National Parks & Canyon Country Vacation - 1999
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Ken & Dawn Ellis
Cowboy Sunset
(Clicking on each of the underlined headings marked with "stones" below will take you to a page of pictures of that day of our vacation.)

Our Vacation - 1999

Hello, we are Ken and Dawn Ellis. We'd like to share our 1999 vacation experience with you!

Our vacation this year was a bus tour of the "US National Parks & Canyon Country", but I prefer to call it "God's Country"! Since we live in Boca Raton, Florida, we first had to fly to Denver, Colorado to start our vacation.

There, we joined up with Dawn's parents, Merle and Sara, who had flown in from York, Pennsylvania along with most of the others who would be with us on the 11 day bus tour. The map of our trip takes us through Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, back through Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, and ends in Nevada.

Day 1, Monday June 28th

As I said, our trip really began in Denver when we arrived at the airport about mid-day. We got to spend the afternoon and evening looking around the city of Denver before boarding our bus early the next morning. We soon learned that this was not a "bus", but a luxury "motor coach". Our driver, Larry, kept it in absolutely spotless condition - in fact, he hand washed the "motor coach" each night.

Aboard our "motor coach" in the competent hands of Larry, our driver, and Bud, our guide, we headed for Cheyenne, the state capital of Wyoming and then on to the Black Hills of South Dakota. We stopped at the Crazy Horse Memorial, had dinner followed by a Cowboy Music Show and stayed the night in Custer, South Dakota.

Day 2, Tuesday, June 29

This morning, our tour group was divided up among a half dozen mini-vans because the roads we were about to take were too narrow for our motor coach. Deep in the Black Hills of South Dakota, we took a very scenic ride through buffalo country, getting an up-close look at a heard of buffalo including a fight between two disagreeable males. Dawn got an opportunity to feed some wild burrows.

While traveling through a rocky area known as The Needles, named after a rock formation that looks like the eye of a needle, we learned why we had to leave our motor coach behind. We drove through a very narrow one-lane tunnel and as we passed through, we got our first glimpse of Mount Rushmore - framed by the tunnel.

We continued on to Mount Rushmore, stopped at the visitor center, and got to walk up close to the base of the mountain. Afterwards, we went to the Borglum Historical Center to learn much of the history of how this giant monument was made.

Larry had brought the motor coach to Mount Rushmore, so we left the mini-vans and returned to traveling in style. We continuing on through Deadwood, a brawling town during the gold-mining days and then spent the night in Lead, South Dakota.

Day 3, Wednesday, June 30th

Our third day began with a view of the Devil's Tower, a solitary mountain of bare rock that juts up ominously from a flat plane. After visiting the Devil's Tower we stopped at then base and saw a field with hundreds of prairie dogs. We soon encountered a rain storm and were treated to one of God's most beautiful rainbows. As we traveled, we frequently saw buffalo in the fields alongside the road and sometimes even on the road. We continued through the Bighorn Mountains and spent the night in Buffalo Bill's frontier town of Cody, Wyoming - in a Log Cabin.

Day 4, Thursday, July 1st

We set out early, driving through the Shoshone National Forest to our destination of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. We traveled along the Grand Loop road, to Artist Point on the south rim with magnificent views of Yellowstone Canyon and the spectacular Lower Falls. We saw the geyser basins with the bubbling mud Paint Pots. They make you wonder whether God used these Paint Pots to dip his brush when he was painting creation...

We stopped at the Yellowstone Lodge for lunch and, of course, the hourly "blow" of Old Faithful, Yellowstone's most famous geyser. We spent the night in Yellowstone Park and got to take a casual evening stroll around the flow stones produced by the hot springs. In the parking lot of the lodge, we got an up-close look at a young elk.

Day 5, Friday, July 2nd

In the cool of the early morning, as we left Yellowstone, we could see clouds of steam billowing from geysers and hot springs all around us. Our motor coach carried us on to Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, with its saw-toothed 13,500 foot ridges, crested with snow (in July). In the afternoon, we took a leisurely ten-mile float trip down the Snake River, with the silhouette of the Grand Teton mountain range in the distance.

That evening, we arrived in Jackson - a town still very much in the old Wild Wild West. At dinner time, we boarded covered wagons and ventured into the back country. We were attacked by wild Indians, but saved by Cowboys who drove them off. Arriving safely, we sat down to a cook-out barbecue dinner and were treated to an after dinner show - Wild West style! Ken was selected from the audience to take part in the show.

Day 6, Saturday, July 3rd

Saturday morning, we left Jackson, Wyoming, went through the Salt River Pass and across a corner of Idaho to sky-blue Bear Lake, Utah. Along the way, Larry, our driver, was talking to his wife, also a motor coach driver, on the cell phone. They realized they were about to pass each other on the road. Larry quickly pulled the motor coach off to the side of the road - his wife did the same - they met in the middle of the road - and kissed! We arrived in Salt Lake City in the early afternoon. We stopped at the State Capital building and enjoyed strolling through the surrounding gardens. The evening was spent strolling the streets of Salt Lake City.

Day 7, Sunday, July 4th

Sunday morning we went to Temple Square, the center of the Mormon religion, founded by Brigham Young. We were escorted by several young ladies of the Mormon faith around the grounds. We saw the six-spired temple, but not being Mormons (in good standing), were not allowed to enter.

We did, however, go into the dome shaped Tabernacle and were treated to a 4th of July concert by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Dawn even got to sing with the choir! Our tour concluded in a room that contained a magnificent statue of Jesus.

In the afternoon, we went to the Great Salt Lake. Several people on the tour put on their suits and went for a swim - rather a float - in the Great Salt Lake. We also visited Bingham Canyon open-pit copper mine - the world's largest man-made excavation.

Day 8, Monday, July 5th

This day, we headed for Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. This is an area where God really outdid himself. There are miles of breathtaking sandstone cliffs of ever-changing colors, brilliant shades of rock, sculptured into pillars called "hoodoos" (probably from people asking "who do that?"). Traveling through Bryce, we drove along the top edge of the canyons and looked down at the rock formation.

Day 9, Tuesday, July 6th

On Tuesday, we continued to marvel at God's creation as we traveled through Zion National Park, also in Utah. In contrast to Bryce, our tour through Zion was along the bottom of the vertical stone towers.

In the afternoon, we took a Lake Powell boat cruise, gliding slowly through the narrow Antelope Canyon, marveling at God's palette of colors and the unusual rock formations. That evening we spent the night in Page, Arizona.

Day 10, Wednesday, July 7th

Our motor coach carried us across the Painted Desert to Arizona's Grand Canyon. We spent the afternoon walking along the rim of the canyon marveling at its size and grandure. We would have liked to have taken a trip to the bottom of the canyon, but that is one of the disadvantages of a bus tour - you don't get to stay very long at each location. As rain clouds began to accumulate, we watched the sun go down over the Grand Canyon. Our room for the night was within walking distance of the edge of the Grand Canyon.

Day 11, Thursday, July 8th

We set our alarm to rise before sunrise, took our flashlights, and made our way down the tree lined path to the edge of the Grand Canyon. The glow before sunrise was beginning to illuminate the sky. The cloud cover was still thick from the rain the night before, but the beauty of the canyon at sunrise was still breathtaking.

After breakfast Thursday, our motor coach headed for Las Vegas, Nevada. On the way, we briefly traveled on historic Route 66 before heading for Hoover Dam. Just after crossing the dam, it began to rain. The closer we got to Vegas, the harder it rained.

As we approached Las Vegas on the Interstate, we began to notice that many of the side streets and exit ramps were flooded. In fact, the exit we were to use to reach our hotel was flooded and closed. That's when I began to thank God I wasn't driving. But fear not, Larry, our driver, knew his way around Vegas! Larry continued on past several more closed exits till he found one that was open. He navigated through flooded streets and made his way to the back entrance to the Imperial Palace. However, the back entrance was blocked by a 4 foot deep torrent of water rushing through the ground floor parking lot of the hotel. But fear not, Larry knew his way around Vegas! He continued navigating through flooded streets, giving us a tour of the town, and making his way around to the front of the hotel. By this time, the rain had stopped. Larry dropped us off at the front door of the Imperial Palace - dry ground - dry feet - Yea Larry!

On our arrival in Vegas, they were experiencing their worst flood in 80 years! Everything was flooded out or closed. But nothing can keep Vegas closed very long. By late afternoon, things were opening up again and by evening the Las Vegas Strip had nearly returned to normal. We took in a show and also got to see the Fremont Street Experience light show.

Back to the real world! Friday, July 9th

Friday morning we got one last look at Las Vegas, but we didn't spend a single dime (dollar) on the slot machines. We had one last ride on Larry's motor coach to the Las Vegas airport where we boarded a plane to head back home to Boca Raton, Florida.

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Thanks for visiting us,
God Bless,
Ken & Dawn Ellis
Boca Raton, Florida

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Ken & Dawn Ellis