Sunday, July 01, 2007

Vegas and beer

In the last instalment of this meandering diatribe, we were just about to leave for Las Vegas. And so we did fly there, alongside a huge thunderstorm which was magnificent from the aircraft windows. Too bad it wasn't on our side of the aeroplane or I'd have tried to get some pictures. Bright white lightning on top, bright orange underneath the cloudbase.

We arrived in Vegas quite late and on arrival at our hotel, the Planet Hollywood, we found the hotel bar sorely lacking in proper beer. One of the staff told us of a small bar in the adjoining mall which we found - turned out to be a microbrewery, which was cool.

Next morning, we met Tracy and Paul at the crack of sparrowfart, in time to be picked up by a tour bus which whisked us to the Las Vegas North airport. We were bundled onto a Dornier 228 which seats about 16 people, and flew off towards the Hoover Dam (pretty impressive) and over the Grand Canyon. The scenery here is really very magnificent and better wordsmiths than I have done it due justice over the years. It's damn cool. It's funny, the last time we visited Vegas we flew over the canyon at 30,000 feet and it would have fitted in a single wide-angle shot, it didn't seem as big as people said it was. Flying over it at 2,000 feet made the whole place a LOT bigger - it goes on forever!

We landed at Bar 10 Ranch which is a working cattle ranch right next to the main canyon valley. They are a brief oasis in the Arizona desert - fed by a spring, they have grass and trees. Sticks out a mile.

The majority of our tour group had booked ATV-quad-bike things to ride, however we were in a minibus/van which was a lot less dusty and had air conditioning (woo!). We drove off and eight very slow, dusty, cactusy and rocky miles later, arrived at the viewpoint overlooking the valley.

Click to see a 360° panorama of the Grand Canyon north rim valley

Here's some aircraft-based pictures that show the Dornier aircraft we flew in. The helicopter is used by the ranch to ferry canoeists up from the river to stay in their lodge.

Unfortunately one of the other tourists managed to crash his quad bike on the way to the viewpoint. He was quite badly shaken up, maybe with some concussion, so he rode in the van. A Hummer was dispatched to collect him and one of his friends, which meant there was a spare quad bike that needed riding back. Paul chose to do so, which he seemed to enjoy.

Here's a few more Las Vegas pictures taken during our trip, of the old part of town in the day and the Bellagio Fountains at night. Always worth a look; we like those fountains.

On our return from Vegas, Alan's homebrew beer was about ready for drinking. Woo! He has started homebrewing again, now we have the space to do it. We got a kit for the first one to see if it worked OK with the heat. Seemed to be just fine :-)

Meanwhile, Alan decided to get a mini-mash kit for his second brew. This involves a bag of grain, and a big pot of wort to boil. Ah, how to boil it? Put it on the kitchen cooker. That got it warm, but took forever. Not enough horsepower. I was dispatched to Cabela's to buy a propane burner. Got it home, assembled it, set it up, moved the pot onto it. More horsepower but still slooooow. Eventually got it boiling but only very just. We need a turkey burner. Next time... We got the beer ready but it took six hours! It's currently brewed and has just been transferred into the pressure barrel, so we just need to wait a while now for it to clear.

Beer is being consumed elsewhere too. We stayed in the apartment last Saturday so we could go to the Drafthouse and the Parlor. We also stayed there last night, as one of Alan's buddies from the California office was in town this week with his wife and kids, so we went out with them for some beer at the new Brew & Que place on Barton Springs Road, which was cool.

Latest updates on Things In Our Garden:

Frogs! They seem to burrow down into the mulch in the flower beds in one part of the front garden, where it says damp under the trees.

Lizards! We finally saw one in our garden, a Six Lined Racerunner. Very handsome and cute. It leapt out of the way of the lawnmower today, and scurried off under the driveway. Here's one on the net, this is not my picture, it's from this page.

Talking of lawnmowers, we finally succumbed and bought a gas-powered one. The weather recently has been so wet that we haven't been able to cut the grass, and of course it got to being six feet high and way too much for the push reel mower. So Alan went shopping and we spent three hours cutting the lawn today. Gaah! Still, the new mower is easy to use and hopefully next time it will be a quick zap rather than wading through the jungles of Borneo as it was today.

We've also been bitten to death; all the rain has brought the mosquitos and the little bitey bastards are feasting. Both of us have shins that constantly itch with bites. The gits.

Finally, I went down to Kingsbury aerodrome yesterday to talk with them about photography. I think I'll be making a few more visits over the next few months :-)

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