After the volleyball action and a drive around Santa Barbara we proceeded down the coast to Barstow. Everyone looks at us strangely when we say we stopped in Barstow. It was just a midway point on the way to the Canyon. Just a place to lay our heads and keep the kids sane. We lunched in a place called Thousand Oaks where we had some awesome Mexican and to the kids delight some refreshing ice cream. You could really start to feel the change in temperature. From about mid twenties in Santa Barbara to low thirties in Thousand Oaks. It was the first place that we saw the bean Bag Toss game. The guys from the local pub were all getting into it. A simple game bringing so much pleasure. I would later play this physically taxing game on the golf course just outside the Big House in Michigan before the Wolverines football game.

Canadian casinoWe eventually got out to Barstow and bypassed the majority of the major Los Angeles traffic without incident. We were expecting a one horse town with very few conveniences, after all it was in the middle of the desert. What we got was a pretty well resourced town. Plenty of take away joints naturally and an outlet shopping mall. Everything you need in the middle of nowhere. The four and a half hour drive was just manageable with our terrors and we were glad to get into the lodgings. The temperature was now up to 38 degrees so the hotels pool was a definite blessing. I could only go for a swim after a quick workout and run though. After all the rubbish we were eating I needed some exercise. The workout room was about 40 degrees so I was working out in a sauna. The dip in the pool that night was amazing. The hotel was basic but comfortable and the Indian (from India) owners were very accommodating. Maybe a little too much. They were around us all the time. They would come out and tell us to make sure our doors were closed so the air con would work, they made sure we knew where everything was, the male owner followed us to the pool and made sure we used the correct towels. He hung around to make sure we were using the pool in the right manner. Whenever you thought you were alone, they would pop up. You could sense they were always watching. You might not see them but you knew they were there, somewhere….waiting.
The gang was up early so we could start the five and a half hour drive out to the Canyon. The start of the drive was slower than expected due to the cop that no one would pass. He was soon out of the way and then it was time to see if I could lose the others. Wayne didn’t like this game so I did the responsible thing and only drove at 130km/h. A five and half hour drive always becomes longer when you have two girls that need pit stops every second. I think we have watered sections of the desert that have never seen water. More water was coming however. We lunched in Kingman at Panda Express. We all love this place. Brilliant Chinese food. We even saw Walker Texas Ranger Chuck Norris in there. Not the real deal but some dude with a nice cowboy hat and a fire arm for everyone to see. As we got closer to the Canyon we were surprised by the lush scrub and vegetation with grazing cattle. We thought it would be pure desert. There was plenty of green and the thunderstorm we encountered made us understand why. We threw our gear into our room and ran down the road in our excitement to see the Canyon. There was a lot of people but it was peaceful at the same time. Until our rowdy kids came. We started at the Bright Angel Trail and walked around the rim. The first thing that Bonnie did was to pick up a rock and throw it over the rim. The problem being that people were walking the trail underneath. Thankfully she just scared the walkers. It was a beautiful walk around the rim. The Canyon was grand. It was more impressive than I thought it would be. We soaked up the serenity and immersed ourselves in the native American music as we watched the sunset. A great meal polished things off nicely.
It was an early start in the morning so I could get a few pics of the sun rise. I got there in plenty of time and took heaps of photos. Not one of them good enough to keep. The deer were up early and a few other brave souls. The place soon filled and it was a fight to get a good spot for the ultimate shot. The Smiths all went for a helicopter tour through the Canyon. They said it was magnificent. The poor Donnelly’s could afford such luxury. From here we checked out almost every vantage point of the Canyon as we could. Tam had the camera now, so the photos are much better. It was a speedy trip to the Grand Canyon such was our itinerary, but a good one. We said goodbye to the big hole in the ground and looked forward to Sin City – Las Vegas.
We were a little behind schedule on the way into Las Vegas. So we had to bypass Hoover Dam. We will have to do that next time around. The gang navigated our way to the Mirage Hotel which was pretty flash. We dropped most of the guys off at the entrance which was full of people doing the same thing. I go to get the case out and its open. Stuff flies everywhere on the road. I wasn’t happy and let a few expletives go. The next case I get was also open. Someone was playing a nasty joke on me. We soon cleared the road and managed to drop our car off in the right place. We had to explain the shenanigans that went on (the rental debacle) and the lady said she would sort it all out which she did.

Talk about a big casino. The Mirage was big. Every time you went to your room you had to pass through the casino. A great way to get the punters in. The dress standards were pretty lax as well. It looked as though tank tops and shorts were the order of the day. They also allowed smoking which was a big turn off. As a group we didn’t have much time to check out the Mirage. The kids couldn’t understand why they weren’t allowed to play the pokies! Keelan thought they were video games and tried reasoning with us that if we just stood next to him to make it look like we were the ones playing, it would be ok.

It was off to the High Roller next. The High Roller is the world’s largest observation wheel. It eclipses the Singapore Flyer and the London Eye. I gets high up there. 550 feet worth. The kids thought it was pretty cool. We were the only ones in our cabin so we just used it like one big dance floor. The kids were running amok, I was doing handstands and everyone was partying. It all got a bit loud for Wayne so he rightly shut down the party and called for some common sense. For 30 seconds anyway.

After the big ferris adventure we had a walk around town. Some strange sights in Las Vegas. Men and women were dressed and undressed to impress. Both visitors and those working the streets. You could get a photo with anyone for a price. Minions, transformers, a bloke with a G-string or showgirls with not much on. It was great just walking the streets. You had the orgasm squad handing out pictures of escorts. Not that I took them at all. It took us awhile to find a place to eat so Sinead could be catered for. Even then she didn’t like what we ordered for her. The gluten free selection was minimal. This happens more than we would like. It gets frustrating. The kids were out on their feet so we took them back to the room for the night. A few quiet whiskeys followed.

Day two started with a workout and then we got a tour of the city on the hop on, hop off bus. We saw the biggest Hooters venue in the US, found the best places to eat, party and hang out but could do none of them with the kids. We saw all the themed casinos and of course the world famous Las Vegas Sign. We had to get off the bus earlier than expected because Sinead needed the toilet….again. It gave us a chance to check out the M&M store the Circus/Circus Casino where we saw some circus performances and a walk around town. We journeyed back to the hotel to have a dip in the pool. It must have been about 37 degrees. Paradise! It was then time for a quick bite and the Cirque du Soleil Love Show. The show was amazing. The kids loved it, especially Bonnie. She wanted to go back and watch it again. She even now identifies the Beatles songs on the radio.

After the show Ben and I hit the town. Not a big night by any stretch seeing as we are sensible married men but a good one none the less. Got a fill of $1 Michelob beers at a dive of a casino across the road, saw the volcano eruptions out the front of the Mirage, watched some dancers strut their stuff and cruised around town taking in all the sights and sounds.

The next day we made sure we were well organised and got to the airport with time to spare. It was our luck that the flight was delayed by four hours. They made it up to us by inviting us to have a look at the cockpit. When the English ex pat captain heard our accents he invited us all in and gave us the run down on all the gear. He loved Aussies. He even let Keelan talk to air traffic control. He was a bit shy but did a good job. We ended getting back to Tecumseh at 10:30pm at night after six weeks of being on the go. The kids were bombed and so were we. What a trip! The beautiful thing was we still had a weeks holiday up our sleeve.