Holiday 2014 – Kansas, Denver, and Las Vegas, the Trifecta – Part Three

December 12-19, 2014

Parker to Las Vegas to Mar Vista

Parker to Las Vegas to Mar Vista

The ten hour drive to Las Vegas went smoothly but with a cold start; as we cleared 12,000 foot Loveland Pass the temperature readout on the car signaled 16 degrees. Road conditions were good given the snowstorm that had blown through a day or so earlier; winter travel does mean dealing with uncertain situations. One down side of traveling this time of year is how dirty the car gets given the materials that highway crews use to keep the roads clear of snow and ice.

As we slid down I-15 towards St. George, we passed through Cedar City and recalled the National Parks bike tour we took in 2006 with Cycle America, a full week of camping and cycling at North Rim Grand Canyon, Zion, and Bryce Canyon National Parks. Three of the days featured 80 plus miles of pedaling, but we were in good shape then and found we were up to the challenge. The last day of the tour took us 82 miles over a nearly 9,000 foot summit (starting at Bryce with an elevation of 8,000) featuring 3,000 feet of climbing out of Panquitch and then finishing with 20 plus miles of downhill into Cedar City.

Cycle America National Park Tour

Cycle America National Park Tour

We pulled into my Aunt Shirley’s mobile home park in early evening and were warmly greeted there by Shirley, my Uncle Dick and his wife, Aunt Agnes. They had laid into a Honey Baked ham, accompanied by Shirley’s long familiar potato salad and a delicious grape salad recipe courtesy of Beverly. It brought to mind the many times we’d visited here, my Dad’s brothers and sisters having moved here from 1984 on.

We’d visited Vegas many times when I was growing up and it has been fascinating seeing this town grow and change over the years. When Shirley moved here with my Uncle Bob (he passed in 1997, the same year as my Mom) in 1984, their senior’s only mobile home park near Sam’s Town on Boulder Highway was near the outskirts of Vegas, about four miles from downtown. Now, like so many other towns that have grown, the better parts of the city have spread southward towards Henderson and Boulder City, leaving her in a non-senior park that has seen better days.

But it is home to her, having been for the last thirty years or so and like many her age, she is reluctant to leave this place that represents stability and her independence. This presents a dilemma, one many of us face with aging parents, particularly for those that live some distance away. Indeed, it highlights the conundrum of life in America, where jobs and other opportunities take us away from those we love and care for, often putting us in situations where our parents and our children live time zones away, providing for only infrequent personal contact.

It was a good couple of nights in Vegas with the exception of a minor run in I had at a do it yourself car wash whereby the left front quarter panel of the Highlander connected with the infrastructure of the wash bay, insuring that we’ll be taking it in to repair that damage and the other minor scrapes it acquired in Europe. Joanna and I did make a stop or two at our favorite taco joint on Boulder Highway, Laurita’s, a short mile or so away from Shirley’s. One can get Mexican food just about anywhere now days, but none like that we grew up with in Southern California. This is how we know we’ve returned to our roots, fried tacos and really good refried beans.

A Taco, Rice, and Beans accompanied by a Carnitas Soft Taco from Lauritas

A Taco, Rice, and Beans accompanied by a Carnitas Soft Taco from Lauritas

With a busy Sunday in Los Angeles ahead of us, we bade farewell to Aunt Shirley early that morning and made the almost traffic free drive into the west side in a little over four hours, stopping briefly at the In-N-Out Burger in Barstow for one single patty (not the Double-Double) burger apiece, forgoing the fries so that we wouldn’t fill up before starting the round of holiday gatherings we’d be facing once we hit Mar Vista.

An In-N-Out Burger

An In-N-Out Burger

It had been a whirlwind ten days, starting for all intents and purposes in Savannah and ending in West Los Angeles, with three meaningful stops along the way. The Highlander performed flawlessly, as we’ve come to expect of it and even the longest days of driving were manageable. Now the holidays would really begin.


Loveland Pass:

Cycle America:

Laurita’s Taco Shop:


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