It all started here...

It all started here...

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A Short Trip to Grand Canyon

April 23~26, 2017

With families coming to California to join us on our transatlantic cruise and the Norway/Scotland Highland cruise, we decided to take them on a short trip to Grand Canyon as a 'preview' of the big trip coming up in May. 

We left L.A. on Sunday afternoon. The drive on Fwy 15 took us a little longer than expected because of the construction work at Duncan Canyon. Then we took the 40 right after we passed Barstow outlet and went straight almost to Needles, except we turned on 95 north towards Searchlight. This stretch of the 40 was much quieter than the 15 and now that they fixed the highway, it is a very nice drive. Part of this highway was actually the old Highway 66, so it can be a little nostalgic. We like driving on the 95 because it is a country road and some parts felt like riding on a mini roller coaster. Then we made a right turn onto the 163 which leads to the city of Laughlin, the small gambling town right next to the Colorado River. Not only that this town is closer to Grand Canyon, it is also much cheaper staying here than in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, some of the hotels also picked up the 'resort fee' type of charges just like the Vegas hotels. We have chosen one of the cheapest hotel in Laughlin for that night--Colorado Belle. I believe it was under $30 for the night.

It was a late arrival, by the time we checked in and got into our rooms, it was after 9:00pm. All the buffets were closed so we had to walked over to the Carrow's at the Edgewater next door for a simple dinner so we won't have to go to bed in an empty stomach.

Colorado Belle, Laughlin, Nevada
We have never stayed at Colorado Belle before even though its iconic steam-ship shape exterior is quite eye-catching in the area. They have a couple of buildings and it felt like a maze when we had to look for our rooms. For a one night stay, it was OK. Nothing appealing or outstanding. empty zip lock bag was still left on the floor in our room.

Basic hotel/motel type.

Good for the price.

Laughlin, Nevada to Grand Canyon, Arizona
April 24, 2017

Before leaving Laughlin, we thought it would be a good idea to take a walk along the riverside. This serene area is particularly pretty when there is not a whole lot of people at this time of the year.

The 'steam-ship' part of the Colorado Belle casino.

And their hotel buildings. Our rooms were not the riverside rooms.

The walk goes past several hotels and casinos all the way to the bridge crossing between Laughlin and Bullhead City.

London Bridge boat tours. There is a London Bridge down at Lake Havasu which is a sight worth seeing if time is available.

Grand Canyon, Arizona
After a brief stop at Kingman picking up some items at the Walmart superstore and then filled up the gas tank, we continued our drive back on Hwy 40 towards Grand Canyon. Had a quick lunch at the Kentucky Fried Chicken in Williams before turning onto 64 towards Grand Canyon Village. We had the senior pass for all the National Parks, so we didn't have to pay entrance fees. There are some advantages for getting old, I guess.

It was a little difficult to find the hotel registration but we were able to locate it after all. We have booked our rooms at the Yavapai Lodge near the Market Plaza inside the park. Not cheap, but we felt that for the sake of our relatives from Taiwan, it was worth it to have the experience staying inside the park for two nights.

Yavapai Lodge, Grand Canyon
We have stayed in the Maswik Lodge many years ago, which seemed to be older and smaller. I think I like Yavapai Lodge a little better. But then, Maswik is a little closer to the south rim tour shuttle, easily just walking distance to the start of the tour stop. When I tried to book, Maswik Lodge was full already and their rooms were a little cheaper than Yavapai which was our second choice. The most expensive hotel inside the park is the El Tovar Hotel which is right next to the canyon.

Our bathroom

Our room that sleeps 4 but only the two of us were there for those two nights. The other four shared a room exactly like this just next door to ours.

our view out the window

clean and basic

parking right outside the doors

After settling down, we wanted to make good use of our time there and began exploring the east side of the park. We knew that for the next day, we will spend most of our time taking the shuttle for the tour of the west end. 

We drove all the way to the most eastern end of the park, which is Desert View Watchtower. The Watchtower is a striking site in this natural surroundings. Unfortunately, by the time we got there just a couple of minutes after 6, it was already closed for the day so we couldn't get inside. 

The Watchtower

Gift shop

views from the Watchtower area

a glimpse of the Colorado River

There was an elk leisurely having its dinner as we were leaving the site.

Tour on the Shuttle on the Hermit Rest Route Transfer
After a very simple breakfast of croissants and coffee that we picked up at Walmart, we drove over to the Village hoping to find parking. No such luck near Bright Angel but we were able to find one near Maswik Lodge and walked back down to the shuttle stop near Bright Angel Trailhead. 

The line for the shuttle was not too long yet this early in the morning which made it a lot more pleasant. This was the first time we got off or walked between all the stops on this route because of sufficient time we had. The sights awed us at every stop and it was just amazing admiring God's creation from the many different angles. The colors and shapes of the canyon change at every direction of these mesas and buttes. Absolutely beautiful!

Trailview overlook

Looking back at Bright Angel Lodge.

Brave souls tracking up or down Bright Angel Trail.

Powell Point

What else but sing praises to our Great Creator!

At the last stop, Hermit Rest, we used the restrooms there, then had a little picnic lunch of food that we brought, and then headed back down to Bright Angel on the shuttle. Then we walked around the Village along the canyon rim and just enjoyed the setting of this great park.

Pretending to have walked the trail.

Kolb Studio

El Tovar Hotel

Hopi House

Front of El Tovar

More elks

Hermit Rest Route Shuttle

A good day exploring the park as we made good use of the shuttles and also walked parts of the park. By the end of the day we were all very tired. After a simple dinner on the food we brought, we just stayed in our rooms and relaxed to prepare for our long drive to Las Vegas the next morning. The restaurants inside the park can be expensive, especially if you have a large group. One can also buy food at the market but choices maybe limited. 

We left the park early the next morning taking the same route back as two days before but turned on 93 north after Kingman. This road had been updated and expanded since our last time traveled on it. On our way to Las Vegas, we made a short stop at Hoover Dam, which I decided to stay inside the van. We also visited the Ethel M Chocolate Factory in Henderson which has changed their tour operation a little but we still got a couple pieces of complimentary chocolate each to taste. 

Excalibur, Las Vegas
Now that most hotels in Las Vegas charge resort fees and parking fees, that makes staying in this city more expensive than before. Actually, we are paying for things we don't even use. It is wise to compare prices before booking. For this trip, we ended up staying at the Excalibur which resort fees was acceptable and parking was $10 per day, including parking at all their member properties in the city. When we checked in, the clerk was trying to sell us an upgrade but he was so nice that after I asked if he can put our rooms on the same floor, he upgraded us for free anyway because those were the only rooms that we can be close together. Thanks, Excalibur!

Again, these are rooms that can sleep up to 4 people.

Excalibur is located at the corner of Tropicana and Las Vegas Boulevard with New York! New York!, MGM, and Tropicana at the other corners.

We had a nice buffet dinner at Planet Hollywood which was a lot quieter than before possibly because of a weekday at low season. Now, they don't do discounts to card members any more unless you are doing the 24-hour buffet deal. Food was good and plenty.

After dinner, we walked along the strip and just absorbed the atmosphere. It was fun just people-watch, and window shop. We must have walked for two miles when we finally got back to the hotel.

We made sure that we stopped by Belagio for their water show.

and then to the Forum Shopping Mall at Caesar Palace before making our ways back.

The next day, on our way back home, we stopped at the outlet in Barstow for some shopping, lunch at the In-N-Out, and also checked out the World's tallest thermometer in Baker. We have done most of what we wanted on this trip and in two days, we will head over to Florida for our transatlantic cruise.