Wednesday, September 10, 2014

I have enjoyed Terra Firma for over a week now. I have thought about what my last entry for this blog should contain. Well, i figure numbers!
We started our trip in Tampa, Florida, 26'56"N,82'26"W. Yes, you see the wrong designators for degrees and minutes but i don't know how to add a degree superscript. So get over it!
521 nautical miles later we arrived in Grand Caymen. 19'22"N, 81'30"W. Pretty much due south. Thence, 644 miles to Cartegena, Colombia, 10'24"N,75'31"W. You would think we would have lost at least one time zone but if memory serves we added two and set our clocks for mountain time! Whiz, bang, to the Panama Canal just 270 miles, (9'15"N,79'55"W), add 39 to traverse the canal zone, add another 320 miles and you arrive in Puntarenas, Costa Rica, 9'42"N,84'46"W. We made it just west of the longitude of Tampa and our clocks still read mountain time. Now the long haul, 1637 miles to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, 22'53"N, 109'53"W.  Still on mountain time but will change once we set off for Los Angeles, which lies 786 miles north at 33'45"N, 118'11"W. The vast majority of the trip had an indicated speed of 20knots. I say indicated since i watched a live map of our progress during the entire trip. Pictures of this feed
We traveled a total 4217 nautical miles from Tampa to Los Angeles which Google tells me measures some 2100 statute miles apart East-West. I will leave the conversion to you but nautical is longer than statute. Without the canal we would add  twice the distance of the entire South American continent and much more than 13 days.
Once we arrived in Las Vegas, from LA, we rented a car and drove. I don't have mileage on the drive but our gas mileage measured 41 mpg! We used about 14 gallons.
While i can compute the cost of the entire trip it doesn't matter.  You can't put a price on the experience.
Lastly, i gained 8 pounds!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Lauglin, Nevada.
To drive from Lake Havasu to Laughlin, NV you must drive through California. Just a short jaunt in and out but you get stopped by inspectors that check you car for something. Not quite sure what, I never asked, but when we drove up in our rental we got waved right through as did all the cars i saw at the checkpoint.
Then on to Laughlin with our outside temp gauge reading 100f, 111f, and finally 113f. Our air-conditioning worked overtime.
Laughlin stands across river from Bullhead, Arizona. The river in question, The Colorado.We had reservations at the Colorado Belle. A building with the appearance of a paddle wheel show boat on the shore of said river. A romantic enough picture compared to the other traditional rectangles on the river's edge. However, they had a slight issue. We arrived at 3:00pm, the appointed time for check-in. Apparently, the cleaning team had not gotten to our rooms yet. "please come back in 30 minutes". We went away, drank beer, watched many sea gnats zooming up and down the river, in 113f heat and sun and waited. A Half hour later, still not cleaned. A half hour after that... still dirty! Deb told me to go away since my fuse, lit by the heat of day and unrelenting sun, had just a tiny bit left. She got a room, a different room, then the one she wanted. I don't know and won't ask if she got something for our troubles but she did  not seemed pleased.
Of course, i didn't help much when i made her walk a mile+ to a restaurant. After the sun went down and the heat abated. Now only 90-95f but a dry heat! We did take the river taxi back to our hotel and slept. Spent nothing, not one penny, in the Colorado Belle. We showed them!
Up early and off to Hoover Dam. 70 mile drive, at 65 mph. Set your speed control, they will stop you for speeding even though nothing exists out there except cacti and tumble weeds. We stopped at Terrible's in Searchlight, NV a town with a speed limit of 25mph right on the main highway. Terrible's consisted of a McDonald's, a gas station and a convenience/souvenir store. Breakfast at McD's and on to Hoover Dam
To get to Hoover Dam you drive through cuts in the rock mountain. Not a straight route either,  but a switch back, steep, two lane affair. Of course, you passed by the security stop making sure you didn't have any contraband on board.  Once through this maze, you make one turn and the view sprains the eye with the enormity of the place. The Colorado River hundreds of feet below, sheer rock faces on both sides, Lake Mead behind and the Hoover Dam right there! Huge! Awesome! Immense!  Breathtaking!
We cruised through the Panama Canal. A monumental feat in it's day. Maybe, technically speaking, bigger than the Dam but you can't see the entire Canal in one place. The Hoover Dam stands right before you, all of it! Tons of cement and steel and rock. I have watched movies of people thrown from the top and either James Bond or Bruce Willis (or both) sliding down the face of the dam but when i looked over the edge it took on a whole different meaning all together. We took the obligatory tour. When i visited my daughter in Portland Oregon, we toured a dam on the Columbia river. Inside Hoover dam looked pretty much the same as that one. I imagine all power dams look the same inside. But outside...WOW.
The shores of Lake Mead show the lowering levels of water as the West continues a drought season. Our tour guide said Lake Mead would last several years even with the drought but thinks that the drought cycle will shift before the Lake dries up. If the Lake does fall too low, the Southwest and much of lower California will need a whole lot of candles.
After the Dam, we headed to Las Vegas and the Stratosphere hotel. We occupied our room immediately. Went to the Pawn shop "as seen on TV". Rode the Monorail to the High Roller, "The highest observation Wheel in the world". At 550feet it stands higher than the London Eye at 356feet. If you google "London Eye" you find three other ferris wheels larger than the "Eye" but smaller than the "Roller".
We jumped back on the Monorail after walking just a little further in the 100+ heat and returned to our hotel to lose our bankroll at the craps table. So much for winning our trip  costs in Vegas.
Our room came with a view of the "Strip" and unlimited access to the tower. Unfortunately, the unlimited did not mean "priority" in getting to the top. We waited with the masses for half an hour to board the speed elevator to level 108. Las Vegas at night glows with neon and LED and incandescent light like a jewel. We walked around the lower portion, enclosed, to take in the view. We could have gone up one floor and outside but, the wind and the heat, no thank you. Halfway around we found an interesting sight. We all know that the Stratosphere hotel sports some interesting mechanicals atop it's tower. We have pictures of us on a roller coaster that edged over the side of the tower. Since then, they have added a seat thing that bounces straight up a spire on the top and a ride that extends over the edge and shakes to thrill you. But this interesting sight we encountered topped all of those. For $120 you could put on a jump suit and parachute harness, get connected to a cable and jump out a door on the side of the tower and free fall 850 feet to a safe landing at the bottom! I have pictures and no words to describe it. Deb says her turned to jello  when she saw the jumper go to the edge. Our room lay to the right of this jump. As we drifted off to slumber land we heard one jumper scream "Geronimo" and pass by and another jumper scream like a baby all the way down! We couldn't stay up any longer since our wake up call would ring in four hours. Wrap up coming.
Landlubbers again.
The cruise ended on Saturday but the adventure continues. We planned to leave Los Angeles and fly to Las Vegas. Thence to drive to the Hoover Dam and on to Kingman, Az. Plans, like all things, need revision when put into action.
I spoke of the flight delay in the previous post. Well, that necessitated driving straight through to Kingman. I wanted to stop at Hoover Dam then to Kingman but what i want doesn't matter. The trip to Kingman and our room did not bring additional problems.When we awoke on Sunday morning, we looked forward to a really good day. Of course any day you wake up, we call a good day.
We had the free breakfast provided by the hotel. We noticed some of our breakfast mates drove big Harley motorbikes. They must have come from Germany for a "man's holiday" since the bikes all looked identical, the riders spoke German and the bikes had German national flags flying like ensigns on their bikes. I know this steel trap of a mind  i have doesn't miss a trick.
Off to see the town of Kingman, Arizona. To hear them tell it, Kingman made the West all that you see. One note of fame for Kingman concerns it's main highway, Route 66. This "Mother of Roads" began in Chicago and traveled through 7 states before ending in San Bernadino, California. The same route today uses four lane highways and much higher speeds. Remnants of the original route 66 run alongside some of these highways and some of route 66 runs on the highway though not marked as such. In Kingman, Route 66 carries a celebrity status. Many restaurants and hotels with Route 66 somewhere in their name. We remembered we traveled on route 66 when we visited Albuquerque, New Mexico. Of course, i come from Chicago and have traveled on Route 66 many times.
Other than Route 66, Kingman has little to offer. Even though we drove through on Sunday the "main" street, Main street, had few shops and no activity. I did see and photograph a nice 4-8-4 locomotive. Since we expected to stay longer in Kingman, our plans changed when we drove the street and completed our tour of it. So off to sunny, Lake Havasu and The London Bridge.
But before we go... we did visit the local information station where i bought a most beautiful shirt of yellow and orange adorned with route 66 signs and such. But more to the point, we spoke with the sales lady about the heat and sun and Kingman and that we came from Traverse City. She knew Traverse City! She has people in Manistee! Small world! She told us that the heat in the west had little moisture, 10-15% so with proper clothing the heat didn't get to you as with the heat and 80% Michigan air. She even went so far as to say after 25 years in Kingman she can't return to Michigan in July, August or September because the air feels too thick to breath. I needed some Michigan air about that time, regardless. One may get used to hot dry air but it takes longer than the time Deb and i would spend.
We started our drive to Lake Havasu and the London bridge with a outside temperature of 85f at 9:30am. Hot! We ended our trip at London Bridge with a temperature at 110f and the sun brighter than i have ever seen. Now dry or not, this heat caused my knees to buckle upon alighting from the air-conditioned car.
We managed to walk about an area designed for tourists. This led to the waterway under London Bridge and millions if not tens of millions of boats and sea gnats and people. They all have acclimated to the heat. Perhaps i exaggerate a bit on the number but the vision remains that busy.
London Bridge, for those who don't know, originated in London, England. When it become to old to support modern traffic the City of London sold it. Long story short, An American ex-CEO paid $2.8 million for it and another $10 million to take it apart, mark each piece, ship it to Lake Havasu and put it back together. Actually, the bridge we see has the skin of London Bridge and the under structure of a brand new bridge. If it wouldn't work in London it wouldn't work here.  The bridge construction took place on and over dry land. Then after the construction completed, they cut a channel from one part of Lake Havasu to another, kind of a short cut, and the bridge began doing it's job and the once peninsula became an island. The bridge generated interest in this otherwise blank landscape and Lake Havasu, the city, began developing, paying the ex-CEO all his money back and more. Thus sayeth the informational brochure.
 Next we drive to Laughlin, Nevada.