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Vegas Vacation

Discussion in 'Vegas Trip Reports' started by doctor_al, Apr 2, 2008.

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  1. doctor_al

    doctor_al VIP Whale

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    My Trip Report

    Part I - A family trip to the Grand Canyon, and other delights.

    My wife really wanted to see the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam, so we made plans to fly to Las Vegas, drive out via Hoover Dam to Williams AZ and take the Grand Canyon Railway. There is a slight problem in that I don't like heights (more to the point, long drops) but it dovetailed nicely with MMV.

    Started off with the Dollar rental people. The good - I did the "lock low and go" deal, and lucked out getting a minivan, which is what I wanted. The bad - every employee but one (that being the lot attendant) was a complete asshole to me. I understand the upsell at the counter for buying the tank, and selling the insurance scam, etc, but this was way beyond that. Example, re: the lock low and go thing, she literally said "you don't get a choice - you'll take what we give you." While technically accurate, if you're in, say, the Customer Service industry, you don't say it like that.

    First night we spent in Las Vegas at the Excalibur, the obvious choice for when you're in Vegas with kids. Plus my son got the obligatory steak special, a $7 NY strip at the Sherwood Forest coffee shop. We walked the corner a little bit just to peek into NYNY and MGM, especially for the lion exhibit at the latter. Also took the tram to Luxor, which of course means that we took the tram to Mandalay Bay and then back to Luxor (stupid tram design). Luxor was my son's favorite, the egyptian theme was a huge hit.

    Next morning we hit the Excalibur buffet, which I highly don't recommend. The eggs did not look like eggs, among other things. But there were pancakes and waffles so my son was happy and my wife and I found some decent things to eat. It's a 5.99 buffet they charge 11.99 for. We also hit the gift shop at Luxor and the Ex, and went down to the Excalibur arcade. We had a coupon for a flag, but you had to play a game to get it, so we played a viking boat race game, and my son got a plastic viking hat, which he wore for the next couple hours, to my dismay. We went back up to collect mom, who seemed to be having trouble cashing out. As it turned out, she'd hit some sort of bonus just before hitting "cash out" - took forever for the thing to count it out, but it was a 2 cent machine so it's not like we needed a W2G or anything.

    We headed out towards the dam, stopping along the way at a CVS for water bottles, sun block, and other necessities. The rental minivan was complaining it needed an oil change, so I checked all the fluids. Just eyeballed the tires, one seemed a little low, but I didn't follow up on that. Traffic to the Hoover Dam was backed up to Boulder City, so it took about an hour of creeping along the road to get across the dam. Didn't stop and do any tour, we were starting to run out of time to get to Williams AZ by dinner time, so we just kept going.

    The Arizona countryside on the other side of the dam was very alien to me - not the desert I was expecting, exactly. We stopped at the first available pulloff so I could take a break. Underneath the 'no loitering or selling' sign were a couple native american ladies selling necklaces made from polished stones. My wife and son wound up buying one made from a stone off of the reservation.

    [​IMG]

    After that, we found the straight and level part that runs through a plain lightly populated by some form of scrub palm tree, which happened to be "blooming" while we were there. Also saw some low cactus in bloom. It was halfway through this part that the "low tire pressure" light came on. I stopped and noticed the right front tire was indeed low. When we got to the next available gas station (Kingman) I bought a tire pressure gauge. The whole rest of the trip I spent checking the tire at almost every town we came across, and waiting for the slow leak to turn into something else, which was a stress I didn't need.

    Got into Williams, where we were spending the night at the Grand Canyon Railway hotel. Took about two hours to check in, b/c "the computers are down", but after we got in, the room was nice enough. They had a very decent buffet for dinner and breakfast that we got as part of a package deal centered around taking a train to the Grand Canyon south rim. The train ride to the canyon was IMO the best part. Not a steam train, although they do that during the summer. There were a couple wandering singers with guitars providing entertainment, the guy who came to our car was Clarence Clearwater who did a mix of Navajo songs and "pop" tunes.

    At the canyon, we immediately got on a converted city bus for a short rim tour. I don't like heights, and having the bus rock as it went along the rim was not cool, but after I got off and wandered around a bit, I acclimated somewhat. The canyon wasn't all that impressive to me. It's big, and a long way down, but I've seen more beautiful natural formations. Part of the problem is the distance, and the haze, which mutes the colors. Here's a color-enhanced pic:

    [​IMG]

    Checkin to our room at the Maswik lodge was another 2 hrs b/c the rooms weren't ready by 2pm and because "checkin isn't until 4pm". Coupled with the Dollar rental folks, the dam traffic, the leaky tire, and the previous nights checkin experience, I about pulled a Clark Griswold meltdown right there. Waiting for a table at dinner, another hour and a half or so, but by that time I had a beer. And food at the Arizona Room was better than I expected. Maybe they were just overwhelmed with the spring break crowd, but I would not stay at the park again.

    Unfortunately the food or the altitude did not sit well with my son, and he got sick overnight. So instead of taking the train back, I took a shuttle, got the van from Williams, and drove back into the park to pick up my wife and son. "Magic bus" was playing on the radio as I headed north from Williams, and the van ran like a champ from here thru the rest of the trip.

    We didn't stop when we got back to Williams but got headed back to Vegas, this time taking a left at Kingman and going through Laughlin. That was a great side trip, through Golden Valley AZ and going down and up through the valley at Bullhead City/Laughlin. 95 north to Las Vegas was pretty monotonous though.

    The second stay in Vegas was at the Flamingo. Our room had a great view looking out at Caesars. We did the bad-parent thing and left my son (who was now keeping down food, just tired) in the room watching Discovery channel while mom and dad had dinner and drinks on the Margaritaville rooftop, which was very nice.

    [​IMG]

    The next morning my wife wasn't feeling great, and my son was dead tired, so I wandered around a bit on my own, tending to the van and placing a few sports bets. We were going to meet up with Sin and Angy for lunch at Palazzo, but between those who hadn't slept yet and those who were still sleeping, it didn't work out.

    So later we got our stuff together, had a late breakfast and checked out. Tried wandering around, but my son still wasn't up for it, so I just put him in the van and we drove around a little before taking them to the airport. Stopped into the LV Hilton just to use the bathroom, but he noticed the Star Trek theme and perked up quite a bit. So him and I wandered around in there a bit while my wife napped in the van. It made a nice cap to his trip.
     
  2. doctor_al

    doctor_al VIP Whale

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    Part II - And the ATV you rode in on

    Having delivered my wife and son to the airport, I was on to the Madness. During the Grand Canyon adventure I'd studiously avoided the various MMV text messages coming in - I had my hands full as it was, and it was just a different vacation.

    I checked in at the El Cortez, chatting up the girl at the counter to no avail - I got a room on the second floor of the tower, facing a parking lot. And the shower floor was wobbly. And the smoke from the casino seemed to get sucked into my room. Although for a second floor room, it sure was quiet.

    The last four days hadn't gone smoothly, so I relaxed and took my time, played a little blackjack to "break the seal". It meant I got to Maggianos late, but I wasn't expecting to make it in the first place. Met Sticky and Angy at the door outside so I got to make a Grand Entrance with two lovely ladies, then walk down the long table shaking hands with all the folks I hadn't seen for a while like I was a Don or something. Wasn't surprised, just happy, to see my boy Ron there. Of course I then sat down and promptly spilled water down the front of my shirt and whatever cachet there was, was lost.

    Eric (Jack21) and Mike (JoeSchmoe) got us into Eric's Tower Suite at the Wynn for a casual little soiree. Very nice to catch up with people, meet some new ones (Van, Drew, among others), get a few cocktails in and enjoy the view. Played bartender for a while at Eric's well-stocked bar - the red bull/vodka's were an excellent start - before Sin took over for me. Eventually drifted down to the IP somehow where we got a private 2/4 table set up. Good fun, I took a few pots that i was happy about but eventually the drink caught up and the luck dried out and I hit the felt. Not too long after that the table shut down and I caught a ride back to downtown with Dougie and Mikey for a late night steak at the Gate and Mikenhe and Tractor Boy joined us and we capped the evening with red meat and rude jokes. As I told Ross later, you know you're in Vegas when you have a steak right before going to bed. Had to turn in a little early, because tomorrow was an early day.

    Next morning came way too fast, I was going to meet folks at the IP Teahouse for breakfast, but was liking sleep too much and got going late. Met up with everyone at the Flaming-O - I had figured a common pickup point would speed things along, but the driver stopped at the IP and at Wynn for other people anyway, which I took some sh*t about. In fact at the Wynn, the driver went in for a bathroom stop, must've taken the NY Times in with him b/c he took a good long time in there. We didn't give him too much grief about that - after all, he was gonna take us out in the desert later...

    The ATV ride was fun, but was different than I expected. For one, we never actually went into the Valley of Fire, just cruised around an ATV park full of trails. And two, this was not the tame guide-led ride I was expecting. He showed the novices the basic controls, told them a little bit about which way to lean when, and then we took off and rode IMO pretty hard for about an hour. Then we stopped for a water break and he says, "that was the sissy trail. Now we're gonna do some hills." Big hills, with what felt like 45 degree inclines. The deal was, you had to really get on the throttle to get up the hill, but once you hit the top, you better get right off of it b/c you've got a 90 degree turn to make or you're gonna make a sudden/unintentional descent down the other side - as Sin almost demonstrated.

    Oh, and before we started, he read us the riot act about no hot-dogging or bumper car stuff, you get one warning then you get to walk back, and if you fall off the machine they can't let you back on for insurance reasons. I was pretty sure somebody was gonna color outside the lines, and I had a front-runner for early-out. Sure enough, we come up to a stop and I get bumped from behind. I didn't even look back at Terry, I just shook my head. Later, on one of our first big hills, one that's more of a ramp with dropoffs on either side, suddenly Terry's right next to me. Jack*ss. Later, as we're down on the lower level he takes the shot again and zips past. Unfortunately, he only makes 1.5 of the next 2 turns. We've got full face helmets on so he can't hear me yell "how'd that work out for ya?" as I zip by, but I think he knew anyway.

    At the break the instructors had told us, fast up the hills, slow down, so to keep T in his place I was wide open going up the hills. But it was too easy to get bunched up, and it was bad to be too close going up or down - as we found out. Most of the hill trails were farily hardpacked/gravelly, but we went up a very sandy one, Marty, then me, then Terry. Marty, the ATV vet of the group, made sure he had plenty of space in front of him, and I thought I had as well, but for some reason Marty stalled out near the top of the hill. I'm going wide open right at his backside and needed to make a quick decision. Unfortunately I hesitated a bit before choosing the get-off-the-trail go-around option and I lose most of my momentum, but I'm still moving a little, so I keep on the throttle. But then the guides are coming back and waving and yelling, and I'm just dug in up to the axle. What I don't know is that I got around Marty just enough that he's right behind me when I'm kicking up this giant roostertail of sand. Also, Terry had also failed to get around, so everybody sits and watches us three sh*theads get helped out of the holes we dug ourselves into, and then have to back slowly down the trail (not easy) to the bottom.

    Later I pull another genius move. As I said, to this point we've been going like hell up the hill, then let off the gas and do a hard right or left turn at the crest (which you can't see until you're on it). I lost track of Van (who was now in front of me) after he crested the hill and for once, we were supposed go straight and down off the other side, but I'd already turned toward the only bike I saw, which was the guide waving people to go on over. Terry was right on my tail and followed me down dumbass lane, where we had to wait while the rest of the group continued over as planned. As I said, there was no conversing, so I just gave him (what he called) the Javon Walker helmet slap, "that was on me".

    Anyway, in summary - it was great fun. Sand in everything, as advertised. But they did *not* take it easy on the rookies, I don't think. It was certainly more challenging than anything we did at PAM. But the rookies held up admirably.

    Anyway, on the way back they offered to take us thru Valley of Fire, we declined. They offered to stop so we could pick up beer, again we declined. Eric needed to get back for his aromatherapy and most everybody just wanted to get cleaned up ASAP. Plus, we were pretty tired, as a picture below attests...

    Got cleaned up and made my way back down to the IP for the suite party. Got there early and made myself a sapphire martini in a fluorescent blue plastic martini glass. Eventually folks trickled in and we got our party on. Got to talk to a bunch of folks, smoke a cigar, look around and find T on the floor, just all kinds of fun goin on. Very glad that a bunch of new folks stopped by - AhCraps (who might need an intervention on the dice thing, just sayin...), Flagger and Mrs Flagger, Mikenhe and Tractor Boy, Aggie, BillGates, Sandra and her friend, I'm sure I'm missing some.

    After the second visit from security, it seemed prudent that we all vacate the suite, so we went downstairs. Got off the elevator and ran into Angy's usual partner in crime Cindy, there with her new hub. I could see where this was going - Carnaval Court. But I just wasn't into that scene. Sin appeared to be literally dead on her feet, so I volunteered to walk her back to the suite - no small task. Mikey and Dougie showed up at the suite about the same time, so we left Sin in capable hands and headed back downtown. An early night perhaps, but the ATVing made it a long day.

    Saturday was the morning before the poker tourney, and it was traditional to go down to Peppermill. It didn't disappoint - a big bloody mary and eggs benedict, breakfast of champions. Breakfast of professionals apparently too, judging by the ladies at the corner table. Then down to the Flaming-o and on to the tourney.

    In typical Harrahs fashion, we all had to show players cards just to register for the tourney. But the lady working the tourney for us was friendly and helpful. My tourney story consisted of a couple of big hands where I couldn't draw to my outside straight. I did catch trips once and extract some chips from Sticky and Ron, but that just meant I could sit and fold longer than Mikey (by two minutes or so) and the rest of the usual suspects as I went completely card dead. No love from the losers lounge table for me either, so I was pretty done with poker by the end. Props to Becky and Scott though for excellent showings.

    Headed back downtown again after that. Stopped by a craps table at LVC with Mikey. Watched Mikey set the dice and thought, haven't set the dice in a while, what the heck. Set a "flying V" and hit a bunch of fives and nines; even the sevens were all front line winners, so it was a good roll for a change. Didn't press it b/c I haven't had a roll like that in a long time and didn't want to jinx it. But I doubled my meager buy in, cashed out and walked away up and happy. DonD showed up while we were rolling, and we went up to his room to have a drink and chat a bit. Later he took me on the grand tour of the Plaza - as he's pointed out elsewhere, they've been busy there, and there are some significant improvements. And Don introduced me to some of "his people" there, met Tim the bartender, and Don and another bartender (Steven?) swapped stories for a while. When you know the people and they know you, that's the best part.

    Unfortunately I had to cut that a little short and hoof it over to Binions for dinner at the steakhouse atop the old Mint tower. I love this part - dinner out with the boys - every year it's an outstanding steak, and laughing until your sides hurt. It was a small crew this year, just Dougie, Mikey, Drew and myself, but still an outstanding time and some great stories. Followed that up with a little gambling at the Queens (where I gave back my craps winnings and then some) and a stogie at the Chicago Brewing Company, but that was about it for me that evening and I headed back to tower room 208.

    Sunday was a pretty quiet day. Had to check out of the Schlitz so I could move up to the Glitz, this time going to Caesars for a night. Did a little shopping downtown before heading down Frank Sinatra Drive and Caesars' mammoth parking structure. My plan was that I was trying to get a Roman tower room overlooking the fountains, or where the fountains and the driveway used to be. All the young receptionist heard was "view" and saw me getting out my wallet and she insisted I didn't want to stay in that old tower, she'd put me in a nice room instead since it was only one night. And so I wound up on the 43rd floor of the Augustus tower, overlooking the Bellagio fountains. I could hardly refuse, and I tipped her for the effort anyway. And it was a nice room, similar to the Wynn resort rooms, but between the two I think I'd still prefer the Wynn.

    Headed off in the afternoon for Ken2v's afternoon gig at Isla, running into more of the usual suspects (Sin, Angy, Sticky, Snert et al) at California Pizza Kitchen along the way. I like Isla - the food is interesting and unexpected, and the margs and mojitos are well made with quality stuff. Did get to finally meet Ken and his lovely wife, also met a few of the good folk from the LVA board. Mike (JoeSchmoe) showed up, and then Becky and John (Coasters). We did wind up grabbing our own corner of the lounge area which was a little anti-social, but Isla doesn't accomodate big groups well on the bar side. We did get to chat with Ken a bit, and Howzie stopped by and introduced himself as well, which was cool. We drank the place out of mojitos - which sounds epic except it was only one each between me and Mike. Becky, of course, had hit quads or something (again) that morning and graciously picked up the tab, which was appreciated.

    After that wound down I headed off with Mike to the Wynn where he gave me the guided tour. The guy does know an alarming amount of Wynn trivia... just kidding Mike, it was cool, we even drifted thru the high limit slot room (from the Tower suites side), where there was a $10,000 slot machine. It was unoccupied, John Daly must've been in the can or something.

    Had dinner that evening at Palazzo's Grand Luxe - the usual good stuff, this time the rustic lasagna. Didn't see the dining room but the bar was pretty impressive. Also finally caught up to Larry and his friends from St Cloud who were beating up on some nautical-themed penny slots at the Flaming-O. Got to shoot the sh*t with Larry for a while, but my guts, which were a little unhappy before about the steady diet of steak, eggs, fried potatoes and booze were now threating open rebellion and I had to cut it short and get up to the room.

    Thought about the Cafe Lago buffet for breakfast the next morning but the line was huge, so I opted for the cafe by checkin instead. Good food and service, not great, and a little over priced, but that's the strip. Thought about playing the ponies to while away the time before going to the airport, but didn't really feel the love so instead I moved the van down to TI and fed Mr Wynn's coffers for a while. Have to say, I don't really like the slot mix there. Too many dollar/five dollar machines, several of the quarter machines are max coin = 5, and the penny/nickel slots are huge - "play 75 coins" on a nickel, and "play 40 lines/20 coins" on a penny. Yes, Ross, I have turned into a bit of a slot ho these days, this trip it was quarter wheel of fortune. And as much as we don't chase comps here, I did want to run a few points into wynn just to see what happens in december.

    But my slot run was interrupted by Sin, with news that they (they = Scott, I found out later) had secured a cabana at Mirage and I was to come on over. I wasn't exactly dressed for the part, and my stuff was in the back of the van at TI, but I'm hardly going to turn that down. The pics have been posted elsewhere, it was another one of those Ferris Bueller things - "if you have the means, i highly recommend it". There were three cabanas together but nobody was using the other two, so it was very nice and secluded, and a great way to end the trip. And they made me drink one of those giant pina colada/strawberry daquiri things, I wasn't going to but they made me.

    And that's about it. One last bit - as soon as I stepped off the plane in Minneapolis, I got snowed on. Not having worn a long sleeve shirt for days, I didn't find that the least bit amusing.

    It was great to see all of you again, and to meet all of those I hadn't met before. As always, I didn't get to spend time with everyone I wanted to spend time with, but there were a *lot* of great moments, and I'm thankful for them all.
     
  3. doctor_al

    doctor_al VIP Whale

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    Photographic evidence

    ATV ride

    Group pic, except Marty. Where's Marty?
    [​IMG]

    Wait - there he is.
    [​IMG]

    Break time:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Promo shot:
    [​IMG]

    Lunch time:
    [​IMG]

    ... and Nap time:
    [​IMG]


    Suite Party

    Couple party pics:
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    The remains of the day:
    [​IMG]

    Other Stuff

    Sir, your car is this way:
    [​IMG]

    Gratuitous cabana pic:
    [​IMG]
     
  4. SH0CK

    SH0CK Stylin' and Profilin' Quasi Tech Admin

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    Another great trip under our belts Al.

    Start making plans for the Summer dude... Those mud puddles aren't going to splash themselves ya know ;)
     
  5. angel81chick

    angel81chick Abuelita

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    Awesome TR Al...it was great to finally meet you, esp. us being science nerds and all ;)
     
  6. MikeE

    MikeE The Shah's Slightly Hairy Cousin

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    Hilarious Al. The John Daly comment--classic. NY Times and the crapper...:kill:
     
  7. sin

    sin VIP Whale

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    Great report Al! I had such a blast with you this weekend and I really have forgiven you for making me go to bed Friday night! The ATV ride was an all out blast and I'm happy that I went. THANK YOU!
     
  8. HurricaneMikey

    HurricaneMikey A-List Buffoon

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    Nice report Doc. Thanks for takin' the time to write it up. It was great to hang out with you and run some smack at T there at the poker table, too.

    BTW, I find the shirt that Marty was wearing at the ATV ride especially fetching... :thumbsup:

    Mikey
     
  9. HoyaHeel

    HoyaHeel Grammar Police & Admin

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    Great report! Too bad the family got sick--hope it was just a quickly ending "travel" bug and they perked up again! I'm impressed you were able to combine a family trip and a MM trip--paving the way for degenerate parents all over this board:thumbsup:
     
  10. sunni

    sunni VIP Whale

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    tr

    Way to go Doc. Nicely done, combining family & friends :thumbsup:
     
  11. mikenhe

    mikenhe VIP Whale

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    Excellent stuff Al - lot of fun meeting you for the late night steak!
     
  12. chef

    chef Resident Buffetologist

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    My question to you: How do you manage to get rid of family so you can enjoy MMV all to yourself?
     
  13. sanonofresurfer

    sanonofresurfer Dude

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    Al> Thanks for taking the time to hang out at the Flaming-O. It was good to get a chance to chill out and catch up with you a little bit.

    Looks like I missed a good time ATV'ing....
     
  14. doctor_al

    doctor_al VIP Whale

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    chef, it starts with getting lucky in the wife-selection part of the process. Fortunately Deb appreciates that this is my let-off-steam time.

    Scott, Marty, definitely looking forward to dirtin' this summer. Gotta do some research to see if I can/should bring the two wheeler. May need to street-legal it first.

    Also, forgot to thank DonD for the "card marker" I used during the tourney - you're right, Ron's was pretty cool too, but I was more than happy with mine.
     
  15. OnTheHorizon

    OnTheHorizon Low-Roller

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    Excellent report Doc -- sounds you guys had a blast during MM!
     
  16. IllMarty

    IllMarty Orangutan

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    Nice TR Al. Sorry I missed the group picture but I had to PISS so freakin bad. Thanks for all the heavy lifting setting up the ride. Always a great time when we get together.

    PaMII will be here before you know it.

    Marty
     
  17. SnertAlert

    SnertAlert Toast Smuggler

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    Outstanding report Al. I regret not going on the 4 wheeler ride...that looked like a good time.
     
  18. VegasGirl80

    VegasGirl80 Tourist

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    I have been watching a Soprano's marathon this week making it easy to imagine this scene. Funny stuff.

    We have done the Excalibur dungeon, I mean arcade, many times in the past with our son. No matter how I dreaded it, it was always worth it seeing the sheer excitement on his face. Besides, the gambling Gods are always watching our every move- kinda like Santa Claus.:wink

    Great report.
     
  19. chef

    chef Resident Buffetologist

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    It's good to here someone say exactly what they think of the Grand Canyon view. I've felt that way for a number of years. The view is so expansive and a bit hazy that it not quite as good as what everybody makes it to be.
    The Grand Canyon is better appreciated going to the bottom.
    I also agree about the train trip from Williams. When I did it 10-15 years ago, it was somewhat entertaining.
    Never made it back to the canyon since then. It's too crowded, overpriced, etc.
    Southern Utah has neater, less touristy canyoneering options anyway.
     
  20. gmoney590

    gmoney590 VIP Whale

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    Al, very nicely done. You combined a family vacation and MMV :nworthy: From the looks of the pictures and your tr you had a blast. One of these years I'm going to have to make it out there for MM.
     
    Back where we belong
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