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USA 1991
Las Vegas, Arizona, Southern California
24 March - 12 April 1991


 
 
Itinerary:

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Arrival:
Departure was on Sunday, March 24, at 12.15 p.m. from Düsseldorf and the scheduled arrival in Las Vegas at 20.31 p.m. We flew with American Airlines with a stopover in Brussels and had to change planes in Chicago. I went with my aunt, uncle and cousin. My uncle was the organiser of the trip. We picked up our rental car (a white Pontiac Grand Prix) at Avis and drove to our pre-booked motel (Westwind Motel) to spend the night after staying awake until 7.30 a.m. in the morning German time. My first impression of Las Vegas at night was that everything was a bit over-loaded with everything was glittering and flashing. But during the day it looked almost ordinary. The newest hotel was the "Excalibur".

First day (270 miles):
The first day of our round trip was to take us to the Grand Canyon. We passed over the Hoover Dam which was impressive and took the main road along the Interstate via Kingman and Williams. We arrived at the canyon in the evening just before sunset and drove past our motel (Best Western "Grand Canyon Squire Inn") to catch a last glimpse of the canyon before darkness. We saw it for a brief but beautiful moment in the red evening glow and it was really impressive. Some patches of snow could be seen on the steep banks. We took a few pictures, then drove back to check into the motel. We usually stayed at Best Western during this trip which is a good middle class chain of motels. The advantage was that this way it was easy to pre-book the motel for the following night before checking out. The first thing my cousin and I had to do after checking in was to find the ice-machine to cool our drinks, and my uncle's beer!
 

Second day (200 miles):
When we woke up the morning afterwards and looked out of the window we couldn't believe our eyes: the snow outside was half a meter high and it was impossible to see farther than about 100 meters! Our intention was to spend the entire day at the Grand Canyon, but considering the weather conditions there was no point in delaying as there was no sign that it would clear up very soon. So we gave up our original plan and decided to continue on our way towards Flagstaff. This meant no Grand Canyon for me! My aunt, uncle and cousin had already seen it on another trip. After leaving the national park the weather slowly improved on our way south to Wupatki/Sunset Crater National Monument. But even the lava formations in this area were covered by snow. At Montezuma Castle we finally got away from the snow. However, the strap of my camera snapped and it smashed several feet down onto the concrete! There didn't seem to be any immediate damage but it wasn't working anymore and this already at the beginning of our trip! But surprise, surprise, later at the motel (Cliff Castle Lodge) - in hope of a small wonder - I was trying it out once again, not able to believe my bad luck, and suddenly it was working again!! Well, I did have to get it repaired later, but during the rest of the trip it still did its job!

Third day (200 miles):
Wednesday, March 27, got us to Phoenix, which is quite an uninteresting town, and its posher part Scottsdale. We also went to see Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, an ancient Indian habitation, and spent the night in Tucson (Wayward Winds Lodge).
 

Fourth day (270 miles):
The following day we went to Tombstone, a quite original western town, site of the O.K. Corral Shoot-out with Wyatt Earp (the Tombstone Boothill Graveyard was interesting; with someone hanged by mistake) and to Nogales. Here we crossed the border to Mexico for about an hour. We had to leave the car on the US-American side as the rental company didn't allow to take it across the border due to insurance reasons. In spite of Nogales being a border town and therefore probably not typically Mexican it was interesting to get to see a bit of Mexico. The fortifications at the border, big fences to prevent people from entering the United States illegally were quite impressive. After our return we visited San Xavier Mission as well as Saguaro National Monument (west) where many of these cacti can be found. Once more we spent the night in Tucson.

Fifth day (250 miles):
On Friday we went to Old Tucson, a western movie town (the entry fee was US $ 9.95), where for example "Rio Lobo" with John Wayne or "High Chaparral" were shot. Afterwards we visited the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum which shows animals and plants of the area. Later we drove on to the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. It was already dark when we reached Gila Bend where we stayed for the night (Space Age Lodge).

 

Sixth day (270 miles):
On this day we reached the Salton Sea, a man-made salt lake, and the town of Indio where we checked into the Date Tree Motor Hotel. In the evening we drove to Indian Wells and La Quinta.

Seventh day (190 miles):
Joshua Tree National Monument was our destination for this day. The Joshua Trees can only be found in the Mojave desert. Tip: Beware of the Teddy Bear cacti! They have a cute name but their spines have vicious barbs! I'm speaking out of experience! It was Easter Sunday and we even saw the Easter bunny hopping across the desert! Joshua Tree is a good place for hiking, rock climbing and camping. We also visited the desert city Palm Springs, a resort town for the rich and beautiful (and once more La Quinta). One more night at the same motel in Indio.

 

 

 

 

Eigth to tenth day (260 miles):
On Monday, April 1, we drove once more along the Salton Sea and headed for the coast. After 160 miles we arrived at La Jolla, an affluent ocean town north of San Diego. Here we spent three nights. We had a suite with kitchenette and a balcony with seaview at La Jolla Cove Motel. The following two days we drove about 50 miles per day only, just visiting San Diego, its pretty historic Gaslamp Quarter, the new shopping center Horton Plaza, the Embarcadero dock and the Hotel del Coronado where "Some like it hot" was filmed. The sunsets behind the palm trees at La Jolla were beautiful. Close by were rocks with sea lions and pelicans.

Eleventh day (65 miles):
On Thursday we went to Mount Palomar (there was still snow on the mountain) with its observatory which we only saw from the outside, then to Mission San Luis Rey and Laguna Beach where we checked into the Seacliff Motel for two nights. Here we also had beautiful sunsets!

 

Twelfth day (140 miles):
The following day we visited Disneyland in Anaheim, Los Angeles, (entrance fee US $ 27,50), Hollywood (Hollywood Boulevard is not a very good area but the Walk of Fame and the stars' signatures in front of Mann's Chinese Theater are a must see) and the Crystal Cathedral which is made entirely out of glass.

Thirteenth day (150 miles):
The day afterwards we went to Mission San Juan Capistrano, Marina del Rey (checked into the Marriot for two nights), Los Angeles Downtown, Beverly Hills (you can't really see the big stars' residences as they are hidden from view) and Hollywood once again. From the Griffith Observatory you have a good view over the city. Especially at night it's a fabulous view.

 
Fourteenth day (95 miles):
On Sunday we went to Santa Monica, Malibu, the J. Paul Getty Museum (normally you have to make a reservation to get tickets but my uncle just pretended we had one!) and Universal City. I would have liked to visit Universal Studios but there wasn't time.

Fifteenth and sixteenth day (500 miles):
On April 8 we left the Los Angeles area and travelled north-east to Death Valley, one of the world's hottest places in summer. I thought it would be just a dull desert but instead I was really impressed by the vast and varying landscapes in different shades of color. We checked into the Furnace Creek Ranch motel for two nights. This day was a long drive of 320 miles. The following day, when we visited different parts of the national park like Badwater (86 m/282 ft below sea level, Zabriskie Point, Dante's View, Artist's Drive and Aguereberry Point (1961 m/6433 ft above sea level), we did about 180 miles.

 

Last day (175 miles):
On Wednesday, April 9, we left towards Las Vegas where we checked in at the West Wind Motel again. In the evening we had a look at a couple of casinos: "Plaza" and "Circus Circus". As my cousin wasn't 21 yet, he couldn't get into the gambling area. But food in the casinos was really cheap and we ate ourselves through two main courses and three desserts for only a handful of dollars (about $ 5 for an all-you-can-eat dinner at "Circus Circus")!

Return:
Well, Thursday was the day of departure (9.55 a.m.). We had a last view of Lake Mead from above, and via Chicago and Munich we eventually arrived back in Düsseldorf on Friday at 1.35 p.m. Originally we should have arrived at 10.45 a.m. already but our American Airlines flight from Chicago was overbooked and we agreed to fly via Munich instead of Brussels. Besides there was a strike of the Canadian ground control staff which allowed planes to start every 20 minutes only. From Munich we finally made it home on a Lufthansa flight. Our luggage had arrived before us as it had been checked in on our original flight.

Duration: 17 days/18 nights


 

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