Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Southwestern Vacation!

As mentioned in the previous post, our time in North Carolina was cut a bit short because we had a wedding to attend in Phoenix.  (Which deserves a post all on its own!)  Since we were going to travel all the way out to Arizona, we decided to make a real trip out of it -- we flew into Las Vegas, stayed there one night, then drove out to the Grand Canyon, stopping at the Hoover Dam en route, and then down to Phoenix.  Kind of a crazy itinerary, especially with a toddler, but we saw some amazing sights and really had a great time!

Joshua did surprisingly well with all the travel.  Things did get a little dicey at the end of our long day of air travel from RDU to Vegas, with a layover in Atlanta -- we tried to pick our flights to coordinate with his nap, but the problem was that he didn't get a chance to stretch his legs all morning, and was strapped into his stroller as we hurried to make our connecting flight, so he wasn't tired enough to nap and was fed up with being constrained by the time we finally arrived in Vegas.  While we were checking into our hotel, he kept whining to be let out of the stroller, but wasn't any happier out of the stroller unless one of us was holding him.  Which got to be fairly tiring pretty quickly.  But funnily enough, as soon as we made it up to our room, this was the only place he wanted to be:

He kept climbing back in and wanting to hang out in the stroller that had imprisoned him earlier.  We chalked it up to Stockholm Syndrome, and let him play happily in and around the stroller.  :)

Our time in Vegas was very compressed (less than 24 hours), and very kid-centric, so I doubt we got the full Vegas experience, whatever that may be.  But we did get a glimpse of the Strip at night from our hotel window, and we also took a peek at the restaurant with flying sommeliers, which we only knew about because it was referenced in "Modern Family."  :)

But we chose our hotel, the Mandalay Bay, for its large and kid-friendly aquarium.  Which was a huge hit with our little guy!  (Who also insisted on showing his fire truck and yellow truck the sights...)

Then it was off to the Grand Canyon!  Oh, but I have to include a shot of the rental car we got in Vegas...  We had reserved a mid-sized family car, because we knew we'd be driving a lot and wanted a little more room in the back for me to comfortably entertain Joshua.  When we got to the desk, the rental guy saw us carrying Joshua and pushing a stroller filled with toddler accoutrements, and clearly decided that a two-door Dodge Challenger was the way to go...

Ah, Vegas...  :)

We made a stop at the Hoover Dam on our way to Arizona, and were struck by just how HUGE the structure is.  (I rented a Sigma 8-16mm wide angle lens for this trip, and got to take it for its first real spin here!)  What a monument to human ingenuity and dedication...  There's a memorial at the Dam erected in honor of the 96 men killed during its construction, which states simply, "They Died To Make The Deserts Bloom."  It's crazy when you stop to think about it -- trying to build cities in the barren desert.  Seeing the Dam that helps supply water to so many millions of people was an awe-inspiring experience, and well worth the stop if you're ever doing a similar road trip!

We then finished our drive to the Grand Canyon, arriving just in time to roll into bed and fall asleep.

The next morning, we drove out to see the South Rim of the Canyon.  This was the first time for all of us, and it was so thrilling to be able to cross the Grand Canyon off of our bucket lists!  Our first glimpse of the Canyon was literally breath-taking -- we approached it via a paved set of sidewalks from a visitor center, with flat terrain all around and the normal scrubby trees of the southwest all around, when all of a sudden you come to an overlook, and hey, THERE'S A GIANT CANYON IN FRONT OF YOU.

These photos don't even begin to do it justice...  I wish I had the skill to capture the sense of enormity, and beauty, and the breath-taking sweep of it all...

(I should note, in the interest of editorial candor, that Joshua didn't seem to be all that impressed.  His very favorite part of the walk to see the Rim was when David bounced him down a series of long steps in his stroller.  The kid could have done that all day and been perfectly happy with his first trip to the Grand Canyon.)

Then we had our one big splurge of the trip: a helicopter ride through the Canyon!

Someone, not naming names here, totally fell asleep on the helicopter...

What an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience!

After that exciting morning, we hit the road again to make our way to Phoenix.  We made a little detour en route in order to see Sedona.  And I know I'm probably already over my limit for superlatives for one post, but the red rocks of Sedona really were beautiful.  We stopped at the Chapel of the Holy Cross, one of Sedona's earliest landmarks, for the architecture and the amazing views of the sweeping vistas surrounding the area.

And then we made one final stop between Sedona and Phoenix -- Montezuma Castle National Monument, where you can see some of the best-preserved cliff dwellings (from about 800 years ago) in the US.

Joshua was slightly happier with this travel day, given the multiple opportunities to be outside in the sunshine.  At the very least, all of this exposure to national monuments and historical landmarks wore him out enough that he slept angelically in the car the rest of the way to Phoenix:

Big collective "Awwww..."  We then made it safely to Phoenix, with some time to rest and recuperate before the big wedding day!


edalsasu said...

I've been to all those places!!! Makes me wish I'd had a better camera when I was at them... Yeah, my experience with Vegas is that it is NOT kid friendly. Monteray Bay was a good choice. The only other places kids might like are the Coke store, the M&M store, and the Coney Island arcade in NY,NY. and maybe the Lions in MGM.
Neat to see snow at the Grand Canyon. :) -Sara

Glinda said...

WOW I love seeing that chapel (I've seen photos of it before, but yours is great!) and I literally laughed out loud at "Stockholm Syndrome", haha!!