Thursday, November 29, 2007

Las Vegas

The road out is the same distance as the road in, the same 60-mile road. Then we continued on Route 66 to Kingman, Arizona where we spent the night. So far, there had been no real shockers.

The drive from Kingman, northwest towards Nevada, was more interesting- barren hills, mountains and canyons exotic and fascinating. The road into Nevada crosses the Hoover Dam. The approach requires a vehicle security inspection. The U.S. Government is currently building a bypass that will allow the ever-increasing traffic to flow more smoothly between the two states without the security threat. Fortunately, traffic was not heavy from our side, and we made a stop at an overlook to see this marvel of engineering.

Anxious to move on, we did not stop to take the tour of the facility that others said is most interesting. The approach to Las Vegas goes through places dotted with casinos. Each hotel is a casino. The road into the city is a broad six-lane boulevard that never seemed congested. The city that grew from nothing to one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country is well planned, and the air in late fall at midday was crisp and clear.

It isn’t until one approaches Las Vegas Boulevard, “The Strip,” that you sense the difference, tall spires, flashing signs, glitz, and a slight amount of congestion. Turning into Caesar’s Palace, efficient aides took our bags and handed us a card for our car that was whisked away to free valet parking. Walking into the hotel we are greeted immediately by the Casino. Continuing through the Casino, we arrived at the Registration Desk where we were told that our room was ready and we could call the Bell Desk to send up our luggage when we were ready. This was the first element of culture shock, an efficient operation.

We had no idea how to play the games or machines, so we wandered around, somewhat in a daze. Most of the gamblers at the “slots,” in an hypnotic trance, were pounding a key, watching, then pounding again within seconds, the machines gobbling up one or five dollars at a hit. Coming from an area where interior smoking is prohibited, the second hand smoke was noxious.

We retreated to our room and awaited the arrival of our family while doing what we came to Las Vegas to do- our email. For us, working on the Internet was a cultural norm needed to allow us to believe that all was well with our world.

Our older daughter, Julie, arrived from New York City. She is not into the casinos, but does have an appreciation of the various motifs that exist in Las Vegas. Next to Caesar’s is the Bellagio. We had a late afternoon lunch for, I do not know how much since she picked up the tab, and wandered through the exquisite floral display set up in a conservatory. It was not until the next morning that sticker shock hit. I picked up the breakfast tab, $75+tip for three people, and the pancakes at the Havasupai café for $3 per plate, were much better, as was the coffee for $1.50.

Culture shock continued. We had just been in an area of poverty where money meant something. In Las Vegas, money has lost its relevance except as a means to delight in the artificial splendor of the various motifs: Italian, French, New York, etc. They all exist within a square mile.

But this was a place where our entire family could meet. Getting to our Colorado mountain home from virtually anywhere is difficult in the best of times. As our younger daughter’s in-laws live in Las Vegas, even Julie could attend, although iphone was always on, ready to receive email, and a second cell phone was on to receive calls. Our son-in-law had his newest toy, a cell phone that carries TV programs in those limited areas of the country in which Verizon TV is available.

Rachel’s father-in-law, an escapee from Queens, led us on an expedition into that part of Las Vegas that was totally different, The Red Rock Canyon. If for no other reason than to preserve your sanity (and your lungs), you should get out to this marvelous nature area when you are in Las Vegas. It is a very short drive to the outskirts of the city. There are several other inviting places, but we did not have the time to explore.

Our sojourn in the Canyon had to be short in that Thanksgiving turkey awaited us at the home of our son-in-law’s mother and her friend (his mother and father are divorced, but remain friends). A giant 60-inch screen projected football in high definition, and we all subjected ourselves to the exploits of Bret Favre and the Packers, at least for a few minutes.

The house sits on the first tee of a beautiful green golf course. It is a spacious two bedroom one level with a circular design permitting easy passage from living room to kitchen to dining room and back. The bedrooms are off this passage way.

Finished with eating, we headed back to the “Strip.” I was not feeling well and went to our room. JoAnne again played her favorite group of slot machines, “Wheel of Fortune.” She was wise enough to stop when she was ahead and returned with a 20% return on her “play money.”

On Friday morning after a delightful breakfast with our family we began our return to Steamboat Springs, enjoying an easy and beautiful drive through Utah, with a night stop in Green River.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Moab to Supai - Culture Shock

If we needed culture shock, we got it this week. Journeying from our Colorado mountain home we paused in Moab, Utah where we went to the extreme end of the park-drive of the Arches National Park. As many times as we have visited Arches, there is always something new. But this wasn’t culture shock.

Continuing our drive south, we took a fantastic byway out of Blanding Utah to the Natural Bridges National Monument to see the natural wonders here. Coming out of the park and moving towards Arizona we descended one of the steepest roads in the U.S., a 10% grade with few guard- rails. This may have caused panic, but it, too, was not a culture shock.

Arriving at dusk in Flagstaff, we ventured onto Route 66 en route to our motel. If one wants to see poor road planning near a major interstate connection, go to the Forest Meadows mall in Flagstaff at the intersection of I-17 and I-40. If you like risks, make a left turn. But this is not culture shock, it’s Americana.

Now we faced west. The drive along I-40 past the turn-off to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, past endless miles of forest and dry sandy desert, we turned off onto Route 66 at Seligman, Arizona. There we found a motif of bygone years, a block long museum dedicated to Historic Route 66. If you have the chance and an hour, take this side trip and have an old fashion root beer float. It’s a culture shock for anyone under 55.

Continuing on Route 66, we stopped for the night at Grand Canyon Caverns. The highlight here is a dry cave of limestone 200 feet below the earth’s surface, a natural wonder, awesome, but not a culture shock.

The objective for our next day was an eight-mile descent into a side canyon of the Grand Canyon occupied by members of Havasupai Tribe. The trail is steep down a hillside, descending 1200 feet in about 1.5 miles. The canyon starts out wide with little vegetation. It progresses to a more narrow slot canyon with trees and bushes growing from the rocks. The trail is full of loose gravel and rocks. Both in the descent and during the entire walk pack mule and horse trains led by one or two natives pass us. Accompanying the train one or more dogs scamper along the trail, running up and down and apparently thoroughly enjoying their dog life.

Weary, we arrive at a bridge crossing a creek that indicates that we are within a mile of our destination. The ground becomes softer and a house appears once in a while. We enter the village past a museum, the post office, café and general store on our way to our destination, the Lodge.

The villagers are quite friendly, and a young girl expresses concern over the zombie-like appearance of Murray, his feet burning and his electrolytes are depleted. Other than the fact that the villagers are Native Americans and there are no cars, there is little on the surface to indicate a difference between this village and a remote village in any other area of the U.S.

As we proceeded with our stay, we begin to notice other differences. TV is a rare; there is no newspaper. We learned that a few years ago devoted teachers did not stay because the Council uses the money meant to pay them for other things. This situation has been corrected. We suspect the adults have little or no use for education, viewing it as a threat to their culture. Anyone achieving more than a high school equivalency moves away. This is not culture shock, but cultural difference.

The next day we hiked the two miles to the Havasu Falls, clear lime colored water surging over red rocks and plunging into a pool 50 feet below. Several other pools and cascades fill out the scene with a few swimmers frolicking in the 55 degree water that develops from underground springs throughout the valley. Having been to the second attraction, Mooney Falls, a half mile further on the path, we decided that we had seen what we came for. The hike to Mooney involves climbing on ladders and through holes, and on high ledges, not for the faint of heart.

On the following day most of the tourists were gone. A large contingent calling themselves Christian Veterinarians started to arrive. We thought it was great that a group of professionals would donate their time and money to improve the health of the animals in the valley. Then we talked to the leader. The emphasis of the group was on Christian. They had come with a turkey dinner for the villagers and overwhelming proselytizing.

We were stunned. In this scenic valley well-meaning zealots were challenging the culture of this native population, just as the Spaniards had, albeit forcefully, terminated the culture of the indigenous population they found in the Americas. To their credit, the villagers ate the missionary’s turkey and trimmings (outside of the church) and most walked home with bags. The main audience for the preaching was the contingent of Christians.

Our climb out of Havasu Canyon was easier than the descent! We did not even look haggard on our arrival at the parking lot that is at the head of the trail.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

On the Road: Steamboat to Moab

Our first stop on our journey from Steamboat was at a coffee shop in the small community of Yampa, basically ranching community. Customers were directly out of a John Wayne picture. The walls of Leisure Mountain Gallery and Coffee Shop were covered with the watercolors and photographs taken by and created by the father of one of the customers. Black and white ceramics were created by the husband of the delightful proprietor. We dropped off one of JoAnne's pastels for their upcoming Holiday show and treated ourselves to coffee and sweet roll. The talk was on cattle, hunting and the new super Walmart opening in Craig, over 40 miles away.

We followed the Colorado river through the "community" of Burns, CO. managing to avoid the Interstate as much as possible. We then got lost in the big city of Grand Junction, CO trying to avoid more Interstate but reluctantly found our way back to the Interstate to leave it as soon as possible and take the very scenic byway Utah 128 along the Colorado into Moab.

A quick hike in Arches National Park in the Devil's Garden area finished the day!! A wonderful to start our journey.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Murray's Interviews

Part of the fun of being an author is giving interviews on what you have done and the concept of the book. Murray has provided two interviews. The first one is part of the website and focuses on general information on Murray's recently published book, Screamer: The Forgotten Voice of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Check it out at

The other interview provides tips for budding sport's casters based on the experiences of sportscaster Joe Tucker. You can check it out at

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Old Fuddy duddys writing their first blog

It is late Saturday here in Steamboat Springs, Colorado... no snow, no TV... waiting for the Steelers to play the Browns tomorrow, which is almost today. We are experimenting and exploring this new world of blogging! We hope to do better the next time. Down the road you can look forward to less nonsense and real substance on writing, art, travel experiences and Pittsburgh Sports History.

Murray has published a book, Screamer: The Forgotten Voice of the Pittsburgh Steelers. It is based on his father's notes and can be previewed on his website He will be sharing some of his experiences of self publishing and marketing.

JoAnne recently had an exhibit at a local resturant in Steamboat and you can take a tour of the exhibit by visiting her home page at

Right now both of us are getting ready for our trip to the Grand Canyon, hiking down to Supai Village and the Havasui Falls. We will be leaving Steamboat on Tuesday and hiking down on Friday. We would welcome comments from anyone that has done the hike! To get ready, yesterday we packed our backpacks to see how they would feel with the 64 ounces of water and our clothes for three days, along with pain medication, bandages, and moleskin. We trugged up and down our hillside, with Murray particularly experimenting with shoulder padding!