Friday, September 2, 2016

Summary of the 2016 Western Trip - Part One The Nevada Desert & Rachel, Nevada (Near Area 51)

Since getting home late on Friday evening, my thoughts and memories have been rather all over the place. I have written quite a bit about the recent trip out west, yet have not organized my thoughts anywhere near as much as I had been hoping and expecting to. I basically published a bunch of photographs while on the trip (writing on my handheld devices is almost just too painfully annoying to contemplate), and so it has been a bunch of those mixed with a few blog entries on specific moments and memories of the trip, but not in any kind of particular order.

So, before I get too far ahead of myself, this will be an attempt to slow down and make sense of the trip, to do what I assumed I would have the discipline to do once home, and to carefully dissect each day in chronological order. It would be easier to do that, before these memories get all blurred together, while these are all still quite fresh.

And so, without further ado, here are the memories of each day on the trip:

Saturday, August 13 - We took flight from Newark Airport to Chicago's O'Hare Airport. There was an hour delay for departure, and we had to rush from our original flight to get another flight then just leaving out of Newark, which itself had been delayed the entire day! Originally, it was supposed to be a morning flight (something like 8:00 or 8:30, or so. We went on that, and arrived in Chicago in plenty of time to make our connecting flight to Las Vegas, which was why we were switched in the first place. However, as it turns out, that flight itself wound up being postponed, and so we had to be at the terminal in O'Hare for just about the rest of the day, until past midnight. During the flight out to Chicago, I was seated next to this very strange woman, who kept talking and gesturing to herself (and I mean, doing so with emphasis!), and kept talking about her parents, who were on the plane with her. At some point,  quite out of nowhere, she mentioned how she had needed to break up with her boyfriend, because he was just using her for sex. She said that she needed to have a ring, or that would be the end of it. Apparently, that was the end of it. She struck me as a bit...well, unbalanced. She made me feel uncomfortable, gesturing with intensity and really emphasizing certain things while talking to herself, and I was kind of anxious to get off the plane already.

Sunday, August 14 - Started off with the flight to Las Vegas, and we both managed to sleep a bit on the airplane. Hardly in the lap of luxury, or anything. However, there was some measure of satisfaction that we finally were on the trip at last, and there was still that excited buzz for all of the things that we were going to see. We finally landed at Las Vegas's McCarran Airport, and I had watched the lights of the city approaching. Had woken up maybe anywhere from half an hour to an hour before the flight landed, and so was well awake by that point. Tried to wake my son up, but he was really out like a light - you have to remember how late it was for us by this point. We were arriving, local time, at around 1:30 in the morning or so, closing in on 2:00 am. Our luggage did not make the trip with us, and was still currently in Chicago. So, the early start would have to be delayed, as they informed me that the very earliest it would be leaving Chicago was around 8:30 in the morning. We then went to pick up the car rental (reservations from Enterprise, which was closed, but they told us to go to Alamo, who would take care of us instead). Took the car with the least amount of miles (something a bit over 7,000 miles - although it would have well over 11,000 by the time I would return it back to them a bit less than two weeks later!). Turned on my GPS and we made it to the hotel, although we both had a hard time falling asleep. Woke up fairly early in the morning and had a big breakfast, then jumped into the pool for a while to fully wake up. Tried calling the airport, but could not get through. At 11am, we needed to check out, and so I went to the airport physically to get answers. As it turned out, our luggage had just arrived, and so we could finally get the show on the road, probably two or so hours after I had originally planned to. The rest of the day was mostly driving through very rural Nevada and into eastern California. We did visit Rachel, Nevada, which is as close as you can get to Area 51 without actually getting into trouble, and we ate at the Little Al e Inn. We returned back on the road, stopping on occasion for pictures, although the afternoon and evening were mostly about getting to Bridgeton, California, to our reservations at the Virginia Creek Settlement. Thought we would have to set up the tent in the dark, but they had cabins for us instead, for which I was extremely thankful. We went from 111 degrees Fahrenheit in Las Vegas to 51 degrees in Bridgeton when we woke up the next morning, although it was already chilly that evening, as we kept climbing in elevation as we approached Bridgeton, which is about twenty or so minutes from the entrance to Yosemite National Park, which we planned to visit the next day.

Monday, August 15 - Woke up and had a big, huge breakfast at the restaurant associated with the Virginia Creek Settlement. He wanted to get one of the most expensive breakfasts on the menu (of course), so I ordered pancakes instead, with a side of eggs. We got two chocolate chip pancakes, and they were indeed fantastic! It was breakfast for both of us, and he had the second portion for lunch later! After that, we showed and went to the bathroom, and then headed out towards Yosemite National Park. Stopped a few times for spectacular views of the Great Basin, as well as mountains and streams and waterfalls and lakes just outside of Yosemite. Finally, we headed towards the entrance, and there was a massive line to get in. We waited for quite some time, but finally got in. First place we really visited was Lambert Dome, and we stopped at the Information/Visitor Center on the eastern side of Yosemite. Snapped some pictures, and then headed towards Yosemite Valley, although it was quite the drive. Spectacular views along the way, although we were disappointed that Mariposa Grove (home of the Giant Sequoias) was closed for the season, which I knew beforehand because of my internet research. Finally arrived at the main part of Yosemite, and then visited El Capitan, the Merced River, the Bridalveil Falls, the Cathedral Spires, and that place where the falls normally would have been, but they were dried out for the season. Got some really awesome views of the Half Dome. A wonderful visit, pretty full for just one day, although there was not much hiking. Massive traffic jam on the way out, trying to exit, and then we headed towards Sacramento. Arrived around 11 pm, to the worst hotel experience in my life. The parking lot was blocked off on one side, and a card access gate was closed on the other, as a security guard approached us, asked if I was on some guest list. Told him my name, and he looked through the papers, and clearly could not find us, asking me to repeat the name. Then told him that we had room reservations, and he looked surprised. "Oh, you have rooms in the hotel!" He then let us go to the registration, and I got the room. Asked when the pool opens, and was told 9 in the morning. Was told 8 the next morning. There was an extra security charge of $50, for a place that had barbed wire around it. No continental breakfast, only "free" coffee, instant and with powder creamer and cheap sugar. Our neighbors were very loud and obnoxious, with a child around my son's age. He went right outside our window and kept playing some kind of video game or something, and kept making weird noises. I opened the door at one point and kind of stared him down a little, hoping he would get the message. He went back in, but he and his mother (I'm guessing) were screaming at each other. He used language that I would never have dared use on my own parents, including your typical four-letter words. Their door must have slammed at least half a dozen times, if not more! Was surprised my son did not wake up, as this went all the way to one in the morning! Then, just like that, the mother said, "Okay, that's it!" And maybe a minute or so later, I heard their door open for the final time (close much more quietly this time, too), and heard the car doors open, then close. The engine started, idled for maybe a few seconds, and then  they left, apparently never to return (at least not that night). The rest of the night was relatively peaceful, thankfully. This was at the misnamed Good Night Inn Sacramento. One of the worst hotel experiences of my life.

Swimming in Las Vegas Before Long Drive:

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