...until cranky German bloke sternly splashed at them to "get out, get out!!" Yikes.
Afterwards, a couple of ducks tried to seek refuge in my last American hamburger... my thoughts went something like, Step aside, cheeky billed thing, I'm about to go on a major burger drought back in Hong Kong so SCRAM before I call cranky German man back over.
B and I are almost at the end of our two-week USA road trip... don't you love the poetic symmetry of how 'hills are alive' rapturous one can be at the start of a holiday and how 'woe is me' beaten down by the end?
To cope, we are finishing up tomorrow with a night spent in luxury at Palm Springs. How very 'Amanda' from Melrose Place of us.
Then B boards a jet plane back to Hong Kong (to our little dogs, the lucky thing) and I get to stay on in LA and wait around for some immigration papers (more on that later).
In the past few days we racked up some serious miles in Utah, Colorado and Arizona and saw some of the most incredible landscapes I will likely ever see.
I feel most lucky in the most humble of circumstances: surrounded by a healthy and happy family. But I also feel incredibly blessed to be alive when I am driving through the southwestern United States, with not a worry in the world except how fast my popsicle is melting onto my 'Twilight' series book as B turns the wheel next to me and taps his fingers to the Eagles Take It Easy.
So here's my top ten highlights from Utah, Colorado and Arizona:
1. A break from Vegas. Hello recovery, how good was your timing? Two nights in Vegas were enough to send B and I screeching tyres in the direction of Utah's green mountains and kind, calm, religious folk. p.s. Utah needs to sack it's PR person, because this state is gorgeous and I seem to never hear about it.
2. Zion and Arches National Parks; and Monument Valley. Incredible scenery that must be seen to be comprehended and truly appreciated. Hundreds of miles of rock formations, monuments, canyons and valleys. Driving across four US states has given me an understanding of the commanding feel of this ancient landscape. Not to be negative, but we are all truly nothing. Isn't that magnificent and a huge relief?
3. We took a rest day in Richfield, Utah to do NOTHING interesting. What bliss! Richfield is a very simple town with merely a few diners and road stop hotels. B and I spent two nights there and planned to spend the day in between driving to various Utah parks and 'must-see' locations. Yet we felt compelled to not leave the rest haven of Richfield. We slept in. We did laundry... huzzah! And we went to Walmart. I took less than ten photos all day. I had a normal, boring day. I can't tell you how exciting that was.
4. Telluride and the Colorado Rocky Mountains. This location has made it into my top three of 'most amazing things I've ever seen', which also includes the Canadian Rocky Mountains and the Great Barrier Reef in Northern Australia. Telluride in particular is GAH, like serious gah. At nearly 10,000 feet, I felt winded and breathless for much of the time, very similar to my experiences in Peru and Bolivia. Or was it the just the view stealing my breath? Oh and apparently Tom Cruise has a ranch in Telluride, so if it's good enough for Tom...
5. B's birthday. My baby turned forty in Colorado! And as I mentioned in a previous post he was asked for ID in Las Vegas, the cheeky thing. But what better place to clock into the '4' bracket than with the fireplace softly working away, amid the Colorado Rocky Mountain peaks. Nice timing, B.
6. Martinis. I have always wanted to try a Martini, since I am a gin gal. So we decided to order up two at the cosy Mountain Lodge in Telluride, before polishing off B's birthday champagne. The Ms were utterly delicious... but judging by the headache I woke up to in the morning, perhaps not best for regular consumption. Although that might have been the altitude? Oh go on, just one more...
7. Native American stuff. I have been interested in Native American culture for many years... I read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee when I was 18 (THE book you should buy if you want to read about Indian history) and I had a Native American spiritual symbol tattooed somewhere on my body when I was 21. While the United States is now a very different place from the native eras I have read about and so admired, it has still been cool to visit the deserts of Arizona and purchase Indian artifacts and hear some of their stories.
8. Walking with dinosaurs. While driving through a Hopi Indian Reservation, B and I zoomed past a rickety wooden sign that read 'Dinosaur Footprints next right.' So we spun the car around and walked into a truly rare and humbling treat. Scattered near Cameron in Arizona are 'running' dilophosaurus tracks (one of the starring dinos of Jurassic Park). B is a dino fan and even he has never seen footprints outside of a museum. Seeing them in their original location, surrounded only by the whispers of the wind, was remarkable.
9. The Grand Canyon. While undoubtedly unique, it reminded me of the vastness of the Blue Mountains in Australia's New South Wales... special props go to the surrounding desert. There is something very cool about seeing rattlesnake country with cactuses (or is it cacti?) dotted through the sandy earth.
10. I saw real bears and survived. I have a totally irrational bear phobia. Where did this come from? NO idea... like I said - irrational. There's something about grizzly bears standing on their hind legs that makes my skin crawl. Since we were in black bear country a lot on this trip (much more palatable than grizzly bear country), nonetheless, I bought a silver bear necklace to wear around my neck as a protective charm. Of course we didn't see any bears in the wild, but we did drive through 'Bearizona' in Williams, Arizona; one of those natural wildlife parks where you drive through with your vehicle and they walk around your car.
Okay, it's one small step for a mellisophobic, but it's a step.
Las Vegas is really quite sinful, isn't it... I mean, it is of course possible to survive Vegas on a diet of garden salads, purified water and no gambling, but that really isn't the point is it. We have Utah for that!
But, once again, more on that later.
B and I happily endured Sin City on a diet of chicken wings at Hooters (yes, Hooters - B insisted they had the best wings in town, hmmm), Gin and Tonics, and lots of Blackjack.
Did I mention I love to party on occasion? Ok, that's a bald-faced lie, I always like to party and am usually the last one to want to go home but, since I know that's really not a good long-term life strategy, I do behave most times. Ok sometimes.
But not this time.
B and I agreed there were no rules in Las Vegas, so we turned 21 the moment we turned onto the strip and decided to stay that age for the next 48 hours.
Here's the highlights (again, in no order, as I am very disorderly at the best of times):
1. The Cirque du Soleil Beatles Love show. Oh did I say this list wasn't in order? Because this is undoubtedly, unmistakably and unquestionably the best thing we did in Vegas. I'm a massive Beatles nut (a McCartney girl) and I booked excellent seats for this show nearly 12 months ago (the very day we decided to go to Vegas). When the show opened with the circus performers dancing in to 'Get Back' I swear I nearly went into joy-induced cardiac arrest.
2. Staying at a casino on the strip. Not as obvious as it sounds - there are squillions of regular hotels that aren't part of the major strip casinos. But we stayed at the modestly-priced Luxor where we slept inside a giant pyramid, only to rise mid-afternoon and wander downstairs where there was no indication of day or night. Yes!
3. The Strip itself. The lights! The music! The decadence! It was like living in that movie with Vince Vaughn.
4. B's reply to our hotel concierge, who asked us if we were married. B looked at me and said, "no, but hopefully we will be soon." He may have been joking about the whole Vegas Elvis chapel thing, but it still sent a tingle up my spine as his pretty eyes locked with mine.
5. Gambling. I usually don't enjoy gambling all that much; I'm certainly not a lover of 'the pokies' and often get bored in casinos and wander off to find the bar after say, three minutes? But in Vegas, gambling was more or less mandatory and, after reading B's blackjack book from cover to cover, it became scarily addictive.
Oh and we lost most of our dough by the way, until B took all our remaining chips and bet them on the red colour at the roulette wheel. I was feeling black and everyone else had piles of chips on black (there was nothing on red at all). This is classic B - move against the crowd - so he piled all our chips on red and smiled at me cheekily as I covered my face with my hands. And guess what came up? Red! That's my boy - he doubled all our money in one brave move.
6. A chance to lie by the pool for a few hours. The Luxor has a pretty smokin' hot pool - although we didn't arrive at it until after 3pm, thanks to our late night partying. But even a few hours to pretend we were in Thailand went a long way.
7. Convincing B to dance inside a Bellagio nightclub. This sounds worse than it is - he does often dance and very well too. But B usually only ever dances in pubs with live bands playing his favourite 1980s rock music. At all other times it's like he's chained to the wall and not even an industrial-strength chainsaw could get him to move onto the dance floor.
As we wandered inside a nightclub with pumping pop music, I ordered, "we are in Vegas... one dance here!" B made some lame excuse about being "physically unable to dance this this sort of music." So I asked if he would dance if that Black Eyed Peas song 'I Got a Feeling' came on (he likes that one). And guess what came on next?? So we danced to it before he raced off the dance floor like it was on fire.
8. We then went to a bar that somewhat resembled a strip club. Why is that a highlight? Because Vegas is all about trying new things and having no rules. While a true strip club was pretty much out of the question we did end up at the 'Shadows' club at the Bellagio - tasteful and full of women. It was very tame - undressed women simply danced as silhouettes behind a screen. But the guys loved it.
9. The Bellagio fountain. If you have seen it you will know. It's truly gorgeous and a must-see on the strip.
n.b. I was too wowed by the fountain to snap with my dodgy disposable camera so google gave me this photo - thanks google.
10. Our GPS not getting stolen. We had our car parked at the beginning of our stay and left it there until the moment we left for Utah, forgetting that we had left the portable GPS front-and-centre like a sitting duck the entire time. B realised at the eleventh hour and went into a bit of a cold sweat until we picked up the car and - whaddya know - it was still there. It looks like there was one less sin committed in Sin City.
n.b. You don't really want to see a photo of our GPS system, do you?
Can you spot the Hollywood sign in the above photo taken from our hotel room? Do you want me to pass you the binoculars? Or possibly a small plane?
We spent four days in Los Angeles before turning the wheel in the direction of Las Vegas, where I am finding all excuses to never leave. How much fun can one person have before it starts to become illegal/debaucherous/ridiculous?
But more on that later.
Here's my top ten Los Angeles highlights, in no particular order:
1. Clear blue skies, every day. Are these people serious? The ultimate aphrodisiac.
2. The Mummy ride at Universal Studios. Anyone tried it? It's possibly you didn't live to tell the tale. So good!
3. No. Chinese. Food. Let me say that again. NO. Chinese. Food.
4. Hamburrrrrgers, mmmmm. See above point.
5. I don't think the city of Los Angeles knows that I'm a university student or that I have my own business. It didn't come up.
6. Long dinners with B at places like Sunset Strip and Citywalk at Universal City. Every one felt like an early date; I was in the comfortable stage but a little in awe of him and his extreme cuteness.
7. Catching up with my lovely family friends at a vintage Hollywood diner - the same bloke that gave me some very wise words one day.
8. Star spotting: Tim Curry and Fred Willard in the same restaurant! Ok I didn't know who Fred Willard was either. But B was thrilled.
9. Laying my eyes upon the very house where Michael Jackson last lived and died. Like him, it seemed so much smaller in person.
10. People speaking English instead of Cantonese. Buying band aids is, simply, buying band aids and not a game of Charades. I miss that ease.
p.s. Excuse the somewhat underwhelming quality of our photos - we have had some bad camera luck on this trip. First B dropped and smashed the camera of a poor Japanese couple who asked him to take their photo outside Universal Studios. I still don't think he's quite over it. Then we realised we left our digital camera charger in Hong Kong and our brand is not stocked in the US.
So we are using a cheap, disposable digital camera. I feel like I'm twelve years old again taking shaky snaps of my sister diving into our pool.
Santa Monica beach. It's on steroids, like everything in the US.
My two boys.
What happens when B takes over the camera.
They don't got this sorta thang in Hong Kong. My thighs thank you.
Yikes, this meal is currently in a graveyard somewhere on my waistline.
I had to catch up with a few old friends in Hollywood...