Easy Ride on a Coach around the Western USA Part 2

More Canyons, Deserts, Mountains and then Las Vegas.

This is part 2 of our 3 part coach tour of Western USA. If you have already been on the first stage of this journey you will have experienced our take on Los Angeles and Hollywood and then on to Palm Springs, Sedona, the Grand Canyon, Glen Canyon Dam and the famous Monument Valley. Yee hah! We also did the obligatory Cowboy evening for good cheer. If you first want to do this section then rather, start the tour in Los Angeles.

Now for the rest of the trip: starting with a visual knockout at Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park and the flesh pots of Las Vegas. Then in Part 3 we will go down to Death Valley to below sea level and up the Sierra Nevada Mountains to Mammoth Lakes – 5000 metres above sea level. Quite a contrast! After a peek at Yosemite National Park we reach the West Coast and enjoy San Francisco for 2 days. We return to Los Angeles along the coast with visits to Carmel and Monterey, the famous hangout of John Steinbeck. Then comes Santa Barbara and the loop ends and Los Angeles LAX Airport. 

Why Western America is a top tourist destination

So hop on our cyber-bus and see it all through the eyes of two South African tourists. We really appreciated our 14 days of being driven and shown around this wonderful countryside. We have been around the world but this was one of the best areas we have ever visited. This had a lot to do with the efficiency and friendliness of the American people. We enjoyed the clean toilets (at no extra cost), fresh coffee and hearty grub. Nobody lied to us or cheated, stole or hurt us. the locals didn't crowd around us, stare, hassle, touch or even try to beg from us.

So we had a much easier trip with more personal space, as it were. Not even litter, grime or filth. I mention this because in many countries this is not the case, especially in Africa, India and the Middle East where tourism is a lucrative business. We were not even fleeced for a ticket so we could use a camera! I love America. The only problem is that our weak little SA Rand did not help the financial situation. We had to penny pinch on our travel budget to make it last.

Say howdee to the Hoodos of Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon

We had an interesting bus ride from the insignificant little town of Page on the plateau of Utah up and across to Bryce Canyon. For lovers of rocky landscapes it is a visual treat of multi-hued bands of eroded chunks of sandstone and shale. To others it is time to catch up on social media during the trip. As always our friendly tour guide had done her homework and gave us an excellent account of what to expect. Bryce Canyon derived its name from Ebenezer Bryce, an early cattle farmer who declared in 1870 that it was a hell of a place to lose a cow. We too, were lost in a haze of pink, ochre, orange and terracotta.

In the horseshoe valleys that stretch out below the viewing site there are myriads of stone turrets called hoodoos. The Coyote turned people into stone is what the legend tells us and now they are all lined up in rows, watching endless sunsets so we tourists can ogle and photograph them. This experience is not to be missed. After all, it took over 65 million years to set the scene. What we see is the cross-section of the eroded bed of an ocean. It was raised above sea level by seismic action to form the plains of Utah at an altitude of over 2.500 metres. The sedimentary layers have been eroded by the action water and ice and created the banded turrets we call hoodoos. They are the ancient warriors of time in sacred place of the Coyote.

Zion National Park and driving through canyons


 “Zion” in Hebrew means a place of peace and relaxation. Zion National Park is in the Springdale vicinity of Utah (the high place). The popular movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” was filmed in this area with its steep rocky cliff faces and majestic rock walls carved by ancient rivers including the Virgin River that runs through the valley today. Some of the rocks still weep – well, water oozes out of them. This phenonenom is probably why the area relates to the biblical name of Zion. The spring water is available via a special tap at the Visitors' Centre and it is rich in minerals (and tears?). We rode through the Zion-Mt Carmel tunnel that was carved out of these rocks by dynamite. The rocky tunnel is 5 kilometres long.

Zion National ParkCredit: Sue Visser

Our quick ride through the valley and up and around the other side could hardly do justice to the majestic if not overpowering scenery. But we all agreed during our photo stop that it felt so awesome that we wondered why man even bothered to build churches and cathedrals out of stone. If you seek His glory, then come to Zion National Park. Spend a few days here, to see more of the canyons and gigantic stone archways. Enjoy the unique plants, birds and even fish that inhabit  the”place of peace.”

The straight-laced Mormon territory - Mount Carmel and St George

Mount Carmel is a pretty little town and serves as the morning pit stop for our tour. The Mormons settled here and developed a place called Junction stop. We crossed over to Nevada and had a picnic lunch in the booming modern Mormon empowered city of St George. No gambling, alcohol or fun allowed! In contrast to the straight-laced Mormon idiom, the gambling town of Mesquite is at the other end of the Virgin River Canyon. Here the land is flat and barren and has nothing to offer except casinos and golf courses. The Mormons moved across to the West of Utah to finally settle in this region.

Mormon influenceCredit: Sue Visser

It was their long “walk to freedom” you could say, from landing on the East coast of the USA as an early settler from across the Atlantic Ocean via the Mayflower sailing ship. But to have their freedom - just to be, to think and worship was to be upheld at all costs. So the Mormons moved away until they could gain autonomy. So too, did the early Dutch settlers in South Africa pack up their wagons and move away from the English suppression of the Cape Colony. They also faced dangers and hardships and battled with the indigenous tribes - to get away from the English, at all costs. In both cases blood, sweat and tears paved the way to freedom.

Las Vegas here we come! Bright lights and flesh pots

Las Vegas arrival

We were warned about sin city, the flesh pots and gambling dens of Las Vegas and in spite of its seedy reputation, Las Vegas has become a top family tourist destination in recent years. Now that we have online gambling the old lure of one-armed bandits, roulette and card tables accompanied by, girls, booze and clouds of cigar smoke has lost its grip on the place. To compensate for the drop in income a new strategy took over. The hotels double up as excellent facilities for business conferences, exhibitions and trade shows. There are over 150 000 hotel rooms to choose from. We headed for the Circus Circus hotel where we could also enjoy our own entertainment dome - complete with roller coaster rides and play parks for the kiddies. The shift towards business and family entertainment has helped Vegas reach a new level of hype. Right over the top with a choice of pyramid accommodation in fake Luxor, to a mini New York or a night in the Disney Magic Castle. 

Our hotel in VegasCredit: Sue VisserAn evening stroll along the main drag or what they call the strip is essential to get into the Vegas groove. Enjoy the flashing lights and glitzy shows and after a few hours you may even want to take a peek inside a few gambling halls. There you will see some seasoned die-hard addicts sitting in front of gambling machines. The odd clank of a few tokens being returned to them provides the dopamine-induced incentive to keep trying to get something for nothing. Lavish shows are the main nocturnal activity and at Ceaser's Palace Celine Dion still woos the crowds. David Copperfield performs his tricks and guests can wine and dine till dawn in the thousands of restaurants. Businessmen are well catered for and with the perpetual sunny weather over 22,000 events are hosted every year. This is where serious meetings take place - strategies are discussed and motivational talks are given. What happens after dark obviously provides the incentive for such excellent attendance. So too, the opportunity to take the family along and enjoy some hyperactive fun. 

Vegas by nightCredit: Sue Visser

After two days of gawking and strolling around this larger than life pleasure park we were ready to hop back on our luxury tour coach and continue our circular tour of the Western Landscapes. Please join us for part 3 of the journey later on. But first:

 Enjoy the 10 minute movie to soak up the vibes of Western America Part 2


Bryce Canyon, Zion and Vegas with Sue and Jim Visser