque roller derby show. Robyn had a great time, but I ended up having to head out before they actually got organized enough to put the show on (the lady in the tutu and puffy wig kept announcing in the microphone..."if you are taking you clothes off tonight, please come up to the front"...while the performers seemed more interested in eating pizza and chatting with their friends) 'cause it was too smoky for me to breathe.

Basically we spent most of our time wandering the Las Vegas strip, checking out the craziness that is the different hotels. We also played some slot machines and drank some 99 cent margaritas one night...we ended up loosing about 7 dollars on the penny slots...although at one point we were up by $4.24.

Cindy and Andy live in the Signature, some apartment buildings at the MGM Grand Hotel. We got to use the pool at the MGM Grand, which was fun for a bit, but super crowded. We also got to use the gym, which is insane...every machine has its own TV with a ton of channels...you can also get bottled water (the tap water in Vegas is the worst tasting water ever), apples and iced towels...we tried everything except for the iced towels, we were not too sure what to do with them.

Early on Saturday morning we had a crazy, police filled Greyhound Bus ride between Las Vegas and Salt Lake City. I don't even know where to begin....I won't get into the odd people who were on the bus, just the problems that seemed to arise...first we had to wait for some cops to come and arrest some people for some unknown reason, then we had to make an unscheduled stop since the bus seemed to be overheating and then, in the middle of nowhere Utah, some guy decided to smoke some pot in the bathroom. Although it was his 3rd or 4th time of the trip, almost everyone on the bus freaked out! A lady with a baby got up immediately and was like, "Did you just smoke pot with my baby on the bus???". Everyone was freaking out, and shouting, kick him off! So then we had to wait while the cops came and did a urine sample and then, I am assuming, took him to jail. WOW! Some people found this so exciting and it was the talk of the bus, people were calling home on their cell phones to share the days excitement. The thing that I found really funny was that after testing the guy for drugs, the cop came on the bus and actually asked us if anyone else had any other illegal substances...what did he expect, that someone was going to stand up and say, "Oh! I have some cocaine in my bag right here, arrest me" ??!!??!!??!!??!!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Scat; it's not just for fun anymore

Hitchhiking out of Zion was more interesting than we had originally expected. As we were packing to go, three very "keen" park rangers had a guy pulled over on the side of the road beside us and in handcuffs for a good 45min. As we were taking the shuttle to the park exit, we saw them still there. Then, just as we had started to thumb for rides, one of those rangers sped past us trying to pull over an SUV who had no room on the shoulder to stop. When the SUV finally reached a pull-out, the ranger, trying to be cool, spun into an empty space beside him - except that it wasn't a parking spot and he ended up stranded high and dry on top of a very large square red boulder. It was noisy and dusty and we found it thoroughly hilarious, but this left us trying to hitchhike beside seven park rangers attempting to rescue their beached patrol car. Understandably, not many people were willing to stop for us right in front of them.

Over an hour later we eventually did get a ride (after turning down a ride from a nice Asian guy who tried to put his teenaged daughters in the trunk so that he could fit us in). We had decided to try to get to the south rim of the Grand Canyon, but later that day we got a ride with some cool Californians and their dogs who were going to the north rim so we decided to go there with them.

Still having the idea in the back of our minds that it would be interesting to hike across from the north rim to the south rim, we went to the backcountry office the next day and were able to get permits to do it. Woohoo!! We shipped some excess luggage to the south rim (including pottery and books), bought some Kraft Dinner and Reese's Pieces cups, and were ready to go.

It was an incredible hike. The trail down from the north rim was very steep, with good views and a ranger station at the bottom with iced lemonade. Can't get much better than that. We spent the first night at Cottonwood campground, which was very quiet and had a nice stream to bathe in. From camp, we watched the helicopter recovery mission of some guy who'd fallen 300 ft from the upper rim.

At the very bottom of the canyon, next to the Colorado river, is Phantom Ranch - a place where fat lazy people ride to on mules to spend the night in cabins. We camped next to it in the Bright Angel campground and had the extreme good fortune to be there while they had two breaks in the water pipeline, so the ranch had to be evacuated and we were left to ourselves since we had water purification drops. Score!!! We took a rest day down there, and since it was 118 degreed Fahrenheit (about 48 C), we spent four whole hours amusing ourselves by sitting in Bright Angel creek. One of the pipeline breaks was right beside our watery hangout, so we got to watch as helicopters dangling generators and welding supplies dropped them off to workers 30 or 40 feet from where we were sitting (and right against the base of a cliff). The helicopters were so close that they sprayed dirt and water and leaves into our eyes, but it was super cool. Not something you see every day!

The hike out turned out to be a lot easier than we had been expecting it to be. After hiking down, our calves were super sore and stiff for days, but going back uphill didn't do that to us. We started at 5:30am to try to beat the heat and it was a bit of a cloudy day so the heat never was a problem. We practically ran up the side of the cliff - it was pretty funny. Especially Alana, since she was carrying the big backpack which looked huge but was probably only about 15 or 20kg. So many people commented on how such a small person shouldn't be carrying such a large backpack. I started to develop a guilt complex, even though I was carrying my share of the weight distributed between two smaller bags on front and back.

The south rim, unlike the north rim where we barely saw anyone, was packed with tourists. They were annoying, but funny. There were a lot of Europeans there who assumed that we couldn't understand what they were saying. Two of the best examples:

(spoken by a French man to his family of young children) "I almost climbed up Mount Everest! We can't let those girls beat us! Hurry up!"

(spoken by a German to his young son who was whining) "You see those two girls with the huge backpacks? They have problems, not YOU!"

Anyway, it was awesome. We did the climb in 4.5 hours, and even got to see a rattlesnake up close at the bottom around 6am. Finally, the first rattlesnake we saw after 4 weeks in the desert!! Such a beautiful animal.

We'd heard that it wasn't legal to hitchhike in National Parks in Arizona and that they arrested a lot of people, so we decided to stand around asking people for rides as they left the campground. That's not hitchhiking, is it? Either way, it worked and we met a great family from the Netherlands who were really fun to talk to. Hitching is so much more rewarding than taking the bus! They showed us photos and convinced us that we have to go explore a place called Antelope Canyon, so we're going to drag Ray along with us next week to check it out. =)

Monday, July 30, 2007

Arches to Zion

Hey! It looks like we've let it get to be a long time between posts - oops! Here we go...

On July 18th we went into Salt Lake City with Erica to do some sightseeing and catch the shuttle to Moab from the airport. Salt Lake City is quite... Mormon. Most people dress conservatively, many of the men wearing white dress shirts and dark pants, and it's very clean. Visiting the Mormon temples is a main attraction, as is the new shopping development built for the Olympics. Interesting to visit, but just another city. It would probably get really boring really quickly.

Moab, however, is AWESOME. It's a hippie-ish, artsy little town surrounded by red rock desert. We stayed with a really cool couchsurfer and through him got so meet some other cool people. His ex-roommate Sarah even let us borrow her car for three days! Us being us, we of course managed to get a flat tire within the first ten minutes... bringing out total to 26 bicycle tire flats and 1 car flat. Yay, us!

Having a car in Moab was a huge bonus, because the parks are pretty spread out and designed for drivers, not hikers. There would have been a lot of hot, dusty, frustrating hitchhiking going on if we hadn't had a car.

Now, how to describe the parks??? I think I'll just give a brief description and then post some pictures to do the rest of the talking.

Arches National Park, just 5 miles north of Moab, is known for it's... wait for it... arches.

Canyonlands National Park is split by the Colorado and Green River canyons so you can access it from three sides but can't cross through the middle of it. The "Island in the Sky" area is a small web-like maze of mesa standing up above all of the surrounding canyons.

The "Needles" park of Canyonlands is south of Island in the Sky and full of red hoodoos capped with white, mushroom-shaped sandstone.

Bryce Canyon is southwest of Moab and is not so much a "canyon" as it is a series of horseshoe-shaped bowls full of jagged hoodoos. The park sits up on an 8,000- to 9,000-foot mesa and you can hike from various points down through and among the hoodoos.

Zion National Park (even farther southwest) is a deep canyon carved out by the little Virgin River between incredibly high sheer cliffs of Navajo sandstone. Sorry, we don't have any pictures of Bryce or Zion uploaded yet, but when we do we'll post them here.

Ever since we left Moab we've been hitchhiking to get where to want to go. It's been working out quite well for us! It's usually pretty easy to get a ride, since there isn't any public transportation around here and quite a few people do it. Also, we've met a whole bunch of cool people along the way who've told us a lot of very interesting things about the area. One time, a nice guy named Eric actually drove 50 miles past his destination so that he could drop us off at Bryce Canyon. We managed to convince him to come into the park with us, and we had a great time hiking together and chatting. These are the kind of experiences that make hitchhiking so much more worthwhile and interesting than just taking a regular, boring old bus! =P

We've been in Zion for three nights already now, and will be heading out again tomorrow. Our plan is to hitchhike down to the Grand Canyon, then to Las Vegas where we have a place to stay right on the strip with another couchsurfer. Should be fun! We're going to take advantage of all the free/cheap stuff provided for the gamblers without gambling. Well, maybe a few nickel slots so that they'll bring us some of those Long Island iced teas =P

We're trying to figure out if we'll be able to hike down from the north rim of the Grand Canyon and then back up the south rim, rather than hitching all the way around the outside... hmm... need more info. That would be pretty cool, though.

That's it for now! Hope everybody's doing well!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Finishing Photos

Here are our obligatory "Conquering Heros" photos that we took at our final destination in Ogden, Utah.