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. 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: 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. 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.