Saturday, March 5, 2016

Joshua to Las Vegas and New York

I thought a better title for the post would perhaps have been titled
Trains Planes and Automobiles, the reasoning of which
should become apparent as you read on.

Joshua Tree National Park

On our final day in Joshua Tree we headed over to the center of the park
and the Pinto Basin area.  Our first stop was Skull Rock.
Aptly named, you can see it in the photo below at lower left.
(remember to click on photos to enlarge)
You can also see Marcel & Franchesa on the Rocks.

Skull Rock
Our visit to skull rock was interrupted by Francesca taking a tumble and cutting her
knee.   Michaela - a nurse by trade - pulled out the first aid kit and saved the day.

Our next stop was the Cholla Garden.
There are 20 different species of Cholla Cactus and are found throughout the 
southwestern deserts.

They are covered by fine needles that have microscopic barbs.
Just a simple brush against on will result in it becomeing attached to your skin
and requireing pliers to painfully extract the needle.

We take great care to keep ourselves and the doodles away from them.
Below is one starting to flower.

Flowering Cholla
Below is a panorama of the Cholla Garden.
A short .3 mile walk on the nature trail teaches you all about
the Cholla and their contribution to the desert ecostystem. 
Cholla Garden Joshua Tree NP
We made a lunch stop at one of the many picnic areas scattered about the park
and had our lunch in the shade of some large boulders.

As usual - the Swiss folks see a hill and have to climb it.

Kate and Francesca on one rock.
Marcel and Isabella on another.

Later we returned to camp and spent our last night at Black Rock Campground.
In the morning we headed off to Las Vegas as I needed to catch a flight later that night
to New York for business.

We decided to take a longer (time wise), more scenic, and much more remote route
thru the heart of the Mojave desert and the Mojave National Preserve.
A 200 mile journey, it was almost all on narrow and lightly used back
roads that transited thru remote country.

The Map below shows our route in blue.

Get your kicks on Route 66

Old Route 66 "The Main St of America" was replaced in the 1960's and 70's
by Interstate 40.   While much of it has gone, where I-40 does not follow the old
route some sections remain.

US 66 was the main route for travelers to reach Los Angeles.  It was traveled by hundreds
of thousands of dust bowl job seekers during the depression, but when I-40 was completed
the towns and businesses along route 66 dried up - almost overnight.

Much of that history is gone but in little places here and there that Route 66
nostalgia manages to hang on.

Roys in Amboy California is one of those places.
I've marked a red dot in the lower third of the above map to show where Roys
is located and the other red arrows show the stretch of route 66 that is not
aligned with I-40.

I wont go into the history of Roys - but it is quite interesting and 
you can read about it here .

Our route took us along a short stretch of Route 66 so we took some time to stop
at Roys and see the old Gas Station (still operating) and the motel.
I bought a T-shirt here to help with keeping Roys open for future generations.

Roys - Amboy Ca.
The 60's interior of the Motel Loby.

Other than the improved pavement, the view today is the same as that
which would have been seen by the dust bowl migrants in the 30's.

The Road goes on forever.

Kelso Depot

Kelso is the red dot in the middle of the above map.

Kelso is located at the bottom of a long upgrade along the Union Pacific Railroad.
In the days of Steam Locomotives, it was created as a place where additional
"helper" engines could attach to the train to help them climb the grade.
A local source of water was another reason for building the depot here as it could be used to
replenish the water in the steam locomotives.

The Modern Depot building was built in 1923 to help the Union Pacific compete
with the Santa Fe railroad who had the famous "Harvey Houses"

More info on Kelso Depot is here.

The lunch counter at Kelso Depot

Kate test out one of the modern conveyances.

The telegraph room.

Las Vegas Motorcoach Resort

Our destination in Las Vegas, The LVMR is a class A motorhome only
resort and is one of the nicest places we have stayed.

5 swimming pools.
5 laundry rooms.

This place is great!

We are parked side by side.
Our site has a tiki bar with fridge, radiant grill, gas fireplace,
wet bar etc.

It is luxury at its finest.

sitting area with Tiki Bar
The view looking across the street.

The Trip from Hell

As I said, our reason in coming to Las Vegas was my need to fly to Albany, NY
for business and Las Vegas is perhaps the best place to fly to/from anywhere.

My plan was :
11pm flight out of Vegas.
Arrive Albany 9am and attend a job related function.
5pm flight out of Albany and arrive back in Vegas at 11pm the following night.

It would be a 36hr day.

Immediately upon leaving Joshua Tree my cell phone rang and I found 
out via robocall  that my flight on American had been cancelled and 
I had been rebooked on another flight that connected in Chicago.

This new flight was going to make any hope of getting some nap time enroute unlikely.

I arrived in Albany an hour later than originally planned and was able to attend the function
which began at 11am.

 I had booked first class tickets on American for the return to Las Vegas.   
I was relishing the thought of a larger seat and more room
so that I could stretch out and get 5 hrs of badly needed sleep on the way home.

Arriving back at Albany Airport for my flight home, I find that I had screwed up
my reservations and rather than booking a March 4 return flight, I had booked 
a May 4 return flight and American had no more room on any flights that day.

Oh...  this is not good.
A major screwup on my part.

I went to the United and Delta ticket counters and the best that I would get was either
a flight to Phoenix and then have to rent a car to drive 6hrs to Vegas,
or a flight out the next morning.

I didn't think a 6 hr drive from Phoenix thru the desert at night would be a good idea 
considering that by the time I started the drive I would have been awake for 40hrs.

I tried Southwest last and they were able to get me on a flight to Baltimore,
and then on to Las Vegas.

So I would get home at 11pm after all.

I grabbed the tickets, flew to Baltimore and grabbed a bite to eat at the airport.

I then carted my tired body onto the Southwest flight from Baltimore.
By that time I had been awake for over 36hrs.

I was first on the plane and chose the front bulkhead window seat.
(If you don't know - Southwest does not assign seats - you pick your own)

I was hoping that the seat next to me would remain empty...

Yeah right!

Soon a gentleman sat down next to me and immediately began to cough 
every 20 seconds - on schedule - for the next 5 hours straight.

Meanwhile 2 young boys behind me began kicking my seat 
and contributed their own regular coughing fits to this  majestic Symphony of Phlegm.

Add this to the fact that domestic coach seats are 18" wide and my shoulders are over 22".
Whats up with these ridiculous tiny seats?
Designed by Munchkins for Munchkins.

Trying to keep myself constrained within this 18" wide slice of airborne paradise
requires me to put myself into a self induced straightjacket...  arms folded across the chest.
Houdini would be proud.

Soon the cramps start to radiate down from the shoulders but you power thru it.
Nothing that a $5 drink and a bag of peanuts cant soothe.

It was perhaps the longest 5 hours of my entire life.

And I've spent some very looooong days in my life.

If I don't wind up wth the Bubonic Plague from my adventures in this
airborne Petri Dish it will be a miracle to rival the parting of the Red Sea.

Arriving in Vegas however the fun actually continued.
If you thought it was over....  it wasn't.

McCarran Airport has to be one of the worst designs of any airport in the world.
First you have to walk about 5 miles from your gate to the baggage claim.
Up and down hills and thru rows of slot machines.
I was starting to get vertigo from the flashing lights as I walked.

Then I waited for 1/2 an hour for the bags to arrive at the carousel.
They had two flights bags arrive at the same time on the same carousel so the mass
of bags being disgorged at the same time was frightening.
They were being dumped on top of each other 3 and 3 deep and on top of each other.

Meanwhile the gang had texted me that they were waiting in a parking lot and to
let them know where I was when ready to be picked up.

So when I got my bag I walked outside and gave them my door number.
Turns out I was in the Limo only area.
After they texted me that they couldn't find me I found out no cars were
allowed where I was so I walked inside and to the other side of the terminal.

Turns out that side is only for Taxis.

I guess most people who arrive here are getting Limos and taxis.

A very long story shortened...

After another 20 minutes, crossing a terminal and then across a bridge,
I finally found Michaela.   She had gotten out of my truck to wait for me
while Marcel, Kate, and the girls made revolutions of the terminal while I searched
for the place that locals hook up with their rides.

My excellent adventure had come to an end.

In spite of it all...  getting to see my friends and co-workers
made it all worth it.

Maybe next year will be smoother.


  1. OMG!!!

    That truly was the trip from hell. I've had some like that myself but I must say reading your story had me nearly bent over with fits of laughter. I know it wasn't funny to you at the time but reading about your misadventures certainly was entertaining and about as funny as it gets. I'm glad you are safely back with the gang. Get some rest and get out and have fun you deserve it my friend!!!!

  2. Travel by airplane is never any fun any more, it was fun years ago when the seats actually fit the human body, but today, they made the seats so small and so tight that it is very uncomfortable. This was a trip from HELL for sure, crazy. As for your Las Vegas stay, I always like that stop. To me it seems like such a great resort and a wonderful place to hang out, especially with good friends and fun kids. Enjoy the stay, great post Greg, great read.
    Hayden on anchor in the Exumas

  3. Whenever you fly Southwest, the best chance of having a seat to yourself is in the back. Since they don't assign, most people fill in the front seats first.

  4. You need to retire, Greg!! What happened to attention to detail??? I was like Linda, laughing so hard!! You did a great job of describing your trip from hell!!! Margie 😂

  5. I like others laughed out load. What would we do without your sense of humor? So sorry you had to go through all of that!!

  6. It was great to see you too! I think the lesson is that you have to stay with us in Albany a bit longer... and Katie too next year! T


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