Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Four Corners Monument!

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     Four Corners Monument ~ New Mexico, Utah, Colorado & Arizona!
     While working at the Grand Canyon this year, I had plenty of opportunities to visit travel destinations in the Navaho Nation.  Most of my coworkers at the Grand Canyon were Hopi, Apache and Navaho tribe members.  Working with these people led to many friendships and good conversations.  When I mentioned that I publish Southwestern travel articles, my friends at the Grand Canyon always had plenty of good suggestions for interesting destinations on the reservation, which covers a vast territory in Eastern Arizona and New Mexico.  Needless to say, I have plenty of Navaho Nation travel material to write about and The Four Corners Monument is a good place to start!      
     The Navaho Nation is a sovereign territory and it should be respected as such.  There are many customs that a tourist should be aware of.  No alcoholic beverages are allowed on the reservation.  Littering or defacing the land can be relegated as being a high crime by the tribal police.  There are some sacred sites and old communities that allow no picture taking without permission.  The entire reservation is in the Mountain Time Zone, not the Arizona Time Zone, so be prepared to adjust your clock.  Tipping or making a purchase out of gratitude is expected in many tourism areas, especially if services were provided.  Best of all, there are no taxes, so the tourist dollar goes a little farther.  
     By following Desert View Drive (State Road 64) out of the National Park, the Navaho Nation begins just east of the Grand Canyon.  The Cameron Trading Post is located near the intersection of Arizona SR 64 and U.S. Highway 89.  Travelers can find plenty of Navaho Tourism information at the Cameron Trading Post and the restaurant serves up some really good food.  Cameron is also a good place to top off the fuel tank, because it can be over 75 miles between gas stations in the Navaho Nation.  
     U.S. 89 runs north toward Tuba City and this is where U.S. 160 can be found, which is the road that runs to the Four Corners Monument.  Nearly every major city in the territory is located along U.S. 160, so there are dining, shopping, motel accommodation and cultural destinations along the way.
     The landscape along U.S. 160 from Tuba City to Four Corners Monument is breathtaking.  Near Kayenta, the towering rock formations of Monument Valley can be seen.  A little further east, the roads runs through vast tracts of the high plains and mesas, as the Rocky Mountains come into view.  Teec Nos Pos is a little town near the border of New Mexico, where U.S. 160 heads north toward Colorado and the Four Corners Monument signage is easy to see.
     The Four Corners Monument access road actually is in New Mexico.  This is a Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation Department fee area.  The price of admission is a bargain and the income generated helps to fund construction of new facilities at this site, which are underway at this time.  
     Once the car is parked and the passengers step out to take a look around, it is then that the full effect of the majestic scenery can be fathomed.  The Four Corners Monument offers unobstructed panoramic views of the landscape for hundreds of miles.  The snow capped Rocky Mountains and even the towering Shiprock landmark can be seen in the distance.  This is truly a place where eagles fly!
    The Four Corners Monument Marker is set in an amphitheater surrounded by flags representing the Native American Tribes along with the State Flags of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico.  A veranda with Navaho artisan shops also surrounds the Four Corners Marker.  There are many nifty items for sale and unique hand crafted works of tribal art too.  I got a nice looking hand carved onyx scorpion memento while I was there.    
     There always seems to be a cool mountain breeze in this serene wilderness area and that inspires folks to relax and lounge about.  This is a great place for a social gathering or a picnic and local native snack food is available at concession stands.  For those who want to spend some time in this area, campsites are located by the San Juan River, just a little ways down the road in Colorado.  
    The Four Corners Marker is where four big western states meet.  Visitors can literally be in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah all at one time.  This creates a unique picture taking opportunity!  Many folks pose for the picture by planting their feet in two states, then putting their hands in each of the remaining two states, with their belly arched over the X mark on the ground.  There are many more popular poses and those with selfie sticks really have a way of hogging the show.  Watching all the picture taking that is going on at the Four Corners Marker is kind of entertaining in itself.  The amphitheater shaped monument area guarantees that those who pose for a picture will have an audience at Four Corners! 
     The Four Corners Monument is a good reference point when traveling in this region of the Southwest.  Having a good sense of direction will save many miles of backtracking, because road signs tend to be few and far between.  No matter which direction one goes when leaving Four Corners, there is plenty to see and experience close by.  Chinle, Shiprock, Mesa Verde, Monument Valley, Hovenweep, Ute Mountain and the Canyon Of The Ancients are all within the Four Corners region.  
     Taking a drive to the Four Corners Monument is well worth recommending for visitors of the Southwest.  The scenery alone makes this trip worth chalking up on the lifetime travel destination list.  The Four Corners Monument is not only a place where four states meet, it is a state of mind.  This is a nice place to learn a little bit from some friendly cultural exchange, while enjoying what Navaho Tourism has to offer.                                          

Friday, November 18, 2016

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas!

     Hard Rock Casino!
     The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino was built in the mid 1990's and it has been a Las Vegas landmark resort property ever since.  Just like the name suggests, this resort is designed with a rock & roll theme that appeals to rockers of all ages.  Everything and anything that has to do with rock music can be experienced in this casino resort.  The Hard Rock is where to "get your party animal on" when rockin' the night away!  
     The Hard Rock Hotel Casino is located just a few blocks off of the Las Vegas Strip at the intersection of Harmon and Paradise.  This location is close to McCarran International Airport and the University Of Nevada - Las Vegas.  The Las Vegas Convention Center is just a short taxi drive away and the Thomas Mack Center is within walking distance.  The Hard Rock certainly has one of the most convenient locations in the valley and this allows guests to maximize their total Vegas experience.
     If you are into rock, blues, rockabilly, metal or reggae, the entertainment venue at the Hard Rock Casino Resort will be to your liking.  The Joint is the name of the concert hall in this resort.  The list of rock & roll stars that have headlined at The Joint is a mile long.  Paul McCartney, Santana, The Killers and ZZ Top are just a few that have performed concerts here in recent years.  
     The Joint venue also caters events that are going on in Vegas.  Last year in December, the Twangbangers were blasting their style of rockabilly at The Joint during the Las Vegas National Finals Rodeo.  Rockabilly & Rodeo!  It simply does not get much better than this!  
    The Hard Rock Casino Resort has a Tahitian style sandy beach swimming pool that hosts some great parties.  "Sunday School" was the most famous party in recent years and as one can imagine, this party was not exactly like eating cookies and milk at a church function.  Wild is the word and the DJ parties at the pool and Vanity Nightclub are as wild as it gets.  
     The Hard Rock Hotel Casino hosts a few hip restaurants that are worth checking out.  A classic steakhouse, a Japanese restaurant and a modern gastro-pub are located on the casino floor.  There also is a cantina called Pink Taco, which is favorite dining destination of visitors and Las Vegas locals.  Pink Taco serves up some great cutting edge tacos in a fun seedy south of the border atmosphere.  The awesome Pork Belly Tacos at Pink Taco are hard to beat!
     There is a Hard Rock Café located on the Hard Rock Hotel Casino property, but the status of this landmark restaurant is now complicated.  The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino has done plenty of corporate restructuring over the years.  A few months ago, the parent company realigned the casino resort operation with the famous Hard Rock Café brand.  Most people did not realize that the two businesses were separate entities.  The realignment for the most part went unnoticed till this week, when it was announced that the Hard Rock Café location at the Hard Rock Hotel Resort will close its doors at the end of the year.  The company stated that the closure is due to the need to focus on the two Hard Rock Café business locations on the Las Vegas Strip.  Even though the Hard Rock Café at the corner of Harmon and Paradise will no longer exist, I am sure that the gigantic neon guitar sign will be retained, because this moniker is integral to the hotel resort brand.
     Honestly, closing a restaurant like the Hard Rock Café at the Las Vegas Hard Rock Casino Resort may not exactly a good idea at this time for one good reason.  The reason is legal weed!  The proposition for recreational marijuana legalization passed with a majority vote in Nevada during the recent 2016 election.  This means that as of January 1st, 2017, visitors and residents of Nevada can legally purchase, possess and consume marijuana without having to worry about getting busted.  This also means that there will be a dramatic increase of people that have the munchies and restaurants will be making money like never before!  Getting legally stoned and munching the night away at a restaurant that has a rock & roll theme truly is like a dream come true.  Fortunately, the rest of the restaurants in the Hard Rock Casino Resort have a rockin' atmosphere that will please stoners that have the munchies too.
     When vacationing or attending a convention in Las Vegas, visiting the landmark Hard Rock Hotel & Casino definitely is a must to do.  The sheer volume of famous rock memorabilia displayed in this hotel is reason enough to place this destination high on the rock & roll travel bucket list.  The Hard Rock Hotel Casino definitely is the best place to rock all night long in Vegas!         

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area, Arizona!

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     The Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area!
     Thousands of people drive on I-15 while passing through Nevada and Utah each day.  Plenty of people commute on this highway between Las Vegas, Mesquite, St George and Salt Lake City each week.  The flow of traffic between Utah and Nevada is always hurried.  It seems like drivers on this section of road only focus upon making good travel time and it is difficult to not get caught up in the rat race.
     One would be surprised to see how few people take a break from the road when traveling from Utah to Las Vegas or vice versa.  Folks that get the weekend off, usually hop in the car with an overnight bag and they speed all the way to Vegas, just to get a few extra minutes of nightlife in.  People that went for broke while overstaying their visit in Vegas usually waste no time crossing the Utah border too.  One might say that driving on the stretch of Interstate 15 between Nevada and Utah is truly life in the fast lane. 
     By listening to accounts of drivers that travel on I-15 between Utah and Nevada, one might assume that theses two states border upon each other somewhere along this road.  Few travelers realize that a small corner of Arizona separates these two states.  Interstate Highway 15 passes through a small portion of Bureau of Land Management territory in northwestern Arizona, which in reality is more like "no man's land!"
     The old saying "no man's land" usually refers to some kind of a god forsaken inhospitable place.  This definitely describes northwestern Arizona during the intense heat of summer.  During the cool fall and winter seasons, the northwestern Arizona climate is much more hospitable.  Even so, commuters that are in a hurry to get to Nevada or Utah on I-15 still just look at this region of Arizona like it is just another desolate area that offers nothing worth slowing the car down for.  Maybe this is a good thing, because no matter how much traffic is flowing on I-15 between Nevada and Utah, relatively few cars will venture off the exit ramp that leads to one of the most scenic places in the northwestern Arizona BLM territory.  The Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area!    
     The Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area is unique, to say the least!  The view from I-15 of this spectacular canyon simply does not do justice.  A traveler has to take the time to get off the highway to get the best views of this scenic place, yet few travelers are willing to give up a few extra minutes of travel time, when Las Vegas is on the horizon.  This is part of what makes the Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area so unique.  It seems like every time that I have visited this place, I am the only person there, while thousands of other cars hurry along on I-15.
     Those who slow down and take a break from the highway at the Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area are rewarded with scenic views and plenty to do.  This section of BLM territory is set in some very rough terrain.  Mountains, gorges and the peaceful Virgin River basin create a dramatic landscape that is like no other.  
     There are hiking and mountain bike trails that lead to plenty more panoramic views.  The Virgin River draws plenty of wildlife and this is a great place to catch a glimpse of Bighorn Sheep on the high rocky crags.  Spending an afternoon panning for gold or rock collecting along the river is relaxing way to spend the day.  Chasing jackrabbits and teasing the ravens has a way of making one forget that the highway is even there.  
     The Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area is well maintained and the facilities are top notch.  There is running water, the restrooms are cooled and there are plenty of picnic tables.  This BLM recreation area also offers 24 hour camping with drive through sites for RV enthusiasts.  Because Las Vegas and a few National Parks are close by, there are always plenty of open campsites to choose from at this lesser known place.  
     From Las Vegas, the Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area is about 90 minutes north on I-15.  From Mesquite, Nevada or St George, Utah, this destination is only about a 20 minute drive.  There really is nothing in this section of Arizona other than wilderness, so the two towns across either border are the best bet for stocking up on camping gear.
     It is funny how so many commuters between Utah and Nevada do not know that the Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area even exists.  The exit sign passes by like a blur, when traveling in a hurry.  For those who prefer to not be part of the rat race, touring at a leisurely pace sure does have its benefits.  The Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area is the perfect place to get off the road and stretch the legs and maybe stay a spell.  The Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area only a few hundred yards off the highway, yet it is a million miles away!