Day 1. To Las Vegas       (26 December 2004 Sunday)
8am depart from San Marcos, CA to Las Vegas, NV (308 miles 5 hours)
2pm arrive at Las Vegas, NV / hotel check-in
Luxor Resort and Casino
3900 Las Vegas Boulevard S., Las Vegas
Confirmation number: WHXM2
$86.11 per night incl tax. $86.11 deposit paid.
Phone 1-888-777-0188
Rising 30 stories into the Nevada skyline, this sleek, black, pyramid-shaped hotel is instantly recognizable. Its base measures 562 feet wide on each side and its exterior covered by more than 27,000 plates of glass--the equivalent of 13 acres. At night, a beam of light projected from the pyramid's apex pierces the sky above and is said to be visible from space. Inside is reputedly the world's largest atrium, encompassing 29 million cubic feet. Within this open space, the Luxor's casino, shops, restaurants and showroom are located on the casino level; on the level above are the attractions. Guest rooms are located along the pyramid's sides.
Throughout the property an Egyptian motif prevails. A life-size replica of the temple of Ramses II--flanked by 35-foot-tall ram sphinx statues--is decorated with gold statues, friezes, wall hieroglyphics and reproductions of Egyptian artifacts.
source: AAA TourBook
Ra While staying at the Luxor, be sure to visit Las Vegas' newest hot spot, RA - A Nightclub. Featuring an incredible light and sound system, plush VIP amenities and non-stop dancing music. Named for the Egyptian sun god, the 19,000 square foot club features a center stage, two massive bars and a central dance floor surrounded by comfortable booths and tables.
Pharaoh's Pavilion An entire level filled with entertainment, shopping, a theater and restaurants. The Tomb and Museum of King Tut, a pain-staking re-creation of the ruler Tutankhamen's antechamber, burial chamber and treasury. Attractions open at 9 a.m. daily.
4pm until late - around and about Las Vegas
Sin City. Gambleville. Open 24 hours. City of Lost Wages. The City Without Clocks. The Garden of Neon. Las Vegas is known as all these. As the second most popular travel destination in the country and called “The Entertainment Capital of the World,” Las Vegas entertains a staggering 32 million visitors a year. The famous 4-mile stretch known as the Las Vegas Strip is aglow with flashing neon, all-night casinos and major hotels such as Caesars Palace, The Mirage, MGM Grand, and more. Further downtown, the popular Freemont Street — blanketed by an impressive laser light canopy — gives tourists a taste of the Old Vegas. There is more here than casinos and entertainment. The city boasts many interesting museums, art galleries, amusement parks, and historical sites.
Fountains of Bellagio Experience the most ambitious, commanding water feature ever conceived! Bellagio's world-famous fountains will speak to your heart with opera, classical and whimsical music while flirting with your playful nature through their carefully choreographed movements. You'll be swept away by this breathtaking union of water, music and light. Enjoy the free water shows set to music created by the spectacular $35,000,000 computer controlled fountain in the lake in front of the Bellagio. A different show starts every 15 minutes during the hours of operation. Inside, stroll the conservatory and enjoy the flowers, visit the art gallery, then relax with refreshments in the airy and pleasant lounge just off the lobby. (
Catch the free naval battle in front of Treasure Island. It starts every 90 minutes during the hours of operation.
Fremont Street Experience The Fremont Street Experience is a world famous, one of a kind entertainment venue in the heart of Las Vegas' downtown central core comprised of a 90 foot high, four block long electronic canopy that presents spectacular sight and sound shows. These nightly shows are free to the public and deliver an incredible array of sight and sound musical adventures employing the world's largest electric sign and over 550,000 watts of concert quality sound. Complementing this unique, high tech entertainment canopy is an open air pedestrian mall lined with Las Vegas' most legendary vintage casinos and hotels. In addition, the pedestrian mall has numerous stages and venues presenting a wide range of shows, musical ensembles and concerts for a constant flow of fun loving entertainment. The Fremont Street Experience district entertains over 15 million annual visitors and serves as a backdrop for movies, television, commercials and special events.
This pedestrian gambling mall features animated sound and light shows--for 6-minute periods each hour the glittering casino lights are turned off and visitors are treated to themed productions of computer generated graphics and music.
source: AAA TourBook.

Day 2. Around and About Las Vegas
  (27 December 2004 Monday)
New York-New York
One of Las Vegas' most popular themed megaresort since it opened in 1997, New York-New York is impossible to miss. The re-creation of the Big Apple's skyline, which rises incongruously above the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Tropicana Avenue, is one of the Strip's move distinctive landmarks.
A 150-foot-tall version of the Statue of Liberty copied down to the last detail, stands atop a stone pedestal rising from a pool of water with a tugboat and gushing fountains. A row of building fronts along the Strip are reminiscent of turn-of-the-20th-century New York architecture. There is even a 300-foot replica of the Brooklyn Bridge, cleverly positioned to be part of the main entryway into the hotel.
Looming behind are 12 connected guest room towers that are look-guggenheimalikes of such signature New York skyscrapers as the Empire State Building, the Seagrams and Chrysler Buildings. The casino is decked out like Central Park; trees (nonliving, but still impressive) sprout up from the floor, providing canopy over the slot machines.
source: AAA TourBook
Paris Las Vegas
The City of Light comes to the desert in this 34-story luxury resort. Impressive re-creations of scaled-down versions of the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe as well as the Champs Elysees, the Paris Opera House, the Louvre, Parc Monceau and the River Seine make visitors feel as if they are a continent away. The signature landmark is the 50-story Eiffel Tower, where guests can travel on a glass elevator to an observation deck for a panoramic view of the strip.
source: AAA TourBook
The Mirage's Volcano
Every fifteen minutes from 7:00 p.m. to midnight, the earth shakes and flames shoot into the night sky spewing smoke and fire 100 feet above the waters below, transforming a tranquil waterfall into spectacular streams of molten lava.
The volcano at The Mirage has been a Las Vegas signature attraction since the resort opened in 1989, mesmerizing spectators with it thunderous, fiery display. The volcano, situated on three water-covered acres, is 54 feet high and circulates 119,000 gallons of water per minute. The show is free to the public. Show may be cancelled during times of high winds or inclement weather.
Masquerade Show in the Sky
at 3700 West Flamingo Rd, Rio Suites Hotel, Las Vegas, NV 89103-4046
It's a carnival everyday in Rio - Rio Suites Hotel, that is! Dancers in flamboyant costumes rise from the stage at casino level while floats ride through the sky above. Flashing lights sparkle, and musicians, singers and dancers alike party while riding overhead. Stand back, dance, and get swept up in the spirit of Rio. We recommend participants pay to reserve a seat on the floats and perform; however, ground participation in the show is free. Another great place would be the balcony, also free, where you are at eye level to the action. Put your hands out to grab your beads; you don't want to leave without a souvenir!

Day 3. To Antelope Canyon and Kayenta, AZ
  (28 December 2004 Tuesday)
7am to 12pm depart Las Vegas, NV to Page, AZ (277 miles 5 hours)
12pm to 3pm Antelope Canyon
Antelope Canyon is a small but exquisitely beautiful geological formation in northern Arizona. It is not a national or state park and is often overlooked by many tourists visiting the area. It takes only an hour or two to see it all, but it is worth the time. Its unsurpassed beauty is breathtaking. It is a photographer's dream.

The Navajo name for Upper Antelope Canyon is Tse bighnilini, which means "the place where water runs through rocks." Upper Antelope is at about 4,000 feet elevation and the canyon walls rise 120 feet above the streambed. Lower Antelope Canyon is Hasdestwazi, or "spiral rock arches." Both are located within the LeChee Chapter of the Navajo Nation.

To elder Navajos, entering a place like Antelope Canyon was like entering a cathedral. They would probably pause before going in, to be in the right from of mind and prepare the protection and respect. This would also allow them to leave with an uplifted feeling of what Mother Nature has to offer, and to be in harmony with something greater than themselves. It was (and is) a spiritual experience.

Antelope Canyon is located a few miles of east of Page, Arizona. Actually there are two antelope Canyon's located on either side of route 98. Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon are both owned by the Navajo Nation. Unfortunately, they charge separate entry fees of about $18 per person for each part of this attraction. Since the upper and lower canyons are very similar, you need visit only one.
The entrances to upper and lower Antelope Canyon are easy to miss. Only small signs along route 98 mark these attractions. They are located about five miles east of Page just before the great Navajo power generating plant. A small admissions booth and a parking lot are the only noticeable features in the desert landscape.

As you approach the Canyon on foot, it is almost unnoticeable from even a few meters distance. You see only a small crack in the rock at the bottom of a dry streambed. Closer inspection reveals a small metal ladder descending into the crack. It is barely wide enough for a person to squeeze through. A series of ladders and stairs takes you down into an unbelievably narrow canyon.
The sandstone bedrock has been intricately carved by the infrequent but often violent flow of water. It is sculpted into beautiful undulating curves and hollows that vary from one to three meters wide by up to 50 meters deep. The sunlight filtering down from above produces a myriad of soft colors and shadows. The effect is exquisitely beautiful. This is a photographer's wonderland. You can follow the single passageway in this canyon for about a half a mile. Take your camera and plenty of film!

The Lower canyon is longer and deeper than the Upper section, but also more challenging and requires ropes or ladders in some places to descend several sheer drops. It was here that 11 people were drowned in a flash flood in August 1997; water 50 feet deep from a thunderstorm 5 miles away swept through the canyon, eventually deepening it by 4 feet. Lower Antelope was closed for 9 months but people are now allowed in again, at a total cost of $17.50, although all visitors must be accompanied by a guide.


3pm continue driving to Kayenta, AZ (100 miles 2 hours 30 minutes)
6pm arrive at Kayenta, AZ; hotel check-in
Best Western Wetherill Inn
Highway 163, Kayenta, AZ
1˝ miles north of the junction of Highway 160 and Highway 163
Phone (928) 697-3231 confirmation number: 327668279
$49.50/night plus 13% tax or a total of $223.74 for four nights
2 Queen Beds, Continental Breakfast; to view/change booking
Cancel before 4PM hotel time on Dec 28, 2004 to avoid a charge.
The Best Western Wetherill Inn is located in the scenic community of Kayenta, Arizona and serves as a friendly host to Monument Valley, just 20 miles to the north. As our guest, you will enjoy one of our comfortable, spacious rooms which feature air-conditioning, cable television, telephone and in-room coffee. Our reservation desk is open year round, so is our pool and we're happy to arrange tours for you into beautiful Monument Valley. While in Kayenta, we invite you to visit our gift shop that features only the finest in Indian arts and crafts.

Day 4. Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park
  (29 December 2004 Wednesday)
Over the years, Monument Valley has been home to more western movies than just about any other site in the United States. Unique sandstone formations, the Navajo Indian Nation, and the Four Corners Monument highlight the desert region. Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is located in the heart of the Navajo Nation on the eastern portion of Arizona/Utah border on US 163 between Kayenta, AZ and Mexican Hat, Utah.
Monument Valley provides perhaps the most enduring and definitive images of the American West. The isolated red mesas and buttes surrounded by empty, sandy desert have been filmed and photographed countless times over the years for movies, adverts and holiday brochures. Because of this, the area may seem quite familiar, even on a first visit, but it is soon evident that the natural colours really are as bright and deep as those in all the pictures. The valley is not a valley in the conventional sense, but rather a wide flat, sometimes desolate landscape, interrupted by the crumbling formations rising hundreds of feet into the air, the last remnants of the sandstone layers that once covered the entire region.

Approaching the park on the access road off US 163 you see a number of red rock formations but it leaves you wondering where the good stuff is. You come to the entrance station where you pay the $5.00 fee and suddenly, without warning, the valley unfolds in front of you and the view is absolutely breathtaking. From here, a groomed dirt road drops steeply into the valley and follows a driving loop that leads you to some spectacular sights. Many of the sights at Monument Valley are inaccessible by private car and require hiring a Navajo guide. This has developed into quite a guide business, and guides may charge between $50.00 and $100.00 for a half day. Several of the guides are photographers and offer tours at sunrise/sunset for the best light.
Experience the wonder of discovery among the buttes, mesas, canyons, and free standing rock formations that fill Monument Valley. The tranquility of the land, culture, and traditions infuse the valley with a uniquely Navajo flavor. Monument Valley was created as material eroded from the ancestral Rocky Mountains, and was deposited and cemented into sandstone. The formations you see in the valley were left over after the forces of erosion worked their magic on the sandstone. A geologic uplift caused the surface to bulge and crack. Wind and water then eroded the land, and the cracks deepened and widened into gullies and canyons, which eventually became the scenery you see today. Natural forces continue to slowly shape the land.
After you pay your entrance fee and stop in the parking lot by the visitor center, you will see one of the most famous views in the southwest – Mitten View – the view of West Mitten, East Mitten and Merrick Butte that is well photographed. Sunrise and sunset are the best times to photograph in this location. In early morning the rock formations are silhouetted against the colorful desert sunrise. In the evening, the rocks turn a deep red as they reflect the last rays of sun.
Driving down the steep hill into the valley is best done with a four-wheel drive vehicle but is passable in cars in all but the worst weather. The loop takes you to numerous other rock formations. Be on the lookout for puddles from recent rains to use as reflection pools. Ripples in the sand can often also be used as great foreground subjects.
Any season of the year is good for photography in Monument Valley. You will be in the desert and weather can change rapidly. It is not unusual for the weather to change from 105 degrees and sunshine to torrential flash floods in a matter of minutes. Monument Valley is in the high desert so snow showers are possible in the winter which can make for some very dramatic photos. The most spectacular photographs in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park are often taken from a half-hour before sunrise to two hours after sunrise. In wintertime, the sweet light lasts significantly longer due to the lower angle of the sun. Afternoons can bring dramatic clouds and thunderstorms.
Monument Valley Tribal Park
P.O. Box 360289
Monument Valley, UT 84536

Day 5. Mesa Verde and Four State Corners   (30 December 2004 Thursday)
7am to 9am drive to Four State Corners Park (78 miles 1 hour 45 minutes)
9am to 11am Four State Corners Park
Four State Corners Park
It’s one of those unforgettable and distinctively American images: a tourist stretched out on hands and knees posing for photos touching four states at once, while Native American vendors selling crafts and fry bread look on bemusedly. This novelty of the United State's westward expansion has long captured the imagination of vacationing families looking for some way of entertaining the kids in the middle of the desert. This is the Four Corners area of America’s Southwest, the only spot where four states — Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico — meet.
The Navajo Nation cordially welcomes you to visit one of the country's most unique landmarks - The Four Corners. This is the only place in the United States where four states come together at one place. Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado meet at the Four Corners. Here a person can put each of their hands and feet in four states at the same time.
The Four Corners Monument was originally surveyed and established by the US Government Surveyors and Astronomers in 1868 with the survey of Colorado's southern boundary. Surveys followed of New Mexico's west boundary and Utah's east boundary in 1878. The northern boundary of Arizona was surveyed in 1901. A small permanent marker was erected in 1912 where the boundaries of the four states intersected. The Monument was refurbished in 1992 with a bronze disk embedded in granite. Each of the state boundaries radiate from the disk and each state's seal rests within that state's boundary.
The Four Corners Monument is located west of US Highway 160, 40 miles southwest of Cortez, Colorado. The area surrounding the monument is Indian land which includes part of New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona and covers 25,000 square miles. Both the Navajo, or Dine, and Ute people live in the area surrounding the Four Corners Monument. Artisans and craftspeople from both Indian nations are represented at the monument. The area has been home to native peoples for hundreds of years. Archaeologists have recorded numerous ancient Puebloan sites dating prior to AD 1300 throughout the Four Corners area.
The Visitor Center is open year round. In the Demonstration Center, Navajo vendors sell handmade jewelry, crafts, and traditional foods. Picnic tables and restrooms are available. No water is available at the park. Services and accommodations within a 30-mile radius are limited to small cafes, grocery stores, and self-service gasoline stations. All amenities are available in larger communities in Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico.
The Four Corners Monument is administered by the Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation Department which can be reached by telephone at 520-871-6647. Park hours are from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. May through mid-August and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. mid-August through April. An entrance fee is charged and parking is available.
11am to 12pm drive to Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado (66 miles 1 hour 15 minutes)
12pm to 5pm Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde
Mesa Verde, Spanish for "green table", offers an unparalleled opportunity to see and experience a unique cultural and physical landscape. The culture represented at Mesa Verde reflects more than 700 years of history. From approximately A.D. 600 through A.D. 1300 people lived and flourished in communities throughout the area, eventually building elaborate stone villages in the sheltered alcoves of the canyon walls. Today most people call these sheltered villages "cliff dwellings". The cliff dwellings represent the last 75 to 100 years of occupation at Mesa Verde. In the late 1200s within the span of one or two generations, they left their homes and moved away.
The archeological sites found in Mesa Verde are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States. Mesa Verde National Park offers visitors a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people. Scientists study the ancient dwellings of Mesa Verde, in part, by making comparisons between the Ancestral Pueblo people and their contemporary indigenous descendants who still live in the Southwest today. Twenty-four Native American tribes in the southwest have an ancestral affiliation with the sites at Mesa Verde.
Open from 8:00 A.M. to sunset, the Cliff Palace Loop drive takes you past Cliff Palace, Balcony House and two overlooks to the cliff dwellings in the canyon below. You may enter either cliff dwellings by ranger-guided tour only. Purchase tickets for tours at Far View Visitor Center before going to the site. The Balcony House tour begins from the benches under the shade ramada at the Balcony House parking lot.
Open from 8:00 A.M. to sunset, the Cliff Palace Loop drive takes you past mesa top sites and overlooks to cliff dwellings in the canyon below. You may visit one of two cliff dwellings by guided tour, Cliff Palace or Balcony House. These sites can only be reached by a one-hour ranger-guided tour. You must purchase tickets for tours at the Far View Visitor Center before going to the site. Rangers begin the Cliff Palace tour from the overlook at the end of the entrance trail.
Often visitors to the park look at the size of these doorways and wonder about the size of the people who once lived here. An average man was about 5'4" to 5'5" (163cm) tall, while an average woman was 5' to 5'1" (152cm). If you compare them with European people of the same time period, they would have been about the same size. Compared with today, the Ancestral Puebloan's average life span was relatively short, due, in part, to the high infant mortality rate. Most people lived an average of 32-34 years, however some people did live into their 50s and 60s. Approximately 50% of the children died before they reached the age of 5.
Sandstone, mortar and wooden beams were the three primary construction materials. The Ancestral Puebloans shaped each sandstone block using harder stones collected from nearby river beds. The mortar between the blocks is a mixture of local soil, water and ash. Fitted in the mortar are tiny pieces of stone called "chinking". Chinking stones fill in the gaps within the mortar and added structural stability to the walls. Over the surface of many walls, the people placed a thin coating of paint, called plaster, the first things to erode with time.
The fee for park entry is $10 per private vehicle. There is a $2.75 tour fee per person to enter Cliff Palace, Balcony House or Long House. The Park Headquarters phone number is (970) 529-4465.
5pm to 8pm drive back to Kayenta, AZ (145 miles 3 hours)

Day 6. Valley of the Gods and Natural Bridges   (31 December 2004 Friday)
Mexican Hat
Mexican Hat is a tiny desert community of 50 or so people near the southeastern corner of Utah. It sits along the San Juan River among impressive rock formations. It serves mainly as a stopping off point for those traveling to Monument Valley (22 miles southwest) and Natural Bridges National Monument (44 miles north). Mexican Hat is also a convenient base for those exploring the San Juan River. A few other attractions -- Goosenecks State Park, Muley Point Overlook and the Valley of the Gods -- are within 15 miles of town. Mexican Hat gets its name from a rock formation north of town that resembles an overturned sombrero.
Valley of the Gods
While just about everyone has heard of Monument Valley or seen it in the movies, few have heard of the Valley of the Gods, forty miles up the road in Utah. Yet the scenic beauty of both places is spectacular and comparable. We thought the title "Monument Valley Lite" was appropriate.
Valley of the Gods sits right at the foot of towering Cedar Mesa which provides a colorful and imposing backdrop. Unlike Monument Valley where you will find tour buses, crowds, busy guided tours, admission fees, etc., here you will get a much more natural experience. Here, you will find only a dirt road, few tourists, and no facilities at all, not even a bathroom. There are some pullouts, and some people camp at large, roughing it to enjoy the beauty and quiet. There are no official trails but the terrain is open and easy to walk across without getting lost. Also, the occasional jeep trail. Note that the area is bone dry so always carry water in your vehicle and when hiking. The dirt road is accessible by most vehicles in good weather (however high clearance is recommended) but should be avoided in wet weather. You can drive through the valley in a couple hours or spend a day or two.
The area has a 17 mile dirt road (FR 242) that winds amongst the eerie formations; it is very bumpy and steep in parts but should be passable by normal vehicles in good weather. The western end joins UT 261 shortly before the ascent up Cedar Mesa, while the eastern end starts 9 miles from town and heads north, initially crossing flat, open land and following the course of Lime Creek, a seasonal wash, before turning west towards the buttes and pinnacles.
There are various places to stop, and nothing to indicate that free camping is not allowed. Since hardly anyone seems to pass by, this area provides a more relaxing and isolated experience than the famous Valley further south. There are various small canyons cut into the cliffs that form the northern boundary of the valley which can be reached after a couple of miles of hiking, and the whole region is excellent for photography.
There is much to do on nearby Cedar Mesa as well (photo at right). The mesa is accessed by the spectacular Moki Dugway, a three mile stretch of dirt road (all vehicles, all weather) which climbs the 1,200 foot wall in a series of steep switchbacks with exciting vistas (and convenient pull-offs) the entire way.
Natural Bridges National Monument
Natural Bridges National Monument covers a relatively small area in southeast Utah. It is rather remote and not close to other parks and so is not heavily visited. Natural Bridges are formed by running water and hence are much rarer than arches, which result from a variety of other erosional forces. This is also the reason why bridges tend to be found within canyons, sometimes quite hidden, whereas arches are usually high and exposed, as they are often the last remnants of rock cliffs and ridges.
Unlike Arches National Park, with over 2000 classified arches, there are only three bridges here although the area also has some scattered Indian cliff dwellings, pictographs and scenic white sandstone canyons. Another more modern attraction is the Photovoltaic Array, one of the largest solar power generators in the world - this is reached by a short trail starting near the vistor centre.
9 mile one-way loop road has several overlooks of the three bridges, currently known as Sipapu, Kachina and Owachomu after their names were changed to reflect the Hopi Indian history of the area. The last of these three is probably the most spectacular, and also the easiest to hike to - the path into the canyon underneath the bridge is only a few hundred metres. It is the oldest bridge in the park, and rock falls have reduced the thickness to only 9 feet, so it may not be here much longer. Needless to say, walking on top of the bridges is not allowed. Kachina Bridge is the most geologically recent of the three and is still being actively enlarged - 4,000 tons of rock fell from the north side in June 1992 - unlike the others which are now situated some way above the waters, however Kachina is difficult to spot from the paved road.

Day 7. Drive back Los Angeles, CA
  (1 January 2005 Saturday)
  7:00am depart Kayenta, AZ for Los Angeles, CA (612 miles 10 hours 20 minutes)
  7:00pm arrive at Bautista Residence in Los Angeles, CA

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