L.A. hotel complications…

FINALLY got a hotel booked for Los Angeles… and boy was that complicated!

Here I thought that being a big city we wouldn’t have to worry about finding accommodations, and so no need to book early… Well I was soooooooooo wrong on that account. All the reasonably priced, most desirable lodgings were booked! So we had to scramble to find something that didn’t cost a fortune, or that wasn’t in an unsafe area, or that at least had secure parking… and we wanted to be within walking distance of the beach!

Well it took me some days of searching but, did end up with a fairly OK deal… after searching hotels, motels, chains, small family run places, short term rentals, and even hostels… I ended up going full circle and picking up a Holiday Inn Express in Marina del Rey that other travelers seemed to rate pretty highly in reviews. It meets our needs, and is less expensive than the alternatives…

And so at the end of Route 66 we will come to our Holiday Inn… somehow that seems appropriate when I think back to those childhood vacations where a Holiday Inn was considered a budget-minded family accommodation (boy have things changed! … or else the conception of “budget-minded” has become out of wack)!

Anyway, am glad that is solved and we will have a comfortable and secure end of the Route rest… before picking up the Pacific Coast Highway to start “part 2″ of the journey… our return!!!!

posted by Blue Coyote in Planning and have Comments (2)

The Zion Narrows permit scramble…

Picture 28

Was up really early this morning, and had alarms and reminders flashing and beeping since yesterday, because today is the day the reservations for permits on the Narrows opens up! There are only 12 campsites and only 6 are reservable in advance… And we have to have the permit for a specific day because of our complicated trip plan!

I had tried the site last night after midnight, but it was not yet showing the August reservations calendar (perhaps it posts after midnight Utah-time… which is 2 time zones behind New York… and I just couldn’t stay up that late… was too tired!).

When I went on the site this morning around 6a.m., there were already days/sites that were full! Luckily there was still a 4-person site open on our required day, and I didn’t hesitate to reserve! SUCCESS! We have a permit for site 3!

Now we have to get a shuttle reservation to the trailhead. And get to the park from Las Vegas in time for the early a.m. departure (which may be earlier than planned because of road construction that has caused disruption to the shuttle schedule).

… And we have to hope the weather and river conditions cooperate … we are only allowed to hike the river if it is flowing at below 120 cubic feet per second and if there are no flash flood warnings in effect. So there is a fairly strong likelihood that even with our permit we may not be able to do the trip. We need to be prepared for that eventuality as well… and we need to be SMART about considering the weather forecasts with due caution (and not the usual unbridled can-do enthusiasm)… as we have “graduated” to “grown-up” expeditions and the Rangers will not make decisions for us here! We need to make our own go/no go decision based on conditions on the day of the trip.

Here is the link to a video (it may take a few moments to download) the Rangers put together about safe Canyoneering in Zion. It is worth watching for the section on Flash Flooding…

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Grand Canyon dilemma…

We have talked a lot about the whole Grand Canyon thing — whether or not we really want to spend much time there, given the mass tourism aspects of the south rim, and the fact that we could not get the overnight mule trek into the canyon. Currently we have a reservation for the “Abyss Overlook” mule trip, which, according to the guy at the booking agency is designed as a compromise trip for folks who were kind of afraid of riding the mules down into the canyon, but still wanted to go on a mule ride. Essentially the 3 hour trip is just an easy ride along a trail through the forest that takes you to an overlook point where you can see the whole canyon, you get off the mules and take a picture, then get back on and ride back to the lodge. Here is the description from their brochure:

<< If you feel like an adventure but an Overnight Mule ride to the bottom of the Grand Canyon is too much, take a ride from the Grand Canyon Village to the spectacular Abyss overlook.  You will pass through a Ponderosa Forest and a Piñon and Juniper woodland filled with abundant wildlife on your way to a magnificent cliff at the edge of the canyon.  While at the Abyss, riders will dismount their mules and stretch their legs while viewing the Grand Canyon for the first time on the ride.  Here they can take photos atop the 3,000 foot vertical drop and marvel at the beauty of the Grand Canyon’s many colorful pinnacles, buttes and mesas.  Your total ride time includes 2 1/2 hours in the saddle and roughly 30 minutes at the Abyss overlook. >>

At the time I booked it, I took it because the overnight trek into the canyon was full. But the more I think about it now, I am not sure it is really worth doing — particularly because it locks us into a schedule. We can cancel the mule ride (and receive a full refund) up to 3 days before, so we can decide whether or not we want to do it at some point in the future…

However, the Grand Canyon schedule dilemma remains, because we have discussed the idea of reserving a room for the night we will be near there. We had decided to book a room at the Cameron Trading Post, which is on the east side of the canyon nearest the Desert View Watchtower, and on the way up from Flagstaff. I still think this is a great place to stay, but if we do not HAVE to be there on a certain day/time for the mule ride (which I am currently leaning toward cancelling), do we want to be locked in to the date?

If we don’t make a reservation, we can potentially spend an extra day on the road between Amarillo and here… and there seems like lots of cool stuff to do in New Mexico…

On the other hand, we probably should try to stick to the planned itinerary days as much as possible so we don’t build up a delay… so maybe we really SHOULD book the room to give ourselves the obligation to keep to the plan…

Also, if we go without a reservation to the Grand Canyon area we are liable to end up having to take a very expensive accommodation at the last minute…

Any thoughts on this?

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Started making some reservations…

Over the last couple of days we have started actually making reservations for some of the definite stops along the route (starting at the beginning of our trip, in Ohio, and working westward).

It feels good to be doing something as concrete as this — it is like becoming more of a reality as we are working through the details, down to the banal task of making the reservations and printing out confirmations (which i am storing in a folder dedicated to the trip so i don’t lose them somewhere in the pile of papers all over my desk).

The process is a bit interesting, because we have to strike a balance between making some reservations for places that are either “definite” way points or that risk being full if we just show up late in the afternoon, and between keeping a certain amount of flexibility within our plan so that we don’t get tied down to chasing a schedule along the way.

We want to keep as much room for maneuver as possible, while still keeping to enough of a schedule so that we are actually back in time for Cactus Killer and Silly Squirrel to make their flight (preferably with a few days to spend in NY before leaving)!

We have tried to set up a number of “checkpoints” where we have reservations that require us to arrive by a certain date. As long as we make our checkpoints on schedule, we will get there and back within our timeframe. And if we have to speed up in between to make up for something else, we can do it in reasonable chunks… kind of letting us “catch up” and get back on track, rather than having delays build up until at the end we find ourselves physically just too far behind the timeline…

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