US Road Trip: Final Blog Entry – Trivia and Stuff………

The final blog entry for Mr and Mrs L’s US Road Trip 2013………an assortment of facts, trivia and miscellaneous stuff of relevance to this holiday – well in Mrs L’s opinion………….

States visited or travelled through:

Washington State: 

  • Nickname which is also seen on number plates is ‘Evergreen state’, not officially adopted
  • Named after George Washington, America’s first president
  • Admitted to the Union as the 42nd state in 1889
  • Largest city is Seattle located in the west, followed by Spokane in the east
  • Capital is Olympia
  • Approximately 60% of Washington’s residents live in the Seattle metropolitan area
  • Leading lumber producer; 52% of Washington is covered with forests – mostly west of the North Cascades
  • Big business names in Seattle – Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks
  • The Cascade Mountain Range defines the climate west and east.  An oceanic climate predominates in western Washington with large areas of semi-arid plains and a few arid desert areas east of the Cascades
  • Mountain ranges – the Cascades, Olympic Mountains, the Kettle River Range, and the Blue Mountains
  • The Cascade Range includes several volcanoes – Mount Baker, Glacier Peak, Mount Rainier, Mount St Helens and Mount Adams
  • Demographics – White American 77.3%; Asian 7.2%; Black American 3.6%; Native American 1.5%
  • Religion – Protestant 49%; unaffiliated 25%; Roman Catholic 16%; Mormon 4%
  • Politically divided by the Cascades – liberal to the west and conservative to the east
  • State bird is the American Goldfinch; state fruit is the apple; state vegetable is the Walla Walla Sweet Onion; state flower is the Pacific Rhododendron; state gem is petrified wood; state mammal is the Olympic Marmot; state fish is the Steelhead trout

Idaho:

  • Nickname is the ‘Gem State’ because every known type of gemstone has been found there. Idaho is one of only 2 countries where star garnets can be found in any significant quantity, the other is India
  • Also known as the ‘Potato State’ because of its popular and widely distributed crop
  • Rocky Mountain state whose largest city and capital is Boise
  • Admitted to the Union on 3 July 1890 as the 43rd state
  • Mountainous state which borders 6 states – Washington State, Oregon, Utah, Nevada, Montana and Wyoming, and 1 Canadian province – British Columbia
  • Has some of the largest unspoiled natural areas in the US
  • Has 2 time zones – Pacific Time to the north and contains less than a quarter of the population and land area; Mountain Time for the rest of the state
  • Commercial base traditionally tourism and agriculture, expanded to include science and technology industries
  • Boise is a centre for semi-conductor manufacturing, DRAM chips.  Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard both have offices in Boise
  • Demographics – White American 89.1%; American Indian and Alaska Native 1.4%; Black American 0.6%
  • Religion – a majority, 23%, are Mormons; 22% are evangelical Protestants; Roman Catholic 18%; unaffiliated 18%
  • Politics – Republican party is the dominant party
  • State bird is the Mountain Bluebird; state fruit is the huckleberry; state vegetable is the potato; state flower is the Syringa (Philadelphus); state gem is Idaho star garnet; state animal is the Appaloosa horse; state fish is the Cutthroat trout

Montana:

  • Variety of nicknames, most commonly called ‘Big Sky Country’ and the ‘Treasure State’
  • Name Montana is derived from the Spanish word for mountain, montana
  • The capital city is Helena but the largest city is Billings
  • Admitted to the Union as the 41st state on 8 November 1889
  • Montana slightly larger than Japan, and the largest landlocked US state
  • Borders Alberta, BC and Saskatchewan in Canada and Wyoming, Idaho, North Dakota and South Dakota in US
  • The continental divide splits the state into distinct eastern and western regions.  The 100+ mountain ranges are concentrated in the west of the state with prairies in the central and eastern parts of the state.  Approximately 60% of the state is prairie, forming part of the northern Great Plains
  • Economy primarily based on agriculture, including ranching and cereal grain farming.  Mining, lumber and tourism also significant
  • Tourists visit Glacier National Park, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Yellowstone National Park
  • Demographics – White American 89.4%; American Indian and Alaska Native 6.3%; Hispanics and Latinos 2.9%; Black, African American or Asian 1%
  • Religion – Protestant 55%; Roman Catholic 24%; Mormon 5%
  • Politics – politics in the state has been competitive with the Democrats usually holding an edge, mainly due to the unionised miners and railroad workers.  Considered a swing state in Presidential elections; but last supported a Democrat President in 1992
  • State bird is the Western Meadowlark; state flower is the Bitterroot; state gems are sapphire and agate; state animal is the Grizzly Bear; state fish is the Blackspotted Cutthroat trout

Wyoming:

  • State nickname is ‘The Equality State’, with the state motto ‘Equal Rights’ due to the state’s civil rights history.  Other nicknames are ‘Cowboy State’, ‘Big Wonderful Wyoming’
  • The capital and most populous city is Cheyenne
  • Admitted to the Union as the 44th state on 10 July 1890
  • First territory and then state to grant suffrage to women in 1869; also a pioneer in welcoming women into politics, women serving on juries, first female court bailiff and first female JP.  First state to elect a female governor in 1924
  • The western two-thirds of the state is covered mostly with the mountain ranges and rangelands in the foothills of the Eastern Rocky Mountains.  The eastern one-third of the state is high elevation prairie known as the High Plains.  The Great Plains meet the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming
  • The Continental Divide spans north-south across the central portion of the state.  The continental divide forks in the south central part of the state in an area known as the Great Divide Basin where the waters that flow or precipitate there remain there and cannot flow to any ocean. Water in the Great Basin sinks into the soil or evaporates
  • Bordered on the north by Montana, on the east by South Dakota and Nebraska, on the south by Colorado, on the south-west by Utah, and on the west by Idaho
  • More than 48% of the land is owned by the US Government; the vast majority is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the US Forest Service in numerous National Forests, and the National Grassland.  The National Parks Service manages Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park and many other areas
  • Climate is semi-arid and continental and is drier and windier in comparison to most of rest of US with greater temperature extremes
  • Demographics – White American 90.7%; American Indian and Alaska Native 2.4%; Black or African American 0.8%; Asian American 0.8%
  • Religion – Protestant 51%; Roman Catholic 16%; Mormon 11%
  • Politics – politics have become more conservative since the 1980s and the Republicans now dominate.  The state last voted for a Democrat president in 1964
  • State bird is the Western Meadowlark; state flower is the Indian Paintbrush; state gem is nephrite jade; state mammal is the American Bison; state fish is the Cutthroat trout

Utah:

  • State nickname is the ‘Beehive State’, and the state emblem is the Beehive
  • State brand is ‘The Greatest Snow on Earth’, officially used since 1975 and adorns 50% of state license plates.  State slogan since 2006 is ‘Life Elevated’
  • The 45th state admitted to the Union on 4 January 1896
  • Approximately 80% of Utah’s 2.9 million population live along the Wasatch Front centering on Salt Lake City, thus leaving vast expanses of the state nearly uninhabited
  • Bordered by Colorado to the east, Wyoming to the northeast, Idaho to the north, Arizona to the south, Nevada to the west and touches a corner of New Mexico in the southeast
  • The world HQ of the LDS Church/Mormons is in the state capital, Salt Lake City
  • Alcoholic beverage control state – wine and spirituous liquors can only be purchased from state liquor stores
  • Major industries include cattle ranching, salt production, IT and research, government services, mining – mostly coal in central Utah.  Eastern Utah is a major centre for petroleum production, with petroleum refining done by a number of oil companies near Salt Lake City
  • A major tourist destination for outdoor recreation, home to world-renowned ski resorts.  The 2002 Winter Olympics were in Utah.  Also has 5 National Parks: Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Zion; 7 national monuments: Cedar Breaks, Dinosaur, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Hovenweep, Natural Bridges, Rainbow Bridge, Timpanogos Cave; 2 national recreation areas; 7 National Forests; and numerous state parks and monuments
  • A rugged and geographically diverse state located at the convergence of three distinct geological regions: the Rocky Mountains, the Great Basin, and the Colorado Plateau.  Known for its natural diversity and is home to features ranging from arid deserts in Western Utah to pine forests in mountain valleys.  Southwestern Utah is the lowest (2,000 feet) and hottest part of the state with the northernmost portion of the Mojave Desert located here
  • Great Salt Lake, Utah Lake, Sevier Lake and Rush Lake are all remnants of the ancient freshwater lake, Lake Bonneville, which once covered most of the eastern Great Basin
  • Climate is a dry semi-arid to desert climate.  Temperatures are extreme with cold temperatures in winter due to its elevation and very hot summers statewide
  • Demographics – White American 80.4%; American Indian and Alsakan Native 1%; Black or African American 0.9%; Asian American 2%
  • Religion – the most religiously homogeneous state with 63% counted as members of the Mormon Church (only 42% are active members), has considerable influence over Utah culture and daily life.  Mormons make up 34-41% of Salt Lake City but rural and suburban areas tend to be overwhelmingly Mormon.  Other religious affiliations are Roman Catholic 10%; Evangelicals 7%; mainline Protestant 6%
  • Politics – the most Republican state in the US.  Self-identified Mormons are more likely to vote Republican than non-Mormons.  Utah is much more conservative than the US as a whole, particularly on social issues; more moralistic and less libertarian
  • State bird is the California Gull; state fruit is the cherry; state vegetable is the Spanish sweet onion; state flower is the Sego lily; state gem is topaz; state animal is the Rocky Mountain Elk; state fish is the Bonneville Cutthroat Trout

Arizona:

  • State nickname is the ‘Grand Canyon State’; also known as the ‘Copper State’, or the ‘Apache State’
  • Generally believed that the name of the state comes from an earlier Spanish name, Arizonac, derived from the O’odham name ‘ali sonak’ which means ‘small spring’
  • The capital and largest city is Phoenix; the second largest city is Tucson.
  • The last of the contiguous states to be admitted to the Union on 14 February 1912
  • Borders New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, California and one point in common with the southwestern corner of Colorado.  It also has a 389 mile long international border with the Mexican states of Sonora and Baja California
  • Approximately 15% of the state land is privately owned, the remaining area is public forest and park land, state trust land and Native American Reservations
  • One quarter of the state is made up of Indian Reservations that serve as the home of the Navajo Nation, the Hopi tribe, the Tohono O’odham, the Apache tribe, the Yavapai people, the Yaqui people, the Zuni people, the Pima people, the Hia C-ed O’odham and various Yuman tribes including the Paiute people and the Mojave people
  • The state government is Arizona’s largest employer; Walmart is the largest private employer
  • Home of the Grand Canyon National Park as well as several national forests, other national parks and national monuments.  The Grand Canyon is one of the 7 natural wonders of the world
  • Ski resorts in Flagstaff and Alpine
  • Well known Arizona singers and musicians include Alice Cooper; Linda Ronstadt; Stevie Nicks
  • Desert landscape in the south; pine-covered high country on the Colorado Plateau in the northern third of the state.  Mountains and plateaus are found in over half of the state, includes the San Francisco Mountains; large deep canyons; 27% of the state is forest
  • Climate – desert climate in the south with very hot summers and mild winters.  More moderate weather for three seasons of the year plus significant snowfalls in the northern part of the state
  • Demographics – White American 73%; Native American and Alaska Native 4.6%; Black or African American 4.1%;Asian 2.8%.  Hispanics or Latinos of any race make up 29.6% of the state’s population
  • Religion – Protestant 40%; Roman Catholic 25%; Mormon 4%
  • Politics – dominated by the Democrat party until the late 1940s; since then the state has consistently voted Republican in presidential elections except for Democrat Bill Clinton who won Arizona by 2 points in the 1996 elections.  The Democrats are competitive in state elections but the Republican party has tended to dominate state politics
  • State bird is the Cactus wren; state flower is the Saguaro cactus blossom; state gem is the turquoise; state mammal is the Ring-tailed cat; state fish is the Apache trout

Nevada:

  • Official nickname is the ‘Silver State’ due to the importance of silver to its history and economy.  It is also known as the ‘Battleborn State’, the ‘Sagebrush State’, and the ‘Sage Hen State’
  • Name Nevada is derived from the nearby Sierra Nevada, nevada means ‘snow-capped range’ in Spanish
  • Admitted to the Union on 31 October 1864 as the 36th state
  • Capital city is Carson City
  • Over two-thirds of the population live in Clark County which contains the Las Vegas-Paradise metropolitan area
  • Approximately 86% of the state land is owned by various jurisdictions of the US Government, both civilian and military
  • Largely desert and semi-arid with much of the state located in the Great Basin.  The area south of the Great Basin is in the Mojave Desert.  Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada lie on the western edge
  • Unregulated gambling was common in early Nevada mining towns but was outlawed in 1909 as part of a nationwide anti-gambling crusade; legalised again on 19 March 1931 just 8 days after the federal government presented the $49 million construction contract for the Boulder Dam (now called the Hoover Dam)
  • The establishment of legalised gambling and lenient marriage and divorce proceedings transformed Nevada into a major tourist destination.  Only state in the US where prostitution is legal, although it is illegal in Clark County and Washoe County which contain Las Vegas and Reno respectively
  • Liberal alcohol laws with bars permitted to open 24 hours but harshest penalties for drug offenders in the US.  The only state that still has mandatory minimum sentencing for marijuana possession.  The state does allow marijuana for medical reasons although this is still illegal under federal law.  Smoking only allowed in bars that serve no food; also in casinos, hotel rooms, tobacco shops and brothels
  • Tourist industry is the largest employer; mining remains significant as Nevada is the 4th largest producer of gold in the world
  • Ranked the most dangerous state in the US for 5 years in a row, just outside of Louisiana.  Crime rate in 2006 was 24% higher than national average rate with property crimes accounting for 85% of Nevada’s crime rate
  • Nuclear Test Site is 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas, founded 11 January 1951 for the testing of nuclear weapons.  The last atmospheric test was in 1962 and underground testing continued until 1992
  • Climate – driest state in the US; mostly desert and semi-arid climate regions.  The northern part of the state is within the Great Basin, mild desert with hot temperatures in summer and long cold winters; Arizona Monsoon will cause thunderstorms in summer; Pacific storms may blanket the area with snow in winter.  Winters in the southern part of the state tend to be short and mild.  Most of the rainfall in the state falls on the east and northeast slopes of the Sierra Nevada
  • Demographics – White Americans 66.2%; Black or African American 8.1%; Asian 7.2%; multiracial American 4.7%; American Indian and Alaska Native 1.2%
  • Religion – Roman Catholic 27%; Protestant 26%; Mormons 11%
  • Politics – libertarian laws; voted for winner in every presidential election since 1912 except in 1976 when it voted for Gerald Ford rather than Jimmy Carter.  The state has the status of political bellwether.  There is a noticeable divide between the politics of the southern and northern poarts of the state; historically very Republican in the north.  Clark County which includes Las Vegas has become increasingly Democrat
  • State bird is the Mountain Bluebird; state flower is the Sagebrush; state gem is Virgin Valley Black Fire Opal; state mineral is silver; state animal is the Desert Bighorn sheep; state fish is the Lahontan Cutthroat trout

Driving Trivia:

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Total miles driven – 2,967 miles

Petrol (gas) used – 96.8 US gallons; equivalent to 366.4 litres

Cost of gas – $347.45

Petrol cost (136.9p/l – Sainsburys, A47) if same mileage driven in UK – £501.60

Conclusion – cheaper to drive in the US as their gas is much cheaper than UK petrol; and the Americans think their fuel is expensive!

Language anomalies:

Driving on the US 89 and sign says ‘pavement ends’ – but there is no pavement for pedestrians on the highway!  Then all of a sudden there is no road and we are driving through road works……….pavement = road.  What we call pavement they call sidewalk

Pullouts otherwise known as lay-bys

Chips are crisps, gets me very time! If you want chips ask for fries

Thrift stores are charity shops

Outfitters in Montana are organisations that kit you out and can arrange and take you hunting

Freeway is the motorway

Beltway is the ring road

Crosswalk is the pedestrian crossing

You drive on a parkway and park on a driveway……….

……….and saving the best to last……….one of Mr L’s most mystifying moments was when he ordered 2 cappuccinos in a Starbucks in nowhere land in Idaho…….he was asked whether he wanted them wet or dry………wet means more milk than froth, and dry is more froth than milk………so now we know!!

Miscellaneous trivia:

Yellowstone Park

  • Yellowstone Park is on the 45th parallel north so lies halfway between the equator and the North Pole
  • A sign in Yellowstone Park tells visitors this fact.  Sadly no photos as the Park was closed due to US Government shutdown

Sagebrush

Mr and Mrs L saw a lot of sagebrush on their travels!

  • Grows in arid and semi-arid conditions and is prolific across the desert, plains and mountain habitats in the Intermountain West of North America
  • Big Sagebrush is the dominant plant across large portions of the Great Basin; also the state flower of Nevada
  • Provides food and habitat for a variety of species including sage grouse, pronghorn antelope, gray vireo, pygmy rabbit and mule deer
  • Big Sagebrush was used as an herbal medicine by the Native Americans – preventing infection in wounds, stopping internal bleeding, using the vapours to treat headaches and colds.  The Zuni people place it in people’s shoes to treat athlete’s foot, and as a foot deodorant
  • Medically the medicinal components are camphor, terpenoids and tannins
  • The plant’s oils are toxic to the liver and digestive system of humans if taken internally

The Great Basin

Everywhere we seemed to go there was a reference to the Great Basin.  Mr and Mrs L were puzzled as to whether there was one Great Basin or are there several……….

  • The Wikipedia definition states: ‘The Great Basin is the largest area of contiguous endorheic watersheds in North America’
  • Endorheic basin means a closed drainage system that retains water and has no outflow to other external bodies of water such as rivers and oceans, but converges instead into lakes or swamps, permanent or seasonal, that equilibrate through evaporation
  • Geography – the Great Basin includes valleys, basins, lakes and mountain ranges.  Geographic features near the Great Basin include the Continental Divide of the Americas, the Great Divide Basin, and the Gulf of California
  • The 2 most populous metropolitan areas are Reno to the west and Salt Lake City to the east; the southern area of the Great Basin includes Palm Springs

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  • Fauna – wildlife includes pronghorn, mule deer, mountain lion, black-tailed jackrabbit, desert cottontail and coyotes.  Elk and bighorn sheep are present but uncommon.  Lizards, rattlesnakes and gopher snakes are present.  Golden eagles are common, as are the mourning dove, the western meadowlark, black-billed magpie and common raven
  • Most of the Great Basin is open-range and domestic cattle and sheep are widespread
  • Flora – Utah juniper in the south and mountain mahogany in the north.   Limber pine and the Great Basin bristlecone pine can be found in some of the higher ranges.  Grasslands contain the native Great Basin wildrye
  • So……only one, but very big Great Basin…………….

The ceiling of the Bellagio Hotel lobby

  • Created from stunning glass flowers – glass made in the Chihuly glass works which are based (and we briefly visited) in Seattle.  Mr and Mrs L thought this joined up the beginning and end of their holiday just perfectly!

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If you have not done so already, check out the videos on Fountains and Fire, and also Day 8 – Norris Geyser Basin – these are new additions to the blog.

Look out for 4 January 2014 when the next Holly Days blog entry will be posted – something to do with Mr L’s 60th birthday…………..

Everything in a Day – Day 20

Last day today and lots to squeeze into 24 hours.  Blue skies, sunshine and warming up nicely for an afternoon by the pool.  First up for the day though was some culture……….

The Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort is a reasonable distance north up the Las Vegas Boulevard at the junction with Washington East so Mr L was required to drive.  This is the site that marks the origin of Las Vegas today.

More than 150 years ago a spring-fed creek flowed through the valley and had created an oasis here in the Mojave Desert.  This was the only free flowing water and grass for miles around and attracted the Native Americans, the Paiute people, as well as traders, emigrants and gold seekers following the Old Spanish Trail to California.  It was the Spanish who called the place ‘las vegas’ which is Spanish for ‘the meadows’.  Then in June 1855, 30 Mormon missionaries led by William Bringhurst arrived from Utah and built a 150 foot square adobe fort – the first non-native structure in the valley.  This Las Vegas Mormon Mission was an outpost halfway between Salt Lake City and Southern California; it served as a way-station for travellers, and the creek provided irrigation for the fields and orchards.  Lead was then found in the mountains to the southwest but mining was not particularly succesful and was eventually abandoned.  By 1857 the Mormon Mission was abandoned due to dissension around leadership.

The fort remained empty until 1865 when an Octavius D Gass bought the site and developed a large scale ranch which included a small store and a blacksmith shop to serve travellers and nearby mining communities.  In 1881, Gass defaulted on a loan and lost the ranch which he had used as collateral.  The ranch passed to Archibald (who had made the loan) and Helen Stewart.  Archibald was killed in a gunfight in 1884 and Helen then learnt how to run and manage a ranch.  She did this successfully, buying more land and expanding the ranch to over 2,000 acres.  In 1902, Helen sold the ranch and the water rights to the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad for $55,000.  When the railroad reached this area in 1905, a new town, Las Vegas, came into existence.  The Las Vegas of today expanded from this original site (the site is now part of the Nevada State Park system) and Helen Stewart is known as the ‘First Lady’ of Las Vegas.

Important factors ensured the survival and development of Las Vegas – the building of the Boulder-Hoover Dam brought money in for the dam’s construction, provided jobs and helped protect the area from the impact of the Great Depression.  In 1931, Nevada legalised gambling and reduced the State’s divorce residency to 6 weeks – over the next 20 years the population of Las Vegas grew over 500%.  Needless to say the original spring in the desert has long since dried up after it was diverted into the city’s water system.

It was then back to the Bellagio for an afternoon laying by the pool before packing (sad face!!) and preparing for the night ahead.  Mrs L spent her $30 gambling profit on 2 nice mugs for her flat as a memento of this holiday.

One more time to go look at the fountains and volcano displays before cocktails in the Chandelier Bar at the Cosmopolitan Hotel.

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Great burgers at Holsteins in the Cosmopolitan – restaurant to go back to one day……..

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……..but a bit of a rush this evening as needed to get up to MGM Hotel and their Hollywood Theatre to see the David Copperfield show.  Brilliant, no idea how he does his illusions, great show.

Mr and Mrs L’s final night in the casino saw no great wins, but no great losses either.  Mrs L recouped her initial $20 on the Big Six and had several extra free goes on our slot machine – sadly not anything worth cashing in.  Tonight was not our jackpot night!!

Off to the airport at 9.00 to catch our 12.00 flight to Toronto and then our connection back to the UK.  There will be one further blog entry once back in UK when Mrs L has completed her witterings on the trivia and facts relevant to this trip that she has found interesting.

Mr and Mrs L would like to announce that this has been one amazing holiday!

Fountains and Fire

These amazing displays are provided free by the hotels.

The fountains of the Bellagio Hotel:

The display is free and shown regularly daily from the afternoon right through the evening until midnight.  The set for the Bellagio fountain display is an 8.5 acre lake in front of the Bellagio.  It is illuminated at night by 5,000 lights.  The fountain players are 798 minishooters, 208 swaying oarsmen, 192 supershooters, and 16 extreme shooters capable of projecting water nearly 500 feet in the air; each fountain player is programmed.  A fog system also helps the designers create moods for the displays.  There are more than 30 songs which play on rotation with work ongoing to choreograph more songs.

WET Design is a world famous water design company responsible for the Bellagio Fountains, the Volcano at the Mirage and also the water features at the Aria Hotel.

 

The volcano of the Mirage Hotel:

The Mirage Volcano display is shown hourly every evening and is the only display on the Strip which combines fire with music and choreography.  The set had a $25 million redesign in 2008 and includes 2 volcano systems, a lagoon and fire shooters that shoot flame on demand.  These massive fireballs are capable of shooting more than 12 feet in the air.  It also features waterfalls with surrounding pools including fire and smoke effects.  The display has a hypnotic music score which was created exclusively for the volcano display by Mickey Hart, Grateful Dead drummer, and Zakir Hussain.  The soundtrack incorporates chants, percussion and other tribal elements in an effort to reproduce the spirit of a volcano.  In addition to the music score, the volcano’s sound recordings come from actual volcanoes.

Valley of Fire – Day 19

Today is the day Mr and Mrs L headed off into the Valley of Fire………fortunately a State Park so not subject to the continued closure of all things national.  A short 58 mile drive north up the I-15 got us to this dramatic park.  The Valley of Fire is Nevada’s oldest and largest state park, dedicated in 1935; it passes through the Moapa Indian Reservation.

This park ought to be classed as one of the ‘Wonders of the World’ – it was like stepping into another world with a spectacular scenery of grey, cream and red rocks and mountainous eruptions of all shapes and sizes.  Some of it is much like what I would envisage a lunar landscape to look like.  The striking red sandstone formations set against the background of the Mojave Desert make the Valley of Fire a sight to behold.  The red sandstone formations were formed from the great shifting sand dunes during the age of the dinosaurs, 150 million years ago.  Shifting of plates and complex thrusts, uplifts and faulting followed by extensive erosion have created what we saw today – rock forms such as beehives, the fire canyon, rainbow vista, seven sisters, white domes, petrified logs, mouse’s tank, silica dome – I could go on, so many amazing natural rock formations.

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The grey ridges are made of the oldest rocks from 250-550 million years ago.  The red rock is caused by iron deposits and is younger having been laid down a mere 66-250 million years ago.

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This desert, a valley which is part of the Great Basin, was once a sea 500 million years ago.  It was a sea that was warm and shallow and teeming with life for 400 million years.  There is evidence of prehistoric life and the area was lived in from 300 BC to 1150 AD by the Ancient Pueblo Peoples, known as the Anasazi.  Three thousand year old Indian petroglyphs (rock art) can be seen – Mr L climbed up to look, Mrs L took a photo from ground level as she has a perfectly good zoom lens on her camera!

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Wildlife seen today were several antelope ground squirrels and two wild horses.  Apparently, the antelope ground squirrels are carriers of the bubonic plague.  Mrs L was very happy not to see any tarantulas, scorpions or sidewinders (rattlesnakes) – also known to live in the area!

We did attempt to go on to Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam but the road was closed due to the National Parks closure……..so, we turned around the car and drove back to Vegas via Overton, a somewhat bleak place but which has amazing scenery nevertheless.

Mrs L then underwent decadent preparations for her evening ahead – a soak in a ‘Euphoria’ Dead Sea bath supping a glass of white wine!  The white wine was a gift from a random man who was checking out of the Bellagio this morning – he asked Mrs L if she drank wine (she assured him she did)  and he handed her a bottle of ‘Cupcake’ Chardonnay that he hadn’t found time to drink and couldn’t take with him.  Mrs L was taught not to talk to strangers, but nothing about accepting a bottle of wine from a stranger!! Very nice the wine was too!

All preparations completed Mr and Mrs L headed off to the Grand Canal of the Venetian for dinner………pizza at Otto’s in St Mark’s Square and then back to the Bellagio Casino.

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Overall, a very successful night at the casino!  Mrs L was initially up $4 on her initial $20 but proceeded to lose it all playing Big Six; Mr L started with $50 and ended with $100 so he was in profit.  It was then time to put a few $1 notes into the only slot machines that we can vaguely work out what is happening!  Lo and behold…….Mrs L was a winner – $50 made, so her evening ended in profit after all; Mr L then went and made $250 on his machine.

Time to quit whilst ahead so now off to bed.

Las Vegas: South to North – Day 18

Cold, grey, a few drops of rain this afternoon with a heavier downpour this evening, maximum temperature of 18C with a definite wind chill factor – this Vegas, in the desert, what is going on!!  Warmer in Walthamstow…….

Intrepid travellers that we are a bit of cold weather was not going to stop us exploring further afield, so we decided today was perfect to take the bus north to explore the Outlet Malls and then work our way back south.  No day can start without breakfast so we headed off to the Venetian hotel which we then discovered merges with the Palazzo hotel next door.  The outside of the Venetian is reasonably impressive but inside is like entering another world.  We wandered through the Grand Canal Shoppes full of very high end shops, not a price label to be seen in any shop window.  If you need to ask the price you can’t afford to buy the goods!!

Then we came upon this canal complete with gondolas and gondoliers singing the cornetto song…….this canal is actually inside and on the second floor of the Venetian hotel!  We meandered through to ‘St Marks Square’ and continued on into the Palazzo casino area.  It was now brunch time rather than breakfast and an excellent brunch was partaken off by Mr and Mrs L at the Grand Luxe Cafe, Palazzo hotel.

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Appropriate tickets purchased we then hopped on the bus and rode north to ‘downtown’ Las Vegas to the Outlet Mall.  Mr L bought himself a bargain jumper in Ralph Lauren and needed to wear it due to the cold weather……..the trouble with air conditioned rooms is you have no idea of what the outdoor temperature is until you get outside!  Mrs L resisted any major purchases – mainly due to the fact her suitcase is already full and has no room for anything else, but she did buy herself a mildly blingy Vegas sort of case for her phone though………

Next hop off stop was at Fremont Street which is still north of today’s main Las Vegas Strip.  This is where many of the older hotels are situated and where the first casinos were.  It was during the 1940s that Fremont Street exploded with neon and signs became progressively larger and more innovatively arranged in efforts to catch the consumers eye.  The famous Las Vegas Club is here and it’s sign rose 120 feet above the pavement.  The most spectacular wrap-around neon sign was created at the Golden Nugget in 1956.  However, it was the introduction of the high rise towers in the 1950s and 1960s that changed the scale of Fremont Street with casinos expanding and taking over neighbouring businesses.  Much of the history of Las Vegas is in Fremont Street, sadly though all looks a bit tacky – as Mr L announced “more like Blackpool!”

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We then took the bus south down Las Vegas Boulevard to its last stop at the Mandalay Hotel.  Whilst Mrs L popped off to the restroom Mr L decided to splash out on a slot machine – he was a winner, lots of noise and ringing and bright lights on said machine and he had made a 500% profit!!  His $1 note repaid as $5 – dinner on Mr L tonight then…….we still have absolutely no idea as to what happened exactly and why he was a winner!

Every hotel on this newer southern end of the Strip is themed and a resort within itself.  Most of these hotels belong to the MGM Hotels group, including the Bellagio.  Some of the slightly older hotels are looking somewhat dated when compared to the newer hotels such as the Aria and the Cosmopolitan for example, and several are undergoing partial rebuilds and refits.

Mr and Mrs L had a thirst on which required quenching so a brief stop for a quick beer at the Nine Fine Irishman in the New York New York hotel was required.  There we found Soho shopping, Times Square, Broadway, Greenwich Village all themed and adjacent to the casino area – really well done.

Time then to nip back to our room to freshen up before dinner.  Next stop was the Forum of Caesar’s Palace for dinner and time to try out the Las Vegas Cheesecake Factory.  Once again an excellent meal accompanied by a very pleasant glass of red wine called ‘Hot to Trot’ from the Columbia Valley.  It was then back to the Bellagio casino to win our fortune on the Big Six again.  Mrs L was the quickest loser, shortly followed by Mr L!  Good fun whilst it lasted and we did get a free drink on the house so can’t really complain.

Bellagio Pools – Day 17

We woke this morning in our huge bed in our sumptuous room on the 23rd floor of the Bellagio.  Mrs L had to actually get out of bed to push the switch to open first her drapes and then her sheer curtains. Once back in bed she could view a perfect blue sky and Caesar’s Palace  through her floor to ceiling window – not a bad way to start the day.

First stop was to locate a suitable breakfast venue – Mr L has to have breakfast – and eating breakfast at the Bellagio is not an option unless we re-mortgage the house!  The Earl of Sandwich in the Miracle Mile of Shops did the job – Mrs L had a healthy yoghurt with granola and fruit, Mr L had the same plus the addition of a hot BLT sandwich.  Hot lettuce was a first for Mr L and he says tasted better than it sounds!

We decided today would be a day of leisure relaxing by the assorted pools of the Bellagio – there are 5 pools in total.  The pool we chose was perfect for Mrs L as it had a uniform depth of 3ft 6ins throughout its length – she was happy when she had a brief dip to cool off and knew she would not be out of her depth!

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After after a thoroughly strenuous day lying on a sunbed it was back to the hotel room for a luxurious soak in a bath with ‘Dead Sea and rose clay’ added – my birthday present from Little Sis – very nice, thanks.

All dolled up Vegas style we headed off to the Champagne Bar at the Cosmopolitan Hotel for cocktails to start our evening.  Mr L had the Fire Breathing Dragon whilst Mrs L had a Baked Alaska.

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It was then back to the Miracle Mile Mall for dinner at Lamborino’s, an Italian restaurant we had spotted this morning.  The Miracle Mile is really quite amazing, lots go high end shops set under what looks like real sky with lots of Disneyesque facades – sounds tacky but actually quite impressive.

Time to play the tables……..we gathered with a crowd watching one guy playing roulette at about $30,000 a go, he was still playing by the time we left the casino.  Meanwhile Mr and Mrs L hit the Big Six table where the smallest bet is $2, much more our league. I rapidly lost my $20, Mr L was successful for a while longer and then his $20 was all gone too.  Next up was a joint go on the machines – no longer the old coins to put in, now 25c and more and you have to use notes.  We found a 25c machine and had a go – no idea what was going on but we won a few extra goes so good fun was had for the investment of about $4!  The casino is not going to makes its fortune out of us!!

A Bloggers Brief History of the Mormon Church

Thought I would do a blog summary of the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) so that I can get my head around the various individuals and how they came to establish Salt Lake City as their base.

The LDS Church today has a membership of over 15 million and is the 4th largest Christian denomination in the US; it’s adherents are known informally as Mormons.  The Church uses four scriptural texts: the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. It is the LDS doctrines regarding the nature of God and the potential of mankind that differ significantly from mainstream Christianity.

Joseph Smith published the Book of Mormon, which he said he had translated from golden plates, as a complement to the Bible.  He then founded a church called the Church of Christ, the first LDS Church, which became a legal institution on April 6, 1830.  It consisted of a community of believers in the western New York towns of Fayette, Manchester, and Colesville.  In 1831, Smith moved the Church HQ to Kirtland, Ohio and established an outpost in Jackson, Missouri.  This is where Joseph Smith intended to eventually move the Church HQ.  However, the Missouri settlers expelled the LDS Church from Jackson County in 1833, and the Church was unable to recover their lost land.  The Church in Kirtland, Ohio continued to flourish and the Kirtland Temple was built; it was in 1834 that Smith changed its name to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  However, in 1838, the Ohio era came to an end as a result of a financial scandal which rocked the church and caused many to defect from the LDS.  Joseph Smith regrouped with the remaining Church in far west Missouri but tensions soon escalated into conflicts with the old Missouri settlers.  The Missouri Governor ruled that all LDS members be exterminated or driven from the state.  So in 1839, the LDS converted a swampland on the banks of the Mississippi River into Nauvoo, Illinois, which became the Church’s new HQ. Nauvoo grew rapidly as missionaries went out to Europe and elsewhere and gained converts to the Church who then flooded into Nauvoo.  Joseph Smith introduced polygamy to his closest associates, established ceremonies whereby righteous people could become gods and joint heirs with Christ In the afterlife, and created a secular institution called the Millennial Kingdom.  He also reported his First Vision at the age of 14 years, a vision which would come to be regarded by the LDS Church as the most important event in human history after the resurrection of Christ.  Joseph Smith also predicted that the Church would move west and be established in the tops of the Rocky Mountains.  Then on June 27, 1844, Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum, were murdered by a mob in Carthage, Illinois whilst being held on a charge of treason.  Hyrum was Joseph Smith’s designated successor so their deaths caused a succession crisis.  The crisis resulted in a split in the LDS Church with several permanent schisms and the formation of splinter groups who followed Sidney Rigdon or James Strang.  Brigham Young finally assumed leadership in 1844 and the majority of the LDS Church followed him.  The two various groups are sometimes known as the ‘Rocky Mountain Saints’ – the followers of Brigham Young to Utah, and the ‘Prairie Saints’ – those who remained in the Midwest US.

Brigham Young had been a close associate of Joseph Smith and was a senior apostle of the Quorum of the Twelve.  Brigham Young’s tenure of the church is known as the Pioneer era.  In the 2 years after Joseph Smith’s death conflicts escalated between the LDS and other Illinois residents.  Brigham Young then took Joseph Smith’s earlier advice and led his followers, the Mormon Pioneers, first to Nebraska and then, in 1847, to the Great Basin, which is what became the Utah Territory.  More than 60,000 groups arrived over several years, these Mormon settlers spread out and colonised a large region now known as the Mormon Corridor.  The Mormon Corridor is a geographical area that begins in Utah and extends north through western Wyoming and eastern Idaho to Yellowstone National Park.  It reaches south to San Bernardino in California on the west and through Mesa, Arizona on the east and extends southward to the US-Mexico border.  The area is roughly congruent with the area between today’s Interstate 15 and US Route 89.  Young incorporated  the LDS Church as a legal entity and governed both church and the Utah Territory as a theocratic leader.  He also publicised the sacred practice of plural marriage, a form of polygamy.  By 1857 there were once again tensions with other Americans because of polygamy and theocratic rule of Utah Territory.  The Utah Mormon War followed between 1857-58, following which Young agreed to step down from power and be replaced by a non-Mormon territory governor.  The practice of polygamy continued however, and the LDS continued to wield significant political power in the Utah Territory.  Young died in 1877 and subsequent church presidents continued to resist efforts by US Congress to outlaw polygamous marriages.

Eventually in 1890, Congress disincorporated the LDS Church and seized all its assets.  Soon after this, the Church president, Wilford Woodruff, issued a manifesto that officially suspended the practice of polygamy.   The manifesto did not dissolve existing plural marriages so as to not split apart families but no new polygamous marriages could be performed.  Relations with the US Congress improved after this and Utah was admitted as a state to the Union in 1896.  The LDS Church then adopted a policy whereby any church member still practising polygamy was excommunicated.

During the 20th century the LDS Church grew significantly and became an international organisation.  In 2010, worldwide membership was reported as 14 million with about 6 million of those within the US.  Demographic studies from the 1990s indicate that only one third of these people are active members.  The Church today usually maintains a position of political neutrality, except on those issues which it considers to be ones of morality.  It does however encourage its members to be politically active, to participate in elections, to be knowledgeable about current political and social issues within their communities, states and countries.  The Church has operated a church welfare system since the Great Depression and conducts numerous humanitarian efforts in cooperation with other religious organisations e.g. Catholic Relief Services and Islamic Relief, as well as secular organisations e.g. American Red Cross.

The LDS faithful observe a health code called the Word of Wisdom in which they abstain from the consumption of tea, coffee, tobacco and illegal drugs.  It also encourages the use of wholesome herbs and fruits within season, moderate consumption of meat, and consumption of grains as well as regular physical exercise.

My understanding of the historical development and geographical migration of the LDS Church is a bit clearer now.