Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Viva Las Vegas

It's been a whirlwind week in the Southwest, because you can't go to Vegas, or southern Utah during National Parks Week, to relax...
Perhaps we should have spent more time at our resort.

Yeah, it was kind of lovely.  Here's the view from our room of Lake Las Vegas.
And the gardens.  Ah, the gardens.  It's like the Loire meets Tuscany.  I got through three weeks of Beth Moore homework alone with these trees and shrubs.
But why stay at a breathtaking resort, when you can road trip?  Okay, I know I grew up in the airlines, but I absolutely LOVE road trips.  Good pondering/reading/99-bottles-of-beer ringing times with the family. Yes, the kids learned a new song...
I told Mark Zion National Park was only 2.5 hours from Las Vegas.  I was wrong.  I'm notorious for underestimating distance.  It's my optimism, I'm sure.  Ask my mom--I convinced her once that Alsace-Lorraine was but a few hours from Paris... EIGHT hours later, we had to pull to the side of the road so that I could douse her in holy water in a quaint Catholic church for the stream of expletives I heard on that drive.  Not. Making. This. Up.  Holy water.
Speaking of all things holy, here is St. George, Utah.  You can see the temple in the distance, which is the second Mormon temple we've seen this week.  Mark, the kids, my Aunt Tenley and I toured the KC Mormon temple by my aunt's house with one of Lorelei's sweet friends, Isa, from her kindergarten class. They only allow non-Mormons to tour the temple two weeks before they dedicate it, and after that it's only for card-carrying, good-standing Mormons.  No, we're not converting, but I enjoyed learning more about how some of my friends practice religion.  I was curious, and it was a very unique experience.
Back to the trip...
Here we are choosing our trail into Zion Nat'l Park.  We decided to hike the Emerald Pools.

Lorelei was getting really brave.  I was so proud of her.

These kids--I know I say it all the time, but do they ever love each other!
They got a little TOO brave, and didn't want to hold hands with Mommy and Daddy.  I'm sure this photo was taken after I scolded them for nearly falling off a cliff (not really) for the umpteenth time!

I couldn't get over how stunning those red rocks are.  All the layers of rock and earth mingled together had such an affect on me!
See those little people down there on the right?  They're MY little people.  Yep, just ants along this massive beast of a mountain pass.
The hike couldn't have been more beautiful.  I don't mean to cheapen it, but the green grass and red clay earth brought back memories of Splash Mountain.

Mountain climbing already!  Be still my heart!

We rode the shuttle bus throughout the entire park. It was so well maintained and convenient, and now I'm charged up and want to visit all the National Parks. Especially if they're anything like Zion!

We had two exhausted kids by day's end.  It made the drive back a lot easier.
Lorelei adores little critters.  She made friends with several caterpillars, and this squirrel.

The Patriarchal Cliffs--Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
We made it back in time to watch the pirate show, which is WAY more explicit than it used to be.  Seriously, why couldn't they just let the pirates be pirates, instead of shipping in the sirens and igniting the show with flaming innuendos?
We still enjoyed it, though.  We stuck to the pirate side of the ropes.  And I made friends with that lady in the red hair and her two daughters.  I consider talking to strangers a hobby of mine--nothing like meeting fascinating people from all over the world.
O, the anticipation as the first pirate paddles in.
Rapt.  My little pirate, Gryffin John.  Even his name says "pirate", doesn't it?
What a show!
Then we went to the Mirage with its new volcano--an awesome show.  I still have a postcard and picture Mark sent me from his stay here back when he was my teenage pen pal.  :o)

The pool at our resort was freezing, but I let the kids pull me in once.  The rest of our swimming was done in the hot tub.
This hot tub belongs to my cousins, Vic and Lori.  I haven't seen any of the Garrett side of the family for years, so this visit was absolute bliss for me.  Truly the highlight of the entire trip.
And L and G had a fantastic time with their older cousins, Dylan and Vanessa (twins).
Can you tell they're related? :o)
Yeah, I had to bribe my kids with marshmallows for pictures.  They didn't want to stop playing for one second!
Lori's surf 'n turf feast was divine!  Thank you for your hospitality, Lori.
The girls even played dress up.
Here's Vic and Lori, Vanessa and Dylan.
My cousin Vic.  I enjoyed Vic and Lori's company so much.  Lively conversation about travel (Vic's a pilot with my dad's airline, United--he flies to the orient), religion and politics (oh, we ARE of the same tribe!) and stories I would have never known of my dad.  I got really choked up watching old videos of my dad, which Vic was sweet enough to burn to a disc for me.  When I left that night, I felt like I was more whole in my spirit than when I first arrived.  It was good for my soul.  Very healing, uplifting, life-giving.  I miss my dad so much, so to see his eyes and features in another person really was something!
Back to Vegas the next day...
 I took the kids to the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay.  They were fascinated by this octopus, which is one of my favorite animals (not that I'd ever want to be in the tank with that thing!).  I just find God's creativity so amusing.
 The kids got brave and pet the ray.

 Then we visited one of my personal favorites, the Bellagio fountains.  We heard Con Te Partiro!  I'm sure they picked this one just for me!  And driving by another time, we heard some Elton. O, I love him!
 The gorgeous Dutch gardens inside of Bellagio.

By the time I took the kids trekking to Caesar's Palace, they were exhausted.
But because I'd never thrown a coin into the Trevi Fountain, we did the next best thing, and promised a return to the Empire.
Mark joined us that night for gondola rides in Venice (yet another thing I desperately regret not having done while I was in Italy).  Check out the kids' faces:

Yeah, she kind of loved sitting by Daddy.
 And the absolute highlight of Gryffy's trip (outside of seeing his big cousins)--Captain Jack Sparrow!
 That boy could not stop asking how Jack knew he was there.  I told him about the pirate mail we'd sent to Jack in a bottle, and that he's sailing to Orlando in a few months to see his first mate Gryffin again.  I don't think that boy's ever grinned so big in his life!
 We had the dates of National Parks Week wrong for Zion, because the government had not updated their website and still had the dates from last year.  So we had to fork over some change for that visit (which we thought was free), but I was delighted to at least hit the Hoover Dam over the official Parks Weekend.
Hoover Dam isn't a National Park. Go figure.
 But I'm glad we at least saw it.  Truly, I cannot fathom how little human beings built this massive thing.
 No one would hike this bridge with me for the classic view, so I hiked it while they waited for me in the air-conditioned car.
 The heat was sweltering.  Lorelei doused her head in bottled water.
 Family pic--I always wear dresses on vacation, but perhaps this wasn't the best choice on a windy day.

We also spent some time at Circus Circus for the sake of the kids.  Gryffy loved the pirate ship so much that he convinced Lorelei to ride, too.  She wasn't a fan, but she did it with her head tucked.
Lorelei fished for magnetic ducks and won a much-coveted multi-colored mutant Vegas kitch dolphin.
Ah, good fast food.  Those calories were SO worth it.
On our last night, we spent some time playing in the sandy beach at our resort.
Philip, the pirate missionary, didn't fare very well.  Mr. Gibbs got buried, and we never could find him again.
 Fortunately, when we arrived home to Kansas the next day, Grammy had found the pirate Gryffy's been dreaming of for months--the octopus-headed, heartless Davy Jones.  We even searched Toys 'R Us in Vegas for that dang toy with no luck.  And then we walked into our home, and it was waiting for Gryffy with a note: 25 cents at a garage sale.  I swear, those kids just manifest things that they want.  Or maybe they're just a bit spoiled by a doting grandmother.  At any rate, we had a wild trip, but it's good to be home...
Especially to find Gryffy's preschool teacher, Mrs. McNally, teaching him to say something new today: "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas."  God love her.