Sunday, November 18, 2012

LV-AZ trip, part 1

At the beginning of the year we found ourselves with an unexpected surplus of funds, which I talked Jim into earmarking for a trip to visit my dad and step-mom, who moved to Tucson around the same time we moved to Ellensburg. We see them several times a year, but the visits are usually short--often when they are passing through on the way to or from Seattle. Three years ago Dad was diagnosed with kidney cancer and is now in remission, and I didn't want to wait any longer for a nice, relaxed visit at their place so the kids could build some fun memories.

In the ensuing months, we looked at different options and finally decided to fly into Las Vegas, where Jim's brother John lives with his family, and rent a car there for the drive to Arizona, with some sight-seeing along the way. We tried to strike a balance between fun time with family and educational experiences for Jimmy and Audrey, so they'd still be learning even while we took two weeks off from our regular school schedule.

After trying (and failing) to find good airfares for the beginning of September, we moved the trip to the end of October, which proved to be a perfect time to travel--great weather, moderate temperatures, and no crowds at any of the more touristy places we went.

We flew from Pasco to Las Vegas on the Monday before Halloween. Jimmy was immediately mesmerized by all the lights, and especially by the Stratosphere. "Las Vegas is beautiful," he enthused. I'm glad he's young enough for it to be magical; it isn't for me anymore.

Tuesday afternoon we wandered around the more G-rated portion of the Strip, visiting the M&M and Coca-Cola factory stores and the fountain show at Bellagio, which was the highlight of the day.

On the afternoon of Halloween, we went to the Springs Preserve (which I highly recommend) with the kids' Aunt Chantalle and cousins Mariska and Jack. Unfortunately, because the preserve was hosting a Halloween party that evening, they closed at 3 p.m. We only got to spend about an hour and a half there, just long enough to look around the Origen Museum.

The kids particularly enjoyed a simulated flash-flood exhibit, but we're definitely going to have to go back on our next trip so they can see the outside collections of wildlife and local habitats.

That evening, the kids dressed up and went trick-or-treating with their cousins.

Bright and early Thursday morning, we hit the road. Mid-morning we stopped at Hoover Dam to look around and let the kids stretch their legs. The last time I drove over the dam was in the late 90s, when it was still on the main route of U.S. 93 to Arizona.

While the visitor center offers tours, we decided that the kids' limited attention spans and our need to get back on the road would make it more prudent to look around on our own--which we did, and it was a good call.

Jimmy was fascinated by the history of the dam and completely engrossed by all the informative plaques posted at various points.

However, by the time we got halfway across (where we could have one foot in Nevada and one in Arizona), Audrey was done and ready to head back to the car for a snack.

The new bridge was really spectacular from below, but sadly, we couldn't see beyond the high barriers on each side as we drove over it and into Arizona toward the Grand Canyon.

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