Mariel and I have been enthralled by the Southwest area of the country since our first trip there with Cindy and Keith in 1972. Subsequent trips wetted our appetites to explore more of the region in depth. Our chance came when we received a catalog from Creative World Travels listing a recreation vehicle (RV) caravan trip of the Grand Circle for 2002. We didnít waste any time signing up for this adventure.
The Grand Circle is a spectacular route that encircles Americaís highest concentration of scenic parks and monuments, rugged mountains, deep canyons, skyward cliffs, prehistoric Indian ruins, and other fascinating attractions. This area touches parts of four states and contains seven national parks, seven national monuments, a Navajo tribal park and a variety of state parks and historic sites.
The picture is of the Stratosphere Casino in Las Vegas. (Photo submitted by Curt Richardson)
We were treated to the sights of deep river-carved canyons; colorful strata of eroded rock: arches, bridges and mazes of stone. The glittering waters of Lake Powell were an added treat. Not only the beauty of this area but also the history of the ancient pueblo people, as seen in their carefully crafted stone dwellings and their fascinating rock art, made this trip special.
Our trip started on September 19. Our group of travelers, from all sections of the country, gathered at Silverton RV Park, in Las Vegas. Here we met our caravan leaders and our traveling companions. As part of the introduction we received two manuals, one of travel maps and one with the complete itinerary for the 19-day excursion. We were also given name tags to be worn at all activities. In addition to letting our own people know who we were, they would also serve as our admission tickets to many places on our trip.
Our group was made up of 20 RVíing couples and four leaders. A bus picked up our group and took us for an Italian dinner and show at the Gold Coast Casino. After the show the driver took us to the Fremont Street Experience where five city blocks buzz under a $70 million dollar canopy. Every night, on the hour, a pulsating light and sound extravaganza gives pedestrians their own high tech show. The show of over two million colored blinking and flashing lights, complete with music, above the street, was amazing!
The following morning we traveled by coach for a tour of Hoover Dam. Security was heavy at the dam and several areas that were once on the tourist schedule are now off limits. Metal detectors were located at the entrance to the visitor center and all traffic that passes over the dam, that separates Nevada from Arizona, was subject to search. We were able to see one of the large generator rooms and to view Lake Mead and the Colorado River from strategic vantage points. During our 1972 trip we had a more extensive tour.
It was here that we were first made aware of the plight of this area caused by the drought of the last three years. The water line on the cliffs along the lake is 50 feet above the present level of the lake. Our driver was very knowledgeable and was kind enough to keep a running narration throughout the trip. In the afternoon, he drove us to the Stratosphere Casino, the highest structure in Las Vegas. Our ticket included a free drink and an afternoon comedy show and elevator ride to the top. From there we had a clear panoramic view of the entire city.
Later Mariel and I stayed in town, while the bus returned others to the campground as we wanted to experience more of Vegas. We walked down the strip, stopping at many of the opulent casinos. These very impressive structures are all designed to cater to the betting public. Believe me, there was no lack of people! To save leg work, we finally took advantage of the Las Vegas Monorail and toured the opposite side of the strip.
At sunset we waited with a milling crowd outside of Treasure Island. There we watched a high-tech show which included a renegade of dueling pirates on board a sinking frigate. We also joined the crowd to watch a musically choreographed water show outside the Bellagio. Exhausted, we finally arrived at our pickup point, for the final shuttle of the evening. While waiting we heard shrieks of joy coming from inside a casino. Some woman surely had good luck! Previously we had tried the same free Tic-Tac-Toe game (against a machine) with no success and decided it was unbeatable.
Arriving back at the campsite late in the evening we retired, our heads spinning with anticipation of what lay ahead of us on our Grand Circle tour.
To be continued.
The Richardsons reside on Pumpkin Hook, Van Hornesville