April 4th marks the first completed year of my marriage. Time goes by so fast, it seems as though we just got married but at the same time I feel like I have known my wife my whole life. (Slideshow at the bottom)
This last weekend we got out of town. Mallory had never been to Las Vegas so being that I have been there several times and knew my way around I thought it would be perfect. Only being able to get away for three days I wanted to make sure we could experience as much as possible in the three days. Mallory and I both left our laptops at home (can you believe it?), the only technology we had with us was my iPhone and our TomTom.
We left Friday from Modesto at 5am, we drove. Modesto to Las Vegas is an 8 hour drive. I had only slept one hour because my desk seemed to have had a dump truck of todo’s fall on it at the last minute. I planned to sleep for the first part of the drive but Mal ran out of steam quickly so we stopped in Kingsburg where I drove the remaining distance.
We arrived at our hotel, The Wyndham Resort at around 1:30pm, they allowed us to check in early. We tossed our stuff in the room, cleaned up and headed down to the strip to see some sights. I always park the car when I am in Las Vegas and use the Taxi. I always see people pulled over, getting in fender benders or sitting in traffic forever. If I can offer the world one bit of advice, Always Use A Taxi In Las Vegas!!! The traffic on the weekends and when large Expos are going on is horrible. The Taxi drivers know the short cuts to get you where you need to go. For example, to drive from our hotel to Treasure Island (TI) in traffic using the main streets to get there would take 15-20 minutes. Keep in mind our hotel is less than 5 miles from TI. The Taxi driver got us there in under 8 minutes and it cost us $8, I tipped the driver $2. Total cost of avoided headache = $10 USD.
I am always amazed by how much has changed between the time I last visited. I am often in Las Vegas once a year for a conference or convention. There is always construction going on and new excitement being created all the time. Mallory and I spend the rest of the afternoon shopping and walking around the shoppes in the hotels. I never go to Las Vegas with out spending some time at the Fashion Show Mall. Mallory was amazed as am I always by the detail that goes into everything these hotel casinos do. Once we decided we had spent enough money shopping and decided dinner needed to come next we went back to our hotel to get cleaned up.
Our first desire was to eat at The Cheesecake Factory (TCF) but when we arrived there was a line which would have resulted in over an hour wait. The old location of TCF was in The Venetian so we headed in that direction and found the Grand Lux Cafe (GLC) in it’s place. The food was nothing short of amazing. Though it was 8:30pm by that time we were glad we waited. After we finished eating we needed to walk off some of the food coma that was attempting to take over our bodies. We wanted to go dancing and were dressed for it so we took off in search of a club to check out. On our way into TI we were given some free passes into their night club. Unfortunately we got into line a bit to late and we probably would have waited an hour had we not given up and went to a lounge bar instead. Mal and I are not used to waiting to get into clubs. We have some good friends in the bay area who promote and are always getting us on the list and in VIP. I think our patience for getting into clubs was a bit skewed. After hanging out at the lounge for a while we walked around for a few more hours, got back to our hotel around 1:30am and spent some time in the jacuzzi where we met some interesting guys from Michigan.
Being that I was operating on one hour of sleep the prior night and three hours of sleep the night before that, I wanted to sleep in a bit. Our plans for Saturday was to doing some time by the pool, which we did from about 11-2pm. We enjoyed lunch at our hotel, which does not have much to offer as far as food goes but what food they do have was good. Our single bedroom suite had a full kitchen, stove, refrigerator and was fully stocked with cook wear and dishes.
Saturday night we made plans to see the Cirque Du Soleil show Mystere which was nothing short of amazing. Mallory was very involved in dance through out high school and her first few years in college. She was amazed and completely captivated by the performance. Prior to that we ate dinner at TCF which made me happy. Notice in the images below that I had cheesecake with dinner both nights. Turns out that the GLC is owned by the same owner as TCF. Before waiting in line for our show we walked into Kahunaville which is known for it’s bartenders who put on an amazing show. We were just trying to kill some time before our show started and wound up having a great time and met some cool people. After the show was over we walked around for a while and went back to our hotel to retire for the evening.
Sunday we woke up earlier than we should have, checked out of our hotel and drove down to the Grand Canyon to do the Skywalk tour. This was something we had only decided to do the evening before, so it was not part of the plan. It feels good to be spur of the moment sometimes! Along the way we stopped off at the Hover Dam which is always pretty amazing. Based on the flier and the website for the Skywalk Mallory and I assumed we would be able to drive right up to it, buy a ticket which was promoted on their website for $29.99 and walk right onto the Skywalk. Let me walk you through exactly what you should expect if you want to do the Skywalk:
The first surprise was when we finally thought we were close to the Skywalk we had to turn onto a dirt road which was very rocky and drive on that for 13 miles. Thirteen miles of rocky dirt road in a Volvo S40. After putting our poor car through more than I had intended we arrived at their reservation. I say reservation because Grand Canyon West is not actually part of the State Park. The crafty named Grand Canyon West is the name of the Hualapai Indian Reservation which consists of a bit over one million acres on that side of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The entrance was guarded with a few checkpoints to drive through. My first thought was wondering why their staff guiding us through had to be dressed like Army rangers but I blew it off as them just wanting to appear like they are tough and important. We parked and went into the terminal to get a ticket for the SkyWalk. At this point we were still assuming that the cost would be $30 each and a short bus would take us up the hill to the SkyWalk. To our surprise the cost was quite a bit more. Turns out the Skywalk is just part of the whole experience. You have to pay $55 per person to get the tour, if you want to do the SkyWalk, it’s $32.99 more per person. All in all we ended up paying close to $200 for both of us before we had tickets and climbed on the bus. When we were presented with the cost we were blown away. We had no idea it was going to cost us that much, their website was misleading. We had driven so far that it would have been dumb of us not to pay the money and do what we had set out to do. Because we were not planning on driving into the middle of nowhere we had not purchased snacks or water, we did that before boarding the bus. We wanted to make sure we had something because we had no idea what to expect.
The SkyWalk was simply amazing. Here is a video that shows a bit of the experience. The SkyWalk however has a building attached to it now which makes for a nice place to put on your little slippers they make you wear. The beginning of the video shows the drive you must make, just imagine it being 13 miles and no soundtrack other than your poor car driving over dirt and rocks. You can see the photo I took below which shows what the SkyWalk looks like currently.
Now that I have done it, I have to say it was worth the $200 for both Mallory and I to experience walking out into the Grand Canyon. There was a lot more to the tour than just the SkyWalk. I could tell there were many people who drove all of the way out there just for the SkyWalk and did not really care about the Hualapai reservation, though it was interesting I was not to happy that I had to pay for it. They also had helicopter tours and a myriad of other things to spend your money on. You are not allowed to take anything with you onto the SkyWalk. You actually have to walk through a metal detector. Their expressed fear is that you may drop something on the glass but it is also their way of keeping you from bringing a camera so they can charge you a minimum of $20 for a photo. If you want a digital copy of your photo it’s going to cost you over $100.
The Skywalk was the first of three stops along the bus tour. The bus would drop you off at one site and when you were ready a bus would pick you back up and take you to the next. Buses come ever 15 minutes, however they only go to the next stop. My first thought was to just do the SkyWalk and leave but it was not that easy, there were a few more stops they wanted to drop you off at in hopes you would spend money on food and Hualapai trinkets. Thankfully after the second stop the bus took us back to the terminal, we were willing to sit on the bus and bypass the third stop at this point.
My final thoughts about the whole Hualapai experience: I enjoy history and love to experience it when it is part of my plan. I will go as far as saying that it was partially my fault for not calling and asking questions about the possibility of hidden costs of having to take a tour of other things. Most people do not have time for that. Like me, most will go online, see how much it costs and how far away it is. I felt like the Hualapai experience was forced down my throat. I wanted to see the Grand Canyon and walk out into it on a glass walkway. If they had an option just to do the SkyWalk that was $200 for both of us I would have done it. I really did not care about the rest of the stuff going on there and having to pay for it just made me want to care even less. Regardless of it all, the SkyWalk was simply amazing and it one of those things you need to experience in life. However it is not something you can do in a few hours. Driving there will take forever, the tours will take time and driving home will take even longer because traffic in the evening is horrible. Traffic will be better in 2010 when they finish the new bypass over the Hoover Dam.
We left the reservation, I mean Grand Canyon West at around 2:30pm and began our 12 hour drive home. On highway 15 and the 58 junction we experienced crosswinds of over 70MPH which I’m sure sandblasted the paint on the Volvo down to a nice matte finish. We arrived home last night at 2:30am.
Overall we had an amazing time this weekend. As always I wish I had brought more than just my Canon G10 with me. Though I have been to Vegas many times and the Grand Canyon (almost died) before as well (a whole story in it’s self, ask if you want to know), I experienced new things and Mallory many new things. We had a blast and are already dreaming of what to do for our next little getaway. I feel recharged and ready to take on this weeks tasks!