Ok so I have some free time to talk about the first day of our trip.  So here we go.

On Saturday, March 13th Mom, Papa, and I drove our car to JFK for our flight out to Las Vegas.  And of course it was the same day the windstorm hit NYC, Westchester County, and surrounding areas.  Just walking from the long term parking lot to the Aitrain which would take us to the terminal was brutal, I felt like I was about to blow away.  We later found our town was one of the hardest hit in the county and that our house intermittently lost power throughout the week so I guess our trip happened at the right time!

Once we were inside the plane, I had no idea how the heck we were going to take off.  The plane was shaking all over the place when it was at a standstill on the tarmac.  I was at the window seat so when I looked on the ground, I could see the wind gusts beating at the puddles left by the rain and wiping the water away.  I knew even before we took off that take off was going to a fun-filled turbulent ride.

So for some reason, the air control guys thought it would be just fine to send a jumbo jet into the air with wind gusts blowing at 30-50 mph.  I seriously don’t think I’ve experienced so much turbulence on one flight.  I knew once we hit 30 000 feet and got above the clouds, it wouldn’t be so bad.  But getting through the clouds was not fun, it was a roller coast ride and we got thrown all over the place.  Luckily the overhead compartments didn’t spill open but all I could think off was in Lost’s first episode when all that happens and then the back part of the plane falls off.  Yeah I know I shouldn’t have been thinking about that but it’s kind of hard when you’re at the window seat and you can see the Earth faaaaaar below you.
The seatbelts signs stayed on for most of the flight which meant the flight attendants couldn’t go down the aisle with their carts to hand out the food (that we have to pay for on domestic flights, I had my own lunch from home) and what not.  The pilot kept apologizing for the delay but hey that was fine by me, rather that than have food spill all over the passengers.  At one point one of the flight attendants was going up the aisle collecting garbage and she fell on top of the guy sitting in my row thanks to a particularly bumpy patch.  The woman sitting next to me (who as it turns out was also heading to Zion and Bryce and she was super nice) kept clutching her husband every time we encountered turbulence.  I couldn’t grab on to anyone since Mom and Papa were sitting in different rows so I had to make do with my seat rest.  I later found out Mom held the woman’s hand she sat next to (so typical of you Mom to hold strangers’ hands when you are scared!) and that the poor woman had to distract her from the turbulence by talking about random things.

So anyways we finally started descending towards Las Vegas and it was a perfectly clear sky.  But wouldn’t you know, the area was also experiencing a lot of wind! So we had a bumpy landing as well and as we hit the tarmac, the plane’s engines got a little too excited and the plane momentarily sped up, prompting the pilot’s voice over the loudspeaker to say “Woooooah big boy” which made us laugh since it had been a rough flight.  Hats off to the pilot and crew for dealing with such a turbulent flight!!!

We got our bags, got our rental car, and headed off towards our hotel, the JW Marriott.  These hotels are not actually hotels, they are basically malls that happen to have rooms for people to sleep in.  There are fake streams and running water in all the courtyards with music playing 23/7 over the speakers.  And obviously there was a casino which we tried to stay away from (they’ve got slot machines in the airport as soon as you get out of the plane).  We didn’t bother going to the strip at the beginning of the week because as you will see later, we stayed our last night at the Paris themed hotel (yes I know, how cliche for my family but whatever) across from the Bellagio.  We did get to glimpse it as we drove by on the highway though on the way to our hotel, it looked like a huge Disneyland from far away.

Once we got settled in, Papa decided he wanted to drive to Red Rock Canyon, which as you guessed it, is a park with lots of red rocks in a canyon.  It was late in the afternoon so we knew there would be no time for hiking but we decided to do the scenic drive.  After about 15 mins of driving, we entered the park and right away I was very impressed by what I saw.  For those of you that know me, this is not the first time I’ve been out in the desert so it’s not the first time I’ve been surrounded by the Rockies.  But the Mojave Desert is different from the Sonora Desert in Arizona which is where I was two years ago.  There are no giant green cactus, instead you’ve got these little shrubs that grow all over the place.

We drove and stopped at the various look out points and it was very beautiful to see the massive red rock mountains against the evening sky.  Unfortunately, since it was very windy, it was also very cold and we weren’t able to stay out of the car for more than 2 minutes at a time.  To learn more about the geology of Red Rock Canyon, go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Rock_Canyon_National_Conservation_Area
We saw some (crazy) rock climbers climbing along the faces of some of the rocks.  Maybe it was less windy where they were but I’m not sure how they managed to deal with the icy wind.  Rock climbing is definitely a sport I will continue to admire from afar.

At one of the stops, we saw some petroglyphs on some of the rocks.  I’m not too sure what that means but what I saw were a bunch of handprints in red paint etched on the rock.  According to the helpful signs, these handprints were made by the Paiutes, a Native American tribe, a couple of centuries ago.  It was pretty cool to see them and to think that people actually lived in the canyon so long ago.  I’ve always been fascinated by Native American culture and I seriously wonder how they managed to survive in the desert for so long before European settlers started poking around.
Another thing we noticed were a lot of dead looking shrubs in different sections of the canyon.  We theorized that the canyon has experienced wildfires in the past and the dead looking plants we saw were the charred remains of the devastation left behind by the fire.

Overall, Red Rock Canyon was a nice introduction to our trip.  I got to see some very different landscapes and experience a different kind of desert.  It amazes me to think how geographically diverse the US is and it just goes to show me there is so much to see in our country.  I’m always thinking about other countries I want to visit but there’s plenty to see and do in my own homeland!

So we went back to the hotel and had dinner at the Irish pub (we always eat at Irish pubs whenever possible when traveling).  And then we went to bed early since there is a 3 hour time difference in Nevada and the next day was Daylight Savings/we were losing an hour, I never know when DS ends or starts.  We were never sure what time it was day to day since we were constantly setting our watches and we never bothered to correct the time on our cellphones or in the rented car.

Then el Primo Frances called to inform us there was no electricity in NY (at 11 PM NY time) and that he didn’t want to go to sleep in the dark.  Papa told him to go to sleep. Not much you can do during a power outage at 11 PM.

And then it was lights out for us.  Or actually, we had already turned off the lights at this point (8:30 PM in Nevada but remember the time difference with NY).  So we turned them off again.

And that’s it for the first day! Next up: Death Valley.