Doug McLean World Tour 1999-2000
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Date: Monday, July 26, 1999 6:34 PM
Subject: GTT: Gone to Texas - July 17-25, 1999

OK...this tale could also be easily entitled:  TTFN California...Howdy Texas!
A man and his car...Erosion and the Tourism Industry...

After a wonderful going away party on Friday, July 16, 1999 at Sangria in Hermosa Beach (Highlights include: overwhelming 5 tables with over 50 people...the aborted attempts at roasting me...entering while surrounded by 9 girls (guess these days they are women...sorry my bad...) purely by chance...but nevertheless...very nice..., dancing with Andrea until she got sick (don't know what this says of my dancing skills), the food, watching dad trying to video the moment...always amusing, and the hot tub afterwards...nuff said!) ...dad and I had the daunting task of packing and moving the stuff into the 1987 Toyota Camry (read: stud-mobile / babe wagon)...don't know how well we did...have not heard from my roommate Joe...hope he is still speaking to me...

Anyway...we were packed up and ready to leave by 7pm Saturday night(July 17)...we headed out fueled by one last stop at In and Out Burger (see a theme) (NOTE: the Texas equivalent to In and Out Burger is Whataburger...all of my California friends are now obligated to try a Whataburger if they ever visit the great land that we call Texas)...We were packed to the gills in the stationwagon (gotta love the cargo capacity in these babies!) and headed East...

We made it as far as Baker and crashed at the Baker Bun Boy Hotel...yes, it is as glamourous (sp?) as it sounds...but we didn't care...next morning we ate at the Bun Boy (mmmmmmm), took pictures next to the World's Largest Thermometer...and headed to Hoover Dam...and a dam fine place it is...we took the tour...heard way too many dam jokes while we were there...it got hot...so we figured hot dam let's go...

We went to Vegas...now dad had never been to Vegas...and neither have several of my foreign friends...(here's to you Serena)...Anyway...Serena went there a few weeks back and sent me an e-mail saying, "Why the hell didn't anyone tell me the drinks were free"...I guess she learned too late...so for all of my foreign friends or US friends who haven't been to Vegas...here are some tips:USE VALET PARKING - It is free in Vegas...go figure, they want you in their casino...so the Valet parking is free...do tip the guy a $1 when they return your car.

DRINKS ARE FREE - YES, TRUE! But, you must be gambling...so watch where the waitresses/waiters (note: Vegas is not long on having waiters...they are mainly waitresses...sexist...but true) are going...plant yourself at a slot machine near where they are going...put one quarter in the machine as they go by and ask them for a drink...beer, mixed drinks, whatever...it is free if you are gambling...when drink rrives...tip...Sorry...US custom...go figure.

DAYS TO GO: Sunday-Thursday the hotels are cheap...Friday and Saturday they are expensive...supply and demand...you understand.

BUFFETS: Eat once a day at these cheap but well stocked all you can eat buffets...be sure to go to ones that have shrimp and crab legs...then gorge yourself like the other tourists.FREE SHOWS: Yes...the Casinos have realized that one first must bait the prey into the lair...then suck it's blood dry...so some have very cool attractions...here they are...Bellagio-Awesome water show every half hour...watch the pond...really! Caesar's Palace - This is old school and worth it...go to the Forum shops...the interior decoration is incredible. Mirage - The "Volcano" out front erupts every 20 minutes with a cool fire show. Treasure Island - Pirates of the Carribbean 3-4 times a night. Freemont Street Experience - This is truly old school and the bare, seedy underbelly of Vegas...downtown...but has a cool overhead light show.

OK...so much for being a Vegas Tour Guide...Dad and I did Vegas...gambled with $20 (We're cheap and Scottish...remember)...We won $30 on one machine...pocketed $22 to subsidize our buffet dinner...and lost the
original $20...overall a good trip to Vegas. Slept in Vegas.

Next day we start out towards Zion National Park...and I realize the true reason that Dad has actually come to drive me back to Texas...he wants to be there for his car...like he was there for my graduation from High School...his 1987 Toyota Camry (remember...babe magnet) is about to graduate to the Quarter Million Mile Club...Yes, on the way to Zion (after dad asked...sniff...sniff..."can I drive it over the Quarter Million son?") dad flipped the car over 250,000 miles...truly an achievement...original engine, transmission (note 3rd gear is in dire straits...but hey...after that many miles it isn't exactly gonna run like a Ferrari...it never did...) and still geting 30-32 miles per gallon...and I pegged it above 100 MPH on the way out of Vegas to Zion..it is a workhorse...(NOTE: Somebody better warn Toyota
Dealerships that they may soon have a run on these "Wonder Wagons" by my friends...I know when I return that you will all be driving them...uh huh)...

Anyway...We get to Zion in Utah...way cool canyons...erosion has done a lot to make the area very impressive...visited "Weeping Rock" where water pours off the rocks and makes almost a natural air conditioned area...guess you gotta just visit...anyway...very cool...then we drove like heck to go to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, slightly in Arizona for sunset...I had been to the South Rim before...but not the North Rim...NOTE: The North Rim is much cooler 10-15 degrees...has forests...and is lovely...South Rim didn't do much for me...North Rim Baby...North Rim! As we sat atop a ridge with other tourists waiting for the sun to go down...we struck up a conversation with 4 Aussies...they were very cool...(hmmmm...wonder if they ever made it to Hermosa)...I told them the above points about Las Vegas...they were amazed...HEY, this stuff is useful sometimes...Anyway...the sunset was very nice...there were no campsites in the park...so we left and camped in the nearby National Forest (NOTE:
Camping in National Parks is only allowed in campsites...National Forests allow you to camp anywhere for free...cool, eh?) and I got to pitch my new, small, biker tent that I got at Academy in Austin for $15 (Hey, REI wanted over $200 for a tent approx the same size...I don't expect to use it much...and remember...I'm Scottish and cheap)...while heating up soup for dinner we were amazed at a mule deer that kept trying to enter our camp...go figure...didn't know if it was very tame or completely confused by our presence...either way...it was interesting...

Next day (Tuesday...I think) we hit the road and went to Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah...Very interesting scenery...once again, erosion does amazing things...lots to look at...then off to Bryce Canyon National Park...again, very scenic and very eroded canyons...I don't mean to be short on the descriptions...but what else do you say about colorful canyons that are created via erosion...kinda gotta see pictures or go there...you know? Anyway...we then headed to the Escalante area of Utah (yes...more erosion...but different) and camped at Calf Creek near Escalante, Utah. We heard that there was a 3 mile hike to a 126 foot waterfall...we woke early the next morning (Wednesday) and started hiking...we viewed petroglyphs and finally made it to the waterfall...a great hike if you can do it...then hopped in the Wagon of Wonders and hit Capitol Reef National Park (Named for: Eroded domes that resemble the Capitol and because there is a large cliff area that acts as a "reef" or barrier to early settlers...see...learn while you read...) ...more petroglyphs at Sego Canyon (just North of Moab Utah)...then Arches National Park. I really liked Arches (note...more erosion)...I did lots of hiking and saw many, many, many arches...I understand from a friend in Telluride that the mountain biking in that area is also second to none...

Next day...we headed South...stopped at Looking Glass Rock (which is just a  spot on a map) but was one of my favorite places on the trip...It is just large eroded mound of sandstone (go figure) that had an incredible acoustic capacity on one side because of the way the erosion created a huge hollow arched area...amazing...30ish miles south of Moab for anyone looking at a map...not touristy at all...then, onward to Newspaper Rock State Park which had many petroglyphs on one rock...like hundreds of them...very interesting...but a little on the stick-figure side of art...hey, what do you expect cro-mangon Picasso? ...then we drove to Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado...this is actually a deceptively large park...Mesa Verde has many cliff dwellings of the Anasazi people...we got a ticket to the 5:30pm tour of the Cliff Palace around noon...and then toured around some of the self tour areas before our time...while touring around...we noticed some clouds forming...then brewing...then storming...soon...we were watching lightning strikes 2-3 miles away which was causing Thunderous (no pun intended) crashes...amplified by the canyons...very impressive...I suggested to dad that we try to join the 5pm group...as the 5:30pm tour may be canceled...we got with the 5pm group...and just as we got below the canyon rim and almost into the ruins...the skies opened up! I have rarely been in a greater downpour...and never in a greater Thunder-storm...and were were under the shelter of the cliffs that had sheltered the Anasazi...it was a
great moment...hard to describe...but very special...We got drenched on the way out of the canyon but had a great time. We headed towards the 4-corners region (Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico) to watch the sunset...we arrived at 8:07pm...

NOTE: if you do go to the 4-corners monument...it is on the Ute Indian Reservation (Also Note: it is terrible land...just the type the generous early Americans would bestow on the indians) and closes at
8pm...YES, the 4-corners closes at 8pm...the gates closed infront of us...really. I was dumbfounded...but c'est la vie...we headed towards Monument Valley...found an outstanding restaurant in the middle of nowhere Monument Valley...really, it was incredible and small, and I couldn't find it again in a million years...

We camped near Bluff, Utah...and hit the valley the next morning...yes...more erosion...very impressive...but at this point...we both had seen lots of eroded country...headed South to Petrified Forest National Park which was really neat...it had tons (literally) of petrified wood (yes...you probably guessed that one...but there really is a huge amount of it) but also had petroglyphs to see (and video...aka...dad)...then we let the car run like a barn-sour mare as we headed to Texas...we drove straight from Petrified Natl Forest, Arizona to Hueco Tanks State Park just ouside El Paso where we camped for the night.

Awaking early the next day (Saturday, July 24) we toured Hueco Tanks (really an oasis in the desert...natural water pockets/tanks hold what little rain falls in the area)...we also saw a grey fox at the tanks...I was very impressed...they are amazing creatures. Then off to Guadalupe Mountains National Park (Highest point in Texas...over 8,500 feet...) and onward to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Carlsbad is a huge cave...and a must do for anyone who finds themselves in South-East New Mexico with some time on their hands...from there...Texas BBQ in Ozona was on the agenda and then it was back to Jarrell...arriving in after midnight on Saturday Night/Sunday Morning...

The White Wagon of Wonder had logged 3,007 miles on the trip, ended up with an odometer reading over 252,500...needless to say dad is like a proud new pappa about his car...I'm just glad the darned thing didn't strand us in the desert...
Doug

PS...not all of my e-mails will be this long...I have received some notes that mention that I am writing the great american novel...and it isn't so great...but I want to record some of the information for my future reference.