Sunday, 5 May 2013

The Great American Adventure - Part Two

Well, the issue that made me set my blog to private before has supposedly been resolved now, so hopefully I am back to stay.  I still don't really understand what I was supposed to be doing wrong though.  I fear I write so much that people skim through what I write rather than reading the whole story, and then they put their own twist on my words (especially when they've already been influenced by other people's lies, but that's a story for another day...)  Just know that when you come to Desirée's blog, you can expect to read the whole truth and nothing but the truth...well, apart from the comedy sketches...but those kind of come with the truth!

May 20th 2011

Mum was awake all night, pacing the "hardest floor she'd ever felt" as it was "daytime to her".  Meanwhile, I slept the best I had in a long time, feeling totally at home in Pacific Standard Time.  I was even able to get up at a normal time (around 6am) for once, and stood by the window watching the sun rise over Las Vegas.

(Not the best view in the world, but it definitely felt like it to me at that moment!)

Mum and I watched some strange birds hopping around on the rooftops.  They looked like blackbirds but then we realised that they were actually grackles.  Our first North American wildlife - who'd have thought we'd find it in Vegas before we'd even left our hotel room?!

While we were watching the birds, David spent absolutely ages in the bathroom...or the area outside it.  He left Mum and I with very little time to get ready ourselves and by the time we were able to get to the basin, he was rushing up and down and giving us no privacy whatsoever.  (Remind me again why the washroom is not behind a closed door?!)

I snapped a couple of quick photos of our hotel room as we were packing up our things (hence the mess), and then we went downstairs for breakfast.  We'd been told it was a buffet but knew no more than that, I just hoped we could find something that Mum would eat.

That's if we could get into the breakfast room.  David had kept all of our meal tickets and lost half of them.  It took him ages to find them, with him getting more and more annoyed that the hotel staff wouldn't believe that he had them somewhere in his pocket and let us in regardless!

The buffet was amazing.  Never have I seen a hotel lay out such a spread!  Such a wide variety of fruits, pastries and cereals as well as all the ingredients for a cooked breakfast if that's what you'd prefer.  I needn't have worried that Mum wouldn't find something to eat, our problem was choosing WHAT to put on our plates.  I eventually decided on cornflakes, a banana, strawberries, croissants and an apple tart.  There was so much more that I would have loved to try if only I'd had room!

You weren't supposed to take anything away for later, but since when has that stopped Mum?  Three apple tarts found their way into her bag.  I didn't steal anything, but I'm afraid to say that probably had more to do with the fact that I was feeling very bloated than wanting to stay on the right side of the law!

Having checked out of our room, Mum and I decided to use the hotel restrooms before getting on the coach and had our second shocking bathroom experience.  The cubicles all had wooden slatted doors, meaning you could see straight through them.  I went in first and Mum assured me that she couldn't see IN, it was just that I had a clear view OUT.  But I guess a short person or somebody looking up at the door could have seen in just as well as I could see from my sitting position.  Mum decided she wouldn't even risk it after that, and I don't blame her.  It was pretty nasty.

We climbed aboard the coach and met our tour guide, Evan, and driver, Darryl.  Both were very friendly and helpful from the start.  Evan was a rather excitable, fast talking and sometimes annoying 30-something  (he would not put his microphone down for a minute and we would become very familiar with his voice over the next couple of weeks!)  He told us he came from Boston but lived in Arizona these days.  He told us a lot more too...I think we got to hear his life story five times over the course of the tour.  He tried to build a sense of community between everybody in the coach party, attempting to get us all taking part in group activities and writing three facts about ourselves on a card to be read out to the rest of the party etc. (Just the kind of thing my mum loves...not!)  Darryl was an older man from New Orleans, quiet and reserved but very  polite and talkative if you got to talk to him away from the wheel.

Sadly, I never had the nerve to ask for photos with them so, although I remember our leaders well, you'll just have to imagine what they looked like (I think Evan may have run into the background of some of my later photos...we'll have to wait and see!)

I do, however, have this wonderful example of Evan's introduction commentary.  I didn't record more than ten minutes (believe me, he talked for a lot longer than that!) because I was worried the camera battery would die on me.

I loved his voice (but then, most of you already know I'm a sucker for American and Canadian accents, and his voice reminded me of a certain someone I know...) but he was grating on Mum before this initial ten minutes was even up, and she got even angrier when he made some throw away comment about how we would probably run into cold weather but "Don't worry, you Brits should be used to it".  I can't really blame her for getting defensive though, I too have bad memories of a tour guide in Luxembourg who taunted us non-stop about vegetarianism and I feared this might go the same way.

It got worse when an Australian family on the coach picked up on his comment and made an equally stupid joke.  "This is like a summer's day to you, isn't it?"  Mum managed to hold her tongue which I was quite surprised about.  How long would that last, I wondered?

I only managed to snap one picture of Las Vegas as we drove away...

And then it was out into the gorgeous scenery beyond...

Soon it was time for our first stop.  What exciting tourist attraction/place of beauty and interest was this, you ask?  Harmon's Supermarket!

Ever eager to help, Evan decided to assist us in choosing our food and drink for the rest of the day.  We quickly discovered that he was a bit of a health freak, determined that we would make the right choices.  Mum was getting really annoyed by this point - she struggles to find something she's willing to eat at the best of times, and wanted to spend the time browsing the shelves instead of listening to Evan's suggestions! - but he did recommend a really nice fruit smoothie for me.

We managed to get some egg sandwiches and some absolutely lovely apple juice, but there was nothing Mum would drink there. (Why wouldn't David believe me when I told him Lucozade is banned in the US?)  I also found a sheet of very cute MLP stickers (I haven't seen pony stickers in the UK for ages) for $1.99.

Soon it was time to re-board the coach and travel on to our first real stop, Zion National Park.  I just couldn't get over the beautiful scenery and kept snapping photos through the window all the way!

By the time we got there, it had started to rain.  Heavily.  It was only then that I discovered that the hood on the coat we had bought in Clacton wouldn't stay up, and didn't cover my head anyway.  I lost quite a bit of my thinning hair by battling with the hood and got upset about that.  I also didn't want to risk my camera getting damaged so couldn't really take any pictures.

We saw a lot of birds, but we couldn't identify them and Mum was unable to focus properly through her binoculars.  There were deer and turkeys there, but that's about all I could say for sure.  A nice birdwatcher next to us informed us that we were watching gnatcatchers and black-capped chickadees but there were still other species flitting about that we didn't know.

There's a deer in this picture, but you'd have to have good eyes to spot it!  I don't think I'd worked out just how good a zoom I had on the camera at that stage!

Despite the weather, I was really enjoying watching the birds so was quite sad when we were told it was time to move on again.

I thought the scenery was breathtaking and continued snapping pictures all the way to Bryce Canyon National Park, despite the speed of the coach and raindrops on the windows ruining most of the pictures.  But Mum was already getting bored with the "red rock she could see in Teignmouth".  She came to the conclusion that she had got too old to see the world now.  "You have to forget yesterday's dreams..." she said, dramatically.  The depression was awful and was quickly rubbing off on me...I tried to concentrate on my surroundings.  I was not going to let anything ruin my short time on the right side of the atlantic!

She'd tired herself out by the time we reached Bryce Canyon, so we didn't get to walk around as much as I would have liked.  I still managed to take a few nice photos though.

Actually, who am I kidding?  It was impossible to take anything other than a nice photo there.  I don't think you get views like this in Teignmouth!

I was also thrilled to see my first wild prairie dog at Bryce but it wasn't a very clear view and I didn't manage to get a photograph.

We were covering so much ground so quickly, there wasn't enough time to take anything in properly really.  As Evan had said in his introduction though, this was really only a 'taster' holiday and we would have to come back if we wanted to see specific things in more detail.  My goodness, I wanted to go everywhere again!  I was already dreading heading back to the UK.  I'd always felt like I was trapped in the wrong place  and Mum had always said that the "grass is always greener" and North America wouldn't be as good when I got to see it in person.  Instead, I finally felt that I was where I belonged (and this wasn't even the part of the Americas I had specifically dreamed of visiting).  I don't really believe in reincarnation but you do have to wonder where such strong feelings come from.  Perhaps I had lived somewhere nearby in a former life...

All too soon, it was time to head to our lodgings for the night, Ruby's Inn.

We had been told this was a Best Western Hotel so we were a little surprised to be directed to a row of cabins.  There was no outer building - the doors opened directly into the cabins themselves.  My parents started moaning about this but the cabins were surprisingly spacious, yet still cosy.  I noticed that the basin was OUTSIDE the bathroom again....this time in full view of the rest of the cabin.  What the...?

Mum was already in a bad mood and things worsened as the evening wore on.  David took up residence in the bathroom, but not before throwing the apple tarts that we had stolen from breakfast at Mum,  Mum immediately ate all of them, meaning that she wasn't even hungry come dinnertime.  (Not that she wanted to try the dinner buffet anyway, as she was so convinced there would be nothing she could eat).  David and I were both starving, of course, but I didn't feel it was right to leave her in the cabin alone and I knew there would be trouble if I went to eat anyway.  David snapped at me for being "bloody minded" before announcing he was going out to eat on his own.  Mum, as I had expected, started screaming blue murder at this point, yelling at David that she hated him for "spoiling her trip" and wanted him to die (!), so David turned on "the pair of us" for making him wait for the bathroom (I had nipped in there for about two minutes when we first came in) and trying to stop him from eating.  He wouldn't even let me charge my camera battery, trying to scare me by saying that he "thought he'd left the adapter in Las Vegas".  And so I was left all alone, sad and hungry, listening to my snoring parents and writing my diary.  Still, I was determined not to cry while in America, however depressing my company may be!  Tomorrow we were off to Salt Lake City!

Well, considering this was almost two years ago, and I'm struggling to remember all of the facts, I really must press on with this blog in the next few days.  I can't risk falling any further behind!  PLEASE don't let me stop writing again!  I want this blog updated as a personal record for myself, even if others are bored silly by my mindless natterings!

Best wishes,
Desirée  xxx

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