Saturday, April 29, 2006

Natural & Person-Made

We went on a trip to Las Vegas and Utah a couple of weeks ago. We wanted to go to Las Vegas but did not want to be there for our whole vacation and so decided to combine them. We flew into Las Vegas and spent a night there and drove to Bryce Canyon, Utah the following morning. This is my second trip to Las Vegas and I really liked it the first time. It felt like Las Vegas was the epitome of capitalism and represents America in all its glory and pitfalls. But it just did not have that appeal this time. It was very surprising to me that I did not want to go gamble or even look at any casino that first night. Everything seemed too big and too much – just too much.

So after a good night’s rest, we started on our 4-hour drive to Bryce Canyon, Utah. Once you leave Las Vegas, there is nothing and there is more of nothing. Somewhere in Utah, we picked a restaurant called Gimme Sum mainly by its name (I am a sucker for interesting book or movie or restaurant or drink names) and the food did not disappoint us either. As we went closer to Bryce Canyon, it got considerably cooler and more beautiful. This is my second trip to Utah (the first one was to Salt Lake City) and so I am going to generalize and say that Utah is a clean and beautiful state.

Bryce Canyon is the opposite of Las Vegas. There were only a couple of restaurants around and they close at 9 pm. Only a few places were open as the season begins only in May there. And it was very very cold. We got ready to go see the canyons and take some hikes bright and not so early the following morning. It was too cold to hike but we wanted to get the most of the trip.

Our first long stop was Kodachrome Forest where there were some interesting rock formations. We stopped at some lookout points to take pictures or just wander. It was nice to do that in the serene environment. We walked on a few short trails and then decided to head to Bryce Canyon after lunch.

Bryce Canyon is absolutely beautiful. I have seen Grand Canyon but Bryce is much more complex formation and just more beautiful. What it lacks in size, it makes up for in beauty. The tall rounded structures (called hoodoos) are everywhere.

We saw deer as were driving by and some of them just stood and stared at us. It felt like the whole place has been kept very close to nature, without being commercialized. And that was a good feeling. We walked on a few hikes amongst which one of them was a difficult one (for me). And so I was proud at having walked through the distance and height.

We went back to our hotel for a brief rest and came back to the canyon with dinner to see the sunset and the night sky. But it was too cold and so I did not last more than a few minutes on the canyon. I like to see sunset and all but not when it is biting cold and when I don’t have the proper attire for that. So it was sunset from the hotel!

On our way back to Las Vegas we took the scenic route from Bryce Canyon to Zion National Park. Zion is more rock formations but they are much bigger and less complex than Bryce. We went through a mile and a half long tunnel (we were the first ones leading an entourage in the tunnel….ooh…..scary) and that was exciting. This tunnel is built through the mountains and there are some holes inside the tunnel (like windows) and you can see the vast mountain range as you drive through the tunnel. This made the tunnel drive more interesting. As always, some people were honking while driving through the tunnel, the reason for which I will never understand.

We spent longer than planned in Zion as it was hard to leave such a beautiful relaxing place. But then we hit the road to get back to Las Vegas. We got into Las Vegas one Sunday evening and it took us more than an hour to get to our hotel in the “Strip”. That would have to be one of the most frustrating things during this trip and the moral is not to drive in Las Vegas, and especially on the Strip. We checked into our hotel after wading through the crowds and learnt that 1300 groups have checked in and 1300 groups have checked out that day (just in that hotel). And it was Easter Sunday, for crying out loud. Whatever happened to the religious right, I wonder?!

We found a new Indian restaurant called Tamba (or is it Tabla?) between MGM Grand and Aladdin and decided to eat dinner there. It was surprising to see an Indian restaurant in an area famous for its culinary greats, and so I was curious as to how this place would be. Interestingly, the place was quite full – never mind that 80% of the patrons looked Indian. The dinner started off with a lychee martini (it is very good) and ended with carrot halwa ( Overall, the restaurant got thumbs up from us.

After dinner, it was time to hit the blackjack tables. I decided to play single deck blackjack thinking that it would be easier. But then I lost interest as the folks before and after me were hitting blackjack and I was busting. So we played for a little while and headed back to our room. Came back home the following day to a blistering heat. But still it was good to be home.

This trip combined one of the man-made wonders and natural wonder. And nature won hands down.

Next trip will be to Seattle end of May, and so watch out for travel writing again then. I have been lackadaisical in updating my blog due to a variety of reasons but thanks to those who have been subtly and not-so-subtly prompting me. I tend to go into some philosophical pondering as to why I need to write and what it matters for, but I will just have to do it.

Enjoy the summer, everybody.

One Year with Kutti

Today is the completion of one year since we brought Kutti home. So, today is her birthday as far as we are concerned. It is hard to imagine life without her now. Just like with a human being, I have developed a pattern with her. When I come to the living room in the morning, she knows that it is time to go out and she will wait by the door. When I am ready to leave for work, she would wait by the door for her treat. Once she gets the treat, she will move away from the door so that I can close it. Then she will wait by the fence to make sure I am really leaving and then she goes about her business.

She is bilingual too. She will come (most of the times) when I say "come" in English and “inga vaa” in Tamil – how amazing is that?! She knows that she is in trouble when I raise my voice and will just go into her most vulnerable position as a way of apologizing. It is just so touching that I forget what I was upset with her for.

The latest accomplishment with Kutti is walking her (in parks) without a leash. It is interesting that when she is on a leash she will try to pull but when she is not on a leash, she will just walk a few feet from us and then either wait for us or move on after making sure we are coming. I have come a long way with Kutti in this one year, and it has been a wonderful experience. In the first few days after coming to our place; she tried to run when we had the front door open for just a minute. Now, she just roams around the front yard when we are doing yard work or washing the car. There are still a few lapses when she sees that daring rabbit or squirrel, but our home is her home now.

Here is one photo of Kutti by herself and another one of her playing with one of our friend's dogs.