Posts Tagged ‘Toby Keith’

“Road Trip” – is there another phrase that better exemplifies the heart of the American experience? Apple pie perhaps? Have a nice day? Manifest destiny? No, none of those come close to capturing the same sense of freedom and adventure that is synonymous with the American Dream.

Well, dear reader, as you are a valued friend, I am inviting you to join my wife and I on our very own road trip of the American southwest over the next three weeks. Come with us as we criss-cross five states (Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico) and three time zones.

We’ll hear the siren song  of the slots in Vegas casinos, listen to the mournful wail of country music radio as we glide the endless highways, and gasp at massive, multi-coloured incisions in the earth’s surface.

We’ll meet peoples from the rich diversity of American culture, including Mormons and Native Americans.

We’ll take juddering jeep trips with Indian guides into the heart of their reservation where we will purchase Navajo and Zuni jewellery.

We’ll stand at the only point on the North American continent where four states intersect, and have our photo taken like the dutiful tourists (I prefer the word travellers) we are.

We’ll eat at authentic cantinas and  tacquerias and sleep in beds where once slumbered the the Hollywood stars of yesteryear.

We’ll even find ourselves standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, waiting, or at least I will, for a girl in a flat bed Ford to slow down and take a look at me.

The itinerary?

I write this in our hotel (Mandalay Bay) room where we spent last night after a tortuous 15 hours on a Virgin Atlantic plane and equally frustrating wait in line for the car hire. But a fine meal and live swing band in The House of Blues, followed by a solid night’s sleep, has us ready for the road this morning.

Today we drive to Hurricane, Utah for two nights, the base for our exploration of Zion National Park. We then move on to Panguitch, Utah, close to Bryce Canyon for a further two nights. Staying at Page, Arizona for another two nights will enable us to visit Lake Powell and Glen and Antelope Canyons.

The highlight will be our trip to Monument Valley in the heart of the Navajo Nation, iconic location of so many westerns directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne.  A stay in Kayenta, Arizona that night will predate two nights in Moab, Utah, our base for Arches and Canyonlands national parks.

On the premise that we will be “red rocked out” by then, and that our hiking boots might have earned a rest, we will wind down a little at this roughly mid point. The sightseeing will become more leisurely as we move on to Durango, Colorado and then into New Mexico for stays in Santa Fe (two nights), Albuquerque and Gallup before driving Route 66 to Flagstaff, Arizona.

A two night stop there in which we will “pop over” to Sedona and the long drive back to Vegas, sixteen days after we left it, for the final four nights, the second of which will be my sixtieth birthday.

The rigours of the road will dictate whether we might take short detours to Los Alamos, New Mexico and the Mesa Verde National Monument.

Sounds fun?

So jump in the back seat of the car, tip your hat over your face, but not before grabbing a couple of Buds (or rather Sierra Nevada or Anchor Steam beers), kick off your cowboy boots, sing along to Hank Williams and Toby Keith, and enjoy the ride. It’ll be a blast!

Time to head out on the highway.

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Before I start today’s diary I feel I need to apologise in advance to any of my American readers who might be offended by comments I make in it.  I have great affection and respect for the American people but this was just one of those days where everything that annoys me about the country happened, fittingly when the “word of the day”, as you will discover was “dam” (without the “n”).

Our second and final full day in Vegas was largely taken up with an organised tour of the Hoover Dam and luxury cruise on Lake Mead.  We boarded the feeder bus from our hotel at 8.30am and proceeded to the Grand Canyon Airport in Boulder City where, before we were let off the bus, a tour guide tried to sell us a cut-price helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon as an add-on to our pre-booked activities.  Only in America can someone try to sell you something else before you have even started to take advantage of the thin for which you have already paid.  Admittedly, it was a good price though we declined as we had done it before.

Check-in was efficient and friendly, but it was a full forty minutes before the tour finally began, not least because we were directed to the gift shop first (another brazen money making ploy).  Have you noticed also how every ride in an American theme park ends in the gift shop?  And I shouldn’t forget the obligatory group photo, yet another opportunity to rip you off.  To be fair, we have occasionally bought the photo package (usually an assortment of different size prints and key rings), but we resisted it twice today – at the airport and Lake Mead – as well as at the shows on the previous evenings.

Eventually, two hours after we had boarded the first coach, we were on the way to the Hoover Dam, each passenger proudly displaying a coloured  (blue, red or yellow) sticker on their chest denoting which tour they were on and, therefore, how much they had paid.  Our driver for the day was extremely knowledgable, a cynic might say a know all, but his constant use of the word “dam”, witty at first, grated after the fiftieth time.  We had 2 hours 20 minutes at the Dam, most of which was taken up with an escorted group tour which I for one, not being remotely engineeringly minded, found rather tedious if undeniably awe inspiring.  The highlight of our stay came when we were set free to wander around with our cameras taking photos of the Dam and the highest road bridge in the United States.    

The coachload was then separated into its respective coloured groupings for lunch.  Whilst the majority were treated to casino fare, we began our “luxury” cruise on Lake Mead with a sumptuous repast of ham or turkey roll, chips or potato salad and an apple or orange, washed down by a non-alcoholic drink.  It only seemed appropriate in the circumstances that I should decide to pay an extra six dollars for a pre-prepared pina colada (which was actually quite refreshing). 

The cruise, which lasted an hour and a half and took us as close as we were permitted to the Hoover Dam, was very relaxing, though the biting wind rendered trips up on deck to take photos short and challenging.  Disappointingly, the position of the sun at the time also scuppered shots of the Dam itself.  Nonetheless, it was generally enjoyable, though I still can’t get the picture of the mother on the table next to us checking her young son’s hair for nits whilst we were partaking of our banquet, or of the young girl who devoured two enormous burgers, out of my mind.   

The final part of the tour was a brief visit to Ethel M’s Chocolate Factory and tour of the adjacent cactus garden.  We returned to our hotel at 6pm.

Ever since we first visited it in March 2008 we have made Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill in Harrah’s Las Vegas is one of our essential things to do in Vegas, irrespective of the length of our stay.  Good, wholesome southern style food is served in the restaurant and the adjacent bar is lively and good natured.  The house DJ plays the latest country tunes during the breaks in the performance of the nightly live bands, and numerous TV screens showing country music videos, many by Keith himself, are located throughout the establishment. 

After a 45 minute wait for our table the meal was as enjoyable as ever (Janet had chicken and I had catfish), the Whisky Girl cocktails which seem to contain around half a dozen measures of Jack Daniel’s, were equally typically potent and delicious, and the service by the “hottie” waitress was excellent.

But apart from that, the atmosphere was very different to what we had enjoyed on our previous visits.  The DJ played very few recognisably country tunes (Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl?), the periodic free shots dispensing interludes were accompanied by what sounded like a rap version of The Birdie Song rather than I Love This Bar, the band played competent southern, country tinged, rock and the TV screens, rather than celebfrating the country theme, were showing wall to wall college basketball – like thousands of others around town!

And finally, revellers who were only drinking were continually sitting at restaurant tables whilst others, including ourselves, were expected to wait for those same tables.  And some of those were asked to leave whilst others weren’t.  A very depressing experience, and one that convinced me finally that it was time to have a rest from Vegas for a few years (though that’s not to deny that we enjoyed the vast majority of our stay).

The irritations of the day didn’t end there.  On returning to our hotel at midnight my  room key wouldn’t work! This necessitated our traipsing down to reception where we were lectured by a female robot at reception that we shouldn’t keep the close next to  credit cards and mobile phones (which we hadn’t) before being given a replacement.  And, to cap the evening’s entertainment, as I walked away she droned “have a great day”!!!!!!

And, believe it or not, I will be so glad to get away from those damn slot machines and return to civilisation (California Here I Come)!!!!!

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