Aug Sept – 2011
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Tony and Margee’s vacation adventure to California’s Yosemite National Park, Burning Man Event in Black Rock City Playa, Death Valley and Las Vegas, Nevada.
Tuesday August 30th
After an early rise from slumber we left OKC at 4:30am for a 6:00am flight to Las Vegas. I set off the airport security alarm at Will Rogers, geez I had to have a pat down by a not too friendly airport security lady, who concluded it was my bra wires…full figured women beware.
We arrived in Las Vegas and taxied over to Cruise America to pick up our Lucy & Ricky Recardo RV (we affectionately call it that based on the movie The Long Trailer starring Lucy and Desi Arnez). Once we received all the RV operation instructions, getting the grey water and black water understood for example, I dropped off Tony at the Venetian Hotel and Casino, smack in the middle of the Las Vegas strip, to get our tickets to Jersey Boys for that evening. We bought supplies and shiny new bikes at Wal-Mart. Tony decided I didn’t need gears on my bike. It was like the bike I had as a young girl. All decorated with flower power art to look suitable for our adventure with the flower children on Black Rock City’s desert Playa.
An important rule we learned as RV newbies…do not put items above your head over the cab of the RV thinking it will remain in place….heavy luggage especially. Enough said.
Our drive to Bakersfield, CA carried us by orange groves and vineyards. We stopped at a really nice RV park tucked back off the main loop near a river. (By the way GPS service on our phones is really helpful when an RV park is off the main road.) (Ok side note, this was our first experience driving and operating an RV, I will brag on Tony now…he can do anything! He made the trip so easy with his ability to figure out all the features of the RV. I greatly appreciate him on this adventure.) Back to the RV park; it was really clean, easy to park in and included a store, a bath/shower house and of course the hookups for an RV, water, electricity, and most important the dumping station. Ya gotta have a dump station on a regular basis! For virgin RVers we were doing pretty well. Of course the first time I made lunch in a moving RV was straight out of the Lucy movie. I swayed, juggled, bungled and tossed our hotdog meal together. Even used the generator to power up the microwave to sweat over! Whew, it’s a lot of work cooking in an RV. Hee hee
After a nice shower in our own little RV bathroom (the potty, sink and shower are all together in one little closet of the RV) we headed to the magnificent Yosemite National Park. We entered the park after driving through a tunnel and looping winding mountain roads filled to the brim with redwood pines in all their glory!! The sun glistened through the pines and evergreens to set the mood for the spectacular view that appeared around the bend, the El Capitan, Half Dome and Bridal Falls natural monuments of Yosemite National Park, USA. The sun painted them with light as if to spotlight them for our viewing. We settled into our campground called Upper Pines right in the beautiful valley surrounded by the mountains and the tall, tall…did I mention tall pine trees. We ventured out into the cool fresh evening air on our bikes. We followed the paths to soak up the surrounding natural beauty and got our bearings on the valley layout. Camp Curry is the large camp ground filled with activities and funny looking “cabin tents”. The cabins were constructed of white canvas tent walls, but off the ground like a cabin foundation. The camp had beautiful settings with restaurants, shops and a theater. The ride around that valley village will forever be one to remember for me and Tony. It was just so lovely to maneuver the pathways in a maze of tall pines. The enormous rocks and ferns were arranged by Mother Nature is such a welcoming way. The sun set on the Half Dome mountain and we nested into our Lucy & Ricky RV dreaming of the overwhelming beauty of this gem of America. (I think it should be mandatory for all Americans to visit Yosemite.)
Woke up to the sun shining through the pines and jumped on our bikes to the Village to view the gallery of famous photographer Ansel Adams. Among his masterpieces were other books of photographs and art all around, gifts and fun souvenirs. A theater next door presents various films about Yosemite Park, explorers and adventurous brave souls that made the natural wonder their mission to protect. We paused to have a quick breakfast of pastry and coffee and a squirrel decided he really wanted to grab Tony’s pastry. It was hysterical to watch him keep creeping right on top of our table and then try to snatch the food…he did once but Tony snatched it back faster. To the squirrel’s delight he got a nice morsel of the yummy food. A shuttle will take you to all the areas of the park so we hopped on to enjoy the view of the mighty El Capitan and the beautiful meadow in the valley below. We did a lot of Kodak moments there, just amazing peaceful and gorgeous. Back on the bikes for a ride and walk up to Mirror Lake. Tony and I just fell in love with this spot in the park. I painted the lake with its mirrored reflection of the mountains. We enjoyed the walk down to our bikes as we followed the rushing stream with its small waterfalls toward our campground. Another evening bike ride all around the village again exploring, stopping to watch deer munching in the meadows and peering up up up into the vistas of mountains and waterfalls all around. Oh to have that ride at home each evening in OK.
Leaving the Yosemite Park is a real visual treasure as well. We headed to Reno, Nevada. The scenic passages through, on and over the mountains provides views of majestic lakes, streams and rocky cliffs that seem to swiftly reach out at you as you drive along the s-curved highway. We stopped in Reno to shop for more supplies at the Wal-mart…food, water, and chocolate! It was another 100 miles on through the desert plains to Burning Man Event. The sundown skies of pastels and bright oranges over the desert and mountains are such a lovely view to cruise in our multi-window RV. We arrived around 9:00pm to the gates of the event. The costumed greeters gave us big hugs and then commanded us to lay down on the ground and do dirt angels to become “one with the Playa” we then had to shout to the heavens that we were no longer Burning Man Virgins.(That remains to be seen.) We parked the RV at 6:15 and I streets of Black Rock City and we walked to the center to see the Burning Man awaiting all lit up in neon as if to say come let your hair down, party on, for I will burn soon. OK we had a good idea of what the costumes and camps would be like from watching the previous year’s events film coverage…but seriously you cannot imagine the carnival of sights we then set our eyes upon in real time. Every type of person old, young even families with babies, were dancing, walking, biking, jogging and moving to the beat of the feeling of the event. Loud rocking music, techno, country and even some soft sweet Sinatra was like a muse to us in a frenzy of activity! Lights, colors, smells, dirt, dust, and 54,000 happy chanting people surrounded us in every direction. The largest exhibit was a Temple erected out of wood and painted white. Elaborate decorative designs completed the look of a temple. People were writing anything that inspired them on the temple walls and attaching clothing, scarfs, colorful jewelry anything they wanted to leave, it would all burn in brilliant flames in a couple of days. Inside of the temple people lounged in a circle to look up through the soaring open four story center to a starry night sky. We left the Temple and settled into our spot on the cracked, parched ground of the chilly Playa dirt to wait for the burning of the Trojan horse sculpture. We were entertained by fire dancers and a Roman king or two before the burning and of course all the wild and crazy people around us with large mutant vehicles parked behind us playing loud wild music! What a burn, it was ignited by Roman dressed archers shooting flaming arrows into its side! We felt the heat on our faces as the horse blazed in the dark starry, dusty desert.
Tony and I saddled our bikes again for a full day of riding all around the Playa to see the art sculptures and exhibits. Along with the camps and exhibits and art, various mutant vehicles roamed the Playa like large beasts, most of them equipped with awesome music and lighting. I must admit these were some of the most creative vehicles I have ever seen. Large fish and elephants, cats and dogs and lizards and mutant things plowed through the dust and made me feel like a kid again watching the circus for the first time. Carnival, carnival I would just think of my favorite movie Moulin Rouge and its spectacle of costumes, sights and music as the drama, screaming wild fun and costumes, even those in their birthday suits only, and music of this real scene made eye candy for me. I noticed a group of people walking toward us one time and one of the guy’s shirts said Choctaw Octoberfest, I knew they had to be from the Oklahoma City area…I was right, they were thrilled to see us and told us to pop over to the mutant vehicle nearby and get free beer. We did and we enjoyed the keg brew as we ventured on to more displays and listening to all kinds of music again as we sipped and looked at each in wonder. We dressed for the evening with our glowing lights on our bikes and on our costumes. We pedaled along at a leisurely pace to observe all the festivities before our eyes. Parked our bikes and walked toward the Burning Man exhibit at a perfect viewing spot with the moon directly positioned over the burning man in the sky. Incredible 20 minute fireworks display that ignited the “man” and it exploded with tall, tall flames! The crowd went crazy with joy to see the burn and oogle and ahhhh over the fire and fireworks. Mutant vehicles were glowing and pounding out music again. I never thought I would witness such an explosion of fire and beauty in the deep dark desert night.
Rode our bikes all around the Playa again and viewed more art sculptures and exhibits. Some were interactive and some you could climb on and peer above the Playa as desert nomads. One small exhibit was a cigar box that you opened and inside was a lovely little music box crank and a small roll of punched taped music that played a little tune for you as you ventured around the Playa. I loved the tent setup like a sultan’s domain, filled with large paintings of muses and goddesses. It had large pillows on the ground for one to just lounge on. Some of the exhibits were unexpected oasis like settings complete with palm trees and bars that Jimmy Buffet would be envious of. Some of the art were quite ambitious engineering marvels that would turn with the wind or spend with solar or generator power. Some were tall creatures of beauty that soared into the sky with powerful statements of being. One was just a fireplug sitting all alone in the desert. I loved how we had to ride and ride to make a discovery of the little art treasures on the Playa. It was hot and dusty but for some reason you were compelled to keep riding around waiting for the next art happening.
We had a really friendly neighbor on 6:15 and I street. His name was A.J. and he and his wife have visited Burning Man for four years. They live in Southern California and drive up in their sweet silver domed RV. Tony and I would sit on the shady side of our RV in our camper chairs with an ice chest table between us and soak up the constant stream of people riding and walking the streets of Black Rock City, and A.J. would pop over for a visit. Iced tea, diet coke, water, wine and beer cooled our parched throats as we relaxed in an environment like no other we had seen before. A.J. said his wife had two hip replacements so they couldn’t walk around like they used to…geez they were in their 70s and just loved the event…it was a mystery in some ways to us why they would want to make repeat visits…maybe it’s because Tony and I lived through the 60s as young free kids that had already been through our Rite of Passage…it was really an event for the young…I envied those young crazy kids sometimes and regretted that we had not made the pilgrimage in our youth too. But, being the adventurers that we are we again dressed with lights in our hair and hats headed to the burning of the “Temple”. We parked our bikes and sat on the Playa again with a circle of people all around the temple. A person from Venus Beach, CA sat beside us, his name was Silly Putty…hey he lives in Venus Beach. We both observed a stationary red light high in the sky about the temple. It finally moved and we were relieved it was not an alien waiting to scoop us all up from the desert floor. The burn started slow in the center of the huge temple. Flames soared and exploded as the entire structure fell to the ground. It was like a spiritual moment for all of us burners…total quiet during the burn…54,000 people silent…what a rush. Now to some this may sound pagan, but not really, it is just a time and place to gather and appreciate being alive and part of humanity, no one was trying to force any type of belief or lifestyle on anyone…people just gotta be free. I think the symbolism of burning flames represents that very well.
One must share and give at this event, nothing to be bought or sold, except ice and coffee beverages, even your bags of trash go with you and hopefully no trace will be left behind on the Playa floor. The event coordinators will round up any left overs and store them away from the city. It was not an easy moment for me on our way back to our RV home. Tony and I parked our bikes at the center of the city and bid adios to our steady steeds and walked on as a tear dropped to the dusty earth below, two gifts to those that venture to Burning Man in 2012.
We departed at 5:00am as “After Burners with Full Rites of Passage” in a steady stream of 5 lines of traffic out of Black Rock City…mass exodus of thousands onto a two lane highway. Five hours later we finally arrived at the highway entrance at 9:00am to head back to Reno and the scenic drive through California’s beautiful Sierra Nevadas. We settled into an RV park in Bishop, CA for the night. Did laundry accompanied by a killer sunset over the mountains and friendly young couple from California that were on an 8 week vacation! It was a peaceful, relaxing evening away from the dusty Playa of Black Rock City. Wined and dined with ourselves and we already began to reminisce of the fun we have had in our RV.
Up for a RV wash and breakfast on the move. The incredible scenic drive continued as we arrived in Death Valley, CA. Tony and I had both visited this place on the usual trek of the “family road trip to California from Oklahoma” as children. It was even more spectacular as an adult and more comfortable. I remember our new car didn’t have air conditioning in the 60s! Our eyes moved up and down at canyons and valleys of desert pastels and rich black rock. We gassed up some at the peak for over $5 bucks a gallon! Cruised down into the borax plains at 100 feet below sea level, back up to high altitudes and then arrived into Las Vegas that evening a day earlier than planned. So we stayed one more night in our Lucy&RickyRicardoRV at another nice RV park in North Las Vegas, not one slot machine around! I prepared a huge meal in our little kitchen trying to use up all the food we had purchased for our adventure. It was yummy and also a little strange…peanut butter and lasagna! Ha ha
Up and ready for the Las Vegas adventure! Tony dropped me off at the Venetian Hotel and Casino on the Vegas strip as he returned the RV. I checked in and to my delight Tony had reserved a gorgeous suite for our two day stay! Elegant and luxurious décor greeted me as I plopped down on the gold velvet couches…a very Al Pacino Casino look! A huge leap away from the nights in our bunks in the Arnez RV!!!! The beautiful bathroom was a haven for me.
We strolled through the Italian décor of the hotel and casino to get acquainted with its amenities. Wow! They have plenty; restaurants, bars, killer cupcakes everywhere and beautiful copies of the masterpiece paintings in Venice Italy on the ceiling, walls and columns. We have stayed in Las Vegas before and loved the Monte Carlo, but I must say the Venetian is just as lovely too, especially with the gondola boats floating on the winding canals inside and outside of the Plaza. Tony treated me to a romantic ride outside of the Palazzo on a smooth, sweet gliding gondola. Our guide was a young talented lady that sang Italian opera to us as we smooched under the bridges. We rested in opulence and of course I soaked up in the big beautiful tub, and then dressed for the fantastic Jersey Boys show! Before the show we stopped in at the dueling piano bar for a fun free performance of our favorite songs. The pianist asked us for a request. I asked them to play “Happy Together” by the Turtles. (Tony and I celebrated 37 years of marriage on August 18thand that is our couple song.) After a couple of Mojitos and Old Fashions and singing we entered into the beautiful theater to see the Jersey Boys. I was so impressed with this show, and all the creative stage settings and performances of the music of the Four Seasons. We highly recommend this show! We snuggled into our suite for the evening to relax and snack and watch our dueling TV sets, living, dining and bathroom! Ha ha I always love reading my ebooks too on my iphone or Kindle. Are we spoiled or what?
Tony and I decided to see David Copperfield at the MGM Grand Casino this evening. After a delicious breakfast at one of the restaurants in the Venetian we just goofed off and walked the strip as far as we could to enjoy the Mirage, and Caesar’s Palace hotels and casinos both beautiful places and fun restaurants and bars everywhere. More shops and entertainment surround you as you wander through the slots.(I guess you might have observed we are not interested in gambling, weird huh?) Back for a nap, can you tell we love our suite!! We dressed for the evening, of course I have used the lovely tub 3 or 4 times already…ahhhhh.
We taxied over to the MGM and ordered popcorn and buckets of beer for the magical show. Copperfield is highly entertaining and funny as a magician. The theater was a disappointment though, I expected glitz and glam for Vegas, it looked like a bad settings for a boring convention meeting with a pull down screen and two small video monitors, but we still had our fun together as we laughed, drank, munched and ooooed and ahhhhed at the magic. He appeared out of a large covered box on a Harley and then later poofed a vintage Pontiac car suspended on stage. Made about fifteen people disappear off of the stage and land next to our dining table on the side of the theater. David looks great for his age and he came up into the audience a couple of times and stood very close to us so I could try to see any cosmetic surgery. Hee hee. Nope no stiff eyebrows…he is a cutie pie! We strolled around the casino and out to the hot Vegas night to see the New York New York casino and then had dinner at the Excalibur pretending to be a prince and princess (I always feel like a princess with my Tony!).
Up and off to the airport. It is two days before the anniversary of 9-11. The country is on high alert, but fortunately the airport in Vegas is business as usual. I did not even set off the alarms at security!
Hope you enjoyed reading about our trip as much as we enjoyed our time together!
Peace, love and understanding. Party on!
Tony and Margee
|Other Photo Links to Burning Man 1, 2, 3, 4, 5|