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Utah…Revisited!

Travels through Utah

Travels through Utah

We’ve had a great last couple of weeks. Utah is such a cool state with so many interesting parks and odd geology and geography. We did a little circuit of a lot of the National Parks including Zion, Capitol Reef,  The Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Monument Valley, Valley of the Gods and the Grand Canyon (North Rim this time).

The Checkerboard Mesa in Zion National Park

Looking down onto the formations in Bryce cayon Looking down onto the formations in Bryce Canyon

The Checkerboard Mesa in Zion National Park
Exploring some red rock canyons

Exploring some red rock canyons

Dave on top of a natural arch

Dave on top of a natural arch

We had a little hire car and mostly camped in our tent but did take a hotel break every few days. Sleeping in a tent is not nearly as nice as Ginger with her nice comfy bed…. We do miss the old girl!

Camping - Not nearly as nice without Ginger-Lee.

Camping – Not nearly as nice without Ginger-Lee.

The weather was also pretty good except for some really cold nights and wind.

Amazing and huge natural formations

Amazing and huge natural formations

Christine scrambling up red rocks

Christine scrambling up red rocks

Great views from on top

Great views from on top

Finding beauty in a harsh environment (it's easier when you bring her with you!)

Finding beauty in a harsh environment (it’s easier when you bring her with you!)

Natural arches and bridges aplenty

Natural arches and bridges aplenty

Great skylines

Great skylines

Even double arches!

Even double arches!

and some snow capped peaks as well!

and some snow capped peaks as well!

Wow - another arch!

Wow – another arch!

We did do a hike most days on some very beautiful trails like this one

We did do a hike most days on some very beautiful trails like this one

A great vista over the canyons

A great vista over the canyons

A panorama of one canyon (click for full size view)

A panorama of one canyon (click for full size view)

Monument Valley (click for full size panorama)

Monument Valley (click for full size panorama)

Exploring in Monument Valley

Exploring in Monument Valley

From the canyon floor

From the canyon floor

Herds of Bison in the Park (Grand Canyon)

Herds of bison in the Park (Grand Canyon)

On the edge of 'The Big One!'

On the edge of ‘The Big One!’

On the edge of 'The Big One!'

On the edge of ‘The Big One!’

We headed back to Las Vegas a few days before flying out to relax and get some errands done; ie Christine’s wedding dress fitting! We stayed just off the strip and only went for a wander on it to see the sights the last night. It was smokin hot with highs of over 40ºC everyday! We hung out by the pool or in our A/C apartment most of the time.

We flew back to Halifax on June 6th. We had a great welcoming committee, eventually, as our flight did arrive a tad early and no one was there!

In Halifax with the welcoming committee

In Halifax with the welcoming committee

But when they did get there there were flowers, Bride-To-Be badge plus a lot of our favourite people. Our welcome dinner was an awesome lobster dinner – yum!

About to rip into some fresh lobster

About to rip into some fresh lobster

Since getting back here we’ve gotten ourselves organized and are now getting excited for the arrival of Dave’s parents at the end of this week! Can’t wait.

This weeks banner - Christine(s) in The Valley of the Gods

This weeks banner – Christine(s) in The Valley of the Gods

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Farewell Ginger!

After a few days of recovery, and shopping, in the warmth of Las Vegas we have the energy and the technology to write this blog! It’s been a tough and tiring couple of weeks since the last entry. So here goes…

Our latest travels

Our latest travels

We spent a cold and wet night by the ocean in Puerto Montt, where even the local dogs were surprised to see us there at this time of year.

Hey guys!! You lost?

Hey guys!! You lost?

This ended up being as far South as we would make it on this trip. We had over a week to get back to Santiago, and planned to cross over to Argentina and travel a small part of the famous Ruta 40 on our way North.

Waterfalls along the way

Waterfalls along the way

We were so happy to finally cross the border into what we thought was our final country and blog namesake, Argentina! We found a great campsite by a lake and got cozy in the van.

Argentina! We made it!

Argentina! We made it!

Beautiful fall colors in the Andes mountains

Beautiful fall colors in the Andes mountains

Pumice from the local volcano was everywhere

Pumice from the local volcano was everywhere

Our lovely and quiet camp by the lake

Our lovely and quiet camp by the lake

Lakes and rainbows

Lakes and rainbows

The next day we went to the tourist town of Bariloche which is right on a lake with the beautiful Patagonia mountains surrounding it. We parked a couple of blocks from the tourist centre and then made our way there to get some information on local campsites and hikes. After about an hour or so we returned to Ginger and a big mess.

That small window sure had a lot of glass

That small window sure had a lot of glass

The remains of our possessions

The remains of our possessions

The van had the small front window smashed out and all three front locks were messed up from an amateur robbers handiwork. They tore the place apart and eventually with the help of our very own tools got into the safe. They got everything – laptop, hard drive, iPad, passports, cash, GPS, everything. We immediately sought help and the police were there shortly after. Christine also talked with the owner of the car next to ours who hooked us up with the local radio and TV station. Radio Seis showed up approximately 45 minutes later and did a TV and radio interview with Christine that was aired right away.

Christine _ Argentina's newest TV star

Christine – Argentina’s newest TV star

By the time we fumbled through a spanish police report and made it to a campground we received a call that all our documents and cards had been anonymously dropped off at the radio station. We were very happy about this but still were missing the most valuable stolen item, all our trip photos from this past year+ of travel. The radio station continued to air the story and the TV station did a follow up the next day where Christine offered a reward for the return of our hard drive or photo files. We also plastered the town with posters of our hard drive and the reward.

Vandalizing Bariloche with reward posters

Vandalizing Bariloche with reward posters

We stayed in the town of Bariloche for 6 more days hoping something would come up but so far no word.

We couldn’t wait any longer or do anything more and had to return to Santiago to meet the buyer of Ginger. We had managed to fix all the destruction and to do a bit of a clean up before meeting Peter on Wednesday, the 15th.

Did we say it was cold in Chile?

Did we say it was chilly in Chile?

Crossing the Andes back to Chile

Crossing the Andes back to Chile

Dave getting distracted while working on the van...

Dave getting distracted while working on the van…

We got a few vehicle ownership documents notarized but in order to get the van out of Christine’s name and passport and into the new owners we required a border crossing. The theory is that Christine would exit the country and then the new owner would produce new papers and enter the next country with the vehicle imported in his name. Sounds easy but the Chile/Argentina border where we crossed had integrated both countries customs offices together so we could not switch the papers. This was a huge glitch in our plans and meant we needed to find another border to cross. Peter was planing to head to Uruguay on the east coast, so we decided that we’d all make the 1500km+ drive together and cross there. This also made sense as Uruguay had no previous record of the vehicle either.

We did manage to have a stopover in the steak and wine capital of Argentina, Mendoza, and got a steak as big as our head!

Argentinian steak and red wine - just what we needed!

Argentinian steak and red wine – just what we needed!

The next 2 days were dedicated to driving. These were not without incidents; like a mud highway where we thought for sure we would be stuck for a few days. The pictures don’t give you any idea of the slipperiness of it or the mess that we got into. And this was a big highway!

Ginger skating sideways in the mud - the trucks in the distance have all slid off the road and stuck. It took us about 2 hours to get back 500m from here...

Ginger skating sideways in the mud – the trucks in the distance have all slid off the road and stuck. It took us about 2 hours to get back 500m from here…

The next big problem was the corrupt Argentinian police that stopped and held us until we produced money. The infringement fine started at $510 USD but quickly disappeared when Dave presented a US$50 bill which was quickly slipped into the officers pocket… the officer then shook his hand with a big smile and sent him on his way. Dirty buggers! This was also where Dave somehow lost one of his hiking shoes (which was covered in mud after the previous incident…).

The Argentina/Uruguay border we crossed was supposed to be on separate sides of a bridge and we were very surprised when we found that the 2 countries also had integrated borders! This made us very nervous but in the end Christine checked Ginger out of Argentina and at the next desk Peter checked her into Uruguay. At one point we thought we were caught but one of the officers thankfully didn’t look too close at the names. Phewf!

Ginger with her new driver in Uruguay

Ginger with her new driver in Uruguay

Once we got into Uruguay we booked a flight to Vegas and got the heck out of there!

Saying farewell to Ginger-Lee

Saying goodbye to Ginger-Lee

 

Farewell Ginger!

Farewell Ginger!

We left South America feeling beaten, as though everything of value had been stolen or taken from us. Not a great end to our fantastic drive from Canada. I think we just need some time to get everything into perspective! Hopefully some warm weather will help!

Dave in his rubber water shoes with shopping bag carry-on luggage.

Dave in his rubber water shoes with shopping bag carry-on luggage.

Las Vegas was lovely and hot and we had 2 nights to get ourselves organized. This included Christine getting a wedding dress (YAY!) and Dave figuring out what electronics we were going to need to replace (a new Microsoft Surface tablet!). After shelling out a small fortune we got most things accomplished, picked up a rental car and headed for the hills! Well Zion National Park anyways.

It was Thursday before the Memorial long weekend and of course everything was chock full. We eventually found a state park and tried to take shelter from the gale force desert winds for the night. The next morning we returned to Zion to try and snag a first come, first serve campsite. We really appreciate having the language as we asked a fellow camper at the park gate about the process of getting a site and he offered for us to share his site with a couple of his friends! You’re allowed to have up to 3 tents and 2 cars so we were set. We’ve met some really wonderful people along our way.

Exploring Zion National Park again

Exploring Zion National Park again

Rock scrambling

Rock scrambling

Christine hanging on

Christine hanging on

We had a good day hiking around Zion and a nice night hanging out with our fellow campmates. We headed for the tent early and had a much needed sleep in today. We are currently at McDonald’s using their free internet and eating sundaes.

We are spending the next couple of weeks car camping around America (Utah, Colorado etc) and hope to do a bit of hiking before heading back to Canada for the next adventure.

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On the road again!

This week sucked! We had a couple of crappy days just waiting for Ginger to be fixed at the service station. We stayed at Circus Circus Resort which was pretty below average and is really showing its age. However this did give us the opportunity to see Kã. It was a great Cirque de Soleil show however we both really thought Le Reve had more ‘wow’ moments.

Can you spot the odd one out?

Regarding Ginger, it turns out there was no ECU part around town so we had to order it from Pittsburg. We picked her up Wednesday with much excitement and a happy reunion. This was short lived however, as we only made it approximately 20 km before another catastrophic breakdown on yet another freeway. The service station arranged a tow and we were back in the garage. A new alternator and regulator this time! Yet another Vegas hotel (and more freakin’ buffets!).

Finally on Thursday we got Ginger back and were on our way to the Grand Canyon. She’s running way better and climbing hills like a champ! The service was successful, despite the many breakdowns, and will hopefully mean less issues later on.

We saw the Grand Canyon on Friday!

It was pretty cool although Dave was a bit under-enthusiastic about it all. This may have been due to our dashed dreams of doing the two night Rim to Rim hike we had planned. We had planned to do this early in the week, but all the extra repairs meant we arrived right at the start of a long weekend. We tried for a last minute backcountry permit two early mornings in a row but it was no use and all full. They usually book up 4 months in advance and it’s currently their high season. Maybe next time!

On the edge

Colours of the Grand Canyon

We did a little more exploring of the park by car and then headed South West back towards California and our next destination: Joshua Tree!

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Zion to Vegas

We arrived late afternoon on Tuesday, September 25th and very luckily got the last campsite in the Zion National Park. We were happy!

The view from our campsite

We headed out the next morning on a mission to do 2 trails: Angel’s Landing and The Narrows. Of course Angel’s Landing is the scariest in the park and entails walking all along the top of a rock spine with sheer cliffs on either side. And please let it be known that this was Christine’s bright idea!

Christine all ready to go, with the Angels Landing in the background

It was a 4 hour round trip with most of it going up. We made it to the bottom of the really steep part after going through ‘Walter’s Wiggles’ which is a series of 21 switchbacks. Then the real climb began meaning scrambling up the rocks while holding on to the chains so you don’t fall to your death. Well maybe that’s a bit dramatic but there have been fatalities. Thank goodness none that day!

Dave walking the final ridgeline, with destination behind

Christine hanging on!

Sheer drops!

Clambering back down

Angels Landing done!!

After that we continued up on the park shuttle bus to the end stop and started The Narrows trail. This is a cool one because you are mostly walking in the river water as you are exploring these close canyons. We didn’t have time to do the whole 8 hour round trip but did get a few hours in before the sun started to go down. And before our toes froze!

Exploring the narrows at Zion

Christine river wading

Dave with a big stick

We didn’t stay in the park again as they were fully booked, but started heading back towards Vegas, where we had a big weekend planned.

We got into Las Vegas by noon on Thursday and had a list of things we wanted to accomplish on Ginger before the weekend began. We tried some RV places to see about getting a recommendation for a service station but ended up just picking one at random. They seemed friendly and had lots of experience working on older cars. We booked her in for the whole shebang to be done the following day. We found a nice posh RV resort for the night and were back at the garage by 7:30am. We left Ginger and wandered down the street to the real local casino. Even at 8am it was pretty busy! We wasted time until we went to pick her up at the end of the day after they completed all the maintenance service. We got about 5 minutes down the highway and were midway on a busy exit when she died and wouldn’t start again.

Ginger stuck on the exit ramp…

AAA was supposed to be on their way within 30 minutes but since we were kind of in the middle of the highway that divided 2 tow truck company jurisdictions no one came. Eventually a tow truck came by and recognised that we were in a precarious spot and it was starting to get dark. He nudged us off the exit at least and told us to wait for another tow truck that he called. The next truck came and attempted to get us onto his flatbed but we were too big/heavy.

Ginger being loaded onto the flat bed truck

He called for the bigger truck and again we waited. Eventually we got Ginger on to the big truck which dropped us back off at the service station about 9pm.

We didn’t make it to our fancy Flamingo Hotel on Las Vegas Boulevard until 10pm! Our friends, Glenn and Emma had already arrived from San Francisco and were in the Irish bar waiting for us while watching the AFL final. We were in need of a stiff drink by this time and we started the night off with a “car bomb”. A fun night, finished off with 3am burgers at Caesars.

Saturday started at the already hoppin Flamingo pool, complete with poolside dancers. We enjoyed a few hours here, before heading off to explore the strip.

Poolside at the Flamingo

We had hoped to see the Cirque de Soleil production of KA while we were in town, but unfortunately they were taking a break this weekend, so we booked tickets to see La Reve instead. After an amazing buffet dinner at The Wynn hotel we were all blown away by the show.

Christine loved the dessert buffet

In the La Reve theatre

The theatre is built in a circle around a sunken pool, which is 27ft deep and filled with all sorts of hydraulically driven platforms and water jets. Overhead were numerous trapezes, ropes and wires. Anyway, the acrobatics and performances were simply mind blowing – no cameras allowed though unfortunately.

The girls enjoying a wee margharita

The guys helping the girls with their wee margharitas

Exploring the strip

Watching the famous Bellagio fountains

Sunday was another great day, with time spent by the pool and enjoying the strip. Unfortunately Glenn and Emma had to head back to San Francisco on Sunday night, so we are travelling alone again.
Thanks for the great weekend guys!!!

After a lazy start on Monday morning we called the garage hoping for some good news… Unfortunately they were still trying to find the problem… A couple of calls later and it seems that the problem is the Electronic Control Unit, which they are now trying to source around Las Vegas.
So, we have spent all day aimlessly hanging around the resort and hoping for good news, but expect we’ll be in Vegas for a few more days…. It’s got to be better than breaking down in Death Valley at least!

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