The day in Salt Lake City

Vita writing:

We arrived in Salt Lake City by cars. To better understand the history of the city, we took free guided tour around the Mormon temples. Two girls Mormon missionary sisters – one from Texas, the other from Japan – were our guides. They walked our small group through the temples and told us a little history of the city. Mormons were the ones who founded this city. Some part of the city’s property belongs to them. All tours are organized free of charge. The people were very kind and indignant in their faith.
We were surprised by splendid temples and beautiful fountains in surrounding. And most by the beautiful flower gardens in all possible places. Different pelargoniums, geranium, begonias, etc. There is a golden angel Moroni statue blowing a trumpet on top of most Mormon temples.
The day we arrived there were a lot of weddings taking place. We counted at least 10 pairs of bridal gowns, bridal nurses, wedding guests and children. We tried to go through the crowd one by one to feel the atmosphere of the wedding and celebration. All the young couples photographed whenever they found a nice spot near temples, monuments, fountains and flowers. So were we.
At one of the temples we listened to organ music for a while.
We ate our lunch at the old Mormon restaurant Lion House. The food was simple and tasty like a homemade kitchen. The atmosphere was also pleasant because there were many wedding guests dining there. In ancient times, some 70 people were having their meals at the same time during a hard working day.
Right after our lunch we drove to the top floor of the Mormon headquarter building. Mormon Church is coordinated from this high-rise building all over the world, including Latvia. The guide showed us the city very warmly and told us about the main buildings of the city such as the University, the hospital, etc. It was said that at the beginning when Mormons arrived at this place and began to build the city, there were no trees at all, everyone was planted, thousands of them that we could see everywhere in the city now. We were surprised by beauty and wealthy all around.
Later we walked through the museum learning some history and about Mormon’s persistent work over the years.
All the temples and buildings had same definite somewhat modern but in the same time old style. All the paintings were also painted in their Mormon style.
Later, outside the city, we stopped at Lake Salt.
Then we went on to watch the Twin Falls on Snake river. One of them – the Shoshone falls is even higher than the Niagara Falls.
In the evening we reached our motel on the roadside. The landlord, a kind Mexican, suggested the nearby Ziggy’s place for our dinner. Most of us went there and little later the others were gradually joining us. Some of us ordered a place specialty – the Eclipse hamburger. Ilgonis played ermonik and we sang at the table. We had a very nice evening. We felt tired and went to a peaceful motel to bed.

Spring in Bryce canyon

Inese writing:

Morning. Pine Lake Camping. After cold night (+6* Celsium) people with different state of freezing come out of tents. After breakfast we go to Bryce Canyon.

Bryce Canyon. Its situated 1829 – 2438 m over the sea level. Indians who were hunting in this region named the canyon’s cliffs – red cliffs. The colour of cliffs and landscape is changing. Its depend on composition of rocks and amount of light on different places of Canyon. At Bryce Canyon the forces of weathering and erosion never rest, not even for a day.

We enjoy the Canyon for about four hours. The cars we leave at a parking place and ride the free shuttle.

After Bryce Canyon – about 400 km in direction of Salt Lake City – night in SLC suburban town called Lehi.

Monument Valley. Antelope Canyon. Powell Lake Boat Ride.

Rihards writing:

Our run continues. We wake before 5 a.m. to watch the sunrise in Monument valley. There were many like us, both in personal cars and driven in tourist trucks by locals.

We drive on bad dirt road, behind the sign that says “Drive at your own risk”, sometimes scratching the bottoms of some cars, but it was certainly worth it. We saw the rock “monuments” from all sides, but soon the clouds covered the Sun for a pity- the views would have been even more photogenic.

We are leaving at 9 a.m. sharp, as we have reservation to Antelope canyon and we can not be late. We are glad that it was possible to see it at all.

Antelope canyon is impressive, though – it is one of the rare places that look even better in photos than in reality. The place was as crowded as the railway station tunnel in Riga, but in much narrower way. The canyon itself is just couple of hundred metres long, hidden in the ground. When we arrived in visitors centre, I did not even notice it. It looked as a gap in the ground. But from inside- it made a long lasting impression. Well spent USD33.

Later we take a boat trip in Lake Powell for leisure. In an hours ride we go to see the lake and one of the canyons. Later in evening we get one more superview- Colorado river canyon Horseshoe bend.

We continue our run- this time to Utah, to mormons. After almost 3h drive, we arrive in camping in woods after 10 p.m., well after sunset, wishing only to grab something to eat and fall asleep. It later turns out that the first three cars have arrived at a wrong camping area in the darkness, but as the tents are already on- we stay where we are. Agnese’s suggestion to move gets ignored. When we arrived in the camping there was no reception either. In addition to that- it was chilly, ~6°C. But otherwise: “А в остальном, прекрасная маркиза, все хорошо, все хорошо.”.

Supersightseeing objects are now done, if we don’t count the Total Solar eclipse itself, of course.

Agnese comments:
We had booked a tour to the Lower Antelopes canyon as it was said that it’s visited by less people than the Upper one which can be crowded. After those masses and queues that were waiting for the lower one, I don’t even want to imagine what happens at the Upper. We had reserved the tour for a particular time, but in reality we got in about an hour or one and half later – at the beginning we were waiting for half an hour for our guide and then half an hour or an hour we had to stand and wait at the entrance to the underground.

With reservable campgrounds in the US National Parks everything is very easy. When arriving at the campground, need to find your number or the name in the map or on a post where you will also find a sheet of paper with your surname and the date till which the reservation is valid. Of course, the note is not reflective so in the darkness a torch will be useful.

The Day of Grand Sceneries

Jānis writing:

On the 14th of August we woke up at the very reasonable hour of 6 o’clock. However, this time we were pleasantly surprised by being offered breakfast. In all honesty we knew that breakfast was hoped for, but it being edible was still a pleasant surprise. After eating, packing and washing we were ready to get going by 7:20.
This day we had a single stop planed – the Grand Canyon. I must say that the Grand Canyon is not a case of marketing or sarcasm. I can truly say that it is one of the most impressive, beautiful and unique natural objects that I have ever seen and the 6 hours that we spent there where nowhere near enough.

It is quite indescribable. Now, one can overhear a lot of interesting things if one keeps his or her ears open. Two quotes by a ranger comes to mind, as I am writing this. Number one: “a picture will never do it.” No matter where or how you may have seen replicas, pictures or movies containing the Great Canyon I can guarantee that they did not do it justice. Number two: “I came here when I was eight or nine and just never got over it.” The quote makes perfect sense after visiting the canyon.

It is exceptionally hard to put in words the steep, broken cliffs promising a slow and painless death to anyone who ventures to close to their edges. The shear history contained in its slopes, uncovered by millions of years of erosion, wherein a billion years of Earth’s history are laid bare. The rare views of a muddy river hiding in the depths of the canyon slowly, gradually continuing its age old duty.

Anyway, we did not have the time explore the whole canyon and had to satisfy ourselves with only a couple of viewing platforms and a, comparably, short walk to the shuttle bus by the edge of the canyon. Still, the walk offered several opportunities and angles from which to view the canyon, as well as several exhibits, for example several rocks where placed along the path displayed with their names and information about how long ago they were formed.

After exiting the canyon we visited two more points. The first was Grand view vista that provided an impressive view of the Grand Canyon, but nothing truly unique after the day we have just had.
The second was a place called “Desert view” which had a tower that, while not the tallest building, provided an excellent view of the canyon. Although, the experience was slightly ruined by the mass of people trying to get into, as well as take pictures from the same small room.

After visiting these viewing platforms it was time to head to our campsite in the stunning Monument valley. Before I finish, I feel it appropriate to mention that August 14th is the birthday of Inese, so we had ourselves a little celebration.

Our campsite had two major advantages. Number one – it was located on a slight slope facing the Monument valley with its rustic beauty and awe inspiring peaks. Number two – it is located ever so slightly in the middle of nowhere giving us a very clear sky. Despite the biting wind and the ever-present red sand we left the top of our tent off and slept under the clear sky.

Forward to Arizona!

Kārlis writing:

Waking up early in the morning after 3 days staying in LV (Las Vegas, of course, not that LV which stands for Latvia). Exhausted but determined. Yes, that’s us.
Shortly after Las Vegas we made turn to the Hoover Dam. We crossed it by cars and walked back by foot. Try splitting some drops of water in it and you will see how upcoming winds fight against gravity. One can imagine how all this massive construction was build helping to control water in a desert and giving electricity at the same time. This side of the dam was made in astronomical motives symbolizing the greatness of this man made giant construction influencing several U.S. states. After sightseeing, shopping and geo-cashing we crossed the dam again. And we crossed it again by cars going back. Then we stopped at parking lot before the bridge. We went uphill and took a walk on a bridge. There was a nice sightseeing from a middle of a bridge over the dam. Really nice view just a bit windy on beginning –watch and catch your hats. Then we passed the bridge by cars continuing our journey.
So, we continued our trip following the Route 66 from Nevada to Arizona. Well, it’s better to say we were trying to follow the path of historic route wherever possible but our advanced navigation apps several times recalculated directions to the quickest possible way which, of course, tended to push our way away from the way 66. Good thing was that we noticed it several times and could navigate our cars manually by looking on a map (an electronic map, to be precise, it is really nothing to do with these old-fashioned paper poster maps that span well over several hundred sq. feet if unfolded). As one might guess bad thing was that a few times we did not notice it being surprised how quickly we can drive on a highway. In result, our know-how that we obtained was the following — if one strictly follows the planed navigation path it’s fine but if one decides to make a turn away then one must correct everything manually. So, we ended up using the navigator map showing our desired path but not using the automatic navigation (i.e. without all those fancy voice commands “keep left”, “go straight”, “go right”, “take exit”, “turn around”, “turn around now!” all those kinds of sounds that otherwise in a miracle way come from somewhere on a right time when you need it and tell you were to drive).

So, we were on the Rout 66 that was going up and down and right and left presenting the best possible landscapes for every rider. It was interesting to see how all villages, inns, shops, coffee shops, every place was proud to stand by the Rte 66 and to be a part of the great history trying hard to preserve it. Old cars, old signs, proudness and happy people that was how we saw the Route 66. It certainly is not easy for the owners at least not for all but that’s a way it was. What a way! Our advice, if you have a time — go Route 66, if you are in a rush then it’s your own problem – you are free to choose new quicker highways (sorry, I do not remember their numbers but one can find them on any map).

Our main destination for this day was the Arizona Meteorite crater. Our team was the last on its way but since we skipped a little part of the Route 66 we somehow got in a lead. Suddenly it started to rain. Several lightning bolts stroked the sky. Does it supposed to rain in desert? We were rushing to the Crater to reach it at the day time. When we arrived at the crater it was not raining. We got a group ticket and went inside. At the beginning, we rushed in passing the exhibition to see the crater itself. The Arizona Crater, the Canyon Diablo crater, the Barringer crater, the Meteor crater (note that this last term is technically incorrect, it should have been called ‘meteorite crater’ instead) — these are all the names for this crater. Being more than km in diameter and 170 m in depth it has been formed almost 50 thousand years ago in a matter of seconds by a small asteroid impactor around 50 m in diameter.

Then we went inside to see exhibition. We watched the educational movie, took picture of the biggest Canyon Diablo meteorite piece (called Holsinger meteorite) weighting well over 600 kg. For most of us it was the first time to see meteorite crater so big by our own eyes.
After visit of the great meteorite crater we went a bit back to Flagstaff where our reserved motel was located. Tired and ready for the next day adventures. Yes, that’s us.

Laura adding to the story:
When I checked the internet tonight I noticed that there had been a storm in Latvia. This evening we caught a storm as well, that resembled a huge lid over the sky, where you could see a light in the distance with black strip over it, which told us of rain. After visiting all the sightseeing objects for the day our team went looking for an geocache. Near one of the caches we met two photographers, who where looking for “natural light sources” that is lightning, rainbows and other such natural phenomenon to capture them on photograph. It is mainly an hobby, but some of the pictures are being sold as well. One of the two is n professional photographer. 2 men with 3 cameras, each turned to a different direction. Sensors that react to light where attached to the cameras, as soon as light hits the sensor, for example, lightning, the camera takes a picture. It was explained to us that the sensors are quicker than lightning, so the pictures are taken. We where shown the freshly taken pictures of lightning, as well as their best pictures, that where posted on Facebook. It is interesting that whilst standing in the middle of an abandoned gas station the fields stretch very far and there is lightning in the distance, that flashes with some regularity in every direction, so you can only turn your head around. If in the morning around 7 o’clock in Las Vegas the temperature was already 37°C, and it rose to 44°C in the middle of the day than at the moment the displayed temperature was only 13°C. It is a huge difference that shocks the body. We where ready for this kind of cold only upon returning to Latvia.

Free day in Las Vegas

Laura writing:

This was the first free day of this trip, when we could do whatever we wanted all day long. Sleep, spend the morning swimming in the pool and a stroll through Las Vegas, without any hassle. We slept 30 minutes drive from Las Vegas, so we arrived in the city around 12:30 (other teams arrived at 10:00). Time in Las Vegas passes quickly. It was really hot outside with 44°C in the shade, so the sanctuaries are the impressive hotels. By the day the city does not look so spectacularly glamorous as in the evening. Musical fountains, American hill, artificial volcanic show, recreations of Venice and Paris, shark aquarium – a small part of the city. This is a town of fun and relaxation, in which it is important to stay with people “on the same wave”. Admittedly, it’s not possible to walk the main streets of Las Vegas within a day. Before going away, it was also necessary to play the machines that are on every corner and in all the colours of the rainbow. We put in $1 and while we did not know how to play, by the grace of pushing all the buttons in sight we won $41.59. Good luck and great fun. As we were already doing well, we decide to play again so we lost the next $2, but the satisfaction remained. We liked Las Vegas. Impressive and beautiful. We arrived at the motel after 1:00 at night. When we arrived at the hotel, we found out that our laundry, which we had left to be washed had been stolen. Our team now has a little lighter suitcases. We did not expect anything like this from the USA. Anyway, this will be a reason to replenish our suitcases in the next cities.

Deadly beautiful

Madara writing:

Without any particular expectation about the day, as it was just my second day on the tour, I woke up in Las Vegas motel and after morning deeds, trying to avoid cockroaches in my way, went to the car – deadly unresponsive Nissan Altima.
First signs of the deadly beautiful came as a road sign saying that the next place where basic services will be available will be after 72 miles. On our way temperature steadily rose from some 70 F to way above 100 F and we exchanged information available for each of team members on Death Valley – place holding the US records for hottest temperature – 134*F or 57*C while sitting in safe and cool shelter of a conditioned car, these were just numbers. Above us blue sky with no clouds, around us deserted flats with mountains in the backstage. Deadly promising.

Coming closer to Death Valley National Park, we noticed frost like icing on sand and tones from white palette here and there. Despite looking like ice, this was salt, left after massive evaporation of water. Sight I experienced for the first time in my life. Badwater – overwhelming salt flats – approached accompanied by Dave Matthews band singing “Don’t drink the water”. I along with my spouse left the cool shelter of car to meet the Badwater salt flats in person. Scenic, deadly hot and unusual place. Lacking the previous experience encountering extremely hot places like this, no ice water, even no water was taken along by us. Its close, short walk from car to the salt flats and back – how hard can it be? Leaving the car, hot air and wind met us first, then salt flats. We went for a while, along with other visitors, till the point where I felt it’s time for me to return. My husband together with other tour mates went further – till the furthest visible people in the flats. I spotted the park ranger returning to the visitor centre and turned around, to return alone, finding solace in the thought, that in case I will fall from my feet, ranger will evacuate me out of the salt flats. Way back to the car was harder than I expected, hot and salty wind bit my skin and I was reconsidering my decision to walk in salt flats. Last part of the walk I made thanks to Moisturising Mist on the open parts of the body and Ammoniac solution under my nose. Reaching the car was not the solution, as far as Air Condition, turned on by my team mates didn’t bring the cool relief I expected but just more hot air. Panic attack was ended by tour members from team 1, who had air conditioned car and ice water bottles. Deadly scary experience which made me deadly respectful regarding the place we were.

The rest of the Death Valley exploration went far smoother than Badwater. The nice detour through the narrow canyon – The Artists Drive was lively and exciting – each turn and sight after that came as a surprise, leading us to the Artists Palette – colourful sight with mountains and minerals colouring them, which explains the name given to the area. Zabriskie Point provided really spectacular views over the valley. Before arriving at the next point – Dantes view, we took one more nice detour through unpaved Twenty Mule Team Canyon – the dry flood water river. Spectacular Dantes view covers the stretch from the highest (Mt Whitney, 14 505 ft) and lowest (Badwater) points in the contiguous USA (as the Lonely Planet guide says). In all of the places – deadly hot. As furnace creek visitor centre thermometer told us – slightly above 122*F was the outside temperature. Because of it hiking trails, which should be beautiful in spring time, greeted us with with red road signs saying “STOP, Extreme Heat Danger, walking after 10 AM not recommended”. Deadly beautiful will be quintessential phrase for me, when describing Death Valley.

Leaving the Death Valley, our way led through Amargosa – small town (?) in the middle of nowhere, where we saw … Amargosa Opera house!!! No idea what it meant, but it made me curious – do they really perform operas here? Maybe Wagner would go well with these unforgiving landscapes? Will google it back home, when reminiscing the travel experience! Deadly curious!

Along Route 66 to Las Vegas

Daumants writing:

Today we did the planned trip from San Bernardino (part of the LA aglomeration) to the biggest city in Nevada – Las Vegas. In complete we drove more than 300 miles. Traveling mostly took part on the historic route 66. Unfortunately in the middle of our trip the route 66 was closed due to road repair.
Day started with wonderfully refreshing morning swim in one of the motels pools. Already in morning hours we were heated up by the hot south Californian sun. The morning rush in this morning wasn’t so harsh, so we had some time to chill at the motel. At last our group got ready and we went to one of the local cheapest gasoline stations to fill car empty gas tanks.
After we filled our car “stomachs” we straightly hit the route 66, which has lost its main title as the main connector between two coasts of mainland USA already for decades.
On the way to Las Vegas the air slowly heated up from quite bearable 32 degrees Celsius to 45 degrees! The route 66 gave joy to our eyes with beautiful landscapes, and old lovely country side houses. Besides, locals try to keep the road surroundings as they were 50 years ago with old cars, fences and houses.
And then in the evening we came to Las Vegas! What a marvelous city. And the climate is crazy hot, but for us northerners, hot nights is our cup of coffee. We love it!
See ya tomorrow!

Universal Studios Park

Niks Tristans writing:

Part of the group left the motel at 4:30am to watch the sunrise over the Hollywood hills near the famous Hollywood sign. Part of the group, including myself, went straight to the Universal Studio Amusement Park.
At 8:00 we met at the park entrance and went in. Everyone started with the Harry Potter attractions, then we separated and everyone went where they wanted to go. We saw and went on rides from the movies: Transformers, Simpsons, Jurassic Park, Mummy, there were also other interesting things like a special effects show and a studio tour. My favourite ride was Mummy ride. There was also some thematic cafes at the park. I tried hot dog in Krasty’s burger and some huge doughnut in other cafe in Simpsons area.
There was a lot of people. It was a very hot day. The park is large and some of us spent the entire day there, some left at around 15:00, after the park we left for San Bernardino.

The joys of astronomy enthusiasts

Ausma writing:

It’s August 8th and the tenth day of our trip. Today – full science program: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena and Mt. Wilson Observatory.
We leave the motel at 7.30am and reach the Jet ter in already an hour. The visitor parking space is full, we place the cars quite far. Everyone quickly goes to the entrance, but it turns out that our time is only at 9.20am. In briefing the time, we are discussing the first health problems and the adventures of the previous night: someone has his feet swollen from heat, someone else slept for only two hours. The rest entertain themselves by giving clever tips, and judging the missed opportunity to sleep for at least half an hour more.
Everyone is having their documents checked and issued a promotional tour of NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory sign to put around our necks.

We are a group of about 80 people. First, we are lead to the big Professor Pickering Hall, where we get introduced to safety regulations, a tour plan, and shown a video about the creation and operation of the Jet Propulsion Lab called “The Journey to the Planets and the Universe.”
The US has 10 such NASA laboratories responsible for various flight related matters: Houston is the flight control center, Kennedy in Florida is manned flight center, JPL is unmanned flight center etc.
Then the big group is divided into two parts, and we learn both about the mission management center and the how the Mars 2020 mission is prepared. At the flight control center you can follow each mission in real time by pressing its icon. To view real-time flights online, you can open
The visitor center has a retrospective and informative view of the laboratory’s activities. Everyone has the opportunity to view and take a photo of oneself in the infra-red version.
Morning quote: You can not become rich by selling gold, but you can become rich by selling tools for gold digging.
We drive next to Mt. Wilson Observatory. It is hot outdoors – over 30 degrees Celsius. We have arrived too early need to wait for one hour. The cafe only works on Saturdays and Sundays, when there are official tourists. We entertain ourselves by looking for a shadow, filling bottles and reading posters at the Observatory Museum, not yet knowing that guide Bruce Padget will lead through them in a binding story.
Many members of our group filled their dream of visiting the 100-inch telescope with which several significant discoveries of the 20th century have been made – Hubble using the 100-inch telescope confirms that there are other galaxies and the universe is expanding (1924).
In 1931, Albert Einstein visited the observatory, as evidenced by photography on the bridge before the telescope building. We must also take a photo there, of course.
Of course a group photo at the telescope.
The founder of the Observatory is George Ellery Hale, who built four telescopes, each of which at one time were the largest in the world. Two of them are on Mt. Wilson in Los Angeles.
We were lucky because the telescope was being maintained and we could observe how the telescope mechanics works.
In the evening, a quote from the guide, Bruce Padget, “The work in radioastronomy is boring because they explore rainbows and listen to stars.
Evening at Budget Inn Motel in El Monte.