Reviewing a great Western road trip


Our plane ride from JFK-PHX was perfect, smooth ride and landing and we got to Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix late in the morning. We visited the Biltmore hotel for a great lunch and then headed out about 10 min north of the city for our cheaper, but perfectly suited for us hotel. We were only there for a day and weren’t doing any ‘spa’ type things so it wasnt worth staying at the Biltmore. Now I’ve heard that downtown Phoenix was dead, but I didn’t realize it was this bad! There was just about nobody walking the streets, which was understandable since it was 103, but even the roads were empty. And it was a weekday afternoon/rush hour. We spent some time at the science center which was quite dull and then heritage square, where a lot of things were closed (along with the Phoenix history museum). It was off to Chase Field, a little bit early, which was fine by me.


Yes, Chase Field has a retractable roof (which is necessary because baseball would not be possible in the desert heat) and when inside, the stadium feels like a huge arena than a ballpark. However, without the roof, I really liked this ballpark. Maybe because when I was growing up the hoopla around this ballpark, first got me interested in stadiums. The exterior rectangle shape isn’t great, but the interior design was very good and all seats are angled towards home. I also liked the seating layout and how the suites were tucked away, un-noticeable. A good outfield is important and there were a lot of great features here, including that beautiful new video board. Lots of Dodger fans made the trip and we saw the D-Backs blow a 4-0 lead in the 8th, a lot of it with two outs. For a full review of Chase Field, click the link to the right.

Grand Canyon
After heading to the Zoo in the morning, we said goodbye to sprawling Phoenix and pointed the car Northward. Everyone in Phoenix was pleasant and very nice. It seemed more friendly than when we were in Maine, which is quite a feat! We made the 3.5 hour drive North to the Grand Canyon and what a beautiful drive as you go through the Sonoran Desert with cactus, then reach the high desert, followed by the highlands with tall pines towards Flagstaff. All the way looking at mountains. I really wanted to stop to see Northern Arizona University’s venues, but time was of the essence. We had about three hours to enjoy the Grand Canyon and it certainly is breathtaking, a view that pictures can not do justice. We just hopped on one of the three shuttle bus routes and got out at different point to take in each view. Crowds weren’t too bad as we picked a great time of year and the weather was beautiful. We stayed at a hotel in nearby Tusuyan and then left the next morning for Vegas. This was another interesting drive and we stopped at the underrated Hoover Dam. They milk you for money here, but the site is quite a marvel and I didn’t expect it to be this impressive.


After the Dam, we made the 40 minute trek through historic Boulder City and then off to Vegas. There is simply no other place like it, just an amazing array of lights, glitz, glamour, people and gimmicks. We stayed at the Orleans Hotel & Casino. The rooms weren’t anything special, but it was the perfect place for us because it had all the amenities (casino, restaurants, showroom, etc.) but was a mile from the strip and it was good to come back away from the hustle & bustle into a place that we also learned the layout of quickly. We pretty much spent the rest of the day just relaxing at the hotel and gambling. I also took a tour of the outside of the Orleans Arena. I really want to see an event here but none were going on and I couldn’t even sneak my way in to see the seating bowl. It looked like a fine facility and want to get back some day. Friday was all about the strip as we took a shuttle bus in and toured mid-strip in the Bellagio/Caesars/Venetian area. These mega-resorts are incredible, I just can’t believe how much you can put into these buildings. Saturday we went up to the Stratosphere for a beautiful panoramic view of the Las Vegas Valley, then we visited some friends who live in Vegas. After spending some time at Mandalay Bay, it was off to an 8 PM UNLV football game at Sam Boyd Stadium!

The visit to Sam Boyd did not get off to the greatest start as first, its in a crappy location, well away from campus and the city. Kind of alone on the edge of development. Regardless, the horrible parking lot was unmarked, dark and a free-for-all. Then we had to walk though blowing-dust in 95 deg weather to get to the stadium. Once inside though, things were much better. I enjoyed this 35 year old stadium a lot. Very intimate and a solid interior set-up. The atmosphere was pretty good, but a lot of that was due to the huge amounts of Oregon State fans at the game. UNLV fans were loud, but not the best of turnout for a team in a big early-season game. For a detailed review, click to the right.

The rest of our time in Vegas was spent touring up and down The Strip. I did enjoy a great early Sunday watching and betting in our hotel Sports book on the NFL games. We flew out on Tuesday morning with an excellent vacation in the books! Not sure where next year’s week vacation will be yet, but I want to get in three stadiums during that trip. Otherwise, in between we’ll likely have a few long weekend journeys and hopefully one to Texas for a wedding. In the meantime, I got to plan a couple of stadium visits for October and November first!

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