Category Archives: USA

Arizona, Desert and Deadly Snakes

Arizona Desert

We stopped at a desert recreational area and took a walk amongst the Saguaro cactus which are sometimes called the ‘desert monarch’  on account of the fact that they can be fifty feet tall and up to two hundred years old.  We walked among them a short way but became understandably nervous when we read a warning sign about rattle snakes and we remembered Mike’s gruesome stories of painful venomous deaths where blood turns to cement and you die in seconds so we didn’t stay very long.

I think Mike was exaggerating. I looked it up later.  There are about eight thousand reports of venomous snake bites every year in the USA but on average only five people die which is about twice as many in Australia.  That is about the same amount of people who die from dog attacks in the UK each year.

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Arizona, Phoenix Nights and The Rustler’s Rooste

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Rustler’s Rooste served cowboy food and a sign on the door said ‘Better come hungry’; so it was a good job that we had Dave and his reliable appetite with us!  There was a fabulous menu with an extensive choice of food including rattlesnake as a starter.

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Arizona, Heil Factory Visit and the Scottsdale Stadium in Phoenix

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This might sounds a bit ungrateful but I just wasn’t enjoying this part of the trip.  I preferred the Grand Canyon excursion.

But I suppose it was the real reason for the visit and I tried as best as I could to try and stay focussed and show some interest in the Rapid Rail and the  STARR system equipment, the Formula 7000 Square body and DPF Formula 7000 automated side loaders, the Formula 7000 split body co-collection automated side loaders and the DPF Half/Pack front loaders.

Finally, after what seemed a lifetime or three, the visit was over and the Managing Director gave each of us a bag of corporate gifts which included a polo shirt and baseball cap, a Swiss army knife and some unusually high quality pens.

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Arizona, Grand Canyon National Park and a Cowboy Restaurant

Grand Canyon Entrance

For an Englishman a four hundred mile trip seems a very long way to drive for a day out.

If I drove that distance in any direction from my home then I would run out of road and reach the sea.  Going east it would take only fifteen minutes.  It is a journey like this that makes you realise the immense scale of the USA.  Arizona is 115,000 square miles of emptiness and long stretches of never-ending road between towns, the UK is just less than 95,000 square miles and Arizona is bigger than forty of the fifty-one countries in Europe.  It is bigger than half the countries in the World.

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Arizona, Breakfast at the Roadrunner Saloon

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Thoughtfully the organizers of the trip thought we might need a day to rest after our long flight so the next day was free of any official engagements and ours to do as we pleased with so Allan decided that we would drive to the two hundred mile journey to the far north of the State to see the Grand Canyon.

This seemed a very good idea but did involve a very early start and less than four hours after crawling into bed and before it even got light we were off and away before I had time to check to see if I had a hangover and even before the breakfast bar was open in the restaurant. Dave wasn’t happy about that.

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An Unexpected Travel Opportunity

Welcome to Arizona

Before I moved to Lincolnshire I used to work for a French waste (mis)management company called Onyx UK and I worked at a depot in Maidenhead in Berkshire and managed the Windsor contract.

The company was always losing money and as a result trying to cut costs and one day  the Managing Director telephoned me to tell me that he had heard of a new type of refuse collection vehicle with impressive labour saving innovations that offered potentially huge operational efficiencies and that he was interested in finding out more.

He asked me if I would be prepared to visit the factory where they were manufactured and give him my opinion.

To be honest I had very little interest in bincarts  and tried to drag up a suitable excuse, but fortunately before I could prematurely decline, he happened to mention that the factory was in Phoenix, Arizona in the United States of America.

Did I want to visit Phoenix to see some dustcarts?  You bet I did!

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Postcard From The USA – Zion National Park

Zion

Zion National Park contains some of the most scenic canyon country in the United States and is characterised by high plateaus, a maze of narrow deep sandstone canyons and striking rock towers and mesas.  People have lived here for thousands of years but in modern times people only became aware of it when Mormon pioneers began to farm the canyon in the late nineteenth century.

In 1880 a geologist called Clarence Dutton visited the Canyon and he described it like this: ‘there is eloquence to their forms which stirs the imagination with a singular power and kindles in the mind. Nothing can exceed the wonderous beauty of Zion, in the nobility and beauty of the sculptures there is no comparison’.

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Many people refused to believe that it was possible for such a place to exist because until a hundred years ago Zion Canyon was practically inaccessible to outside visitors; and only a few had laid eyes on the majestic towering cliffs.  Zion Canyon was declared a National Park in 1909.  It was well thoughtfully named because Zion is an ancient Hebrew word meaning a place of refuge or sanctuary and it was in a temple on Mount Zion near Jerusalem where Jesus and the disciples had the last supper together.

Once through the one mile long entrance tunnel the road started to descend into the valley down a switchback road through six precarious hairpin bends, still following Pine Creek to Mount Carmel junction and arrival at the visitor centre.

There was a peaceful calm at the bottom of the valley and the air tasted of mountain air that cleared your head and filled your lungs with freshness.  A truly marvellous spectacle of colourful sandstone cliffs soaring into the sky above a flat-bottomed, thickly forested valley floor in brilliant red and gold autumn foliage that accentuated the colours of the cliffs. Being at the bottom of the canyon this provided a complete contrast to the  top down view that had been the feature of the Grand Canyon and the views looking up were spectacular and awe inspiring. The sort of place you might imagine Indiana Jones looking for a lost Aztec city and a hoard of gold.

After a break we took the short drive into the heart of the canyon that terminated at the Temple of Sinawava (Sinawava was the Coyote God of the Paiute Indians) and here we left to follow the footpaths and trails around the North Fork Virgin River.  There was a lot of choice and certainly not enough time to see as much as we would have liked so we choose the riverside walk towards the Mountain of Mystery and a famous, much photographed, narrow gorge called the Zion Narrows.  Zion is a unique place with diverse wildlife for whom this place is a safe and bountiful refuge.  A little way along the trail we heard a rustling in the bushes and on examination came face to face with a wild deer.  Given its close proximity we were a bit startled by this and on account of its size left quickly so I am afraid that I am unable to identify exactly what species it was.  Thank goodness it wasn’t a bear!

The trail was quite steep because the headwaters of the Virgin River above are at about two thousand, seven hundred metres and it empties into Lake Mead two hundred miles southwest after flowing almost a mile downward.  This gives the Virgin River one of the steepest stream gradients in North America.  Naturally therefore we didn’t get as far as we had optimistically planned and soon it was time to return and leave the park, which was a real shame, I had really enjoyed my day in Paradise.

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TV Westerns

My series of posts about visiting the American West has reminded me of my post about TV Westerns .

I thought I might recycle it here…

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

How many of these cowboys do you remember?

I always wanted to be Flint McCullough from Wagon Train.  He was played by actor Robert Horton.  Later he was replaced by Robert Fuller as Cooper Smith who also played the Part of Vin in the film  ‘Return of The Magnificent Seven’

Postcard From The USA – The Grand Canyon

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After breakfast and check out from the motel we returned to the South Rim Visitor Centre to spend some more time at the Grand Canyon to see it in the daylight.  It was rather a disappointment therefore that the weather was slightly overcast and without the shimmering sunlight to create shifting shadows and continuous contrasts this seemed to leech the colours and the life from the rocks.

It might not have been colourful but it was still an awesome view as we stared down almost a mile deep to the bottom of the gorge, a hole so deep that can take two days to reach on foot by the official trails.  And it wasn’t so peaceful this morning either as there was a continuous buzz of helicopter activity taking trips out over the canyon.  The helicopters used to drop into the canyon for a closer look but after a number of accidents caused by rising thermal currents this had now been stopped.  It might be allowed again now, I don’t know.

Someone reminded me just recently that geologically the Canyon isn’t a canyon but a gorge but Grand Gorge doesn’t sound so – well, Grand.

The canyon/gorge is almost three hundred miles long, up to twenty miles wide and reaches a depth of over a mile and is one of the most magnificent natural wonders of the World.   This is a very big canyon/gorge indeed and it is almost impossible to get a true sense of scale as you stand and look down into the abyss below.

From the viewing platform we were looking over the fabulously named Granite Gorge and along Bright Angel Creek which led directly to the North Rim Visitor Centre on the other side which although only slightly less than ten miles to the north needs a journey of over two hundred miles to get there.  The view just went endlessly on and on and was so infinitely panoramic that it was almost impossible to fully comprehend the scale of the barren wilderness stretching out before us.

To get a sense of perspective it is worth remembering that you could fit Dartmoor National Park in Devon into the Grand Canyon National Park five times and still have a bit of spare left over.

It is a journey like this that makes you realise the immense scale of the USA.  Arizona is 115,000 square miles of emptiness and long stretches of never-ending road between towns, the UK is just less than 95,000 square miles and Arizona is bigger than forty of the fifty-one countries in Europe.

When it was time to go the coach took us out along a road that followed the line of the canyon with further viewing opportunities and then we parted company as our route took us first east and then north across the Painted Dessert passing Marble Canyon, which is the beginning of the Grand Canyon, and towards our next destination, Lake Powell and the Glen Canyon Dam.

I took some photographs but the grandeur of the Canyon is impossible to capture on a point and shoot camera and even the postcards are disappointing.

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Postcard From The USA – Four Corners, Monument Valley and Grand Canyon

Our first stop today was at the Four Corners monument where four US States meet at one intersection and it is possible to be in all of them at the same time by standing in two and reaching down and touching the others.

Four Corners Postcard 01

From Four Corners we drove to Monument Valley which was everything that I expected it to be and there was a magnificent view from the visitor centre across the whole of the valley.

Monument Valley

What followed next was another highlight of the holiday when Richard and I left the coach to go on an optional small plane journey for a flight from Monument Valley all the way down the Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon

 

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