day 5: Utah to Vegas

Our road trips remind us daily how small the world really is. We shared hotel breakfast with families from Scotland and China, and 40 miles later, in an ancient volcanic caldera, we met a family who lives ten minutes from our house.

The Maryvale volcanic field is one of the largest volcanic fields in the United States. While cruising through the basin, you can see the million year old lava floes, rock formations and sulphuric ash. Despite this little warning:

even I couldn't wait to do some white water rafting right through the center of a giant volcano. Our outfitters for the day were the Always Rafting company. The owner, Don was our guide for the 90 minute trip down the Sevier River ("pronounced - severe - not sev-yay - nothing good ever came out of France but fries and wine") and he was fantastic. If you don't mind a little religion sprinkled into your whitewater, you should be just fine. Instead of " three thousand years ago" he says, "the time of Noah's flood". He points out hills that look like Mt. Sanai and he gave Rico a quick schooling in ancient Hebrew before we took off. He also points out ancient lava formations that look like Snoopy, sleeping dragons, gargoyles, giant turtles and Mick Jagger. He shows you the difference between how Barbie and Ken paddle and how a real human paddles. He knows just how to command the boat to make sure the most deserving people get soaked, and the most timid don't.

Even so, Yoda was still not a fan of the rapids. She did like the rest - especially when both Rico and Kooka jumped overboard in the swimming hole and had to be pulled back in the boat. Punk and I thought of the sign we'd seen earlier, and last year's trip to a "perfectly safe" swimming hole in New York, and remained in the boat.

It was an absolutely perfect trip for us, but sadly there are no pictures. Trying to film and take photos while paddling to keep your boat upright in class three rapids is tough. Don did take a few and said he'd forward them. I can't wait to see them. We think we look like an adventurous family ready to brave the raging waters of the Utah canyon lands. I'm sure what we actually look like, are the marshmallow man from Ghostbusters, waffling around in our oversized life jackets. The only picture we have is this one - everyone drenched, everyone freezing, and one of us furious.

Personally, I could've stayed in dinosaur country another day or two, but since it is also rattlesnake territory (reference photo above to jog your memory), I was looking forward to strolling along a well-lit concrete path, so after some gas station tamales (which were much better than they sound), we motored on towards Las Vegas.

There are some things about traveling that make me incredibly grateful for where I live. One of them is not having to listen other travelers tell "jokes" about how people at "the gay bars" would paddle a boat. (This elicited a "shut up" and eye roll from me, and a good old fashioned, "What the hell?!" from Punk). Another thing I am grateful for is people who take genuine pride in their land, and keep in clean. Cue footage from Nevada, where along stretches of barren highway, you will find plastic bags, soda cans, tires, boxes, shoes, the occasional toilet seat, and possibly a body - not kidding, we called 911 about the last one. It's amazing actually, there are no houses, no gas stations, nothing for miles, but the instant you cross over the Arizona/Nevada border you know it. I don't know what kind of person pulls over on the side of the road in the middle of the desert, walks 20 yards into a cactus field, a drops a dirty toilet seat and a pair of shoes, and gets back into the car - but I have a hunch we may find out in Vegas.

This is our third trip to Sin City - and even Yoda found something to be disgusted by:

I was slightly disgusted by our hotel. We'd stayed at the Luxor before ($40 on Priceline - by far the nicest hotel we' ve stayed in, and the cheapest.) The kids love the Egyptian theme, the completely disorienting sideways elevators, and the pool. All are cool and worth $40, but now they've started charging extra to use certain amenities such as the "private pool" and hottub. So we're waking over to the pool we loved last time, and are stopped by a bouncer who's guarding the three people who are waist deep in a pool the size of a football field. He says, "Can I help you? This pool is private."
"For whom?" we ask.
He proceeds to tell us that for $10 we too can enjoy the luxury of the themed pool surrounded by stone pillars, Egyptian goddesses, and six lifeguards chaperoning the two preschoolers and lone Kardashian wannabe. The bouncer presents his hand as if allowing us to enter the pearly gates. This is the fricking LUXOR for God's sake! It's not like ten dollars is going to have us drinking Mai-Tais and playing water polo with Leonardo DeCaprio and Will Smith. Crap, even David Spade had the good sense to move across the street to the Venetian.

Needless to say, we declined, and spent a luxurious two hours in the plebian pool, which was just as lovely, but without the pointy-eared mummy dogs spitting water in graceful arcs over Khloe Kardashian's head.

Some of us like this place a little more than we think we should. Punk and I, who are the most ADD of the group, finally narrowed it down to this: our eyes never get bored. The lights are always moving, there is always something happening.

Even though the place is sort of gross, it's like crack for our eyes - we need an intervention to stop looking at the multitude of flashing lights, street performers, tacky billboards, and costumed characters taking a smoke break or cursing out foreign tourists (Says Batman to an old Italian lady, "No, no picture for you. Tip. . . Mon-ey . . .Dollllllllars." When she gives him the hand under the chin and mutters at him in Itallian, Batman puts his angry bat face right in hers and says, "You want nice? Go to Disneyland. It's that way," he says elbowing his wing to the left.

We had dinner at Bucca, and then headed to Fremont Street to watch the spray paint artists, the street artists and the giant light-up ceiling. 

Despite three bands playing at top volume, and the fact that it was still 104 degrees at 11:30 pm, Yoda fell asleep and we headed back to our hotel for the night. Tomorrow is California - we can't wait!