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March 25, 2010

The Vegas Trip

In late February I joined OHMIC on a weekend trip to Vegas.

The cheapest flights turned out to be on Allegiant Air, flying out of Grand Forks to Phoenix. We left early Friday afternoon for Grand Forks, picked up the two remaining caches in Grand Forks, coincidently one in North Dakota and one in Minnesota, grabbed a quick snack and made it to the airport with mere minutes to spare. The packed waiting room was another indication of the affect Allegiant has had on the small Grand Forks airport, there isn't enough room for a single plane's worth of passengers there. Allegiant is a discount carrier and the planes reflected that, older MD82/83 models with quite the uncomfortable seats, not to mention the upgrade charges for everything.

We landed in Phoenix at Phoenix-Mesa airport, a small older military airport I think, Allegiant is the only commercial carrier to fly there, another example of how they keep the costs low. We walked right off the plane onto the tarmac and then to a terminal building, then back outside and then another terminal building, picked up our rental car with no fanfare and were off for Vegas. No sooner were we on the road than 2 coyotes crossed our path. We found a few caches in central Phoenix along our route out of the city. Near the edge of town a bored police officer stopped us at one parking lot cache for quite some time. After all the time and lectures about caching in areas like this, he ended up putting the cache back after we left. We drove for most of the rest of the night and found very few caches. We did come upon one odd sight. A highway construction sign was put out with the message "Caution: Runners". I wasn't sure what it meant, but a short while later we saw a line of bouncing lights down the side of the highway. As we approached it was a series of runners all with headlamps and reflective vests. Mile after mile we continued to pass these people running in the middle of the night down the side of the highway. We eventually stopped at a rest stop in a town and asked the people manning it about what was going on. Apparently it was a 120mile relay marathon that had started at 10am that morning and continued non-stop until finished. Sometime early that morning we arrived in Kingman, AZ and stopped for a few hours sleep.

The next day we were back on the road to Vegas, stopping at a few caches. The smell of sulphur permeated the air in the desert. We also discovered that many of the caches along the road were really off the road and required an off road vehicle to just randomly drive through the desert in most places. We stopped at a little old town, Chloride, AZ thats been setup as a bit of a ghost town. It was pretty darn empty except for the bull roaming freely around town, an interesting place to stop and stretch the legs and look around though. Along the way I don't remember any rest stops or really any places to pull over much. Next we got to drive over the Hoover Dam. Another interesting spot to stop and see in person. The water levels were quite low. Perhaps almost more impressive was the new bridge they are building high above the area that will allow people to bypass the winding route over the dam. Apparently construction has been slow going, the once proud sign indicating the construction work is faded to nearly an unreadable state and the completion date has long past, even the spray painted year appended has past. Later we found out that a major structural member of the bridge failed and had to be dismantled and replaced. We stopped at Boulder City, NV a small town just half way between the border and Vegas for a few caches included a very old one. It's interesting to see how caching has changed over the years.


Bridge
- Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam

Next stop Las Vegas. We arrived and tried to arrange a meeting with our friend MHz who also was in town. By now it was drizzling a little out. MHz was off on another adventure so we decided we would start by heading to California. Just around and over the border we found a few caches and added another state to our caching map. As it turns out, just a few days later a 'Power Trail' would be published right in this area that amassed over 600 caches in a straight line along a path, each just a few hundred meters apart. On the way out to California every cache we looked at seemed to be off in the desert with no road or access. On the way back we decided to take an older road next to the interstate and were able to find quite a few nice large and quick caches in the desert, we still couldn't figure out how to access those other caches we looked at unfortunately. Back in Vegas now, we had heard from MHz and were told it was a NASCAR weekend, which would make traffic on I-15 to Utah pretty nasty.

Figuring it was Saturday, drizzling and early afternoon, we better hit up Utah now if we were going to make it this weekend. So off we headed to Utah, never having stopped in Vegas yet. Sure enough the NASCAR event had a jammed parking lot and we managed to miss all the arriving traffic. Just as we drove by the national anthem was being sung and we saw the fly over of the F-16s. We made it out to St George, UT picking up a few caches along the way and a fair number in St George itself. A pretty interesting city and a nice place to cache. At this point we realized we've found caches in 6 states in about 24 hours. As the evening crept up on us, it was time to head back to Vegas. We stopped for a few caches along the proper side of the road, in the dark now, on the way back.

Our rental car had the 'NeverLost' GPS installed. I do find it is handy to have two GPS units for road trip caching. One to mark the route to the destination and one to use for locating the caches themselves, so having the extra GPS in the car was sometimes handy. On the other hand the implementation was a bit wonky. It wouldn't remember any previous settings, except sometimes the previous destination. Which means, every time we stopped, it reverted to full volume, full brightness and english. So every once and a while you'd get a nice shock as it blared 'RESUME!' when it remembered your previous destination. There also isn't a permanent off button either, in fact it never actually turns off, it will only turn off the screen and speaker. I wonder how this affects the car battery over time, although it always does have a GPS lock when fired up.

Finally it was time to find some caches in Las Vegas as we waited for the meet up time with our Couch Surfing host. We ended up visiting Fremont Street and the neon graveyard, along with some other caches in town and ended the night by driving down the strip. We met up with our CS host at her work site and after making arrangements went off to find some more caches while she ran some errands. At this point neither OHMIC or myself seemed all that interested in finding any more caches, which was pretty odd if you know us. The night was getting late and the list of errands our host had to run kept growing. Eventually we finally met up and had a nice conversation with our host in her condo and then we eagerly found our beds and slept for the night.


Fremont St

Early the next morning we were refreshed and ready for more caching with plans to meet our host later for breakfast. We started caching around the area we were staying and ran up a long string of DNFs (Did Not Find) on simple urban caches. Our patience strained, we decided to move along and hit up the virtual cache tour of the strip. A series of virtual caches starting at the "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign and continuing along the strip with a cache at virtually every big hotel. We got to see the sights from the ground level and walk through a few of the hotels. I have to say I didn't really find it all that interesting. While the mega-expensive attractions are interesting to look at, they didn't really hold my interest long. The themes as well seemed lacking with a McDonalds-esque plastic quality. We walked through a lot of the Paris hotel and Jacques was quite intrigued by the bistros. The food looked great, but no-one was eating it, instead lined up at the buffet. The overall effect of the theming felt lacking to me, filled with tourists with no shred of culture or authenticity left. Not having heard about our breakfast meet up yet, we continued caching around the city, the urban caches and DNFs were really becoming irritating. We tried to seek out parks and green spaces but they are few and far between in the desert, one urban park was even locked on a weekend. By now our breakfast had become lunch and we were starting to run on empty, both physically and mentally. More urban caching wasn't sounding appetizing. We pushed through, found a few more caches and some green space in a wash (a large drainage ditch to clear water when it rains, otherwise filled with walkways and greenery). By now we finally got in touch with our host who had just finished eating, doh, so we said our goodbyes and headed off for some more caching and some food. We headed out to the Kyle Canyon valley and our spirits were restored. Finding a nice desert scene, large caches, nice hikes and fresh air. We found many caches along the way and stopped at an elevation of about 5000' where the snow first started to appear again. Evening darkness was setting in, so we packed up our caching and finally met up with MHz at Mimi's Cafe in Las Vegas for a nice dinner. After dinner we figured we needed to be back on the road towards Phoenix.


Welcome

New York, New York

Paris

Bellagio

Joshua Trees
- Kyle Canyon

Kyle Canyon

The usual story, a few caches along the way, not many places to turn off. We again stopped in Kingman, AZ for the night. It was a bit earlier than our normal stopping time so we toured around town a bit, found several caches and even started a cache series. One DNF plagued our night, even after two visits. After a good nights sleep we were refreshed and sure we knew where to look for that cache. But alas still not found. The cache was located next to a museum and it was now open so we wandered inside in search of help. In what seems like the usual, the front line staff weren't really informed of the geocache. The first guy gave us a blank stare and had no idea. A younger fellow wandered over and started giving us directions somewhere, not really understanding what we asked. When it finally sank in he disappeared to a back room and returned with another fellow. The guy oddly reminded me of grnbrg and after a short discussion we learned he was the fellow who hid the cache along with the remainder of the series in town. In short order we had a hint and some information on getting to some other caches in town. Back out we went and even with hint in hand it took several minutes to locate the well disguised cache. We rounded out the morning with several more finds in the series, each of which was located at a historic site in town and many provided additional information within the cache on the history. These were very good caches, hidden, but fairly easy to find, each one a little different and they take you to someplace with a story. I enjoyed the '24 hour bail bonds' location with a closed sign near one cache. It was a good morning and we wrapped it up with a wonderful breakfast at the mom and pop shop called the Roadrunner Cafe. These are the restaurants you just have to love, great personal service, great food and great value. The little place was packed with a rotating set of customers and a healthy collection of regulars. We bid farewell to Kingman and continued on to Phoenix. The sun was shining and it was a great drive back down, stopping at a few caches and even finding a few roadside stops finally.


Spot the Cache
- Kingman, AZ

Arizona Desert

Back at the Mesa airport with little fanfare. We boarded the plane on the tarmac again, this time using the front door and the back steps of the MD82/83. I think this was an older one and the seats were a bit better, but still bad. The stewards weren't as funny either, but oh well, a simple cheap flight. Landing back in Grand Forks it was cold again. Decided it would be best to stop for a meal before leaving the city so we stopped at the Blue Moose. It's one of those restaurants we've tried to eat at several times but it's either closed or full. Very happy with the choice. They had an interesting bubble gum flavoured iced tea (although I think they called it raspberry), at first it was odd, but then it really grows on you. An uneventful drive back to Winnipeg capped off the weekend as Monday drew to a close. The trip nabbed me 4 new states, visits to Las Vegas and Phoenix areas and about 140 cache finds. Another great experience.

Comments

I flew from YVR to PHX two weekends ago and wish I had known about allegent air before booking my $900 dollar flight! With airfare, hotel, food, and a wedding present it ended up being a VERY expensive two days.

Posted by: Natalie Bennett at April 17, 2010 12:36 PM

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