From St. Mary’s County, Maryland, we went to Washington, DC, to deal with the bureaucracy of obtaining visas for Taiwan. It wasn’t a painless or inexpensive process, but we do indeed have our visas at this time. So that is a huge weight off of our shoulders. From there we entered Arlington, Virginia, where we visited Connie, Ed, Stephanie, and Pogo for a night. Connie is eyeing retirement, Ed is happy working a few more years at his job, and Stephanie is working as a farmer and program manager of sorts for a program for at risk young men. Pogo is turning into a curmudgeonly middle-aged dog, but still as loveable as ever. Unfortunately we didn’t get any pictures of this night.
We flew to Las Vegas via San Francisco, of all places, for free using our Virgin America airline miles. We stayed in Henderson, NV, just a few miles outside of Vegas. It was nice not being on the hustle and bustle of the strip.
Mags taught students for a week at Touro University with a group called Project Prepare. Project Prepare teaches medical students how to perform gynaecological and urological exams. Meanwhile, Stu acted as chauffeur, went running at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and did some errands.
With the Project Prepare group, we had a great time. The group on this trip was a lively bunch of about a dozen educators from the Bay Area. One night we went out for a typical nice Las Vegas dinner buffet. Another night we hit up the luxurious Korean spa. We sure we roughing it!
Because of how the economics of frequent flier miles works, it made sense for us to not leave Las Vegas until this coming Tuesday, January 17. That gave us a few days with nothing to do. How fortunate! Off to the Grand Canyon we went.
Yesterday, we went for a long hike on the South Kaibob trail. The weather was quite optimal, but even so, with low humidity and high elevation, it was a difficult 4.5-hour hike. Today we set off on the Bright Angel trail but soon turned around due to very icy trail conditions. Instead we did a much easier scenic walk along the rim.
Every year, about 350 people have to be rescued from the canyon, and a dozen or two people die, either due to suicide or overextending themselves on their hikes. Most who die are 18-45-year-old males. A popular way to see the trails without the strain is to take a mule ride. The mules are quite sure-footed.
The Grand Canyon is breathtaking in its scale, power, and beauty. The National Park Service has done an excellent job making sure that the man-made structures and facilities are not noticeable when taking in the beauty of the canyon. We hope to come back one day to do a backpacking trip from the North Rim to the South Rim, or perhaps a canoe camping trip down the Colorado River.
Tomorrow we head back to Las Vegas for one night where we will stay with our friends Andi and David. They also hosted us our first night in Vegas. They are gracious hosts and had a nice little BBQ party when we were there last week.
From there we head to Mexico on Tuesday. By the 22nd we need to be in San Cristobal de las Casas, where we will be volunteering for two weeks at a botanical garden. This should be a great experience.
We are looking forward to the warm weather. We also both agree that the heart and soul of our trip will begin when we leave the country. Except for one day, Tuesday will begin eight months of being out of the United States consecutively. We can’t wait! Buenos noches!