Grand Canyon 2018 Day 6 – From Grand Canyon to Reno

Woke up at 8 plus to a very cold morning, in the desert where the temperature is known to be very harsh. Thankfully the bed was very warm and all of us had a really good sleep. I struggled to get out of bed, worried that I would freeze to death the moment my feet touch the floor. I wanted to generate heat and thus tried to get ready by moving quickly but the limbs froze much faster than being heated up. To prevent K from catching a cold, I dressed him under the thick quilt and kept him warm. When we were finally done, including brushing the teeth with cold water, we proceeded to the reception for breakfast.

Bed… after sleeping in it.
Chill corner…literally
Space within the tent. oven on the left
Shower and sink
Our tents…and luggage
Our neighbours

The warmth of the reception was welcoming and we got ourselves a simple breakfast of oat bar, muffins and banana with drinks choices of hot choco and coffee. We checked out at the same location after the breakfast and before leaving, we caught sight of a corgi wearing a vest, cuteness overload!

Breakfast at reception tent
Fireplace where we had mush mellows

The helpful staff had brought the luggage from outside our tents where we placed them to our vehicle while we were having breakfast. They continued to extend their help by loading them up into our vehicle and bade us goodbye. Then we were off to Grand Canyon once again. This was an impromptu trip and estimating the time to get back to Las Vegas for our flight, we needed to leave by 11. I wanted to save more time so I drove a little over the speed. Then from the corner of my eye, I spotted a police car parked by the side of the road. I knew that was it as I tried to slow down immediately but hope turned to despair as the stationary vehicle got onto the road and followed behind. Once it was a close, the lights on the car turned on and I obediently turned to the side and stopped. As I have heard of ugly stories of encounters with the cops, I just stayed in the car, wind down the window and follow instructions. He asked for documents and my license and told me that I had travelled over the speed limit. Went back to his car for a pretty long time before returning to give me a warning letter only. I was thrilled for his magnanimity and apologised before driving to Grand Canyon within the speed limit.

Speeding ticket

Grand Canyon was huge and had many places that can be visited on foot or by vehicle. We didn’t have the luxury of time to do the whole circuit and so could only choose one place to drive to, Yavapai viewpoint. It was a good choice as it wasn’t too far from the main road. Parked at the parking and walked into the observatory post, an enclosed area that was isolated from the cold. We spend a good 10mins there, reading some of the geological data and admiring the view. As the time ran out, we then took some photos outside, use the toilet before hitting the road for the trip back to Las Vegas.

3D model of the place
The station had come a long way
Exhibits on display
View from Yavapai point

The drive back was just a drive, to say the least. K and mommy slept while I just drove. We arrived at Williams and I pumped $40 gas before continuing the journey. Then we arrived at Kingman and I paid another $15 for gas just so that I could return the car with the same level of gas.

View along the way
Getting close to Las Vegas

We finally arrived at the airport at around 230pm, there was a time difference between Grand Canyon and Las Vegas, and going towards Las Vegas earned us an extra hour. I drove following the road signs that pointed to rental car return and there was a area for Enterprise cars. The staff came over almost immediately and the check was done very quickly, no issues. We had to do a little repacking of the luggage before proceeding to take the shuttle bus to the airport, which was around 10mins drive. I loaded all our luggage onto the storage onboard the bus but as it was relatively empty, the luggage moved a bit while the bus moved. Thankfully one kind passenger helped to hold onto K’s sports car luggage before it slipped off the shelf. Another also gave up his seat for me just so that I could sit together with K, we were thankful for all these kind gestures.

Rental car return entrance
Shuttle bus entrance

Once we disembarked the shuttle, we rushed to Allegiant counter to check in, which was located all the way at the end of the building. Unfortunately our luggage’s combined weight was over the limit by 17lbs which we had to pay $50 additionally. After dropping off the luggage, we completed the check in with our downloaded tix on the Allegiant app.

Allegiant counters

Before boarding, we wanted to get something to eat for lunch. We visited the Starbucks (where else right) at the main public areas but no sandwiches were available and the staff advised us to proceed through the gate to visit the branch inside. Then we went through the security checks which was quite strict as both of our carry-ons were requested to be opened for checks. After a quick toilet visit, we went to a Flatbreadz restaurant and we got ourselves ham and cheese and turkey bacon sandwiches to go, for about 21ish.


Walked to gate 18 and sat at the waiting area to have our sandwiches and as much as we tried to keep it tidy, it turned out quite messy as the sandwiches items fell out and everywhere. There were a bunch of slots machines nearby just out in the open catered for the last min gamblers and anyone could actually wandered into the area (K did and was asked keep out of the area by one of the staff). As we munched away, boarding was also started, it was all in a rush.

Slot machines in the public open spaces

Once onboard, it was a quick 1 hr flight to Reno and the plane had lots of empty seats. Once it was confirmed that there weren’t anybody taking those long legroom seats, people then took advantage of the situation by moving forward and occupying them for free. We kept to our seats, it was only an hour, and we spent our time finishing the sandwiches that we had started, while K ate his favorite biscuits.

We landed into Reno and proceeded to wait for our luggage at the luggage carousel and for some reason, it took quite a while before the luggage came out. While waiting, I managed to settle the car rental paperwork at Enterprise first, which was conveniently located near where the luggage carousel was. We retrieved the luggage when it finally came, used the restroom, then get across the street to rental car parking lots to retrieve the car. The staff from Enterprise was there to carry out the joint inspection before handing over a Ford Flex to me, something similar to the previous Ford Explorer in terms of size, but probably less advanced and lower in height. I enquired about how I was going to pay toll, hoping for something that was already inbuilt so that I just need to pay when I returned but was advised to pay by cash. The exact how was something that I needed to google for in the coming days for toll roads in San Francisco for example.

Rows of car rental companies next to luggage belt
Exit to rental car car park
Enterprise pick up point

We drove to Staybridge, our accommodation for the night, just some 11 mins away. After parking at the open air car park, we braved the cold with our luggage and checked in. This was a little apartment with a small kitchen under the IHG hotel brands and was both pretty homely and yet felt like a hotel. It wasn’t too expensive too! I would prefer these over Airbnb ones since the element of luxury and certain level of quality standards were still guaranteed by big hotel brands while Airbnb were more hit or miss.

Staybridge Suites Reno
Living Room

After our baths, we drove out for dinner to a place about 3mins where there was Smiths supermarket and a couple of restaurants. Decided to have Japanese food and thus walked over to Pisces Sushi, a small Japanese designed restaurant with not many diners. Ordered California roll, caterpillar, teriyaki salmon, tamago and Mickey Mouse, which didn’t looked like it but was delicious and paid $51 for the meal.

Inside Pieces Sushi
Salmon Teriyaki
Mickey Mouse?

We then proceeded for late night shopping at Smiths. There was a trolley with sports car cover and it was enough for K to be interested in going into the supermarket. Zooming down the walkways, we bought all the groceries and water that was needed for meals preparation for the next day.

Smith’s for shopping
Fresh fruits inside Smith’s

Drove back to hotel to find that there were no closer carpark slot to the entrance and had mommy and K alight first to avoid the cold while I parked further down. I had to get some hot water for milk and there was supposedly hot water available at the ground floor near the reception. But when I collected it from the flasks there, the water was only lukewarm, not hot enough to make milk. Ended up having to boil water using the pots since there no electric flask available.

The day finally ended after watching a few episodes of iPad video while using data due to location restriction, in order to satisfy the little K. Although there weren’t much activities, all that driving and transiting was physically draining. While Reno was known as the Biggest Little City in the World, or also known as small Las Vegas, we weren’t able to give it any attention regretfully, sleep was more important.

Grand Canyon 2018 Day 5 – Drive to Grand Canyon and glamping under the stars

We must either be tired or the bed was extremely comfy, but we woke up 9am – late! We had to move quickly and we were only ready to move out by 11am after our breakfast of cereals. Soon we checked out and found ourselves on our way towards Grand Canyon. As we drove, K fell asleep.

Lake Mead next to the road

2hrs into the drive, a pretty boring one at it, we reached the mid point in big town of Kingman. Pumped in $40 of gas before continuing down the highway to Grand Canyon.

We arrived into Williams, a quaint little old town that was part of the historic Route 66. Our car slowed down to a stop in front of an equally quaint little Western restaurant, Cruisers Route 66 cafe. We ordered a platter to share and chicken fillets for K and as typical American dish sizes, it was very filling, a 45ish price tag. Before we left, we took some photos with the surrounding decorations that hinted of Xmas. Though we would like to spend some time to explore this town, we had to leave as we were rushing for time.

Stretch of road that seemed to go on forever
Quaint little town
Cruisers Route 66
Inside the restaurant
Toilet with same theme
Platter and chicken fillets

We initially wanted to drop off our luggage at the accommodation first before proceeding to Grand Canyon but we had to change the plan and drove direct to Grand Canyon instead. The Autumn sunset was horribly early and we were literally chasing the sun to see the Grand Canyon. We arrived at the entrance and paid $35 per vehicle, a permit that would last for 7days. Then it was still quite some drive to the visitors center, along the way the cars stopped for wildlife crossing. By the time we finally arrived at the visitors center, the daylight had dimmed.

On the way to Grand Canyon
Wildlife crossing

Quickly I parked the car and as we were about to go, I couldn’t find the vehicle fob. Tried desperately to find but to no avail, and running against the setting sun, I surrendered and continued to get onto the walk path for Grand Canyon and leaving the car unlocked.

The visitors’ center was long closed by this time and the only point of reference for us was the map on the information board found on the walk path. Mather point it was, a prompt choice and we headed in the general direction in the hope of trying to catch a glimpse of whatever our eyes could master. The winds were strong and numbing cold in the plummeting temperatures without the sun. We arrived at the viewpoint and there were still a few people there, trying to see whatever there was to see, and quickly, we took some photos in the dark. Tried to call out to hear echoes but wasn’t successful. With the cold tolerance depleted, we returned quickly to the car.

Pano of the Grand Canyon

Then it was the return journey to our first family glamping experience, Under Canvas to check in, after a good 30mins drive in the dark. We missed the entrance the first time around and had to check website for the directions to drive in and it was to go through the museum carpark. In the dark, I drove cautiously guided by tiny lights on the ground, like fallen stars lining up a invisible path. Soon we saw a lighted up large tent and we knew have arrived. I went into the reception myself to do the check in with the nice staff who asked me about my day in which I replied that it wasn’t so well as I lost the car fob and didn’t get to see Grand Canyon. He advised that I should continue to check in my car cos the car can be started meant that the fob was still nearby.

Reception tent

We were brought to the car park near to our suite tent by the staff driving a buggy and we followed behind. We attempted to check if the fob was in our bags by moving away all our baggage and concluded that it was somewhere in the car. The staff then helped us move all our luggage to the tent itself as the walkpath wasn’t paved and not easy to maneuver in the dark. He also started the stove with me observing how it should be done in case I needed to do get it up again later on. The tent internal became quite smoky after starting up the fire and placing the dried logs into it but it wasn’t for long.

When we were finally settled with the stove, we went out to Grand Canyon Inn just across the street to get dinner, ordered grilled trout and chicken pasta which costed about 38ish. We packed the food and returned to the reception tent to eat. While I was buying dinner, mommy miraculously found the fob!

Grand Canyon Inn
Grand Canyon Inn Reception
Grand Canyon Inn restaurant

The tent was really nice to have dinner even in plunging temperatures on the outside. There were heated warmers which we sat next to to enjoy our meals which was pretty decent. K had to go to the loo to poo but there weren’t any nearby and the staff ferried both K and me to the nearest shared loo. There it was cold but somehow K managed his business and we were soon back at the reception, K laughing along the way as we sat at the back of the buggy.

Breakfast section
Nice and cosy chilling place
Fish Fillet

Then K and I went out to sit near the campfire (what’s camping without campfire!) to eat mash mellows and drink hot choco underneath the blanket of stars. We were offered crackers but I was not familiar with that recipe and declined. We didn’t stay long thought because as inexperienced I was with a campfire, we made a mess out of the soft mash mellows.

When we retuned to tent, we found the tent cold and the stove extinguished. Time to put what I had learnt into practice and we tried to start up the fire. There was fire but a lot more smoke! I had to ventilate the tent by flapping the tent covers furiously.

It was time to bath and the shower was something that I didn’t get on how to operate. There was hot water available but when water flowed, it was either too hot or too cold! Quickly gave K a quick shower since the tent was quite cold despite the stove. I skipped.

As mommy and K got into bed with storybooks, I spent some time outside to admire the universe of stars. Tried feebly to take some photos of clear night sky with my not so powerful camera. Until satisfied (and enough of the cold) then I went to bed.

Starry starry night
Orion clearly seen

Las Vegas 2018 Day 4 – Las Vegas and Helicopter ride to Grand Canyon

Woke up at 630am, mommy cooked while I got ready and dressed up K. It was an early start for today even with sleeping late the night before as we would be embarking on a long drive to Las Vegas today, getting out of LA was essential in avoiding the jam. We finished packing and checkout by 830am.

The congestion was already there while getting to the expressway. It was a good thing K fell asleep while we were still on the way out of LA. Once we got onto the expressway, I got onto something called the “carpool lane” which was meant for cars with 2 or more passengers. It was relatively fast moving and it allowed us to bypass a lot of traffic!

LA to Vegas was a long journey and I found 2 towns that we could choose to take and break and pump gas. One of which was Barstow, which was a big area for gas and rest about 2hrs into drive. There wasn’t a real motivation to stop as K was sound asleep and petrol level was still healthy so we continued on without stopping. There wasn’t much to see once we were out of LA, area was just full of nothing much, just sand, sandy mountains and a very straight road that seemed to go on forever.

Straight road.

When we arrived at the other town, Baker, the car was left with 1/4 tank, Went to pump at Velaro, $4.25 per gallon, pretty costly comparatively but with my standard $40, we could almost get a full tank. I also topped up on caffeine for my 1.5hrs journey to Las Vegas.

Huge can of coffee

We arrived into Las Vegas at about 1pm and I drove to our accommodation Jockey Club suites. Checked with the reception on our room and was informed that it wasn’t ready. So after given some instructions on where to park, since it was a shared carpark with another hotel, we left the car full of luggage in the carpark before visiting the super arty-farty design Starbucks at the Cosmopolitan to have lunch – consisting of pastries.

Inside Cosmopolitan Starbucks
That’s the same design

Having booked the Papillon Helicopter flight to Grand Canyon, we were in quite a rush. After finishing our lunch, we had to walk to the pick up point which I didn’t know where it was. The staff had to call me as we were late and he informed us that it was the pickup/drop off location of the Cosmopolitan hotel. Checked with some of the hotel staff and was directed in the direction at the other end of the hotel. We proceeded briskly, passing many glitzy slot machines, a feeling that was so unfamiliar to me (since these are normally not opened publicly in Singapore).

Papillon pick up shuttle

The mini bus with a helicopter picture on its side was spotted effortlessly and we boarded the bus with apologies to the driver and whoever that was onboard. It was then 30mins drive after 3more pick ups before we arrived at the helicopter terminal. Proceeded to the check in counter, paid an upgrade of USD$100 for all to be seated in the front row. Then we had to watch a video about the ride, and of course use the toilet. There was still a short wait to the time we had to board, as we listened out for the call to board. We were introduced to our pilot, Helen, whom then brought us to the helicopter.

Waiting area before boarding

There were 2 flights at our flight time of 330pm, and Helen led our group of 7 towards the red helicopter on the tarmac. A short introduction on how to board and buckle up, we soon found ourselves settled and ready to lift off. Putting on the headset, we were soon off the ground and flying towards the Grand Canyon. Weather was great and the helicopter was cruising smoothly, it’s passengers having a great time taking in the expansive view presented. We soon see a large water body, Lake Mead, a bridge and also the Hoover dam. The helicopter circled around so everyone had a good view and then we flew another 10mins to arrive at the Grand Canyon. The layers of rocks differentiated by shades towered above deep valleys and a meandering stream, the grandeur was just breathtaking. It was nearing the golden hour of sunset which made the view even more spectacular. It was not all “Wows” though, cos amidst the appreciation of the view were pockets of funny moments when K called “papa” over the headset and everyone else could hear him and his small talk, it was very comical.

Hoover Dam
Lake Mead
Colorado River
Grand Canyon from the helicopter

The ride was over as we flew towards the setting sun, and without any drama at all, we were back on solid ground safe and sound. Thanked the pilot for the awesome first time ride for K, and went through the usual viewing of the photos taken professionally and rejected the offer of $20 for it. Quick visit to the toilet and a walk around the shop before a 10mins wait for the transport to bring us back.

Had to selfie
Sun setting in the horizon
Last bit of sunlight
Our ride

The return journey was a little longer, about 45mins back as traffic was built up. K and I drifted off to sleep, and after the short snooze, we had to drop off for a change to smaller bus at Vegas. Another short drive from there and we were dropped off at Cosmopolitan, at the same location where we were picked up.

We made our way back to Jockey Club Suites to check in. I asked if we could be given a room with fountain view and upon checking, the receptionist said that the room didn’t have that view and there wasn’t anything she could do to change it and informed that we should have requested earlier. It was disappointing as I did put in a request during booking but I guessed it must have been missed. At least, though, the room was at highest floor.

The insides of the room was pretty good in my opinion. The place was huge, came with a kitchen, and had shower amenities like Neutregena soap and shampoo. And it was cheaper than the rooms around. I went to collect the luggage from the car while mommy bathed K.

Living room
Toilet with bath.
Neutrogena amenties
Dining table with kitchen

After we all got ready, we proceeded for dinner and amongst the huge selection of dining options available, we chose Bubba Gump, as it was near us and had kids meals. We were also searching for some shows to go to, maybe “David Copperfield” or something like that but unfortunately on Mondays, nothing seemed to be on except Blue Man group, which we weren’t really interested. Ordered seafood trio and calamari to share and a kids meal of ribs and fish. The meal also came with a souvenir cup with lights at its base. The damage was about USD$75.

Planet Hollywood on the strip
Inside Bubba Gump
Seafood trio
Kids meal in a paper boat
Calamari rings
Cute cup
Run Forrest Run

After dinner, our entertainment was then to explore this colourful night life. We went to Bellagio fountain where the shows were on every 15 mins. The fountain show was different every time but all majestic. Continued to along the strip to the Caesar Palace next door to experience a little bit of Roman city visit. All these thematically designed casinos were worth a visit as the internal designs were as magnificent as they were externally. We had enough walking and ended up in a huge pharmacy CVS to buy anti-nausea med as it was left at home, some titbits and a shaver. Before returning to the room, we went to watch the fountain show again one more time.

Glitzy strip
Paris of Las Vegas
Caesars Palace
Fountain inside Caesars
Hell’s Kitchen

As mommy washed up and got K into bed, I decided to go out and see some more of Vegas. I didn’t get a good fountain photo and visited yet again. While there, some people in costumes were hustling people including me to take a photo with them, whereby they could earn some tips whilst doing so. I wasn’t that interested though. After the fountain, I went the other way towards New York, New York. There were many brightly lit buildings along the way and a statue of liberty replica at the end of it. As I walked the return journey back, the number of people on the streets also reduced as it was getting late.

Bellagio fountain
View while walking towards New York, New York
Design covering a restaurant inside Aria
Statue of Liberty replica
Panoramic view.
New York, New York

I was back in the room around midnight, took a bath and got into bed, with my family whom was already sound asleep. Didn’t manage to do something which a lot of people in Vegas did – played a game of luck.

Escape Plan to West USA November 2018

A brief summary on the itinerary

Escape Plan to West USA:

Total duration 15D14N
Singapore is 12hr ahead of California, USA.
Flight time is 15hrs on Singapore Airlines from Singapore to Los Angeles and return flight is 17hrs on Singapore Airlines from Los Angeles to Singapore.

Friday evening flight on 2nd Nov at 845pm and arrival in Los Angeles in the evening of the 2nd Nov at 855pm. Return flight from Los Angeles on the 16th Nov at 1025pm and arrival in Singapore at 815am on the 18th Nov

Day 1 Flight and Arrival at Los Angeles
Day 2 Venice Beach, Venice Broadwalk and Santa Monica Pier
Day 3 LA, Hollywood and Griffith Observatory
Day 4 Las Vegas and Helicopter ride to Grand Canyon
Day 5 Drive to Grand Canyon and glamping under the stars
Day 6 From Grand Canyon to Reno
Day 7 Lake Tahoe
Day 8 San Francisco Golden Gate bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39
Day 9 Alcatraz cruise, Academy of Science and Powell Street
Day 10 San Francisco Premium Outlets
Day 11 Coastal drive to Prismo beach
Day 12 Detour to Camarillo Premium Outlets and Disneyland Pier Hotel
Day 13 Disney California Adventure Park
Day 14 San Diego Sea World and Gasclamp Quarters
Day 15 Citadel Premium Outlets and Home Sweet Home

This escape plan was an impromptu due to the availability of good deals. Singapore Airlines announced the revival of the direct long distance flight to Los Angeles and with premium economy seats going at just $1328, only $200 more than the economy seats, it would be a sin to miss!

Budget nature: Budget buster 

It wasn’t a fantastic time to be spending USD as SGD was weak near the end of the year compared to the earlier months. The savings from the tickets were gone in a flash due to travelling in the state with the highest costs of living in the USA, lots of shopping and Disneyland.

Complexity: Easy

Driving around was not difficult even in multiple lanes highways. Tolls can be a little tricky but reading it up on Google helped. Jams were common in cities but with patience, you would still reached your destination, albeit in the dark. Google maps worked like a charm and pulling to the side of the road by the police for speeding wasn’t too daunting too!