The diary I kept when I did my flying whistle stop at places in 2014 is for you to peruse below. 

Wednesday 8th October 2014

Flight - BA 219 - Heathrow - Terminal 5 - Depart 15.35 Arrive Denver 18.25  9.50 hrs

Cherry Creek Holiday Inn                                   417
455 South Colorado Boulevard
CO 80246

001 303 388 5561

I am amazed at how well I slept last night, I thought I would be tossing and turning with nerves and excitement all night. Thankfully that wasn't the case. Maybe I was better set up and prepared for the trip than I thought I was :)  Mum was very quiet - bless her - and I think I will be missed. She gave me a huge hug :)  I did remember while I was in the shower just how much I hate flying, but without the wonder of a plane it would take forever to get there, and being on the water is just as scary as being in the air. 

Clive picked me up and dropped me to the bus station in town, and when I got out the car he got out too and gave me a hug. Really began to wonder if everyone knew something I didn't, what with everyone else wanting to see me in the week before I went (obviously I'm currently sat in a hotel room in Denver right now, so all is good so far; I'm feeling hopeful I'll get home in one piece too :) ). Was most odd for Clive though as he's not a hugger to begin with.

Had a whole half an hour to spare at the station, and was keeping to myself until I noticed an elderly man walk by with half a ton of cobweb stuck to his jacket sleeve. I tapped him on the shoulder to let him know, he then proceeded to spend the time until my coach arrived telling me about how his wife lives in Finland, that he had a blood clot so isn't allowed to fly far these days, and pretty much as many other things about his life he could fit in to such a short time. In the nicest way I was mighty glad when the coach arrived (5 minutes late). I'm hoping he isn't a taster of the kind of people I am going to be spending the next couple of weeks with - eek :)

Traffic on the motorway going into the city where we had 2 pickups was heaving; I was glad I had the extra leeway time I'd allowed when booking for delays on getting to the airport - by the time we reached the first stop we were already running 45 minutes behind. The fact that a double decker bus had somehow managed to wedge itself across a road on the way really didn't help either, and when we were sat in the traffic waiting to see if the police were going to do anything, I did start to panic that I wasn't going to make it to airport in time. Thankfully our driver (who had done nothing but moan about his job all the way from the bus station to begin with -  all the way to heathrow too (good job I'm not a spy for the company) saw a driveway big enough to reverse the coach into, and we detoured the rest of the way.  I have no idea how people do the journey into the city every day if the traffic is like it was this morning - I can only imagine what it would be like when they motorway is backed up; nightmare is the word that springs to mind.

Have to say I wasn't that impressed with National Express and their times. As it was I got to my terminal an hour later than I should have, but the lady who sat next to me (a huge african lady with enough baggage to keep her in clothes for a year) which she wedged on her lap as well as the floor around us both, was getting off 2 stops after me. She was meant to have checked in 10 minutes before I got off. I hope she was able to catch her flight ok, because if she didn't I would not want to be the person who would have got the sharp end of her tongue. I did begin to wonder if all the hold ups were natures way of telling me I really should be staying UK bound, but the money is paid, I'm now on US soil, there's no going back :)

Didn't realise when I got to the airport these days you have to check yourself in at a machine; I sat like a dilbert for 25 minutes waiting for a check in bit to open. I felt like a right plank when I finally realised. A rep for the tour company was meant to meet us at the airport, until I got through to the actual departure gate I never saw a soul to do with the company or tour (even then I still never saw a rep. I just got chatting to others doing the trip in the queue waiting to board). I ended up on an aisle seat (which I prefer except for when we hit the US and were flying over South Dakota then I really wish I'd had the window seat). I was next to a guy called Eddie in the middle (he's on the same trip) and a lady called Margaret (also on the trip) was by the window. Eddie seems like he might be a quiet keep to himself kind of guy. Margaret strikes me as timid but someone who will chat if you engage her in a conversation. Did meet a fun sounding lady called Diane in the queue, who was with 2 other ladies called Veronica and Liz. All 3 of these strike me as friendly people I will get on with. I also got the impression the 3 may have known each other from before.

Terminal 5 is not the most enthralling space to sit and spend a couple of hours that's for sure. Luckily I managed to find a seating area that was pretty quiet,  popped my earbuds in and watched a movie on my phone while I was waiting.  Had a lovely message from Chris before I left telling me to make sure I enjoyed every second of it - he's such a sweetie :)

Guess who got flagged for a random search going through security? Oh yes, that was me. I wouldn't mind but I had removed everything: cardi, boots, socks, watch and anything else removable on my personage. I also took everything out of my bag popping it all in the box on the conveyor belt. I walked through the barriers with no beeps, my belongings all passed through with no problem, then this really butch/scary looking woman called me over telling me stand with my arms out, legs spread (in front of everyone coming through behind). When I asked how I'd not heard anything beep she said "it didn't, you were just flagged as the random person this time". Gee thanks. One day I'll make it through without being patted down in front of the world to see.

The flight was perfect, absolutely perfect. The seat-belt sign was turned off once we were airborne and wasn't turned back on again until we landed. We never hit a single bump of turbulence. I did laugh that our pilot (or co-pilot I think he said he was,  the man actually doing the flying) was called Johnny Herbert :)

Denver airport arrivals and the disorganisation from our tour rep when we finally made it through security was a pain (a domestic flight landed at the same time as we did meaning every single US citizen on that flight as well as those on ours got to go through first). There were also only 3 - that's THREE - people on duty. The area we were in was not air conditioned and I can honestly say I spent a hot, sweaty and uncomfortable hour waiting to get to the little man who could refuse me entry if he so felt like.  As it was he seemed to keep me there for ages. I was asked where I was going, why I was in the country, how much cash I had on me, how much I intended to spend on credit card while in the country, how many people did I know there, did I have family in the US, would I be seeing them who was I traveling with? This question caused a bit of confusion as I had no clue; thankfully I  was able to point to a few people still queuing behind me :) Afterwards my finger, thumb and palm print were taken, I also had a retina scan; standing there like a lemon looking into the blackness the guy said "ok". I replied "yeah". He then said it again, I replied again thinking he was asking if I was ok. Silly me, for his ok actually meant he was done scanning and I could walk away. Communication is a wonderful thing. It's a good job he was mighty pleasing on the eye ;)

One lovely thing about Denver Airport is that throughout the building  (on the long walk from where the plane docked) are the most beautiful photographs (about 3-4ft high) of Native people past and present (I'm guessing they were Cheyenne seeing how we were on the edge of Cheyenne lands). They were also playing soothing chanting music.

I'm glad I wasn't one of the first to get through though, as when I got out of the arrivals into the main terminal there were a group of people waiting for us. The first ones through though had no clue about where to go, as the tour guide (Tina) wasn't there to meet anyone; she arrived after I did. Finally, after keeping us standing around for roughly 45 minutes waiting for everyone else to catch up she realised we were someone missing. Turned out the missing person had canceled, nobody had bothered to inform Tina who then had to make phone calls back to the UK meaning we had to hang around longer until she was able to get word about whether we were just missing one, or if we were deliberately one short. Not sure organisation is a thing the company I used are very good at!! Then when we were finally able to make our way to the coach, another cock up prevented the driver from being outside the entrance we were hurried to so we then had to wait another half an hour for him to make his way to us, which he couldn't do until the airport security allowed him through. These hold ups were things we could have done without. We finally made it to the hotel just after 8pm (4am UK time) only to get to our rooms and find our door keys didn't works. The lifts don't operate properly without a door key either, so not only did we have to cart our cases up, down and up again, we also had to wait for someone with a key which worked to get us to the reception for our keys to be sorted. Yet another cock up. Here's hoping it's all teething problems and from tomorrow all will be good.

Climbed into 1 of the 2 huge beds I have in my room at 10.30pm (6.30am UK) time meaning I'd been awake for 24 hours (the amount of time it took me to decide which to sleep in was quite alarming).

Thursday 9th October 2014

Country Inn and Suites Rapid City             210
2321 N Lacrosse Street
Rapid City
SD 57701

001 605 342 3322

I slept like a log last night - until 1.25am when I awoke with a jolt thinking it was later and I had missed my alarm; thankfully I hadn't. I then spent the next 4 hours tossing, turning, trying to get back to sleep, without it ever happening. I gave up, got up properly at 5.25am feeling like shit because of it. It took me an hour to even think about functioning; I was mighty proud of myself for being able to get my case out on time - this whole having your case out an hour before leaving is going to cause me some confusion, as well as early starts for the next few weeks that's for sure. By the time I got down to breakfast most people were already there (how can these people be so organised at such a stupid time of day?). Sat with a lovely lady called Roz who I had a really good chat with.  A lady called Gill and a guy called Kevin came and sat with us also. Have to say everyone I've met (with the exception of a right miserable git called Ron and a woman I'm not convinced about - she seems the kind that would be nice to your face but slit your throat in your sleep) seem lovely. A couple are a bit "odd" but nice enough and I think this is going to be a good holiday. Ron did nothing but complain at the airport with the cock ups then outside the hotel after breakfast this morning he was slagging of the tour rep and the tour company to our driver (who I shall call Clay - because that's his name :) ).

Waiting to board the coach Diane came up and said she was going to sit with me (that made me feel good as I thought everyone would want to avoid me). Julia asked if she could sit with me at dinner tonight. Go me. A guy called Rob sat behind me and Diane on the coach; he was chatty and friendly enough too.

We left the hotel at 8am and headed to our first stop of Cheyenne, where we parked at the State Capital Building (they spell it Capitol) for a photo stop. It was nice enough but nothing to get really excited about, plus we stopped only for 10 minutes. From there we went round to the Depot Museum where for some random reason they have massive cowboy boot statues outside; Diane took a photo of me sitting on one (that will never be shared as I look hideous) and I took one of the smurf sitting on it. It was basically a toilet stop. I spent the 15 minutes we were allowed taking a wander around. I managed to snap off some photo's. Still, it all adds to the list of places visited.

Our next stop was meant to be Fort Laramie, but Tina asked Clay if he would stop off at the Oregon Trail Ruts for us, he said "yes", so we stopped there. By the time we reached it the e-numbers from the fruit loops I had for breakfast had kicked in. I challenged Diane to a run up the hill. Had I known from the bottom that it was higher and further away than I could see, I wouldn't have bothered. I nearly died by the time I got to the top.. hahaha. Clay walked up after us and caught me taking a photo of the smurf on the sign for the ruts; this caused him to start taking the piss out of me (in a jokey way. I think me and him will get on well). I guess being a coach drivers daughter I have a rapport with drivers! We struck up a really good conversation on our way back. Climbing back on the coach my leg cramped up as I got up the 2nd step, thankfully it sorted itself out fairly quickly, although it was still throbbing later in the day. I'm sure several people would have carted me to the hospital back home going on about DVT's because I had flown 24 hours before (there is a certain person that thinks any leg twinge anyone gets means they are going to die - it's really quite pathetic).

The hour (just the 1) that we had at Fort Laramie was nowhere near enough time to see all the buildings or soak up any kind of atmosphere from the place. I chose the path to the left which took me round some of the building ruins; had I chosen the path to the right I would have got to see more intact ones, but there really wasn't enough time so it was an either/or situation. I didn't even get time to read any of the information boards dotted about. I did manage to see the numerous "Beware of Rattlesnake ones". I made a point of watching where I walking, just to be on the safe side. I never saw one, not sure if I am pleased about that or not. Obviously I wouldn't want to see one up close -  I'd certainly not like to be close enough to get myself bitten - yet I would have liked to snap off a picture of one. Maybe tomorrow? Fort Laramie is a most fascinating place that I would like to re-visit  when I have more time to see everything and learn about it's history.

We didn't do anything else during the day as it was just really a travel day meaning we spent roughly 9 hours staring out of windows watching the world go by. The scenery we saw though as we were driving along was stunning. From the Rockies in the morning - big, towering hunks of granite - to rolling hills in the afternoon, covered in yellow grasses that glowed when the sun hit them. The sunset this evening was just mind blowingly phenomenal.

Getting to our hotel tonight night was quite entertaining - have to say it's not a bad place to be staying although I was a little confused when I got to my room, opened the door to be greeted only by a sofa and armchair to the left of me.  See below

To the right was a desk with a really comfy chair - no pen though which I found odd. See below.

The one thing I noticed straight away though was the absence of a bed, and I did ask out loudly (loud enough for someone outside to answer me) "Where's me bed?". I'd seen the door at the end of the room, assumed it was a bathroom, that the sofa was obviously a sofa bed (the holiday after all did say the hotels weren't 5 star). I'll admit the idea of pulling my own bed out didn't really appeal. Then I saw another door at a  right angle, to the left of the one I could see down the end of the room. That door was the bathroom; the one in front led to a lovely bedroom - with only one bed - that has a great view across to the mountains in the distance (looking directly over the road was a truck/stop garage) but even that didn't ruin what other bits and pieces I could see :) Happy days as I am here for 2 nights :) 

Didn't get long to enjoy and appreciate it though, as we had to head off to another hotel further up the road for our welcome dinner and drinks that are organised by the tour company. I sat with Diane, Rob, Vivian, Julia, Pete and Keith. The wine flowed freely, the ribeye steak I had was just about the tastiest piece of steak I have ever eaten in my life  melted in my mouth with an abundance of flavour. I think Pete may have got the wrong idea about what kind of trip we are on, as he gave the impression he thought it was some kind of dating trip, so I had to tell him I was already taken :) He did seem to be getting quite cosy with Julia, and she gave the impression she is happy to be got cosy with, so it looks like it may be *that kind* of holiday for them. Luckily everyone else seems to think the same way I do. Did make me chuckle when I asked for my steak to be rare; the men stared at me, and the waitress asked if I was sure?. I'm guessing not many women like it that way :)
Friday 10th October 2014

Hotel - As previous night

Guess who flooded the coffee machine? Yep, that would be me. After only 5 hours sleep (went to bed at 11.30 - got up at 4.30) I thought some caffeine was much needed. Turns out the percolator machine thingy didn't agree and it spurted the water everywhere BUT the cup. 3 attempts later (I had to put a towel on top of the unit it was sitting on to collect the water) I finally managed to get one full cup. As we weren't leaving the hotel until 8 I was able to get down for breakfast although I really wish I hadn't bothered. The tea and coffee machines were in the hallway right by the lift which meant we all got in each others way,  the room for breakfast wasn't much bigger than my dining room at home. It was a real squeeze. They also really only had cereals, some rough looking pastries,  the tools to make your own pancakes and waffles, or toast; those machines took so long to produce the goods there wasn't time for anything but cereals. I met Clay coming out of the lift as I was going back up to my room and he looked like shit (I think he had a really long day driving yesterday and he has to load our cases on an hour before we leave, so has to be up pretty much an hour before we all do every day too). Told him to get himself some caffeine, and when I saw him next (I went down to the lobby and had a nose around before we left) he was on his 3rd cup.

In between breakfast and my wander, I sat on my bed watching the most amazing sunrise. I tried to take a photo but my windows had netting over them on the outside which distorted everything; also the glass wasn't very clean. The splashes of reds, orange and dark purple (a real and proper purple too) made up for being awake at such a stupid time of day. In the end it got so bright I had to sit in the lounge shutting the door between the 2 rooms. I definitely got the better side of the hotel, which makes up for the industrial units I overlooked in Denver.

The cramp from yesterday was still prevalent throughout the day on an off; thankfully it didn't get any further than being uncomfortable. It also didn't throw a cloud over, or ruin, what was a truly amazing day, where I learned that no matter what happens in my life, I have to come back to the Badlands. I didn't get to see enough or spend anywhere near enough time in them. They were everything I hoped they would be and so much more. I could have spent all day in just one spot while still not seeing everything in the panorama that would have encircled me. The landscape is just simply stunning, I have to go back. There were so many pull offs, areas we could have stopped at. We were given 30 minutes when we did stop where we got to wander into a canyon (not a canyon as such but it had a canyon-esque feel to it). I snapped off some photo's that will never do it justice. I also managed to take a photo of what I thought was an eagle, but Tina (who is an avid twitcher) told me is a Red Tailed Hawk. I'm not convinced as I googled it on the coach and in the photo I took the bird has a pointed tail, the hawk photo's I found all have the bird with rounded tail feathers, but who am I am to argue with someone that spends her free time traveling the world to see rare birds?

On the way to Crazy Horse we did stop at the Badlands visitor centre which is attached to the Cedar Pass Lodgethat I wanted to stay at if I had been doing my own trip - we had 20 minutes there. We also pulled in at another viewpoint where we were looking down in the valleys, rather being on the base of the valley floor as we had been at the first stop - 15 minutes there was only just long enough to run down to the viewing area, snap off a photo then run back up the hill to get back on the coach. Saw myself a long horned sheep sitting on a ledge minding it's own business as we drove away from the visitors centre; sadly we were going too fast for me to get a photo of it.

Lunch was spent at Wall Drug, another place I have heard so much about in my lifetime. Yet again we just didn't get time to explore anything. We had 45 minutes. It took 25 just to get our lunch served, I'm amazed we never all ended up with indigestion the way we had to wolf down our food. I'd have liked to have a stroll around the town itself, do the whole tourist bit. We did go to a little area outside the building that had an old stage coach, a giant statue of what I was thought was a rabbit with ears, but found out is something called a Jackalope. I had a ride on it - as you do. Did chuckle at the thought of telling people back home I'd ridden a rabbit, as I realised what they would be imagining I meant by that. I could almost hear some of them uttering the words "It's about time" ;)

Crazy Horse memorial was our next stop, yet again we just didn't get enough time to see it all. I did have a wander around the museum where I marvelled at the detailing on a full length war bonnet. It  blew my mind; so many bead, so much minute detail that doesn't get seen unless you really look into it. The carving is bigger than I thought it would be, and if you have a good imagination you can see how it's going to end up looking (if it's ever finished). The smaller statue of it as you leave shows how they hope it will look upon completion. I love how nobody has ever seen a photo of Crazy Horse though, so they are really just flying in the wind when it comes to how he looked.

We did get to see the Native Dancers they have there who perform 3 times a day. The older man (the 6th generation Grandson of the mighty Sitting Bull) rambled on way too long for most of our liking, about how we are all brothers and sisters and loads of other political rubbish. His son (who oddly enough is the 7th generation grandson) looked like he was pretty high on life. He just kept talking and laughing to himself in the background as his Dad waffled. When they danced though they gave it their all and really got into the spirit of the dance and music.

Our last stop of the day was Mount Rushmore. By the time we reached it I  gasping for a cup of tea (or coffee). I was most frustrating to find the cafe had already closed, the visitor centre was just about to. Word of warning if you ever visit. 5 minutes before locking the doors, if there are people still in the building the little woman that works there get's quite irate - she shouted at me for going into the loos and as I said we still had 5 minutes to go - don't think it takes me that long to pee. It was quite funny watching her running around the building though shouting out that the "doors will be locked in 5 minutes". She was yelling we all (there were other visitors there and not just the lot from our coach) had to be "out before now" so she could "lock the doors on time". Not sure I'd say she is happy in her work :) Mind you sitting next to Julia all day, I learned a whole new meaning to the word rude. Don't even get me started on Ron, he's lucky I didn't smack him about the head.

The carvings themselves are a lot smaller than I thought they would be, oodles smaller. I thought they would be at least 3 times the size they are. It took me by surprise a bit, though the detailing on them is incredible. Did get some weird looks as I was laying on the floor trying to take a photo of the smurf (I wanted to get him as the 5th head and being on the floor was the only way I could line him up so he was even just a little bit close). Then again when I spoke and people realised I was English I don't think they were quite so surprised I was doing such a thing :)

So, Julia - Tina was true to her word and did move us all about today - really she just swapped me and Diane over with Julia and Vivian, but she moved us all the same. Now as nice as she seemed, when it came down to chatting with her and peeling off her layers, she wasn't quite the person I thought she was. She kept being really nasty about Kevin (who is a friendly enough chap even if he's not the kind of person people would most associate with). I didn't hear her talk about anyone all day in a favourable light, which is a real shame as I am sure she is missing out on getting to know some lovely people. All her and Vivian seem to talk about (when she's not saying things about others) is where they are going to get their next bottle of wine or cocktail. It felt like I was on the coach for a very long time today. Still, tomorrow it will be all change again. I quite like the idea of not knowing who I will be sitting with.

I've no idea what went on at dinner this evening. A load of us went around to TGIF (my first time  in a TGI's and the food and service were outstanding). I ended up on a table with Rob, Richard and David, while Julia, Diane, Eddie, Neil, Vivian and someone else (I can't remember who) sat on a table behind us. Suddenly Neil got up and huffed out, Eddie had a face like thunder,  Julia kept going on about what a despicable vile creature Neil was. Oops. Looks like I got the best table. I've no idea what was said or why, but I make my judgement of people based on how they are with me and all the times I've seen Neil he's been very amiable and quite funny. I'm sure I'll find out what's happened later.

As for Ron, well that is just a feckin ignorant piece of shit completely. After all his bitching and complaining about Tina yesterday (and after threatening how he was going to complain about everything) he spent the whole day sucking up to her and Clay - that's fair enough, many people have 2 faces, but when I overheard him talking to her in the Crazy Horse book shop about what books would be good to read for the history of Crazy Horse, I politely (in the sense that I apologised for interrupting and didn't do so until they had both finished speaking) explained that I had overheard him and pointed to a couple of books I have read in the past, that I thought he would find interesting,  that would serve him with what he wanted. He never said a word just looked straight at me, rolled his eyes then turned his back to me. The words "fuck you then" did spill from my lips as I walked away.

Had a quiet word with Tina about the possibility of being able to visit the Tatanka museum when we get to Deadwood. I know it's closed this time of year but Posh David (another passenger) mentioned it to her yesterday, I over-heard so I had a chat with him about it. He said he'd heard that sometimes the place will open for tour groups, so he suggested I ask her too, which I've done. She's said she's doubtful,  that we probably won't have time but she'll see. That's better than a definite no. She did say if we don't go there she may be able to get Clay to bypass and take us to Devils Tower (that was another place on my list of places I wanted to visit). That came about due to a conversation she caught me and Diane having, to do with mashed potato. I could try and explain it on here, but it's one of those moments; unless you were actually there with us at the time, then it really won't make any sense to you at all. I'm still not sure it makes sense to me and I was in the thick of the conversation.

Went to bed at 9.45pm - check me out; late night person.. hahaha.

Saturday 11th October 2014

Best Western Sheridan                 157
612 North Main Street
WY 82801

001 307 674 7421

I slept like a log last night. Not for long but the small amount I got was good sleep and that makes a huge difference :)

I woke up grateful to the alarm clock (not something I thought I would hear myself say out loud) as I was in the middle of a dream where a guy was looking to kill me with a meat prong. I was on the phone to the police while he was hunting me down (they were as useless as you would expect) when the sound of a crowing cockerel pulled me back to the real world. The man hunting me also had a friend of his out looking for me with a baseball bat - not nice. :) I think I did wake in the night for a pee, about 2am, but I must have fallen straight back to sleep again. Mind you sleeping so well also had it's disadvantages as it took me 5 strong black coffees to get me to the point where I was anywhere near being able to claim I was alert :) Black coffee isn't bad when you're desperate either.

I've lost my new lipstick - can you believe it? Used it the day I flew out and went to use it this morning to find it is nowhere to be seen. Grrrrr..

Our first stop today was........  drum roll please... Tatanka - yay. Tina managed to organise it for us. I wasn't sure how many of the other passengers would be happy about it as it was only me and David that wanted to visit, but everyone came out of the place saying what a great experience it was so double yay. It really was a great experience too. We were the only people there, it was as if we had our own exclusive visit. Our guide Phil (what an exceptionally handsome man he is) was interesting, informative and willing to answer any questions. I spent ages chatting to him after he'd done his talk and walked us around everything outside. I literally could have spent days talking to him and I think because he could see my interest was genuine, he was happy to keep chatting. He never once gave me the impression I was taking up his time (he did refuse my marriage proposal and offer to live in England though :) ) The museum itself was also wonderful - it's not the biggest place in the world - it was informative and interesting with some beautiful sculptures outside. Those alone would be worth the entrance price (not that we were charged anything). Being allowed to touch some of the items as well was a bonus; it helped to get a real feel for things - sadly I wasn't allowed to touch Phil! We had an hour - I needed at least 4.

We were picked up from Tatanka by Dave - the yellow school bus driver who works for Kevin Costners tour bus group. Oh my, he was so funny. The experience of going around the town of Deadwood in a school bus was worth the $10 we paid. I managed to end up on a seat with a wheel arch so had my knees up round my chin but it's something I've never experienced before, and probably never will again. As well as being naturally comical, Dave was also a wealth of knowledge (it's so nice when people know what they're talking about and are able to talk in a way that keeps you engaged; I think Tina could do with some lessons from him and Phil). He took us all through town explaining how it used to be, comparing it to how it is now, before driving us up to Boothill Cemetery and the graves of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane (she don't look like Doris Day that's for sure :) Our hour with him was an hour well spent.

After our drive we were dropped outside The Midnight Star Casino (also owned by Kevin Costner) where we headed upstairs to Diamond Lils' (his food/bar). Clay was sat at the end of the bar when we got in there, he told us to grab the seats that were by him (I thought they were attached to the ground as they were all evenly spaced; I jumped onto mine and nearly went flying when it moved - much to Clays amusement). I ended up sitting at a right angle to him (Eddie was next to him) so we could all get in on any convo's, I sat in between Diane and Rob. I loved it, reminded me of the bar in Cheers although our bartender was no Woody :) The food wasn't up to much, but Diane had a bottle of Moose Drool (it's a beer and I tried a mouthful) and it wasn't bad. We had talked about drinking Sarsaparilla in Deadwood, but after Clay told me it was vanilla based, I decided against it.

Had a wander around the town (which basically consists of up and down the main street). I was amazed at how quiet it was for a Saturday lunchtime; back home even a small village would be heaving with people during the hours we were there. Not really much to see, the shops - as you would expect - are really just geared up for tourists, but we did go into a saloon that had sawdust on the floor, proper sawdust which made me smile :)

We left Deadwood and were meant to be going straight to our hotel at Sheridan for the night, but Tina had a word with Clay - who said he was happy to add a few more miles to his day. We went via Sundance (as in the place named after The Sundance Kid) so we could take some photo's of the jail room (it's not a cell but a wooden hut on a street corner) like the one he was kept in, and one statue in his honour. I didn't bother to get off as I was able to photograph the shed from the coach, and wasn't really that interested in a statue of Robert Redford :) Apparently the mayor of Sundance doesn't want people visiting or to have the area turned into a tourist attraction, so if you get the chance, go and visit just to upset him :)

From there we then went to Devils Tower. What an amazing piece of rock that no photograph can do justice to; you really do have to visit and see it for yourself. It dominates a stunning landscape as you drive to it, but standing at the base of it looking up (knowing it's a volcano that's never blown) is a truly mind blowing (there's that word again; one I over-use along with stunning) experience. We weren't there long - 20 minutes - and again it's somewhere I could have spent another hour or 2 at (a coffee in the garden of the visitor centre with the tower as a back drop on a sunny day would be a great way to wile away some time to appreciate what an amazing world we live in).

The drive between the 2 towns (Deadwood and Sheridan) was beautiful, although a really long drive. Once the Big Horn Mountains came into view the cramp from sitting on a coach for so long was well worth it. Big up to Clay for adding the extra miles on for us. That man may get a good tip at the end of the trip. :)

Not over-keen on my room tonight. I have doors at the front and back, with the back opening onto a very shabby street with some dodgy properties behind. I don't have anyone from our tour in a room next to me so can't even yell if I get any problems (I do seem to be the one that's away from everyone else; I wonder if someone is trying to tell me something? :) ) I've made sure the door is locked and will move a chair in front of it just to be on the safe side :)  Talk about paranoia :)

Diane, Rob, Eddie and I headed over to the hotel restaurant for dinner this evening (there was talk of a walk to a Mexican. I really didn't fancy anything hot and spicy - to be honest I'm so tired I would have been happy to just curl up in bed but food was needed). Roz caught up with us as we were crossing the road (most odd set up this hotel, the reception, bar and restaurant are one side of the road, the rooms the other. There is a covered  bridge between the 2, but the road was so quiet we took our chances running :) ). When we were sat down Mavis came and joined us and we saw Liz on her own so invited her to sit with us also, which she did (this surprised me as she is a quiet lady who seems happy to be with herself). We ended up with a really nice table for dinner and some great conversations.

I didn't want to be sat with Vivian today (though I expected to be). Not because I don't like her, I just  don't really feel I have much in common with her. She's a lovely girl who is more interested in her cocktails and where she can buy alcohol, while I'm more interested in what tree might come into sight next. However, I was with Julia again (the seat rotation thing is obviously not about moving people, because all we did was swap seats - her from left to right, me right to left). To be honest if she puts me with her again tomorrow I am going to ask if I can move. I would like to sit next to Roz at some point as she is lovely (she even forgave me for calling her Catherine - no idea why I thought that was her name). I think me and her will travel well together. The reason I don't want to sit with Julia (the being rude about people I can ignore as we're all different at the end of the day, the constant complaining about how bored she was too I could ignore as I think she is just unsure how to speak to some people and may be slightly scared by a couple of them) is that she asked Phil (the guide at Tatanka) whether his tribe were allowed to breed with other tribes or if they have to only stick to their own. She then discussed this with me back on the coach, told me she didn't think they should be allowed to marry outside of their own tribe, so that they keep their bloodline pure. I couldn't stop myself when I replied "Isn't that what Hitler tried to do?". At that point I knew I wouldn't be able to sit with her again. She also kept telling me that Rob has a crush on me and can't stop looking at me. Arrggh. I have a feeling though I may be with Diane again tomorrow as everyone can see how well we have gelled. I think we've already earned ourselves a reputation due to the amount of laughing that we do. In fact I've noticed other people laughing with us (sometimes at us). That can never be a bad thing. It transpires that everyone I sat with this evening for dinner has similar feelings towards Julia's attitude as I have, I'm glad it's not just me. Hurrah :)

I definitely have to pass by this way again, what with not spending enough time in the Badlands yesterday, I still really want to go to Wounded Knee and I would have liked longer at Tatanka. I'd also liked to have visited some of the museums in Deadwood itself.  Several people have told me they'd like to come out here with me (sadly I know 99% of those will never be able to come up with the money to do so). Mind you it's so easy to drive out here I could happily go on my own, hire a car to drive myself around. I know several people out this way that would come with me to wounded knee to so not really a biggy, although it would be nice to have a travel buddy.

Sunday 12th October 2014

The Cody                                          307
232 W Yellowstone Avenue
WY 82414

001 307 587 5915

Another of those nights when sleep was not on my side,  I felt like shit when I got up, but an hour or 2 is better than nothing. I know poor Richard didn't sleep either of the first 2 nights we were here. Did have another really weird dream but couldn't remember it when I got up. I just know it was weird :) 

Nearly broke my bloody neck when I was in the shower. Because I woke up before the alarm (not sure why I am bothering to set any) I forgot about turning it off. The bloody thing started blaring out mid scrub; I launched myself out the shower, hit the towel I'd put down and skidded the length of the bathroom. Thankfully I didn't fall back (although it sure felt like I was going to) or I could have knocked myself out on the toilet bowl. The sight of my naked body sprawled out on the floor would not have been nice for someone who might have to find me.. hahahaha :)

The weather forecast for today was rain. Tt hammered it down while we were on the coach, but every time we stopped somewhere so the rain stopped also. My coat never got out of my bag, hurrah :)

Now, Little Big Horn. Nothing like I expected, what a place. Again we had nowhere near enough time there 2 hours. I could have spent all day walking the trails and still wanted to go back. I did walk around on my own there, not because I didn't want to be sociable, but because it meant something to me to be there. To everyone else it was just a place to stop and see. I wanted to take it all in and experience it (after all I've wanted to visit there since long before I was even born) without having someone break my concentration by talking to me. When I go back (I will go back) I hope it's with someone that understands just what the place means to me so they understand if I go quiet (because I want to take it all in). I hope they don't try to waffle random shit to me :)

Before walking the grounds ourselves, we had a guide get on to the coach to take us around to certain points throughout the park. She was amazing, told the story from both sides eloquently but with a passion and enthusiasm only someone who has lived with the people could possibly understand. She is a wonderful story teller who was able to bring to life the events of the 25th June so even those on the tour who didn't know of the history said they were able to visualize what happened that day. To place empty rolling fields before people and have them see blue coats, smoke from tipi's, women and children running for their lives, brave men taking on the cavalry the way they did is a real gift.

For me to be able to stand and look at the spot where Custer met his end was (in a non-morbid or macabre way) a dream come true (yes I know how that sounds but for those of you that know me you will know what a big deal it was for me. For those of you that just happened to come across this, imagine that one place you have always want to see, you find yourself there, Imagine how that would make you feel,  you may get close to how I felt today).

I did meet up with Eddie and posh David in the cemetery on the entrance to the battlefield, and it was there I managed to snap a pic of a suspect (tarantula) looking spider. Out there they have different points dotted about with metal boxes that have a guide book in. You can either borrow or buy the guide. I was putting my dollar into a box to grab a guide when I saw the spider sitting on top of it. I've been told it's possibly a jumping spider.

Have to admit the whole area is a lot bigger than I thought it would be. After all the books I've read, documentaries I've seen, movies I've watched, the scale of the place/area took me by surprise. Hence why I need at least a whole day there.

We left there and headed to Billings for a lunch stop, which I spent sat on a wall by a car wash on the edge of the car park. We had the option of Walmart for making our own sandwiches, or the usual Subway, KFC and Denny's; as I had already decided not to go out tonight I chose walmart but was in there a much shorter time than I thought I would be, and by the time I came out I still had 35 minutes - crazy we had longer at a walmart than we had been allowed in Deadwood. I could have wandered over to K-Mart but had several shopping bags with me, so headed back to the coach only to find it closed, which is how I ended up sitting on a curb. Eddie came over with his shopping 5 mins after I got there, which I ended up keeping an eye on for him while he went over to K-Mart. By the time John, Pete and Liz came to join me, I looked like I'd done enough shopping for all of us for the next week :) It was so bloody hot sitting there I am sure I will be glowing bright red tomorrow.

The drive between Big Horn and Billings,  then Billings to Cody was stunning (there's that word again - I really can't think of other words that can describe what I have seen so far; stunning is truly the best word and even that doesn't do them justice). The views from Billings were like a little bit of heaven on earth itself. The clouds, mountains, snow in the distance and driving through clouds ourselves at points were a totally amazing experience.

The Hotel is lovely, in a good position and I definitely drew a long straw when it came to my room (I only wish I was able to spend more than 9 hours in it). I have a lovely balcony and as I sat at the desk writing up the days experiences, I had the door open, able to look across to 2 mountains that mark the start of the Yellowstone park. Simply beautiful. Even though it was cold (almost freezing) there was no way I was shutting the door on the view until the sun finally set. The best part is the geology. Dead in front of my room the mountains look as if they are sandstone covered in pale yellows and greens, but to the right is the brightest red hill/mountain. It's an odd mix which just adds to the stunning (there it is again) scenery.

When we first arrived the rain was slinging it down, the clouds were really thick. By the time I'd made myself a coffee and sat down the sun had broken through, the clouds lifted and I was gifted with such a beautiful view. I was also  in line for the sunset - although this wasn't as good as the previous evenings we've seen. It was definitely still worth me not going out for though. I would have missed it if I'd joined the others for dinner tonight. I'd also have missed the noisy bird, that sounded like a duck but I don't think it was a duck (I never actually saw anything to know what it was). 

The sunset and view from my room 
Had to laugh at Julia; she called me boring because I said I wasn't going out tonight, then said she wasn't going unless Harry went too - it appears there may be something going on between those 2 ;)

There was talk today that we may not get to Old Faithful due to snow (the road that Tina wanted to go over to take us to lunch today was closed due to snow so it's a possibility). There does appear to be a lot of the white stuff in the air; some of the clouds definitely look like they could dump some :) Mind you, as much as I love it, I'd also like to get to see Old Faithful it would be a pain to come all this way and not get to see it blow.

Spent the evening just chilling. Had a really hot bubble bath, climbed into bed and sorted all my postcards for everyone (what a long list that was to try and find different photo's for everyone). Turned the lights off and tucked myself in about 11 as we are leaving at 7 tomorrow - this means a 5am wake up.. yawn

For some random reason Tina seemed to think it would be a good day to show us a video on how to skin (gut and basically dissect) a bison on the way from Billings to Cody; thank goodness for the wonderful views outside the window or I'd have have no choice but to watch it as I had a tv screen directly in front of me. No idea why she would think anyone would want to watch - I know many of us spent the 45 minutes it was running with our heads stuck to the windows. 

Monday 13th October 2014

Brandin Iron Inn                            204
201 Canyon Street
West Yellowstone
MT 59756

001 406 646 9411

I woke up at 1.54am with a really bad tummy (I won't go into details). Apparently that can be a symptom of altitude sickness (it could also be the cheese and ham sandwich I had for tea :) ) as can nose bleeds and although I've not had a bleed as such (several of the people on the tour have had) every time I blow my nose there is blood so the 2 could be connected. Once I climbed back into bed I just dozed until it was time to get up and shower, ready to start the day. 

The temp at 5am was 30'f (minus 1 in our world) not as cold as I thought it would be (it did go down to minus 5 at one point during the night). I layered myself up today, put the proper thick hiking socks on. I also made sure I had a spare jumper and my coat in my bag on the coach just in case. Neither were needed because as soon as the sun rose in the sky the temperatures rose and I was glad I'd also covered myself in sun cream or I would be glowing like a fire right now. The best part was how the sun showed up the snow (yes we did see snow too) even more than it would had it been dark and dull :) We've been so lucky with the weather so far. Long may it continue.

As we had to be on the coach by 6.50 and the breakfast in the hotel (which as lovely as it is was also the noisiest place we've stayed in so far) didn't start until 6.30 I forewent the pancakes and maple syrup grabbing a coffee in the foyer to take on the coach with me. Also not having breakfast gave me more time in my room (where I somehow managed to use every bin in the room. Yes I was one of those guests)  to admire the view outside my door.

Before leaving the hotel I weighed myself - there were scales in the bathroom, which is just another thing to make this the best room so far - and I've lost 4.5lb. Hurrah :)  I was sure I would have put on.

I will admit I wasn't really looking forward to Yellowstone; in fact when I was working on doing my own trip I'd taken the park out of the equation. What a mistake that would have been. I had a totally amazing day, albeit a really long one. If I'd known it was going to be as good I would have been itching to leave the hotel even earlier. I'm not even sure I can describe what a great (long and tiring) day it has been.

We left the hotel at 7 as planned and were dropped off at a Walmart to get the bits for our picnic lunch. The sunrise as we left was spectacular and offered the promise of a lovely day. After leaving the supermarket we were shown the Hole in the Wall place that Butch and Sundance used. It is also where Jeremiah Johnson is buried. It would have been nice to stop and wander around as it's almost a little town (in the way most out of the way American towns are a row of houses and shops on opposite sides for quarter of a mile) but we had a National Park to explore :)

As we headed into Yellowstone itself, the scenery was out of this world. I know all the photos I've taken (there are many) will never do the place justice. They will really just serve as a memory jogger in future years. Tina had told us we were to be on animal watch needing to be looking for Moose especially (they seem to be a favourite of hers). No matter how hard we tried, or how many different places she made Clay pull over while telling us we were in an area they are nearly always found, we never saw one. Not even a glimpse of one's bum as it whizzed away from us.

We did (well I did) see a Bald Headed Eagle. I managed to snap off a picture of it in flight while everyone else was looking for a beaver that Tina had seen in the river - which turned out to be a duck. A couple of miles down the road from that stop we did see a bison sauntering down the road - he actually walked right by the coach about 5ft away from us. I was able to get some photo's and video of him which was fab. He had a smattering of snow on his head too which really added to the moment.

Chatting to Diane at the hotel this morning, I told her I'd arranged for us to see snow (ticked that box quite early on) and a bear at some point during the day - the one thing I kept saying when I left home was how I was going to get a photo of a bear while I was in Yellowstone -  I also pointed out that I had a good zoom on my camera so I was going to snap off a shot of one from a distance. She was talking to me about how my snow prediction had come true, how she wasn't hopeful on the bear one, when bugger me Clay slammed the brakes on the coach and yelled "Bear". There to our left (on my side, I had a window seat) was a Grizzly Bear just mooching about digging up roots and having a chomp. He was less than 15ft away (of course the coach was in between us). He was quite happy in his own little world. I was totally blown away and so chuffed I was able to get a video of him. I know I said I was going to see one, but never in my life did I think I would be quite so close to one. Snow, Bison and Bears (we saw another one later with a cub but she was too far away and we were going too fast for me to get a picture) in one day. What more could I have asked for? We did come across a herd of Elk too:)

The places we stopped at today were phenomenal. I've seen everything from mud bubbling to waters boiling, to geysers spouting. Mother Nature at her very best. Once place we stopped (called Biscuit Basin) had a pool where the water in Sapphire pool there was brightest blue I have ever seen.  We also got to see a couple of smaller Geysers blow while there, and the biggest paw print I think I've ever seen in my life - so glad I never saw the bear that went with it as it must have been huge :) Another place I could have spent far longer at than the 20 minutes we had.

The Fountain Paint Pot basin we stopped at afterwards reminded me of the scene in Lord of the Rings when they go to the swamp area with the dead bodies floating (chips, whats chips??) Instead of bodies there were many dead trees randomly placed looking gorgeous; at least I thought they were. Definitely another place on the list of ones to be re-visited.

Old Faithful. We got to see it and as impressive as it was I will admit I was expecting more. We only had to wait 20 minutes for it to blow. I found the smaller ones elsewhere along with the bubbling pools to be more impressive, but it's something I'm glad I've been able to see. It's a tick on a list. Sadly the lodge inn there had closed the day before so we never got to have a cuppa while we were waiting. Still if that is the only thing I can complain about today then that can only be a good thing.

I lied. I can complain about the hotel internet :) It's slower than dial up so my photo's and videos may not get uploaded - eek. Not a biggy really but I'd like to upload the videos to my cloud just in case something was to happen; I'd hate to lose my camera and therefore a visual reminder of all I have seen today.

My room is basic and again the curtains don't meet (I'm beginning to wonder if any hotel has curtains that meet?) I'm almost at the end of the row again, although not quite (I am the last guest in the row though). This time I do have Eddie the other side of me so if I get any problems I can shout and bang on the wall :)

Dinner tonight was a stroll to the bar next to the hotel with the usuals: Mavis, Veronica and Neil joined us too. The waitress, although very scary looking, had a wicked sense of humour. We tipped her well.

Tuesday 14th October 2014

Painted Buffalo Inn                          421
400 West Broadway
WY 83001

001 307 733 4340

I thought I would sleep well last night after those few vodkas I had at dinner? How silly that was of me. By 5am I'd given up on any more thoughts of sleep (had to be up at 6 anyway) so I found myself staring out of a hotel window again. Not for too long as this morning I went for a little stroll up and down the main street to check it out - also walked around to the train depot that we were told was worth checking out. I really didn't get anything from it at all. 

Did finally get my first half decent cup of tea this morning - how Americans live with the crap that gets sold to them as tea is beyond me. I used 3 teabags yesterday and still didn't make it look anything like tea :) Still I'm sure it's something I can learn to live with; all good things require some kind of sacrifice.

Apparently today was a slower day, we still traveled hundreds of miles and spent all day hopping on and off the coach. I literally had time to run to my room, pee, leave again for the river float trip where we were running behind, with the same time frame when we got back before going out for dinner; some man had to put my case in my room for me. ;) We did pass into (and out of -  back into again) Idaho - we even stopped or a hop off snap a photo hop back on moment, so I have stepped on the soil of another state, not just traveled through it. Another tick in a box, another state off the list, although one worth coming back to as there are some lovely places that we didn't get to stop at.

We did (oddly) head into Jackson lunchtime for a wander around (no idea why we couldn't have dropped our cases off then). What a lovely little town it is. I say a town, it's really just a square with shops around and a couple of side streets. It has a really lovely relaxed feel to it. Somewhere I could happily live, yet could never afford to. It really is a millionaires playground. Something which cost $2 in the last town we passed through, costs $9 here for exactly the same thing. I did find a lovely little gift shop and bought lots of sweets to take home for peoples. I should have bought them elsewhere because $43 later I walked out with a carrier bag with some moose, elk and bison droppings, which I am sure I could have bought cheaper in one of the other stores we've been in to.

After lunch in Jackson we were taken out to a visitors centre (this was closed - how unusual for Tina to get it wrong) then on to Jenny Lake. What a beautiful place that is. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, the water was as calm as can be; the mountains as a backdrop made it a perfect little place for a wander. I would have happily spent a whole day there with a picnic letting the world go by. Some of the photos I took I am really proud of. I think they may be my best yet. I also taught Keith the art of photo bombing :)

The Snake River Float was amazing. I loved every second of it - all 3 hours worth of seconds. I would have happily carried on for longer. I didn't think I would be saying that after seeing the raft when we first arrived - by raft I mean blow up dinghy!!  It sure never felt like we'd covered 13 miles; it was so relaxing. Our guide (rower, man in charge) Corey, was most pleasing on the eye which helped, but he was also a great guy too. He chatted easily with us all the way and pointed out bald headed eagles nesting in the trees which we wouldn't have seen ha he not been with us. He also told us what the different areas were, what wildlife is often around and how the river is unpredictable. I started off shitting myself, sitting in the middle and holding on tight. By the time we were halfway down I was practically hanging off the edge. The more comfortable the 6 of us in our boat were becoming the more we asked him to go through the rougher water. It did take a while to get used to the bottom moving under my feet though; not something I've experienced before. At least it stopped our legs going dead from sitting for 3 hours.

The views were stunning, the sun set reflecting off the mountains and water as we floated along was just awesome (another word instead of my usual stunning :) ). I'd definitely recommend it to anyone - even a nervous of the water person like me. Had to laugh on our last bend as Corey had been telling us about not having any incidents all season with passengers (we were his very last trip of the season) so we were joking that he needed to keep watch for boulders in the river. Bugger me; on the very last bend with all 6 of us chilled and paying no attention we smacked into a rock, which caused us all to shoot forward. Luckily none of us went overboard, but it did make us all chuckle a little bit :)

We never saw a moose (I don't think moose exist out in this part of the world). We did see 11 bald headed eagles, and I saw a deer :)  The only downside to the trip is that the mozzie repellent I used doesn't work; I am covered in bites :)

Forgot to mention my snowball yesterday - how did I forget to write about that? Standing overlooking Yellowstone lake there was a fair scattering of the lovely stuff on the ground (trees, bushes and animals that stood still long enough too) It was just perfect for snowball making, so of course I just had to make one :) Rob was the perfect target; alas he read my mind and was ready for me so was able to throw it back at me :) It was very lovely snow.

Have found I have more money left than I thought I had (and planned to have at this stage) so am going to upgrade my half hour helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon for the 1 hour one; when in Rome and all that :)

Loved our evening walk into town for dinner. As lovely as it is in the day it's even lovelier in the evening with lights in the trees giving it an almost ethereal feeling. I can't believe how many small towns I've found myself wandering around at night. You hear so many stories about how unsafe the USA is but I've not felt uncomfortable once. Another reason to love this place. :)

Ron - oh my miserable, rude, Ron. When we got back this evening I wasn't sure whether my case was in my room or if Diane had taken it in for me so I headed to her room first, and as I walked by a downstairs window I literally stopped and did a double take - Eddie was with me and had already seen. There, lying on his bed with his curtains open was Ron in just a pair of what looked like speedo's; however, when I first caught sight of him his arm was covering said speedo's and I thought he was in his birthday suit. He must surely know that people could see him. He was still like it when we got back after dinner. Roz and I had gone on ahead of the others - where we bumped into Clay offering to share our left over pizza with him.. hahaha.. felt quite sorry for him as he was just wandering about all by his lonesome; think we should make a point of asking him to join us one evening - not tomorrow though as he drops us off at the hotel, then leaves us until Friday as we are in his home city and he's taking a day off from us all; can't say I blame him :)  He then asked if I had seen Ron - which I had, but Roz hadn't, so I walked her by his room and there he still was. In exactly the same position he'd been in earlier. She didn't know where to look.. hahaha

Hurrah; the curtains in my room meet. Not so hurrah; there is a 6mm gap all the way down the door which completely negates the joy of meeting curtains :)

Wednesday 15th October 2014

230 West 500 South
Salt Lake City
UT 84101

001 801 328 4466

I can't believe it was a week ago that I left home to start this amazing experience. Where has the time gone? It seems like I've been here a lifetime, while also feeling like I've not been here anywhere near long enough; I think 6 months out here doing this and I still wouldn't feel like I've done enough. 

I slept fairly well last night which surprises me considering the draft that was blowing through the gap in my door - was pointless putting the heating on. Woke up just before 6 - the time the alarm was set for. We left the hotel at 8 for the drive to Salt Lake. Today was a travel day but we stopped off at the Grand Teton Visitor centre on our way out of town (the one that was closed yesterday). To be honest there wasn't much point as the views and area outside were far better than inside, so I literally whizzed in to pee before heading back outside. Tina allowed us an hour so I had a stroll down a little trail I found that lead to the river. It was only when I was halfway along it that I realised I was completely on my own - everyone else was either still in the centre or had gone in a different direction. All I could hear was Mums voice telling me "not to go anywhere on my own" :) Oops. If I'd had a problem I am sure I could have shouted loud enough for someone to come to my rescue, and I kept my eyes and ears open for snakes, bears and the elusive moose. I'm glad I was on my own because when I got to the river bank it was so quiet and peaceful; I felt really calm and relaxed. It was lovely down there. I passed some pretty amazing trees, rocks and dead pieces of bark on my way there too :) I loved it.

Back on the coach the rest of the day was basically spent driving between Jackson and Salt Lake with the odd photo stop in between. Bear Lake was a photo stop but I will admit not one that impressed me at all. Diane and I were promoted to the front of the coach today (go us). Rob and Eddie were sat together behind us so there was much merriment and laughter between us. Clay was able to join in as well with us just behind him, but he's not very well so was a lot quieter than on other days - there is a chance we may not get him back on Friday with him being so rough; it all depends on what his doctor says tomorrow. Would be a shame as we've all grown used to each other. Such is life.

When we got to Salt Lake there was the option of getting off the coach to go around the main Mormon temple. That's not really my thing so I stayed on the coach and went off the hotel. The hotel itself is lovely, the staff on reception the friendliest we have had so far, but my room could not (again) be further from everyone else if it tried to be. In fact there is nobody else at all in my corridor or even on my floor. There are 385 paces (we're talking big steps too not my normal footsteps) between my room and reception. I counted these when I got back this evening when I had to walk all the way back to reception because my key wouldn't work; not what I wanted when I was soaking wet and had coffee spilled all down my front. It was "one of those nights". :)

I wasn't going to go out for dinner tonight,  a phone call from Diane when she got to the hotel talked me into it - that was a weird experience when my phone rang. I wasn't entirely sure if I should answer it; when I did I heard screaming down the other end "I've got a Jacuzzi in my room".. hahaha. I should have known at that point what kind of evening I was in for :)

I met up with Diane, Rob and Eddie (seems to be the norm) in the lobby and still craving a steak, asked the receptionist the best place to go for one. She drew me a little map (it was only 2 blocks up  1 block over from the hotel). She also gave me some vouchers that would give us a 2 for 1 on steaks. Happy Days. However, after walking the 2 up and 1 over there was no steak house to be found. This prompted Rob to ask me for the map which I will admit pissed me off (if there's one thing I can do and am good at it's map reading - hence why I never use sat nav). Told him we were exactly where she'd told me but he kept on about how we should look at a map. In the end I shoved the one she'd given me at him, and guess what? We were in fact exactly where we were meant to be (we found out later she'd got confused and sent us to a cafe with a similar name). We then spent half an hour walking up and down streets of the city trying to find somewhere for food. I said no to only one place because it was heaving, and a woman came out and told me she'd been waiting for over an hour for her starter. I didn't want to be in town all night looking for food. 99% of the places we'd passed would have been good enough for me, but Rob wasn't interested in them. In the end we found an Italian less then a block from the hotel. I said I was eating there - with or without the others (I was beginning to get hungry). What a great choice it turned out to be and what a funny evening we had. I laughed so hard I literally couldn't breathe, ached in places I didn't know it was possible to ache in. Diane at one point nearly wet herself and Eddie went so red where he was laughing so much I was worried he was going to have a heart attack. I have no idea what we were laughing at; it seemed like every comment had a double entendre, or was turned into an innuendo. Eddie and I even got to the stage where we didn't need to speak to each other, we'd just look at each other and burst into laughter which is how I ended up with coffee all down my front. The water though that drenched me came from crossing the road. As we were about to cross I could see there was a puddle of water at the curbside on the other side of the road - it looked like the fire hydrant further up was leaking - so as I got almost to I prepared myself to jump over the puddle; at this point Eddie yelled to me to "look out". Brushed him off with a wave of my hand as I was ready to not get my feet wet, when a sprinkler right on the edge of the grass next to the traffic light crossing sprouted. Who puts a sprinkler at a crossing intersection?? I was drenched, right down to my underwear.

Oh my; the food in the Italian. I have never seen such a huge pudding in my life (the main courses were so big me and Diane actually shared one) but the pudding! Even the waitress was laughing with us as she put it down in front of us. It was beyond huge.

I got some mighty funny looks from the receptionists when we got back as I walked through the lobby; they laughed at me after I had to go all the way back to get my bloody key re-programmed so I could get in to my room. The only good thing about the hike up and back was that I got to see where the laundry was, and with a jumper covered in coffee, undies in short supply, I took the opportunity of it being quiet to do all my washing. Didn't want to risk some of my tops in the dryers so hung them over some stand thing in my room which I balanced on top of the air-con unit; it's all blowing nicely :)

Finally put myself to bed at midnight.

Thursday 16th October 2014

Hotel as previous day

Wide awake at 4.25; I just don't appear to be able to sleep over here *yawn*. Still it gave me chance to do nothing for 3.5 hours as the cases didn't have to go out so I had more free time.

Met up in the lobby with the others doing the Salt Lake Trip at 8am. The new driver we had was lovely but we won't be getting him if Clay doesn't come back to us as he is off to France on Monday,. The few hours we had with him today he was great. He came and had a chat with me and Eddie, telling us that Clay loves almost all his passengers (of course I'm in the love group :) ) That he can't stand Tina - like we hadn't already guessed that. He also thinks it's doubtful that we will get Clay back tomorrow. :~( The guide that got on to take us was as boring as dish water - bring back Tina, all is forgiven. She had an annoyingly boring voice, dressed in a boring way and was just a really boring person. I would have been better trying to go back to bed for the day to catch up on some sleep.

The trip was ok but nothing outstanding - I did get a coach seat all to myself though as Tina wasn't there telling us where to sit. Our first stop was at the edge of the lake itself; it was ok but to be honest I thought Jenny Lake the other day was far prettier. While there the guide scooped out some brine for us to see in a jam jar - the excitement was riveting. From there we went to a place called Park City - apparently Robert Redford lives there/did live there/has a house there; he seems to get about a lot in the mid-western states, as he's cropped up in some guise everywhere we've been so far :) The stop there consisted of us getting off the coach at the top the hill, and meeting it at the bottom half an hour later. The hill was a pavement with boutique style shops - there were a couple of lovely art galleries and a painting I would have bought without a second thought if I'd had a spare 5k. Aside from a quick coffee and crepe stop, we literally did just walk from the top to the bottom. Somehow after leaving the coffee stop Eddie and I managed to lose Rob and Vivian; no idea how, or where they went, but they arrived back about 10 minutes after we did :) 

When we left there we were driven to a park place that overlooks the city with a visitor centre; now this store had loads of lovely bits and pieces in it that I could have bought, but it was well out of my price range so I never. Aside from that there was nothing else to do for the hour we were there - unless you wanted to take a photo of Mormon statues. Not really my thing. After chatting with the coach driver, I took my coffee and went and sat on my own for some 'me' time; Rob joined me 5 minutes after I sat down.

Lots of the people out and about with us today were complaining about how we keep having to get up so early - today we didn't need to leave as early either - but as hard as it's been getting ready for 7am starts, I pointed out that if we hadn't we would have missed out on some great sights that weren't on the itinerary, so yes we're not getting a lot of sleep, but we've seen 50% more than we should have done so to me it's worth it; even when I'm not feeling it at the crack of dawn. We'd never have seen Mammoth Springs, Biscuit Basin and the Fountain Pots if we'd not got up so early on Yellowstone day, and they to me were better than the more tourist bits that we visited.

Got back to the hotel at 2. I told the others I'm having a night in on my own which they were fine with. Diane actually spent the day out with Keith and had a lovely time; I did pop round to her room for an hour before they all went out, for me, her and Eddie to have a Jacuzzi party ;)

Spent the evening ironing the clothes I'd washed, sorting my case and watching TV.

Friday 17th October 2014

Baymont Inn and Suites                     315
2321 East Main Street
CO 81321

001 970 565 3400

I can't believe that this time next week I will be back on English soil. The days are just whizzing by, which is so odd when we are getting up so early. A 5am wake up again this morning. I was actually awake long before then but stayed in bed hoping more sleep would come - it never did. Our cases needed to be out at 6.30 but mine was there well before 6.

One thing I have learned this week is that I can shower, wash, dry and straighten my hair, get dressed, make and drink several cuppas and put a full face on in less than an hour. Go me. At home it takes me longer than an hour to even think about functioning, then I have the dog, cat and Mum flitting about getting in the way as I try to get ready.

Yay; Clay came back to us and was on top form today. Apparently his doctor gave him some kind of pick me up injection and it's sure working well. I picked him up a little thank you card today to pop his tip in at the end of the tour. He's been so good and has worked his arse off. The hours that mans put in I'm not surprised he needed a pick me up. When the moaners on the trip are complaining about getting up early, they're forgetting that before their alarms go off that man is out washing the coach and getting it ready to get them from A to B during the day. They complain about what time they have to get their case out, but it's him that has to pack those cases at that time of day so they have all their belongings when they get to the next hotel. Ooh; coach drivers daughter crept in there :)

I was most disappointed that I was not on form like Clay was, because he came at me with a comment earlier and I could think of nothing to respond, which is most unlike me. I was talking to John about a chipmunk/squirrel creature we could see and we got on to it's size. Obviously to a man 3 inches is 12, but to a woman it's just 3, so I replied to him "well I am a woman" at which point Clay piped up "Prove it". Aside from offering him my room number (which would have been wrong and I really don't look at him in that way) there was nothing I could think of. Damn this lack of sleep making me so slow :)

Aside from a quick stop at a Walmart (where the staff couldn't believe a coach had pulled in to and they were enthralled with our accents) a picnic lunch break at a really lovely place on the edge of the Colorado river - at a place called Dewey Bridge- the only place we saw and went to was Arches National Park. What an amazing place - there's a lot of places in this paragraph - what some phenomenal rock porn. It's not somewhere I would go back to, but I am so glad I've been and seen it. Mind you it would have been nicer if it could have been cooler. Because of time restraints (a whole 50 minutes) and wanting to see all the arches and windows by where we were parked, I pretty much hiked like a squaddie on military training to get round it all. In 85'f temperatures. Me? In the heat! Hiking! It was worth it though.

The worst part was I went upwards first and did the highest arches, then headed down to do the double arch - that had a much gentler climb on the way back. The downside to this was when I realised I needed to pee before I got back on the coach and the toilets were back uphill. Someone pointed me in the direction of some steps rather than having to go back up the trail to get to the loo's so off I marched. I had 8 minutes to climb 94 steps that had a depth of about 10 inches, to pee and to get back to the coach. I practically ran up those steps (I have no idea how I didn't drop down dead at the top) only to see the queue for the loos had 27 people in it. There was no way I was going to have time, so back down those steps I went, getting on the coach with seconds to spare - still desperate to pee. I was glowing from the exertion of my jaunt, also burning from the sun. I bet I looked like one of those fat, sweaty women that you see on TV programs when they've been forced to jog for an hour by some army sergeant major.

Except for Arches, the rest of the day was spent on the coach checking out the beautiful scenery, and laughing with Eddie. I literally had giant tears running down my face where I was crying with laughter so hard.

Got to the hotel at 6 and met up with Eddie, Rob, Roz, Veronica, Diane and Neil for dinner; we ended up at a steak house called Shiloh. The organisation was dire and at one point we did consider leaving, but when we finally got a seat the food was delicious so we were glad we waited. I finally got my steak too :) 

As for the hotel! Well I am as far away from the reception, from the others and from humanity as it's possible to be. Any further and I'm in the pub car park over the road. What is it with me and hotel rooms as far away from the main points as can be? In it's defense I have 2 beautiful picture windows; one overlooks the bar, the other overlooks the main road and neither of the curtains close. Good job I am so far away because as least nobody can walk by and stare in.

Locked my door when I got in at 10 - considered barricading it just in case as there's nobody around me but decided I'm braver than that - and went to bed at midnight.

Saturday 18th October 2014

Hotel as previous day

Sleep really is over-rated. I was wide awake again at 5.30. That's just 5.5 hours sleep again, although I think my average for the whole time we've been here is just over 4.5 so last night was better than average. Not since my full night in Rapid City have I slept longer than 6 hours. I have bags upon bags upon bags under my eyes; in fact they are more like overstuffed suitcases :)  I've had to put so much make-up on today to try and take away from the redness of them :) Thankfully the factor 50 sun cream and factor 15 foundation yesterday stopped me from glowing anywhere near as badly as I could have been - yay for Wilkinsons kids lotion, because I was sure I was going to get up this morning and be like a human glow stick.

I seriously considered whether to go out today or not. Mesa Verde held no appeal to me at all having been there back in 1996 with Mum, but in the end I figured I'm here, I've paid for it and it's another experience,  so I got my shit together and went. I am so very glad I did. It was nothing like I remember it being, there wasn't a single place I saw that even came close to resembling where we stopped last time I saw the place. This time instead of standing below Cliff House - after doing a half mile loop through scrub land, I was able to look into it. How things changed in 18 years. This time we had a guide get on the coach with us - Dave - who was like a little old Grandfather Time type character with a calming voice I could have listened to for ages. He gave Clay the directions to take us to so many different little places where we were able to view different dwellings.

I never went to the Balcony House because to get to it meant climbing a 50ft ladder, then a 30ft one, before a 20ft one, and to exit the place meant crawling through a 12ft long  3ft diameter tunnel; really not my thing on any level. When we stopped at the visitor centre I was able to view Spruce House - I'm not entirely sure they should allow people to wander around them, but I guess they know what they're doing with the places and area.

After lunch (and while waiting for the ones that were doing Balcony House to come back)  I found myself a nice bench to sit on overlooking Spruce. Had been there about 10 minutes when Liz appeared and sat down with me. I had a real deep conversation with her about abusive boyfriends,  love, and all manner of relationship stuff. We also talked about weight (she's a chunky lady but nowhere near what I would class as fat) and why we've allowed ourselves to get so big; it was like our own little therapy session.

We didn't leave the hotel until 8.30, got back at just gone 5 so a really short day for us, but we've packed so much in. It's nice not having to travel 300 miles between stops that's for sure.

Ahh Clay; what a man. He tried calling my bluff today and unlike the other day when I wasn't up to scratch, today I was on the ball - until he double bluffed me. At our first stop of the day I was talking to someone about the time I flashed Craig and he over-heard and asked what it was all about, so I explained how he was a friend to which he replied "Wow; can I be your friend?" and gave me a wink :) Every stop after that, every time I passed him during the day, he made gestures of lifting his top as if he was going to flash me and winked at me. Then at our very last stop I was a bit ahead of the others, and he was leaning against a fence; as I went to step on the coach he said "Tonight's the night" and gestured flashing me, then he said "it's also a good song". I laughed and replied "it is.. 9pm then.. room 315"  turned round and winked back at him. Hahaha. I was really proud of myself for being so quick. When he knocked on my door at 9.15 I realised he'd thrown the bluff back at me. ;) He feigned surprise at me being alone, knowing full well I was as Rob had told him. I made him tea (proper tea of course) and we spent a couple of hours in my room just chatting and enjoying each others company. I think  it was nice for him to feel included and treated like one of us all rather than just the driver. He was telling me about his Mum, Dad and cat. :) I kicked him out about 11.30 as I knew he had to be up at 4.

Before getting back to my room,  after arriving at the hotel, we had a picnic on some tables we found outside the hotel. Diane, Eddie and Mavis had a stroll to Walmart and picked up enough stuff to feed the whole coach (there were only 7 of us in total). They got some huge bottles of wine for very reasonable prices :) I do like the pinot out here; it's not as bitter as what we get back home. Clay came and joined us for a while when he finally got back to the hotel - that man really does work some long hours.

The best bit of today; oh I laughed so hard. Me and Diane got told to "BE QUIET" - had to use capital letters to get the point across as we were really shouted at. Hahahaha. I looked over to Freda who was on the seats opposite us and she was nearly wetting herself with laughter at us being told off. It was Kate that shouted (she'd already shushed someone else earlier too). When she had a of at us she literally shot up in her seat, spun herself around like a whirling dervish, stuck her head over the top of the seat and said "keep it down, you're putting me off". Now I will admit we were talking and I know we don't have the quietest of voices, but we were actually talking about what our guide had just been talking to us all about - as were several other people on the coach too - and he wasn't actually talking about anything in general at that point (he was telling Clay where he needed to turn next and the best place to park so she was obviously just being a nosy bitch). She sat with me at lunch today and was very odd and kept on about how she'd hung around earlier to have a chat with Tina; maybe she was complaining about people enjoying themselves. I mean if they're on holiday surely they shouldn't be. At the end of the day I have no problem being asked to keep the noise down if someone is talking and she was trying to hear what was said (but in that sense I would not have talked over the guide in the first place, because I was bought up with better manners than she obviously was) or if I was generally being rowdy. There are ways of talking to someone, and her way really wasn't very good. She's lucky I wasn't hormonal; she could have been eating her seat.

Finally got in to bed myself at midnight.

Sunday 19th October 2014

Grand Canyon Plaza Resort          158
406 Canyon Plaza Lane
Grand Canyon Village
Grand Canyon
AZ 86023

001 928 638 2673

I woke up at 1.12; what was that all about? I did manage to doze but it was sporadic sleeping - I heard Clay leave at 4.20; he looked shattered all day, and I know I have to take some responsibility for that. 

Today was a day of 3 thirds; the first third was totally amazing. The 2nd third a total balls up that saw me get a wee bit angry; the 3rd third entertaining. Had the bit in the middle not happened (and the only reason it happened is because Tina is fecking useless at any kind of organisation) then today would possibly have been the best of the trip (although I do know it can get much better from here on in too. 

We left the hotel at 7.30 and our first stop of the day was the Four Corners national monument - my advice if you ever visit is to not use the toilets, or do so at your own peril. I needed to pee, walked in, saw the shit all over the walls, floor and toilet bowl, found myself leaving again. It was disgusting. Being able to stand in 4 states at once though was quite fab; I also managed to walk the 4 in 24 seconds (that's 6 seconds in each one for those of you not good at maths) I videoed myself doing so. I reckon even superman would have struggled to do 4 in such a short space of time :) Tina organised a group photo there (minus grumpy Ron) and when we were walking back to the coach I realised Eddie hadn't been included either. So nice of her to make sure everyone was there.

After leaving there (we had 30 minutes) it was on to Monument Valley. The drive between the 2 stops took rock porn to a totally new level. Amazing scenery and colours.  As we were about to enter the monument area Clay pulled over off the road for a photo stop; I assumed it was to capture the valley as it was before us, but it was actually because we were on the spot of road where Forrest Gump decides he's had enough running :) While all the others took photos of the road itself, I did take the scenery.

Those of us doing the 4 wheel tour through the valley were picked up at the visitor centre - ooh another spot for visitors :) - the others were left behind. Now, while the ride itself was fun (at one point I was lifted off my seat by a good 12 inches where it was so bumpy) I'm not entirely convinced we really got to see anything. You get told the only way you can go through is with a tour, but I saw people in their own cars so that can't be entirely true. I can understand why the coach couldn't go through though as the roads were very bouncy. :) The rocks themselves are amazing, nowhere near as big as I thought it was going to be, and for the 1.5 hours we were out, about 50 minutes of that was spent at different points where people were trying to sell us their wares. I know they have to make money but it felt like an ambushed tourist trap. I have never in my life eaten so much sand as I did on that drive though. My hair was as stiff as a board by the time we got back due to the amount of sand stuck in it :)

After we got back from the drive we had a couple of hours to spare -  there's not really a lot to do at the visitor centre - so we dragged out dinner for as long as we could (the guy that waited on our table was most pleasing on the eye and had hair down to the back of his knees almost). Then I headed to the gift shop - which was the biggest we've seen all week (ooh err mrs) - to spend money on things that I don't need, and people really won't want when I get back :) The irony of having so much time to spend somewhere at last, when there was nothing to see or do.

Then it was off for the flight. It was a tiny 8 seater plane (which had massive seats - I felt like I was in an executive jet). Oddly I didn't feel nervous about it at all. I'll poop myself thinking about getting on a jumbo but was happy to sit in a small tin box with wings, and a pilot that looked about 12. I'm not a good enough orator to put into words how wonderful, amazing, fabulous, phenomenal and mind blowing the flight was. It was truly astounding. To see the valley from above really opened my eyes to it's beauty - both me and Posh David kept saying "wow" throughout the whole flight -  I am sure at one point I even saw Ron crack a smile.

The flight was lovely, smooth and the pilot (even though so very young) was informative. I did chuckle when I saw he was using Sat Nav - actually I grimaced more than chuckled and did wonder if we would reach our destination as a result :)  To see Rainbow Bridge from above was lovely; also Glen Canyon dam (having been there years ago seeing it from the ground). Lake PowellPage and Flagstaff were all places I had seen from the ground back then too, so flying over them brought some good memories back. Then we flew over the Grand Canyon for a while and I got to understand and appreciate why so many people love it. Having only seen it from the rim and below before I just didn't get the hype. Being above it showed how vast and magnificent it is (I still don't think it will ever beat Bryce in my mind - we shall see tomorrow if that is still my favourite or if I am just remembering it with rose tinted glasses because of how un-impressed I was with the Grand Canyon).

It was after the flight that things went tits up and pear shaped. For 3 hours!!! 3 hours where I really did begin to feel quite angry and was ready to brain people. Tina had said when they left us at the airport that we would be dropped to the hotel by the flight people, and then they (Clay and the rest of the group) would collect us and we'd head over to the Canyon for sunset. We get to the hotel with nothing (we were told we couldn't take our bags and bits onto the flight with us so had left them on the coach). When we tried to check in (so we could have a pee and grab a cuppa before being picked up) the hotel wouldn't let us have our room keys unless we had ID on us; this is fair enough but because I'd had to leave everything on the coach I had none (my passport was in my bag). It turned out 2 of the group did,  6 of us didn't (Ron being one of the one's that didn't). Rob offered for me to go to his room with him, but as we were expecting the coach to collect us soon I decided I was fine so went to sit on a bench outside the hotel waiting. Half an hour later (some of the others were getting stressed by us still being there and not having room keys ) Ron stepped in and had a go at the hotel receptionists demanding to see the manager. I missed all this as I was still outside and knew nothing about it until he steamed outside to where I was with David, spoke (he actually spoke) the words "have you got your key yet?" Told him "no" so he replied "well get inside now as they're going to let you have them". I was so shocked he spoke I did as I was told :) It was while in there I learned how nasty he had been to the staff and how he had kicked off. It was all well and good having my key, but as I had none of my stuff it really wasn't of any use to me. I couldn't even buy a cup of tea, although David did offer me a whiskey; it was his offer that made me realise how agitated he was getting (I believe he is autistic) so I spent the next 2 hours trying to keep him calm. Whereas I realised there was nothing I could do about not having my stuff and could either sit it out in my room, or outside in the fresh air, he was getting himself on one as he had been told we would be picked up and because we hadn't been he was finding it hard to get a grasp. The whole point of me doing the holiday on my own was so that I didn't have to think about others so that really pissed me off, but what pissed me off more was the fact we never got picked up, we never got to see the sunset, and I sat on a metal bench for 3 hours trying to keep someone else calm when I was getting angrier by the second myself. By the time the coach arrived I was pissed off,  Clay was messing about not letting me get on the coach to grab my bits; in the end I think he realised I was pissed off so let me on and when he asked what was wrong and I told him, he laughed and told me "that was silly of you" in relation to me not taking my bag. Not what I needed at that moment so I wasn't very polite when I replied to him. Thankfully a hug from Diane before dinner who let me rant it out was all I needed, and by the time we met Eddie and sat at our table to eat all was good. It was nice of the others that had been stranded at the hotel to offer me a cuppa when they all sat down to eat together long before the coach arrived back. Lucky them having some money on them.

Mind you I could have had money on me; in fact I could have had a lot of money on me and had I known I'd be waiting for 3 hours I could even have been tempted to take up the offer I had of $400 for an hour of my time. Talk about an ego boost, because he wasn't some manky old minger that was offering either.. hahahaha.. If I'd known then what I know now, my life could have taken a completely different direction ;)

Also while sitting there a lady that was waiting for her husband to check her in before she entered the hotel got chatting to me and said I had a really pretty accent :) Always nice to be told nice things, so although I pissed off being stuck there for 3 hours, I was also ego boosted a couple of times; every cloud and silver linings.

Neil also joined us for dinner tonight - I'm glad whatever issues he and Eddie had are forgotten, because I do really like the guy and get on really well with him. Then  Clay arrived and sat himself next to me - he forgave me for being so shitty with him. However I wished after he hadn't as him and Eddie ripped into me so bad I couldn't keep up - in a fun way. I never even got chance to retaliate before they were hitting me with their next shot; they got me more tongue tied than anyone has ever done before. Those 2 were on top form tonight that's for sure :) Tina came and sat with us for 20 minutes or so, but she's really not a chatty one - well not with us that's for sure. I have seen her have full on in depth conversations with other people; I think we're just not her kind of people - her loss. She did let me try her Margarita - this has become my new favourite drink. Rob arrived as we had finished eating (he'd already eaten with the others earlier so we'd not bothered to look for him when it came to dinner). As he arrived Diane, Neil and Tina left so I found myself with Eddie, Rob and Clay; I was bombarded with abuse, after abuse after abuse.  Think we'd have sat there all night, but when the waiting staff started to lay the empty tables up ready for breakfast, we took the hint they wanted us to leave :)

I, along with Rob, went back to Eddies for coffee after we left the restaurant. Clay took a rain check as he has an early start again in the morning but he did share his room number ;)

Was telling Keith when I saw him after dinner that I'd been offered the $400 - he said if I take card he'd give me $700 - hahahaha.. I'm in :)

Monday 20th October 2014

Days Inn and Suites Kanab           146
296 West 100 North
UT 84741

001 435 644 2562

I can't believe there are only 3 days left. It will all soon be over and I'm nowhere near ready to be going home. Yes, I've missed people but not enough to stop me wanting to stay longer. I've not had enough time to see or do half the things I want to. My days have been filled from start to finish; it's still not enough - how greedy I am :) I have missed Mum and Steve - definitely Myrtle and Misty - but the one person I've missed my random little chats with is Chris. Very oddly I did hear from Simon the other day which was quite unexpected. He said he was missing me :) but then I can never believe half of what comes out of his mouth - love you Si if you're reading this :) 

After just 3 hours sleep (3 hours 18 minutes to be precise) last night, I was rudely awakened by noises coming from the room next door to me (this time I'm not the furthest away, but after what I was hearing I wished I was in the wee small hours). I think it's someone that's on our tour in the room but no idea who; all I can say is that I think they took up the guy that offered me the $400 earlier, because there was no mistaking what was going on. About 20 minutes after it started the back door (the room was another with a door into the hotel, and a door at the back to a parking lot) opened and closed and I heard a man whistling as he got into his car and drove away; the occupant of the room then took a shower. At first I'd thought the noises were coming from my bathroom - the tap leaked, the lights didn't work and the coffee machine was broken; the nicest looking hotel in the lobby yet the worst of them all when it comes to the rooms.

Thankfully I nodded off again. I'm even more thankful that my alarm on my phone worked (I wasn't sure it would as we are on the border of 2 different time zones (or at least phone masts) and as such my phone was continuously showing different times - the hotel one I had set never went off at all. Another thing that didn't work.

Those of us doing the helicopter flight left at 8 - those not doing it got to have a lay-in which sounds like a lovely thing, although they missed out on so much. However, as with anything Tina has organised it was a complete cock up. I'd asked to upgrade to the hour flight - that never happened. Several people that paid for the extra half an hour got only 10 minutes and one person (I promised he'd remain nameless but his name begins with N :O) ) chose the better helicopter and the extra time but never got charged.  By the time it got round to me being called for the weigh in  - thankfully the only person that saw the weight was the woman behind the desk - everyone else was in watching the safety briefing. As I got to the safety room for the next briefing my name was called out along with Vivian, Meryl, Kathy, Jane (I think her name is Jane - she's not spoken to anyone but Meryl all week) and Joy (I think her name is Joy but I've never had to call her and have only ever just chatted with her - I am so crap at remembering names) and before I knew what was happening I was being bundled into a minibus and driven to another heliport. We'd been chosen for an upgrade to the better helicopter. Hurrah; another bonus that's happened this week, and we didn't have to pay for it either. Turns out they'd overbooked and had none of the smaller ones left. I never got the hour I wanted, but got the better flight so it all evened itself out in the long run.

I love helicopters; the world should only ever use helicopters. There's none of this hurtling down a runway, losing your stomach as you take off. It's smooth, lovely and and a great experience. I had a window seat directly behind the pilot so had pretty much 180 degree vision because I could see over him and the girls in front, and because of how the seats were lined up I could see out the other window opposite too; it was a much better view than we had in the plane yesterday, and I thought that had been amazing. In fact I didn't think there was any way that flight could be topped; until we lifted off in the chopper. The best part for me was when I realised that the rim of the canyon was suddenly above us and not below us any more. It truly is the best way to view and experience the canyon. As the sun had not long risen too the colours were simply stunning. I'd definitely like to do it again. I can't get over how many different experiences I have had while here; I truly am a very lucky woman.

The down point of the flight was that I recorded our coming in to land; got some lovely shots of the helicopter shadow below, then realised I'd not clicked the button to start the recording. What an idiot.

I treated myself to a hat today as it's so hot and I am worried about burning; by the time we got the Grand Canyon (the visitor centre) I was most glad I had made the purchase as it's been an absolute scorcher of a day. I did hear Kate slagging me off to Jane about it, but she can kiss my arse :) After seeing the canyon from above, being there on a level with it didn't really do much for me and while some of the other hiked down in to the canyon, I took a nice stroll around and about and had a nose at other bits, before hooking up with Liz. We sat on a wall and ended up chatting to a man and his Mum - I got the man which makes a change for me. Very friendly and nice he was too :)

Other than that we didn't really do a lot today. Ooh Tina is a bitch who doesn't understand our humour that's for sure. When we got to the canyon she told us to meet outside the front of the visitor centre at 12. She then told us the other side to meet there at 12. She also said to meet at the coach for 12, so when Clay pulled up those of us that were out the front - the first meeting point she told us - walked down and got on. She then turned up and got on and was about to get Clay to pull away when we shouted out that some of us were missing. Keith and Posh David then got on the coach and were the last (so we thought at that time) and as we've had such a laugh with them all week, we started to sing "you're the last ones on the bus". They were chuckling and giving us grief back when Tina got on the microphone and had a go saying they were actually the only ones that bothered to wait at the meeting point (she literally was trying to stir up shit). This back fired when it was pointed out that she did in fact give us 3 meeting points; she was  made to look even more stupid when it was realised about half a mile away that we'd left the other Eddie behind. So much for her head count and checking everyone is on board.

Not sure what happened between her and Clay on the way to the hotel but she came over the microphone and asked if we'd like to go to some trading post (the ones who didn't do the plane flight had already been left at it for half an hour yesterday) or if we wanted to go to some Desert View watchtower that Clay thought we would like to see. For the first time on the trip we were given the choice and everyone voted for Clay's idea which was a lovely spot for us to stop at and see. I was the first one back on the coach and he high fived me for us all choosing it, then complained because my hands were wet (I'd just washed them).. hahaha.. I dried them off on his trouser leg :) Sat on the step at the front and had a little chat with him before the others caught up. However when we got to the hotel I think things had really frosted over between them. We saw him heading out the same time as we were for dinner and asked if he wanted to join us. He dismissed us in quite a shitty way and stormed off without waiting. His loss.

Found ourselves a nice little diner for dinner; I had the best bbq ribs I think I've ever tasted. They were delicious - the place was called Houstons. Kanab's not the biggest of places, but it was nice enough to stroll along the main road looking for somewhere to eat; however, some of the hotels/motels we passed by left a lot to be desired. Saying that though ours isn't much better; my door doesn't lock, the main doors into reception (and the rooms) is unmanned and doesn't lock so anyone can wander in off the street (this concerned David a bit but I think I managed to put his mind at rest) and my curtains don't close. How unusual. Ground floor, car parking right outside my window. I'm getting used to dressing in the dark. This is meant to be one of the better hotels too; can only imagine how rough the others must be.

We did stop again after leaving the Grand canyon at the Glen Canyon Dam - there was talk of Lake Powell as well but that never happened. Was nice to see the dam from the ground, having seen it from above yesterday. We were dropped at the start of the bridge and left to walk our way across to the visitor centre. Clay stood with me in the centre and explained loads about the dam and bridge - how it was built, how long it took; he was a real wealth of information. I think he may need to change his job :) The bit I didn't like was those that don't like bridges or heights weren't given the option to stay on the coach, and the bridge was all open, so it must have been terrifying for those that don't like such things. It is a real masterpiece of engineering that’s for sure. 

Tuesday 21st October 2014

Hotel as previous day

Technically today is the penultimate day - gutted I am. I've had the best time ever. Mind you I'm not sure how much longer I can keep going on so little sleep, so maybe I do need to be heading back home - NO. I just need to spend a couple of days in the same place without an early morning wake up call.

Today was a quieter day. We did very little but what little we did do was A MAZE ING. The best; the reason for such a good day? Bryce Canyon of course. A truly outstanding area that didn't fail to take my breath away even though I have been there before. If it wasn't so far to visit I'd be out there as often as I could be, and would possibly ask for half of my ashes to be scattered there, but alas it's just that wee bit too far for such a thing. If you've never been and can afford to get there, then you really should go. You won't be disappointed;  if you are then there is something seriously wrong with you.

Quite a few of our group did a hike down into the canyon,  as with the Grand yesterday I did consider doing this, but Tina gave them only 2 hours whichis nowhere near enough time. Yes it's fine to just go down and come back up again, but it's just too beautiful a place not to stand there and gawp in amazement. 4 hours would probably still not have been enough; you need to be able to stand still for a long while and just drink in all the beauty that is around you. As a result of the time restrictions I took a lovely leisurely stroll around the rim, taking photo's with every other step. I know I have taken way too many, most of which I will never keep, but it's the kind of place you just have to do so. Last time there I was restricted with an old fashioned film camera; this time having the digital made the experience so much more enjoyable. I know the camera will never do justice to what I saw, but when I look back through the photo's I will be reminded of a wonderful time and my own memory banks will add the depth, smells and sensations I felt while I was there; that's the beauty of a natural photograph. The memories they can trigger.

We stopped at the visitors centre on the way into the canyon - how unusual -  I picked up a few bits to take back home to people, before we headed to Fairyland Canyon. This was some of our groups first view of Bryce and I loved seeing the wondrous looks on their faces. I remember my first time :) Clay came and stood with me and we had a brief chat before I wandered off; I was more interested in the hoodoos, and what might be round the next corner. I'm sure he understood :)  I did spend an hour with him and Neil this afternoon chatting and catching up over coffee.

Our lunch stop - if you can call it that when she gave us 35 minutes - was at Rubys Inn; a place I have stayed in before and it's not really changed that much in the 18 years since I was there last. Took some photo's to compare with my previous ones when I get back home. I didn't bother sitting down to eat; I just grabbed a sandwich from the shop so I could have a wander round and actually see something other than just the inside of a restaurant. The way Tina had been talking about lunch we all thought we'd get about an hour and a half; how daft we were.

I felt quite proud of myself at our next stop for being able to get 2 people who suffer with really bad vertigo to go for a walk along a rim with me. One of them even made her way to the edge and was going to stand in the same spot as me, until I pointed out that although there wasn't a sheer drop at that point, there was a slope with a lot of loose shale and I would have hated her to feel she could slip; she thanked me for that and stood just to the side slightly behind me, but closer to the edge than I (and she) thought would be possible. It was nice to know that not one, but 2 people trusted me enough with something that is a big issue to them. :)

Again (as with everywhere) we never had anywhere near enough time at the canyon. We didn't get back to the hotel until 6 so time wouldn't have allowed us longer anyway, but I think being an hour and half drive away when there are hotels in the closer area made a huge difference. The closer one's aren't that much dearer either so I don't know why the tour company don't use them. It would also mean Clay wouldn't have to do quite so many hours driving. Tomorrow he has a really long day and I know he's a bit concerned about the first part of our drive; it's going to be dark (we're leaving before the sun rises) and the roads are narrow, twisty with sheer drops on our side of the road. Not nice to have to do when tired. He was funny again this evening though. He was nabbed by grumpy Ron to go out to dinner. I was sat outside the hotel chatting to another coach driver waiting for the others to meet me for our dinner, when him and Ron made their way out. He was looking back at me as they walked away mouthing "Three bears; go to three bears". Of course I smiled as I shook my head saying 'No'. :) He called me mean when we all hooked up later after dinner in the hotel lobby and had tea :)

Still I wasn't as mean as Eddie who got me a treat. Both he and Clay were 2 rooms down from me - opposite each other - right at the end of the corridor with an exit to the car park next to them, so I'd joked earlier that I'd thought about knocking on both their doors and running. I could imagine them both standing opposite each other with their doors open wondering what had gone on - had I not seen how tired Clay was I would have done it, but seeing that he needed to get some sleep I changed my mind. I thought no more of it after mentioning it. I was in my room and in the middle of undressing, when there was a bang on my door. There I am, in the dark (with the gaping curtains I couldn't get undressed with the light on) trying to find something to put on so I could answer the door. I yelled out for whoever it was to "hold on a second" and finally, after pulling a long t-shirt on - back to front and inside out - I threw open my door to hear Eddie laugh. I turned my head to my left and could see him outside his room double up chuckling away to himself. Donna would be so proud of that man and the amount of times he got me. :) 

Wednesday 22nd October 2014

Stratosphere Hotel                       12069
2000 South Las Vegas
Las Vegas
NV 89104

001 702 380 7777

Our last day - technically.

What a start I had to the day. With a 7am start, I set my alarm for 5. I dozed most of the night and had been awake between 1 and 3.30 trying to get back to sleep. I then must have fallen into a really deep sleep, because my phone alarm began crowing in my ear - at the same time as the hotel alarm over the other side of the room did. I didn't have a clue what to do, where to go and which way to turn with them both going off in different directions, when I wasn't even properly awake. :) Confused the crap out of me - not really a hard thing to do at the best of times.

*Writing this on the 12th floor of the stratosphere at 5pm, before heading out tonight to hit the Vegas strip*
I'm feeling sad; sad that this is my last night in the states and that it may not go as planned - I made plans this morning with Clay - as he may not be with us this evening and tomorrow. He could be leaving us before we go out to dinner tonight now. We said our goodbyes when I got off the coach - just in case - but I'm hopeful they'll keep him here with us until the end. It will be a shame not to finish with everyone that we started with. We have arranged to meet in the bar at 11 if he is staying with us. I'm sad that this evening means the holiday is technically over - tomorrow there's a morning tour of the city before we're taken to the airport but it's not really a day out so tonight is our last day/night. Of course it will be lovely to see everyone at home (I have missed them) but I've had such an amazing time over here; I'm not yet ready for that to end.  End it must. It's funny how this exact day a year ago I was flying high - it was the night I got to meet Whit. Fast forward 365 days and I'm feeling sad, happy at the same time, because the things I've seen and experienced since I left home a fortnight ago can leave me with nothing but happiness and happy memories. Still I'm hitting the strip later with Diane and Eddie and plan on having a few cocktails along the way. :) When in Vegas it would be rude not to. Have to embrace the moment and live it while here; "seize the day" as they say.

The view from my window is over the air-con units and car park at the back of the hotel, there are some mountains I can see in the distance. :) The curtains don't meet,  there is a bar running down the middle of the window I can get them to  which means I can leave the light on when I undress tonight; hurrah. Not that I think it would be an issue if I didn't as the hotel appears to have darkened, mirrored glass and no matter how hard I try I can't see into the rooms opposite; that may change at night when they have a light on though, so I'm not going to risk it. Not that it really matters; if someone is that desperate enough to watch me as I undress I guess it would be cruel of me to deny them that :)

The day itself has been wonderful again. Setting off at 7 when it was dark we were treated to the most amazing sunrise over the mountains. Black sky top and bottom, with the brightest strip of blood red between, made it worth getting up.

Zion was just as beautiful as I remember it being. I had a little grin to myself when we drove through the tunnel at the park entrance, as I remembered our driver back in 96 going through without permission, and getting pulled over by the police the other side :)  Clay told me Tina had tried to get him to go through too without permission, but he refused. I don't blame him; it's a one lane tunnel, so can only imagine what chaos could be caused if 2 coaches were to do the same thing at the same time. :) He really made me chuckle when we got off at the first stop. Tina had been telling us all about a condor re-introduction program in the park (I'd joked to Diane as she was telling us that I bet she'd been part of it - she's been part of everything else it seems) when she then mentioned that she'd been part of it :) As I got off the coach (I was one of the last) Clay asked if he'd told me about the time he'd been an astronaut on one of the sputnik missions :) What he didn't realise as he asked me was that Tina was stood just the other side of the door and she had to have heard him. I really did enjoy my little chuckle at that :) 

We got dropped at the visitor centre in Zion - I know, shocker right? and were given the usual 2 hours to explore. Diane was one of the group off on the horse ride, Rob had wandered off with some of the other men in the group (first time all holiday he'd left us) so me and Eddie decided to have a stroll up to the Emerald Pools - we saw Liz on her own so asked her along. She really impressed me as she is one of the ladies with a vertigo issue, but she made it up the edge of those cliffs to the first pool with us. I hope she's proud of herself for doing so. It was another great walk for photo's and I love the river that trickles though (apparently only 10 days ago the park had closed because of flash flooding and the slow trickling river we saw was a raging torrent of water - hard to imagine on the day we've had). We got back to the centre in time to have a coffee (and I tried a pretzel donut that was disgusting and came with some random equally disgusting sauce to dip it in) and a rock in some gorgeous rocking chairs, before the horse riders came back and we headed off to Vegas.

We did have a lunch stop somewhere in Nevada (that was cooking - so, so so hot) at a Walmart - we've sure lived it up this holiday. Luckily there was a picnic table by the coach, so I managed to grab a seat on that to eat my lunch. Kate had been sat there when we walked over but she got up and left quite quickly. Oh well :)

From there we traveled into Vegas. It's like Blackpool on steroids.

Got word before we left that Clay is with us tomorrow so made definite plans to meet him at 11; he's taking the ones doing the evening tour out to their first stop, and will be picking them up so we allowed enough time for him to do that and for me and the others to explore. And explore we did. :)

I was originally booked on the evening tour of Vegas that was meant to be a coach tour, but when I found out it was a 5 hour walking tour I gave Margaret my ticket - I found out afterwards that those people that went on it wished they hadn't bothered so I'm really glad I never went.

Being at one end of the strip, with a few dodgy areas in between us and the other end, we decided to hop on a bus. It took us 10 minutes to get the ticket machine to give us our tickets, but we got them and away we went. I was specifically looking for the coke shop to take back some shot glasses I had promised my brother - which we found after looking for 5 minutes; you'd have thought the giant bottle on the wall outside (standing about 60ft high) would  have given it away :)  Before crossing the road to it though, we found a chocolate store - 4 floors worth of Hershey and Reeces peanut butter. It was an absolute joy to watch Diane and she wandered around trying to take it all in (she's a Reeces fan). We could see how surreal she as finding it all, and we trailed her for the 4 floors spending more time checking out her reaction than we did checking out the store itself.

From there we made our way into the M and M's store where we spent a good hour having a nose at everything. I bought a couple of huge cups for me and Mum while I was in there; no idea how I'm going to get them home tomorrow without breaking them though :) We also went into the coke store, that was a bit of a let down in comparison. I got the glasses I went in there for.

I did manage to lose them both in a general gift store - or should that be they lost me? I grabbed something and told them I was going round to pay for it (which I did) and when I turned back they were both gone. I assumed they must have gone upstairs as we'd talked about what could be up there, and had covered all the downstairs, so off I pootled, only to find myself in a maze of tat that I couldn't get out of (the stairs to get back down were tucked behind a serving counter). When I finally found the way out I realised they weren't in the store, so planned on heading along the strip a bit, before hopping on a bus back to the hotel. I got outside and found them a bit further up sitting on a wall waiting for me - YAY; I wasn't lost and alone after all :)

We had a mooch and stopped for dinner before we made our way back to the hotel. Once there we took off to the viewing platform/bar place. While it was great that they have security before you are allowed into the lift (that travels at 21mph - information our little lift operator enjoyed telling us) someone could cause far more destruction by setting off a device in the lobby area than they would actually setting something off in the viewing area, so the security was a bit pointless really.

The view was spectacular; you can see for miles.. and miles.. and miles.. but it was so hot up there which made me feel uncomfortable (which was heightened by the experience of a swaying motion) so after 10 minutes I'd had enough. I told Diane and Eddie (and also Keith who we met up there) I was fine leaving on my own and would head on down to the bar, but they came down with me when I left anyway. Bless them; I'm really going to miss them. Odd how people I have only just met in reality,  have come to mean so much to me :) John (one of the funniest men I have ever met in my life - and he's not one of those that tries to be, he just it) and Pete were there when we got down so we sat and drank the night away with them. Iced Margaritas are the BEST slush puppies EVER; FACT - how old am I with the "fact" saying? hahaha. That's the kind of thing the teenagers say to prove a point :) I may have been a little bit drunk when I went to bed and I'm not entirely sure what time I crawled back up to my room, but I was sung to in the lift :)

Clay was a no show so I never got to visit the place he told me I'd love but wouldn't be able to take my camera too; I remain intrigued :)

Pathetic moment of the day occurred at the lift to the viewing gallery. The lifts take 10 people and there were 8 of us, so room for 2 more, when Kate and her minions arrived. She refused to get into the lift because she wanted to travel with her "friends".. hahahaha. I'm sure she could have waited by the lift door for them when they got the next one up. I guess we weren't considered part of her group then? .. hahahaha :)

Thursday 23rd October

Flight  - BA 219 - McCarran - Terminal 3 21.20 arrive 15.00 Next Day 9 hrs 50 mins

I didn't wake up until 8.18 this morning; another reason to love a margarita - 2nd best night I've had since I got here. It's weird how I feel like I've been here for a lifetime while feeling like I've not been here at all at the same time.

Today is home day :( Being up so early though and not meeting until 12 meant I had time to pack (and re-pack) my case and hand luggage to try and balance everything out. I also wanted to give the mugs and shot glasses the best chance of getting home in one piece. I was worried about my case being overweight, which is daft because there's less in there than when I flew out, but it was better to be safe than sorry.

What a total and utter f**k up today was. It was so bad it was shocking. Had it been the beginning of the holiday and not the end I might have put in an official complaint. I think a few people are going to (at least 4 that I know of told me they will be) but as it's the last day I don't really see the point. We've put up with her the past 17 days, we should have known what to expect today really - even so I still didn't think it would be quite so bad.

The city tour was an optional trip and if we wanted to go we were told to meet at the breakfast room for 12; those that didn't want to go were told to meet in the C bar at 4 for our farewell drinks. The couple hadn't arrived by 12 so she went looking for them and dragged them along at 12.20. I'm sure if they had wanted to come along they would have been there at the right time!! She said we would be visiting different places to those the ones that went out last night saw, so I thought I'd go along; it was included after all.  I should not have bothered because the next 3 hours of my life were totally wasted. The first hour was spent on the coach viewing car parks basically; she'd decided to take us to an area that was closed for the weekend due to a rock festival, but she'd not bothered to do her research beforehand, or she would have known not to bother - even I knew roads were closed in the area.  We then got taken to New York New York where she had been telling us all week she had a lunch arranged for us. What we got was 20 minutes to run and grab some food before having to meet her outside the casino, however because of where she stood us to tell us what was going on and where we were meeting half of us couldn't hear. It was by sheer fluke that Roz and I found the rest at the right time - what we should have done was left with Diane and Eddie when they ducked out and went their own way. Clay was laughing when we got off because he told me we were off on a walking tour of the city, which was not what we had expected.

2 of our group didn't come along to the New York because Kate - ahh the woman that managed to piss off nearly everyone - had been a bitch and spoken to them like shit, so they planned to meet us at the Luxor at the time we were told we would all be getting back on the coach. Tina knew I knew about what had gone on with the 2 and Kate and she kept trying to get me to tell her what happened, but I told her it was nothing to do with me and she needed to speak to those involved. She asked me several times and got the same answer each time "ask them". She also told me that the snippets she'd got she thought the 2 walking off were being a bit pathetic. Told her if she'd actually bothered to pay any attention to her tourists while we'd been away, she would have known how many people Kate had pissed off and would have been able to put a stop to today's occurrence, but because she spent the whole trip talking about herself, she never noticed what was going on around her.

Once everyone had finally found their way to the meeting point of New York we were told to head over the bridge to Excalibur but to wait at the top for everyone to gather. This took half an hour - it's a 2 minute walk - because along the way we lost another couple of people. They obviously decided enough was enough and went off to do their own thing. While she was trying to track these people down, we were stood at the top of a bridge in the baking sunshine. By the time we got to Excalibur I'd had enough and was going to make my own way to theLuxor and hop on the coach with Clay - who didn't stand me up last night after all; we just waited for each other in different bars. DOH.

I'm not sure anyone actually made it inside Excalibur except me and Vivian who ran in to get a drink - it was sooooo hot, because she gave us 10 minutes before we had to meet back to get a shuttle to the Luxor. It was at the shuttle I nearly lost it; I was fuming and have no idea how I didn't smack someone. Tina was with us (literally walking right beside me) between Excalibur and the shuttle station. By the time I got to the doors for getting on the shuttle she was gone; completely. She'd wandered off somewhere - partly because we were another 2 down, but we'd told her when the couple went missing that if they had wanted to carry on they would have kept up, and that we were all grown ups and capable of making our way back to the hotel for our 4pm farewell drink.

Shuttle 1 came and went. I was stood with Neil and Liz, and the station had no air con. It was 90 degrees outside, we'd been marching back and forth for 2 hours getting nowhere and I'd had enough, so when shuttle number 2 turned up I was about to step on when Rob stood by the doors in the middle and  yelled at us all to wait for Tina - who had vanished. Rumours rumbled along the line that one of our group that had left us had been injured; this was not true. In fact she'd had a phone call from Diane asking where the coach was as her and Eddie were waiting at the Luxor. Had we not been stopped from getting on shuttles 1 and 2 we would have bumped into them, but due to such bad organisation they gave up and carried on their day without us all. By the time shuttle 3 arrived I was about ready to blow so told Neil and Liz I was getting on the bloody thing regardless; if all else failed I'd make my own way back to the hotel. They agreed with me and as the doors opened so we went to step on when Rob yelled again at us to wait. I'm not proud of myself but I was quite rude to him as I yelled back that I was getting on the shuttle with or without them all, and on that shuttle I got. As did Neil and Liz, followed swiftly by everyone else because Tina turned up again. By the time she walked us into the Luxor we were 5 down and I think she could see a few of us were pissed off, so she asked if anyone wanted to go back to the hotel. A load of us put our hands up. Now here again her organisation was shit. She made Clay take us all the way back up the strip to drop us off, before he had to go all the way back down again to drop them off and wait at another hotel further up for them. Anyone with an ounce of sense would have dropped them off first, then us, because those staying had to sit on the coach and wait for us to be dumped. As I got off Clay said to me "I'd love to know what's gone on today" with a grin. Told him it was too long a story. As a result our meeting time of 4 for the farewell got moved to 5 - it was 3.35 when we were dropped off. The one's we'd lost on the way had no way of knowing this.

As we had no room to go back to, Liz and I headed to the diner in the hotel for something to eat. What a surreal experience that was. Every now and then one of the wait staff will grab a microphone, put on a background track and sing to people. I got serenaded by a young black guy who had a cracking voice. Someone should get him on X Factor :) Diane and Eddie arrived back just as we were about to leave to go meet everyone at 5, so we all wandered over to bar together; it was about 10 to 5 by the time we got there. At 5.55pm, with just 20 minutes until we had to be back on the coach for out lift to the airport so everyone else turned up; they had been out all that time and had only just back to the hotel. Trying to get 40 people a drink in such a short space of time was chaos, and I've never drunk a glass of wine so quickly in my life.

To add to it all when we got to the coach at 6.15 we couldn't get on as there had been a mix up with our cases and not all of them had been taken from rooms to the coach. For 6 hours our rooms had been empty yet those cases had gone astray. It was almost 7 by the time we finally got under way. The whole day was a complete cock up from the start until we left Tina and Clay at departures. It's a shame because it really put a dampener on things and marred what had been an amazing time away; I guess everything can't run smoothly, although with someone more organised in charge they would have run a lot better than they did. You'd also think that as she only did this exact trip 2 weeks ago (something she told us repeatedly, along with being a military child) she would have been able to organise things a little bit better than she did.

The flight home was smooth - with the odd bump - and dark :)

I will definitely be going back to some of the places I've seen - whether on my own or with someone - but I don't think I can ever thank Diane and Eddie enough for being the perfect travelling companions. They really did make the holiday for me.  It would have been good without them but nowhere near as great as it was. They were good fun to be around, woke me up when I was dozing and showed me how much better the world is when it's filled with laughter.  If I could take them back with me when I go I surely would. :) 

There it was; over. We said our goodbyes and went back to our normal, every day life, while a little piece of each of us remained behind. Of that I am sure.