USA – Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah – Part 2 of 2

In September 2017 my Dad and I went on a one week trip to the USA to explore the beautiful scenery that Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah have to offer. I started my blog series in 2016 but due to 2017 being such a busy year for travel I actually forgot to write about this.

2017 USA Road Trip

In Part 1 of 2 we left off with staying the night on Day 3 in Albuquerque after visiting the Puye Cliff Dwellings. This is Part 2 of 2 of this series. Enjoy!

On the 4th day we continued driving north towards the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge with a stop at the Classical Gas Museum in Embudo, New Mexico. The museum is the work of a man named Johnnie Meier, a gentleman who after retiring from the nearby Los Alamos National Laboratory started to collect car memorabilia. His collection is the efforts of over 25 years of hard work.

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After stopping at the Classical Gas Museum we continued north to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. The 390 metre (1280 foot) long steel deck arch bridge was designed by architect Charles Reed, and was built in 1965. It is the 10th highest bridge in the USA, sitting roughly 180 metres (600 feet) above the Rio Grande River. The bride won the award of being the “Most Beautiful Steel Bridge” in the “Long Span” category in 1966 by the American Institute of Steel Construction. In 1997 it was added to the 1997 National Register of Historic Place (NRHP). It received a relatively in-expensive $2.4 million repair and facelift in 2012, which included structural steelwork, a new concrete deck surface, new sidewalks, ramps, curbs and gutters. When we were there we also met a couple who were riding around on a completely custom V8 trike that they had built.

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After visiting the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge we continued along our journey to our next stop just a few minutes away called Earthship Biotecture. Michael Reynolds is the founder and creator of the concept. He came to Taos after graduation architectural school in 1969. He was inspired by the problem of trash, pollution and the lack of affordable housing so he sought out a solution to create affordable housing that was sustainable. These homes are called Earthships. His home designs can be seen all over North America, including close to home here in my province of Alberta. Dad and I purchased a few books and I ended up reading them along the road trip. They were extremely informative and you can easily create an Earthship, even for use in a colder climate such as Alberta, with a lot of elbow grease.

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After visiting Earthship Biotecture it was time to find some accommodation. We ended up heading back to Flagstaff, Arizona for the night. Accommodation was at the Couryard by Marriott for $120 CDN. We went back to Flagstaff Brewing Company for dinner and more beers.

The next day we woke up early and we drove to Shiprock, New Mexico before heading to the Four Corners Mounment. Shiprock, also known by the Navajo as “the rick with wings” is a monadnock rising 483 metres (1583 feet) above the desert. It’s peak is 2188 metres (7177 feet) above sea level.

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The Four Corners Monument marks the quadripoint in the US where the states of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet. Is the only point in the United States where four states perfectly meet. The monument  is made of granite and brass and I got a picture of myself in all four states.

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Next stop was Natural Bridges National Monument where Dad and I did some hiking. We first hiked Sipapu Bridge, which is a 2 km hike with 133 metres (436 feet) of elevation differential. Across from the bridge you can actually see the ancient structures of Horse Collar Ruin that were believed to have been built over 700 years ago!

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The next hike in Natural Bridges National Monument was Kachina Bridge, a 2.25 km hike with 140 metres (462 feet) of elevation differential. There is a lot of switchbacks and wooden stairs to get to the bottom of the valley, but the view was totally worth it!

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The final stop in Natural Bridges National Monument was Owachomo Bridge, also known as the “Little Bridge” It’s extremely slender in the middle and is also the oldest bridge in the park. The hike is only 1 km and has 60 metres (190 feet) of elevation differential. This was my favourite bridge in the park!

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It was time to find somewhere to stay for the night. We ended up staying at the Super 8 in Moab for $80 CDN. We had dinner at The Blu Pig, a blue’s themed bar with delicious smoked meat. I felt my arteries clogging as I ate my food and we drank our beer.

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The next morning we had breakfast at the Moab Diner, before driving into Canyonlands to see the Indian Hieroglyph’s and the unique rock features in the park.

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The next stop, which was my favorite park of the entire trip was Arches National Park.  When you enter into the park you see the beautiful “Courthouse Towers”!

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Our two stops were the magnificent “North Window” and equally stunning “Double Arch”.

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Next up was Panorama Point and “Delicate Arch”. Delicate Arch required 5 km of hiking with 190 metres (620 feet) of elevation differential, but it was worth it!

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The final stop for the day was Goblin Valley State Park. “The Three Sisters” great you as you enter the park.

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We decided to do “The Goblin’s Lair” hike while we were in the park. The hike is 4 km long and has about 50 metres (165 feet) of elevation differential. At the end of the hike there is a cave area you can climb into, which I decided to do, but my dad stayed back in case I got injured as it was fairly difficult climbing down into the cave.

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It was time to check into our hotel for the night. We stayed at The Snuggle Inn in Loa, Utah for $120 CDN. We had the entire hotel to ourselves. Dinner was at the wonderful restaurant that I don’t remember the name of, but a quick look on google maps shows that it no longer exists.

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The next morning we had breakfast at The Country Café. the owner was very nice and it was funny because he was mad that his son was late showing up to work and when his son did show up to work he just took money from the till and left. The food was pretty good though!

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Today we drove towards Las Vegas with a few stops along the way including Zion National Park. It was absolutely pouring rain in Zion National Park so we just got out of the car to take a few photos, before continuing on to Las Vegas.

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After arriving in Las Vegas Dad and I checked into the Luxor Hotel for the next 2 nights. Rooms were only $40 CDN per night so we both got our own room. He was starting to not feel too well so he ended up having a nap and I explored the hotel and the Las Vegas streets.

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The next day Dad and I went for breakfast at a restaurant outside of Planet Hollywood, but that restaurant no longer exists, and I can’t find the name of it online.

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After breakfast we visited The Auto Collections car museum at the LINQ Hotel, formerly the Imperial Palace. Sadly, the museum shut down at the end of 2017. I’m very fortunate to have seen this museum 3 times since 2013.2017-09-01 USA 3882017-09-01 USA 3892017-09-01 USA 3922017-09-01 USA 3942017-09-01 USA 3972017-09-01 USA 4002017-09-01 USA 4102017-09-01 USA 4112017-09-01 USA 4122017-09-01 USA 418

We spent the afternoon relaxing at the hotel, and even did some gambling, making a 50% profit on the $20 we initially invested. Dad still wasn’t feeling well so I decided to go to the Neon Museum by myself in the evening. The Neon Museum features signs from old casinos and other businesses from the Las Vegas area. The main feature is the fully restored lobby shell from the defunct La Concha Motel as it’s main visitor center. The Neon Museum opened on October 27th 2012.

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One the final day of our trip we went to the Carroll Shelby Museum before doing some plane spotting, and then catching our flight home. The Carroll Shelby Museum, which functions three-fold as the Headquarters, a Museum, and the actual production facility.

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An all-time past of mine is plane spotting. I have an absolute love of aviation, and my father has always taken me plane spotting since I was a very small child. Las Vegas has some prime plane spotting areas, which my Dad had researched, so we sat and watching planes for a bit, before it was time to catch our flight home.

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Be sure to check back soon when I depart on my Eastern Europe road trip in about a month!

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Vietnam – Day 6 – Hoi An Eco Cooking Tour

Today I unfortunately woke up early again at 5:00am. I did some photo editing in the room until it was time to have breakfast. For breakfast I had Cao Lau Noodles at the villa restaurant.

I booked myself a cooking class tour with Hoi An Eco Cooking Class Tour company on a recommendation from Viktor and Sandrine. I was picked up at 8:15am and was taken for a tour of the Hoi An food market before venturing on a boat ride on a traditional basket boat. I went fishing and caught 3 purple crabs! After riding on the basket boat it was time to start my cooking class.

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During the cooking class I learned how to make pho, eggplant aubergine, Vietnamese pancakes, fish sauce, aubergine sauce, and shrimp salad rolls. The cost of the cooking class was 750000 Dong ($46.85 CDN). The class ended at 1:30pm and I was dropped back off at the villa.

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It was time to check out sadly… it was an absolutely amazing villa! I stayed here for four nights and actually had the whole place to myself. This family run villa has the most amazing friendly staff that are eager to make your experience in Hoi An as perfect as possible. The rooms are spacious, clean and bright. The rooms have a super cold minibar fridge with cold drinks that are very fairly priced. The pool is incredible, especially on a hot day. My favourite staff member was Lap; she works in the afternoons. She’s so sweet and makes sure you have everything you need; including if the weather is bad she wants to make sure you don’t get wet and gives out rain ponchos. You can rent motorcycles for fairly cheap (110,000 Dong ($6.85 CSN) for a newer Honda automatic with lots of power). The complementary breakfast is amazing with an option of 13 different choices with Vietnamese and traditional western foods as options. They also have amazing fresh fruit juices and authentic Vietnamese coffee. I would absolutely stay here again and would recommend it to anyone.

After checking out I had a private driver drive me to Da Nang Airport for roughly 130000 Dong ($8.15 CDN). I arrived at the airport at around 3:00pm.

My Vietnam Airlines flight to Hanoi was at 5:00pm on an Airbus A321 CEO (Current Engine Option). After arriving at Hanoi I took a fairy expensive GRAB ride to my hotel; O’Gallery Majestic Hotel & Spa, for 272000 Dong ($17 CDN). I received two nights for free at this $200 CDN/night hotel on Hotels.ca for free. If you don’t use hotels.com or hotels.ca you should; every 10th night is free with a blended average rate from your previous 9 stays. This hotel has everything you can possible imagine; a private pool, a massive room with a luxurious king size bed, free food, mini bar, a 3:1 staff to tenant ratio. I highly recommend this hotel to anyone who wishes to visit Hanoi.

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After checking in I walked to the famous Hanoi rail tracks where the train passes by every day in the evening at 7:30pm. After taking pictures of the train I went for some chicken broth pho at Bahn Cuon Gia Truyen Thanh Van. After eating dinner I walked back to the hotel and went to bed.

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Check back tomorrow when I explore the massive city of Hanoi.

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Travelling Home From South America

Iguazu Falls was the conclusion of our trip to South America. I slept in due to being up so late the night before on the phone with Avianca and Air Canada. We packed our bags and got ready for breakfast. When it was time for breakfast the power in the kitchen was off due to a faulty circuit breaker. While they were repairing the circuit breaker we had some cold cuts, bread, fruit, and cereal. Eventually the power was turned back on and we got our morning coffee.

After breakfast we walked a nearby corner store to get some more bottled water and some more Kleenex as we were both still suffering from a cold. We then walked to Tres Fronteras, which is a monument where the Iguazu River joins with the Parana River. On the west is Paraguay, in the Northeast corner is Brazil, and in the Southeast corner is Argentina. It gave an extremely unique perspective into the different levels of wealth of each of the three countries as you could see the three varying levels of development.

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After visiting Tres Fronteras we walked back to the hotel and ordered a Taxi for 700 Argentinian Pesos ($21.50) to Brazil’s Cataratas International Airport (IGR). The taxi driver helped us fill out all of the paperwork required for the border and drove us to IGR, with a very quick and painless stop at the border to process our paperwork. I have dual citizenship so I do not require a Brazilian visa, but C required a visa (which she obtained beforehand).

Once at the airport it was confirmed that our flight was not going to work, so we took an earlier flight on a different route to get to Sao Paulo, which is where we needed to be to get home on a later Air Canada flight. We flew on a 3 week old Airbus A320neo, which was extremely comfortable. It’s too bad they’re going to have to give it back as they’re in huge financial difficulties and are in bankruptcy protection at the moment. The Airbus A320neo is extremely quiet on takeoff, even quieter than the new Boeing 737 MAX.

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Once arriving in Sao Paulo we had about 8 hours to kill before boarding our Sao Paulo to Toronto flight on Air Canada. We checked into our complimentary Star Alliance lounge in Sao Paulo to eat, drink, shower, and relax before boarding our Air Canada Boeing 777-300ER. I ended up upgrading us to Business Class for a small fee due to my annoyance the day before. I was situated in 7D and C was situated in 7G. I had a delicious dinner and a few beers before falling asleep for the majority of the flight. The flight was extremely smooth and despite leaving 1.5 hours behind schedule ended up only arriving 30 minutes late.

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Upon arrival in Toronto we cleared Canadian customs and went to the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge. Canadian customs took a while to clear because they were not even open as we were the first flight to arrive. We had to wait for the staff to show up for their shift, and they also were late. We had some coffee and breakfast in the lounge before making our way to our return flight to Calgary. We were warned we would be experiencing an extremely turbulent takeoff and first hour of the flight as a huge storm was rolling in. We ended up being the last flight out of Toronto. That was the most turbulent flight that I have ever been on and did give me a bit of anxiety.

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Chile – Days 14 & 15 – Travel Days

The next two days were mainly travel days. We had to drive back to Punta Arenas, fly to Santiago, sleep overnight, fly to Buenos Aires, and then fly to Iguazu Falls. We were supposed to be able to sleep in but unfortunately our heater in the loft wasn’t working so we both woke up at 7:30am fairly cold. I used the oven to heat the place by turning it on and leaving the door open. We decided to have a lazy morning and hung around the loft until 11:00am when it was time to check out.

We drove back to Punta Arenas and experienced intermittent rain along the way. It looked as if anyone who was hiking in Torres Del Paine was going to have a very wet day because the clouds in that direction were very dark.

Once we arrived in Punta Arenas we decided that we wanted some ramen or Vietnamese food. We found a hole in the wall place that served Korean noodles, but they only accepted cash and we decided it was too much of a hole in the wall. Across the street was a restaurant called Gyros Pizza. We both shared a Hawaiian pizza, which was absolutely delicious. I also had an americano coffee as I was starting to fall asleep.

After lunch we went for a 12km walk along the beach front, which was very relaxing. After the walk it was time to head to the airport, drop off our truck and kill some time. When I returned the truck there was nobody to inspect it so I was told to just leave it and they would clear my receipt. Turns out three weeks later after the trip I am still in a dispute with my credit card company and Europcar because they double charged me for the truck. I had prepaid for the vehicle before the trip and they were supposed to just have a $800USD deposit that would be removed when I returned the truck. Turns out they actually charged my credit card for the cost of the vehicle even though I had already paid in full.

While waiting for the flight to Santiago we found out that the flight was delayed about 45 minutes. We managed to make up most of that delay once we were in the air. The view on takeoff was absolutely incredible. The flight landed at 11:30pm. We parked at a remote stand and had to take a fairly long bus ride to the terminal, which was perfect because I had to figure out how to order us an Uber, since it’s quite different at Santiago airport than other places because its still not technically legal in the country.

Ordering the Uber was the same; you just use the app, but that’s where things differ. Barbara, our Uber drive, texted me on the Uber app and told me she was behind me and to board the parking lot shuttle bus and then she would talk to me on the bus. She was super friendly and we took the parking lot shuttle bus to the parking lot where we walked to her car. She explained to me that they have to keep a low profile at Santiago Airport because authorities were cracking down on Uber drivers, who were not supposed to be there. When we got into her car she had quite the setup to communicate with foreigners. One phone was dedicated to Uber and the other was dedicated to Google Translate communications.

The drive to Hotel Diego de Almagro Aeropuerto was short and sweet and Barbara was extremely nice. After checking into the hotel we went to bed immediately as we had to get up at 4:45am the next day.

The next day we woke up at 4:45am, quickly got dressed, and had some buffet breakfast before boarding the shuttle to the airport for our flight to Iguazu Falls via Buenos Aires. Before boarding our flight we had to clear immigration to leave the country. The lineup at the immigration booth was about an hour long, but the process was simple. Before boarding the LATAM Airbus A320 flight to Buenos Aires I tried to get some Argentinian Pesos at the foreign exchange, but they were out of currency. I was starting to get a bit concerned about obtaining Argentinian Pesos as nowhere in Calgary had any, nor did Chile… more on that fun adventure later…

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We arrived in Buenos Aires after a moderately turbulent flight. We had a two hour layover and had some food and a drink before boarding our next LATAM Airbus A320 flight to Iguazu Falls, Argentina. An interesting thing to note about Buenos Aires AEP airport is that it sits right next to a beach so you can see people hanging out on the beach sunbathing. The next flight was less turbulent and arrived on time. After arriving at Iguazu Falls and the aircraft door was opened we were greeted with 37 Celsius weather and tons of humidity. It felt really nice as we had just spent a week in Patagonia where it was cold, dry and windy.

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After deplaning into the terminal I searched for a bank machine and found the only one in the terminal. Of course this was too good to be true because when I put my card in and requested any denomination of Argentinian Pesos I was greeted with the message of “ATM out of cash”. At this point in time I decided that we would have to find a way to get to our hotel with only credit or debit. Uber was ousted from the Iguazu area by the taxi commission a few years ago so that left us with having to take a taxi. There was only one taxi company that said they took credit or debit so I picked them. All taxi companies have a flat rate of 700 Argentinian Pesos to the main city.

When we were only a few blocks away from the hotel the taxi driver pulled into a gas station and told me I would be buying her gasoline as she doesn’t have a credit / debit machine. I thought it was really weird at first but then told the taxi driver that I will not be paying for more than 700 pesos. She gave me a very dirty look and started to talk in Spanish to the service station agent. After fueling the taxi we were dropped off at our hotel; Boutique Hotel de la Fonte. The hotel beautiful, but fairly dated. You could tell that it was once an extremely prosperous place.

From my research and talking with others it appears that Argentina is going through economic decline, where as Chile is actually doing really well. Their roles over the last decade have reversed as Chile used to be a fairly impoverished country. Argentina’s economy is being eroded due to political instability and corruption and the locals are suffering. It’s extremely difficult to obtain cash because the citizens of Argentina have lost trust in the local banks due to devaluing currency. They panic and take out all their money, leaving the machines empty.

After settling into the hotel for a bit we decided to go explore the town and get some dinner. We came across a quaint Italian restaurant called Il Fratello. I had vegetable lasagna and Catherine had herbed chicken with pumpkin infused mashed potatoes. Both meals were exquisite.

After dinner we found a bank machine that actually had some money in it. I took out 4000 Pesos ($130 CDN) and was charged 385 pesos ($13 CDN) to take it out, which is extremely expensive. Most countries charge $1-5 but this was the most that I had ever seen. Either way I was happy to have cash as I would need it for tomorrow and to also buy some bottled water. We stopped at a convenience store and tried to purchase a few bottles of water for tomorrow, but the store owner didn’t have enough change for my 1000 peso bills. I ended up having to buy four bottles of water, some bottles of beer, and some ice cream just to purchase enough items to receive change. He even had to go into his own wallet, and the next days float to have enough change to give me.

After arriving back at the hotel we swam in the pool and were greeted with a welcome drink of champagne. Catherine started to not feel well, but I was feeling better at this point in time. We had a lazy evening before heading to bed. Tomorrow we explore Iguazu Falls on the Argentinian side.

This concludes my Chile series, but I have two posts left for Argentina/Brazil that will be debuting sometime this week.

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