PREPARING FOR THE CIRCUIT (The Grand Circle Part 1)

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the seriesThe Grand Circle

 By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers

Our next big adventure began when we picked up Monique’s brother, Philippe, and sister-in-law, Solveig, in Las Vegas and drove them back to our trailer parked in the Nellis Air Force Base RV park*.

Our first excursion with our French relations had been three years earlier, when we toured from Salt Lake City through the Sawtooth Mountains, into Yellowstone, over to a working cattle ranch in Oregon and down into the some of the world’s most beautiful spots in northern California.  Four of us living for four weeks in a 28-foot travel trailer.  Two words describe that 3,500-mile jaunt:  “SPECTACULAR” and “FUN.”

An unposed photo of Monique pouring over maps to choose our route

An unposed photo of Monique pouring over maps to choose our route

In preparation, we expected the same enjoyable experience over the five weeks as we motor around “The Grand Circle,” which takes in more of the world’s most inspiring spots, these in southern Utah and Colorado, through the Four Corners and into Arizona.  Monique poured over maps, travel books and Internet downloads for three months putting together a route to expose our guests to hundreds of miles of natural beauty, several Native American cultural events and a few surprises.

I’ll now revert to the “en route mode,” meaning that this series opens with the day-to-day blogs written before, during and after the journey. As on our Canada and Alaska trip last summer, how often were able to post depended on time and technology.

Time – Several days will fly by as we hitch up and drive for long hours, stopping along the way to enjoy many of the wonders surrounding us.  On travel days, we will end the day by parking, eating and, if time allows, taking a look at local sights.

Technology – Whenever I have cellphone service through AT&T, I can tether to my new MacBook Pro (I’m not getting product placement money for this) to connect to the Internet.  Last time we were in Zion, Bryce Canyon, Mesa Verde and other national parks, there was no cell service – and we prefer it that way, since it’s our opinion that these natural wonders should be soaked up free of electronic waves.  (That’s a mantra I keep repeating to myself when I’m not able to get online.)

Now a quick note about Philippe and Solveig.  Philippe retired as a three-star general in the French Army, with a distinguished career that exposed him to several memorable challenges.  Most important to us:  he has a wonderful sense of humor, which he honed while playing practical jokes on his troops.

One thing you’ll find reassuring is that he is a great fan of America and its way of life.  He once described to me the attitude of Europeans towards America as similar to a parent who disapproves of his child’s behavior, even though he is jealous of the child.

His wife of 40 years, Solveig, has been an important part of his life and career, being the perfect hostess and advisor to the newly commissioned officers serving under her husband.  We’ll never forget how surprised she was at the way we talked to people we met in RV parks, on hiking trails and in restaurants on our last trip – they never do that in Europe!

Solveig Gets Guidance from a German Hiker in Yosemite

Solveig Gets Guidance from a German Hiker in Yosemite

On our earlier trip, by the time we hit a trail in Yosemite National Park, we were delighted that she was the one starting conversations with hikers, particularly those who spoke French and German.  Incidentally, we all speak English (I don’t speak French).

Monique’s plans take us to many of the most beautiful places on Earth.  But it hurts her every time she had to bypass places that were too remote to visit in just five weeks on the road.  What we will see will still make this a never-to-be-forgotten journey for the four of us, and hopefully for you, too.

In an unsigned Comment to our San Diego blog, a reader wrote, “You see colorful people…Go have Breakfast or Lunch @ the Big Kitchen in Golden Hill Area located @ 30th and Grape.  Little be it known that Whoopi Goldberg worked there.” We consider that the type of interesting input from readers that we all learn from.  If you have experiences about places we missed while on our route, we’d all love to read about your favorite memories in the Comments section.

This Is Home for 4 Over the Next 5 Weeks

This Is Home for 4 Over the Next 5 Weeks

This week is hectic as we prepare to move everything we’ll need from our cabin into the trailer and recheck the tires, batteries, etc.  IT’S EXCITING!

From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

First published on AmeriGOrv.com

* In reference to Nellis Air Force Base, in a future blog I will write about military campgrounds.

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

 

 

TAKING THE BACK ROAD TO LAS VEGAS (The Grand Circle Part 2)

By Barry Zander, edited by Monique Zander*, the Never-Bored RVers

The Grand Circle – one of the most interesting and dramatic circuits in America – and we were heading there for a second tour, only this time with a different perspective, through foreigners’ eyes. But before we set our GPS for this spectacular route, we encountered an adventure worth relating.

The Back Road to Las Vegas  © All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

The Back Road to Las Vegas  © All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

In my formative days in my hometown of New Orleans I didn’t have any concept of the grandeur of the Golden West, and, therefore, I didn’t care about what new vistas it held.  I traveled extensively around the Eastern U.S. by car, but when I had business on the West Coast, it was by air.

Well, Easterners, I’ll assure you, if you don’t point your RV westward at least once in your life, you’ll miss out on America at its grandest. What we saw on Day One of our journey was desert … expanses that flowed for miles left and right until abruptly careening against mountains crowned by jagged peaks and ridges.

As we drove onward, we were surrounded by desolate patches of land where few stalwart souls eke out existences, catering to the tourist trade or living off the unforgiving land. For more than five hours, we were never bored.

Our always-mischievous GPS was there to route us from Point A to Point B.  Instead, we turned to Google this time, where, as an exercise, I asked it how to get from our cabin in Southern California to Las Vegas.  It offered three routes, including one Camille (our GPS) would have never condoned. It was a scenic one on straight, narrow roads across the ever-changing desert.  Being adventurers, we allowed Google to map that route, and now we highly recommend it for a different view of the California desert.

We departed mountain cedars and detoured through Joshua Tree National Park on our way to our day’s destination, Las Vegas. I can’t talk about Joshua Tree without mentioning the way the cacti and succulents changed mile after mile. Why did the roadrunner cross the road? Why did the tumbleweeds cross the road? Why did the Cisco Kid and Poncho cross the road (I actually don’t remember seeing them on this trip.)?

The route took us onto Historic Route 66 for a few miles until we turned onto remote

Cholla Cactus

Cholla Cactus

Kelbaker Road, which is reminiscent the of wavy frost heaves on the way to Alaska.  We entered the Mojave National Preserve, where we saw a flashing yellow light advising us of tortoise crossings (desert tortoises are an endangered species).  For the entire stretch we never saw another RV (or tortoise), except at the Kelso Depot, a fancy train station in the middle of nowhere.  We noticed two dozen tourists getting what was probably an interesting guided history lesson about the gold and other precious mineral mining days in the Mojave’s past. Next time through we will stop for the history lesson.

Man vs. Environment: Environment Won This Time

Man vs. Environment: Environment Won This Time

Since we weren’t in a rush and can drive 250 miles on a tank of gas, this made the journey more important than our Las Vegas destination.   And even though we’re always amazed … no, make that “stunned” … at the new casinos and changes on The Strip, that day’s thrill was behind us when we arrived in the glitz after miles of sand, spiny vegetation, and blissful solitude.

Monique Spotted a Coyote Hunting for Prey

Monique Spotted a Coyote Hunting for Prey

The desert was almost lush:  green, healthy, gorgeous.  The cacti and succulents of the high desert were the healthiest we can remember.  The yellow and white wildflowers added to the spectacle.  Simply a path through desolation? Not even close. Had our trip ended there, we would have felt satiated, but it was just the beginning. The next day we were due at Las Vegas International Airport to pick up Monique’s brother and sister-in-law, who were arriving on a non-stop flight from Paris, France, to Las Vegas, Nevada – from the internationally renown City of Lights to the American City of Light.

The excitement builds!

Serrated Peaks and Ridges Change Tones as the Sun Sets

Serrated Peaks and Ridges Change Tones as the Sun Sets

From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

This article was first published on AmeriGOrv.com.

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

IN ZION (& LAS VEGAS MEMORIES) (Grand Circle Part 3)

By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers

We’re on the first stop of our Grand Circle Tour after three days in Las Vegas … four of us living comfortably in a 28-foot travel trailer!  We – Monique, her brother Philippe and his wife Solveig and I — are in Zion National Park, Utah, one of America’s most popular national treasures.  We hiked to the highest of the three Emerald Pools Thursday morning, returning to the Visitors Center and our truck just as the rains came.

Lots to tell you, but let’s start in the Watchman Campground, where we are fortunate to have electric hook-ups, but no water or sewer at the site.  A teardrop trailer was next to us, but moved over two spots this morning to make way for a pop-up.  There’s a Casita from Louisiana across from us, two mini-tents next to them and a canvas tent on a utility trailer behind us.

So if you’re thinking we’re crowded in our RV, I want to let you know we feel fortunate to have room to move around while the rains and chilly temperatures pretty much confine campers to their quarters.  Incidentally, we’ll be moving a lot over the next five weeks, so we didn’t take our satellite dish with us.

 

Along the Virgin River Hiking Toward the Narrows

Along the Virgin River Hiking Toward the Narrows

“Hiyadoin’?” Philippe, who speaks English very well  [and continues to work to improve his vocabulary and pronunciation — all part of the fun of the trip] was returning from a trash run Thursday morning when confronted by a fellow RVers who asked him that – “Hiyadoin’?”.  “Huh?”  The friendly neighbor asked him where he’s from, and then both went on their merry ways.  Philippe later told me that, as mentioned in the preview blog, people don’t get into casual conversations with strangers in Europe like they do here.  He explained that there is still a class order on the Continent, where people are reluctant to talk with others of a lower class, so they don’t bother chatting with strangers.  He appreciates American friendliness.

There was lots of casual conversation along the vertical trail this morning, where we encountered hikers from France, Germany, Texas, Iran, Scandinavia, Minnesota, and even some local Utahans.  While veteran hikers Monique and I relish the opportunity to get out in the wilds alone where we meet no one or few, we also enjoy the fun of watching our guests interact with others on the trail.

It’s my opinion that most freedom-loving Americans feel fenced in by over-regulation and excessive “Don’t” rules by park management.  Why do the park rangers do that?  Because there is so much abuse of natural wonders.  We hate it, but it’s the way it is.

 

Zion Waterfall Splashes on Boulders

Zion Waterfall Splashes on Boulders

One rule that many folks abhor is being told they can’t drive into a park’s most beautiful areas.  In Zion, you can only access the trails along the Virgin River Canyon by

The Bus Is Not Only Convenient, It's Fun ... and a Welcome Refuge During the Rain

The Bus Is Not Only Convenient, It’s Fun … and a Welcome Refuge During the Rain

walking miles or taking the shuttle bus.  The bus works.  In peak season, on shuttle passes each of the trailheads and facilities every seven minutes.  You can get on and off at will, all without an additional fee (other than what’s required at the park entrance).  The round trip takes about 80 minutes, but along the way are numerous sightseeing opportunities for all levels of ability, from Angel Landing to the paved trails accessible for the handicapped and in good use while we visited before the rains came.  At the end of the route is the Narrows, where adventurers are reminded to be aware of flash floods carrying logs and boulders down the river.  On Day 2 in Zion, we hiked to the Narrows, getting soaked by unpredicted rain showers twice along the way.

Picnic View at an Overlook on the Way from Vegas to Zion

Picnic View at an Overlook on the Way from Vegas to Zion

PREVIOUS DAYS IN LAS VEGAS

What Europeans (and many Americans) can’t envision, according to Philippe, is the vastness of our parks … and the lobby of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas (where they stayed for one night while we were in the Nevada city that never sleeps).  Their visit to “the Red Rock Sign6069States” began with a tour of magnificent Red Rock Canyon outside of Las Vegas, followed by a tiring daylong walk on The Strip.  They appreciated all the glitz and glamour; the immensity of the casinos and hotels; the brightness of the night; the dancing fountains, battling pirate ships and volcanoes – but, now it’s “been-there, done that” and not a place they expect to see again.

 

At left, the Volcano Erupts at the Mirage Hotel & Casino ... on right, the Magnificent Red Rocks

At left, the Volcano Erupts at the Mirage Hotel & Casino … on right, the Magnificent Red Rocks

Next stop:  Arrived Bryce Canyon this Saturday.

BLOGGERS NOTE:  Intermittent phone service but no Internet on my computer in Zion.  We’re now about to enter Bryce Canyon for four days (with internet doubtful).

On a Hotel Tram Along the Strip

On a Hotel Tram Along the Strip

From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

We Caught Up with the Rain in about 50 Miles

We Caught Up with the Rain in about 50 Miles

The Cannons Hit Their Mark and the Pirate Ship Goes Down at Treasure Island

The Cannons Hit Their Mark and the Pirate Ship Goes Down at Treasure Island

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

This Article appeared on AmeriGOrv.com

SCENIC BRYCE CANYON — THE GRAND CIRCLE PART 4

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the seriesThe Grand Circle

By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers

Continuing on the Grand Circle Tour, we head to the magnificent vistas of Bryce Canyon.

Welcome to Bryce

Welcome to Bryce

There, the most common word heard at the overlooks of the towering “hoo-doos” is “breathtaking.” It is definitely breathtaking, and more … beyond words.

Bryce provides one of the most interesting viewing opportunities of any place in America. It is not really a “canyon,” but many giant natural amphitheaters carved by erosion from the Paunsaugunt Plateau. From the rim, one can see forever, since the canyon has been chiseled out of a huge red-stone mesa.

The Amphitheater of Hoodoos and Monoliths

The Amphitheater of Hoodoos and Monoliths

The predominant feature of this park are the “Hoodoos,” odd-shaped pillars of rock formed by erosion, varying from red to pale colorings, each one topped by a capstone and worth focusing upon for its unique characteristics. They tower up to 10 stories tall.

Hikers on the Navajo Loop climb back toward the rim

Hikers on the Navajo Loop climb back toward the rim

The rim road, a 38-mile round trip, offers 13 viewpoints, but to experience the true splendor of Bryce, one must hike the three-mile Navajo Loop and Queens Garden Trail, which take visitors down to the floor, where they can look skyward at the jagged monoliths. There are surprises around every bend on this relatively easy hike.

A word of caution, however: the canyon floor can be quite hot in the

A favorite landmark along the Queens Garden Trail

A favorite landmark along the Queens Garden Trail

summer. Hiking early a.m. or in the evening offers the most enjoyable walk. At the other extreme of hiking, there is Peek-a-Boo Loop, 5.5 miles long, which winds through the heart of the canyon’s amphitheater and along the Wall of Windows.

Get up early to see the sunrise at Sunset Point (the

Sunrise Point – the best place to be at sunset

Sunrise Point – the best place to be at sunset

eastern-rising sun casts constantly changing patterns on the opposite walls) and return to Inspiration Point as it sets to take in the play of shadows.

There is so much to do at Bryce besides driving and day hikes. There’s a moonlit-guided hike, stargazing with a ranger, joining an astronomy program, horseback riding or participating in the Geofest (which took place on July 25 and 26 in 2014).

Hoodoos provide unforgettable sights in Bryce Canyon

Hoodoos provide unforgettable sights in Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon is much higher than Zion at 8,000 to 9,000 feet, so spring can be quite chilly. There are two campgrounds in the park: North and Sunset, which provide a woody environment among stately ponderosa pines. [http://www.nps.gov/brca/planyourvisit/campgrounds.htm]

A sense of grandeur fills the Bryce Canyon visitor

A sense of grandeur fills the Bryce Canyon visitor

Our French relatives told us that Bryce is considered a “must-see” by Europeans. For the record, of the 46 National Parks we have visited so far, Bryce Canyon ranks among the top for it uniqueness, activity and mainly for its majesty.

Barry, Solveig, Philippe and Monique on a hike.  The high altitude at the rim brings a chill even at springtime.

Barry, Solveig, Philippe and Monique on a hike. The high altitude at the rim brings a chill even at springtime.

From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

Note:  First Appeared on AmeriGOrv.com website