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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A Tribute to Notre-Dame

I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Paris, France in March 2018. One of Paris’s most iconic landmarks is Notre-Dame. Sadly yesterday, on April 15th 2019 Notre Dame caught on fire, presumably from the construction activity that was taking place. I wanted to take this time to showcase the beauty of this wonderful building in its former glory and dive into the history of the cathedral.

The construction of Notre-Dame started in 1163 and wasn’t completed until 1345, a whole 182 years later! The cathedral is sacred to the Virgin Mary and was considered to be one of the first examples of French Gothic architecture style. The construction of the cathedral utilized an innovated technique of rib vault and flying buttresses to support the roof. This would later on lead to the quick spreading of the fire as the majority of the roof was constructed of wood. The cathedral featured beautiful rose windows and a beautifully sculpted interior.

Construction was started under guidance of Bishop Maurice de Sully and was completed in its first iteration in 1345. In the 1790’s Notre-Dame suffered from vandalism and neglect during the French Revolution, with much of its religious imagery being damaged or destroyed.

In the 1800’s several events occurred; the cathedral was the site of the Coronation of Napoleon I as Emperor of France, the baptism of Henri, Count of Chambord, and the funerals of several presidents of the Third French Republic. The cathedral became famous in 1831 when Victor Hugo’s novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame was published. A major restoration project occurred between 1844 and 1864. In 1963 the façade of the cathedral was cleaned, returning it to its former glory. Another cleaning and restoration project was carried out between 1991 and 2000.

After the fire occurred the French president Emmanuel Macron stated that Notre-Dame would be rebuild. The billionaires behind luxury giants LVMH Group, Kering and L’Oreal have pledged a combined total of over $550 million towards the resurrection of the beautiful Notre-Dame, and the Pinault family has pledged over $110 million as well.

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Christmas & New Years 2018

As 2018 slides into 2019 I sit back and reflect on what a wonderful year I had. I changed my career path from Structural Design to Business Development. I met my wonderful girlfriend Catherine and was also able to travel to all these amazing places:

  • Thailand (Bangkok, Ayutthaya, Kanchanaburi, Koh Samui)
  • France (Paris, Mont Saint Michel, Toulouse, Lyon)
  • Spain (Barcelona)
  • Drive US Route 66 with my Father
  • Visit Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary with my Mother
  • Kenya
  • Tanzania
  • Greece (Athens, Santorini)
  • Switzerland (Zurich, Jungfraujoch)
  • Ottawa with Catherine TWICE!
  • Jasper National Park

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On New Years Eve I prepared Catherine and I a delicious dinner of salmon, garlic mashed potatoes, and mixed vegetables, then we went skating at Canada Olympic Plaza before making a toast to 2019 with some champagne and fireworks.

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I’m extremely looking forward to 2019 as there are quite a few wonderful things planned.

  • Travel to Chile / Argentina / Paraguay / Brazil
  • Travel to Vietnam / Chile
  • See Darci Lynne Live in Portland
  • Moving to a New House
  • Numerous Alberta Hikes (Galatea Lake & Lillian Lake, Junction Creek to name a few)

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2018-03-13 – Paris

Today I woke up at 6:00am and took the metro to Du Pain et des Idees, a very well recommended Bakery and had an apple pie for breakfast. I walked over to Canal Saint-Martin and ate my apple pie while people watching.
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I still hadn’t had my morning coffee so I picked up a McDonald’s Cafe Lungo before heading to see The Wall of Love (Le Mur Des Je’Taime). The Wall of Love was created by calligraphist Fédéric Baron and mural artist Claire Kito.
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After visiting the wall I went to grab an iconic photo of the North side of Les Invalides. It’s quite the spectacular sight. Les Invalides was built in 1678 as a hospital and housing for unwell soldiers. Today it houses museums, a church, a mausoleum, and still houses and has medical facilities for war veterans.
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I went back to the hotel to get my bags and checkout before heading to a cheese shop that is highly recommended; Fromagerie Laurent Dubois. I tried some samples of cheese, which were absolutely delicious, but didn’t end up buying any because the smallest of pieces were still too much for me to eat by myself today. I then proceeded to explore more city landmarks including the Colosseum and Louvre before heading to have some Vietnamese food for lunch at a place called Pho 14 Opera.

After lunch I went to the Apple Store at The Louvre because my charging cable stopped working. This is the third cable to stop working in only one year, and I’m fairly gentle with my stuff, so Apple needs to do something with their quality of their cables. They never used to be this poor. The gentleman I talked to (Michael) was very helpful but it did take 20 minutes of persuading him to replace it under warranty.

After that I took the RER B train and ORLYVAL automated train to Paris Orly airport. I had a few beers while waiting for my flight to Toulouse.

After arriving in Toulouse I took the tram to my hotel (Ibis Budget), stopping along the way for a donair, and went to bed because I was exhausted.

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2018-03-11 – Paris

Today I woke up at 5:45am. I started the day off by going to Moulin Rouge to take a photo of the exterior, but was disappointed that it wasn’t lit up. I’ll have to try again later. I then visited the two remaining Art Nouveau stations left in Paris (Abbesses and Point Dauphine). After that I went to Sacre Coure. It’s absolutely beautiful inside but sadly you’re not allowed to take pictures inside, and in fact I tried to take a photo but got in trouble and they made me delete the photo. My camera is so noisy you can’t hide the fact that it’s taking a photo. After that I took the Funicular down and went to the Grand and Petit Palaces, and Pont Alexandre III Bridge.
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I decided it was time for a break so I went to a Starbucks near Arc du Triumph. There was quite a bunch of hungover young women draped all over the couches in there. I was laughing on the inside remembering a few of those days in my youth. After having a coffee at Starbucks I went to The Arc. It was absolutely stunning and well worth the 200 or so steps to climb to the top!
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After visiting the Arc I went and saw the Eiffel Tower, found a good Vietnamese restaurant for lunch, and then went back to my hotel for a short nap.
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After waking from my nap I went to see the Parisian Catacombs. The lineup was about 1 1/2 hours but it was well worth the wait. The catacombs was originally used as a rock quarry and then later used as a mass burial ground when the city ran out of cemetery space and later bared burials from happening within city limits. Its estimated over 4 million people’s remains are in the catacombs. It’s an incredible but creepy sight to see.
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Random fact about the catacombs; during 2004, police discovered a fully equipped movie theatre in one of the caverns. It was equipped with a giant cinema screen, seats for the audience, projection equipment, film reels of recent thrillers and film noir classics, a fully stocked bar, and a complete restaurant with tables and chairs. The source of its electrical power and the identity of those responsible remain unknown.
After the catacombs I went to a highly rated (on Google) beer market called Brewberry Beer Cellar. There I picked up three beers; Jet Lag IPA, Jai Alai White Oak IPA, and HibouBerry Double IPA. All were absolutely amazing, but my personal favorite was the Jai Alai. I’ve been scoping out that one for a few years now since I heard about it on one of the podcasts I listen to. It’s brewed by Cigar City Brewing in Tampa, Florida, USA.
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I headed back towards my hotel and stopped for a Crepe and then relaxed in my hotel room for a bit and had my beers. After having my beers I went to take photos of the Eiffel Tower at night, and I must say it was definitely worth it!

I got back to my hotel quite late, around midnight. Tomorrow I’m off to see Mont Saint-Michel!!!

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2018-03-10 – Paris Bound & Paris Day 1

Today I started out having breakfast with my father at the airport before catching an Air Canada flight to Vancouver, where I caught an Icelandair Flight to Reykjavik. The Icelandair flight was the best flight that I had ever been on because I saw a KP5 index Aurora Borealis! One of the flight crew members that wasn’t flying noticed me setting up my tripod and wedging it in between my business class seat and the aircraft wall and asked if they could take it into the cockpit to take some photographs of the Aurora from up front. I obliged and let them mess around with it for a bit. He came out after a while and talked with me for a bit and showed me the photos. The photos turned out fantastic! The flight was greeted in Reykjavik with a massive snow storm, which ended up delaying flights significantly, but more on that in a bit.

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The next flight, Reykjavik to Paris, was about an hour late arriving in from Paris, and then delayed a further 2 hours because the airport was temporarily shut down to the massive blizzard that rolled in. There was a group of women on the flight that became extremely hysterical and confrontational with the flight attendant, so I stepped in and helped to calm the situation by explaining in more detail how things work like checklists, de-icing, flight delays, etc. The flight crew was extremely thankful and gave me complimentary alcoholic beverages and food for the remainder of the flight and asked for my email address so that they could try to see if I could be upgraded on the return flight. To be honest I’m surprised the group of women didn’t get kicked off the plane; as I’m sure they would have if it was in America and Canada.

I landed three hours late at Paris Orly airport and took the OrlyBus and Metro to get to my hotel. I checked in, dropped off my stuff and went out exploring for a bit. I saw Notre Dame, Les Paris Royals, ate a delicious crepe from Breizh Cafe (highly recommended by google and trip advisor), the Louvre (outside only), some old Arcades (enclosed corridors with shops), and The Grand Rex, an Art Deco cinema built in 1932. The cinema has a capacity of 2800 seats, making it the largest in Europe in terms of seating capacity, and it also boasts the largest screen size in Paris, measuring at 300 metres squared.

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It was 8:00pm and I was completely exhausted so I went back to my hotel, emailed the flight crew from the first Icelandair flight a few Aurora pictures before heading to bed.

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2018-03-09 – Paris Bound!!!

This blog post is going to be a bit of a nerdout session for my fellow aviation enthusiasts. I’m on my way to Paris and chose to fly Icelandair this time, namely because they had a smoking hot deal on flights ($602 including taxes, roundtrip in Business Class ($1 upgrade)), and secondly because this will probably be the last time I fly on a Boeing 757 (they’re nearing extinction), my second favorite airplane behind the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

I’m actually cruising right now at 35000 feet over the middle of the ocean on my way from Vancouver to Reykjavík. I just finished a fantastic steak dinner with some delicious Icelandic beer! Icelandair prides themselves with quality service, gate to gate wifi, and friendly staff. They charge a fraction of what the big guys charge for flights to Europe, allow up to a 7 day pitstop in Iceland free of charge, and their seats are just as comfortable in Economy Class, and almost as comfortable in Business Class.

Why is the Boeing 757 my favorite aircraft? A few things; one being that it is quite stunning of an aircraft to look at, the interior is spacious, and the cabin is very comfortable. It has that big aircraft feel, without actually being a widebody aircraft. I also absolutely love the sound of the Rolls Royce RB211 engines, especially when they’re spooled up for takeoff. They sound powerful and agressive.

The Boeing 757 dates all the way back to 1981, before I was even born. It was designed and produced alongside Boeing’s larger sister plane, the Boeing 767. The two airplanes were jointly designed to reduce costs, and both were Boeing’s first two-crew memeber class cockpit airplane. Having two crew-member’s instead of three would shave running costs down significantly. The Boeing 767 was an immediate success with airlines because it had the passenger carrying capabilities, the size, and the range that airlines needed. It could fly short haul and long haul routes. The Boeing 757’s potential wasn’t realized until much later on. Sales were fairly slow until the early 1990’s and then all dried up by 2005. Boeing stopped production this year, with 1049 being built. Overall though it was considered a successful project.

So why wasn’t it’s potential realized until later on? It was a narrow body airliner with two engines and impressive range (nearly 4000 nautical miles), so on paper it seemed great, but there was one catch. When the airplane was first concieved the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) didn’t allow for anything less than three engines to be more than 120 minutes away from land, forcing airlines to take the long way round when hoping the ocean, and this wasn’t good for their bottom line. In fact most Boeing 757’s ended up being run on only domestic runs for the first eight years of their life, with few ever making Transatlantic or Transpacific flights.

That all changed in 1988 when the FAA allowed 180 minute ETOPS (Extended Operations) for twin-engined airplanes. The Boeing 757 sales started picking up, but the potential of this airliner was still not recognized. It wasn’t until the late 2000’s that airlines started to realize the potential of this airline on long and thin routes. All the other airliners were either too big, or didn’t have the range required to do long Transatlantic and Transpacific flights, but the Boeing 757 was perfect to produce a profit on these routes.

The problem now is that many of these airframes are over 30 years old and many airframes are at the age where they have to be retired. There is no direct replacement for the Boeing 757 at the moment. The Airbus A321LR and the Boeing 737 MAX 10 barely have the same range and the same capacity, but they’re missing a few key components; engine power, cargo capacity, large cargo container handling, comfort, etc. This is leaving many airlines pushing the life of these Boeing 757’s even further, with some airlines saying they’re going to run them for atleast another 10 years. This will make some nearly 40 years old when they retire.

Boeing or Airbus need to get the ball rolling on a replacement for the Boeing 757, and fast. It’s estimated another 4000 airframes will be required in the next 20 years to fill the gap the Boeing 757 will be leaving, and the ever growing market is requiring. My heart is with Boeing aircraft, so I hope Boeing comes up with a solution that’s better than Airbus’s solution, and quicker!

Stay tuned for my next blog post, which I’ll be writing about my first days experiences in Paris.

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