Las Vegas, Bryce Canyon, Monument Valley

June 30 - July 8, 2006

by Paul Ridenour

My great fear going to Las Vegas was driving a 2001 Saturn 4-door with 151,000 miles and the AC going out.  The other issue was the scorching sun in Arizona and Nevada in July.  The car was fine and it was the beginning of monsoon season.  It was never hot because there were constant clouds and an occasional rain.  I have never seen so many Cumulus and Nebula clouds.

Thursday June 29

We left Dallas about 7:15 PM and hoped to make it to Midland by midnight.  Ran into construction in Arlington so we only made it to Colorado City, Texas.  Lost one hour so far.  Stayed at a Days Inn for $58.

Friday June 30

Had a 2:30 PM lunch in El Paso at Mexican restaurant Alexandro's.   Very good food!  They gave us a fantastic tasting soup before we ate our fajitas. As a child, I lived in El Paso which gave me a love for cacti, rocks, the desert, the Beatles, horned toads,  and Mexican food.  They played a lot of Beatles in El Paso in those days.  About 08:30 PM (we gained two hours), we were at Dottie's brother Teno and wife Kelly Doyen's house in Sierra Vista, AZ, to spend the night.  What a great house!  Typical modern adobe with tiled roof and a yard of rocks and cacti.  My kind of house.

Saturday July 1

We got up and all of us visited Tombstone and Boot Hill.  It was great seeing them and their children.  We left Tombstone a little after noon and headed for Scottsdale (Phoenix) to see my 2nd cousin Robin Trost.  I brought a guitar for her son and a "How To Play The Guitar" book and DVD.  I gave him a short lesson in tuning.

Before we got there, I called Gary Timmons whose son and ex-wife live in Phoenix.  I thought maybe he was in Arizona with his motorcycle.  Well, he was there last week and he said to call his ex-wife and say "hi."  We did and she said she was not familiar with Scottsdale. She said she was more familiar with the intersection of Camelback Road and Miller Road.  That is exactly where my cousin lives - that corner in an apartment.  Gary's ex-wife told us about a restaurant there called Pasta Brianni's and that Gary was there last week with all of them.  We also decided to eat there with my cousin, her son, and her friend Joe.  Small world!


Tombstone, Arizona

$5.50 a person to see the actual location of the OK Corral gunfight site

Dottie's brother Teno Doyen has been told he looks like Val Kilmer and I am told I look like Bill Paxton
The poster behind us has Kilmer on the left and Paxton on the right (photo by Kelly Doyen)

Boot Hill

Paul's 2nd cousin Robyn Trost, Dottie, and Robyn's son Victor Trost (and his new guitar)

Robyn decorates clothing and is very talented.  She gave Dottie a shirt.  She can also play a little guitar, harmonica, and a small xylophone.

After leaving my cousin Robyn, we traveled to Armour and Rachel Patterson's house in Kingman, AZ, to spend the night.  Armour is the son of conservative Baptist Dr. Paige Patterson (former president of the following - Southern Baptist Convention, the Baptist seminary in Wake Forest (NC), Criswell Bible College (Dallas), and current president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth).  I met Armour and his dad in Russia in 1991.  Armour, like his dad, has been all over the world.  Armour has a picture of himself as a kid with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin.  Armour also had dinner with Yasser Arafat along with 20 of his college friends in Iraq back before the 1991 war.  Saddam Hussein gave the dinner and was supposed to be there but never showed up.  Armour and his wife had a care basket for us and it was full of really cool stuff like coffee mugs, refrigerator magnet, a turquoise bracelet, and jelly beans.  Their house was so cool because it had several large rooms.  We talked until 1:30 AM which was really 3:30 AM Texas time.  Arizona does not have daylight savings time except for the various Indian reservations.

Sunday July 2

We had a show to attend tonight  in Vegas at 07:30 and we were only a couple of hours away.  We slept late and left their house at 1 PM.    We spent about 30 minutes in line at the Hoover Dam.  Armour, a dry comedian, said "When Homeland Security is not pretending to be 15 year-olds on the Internet, they are all over the Hoover Dam."

We arrived in our hotel room at around 4 PM.  We stayed at The Mirage ($140 a night) since that was where the Cirque Du Soleil-Beatles show was being performed.  The show we went to at 07:30 was the Blue Man Group at The Venetian across the street.  No photography was allowed.  During the end of the show, rolls of paper, just like very strong toilet paper, came from the back of the room and everyone pushed or pulled it forward.  I starting laughing hysterically and I could not stop.  We were drowning in paper.  It is a fantastic show, especially if you like drums and comedy.  Tickets were $121 a person.  We were in the second row - the poncho wearing section.  They play drums filled with a layer of colored paints/water that could go flying in the first five rows.

Hoover Dam

The Mirage at night

The Venetian

One of the Blue Man Group guys after the show - photo from a cell phone (The Venetian)

Monday July 3

We slept late and had a late breakfast - lunch.  We visited The Mirage Dolphin Exhibit and Secret Garden.  The Garden had a bunch of lions and tigers.  We drove down to New York New York, Paris, Excalibur, and the Lexor.  New York New York was really neat and we ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant there.

We attended "Love" by Cirque Du Soleil at 07:30.  Tickets were $99 a piece for the lower balcony.  An awesome show!  Fifth Beatle Sir George Martin and son Giles Martin mixed the music.  Several Beatles songs (10 perhaps) would be mixed together and it was just amazing.  The auditorium in the round had 6, 341 speakers including three speakers in the seat headrest.  I heard background vocals like I have never heard them before.  The show featured a "Nowhere Man," Mr. Kite, Eleanor Rigby, a pregnant Lady Madonna, etc.  It started out with Liverpool being devastated by the War (large video screens) and then the Beatles bring hope.  "Nowhere Man" finds "Love."    The dancing, jumping, acrobats, choreography, roller skating, and the costumes were phenomenal.

For some people, it was a "religious" experience.  No photography allowed so I took a few.  Paul McCartney told Sir George Martin that the show was "pristine."  Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and wife, George Harrison's wife, and Yoko Ono Lennon were there two days earlier for the grand opening.

Paul McCartney and Barbara Bach Starr (photos from online newswires)

Before the show, several Beatles songs were played with no vocals.  Never heard these Beatles songs without the vocals before except for a couple on the Anthology CDs.  The Mirage played Beatles songs all day at the Box Office and the Beatles store.  Sometimes you heard Beatles in the elevators. The hotel used the "Love" logo on the door card keys and gave everyone a "Love" button.  The show was originally going to run for one month only and it is the main reason we decided to vacation in Las Vegas.  They are selling tickets however through November.  The Mirage is soon opening a Beatles "Revolution Lounge" which will play only Beatles all day.  After Siegfried and Roy's white tiger show cancellation, the hotel had to do something.

New York New York

Mandalay Bay

"Love" - Cirque Du Soleil and an Apple Records production (The Mirage)

A list of the songs used in the performance - Because (acapella), Get Back, Glass Onion, Eleanor Rigby, Strawberry Fields Forever (original and alternate versions), I Want To Hold Your Hand, Drive My Car, What You're Doing, The Word, Something, Blue Jay Way, Nowhere Man, For The Benefit OF Mr. Kite, I Want You, Blackbird, Yesterday, Penny Lane, Hello Goodbye, Tomorrow Never Knows music only with Within You Without You played over it, Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, Goodnight, Octopus' Garden, Lady Madonna, Hey Bulldog, Here Comes The Sun, The Inner Light, Come Together, Revolution, Back In The USSR, While My Guitar Gently Weeps (alternate first studio recorded version), A Day In The Life, Hey Jude, and All You Need Is Love

"Here Comes the Sun [King]" - No photography or recording devices allowed during the show

"Lady Madonna"

"If you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow"

Tuesday July 4 (America is 230 but don't tell the Dixie Chicks)

Armour told us to go see Red Rock Canyon which is outside Las Vegas.  It was exactly 17 miles from our hotel to Red Rock Canyon.  We took Charleston Blvd. off of Las Vegas Blvd.  A very cool place!  Only $5 per car and it had one of the best museums and book stores. The area of town near Red Rock Canyon was very nice with new homes and new retail stores.  We ate lunch at Pizza Hut.

Red Rock Canyon, Nevada

Red Rock Canyon, Nevada

Red Rock Canyon, Nevada

Red Rock Canyon, Nevada

We had dinner with Dottie's cousin Chris McNeir and his girlfriend Delia at Joe's Steaks and Seafood in the Forum Shops at Caesar's Palace.  Our waiter was from Wisconsin and an alcoholic who has not had a drink in 12 years.  He was very nice and reminded me of Colin Hay from Men At Work.  In Wisconsin, everyone drinks and drinks and drinks.  He was shocked when he came to Las Vegas to learn that people can actually just drink one or two and it is OK.  He said that Nevada is number 50 out of 50 states for people who volunteer their time.  His belief was that people in Nevada just want to gamble and drink and care for no one else.  The food was delicious and it was a bit expensive but very much worth it.

Afterwards, we all went to see the Treasure Island outdoor performance of "The Sirens of Treasure Island."  The crowd was packed and the show was not really for kids.  It featured several barely dressed ladies (Sirens) in their 20's who hypnotized the pirates from another ship by singing "women power" songs.  Some explosions in a simulated battle but the women won as the pirate ship sank.  The men swim to the "Sirens" ship and joined the ladies in debauchery.  I'll tell you, the ship's large poles were perfect for the ladies to dance on.  I kept thinking - "What do you do for a living?"  I work the pole at Treasure Island."  The ladies have got to be proud.  The actors/dancers lipped sang the songs and the songs were stupid.  "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" would have been better.  It was good for a laugh.  Glad I didn't pay to see it.

We were hoping to see some fireworks but there weren't any.

Dottie Ridenour and her cousin Chris McNeir (Dottie, are you wearing shoes?)

Wednesday July 5

Left Las Vegas for Bryce Canyon, Utah.  On the way, we went through Zion National Park ($10 a person) and Red Canyon, Utah.  Bryce Canyon was also $10 a person.  I recommend getting a $50 yearly pass to all national parks.  Spent the night at a Best Western ($109) in Page, Arizona, near Lake Powell.

Zion National Park, Utah

Red Canyon, Utah

Red Canyon, Utah

Bryce Canyon, Utah

Bryce Canyon, Utah

Bryce Canyon, Utah

Dottie Ridenour at Bryce Canyon

Deer somewhere in Bryce Canyon

Thursday  July 6

Left for Monument Valley, Utah, and Canyon de Chelly, Chinle, Arizona.  Both are on the Navajo Indian Reservation.  Armour told us about the Pueblo ruins in Chinle.  The Canyon has at least three Pueblo ruins.   The Pueblo Indians became the Hopi Indians and Navajo's lived in the Pueblo dwellings later on.  We met a Navajo named Jarvis Yazzie and his son at the top of the canyon overlooking his land.  He came up there to see his crops from above.  I cannot believe anyone lives in the canyon.  It is a 30 minute drive from Chinle to his house in the canyon.  He lives next to Pueblo Indian ruins.  His wife has had the land in her family for years and 15 people live in that area of the canyon.  It floods too.  Jarvis is a Dallas Cowboys' fan and I am sending him two Cowboys' drinking cups.  I also saw a Navajo woman that had a Cowboys helmet emblem/air freshener hanging in her truck.   We ate dinner at  Taco Bell in Chinle.  A 10 year-old Navajo boy came up to me with a Taco Bell receipt where he had written "To my favorite person" using a large red felt-tipped marker.  He asked me to sign it.  I said "You think I am Bill Paxton, don't you?"  He said "Yes."  I said "Ok, I will sign it Bill Paxton" and I did.  We had a lot of Navajo's waving at us and saying "Hello."  Could be because of Dottie.  We spent the night in Winslow, Arizona, at a Holiday Inn Express ($90).

Outside Monument Valley, Utah

Monument Valley, Utah

Monument Valley, Utah

Monument Valley, Utah

Monument Valley, Utah

Monument Valley, Utah

Monument Valley, Utah

Antelope House Ruin, Canyon de Chelly, Pueblo Indian dwellings (1100 AD - 1240 AD), Chinle, Arizona

Mummy Cave Ruin, Canyon de Chelly, Pueblo Indian dwellings, (early times - 1200 AD), Chinle, Arizona

Clouds like this every day

Friday July 7

Went to downtown Winslow to see the statue of basically Glen Frey "Standing on the corner" and mural.  Armour told us about it.   A corner store plays "Eagles" music all day.  In the street is also a parked red flat-bed Ford truck.

We planned at the last minute to visit the Meteor Crater which is about 25 miles from Winslow.  The Meteor Crater was $15 a person which is a little steep but they had a nice 20 minute video.  Built into the museum and gift shop was a "Subway" so we got lunch there.  Dottie has found numerous typos and illogical writings in several local newspapers.  At the Meteor Crater museum, she noticed the misspelled word "Meteoriod."  An expensive mistake!  Afterwards, we went through the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert - $5 a person.  We spent the night at Holiday Inn Express in Albuquerque (around $100).

Everywhere we went there were tourists - Germans, French, Canadians, Asians, and Indians (from India).  English was hardly ever heard.

We saw a lot of deer, antelope, rabbits, chipmunks, some Joshua trees, and bunches of light purple flowers during our trip.  All of the cacti, yucca, and Saguaro had already bloomed.

"Standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona, such a fine sight to see..."

Meteor Crater, Arizona (near Winslow)

Giant Logs, The Petrified Forest, Arizona

The Teepees, The Painted Desert, Arizona

Pintado Point, The Painted Desert, Arizona

Blue Mesa, The Painted Desert, Arizona

Tiponi Point, The Painted Desert, Arizona - "Blackbird fly..."

A train and incredibly multi-colored blue skies during a rainstorm - New Mexico
"Oooo...the rain is falling" - Electric Light Orchestra (ELO)

Saturday July 8

My dad asked me if we were driving home through the scenic route of Lubbock, Texas, and I told him "Heck no."  I thought that would take longer and was planning on going through Amarillo, even though that is such a boring drive - Dumas, Clarendon, Memphis, Wichita Falls, yuck!  Chris McNeir told me about a shortcut that uses 285 east of Albuquerque which goes down to Ft. Sumner (grave of Billy The Kid) and then Highway 60 over to Clovis, New Mexico, down to Lubbock and Sweetwater, via 84 and ends up at I-20 near Abilene.  Dottie and I love Joe Allen's Steaks and BBQ in Abilene and decided that is the way we should go home. 

Billy The Kid - handsome, blue eyes, easy going, quick to laugh, killed 9 people

Billy The Kid's grave (11/26/1860 - 7/14/1881) - Ft. Sumner, New Mexico

We visited Billy The Kid's grave and the Ft. Sumner gift shop.  I saw a large shiny coin (among hundreds of coins) on the grave that appeared to be the reverse side of a Kennedy half dollar but it also looked like a Mexican silver dollar.  Using a large branch because the grave was totally enclosed, I got the coin out - a 1980 Kennedy half dollar.  And yes, I kept it.  Billy was born Henry McCarty but also went by William Harrison Bonney and Henry Antrim (variations of his mom, dad, and step dad's names).   His parents names were Catherine McCarty or Katherine McCarty Bonney for his mother and William Bonney or Patrick Henry McCarty for his father.  His mother also married William Antrim.  Billy's tombstone was stolen in 1950 and found in Granbury, Texas, in 1976.  Stolen again in 1981 and found four days later in Huntington Beach, California - hence the steel fence.  There is even steel bolted to his gravestone.

We arrived in Abilene at dinner time.  Joe Allen's has the best steaks in Texas and even better than Joe's in Las Vegas.  For $17.95, you get a one-inch thick rib-eye (16 ounces) with two sides and a salad.  They sell their rib-eyes by the thickness, not by the ounce.  They are located at 301 11th Street and Treadaway Blvd.

Got home about 11:30 PM and a day early.  I took about 650 pictures with my old and new cameras.  I lost about $80 gambling.  I usually win $100.  We bought several small souvenirs along the way.  Thanks Armour and Chris and Teno for all of your suggestions and accommodations!