Scenic River Cruise to King’s Bay

On our holiday trek back to Florida, we’re spending the next few days at The Plantation on Crystal River, in Crystal River, FL.  One of its many offerings is an hour long cruise on King’s Bay, the outlet of Crystal River before spilling into the Gulf of Mexico.  One of the things Crystal River is known for is being one of the wintering spots for manatees.  When the Gulf gets cooler, manatees head up the rivers on Florida’s Nature Coast, gathering in large pods to keep warm.

There was only another couple on the boat with us, so it was easy to move around.  The captain, Brian, and his one person crew, pulled us out of the berth and out into the open water.  It was in the upper 70’s, a perfect Florida winter day.  The wildlife were definitely out.

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The first picture of two trees shows an island that once held a house.  The second is another abandoned house sitting on its own island.  Both were made uninhabitable by hurricanes.  Then, we found manatees.

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Some sped on by while another manatee just cruised along with our boat until stopping for a snack.  As we cruised along, looking for others, we spotted dolphins.  The dolphins find a school of fish, circle around them, and then dive in to snatch up a fish or two.  They did this a couple times as we watched.

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Once they were done, they opted to cruise along the bow of the boat for a bit.

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At only $15 per person for adults and $10 for children under 12, this is a wonderful way to spend an hour on the water.  You don’t have to be staying at The Plantation on Crystal River to partake of the tour.  Because the manatees and dolphins are wild animals, no guarantee of sightings can be made, but the captain will do all they can to make the trip as enjoyable as possible.

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The Long Road Home

So, once again, we have packed up Red Rover and hit the road.  This time, we’re taking the next 3 weeks to make our way back to Florida to celebrate Christmas and New Years with my younger brother and his family.

After leaving Las Vegas, we stopped last night in Kingman, AZ and stayed in a hotel on Route 66.  Then, it was time to drive to Tuscon, AZ, where we’re spending the next 4 nights.

Obviously, Mom didn’t get her usual 8+ hours of sleep.  How do I know this?  As we were driving along Hwy 93, we were commenting on the scenery (desert and cactus) when she suddenly yelled out “DINNER!,” and pointed at the road.  There was a huge chunk of semi truck tire in the middle of our lane.  Neither one of us is certain why she yelled “DINNER” at the top of her lungs when seeing a tire in the road.  She claims she was tired.  I’ll go along with it (though I did take time during our drive to point to pieces of tire on the side of the road and yell DINNER).

If that doesn’t read as a sign that we need to get back on the road (Mom mistaking road garbage as a meal), then I don’t know what would.

 

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Skyline Helicopter Tours

In North Las Vegas lies the Las Vegas regional airport, which is home to Skyline Helicopter Tours.  Somehow, Mom convinced me that we needed to do this.  And I’ll admit, I’m glad she did.

We drove up to North Las Vegas and checked in for our flight.  We had to fill out a few bits of paperwork and then came the moment all women dread.  We had to be weighed, holding our bags.  They didn’t tell us what came up, but also didn’t seem worried about us getting off the ground.

Even though our tour was scheduled for 1:30, they wanted us there an hour early and, because it was us, we were even earlier.  But that was no problem.  They had us out on the tarmac at about 12:45.  We were individually placed in the helicopter, with Mom behind our pilot Dan and I was on the other side.  We both had a window seat.  I was a bit nervous, but before we knew it, we were airborne.

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Because we were on the VIP tour, we got to fly over both Red Rock NCA (previously discussed in our Scoot City post) and Las Vegas.  It was neat seeing what the city and surrounding areas looked like from the air.  There was construction going on all over the place, with our pilot stating that, on average, 15,000 people move to the city every month.

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Then, we were over Red Rock.

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What seemed majestic from the ground was awe-inspiring from the air.  Then, we were heading for the Strip.  The juxtaposition from the arid desert surrounding the Red Rocks to the city was heavily marked.

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The size of Las Vegas and its surrounding communities is immense.

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But soon the familiar architectural landmarks came into view.

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And we got to see where they’re building the new stadium for when the LA Rams move to Las Vegas.

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While the view of the Strip was amazing, there were some hidden gems that could only be seen from the air to be viewed too.

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But then, it was time to return to the ground.

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The tour we took is normally $169.00 per person, but they do run specials or you can sometimes find them on Groupon (which is what we did).  There is an additional $25 airport fee that you pay when you check in for your tour, as well.  There are other options you can add on (such as taking the doors off or prepurchasing a photo package).  There is also a weight limit of 3 passengers/600 pounds with the doors on.  Still, it was an amazing adventure and something we’ll always remember.

Scoot City Tours

This morning, we hopped in Red Rover and headed over to Summerlin, another area of Las Vegas away from the Strip.  There, we met up with Cody of Scoot City Tours.  If we had been staying at one of the hotels downtown, then we would have been picked up by their free shuttle, driven by Cody’s tour guide partner, Frank.

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This is Cody, by the way.

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Mom was excited because she was going to ride with someone different.  “More cautious and less crazy,” she put it.  You go around one 25 mph corner at 45 and you get labeled crazy.  I, however, was riding in my own scooter.  Since we were early, Cody took plenty of time to explain how the scooters worked.  He also made sure we knew what we were doing, though he made sure to stick near our scooters while we were on the tour, too.

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The controls, he explained, were pretty similar to a motorcycles, with no pedals involved.  It took some practice, but eventually, we got the hang of it.  Once Frank and the rest of the group who were in the shuttle arrived, we got on the road for Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

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You start out riding the streets of Summerlin on your way to the Red Rocks, which was a bit intimidating.  While the scooters are street legal, they don’t go over 35 mph and some car drivers were in a hurry and didn’t pay as much attention to our caravan of little red 3 wheeled scooters on the road as they should have been.

But Cody and Frank got us to our first stop, the Visitor’s Center at Red Rock NCA, in one piece.  Both men recommended using the bathroom facilities at the Visitor’s Center, as they were the only ones with running water.  Then, we were able to take a few pictures before heading into the red rocks.

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It was a beautiful day, with the temperatures rising in to the lower 70s and the sun shining in partly cloudy skies. The roads in the park were well paved, which made the ride enjoyable.

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Then it was time to drive on to our next stop, at almost 5000 feet elevation.  The road twisted and turned, going up into the mountains, following the terrain.

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Mom was enjoying herself immensely, but decided while we were stopped to get a dose of Vitamin D with a small sun bath in the scooter.

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Once again we drove on.  There were a total of 4 stops in different areas of the park.  Each site held its own natural magic.

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Mom caught me trying to take a picture, doing her best photobomb.

Finally, we headed back into Summerlin.  Cody and Frank were great guides, giving us time to explore while keeping us on task.  They also made sure that everyone who left with the group came back with the group.  Remember how I mentioned Mom was riding with a driver who was more careful than I was?  Well, we ended up leaving them behind multiple times.  But Cody, thank goodness, kept our little late ducklings on the road and eventually they caught up.

We both had a marvelous time.  Cody and Frank provided individual attention while also making everyone in the group feel special.  I would recommend this tour to everyone (though the age limit for those riding is 8 years old at minimum and drivers have to be at least 21).  Each car can hold 2 people (up to 400 pounds total) and run at $250 per scooter, though we found a Groupon.  Still, for something this different and off the beaten path, it is practically a steal.  Its amazing that this tour isn’t more well known.  It was great to get away from the neon and glitz and ride through nature with the wind blowing in our hair and the sun on our face.  A definite respite from the usual Las Vegas entertainment, Scoot City Tours is a fabulous tour to take if you’re in Las Vegas.

The High Roller

Right off Las Vegas Boulevard lies the High Roller, a 550 foot tall Ferris wheel, that is attached to the LINQ casino and hotel.  Opened in 2014, it holds the title of the tallest Ferris Wheel in the world, beating out the Singapore Sling, which stands at a humble 541 feet.

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We had prepurchased our tickets through Viator.com, a discount tour site.  Thus, our price per person was $19.99, as compared to the regular price of $25 per person for regular admission during the day.  Night trips (which start after sunset) cost more and if you’re looking to indulge in adult beverages during your half hour trip up and around, then that adds on to the price even more.  The Half Hour Happy Hour car does not allow children.

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The wheel does not stop to allow you on.  While moving at a foot per second, you quickly get on before the doors close on you.  Each car can officially hold up to 40 people, but luckily we’re here at a time that isn’t so busy, so our car held a total of 6 people.

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Before you could say “Yeah, I changed my mind”, the car pulled back out of the station and started its ascent.

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As we started up, I noticed that the Las Vegas Monorail stopped at the LINQ hotel.  Something to do on another day.

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Las Vegas began to spread out before and behind us (as you have a 360 degree view in the car).

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A lot of work went in to making sure the High Roller was very safe, but I’ll admit that my acrophobia might have voiced an opinion or two.  That’s when I went back to snapping pictures.

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Glancing out the back, we noted the lush greenery of the Wynn Golf Course.

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Mom, of course, wasn’t having any issues with the heights.  Show off.

Before long (about 15 minutes in) we reached the pinnacle.

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We could see for miles and miles all around us.  It is amazing just how big Las Vegas is.

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The fountains at the Bellagio.  We were a bit too early to see them dancing.

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I have to admit I was slightly amazed to see anyone in the pool.  It was in the low 70’s, which is winter weather in Florida.  But, I guess when in Vegas…

All in all we had a great time.  There was no sense of claustrophobia, because of the glass walls, and my acrophobia only poked at me when I wasn’t taking pictures and since the view was amazing, I was pretty much taking pictures the entire time.  A great taste of what’s available to us as we continue our month long experiment here in Vegas.

Glen Canyon Float Trip

Another adventure Mom and I had last year while staying in Sedona is taking the Glen Canyon Float Trip down the Colorado River from Glen Canyon Dam to Lees Ferry, the official start of the Grand Canyon.  As exciting as that sounds, there are no major rapids.  In fact, there is a picture later on in the blog that shows the roughest water we went on.

It was, once again, sprinkling as we boarded our van to take us from Sedona down to Glen Canyon, with a couple stops to pick up people in Flagstaff at their hotels.  The van (actually a mini-bus) drove us through the San Francisco Volcanic Field (which runs along the Colorado Plateau) and along the edge of the Painted Desert.  Finally, we arrived at the Welcome Center in Page (the location of the Glen Canyon Dam), got handed our bagged lunch and then our group boarded a bus with a couple other groups, to head down to the base of the dam.  It should be noted that there is a rather long, dark tunnel the bus goes through to get to the base, so you if have claustrophobia, be warned.

Once at the base, you are issued a hard hat to wear until you get to the rafts, because safety first!  But, it is a quick trip, so you don’t get too much hat head.  Then, you board your boat, with your lunch in hand and find a place to sit either on the outer floats or on benches towards the middle of the boat.  We opted for sitting on the inside, though up front so I could get some pictures.  And then we were on our way.

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Part of the way down the river, someone spotted something moving towards the top of the canyon walls.  It was a person.

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Not sure what he was doing up there.

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Halfway through the trip, the boats pulled over on a beach so that everyone could enjoy their bagged lunch and use the facilities.  There were also some petroglyphs to enjoy.

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Then it was time to get back on the boats to continue on to Lees Ferry.

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As promised, here are the mighty rapids we conquered.

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Then it was smooth sailing.

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It was amazing to see the power that water has based on the huge chunks of missing canyon wall.  You can also see where the river has smoothed the missing rock face down.  The geological layers were easy to see, the walls striped with history.

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Eventually, we pulled into Lees Ferry and disembarked from the rafts and got back on our van to head back to Sedona.  It was an amazing trip, full of history, nature and relaxation.  It was a full day trip, with the van ride being 3 hours each way and the raft trip 4 1/2 hours itself.  But it was amazing.  This tour only runs from May 1st through October 1st, so make sure if you’re in the Sedona/Flagstaff area in that time to do it.

Canyons and Cowboys

Last September, when Mom and I were on our test run of living on the road, we spent a few days in Sedona, AZ.  We were there during their rainy season, but we still decided to take one of the Jeep tours into the canyons around them, given by Red Rock Jeep Tours.  The tour we chose was the Canyons and Cowboys tour.

Our cowboy guide and driver was Big John.

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He packed us into his jeep, including a couple other couples, and took us through town and out into the red rocks of Sedona.

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There was an off and on mist that morning, so water dotted the ground and scrub brush.

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Eventually, we ended up at the cabin of the Van Derens, who donated the land to the US Forest Service.

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It definitely gives you an idea of just how rustic and hard living it was when Arizona was first being settled.  We then got back in the jeep and headed back towards town.

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Now, it may sound that this was a nice drive in the country, but I assure you, you knew you were not on pavement.  And if you had any back problems, you begged to sit up front with Big John, because in the back, you were riding a bucking bronco.  Big John went over rocks that put the jeep at an almost 45 degree angle, as well as tipping down deep from the front and the back.  There was no going around obstacles, it was up and over.  And since it was open air, you held on to whatever you could to make sure you stayed in place, along with your lap belts.

Our guide talked about the geology and biology of the area as well as the history, including the number of Westerns filmed in the area.  It was a well informed, rocky and fun adventure.

Oatman, AZ

Up in the Black Mountains of Mohave County, Arizona lies the old gold mining town of Oatman.  Named after Olive Oatman, a young girl from Illinois who had been captured by the Natives during their journey westward before being sold to the Mohave Indians and made one of their own, the town was built during the gold rush, but by the mid 20th century, the mines were shut down and they turned to tourism to make their money.

This town saw its share of Hollywood stars and was used as a backdrop for several westerns.  It was also where Clark Gable and Carole Lombard had their honeymoon after getting married in Kingman.  The original Route 66 wound through the hills from Kingman on its way to Needles, CA, but the drive was so steep and twisty, it was soon rerouted for an easier drive.

Luckily, there are several tours out of Laughlin, NV, across the Colorado River from Bullhead City, AZ, which has brought back the tourists.

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One of the big draws are the wild burros, descendants of the original pack animals brought in during the gold rush, but left behind when the miners left.

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You can easily see the town’s pride in their wild inhabitants.

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And yes, they are wild.  While most every shop has ‘burro food’ (small blocks of hay or bags of carrots) for sale, the animals are no longer domesticated and have been known to get a bit rowdy.  Plus, it was asked that no one feed the babies, since they were still getting their meals from Momma.  They even had warning stickers about this.

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There is also a shoot out between a bank robber and the sheriff in the middle of the street at least twice a day.

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The shops are full of quirky items and friendly people.

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The town does have one or two rules, besides the burros.

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The shops had everything you could possibly want from an ex-mining, burro infested, cowboy shootouts daily type of town.  Just make sure you watch where you step.  Burro droppings abound.

 

Got Our Kicks on Route 66

Less than an hour outside of Bullhead City lies Kingman, AZ and the Historic Route 66.  While we had traveled next to it and on it for about a mile after visiting the Petrified Forest, we devoted this ride to seeing some of the sights along Route 66.  Also known as the Mother Road and the Main Street of America, Route 66 connected the country by starting in Chicago, IL and ending some 2400+ miles away in Santa Monica, CA.  Originally opened in 1926, it served as the major thoroughfare between the East Coast and West Coast, until being bypassed by the Interstate system. In the 1960’s, a song was even dedicated to this road, used mainly by vacationers traveling to Los Angeles.  There was even a TV show centered around the highway.

Nowadays, the highway is mostly incorporated into some of the interstates or is managed by local states and counties.  Even though most of the traffic is gone, it still retains some of its quirkiness.

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You never quite know what you might see as you ride down the road.  Perhaps an homage to a certain movie from a part of the Mouse House that involves automobiles?

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Or a bar with a singer out front?

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Or a locale where the building seemed to be held together with bumper stickers and an object from a bygone era-a pay phone.

Whatever you see, it is sure to be interesting.  Time might not have been kind to Route 66, but it has held on to its off-beat charm and will continue to do so for a long time.

Lake Havasu

About an hour and a half south of Bullhead City lies Lake Havasu City, AZ.  In order to get there from here, we had to drive through California for a bit down I-40.  Having to leave one state and go through another to get somewhere within this state was a bit surreal, but also rather interesting. After crossing back into Arizona and driving through miles and miles of hills and desert, we found ourselves back in civilization again.

We tried to find the London Bridge visitors center, but kept getting turned around, so we ended up at the Lake Havasu History Museum.  Two older ladies were working the small museum and seemed just tickled to have us come in.  Another couple of people wandered in and we were treated to a 20 minute DVD about the local area, starting with the Native people who used to live there, through the area’s use by the military as a recreation area, up to the purchase of the land by Robert McCulloch to test his outboard motors, then to build his own city.  We then toured through the rest of the museum.

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Mom had found a bracelet in their little gift shop that she liked and as we were checking out, we asked about finding the London Bridge Visitors center.  The bridge that McCulloch bought from the London mayor and brought over to be the main tourist attraction to his new city wasn’t the bridge that everyone thinks of when they picture London Bridge.  That bridge is Tower Bridge and still firmly settled in London.  This bridge was brought over with carefully numbered stones and had been built in the 1800s, but couldn’t withstand motor vehicle traffic as it was.  When it came over, they built the stones around the steel infrastructure of the bridge, then built a channel under it so that it created an island to span to.

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We were told that due to construction, you had to park your car in the casino boat parking lot and walk down to the visitors center.  And since we were going that way, take these two coupons that would get us a free boat ride that would take us somewhere for lunch.  Since it was lunch time and we were hungry, we got on the boat going to the undisclosed location to eat at a place that was never named.

Some of you are probably wondering why we would do such a thing and the only answer I have is…we were hungry.  Luckily, the boat simply took us to the other side of the lake, to California, to the Havasu Landing Resort and Casino.

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We had a delicious lunch.  I had a cheeseburger and Mom had the Chemehuevi salad, named after the local Native tribe, which was served on traditional fry bread.  Since the boat only runs from the casino back to Lake Havasu City on the half hour, we had some time to kill and played a couple of the slots.

But then it was time to head back.  The boat took us back across to Arizona and we were finally able to see London Bridge.

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If you’re driving from Laughlin or Bullhead City, expect to make a day trip out of this.  We did and we were very happy to have done so.