Butch & Cathy do The South West

1999 Southwest Trip For years we have talked about exploring the southwest for possible winter nesting places. In the summer we started planning a trip that would take us through Pocatello, Mesquite NV, Las Vegas, Sedona AZ, Phoenix, San Diego, and LA.

On Nov 10 we departed a cold, wet and windy Portland and made it to Ontario Or. There we rented a room for the night. Finding the room was no problem but getting the key to work was. After a minute or two of fussing with the key a guy opened the door wondering what we were doing. After an embarrassing moment, we discovered our room was 52 not 57. From Wednesday to Friday we visited my mother and brother and his wife. On Friday morning we said good-bye to mom and accompanied my brother and sister-in-law to Salt Lake City. All we can say about getting around Salt Lake City is that you can’t. When they won the winter 2002 Olympics someone got a bug up their butt to fix all the freeways. What a mess.

We arrived at Mesquite NV at dusk. We found a casino called the Oasis. What a place! $39.00 rooms and $1.00 blackjack tables. With bags in hand we made our way to the room. First we tried one card inserted in every possible way. Since that didn’t work, we tried the second card in every possible way. That not working, we found we were in room 210 not 201. One of Nevada’s pitfalls is the all you can eat buffets that are found in every large casino throughout the state. You always have the misconception that this time you’ ll be able to control the amount you eat. The good thing about buffets is that if you time them right you can get away with 2 buffets instead of 3 square meals a day. After a buffet dinner we soaked in the Jacuzzi and settled in for a hard night’s sleep. In the morning we tried our luck at blackjack. Having read the book “Blackjack for Dummies”, I knew it should be no problem to come away a winner. An oversight on my part is the fact that casinos only have games that they win at. After a buffet breakfast we were on our way to Vegas.

Our plan was to spend the night there and head off to Sedona in the morning. Bad idea for a Saturday night. We found rooms both scarce and expensive. We took a walk along the strip and checked out the Eiffel Tower and casino. Walking through one of the casino’s it seemed like all they had were banks of $10 blackjack tables. Then we got to the last bank of blackjack tables and found we were wrong - there was a bank of $25 tables. With this done, we headed to Boulder City looking for a casino near the border.

We found the Hacienda casino near Lake Mead, a few miles before you get to Hoover Dam. You know, the place where you can take all the “Dam” pictures and ask all the “Dam” questions you want. The casino had just been reopened after a fire a year or so ago. We found the room, inserted the rooms card key and the damn door didn’t open. At this point we were beginning to note a trend on this trip. We double checked the room number – yes it actually was the right room. We tried the other room key and voila! It worked!

With some time on our hands we decided to explore some of the marinas around Lake Mead. We found the docks lined with kids feeding ducks and carp. Sunday morning Butch showered and dressed long before Cathy (what a surprise). With empty blackjack tables down stairs this was no problem. After an up and down session of blackjack a lady came up and asked “Is your name Butch?” She informed him that his wife needed his help in carrying the money she had just won in a jackpot on a slot machine. It turned out to be 900 quarters! And she hadn’t even read “Slot Machines for Dummies”. Suffering from exhaustion from carrying all those quarters to the cashier we managed to make it to the buffet. Besides filling up on breakfast food we found a couple of lemons to take the silly grins off our faces.

Our trip to Sedona was relatively uneventful. With our books on tape the miles seem to fly by. RCI’s directions to the resort were good if you were coming from Phoenix. However we were coming from Flagstaff and they were awful. The road we were looking for just didn’t show up. We came upon it when we were out of town looking for a place to turn around. It was definitely worth the hunt though.

Sedona ranks high among the most majestic places we have been. The town is surrounded by red cliffs and pillars. It is spread out over several miles in three directions. Most of the town is surrounded by forest service lands. On Sunday night we were getting our nesting chores of unpacking and stocking the place done. The problem with staying in these great 4 star resorts is that they flare up Cathy’s itch to move. After a soak in the spa Sunday came to a quick end.

Early in our stay we took a tour to get the lay of the land. Very predictably, Sedona has a trolley tour. This not only gave us the lay of the land but also a lot of the local history. One of the places we discovered on the trolley tour was located southwest of town and was surrounded by beautiful cliffs and columns. We chose this place for a sunset photoshoot. Several other folks had the same idea. A Swiss man stopped and got out his alphorn and proceeded to play several beautiful songs. Cathy was amazed when she found out that Butch had made arrangements to videotape him playing the following evening.

One of the things about staying at a time share is that they always have an offer you can’t refuse just to listen to their spiel. The offer this time was an RCI bonus week and a $50 spending spree at the local outlet stores. After the time share presentation we met Verner and headed for the hills. The idea was to get away from traffic noise so we proceeded quite a ways down a dirt road where we found a trail head. We took the trail until we found an open area. Butch split Verner’s songs between 2 videocassettes so we would each have one. Verner was especially pleased by the acoustics (echoes!). We’re not sure whether Verner was just being polite or just wanted a laugh when he offered Butch the opportunity to play his horn. All we need to say about this is that fortunately Butch does have other talents. At least 6 people appeared out of nowhere to rave about how beautiful his playing was (Verner, not Butch). (Film at 11)

Wednesday – Grand Canyon day! In the past we have been to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone & Waimea Canyon (the Grand Canyon of Hawaii) and I’m here to tell you that there is no substitute for the real thing. Looking into the vast depth of the canyon I was reminded of a cartoon. After seeing the Grand Canyon, an 8 year old boy sent a postcard to his buddy back home. “Dear Billy, today I spit a mile.” We entered the canyon from the eastside of the south rim. At the desert view look out Butch noticed a lady taking a picture of two of her friends up on a platform. He mentioned to her that it would be a lot better picture if she was on the platform and they were below her. In that way she would have the canyon instead of the sky in the background. Next thing you know, she was part of a large group and got Butch to stand on the platform taking pictures of the whole bunch of them. You think he would learn not to be so helpful. We had many great photoshoot opportunities of our own. However a strong gusty wind kept us from getting very close to the edge. While in the Grand Canyon park we stopped at some Indian ruins. We were amused because instead of a “stay on the path” sign they had a “beware of rattlesnake” sign (probably much more effective). We returned to Flagstaff for dinner & then back to Sedona. One note about this part of the country – At night it’s really dark.

Thursday found us at the outlet stores spending our time share money. We went to the Enchantment resort for lunch. It was a beautiful setting with views of the red rock canyon it sits in. Then we finished the day off with another sunset photoshoot.

On Friday’s schedule was a visit to the hippy village of Jerome. Jerome was a ghost town left over from the copper mining days. In the 70’s the town became an anti war hippy settlement. Now the town is full of really old hippies selling arts and crafts. From Jerome we proceeded to Prescott for lunch. Prescott had several desirable features, not the least of which was a Costco store. In an effort to see more of the country we made a loop passing by Montezuma’s castle. It turns out Montezuma’s castle is an Indian cliff dwelling around a 1000 years old.

Saturday morning we went to the Sedona airport to have breakfast. We sat outside enjoying the calm, sunny day. While we were there several small planes took off and landed. After breakfast a $19 plane ride sign caught our attention. Like fish after bait we hit the flight office. As you can imagine, $19 doesn’t get you much – basically a touch & go. $75 later we found ourselves on the red rock canyon flight tour. It went from a fun flight to an exciting flight when the wind came up. Sedona has an “artsy fartsy” part of town full of various shops. Butch’s illusion of getting through the week without being drug through them was shattered when Cathy said take a right at the Y. The shopping trip proved fruitful when we found a copper eagle for our fireplace’s brick wall.

Saturday night brought the realization that our week in paradise was coming to an end. Time to pack it up! Sunday was a long travel day from Sedona to San Diego. We stopped in Phoenix for a short reunion with Randy & Terry Baker (Butch’s old high school buddy).

In San Diego we visited with various relatives and friends Monday through Thursday. The grand finale was a superb gourmet Thanksgiving dinner at Cathy’s brother Joe & Laurie’s house. Friday we had a quick visit with Butch’s uncle Jim & aunt Irene. Cousins Cheryl & Peter joined us for a steak dinner. Saturday morning we took off for the 1000-mile trip home. pictures

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