Monday, July 21, 2008

Viva Las Vegas

The one thing I will NEVER forget about my first trip to Las Vegas was the bathroom of our Mandalay Bay room! A bathbub. A shower. Two sinks. A television. And a separate room for the toilet. With a phone in it. Seriously. Mike and I wanted to take it with us!

The Mandalay Bay was really nice, and certainly a nice change from our Super 8s and Motel 6s. But there's a completely constructed feel to Las Vegas. After enjoying the pool and a delicious dinner at Wolfgang Puck's restaurant (a nod to my current favorite TV show "Las Vegas") Mike and I went to go see the strip. Or rather, we tried to go see the strip - and ended up walking not only through the entire Mandalay Bay but through the Luxor Hotel too!! They're connected! (The Luxor is so cheesily Egyptian it was fun to walk through.) They do everything possible to keep you inside and spending money, whether it's on the casino floor or in the shops.

We finally made it out and walked to the Excaliber (an enormous white Arthurian castle - a kind of creepy adult Disneyland), oohed and ahhed over the lights, and then took the FREE tram home (bizarre huh?? They're so desperate to get you into the casinos they'll pay to get you there!).

A Beautiful Wedding!

I can't believe it's been over two weeks since the wedding and we haven't gotten these up yet! I'm clearly not working toward a career in wedding photography, but the beauty of the wedding withstands my poor photographic skills :).

Do you see the twin flower girls on the left-hand side? They were adorable! And they're holding matching parasols! The littlest girl in the middle was also amazingly cute - she kept waving to her parents in the front row - one of those open/close waves that children do so disarmingly (she's Scott's niece).

Can't forget the groomsmen of course - stunning in their black suits (note the "mint" vests!).

And check out Aileen's dress!! Isn't it stunning (not surprisingly :)??!! Her veil went almost all the way down to her feet.

And here's a taste of the "Best Men's" speech from the rehearsal dinner - I didn't manage to tape the real one, but as you can imagine they brought down the house.

And for a final testament to the wonderfulness of the evening check out Yuma and Lisa.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Cape Blanco, Oregon...Let's Revisit History

Up past the Redwoods, some 10 hours from San Francisco along the coast on the 101, you come to the Oregon state line, one of the most beautiful places on the earth. (It's amazing how many of these beautiful places we've seen on this trip and how varied they are.) The topography dramatically changes across the border: the coasts turn into giant crescents, harbors for giant rock islands known as "sea stacks." The trees are verdant, the plains lush. And the wind! It's constantly driving, whipping waves shore-ward.

The first town across from the California border is Brookings, Oregon. Once again, I've come across another piece of strange history. On September 9, 1942, Nobuo Fujita, a japanese pilot, catapulted his plane off the deck of a submarine near the coast of Oregon. He then flew down the coast, from Cape Blanco to Brookings, and dropped two 168-pound fire bombs over the forests with the aim of setting the forests ablaze.

The bombs fizzled. They started small fires, which the forest rangers handled without incident. The Japanese didn't realize how wet the forests were at that time...

Meanwhile, Fujita turns out to have been a peculiar man. He survived the war, and afterwards, he felt ashamed for having bombed Brookings. So he arranged a visit in 1962, taking with him a samurai sword. In the New York Times's obituary, Fujita's daughter tells the story:
She recalled that her father had been very anxious before that visit, fretting about whether Oregonians would be angry at him for the bombing, and so he had decided to carry the sword so that if necessary he could appease their fury by committing ritual suicide, disemboweling himself with the sword in the traditional Japanese method known as seppuku.

''He thought perhaps people would still be angry and would throw eggs at him,'' Mrs. Asakura recalled, adding that ''if that happened, as a Japanese, he wanted to take responsibility for what he had done'' by committing seppuku.

In the end, the citizens welcomed him warmly, making him an honorary citizen. He offered them his sword and it now hangs in the Brookings Library.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Korean Grand Canyon Guide

Oh, I almost forgot! Look what I found in the Grand Canyon gift shop! A Korean guide! Yay for international travel!

Navajo Nation

How could I forget the Navajo Nation??!! I'm embarrassed to say I didn't even know this existed! What beautiful land - very reminiscent of Moab. All along the highway there were little stalls selling beautiful handmade jewelry and Native American crafts. I couldn't resist picking up a few things for friends, and a beautiful "circle of life" charm for myself.

And isn't this rock formation cool?? It's called the Mexican Hat, obviously.

Grand Canyon

After re-visiting Colorado we headed southwest to the... Grand Canyon! I still can't believe I've seen it now... it's always been something I've wanted to see and now I have. Although, of course, half a day isn't really enough time to see it, and we're already planning our trip back. I'm hoping to take the mule trip someday.

Or at least take a slightly longer walk! We set out on a short jaunt, but were intimidated into turning around after 40 minutes by the posters describing the 24-year-old Boston medical student and marathon runner who died after setting out for a hike unpreparedly AND by the people coming back from hikes who kept telling us we didn't know "steep" was! And they were right. Not to mention the heat! Even though we began walking at 4pm, our two bottles of water emptied quickly, and it certainly didn't feel much cooler than it did during the middle of the day!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

White Water Rafting

And what trip to Colorado would be complete without a rafting trip?!! We had a wonderful 90 minute ride down the river in Durango (class 3 rapids :) with a guide who impressed us with her navigational skills and her local knowledge... not only did she get us safely down the river, but she also sent us to the local bakery where we had the BEST COOKIES WE'VE EVER TASTED. Seriously. Ask me in person.

Cliff Dwellings

So much has happened since our last post...more Utah, Colorado again, Arizona, Nevada, weddings in Los Angeles, and friends in San Jose!

But before we go into other details, check out these amazing cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde, Colorado (that's right, we hit Utah and Arches National park and then drove southeast back to Colorado).