Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year's Day

Alarm at 4:30am, to be packed, checked out and at the next-door hotel by 6am for a pick up and transfer to the airport for our 7am helicopter tour of the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, The Grand Canyon and the Las Vegas Strip.

Plenty of good photo-opportunities from the air – although a lot of them spoiled by reflections of me in the glass. Probably better to check out the pictures though… We stopped for breakfast at a ranch at the half-way point and spent a while looking up at Spirit Mountain, drinking coffee and enjoying the warmth of the wood-burning stove. The morning was clear but cold; there was ice over the streams and the horses’ water troughs and the place had a serene feel to it – albeit somewhat diluted by one of the ranch hands running a bulldozer back and forward over the yard for some reason… It may be a ‘dude ranch’ but they still have some genuine work to do.

As well as the tour stop-offs, they also do overnight trips where you come for dinner, sit round a campfire and sleep in a log cabin. It may sound cheesy, but I wouldn’t mind doing it; I enjoy camping when someone else is doing all of the chores!

Brett and I were talking later about our future holiday plans and we both agreed we enjoy the natural phenomena more than the manmade sights like Las Vegas - not that we haven’t enjoyed Vegas and we may yet return for a second trip, but it’s not refreshing especially; it’s a big city just like London except some of the attractions are different. We are thinking of doing some kind of a road-trip, like the one I did back in 2002. We made an abortive attempt at planning an itinerary down the west coast of the USA last year, but it proved too difficult to get everything into one trip, so I think there may be a few trips covering less ground being planned in the coming years.

Anyway, the helicopter trip back to the city was smooth and direct. The courtesy coach’s first stop was at our hotel, so we had enough time to take in the King Tut museum at the Luxor before heading to the airport. We are visiting the real Tutankhamen exhibition at the Dome on Friday anyway and a Las Vegas’ Casino recreation had lots of potential to be bad, but it was advertised as showing recreations of many of the major artefacts found in the tomb, as well as a reconstruction of the tomb itself that I was sure wouldn’t be part of the exhibit of the originals. In the end it was worth the $10; the descriptions of the items were sometime comical in their poor grammar, but the recreations of the thrones, chariots, necklaces, shabti and tomb furniture were impressive to see up close; particularly the golden sarcophagus. I wasn’t awed in the way I expect to be in the presence of the real thing, but now I can better imagine what Carter saw when he opened the tomb.

After the museum, we were both beginning to feel the strain; they’ve been pretty much non-stop days in Vegas, so we decided just to head to the airport, see if we could get an earlier flight and, if not, doze at the gate until we were called.

All the flights that day were already overbooked (including ours) so we had to wait for our booked slot. We had lunch and then took advantage of McCarran’s free Internet to check mail, upload blogs and so forth. We were travelling with only carry-on baggage and the can of deodorant that I’d unwittingly ‘smuggled’ through security at DFW got flagged and confiscated by security. Such is life. At least I’d thought to leave my Leatherman in Dallas!

The flight back to Dallas was no less cramped or temperate than the flight out had been and I was glad when it was over and I could uncoil from my seat. We got a fairly early night once back at the house; it had been a very long day.

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