Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Route 66(ish) Day 25

It is a truth universally acknowledged that every visitor to Orange County, CA, will visit Disneyland.

We'd already been to Disneyland Paris when it was new (and our children had gone back more recently). The day didnlt get off to a marvellous beginning when we found that one of our favourite rides (Big Thunder Mountain) was undergoing renovation, and the Radiator Springs Racers (which we'd had recommended) was broken. So we split up (parents/children) and went to find things that suited our diferent tastes. We're not so much into white-knuckle rollercoasters these days, but had on some of the VR rides (Soarin' Over California and Star Tours). We saw all of Tony Starck's suits of Iron Man armour on display. We went round the Haunted House, did Pirates of the Caribbean twice, wandered about admiring the scenery (especially the "Route 66" stuff in Carsland), saw the Muppets 3D Experience twice, watched a parade, had an excellent dinner in the New Orleans Cafe, and finally saw the Wonderful World of Color, which combines Bellagio-like fountains (as Hilary remarked, Disneyland's imitation of Vegas!) with a carefully-controlled mist effect upon which are projected scenes from various Pixar films. In all, we were there for around thirteen hours, and felt we'd had a grand day out.

Oh, and having failed to see any real Saguaro cacti in Arizona, we were able to see a replica in Disneyland.

Route 66(ish) Day 24

This was kind of a rest day, starting out with clothes washing and shopping. In the afternoon we headed down to Newport Beach to take in a whale watching trip. (We hadn't realised before we arrived but the waters off Orange County at this time of year are the best place in the world to see blue whales.)

Well, we saw a mother and calf spouting in the distance, but didn't get any really good views of whales. We did, however, see plenty of common dolphins from close up, and sealions. It was a bit rough for really good viewing, and we got half price vouchers for any future trips (which we made use of - see day 26). We did see a fantastic sunset from the beach, and had fun dipping our toes (up to the knee!) into the Pacific Ocean.

Route 66(ish) Day 23

Not Route 66 (except for brief moments as we navigated the LA streets) but still going. This was our first day in Los Angeles, so naturally we visited Hollywood. But before gazing in rapture at the Walk of Fame, the hand- and footprints on the sidewalk, and all the rest, we visited the Paige Museum at the La Brea tar pits. These, as any reader of Stephen Jay Gould will know, were - still are, really - pits of liquid asphalt into which a large number of Ice Age animals (mammoths, saber-toothed cats, condors, giant ground sloths as well as millions of tiny ones such as rats, mice, dragonflies and the like) blundered and became stuck as though on flypaper. Every ten years or so there appears to have been a major capture where something got stuck and a host of hungry predators tried to get an easy meal and were trapped in turn. The place is totally amazing: not only one of the world's primary palaeontological sites (with enough material to keep the scientists busy for several centuries) but really well displayed.

The pits are still there.

Excavation is continuing.

One of the large finds.

One of the small ones.

The pits have yielded up a lot of wolf skulls and eagle leg bones.

Pausing only to be amused by the existence of a La Brea bakery in Orange County (we wondered if they were famed for their sticky buns) we moved on to West Hollywood, where my children absolutely insisted on visiting this place, selling everything Hogwarts and everything Whovian.

Then on to the traditional joys of Hollywood.

We were staying in LA woith our friends Chip and Eddie Clark, and by the end of our Hollywood trail Chip had had to take his grandchildren home to bed, while Eddie and the tourists went on to a delightful dinner at a restaurant (Ammo) serving Californian cuisine. It proved the perfect end to a busy day.

After La Brea, this has to be the music.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Route 66 Day 22

The last day of actual Route 66, though not of the road trip. Running from San Bernadino to Santa Monica, this one was almost entirely encompassed within Los Angeles, and mostly on busy and unphotogenic freeways (though some of the areas of LA have gone to town on the retro styling in honour of their iconic location. But after a seemingly endless trail through such places as Hollywood and Beverly Hills (no Clampetts, though), we reached Santa Monica pier, the Pacific Ocean, and THE END.

Then it was on to Westminster, on the other side of LA, where we were staying with our friends Chip & Eddie. Their son Aric was visiting with his family, so I got to meet yet another person I previously only knew from his blog.

Route 66 Day 21

And so we say farewell....to Las Vegas, as we push on westwards California-bound. Back first into Arizona, where the natives were both friendly and inquisitive.

Our lunch stop was Oatman, AZ, whose two-legged residents are mostly unrepentant rednecks, and whose four-legged residents are their big tourist draw.

And so to California, where the scenery was marvellous (we enjoyed the Amboy Crater lava flows) but the driving rather boring. At least, until we reached Oro Grande, where one of Route 66's weirdest pices of road trip wackiness awaits: the Bottle Tree Ranch. Built by a guy called Elmer Long, it's a big walk-in artwork comprisng hundreds of welded bottle trees festooned not only with bottles but....oh, see for yourself.

And the place was full of hummingbird feeders, which were full of hummingbirds.

And then on to San Bernardino and the Wigwam Motel. (Photos from next morning as we arrived well after dark.) Concrete, wifi-enabled wigwams. I was a little disappointed that the rooms didn't go right up to the top of the "tents", but you can't have everything.

Music? Well, duh.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Route 66 Day 20

So our son Ruairidh reached his 21st birthday (8 hours later than he would have done at home). He's decided on the previous day that he wanted to have lunch at Carmine's in Caesar's Palace (the Vegas outpost of a renowned New York Italian-American restaurant). So in the morning we all went back into town and kicked of the day with some shopping (mainkly at the Ballegio and the Venetian). Our daughter acquired a singing gondolier dog, proving that she really is a child at heart, and all the rest of us had fun in the shops and on the curved escalators in Caesar's Palace. Then it was lunchtime: all Carmina's portions are family-sized (serving 3-4) but in the end we went for their two signature dishes, spaghetti with meatballs and penne al vodka. Bothe were marvellous, and there wasn't much left of either by the time we were through. Then we went to the Bellagio where Vanessa introduced Ruairidh to the (now legal for him) joys of losing money on the slot machnes. And of course as it IS Vegas, Hilary and I joined in.

So then it was back to the hotel for a quick swim before being collected by our limo and taken to the airport for a helicopter trip over the Hoover dam and the Grand Canyon (landing in the GC for a champagne picnic) and returning via the Strip. Great fun, even though all the other three admitted to having been a bit nervous about helicopters beforehand. The pilot was very informative, and it was rather a shock to realise that where we landed, which was very obviously in the Grand Canyon - indeed not all that far from the Skywalk - was an hour by helicopter from the part of the South Rim where we'd been a few days earlier. Not just very deep, not just very wide: the canyon is also very long.

Finally, we all went back in to the Strip to see it after dark, especially in the hope of catching the Bellagio fountains by floodlight. But it was getting stormyu, the wo ind had got up, and the 9.00 pm fountain show was cancelled. Over the next hour the weather became much worse and we had another torrential downpour. (It seems that the one that struck while we were at Joe's the previous night had delivered 25 mm of rain in an hour, the heaviest rainfall in Vegas since 1951.) So we sat in a bar and drank, which gave Ruairidh his first opportunity to be ID'd as a 21-year-old. All in all, a pretty good day.

And in view of its being Ruairidh's first time playing the slots, here's today's music.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Route 66 Day 19

This morning Vanessa wasn't feeling so good (it has been very hot indeed here - over 41 C - and her body is still working its way into Pacific Standard Time) so she returned to bed while Hilary and Ruairidh headed back to the Strip so that he could revisit the O shop when it wasn't crowded, and they could both have a look at Caesar's Palace, which they thought was delightfully tacky compared to, say, the Venetian. What was I doing in the meaantime? Well, just across the road from our hotel is this museum, which I felt I had to take a look at.

It contains all kinds of things, such as one of the original graphite blocks from the first nuclear reactor ever built and a piece of genuine trinitite, the metamorphic rock created when the first atom bomb melted some of the New Mexico desert.

They also have a big exhibit on "Area 51", the various experimentsl aircraft that were tested there, and the many supposed UFO sightings in the vicinity.

In the afternoon, Hilary and I went back up the Strip to Stratosphere, which is a fairly undistinguished hotel and casino with one unique selling point: the tallest building in the USA west of the Mississippi. There are white-knuckle rides at the top (on the 108th floor).

And having been ID'd (along with Hilary) for the first time when buying alcohol in Arizona, we received our first seniors' discounts when buying tickets for Stratosphere.

In the early evening we made our way through town to where Joe and B live. They had invited us to come over to swim in their pool, chill by it, and have a Mexican meal with them. Their place is amazing: pop over to Joe's blog for pictures of their new kitchen. In temperatures of 43 C we were only too happy to jump into the pool. I intended to take some pictures, but I left my camera in the car, and while we were in the pool, chilling with our Margaritas, the weather in Las Vegas took a diustinct turn for the worse. First came the lightning - stupendous quantities of it - then the temperature began to fall and the wind got up (doing its best to relocate Joe's garden sunshades). Finally it began to rain torrential monsoon rain, and yes, we are clearly trailing it with us. Anyway, we all retreated indoors, where I was surprised to see that the hammering rain didn't deter a hummingbird from visiting one of Joe's bird feeders. The radio began to broadcast sever weather warnings, and it occurred to us that maybe tomorrow's planned helicopter trip to the Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon might not be going to take place.... Anyway, I never got round to bringing in my camera, so I have no pictures of the splendid meal which B (and Joe) cooked for us. Suffice it to say it was wonderful for food, good company, and conversation, and once again they made us very welcome indeed. Thanks again, guys: you made Las Vegas very special for us. And we got back to our hotel with only a few sets of traffic lights knocked out by the weather.

I decided a few days ago that this would be have to be the music for our warm welcome and good cheer at Joe's (and B's) place. And while he may not be old I'm sure he'd get a discount at Stratosphere.