Thursday, August 25, 2005

Day 9:
We got up at 6:30 to hike the first length of the
Bright Angel Trail – a 3 mile roundtrip hike to the
first rest stop on the Trail and back - down the wall
of the canyon.  We brought lots of water and salty
snacks, as they tell you to.  The hike down was not
tiring, but my legs started shaking after about 10
minutes.  They are not used to continuous steep
downgrades, obviously.  The path was wide but a bit
perilous with all the loose rock and dirt.  OK, not
that perilous but you constantly had to be on your
guard about slipping.  We reached the rest point after
about an hour.  The signs all say that it takes 1/3 of
your hike to get down, and 2/3 to get back up.  We
were looking at 3 hours, which is about average for
this trail.  We rested at the stop for about ½ hour,
and then started climbing back up.  I got winded
immediately, and drank lots of water.  The downward
path seemed endless, and I was afraid the up-canyon
path would be even more so. It wasn’t.  Lizzie and I
went slow for a while, not wanting to push ourselves
too much, but then I saw a marker near the top and got
a second wind, powering up the rest of the path.  It
had taken us less time to reach the top as it had to
get down.  2/3 as long, my ass.  We were dripping with
sweat, but it didn’t matter. It was 10:30 am and we
were done with our first hike.  We had time to do
another hike, a level hike to the rim through forest.
It was not a marked trail, which was all the better
because we had it pretty much to ourselves.  We walked
through about a mile of forest with gorgeous grasses
and wildflowers, til we reached the rim.  I think it
was the prettiest overlook yet.  We ate a good lunch
in the Arizona room at the Bright Angel Lodge in Grand
Canyon Village and too off for Vegas. The road out of
the Canyon (through the Kaibab National Forest again,
and again not really a forest) was pretty.  Rolling
green shrubland as far as the eye can see – parts of
it almost as flat as Kansas, with mountains framed in
the distance. Wild sunflowers and a weird plant with
the base looking like short corn and the top like
saguaro cactus lined the road.  We got on I40 headed
west, apparently towards Los Angeles.  I don’t get
that – I-40 doesn’t actually reach LA, it stops when
it hits I-15, which also doesn’t go to LA.  So why did
they put LA on the I-40 sign?  Bizarre.  Painful - gas
is $3.09 in Arizona along I-40.  Ouch.  Gas pains
aside, its on to Vegas, baby, Vegas!  We drive over
the Hoover Dam, which I previously would have been in
awe of, except for two recent developments: 1) we just
saw the grand canyon.  Nothing can beat that,
especially not something man-made; 2) recently read
Cadillac Desert, which is about water in the west.
Basically we have dammed up every single possible flow
of water and not only is this affecting the former
river environment in terms of fish species and the
like, but we are also drawing more water than the
system can handle.  The book was written in the early
80s, the problems are so much worse now. So looking at
the Hoover Dam, the engineering ‘wonder of the world’
I couldn’t help but think of the stupidity and hubris
of our country in thinking it can tame nature and not
reap the consequences.  Ah well.  Pretty Art-Deco
sculptural work, tho. Now it’s on to Vegas, baby,
Vegas!
We drive to our hotel (after sitting in traffic for a
half an hour to go 2 blocks), the Paris, check in, and
take showers. Boy, are we dirty.  Remember, we spent
the morning hiking the Grand Canyon, and then hopped
in the car. By the time we have scrubbed the filth
off, we have to run to dinner before Alexa’s flight.
We ate at the Paris buffet, which I had eaten at last
time I was in town 5 years ago.  I remembered it as an
amazing culinary experience, and hyped it up to Alexa
and Liz as such.  They wanted to go to Nobu, which is
apparently better than Nobu in NY, but I didn’t want
to eat in a restaurant in Vegas a meal I could eat in
NY. Why did I leave NY, then?  The time crunch really
decided things, tho.  So we ate at Paris. It was not
that good, certainly nothing close to my memory, and
definitely not backing up my sales effort to Lex and
Liz. Mediocre meal done, we dropped Alexa off at the
airport exactly on time. Liz and I went to the
“Fremont Street Experience,” which is the really old
historic street of Vegas that they had decided to roof
over (cause the rains in Vegas can really threaten a
place).  Lots of neon. Very cool.  Then Liz and I went
back to the hotel to take a nap so we can be refreshed
for our Vegas experience. We got up at 3am (Vegas
never sleeps, after all) and walked around the strip,
ogling at all the fake monuments. We did the
obligatory stop at New York, New York, amazed at how
un-new york it looked.  They poured that much money in
and couldn’t even get it to look right? And the
Brooklyn bridge had ads on it, damn Vegas. We did not
ride the roller coaster as it does not run all night.
The only people up and about were coming home from
clubs drunk off their ass, or gambling. And there
weren’t too many gamblers either.  I don’t believe the
hype, NY is still the city that never sleeps. I’ve
been up at 2am in NY and the streets have been
crowded.  Vegas is a sham. After touring the casinos
we decided to stop at one and gamble, like good
tourists. We went to the Barbary Coast.  Liz is a slot
machine gambler; I used to be but not after realizing
it’s a really boring and fast way to lose money. I
played Blackjack in Vancouver in a dinky local casino
and had a blast, so I was ready to try my luck at the
big leagues. I did plunk a good $20 into the slots
anyways, and lost it within 5 minutes. I thought slots
are engineered to keep you there awhile before you
lose everything? Not in my experience.  Liz had wanted
to try a table too so we went over to play some
Blackjack, choosing a nice empty table since we don’t
really know what we’re doing. The first dealer was
nice.  He, sadly, got replaced by an asshole. So we’re
playing, and the dealer asks me what hotel I’m staying
at. I reply, “the paris.”  He says, “tomorrow, stop by
a giftshop and pick up a card on how to play
blackjack.”  I was so offended.  First of all, I’m a
tourist. I know I don’t know how to play blackjack
beyond the bare basics, and I’m there to find an
enjoyable way to lose money, and am happy with any
meager winnings.  It’s the playing, not the winning
that matters to me.   Second of all, if I was really
serious about playing blackjack, I wouldn’t have sat
at a $5 table, which is the smallest minimum they
have. After I was up $20 (to compensate for what I had
lost at the slots) I withdrew. Not bad considering
that’s a 33% increase over the  $60 I began with.
After that Liz and I left. It was daybreak already.
Sweet. We went back to the hotel and crashed.

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