Summer Oasis

With a cookbook heading to print, leaving town has been difficult. Aside from the usual busy-work, proofs back and forth in the mail require that we be here to turn them around quickly.  We found a window though, and headed off for a mid-week escape… taking our first venture to Zion National Park.  It is only three hours away, but we decided to make an event of it, and stayed one night in Mesquite, NV, midway between here and there. 

Not expecting much, we were pleasantly surprised for all we could get for our money in this entertainment filled little border town.  Flagged with three casinos, all run by the same company, a treasure of inexpensive food and activities awaited.  Unfortunately, we were just staying one night, and then off to the park.  We will be pack though.  They have a mid-week $99 special that includes two nights at the Casa Blanca (roughly a 3-star I would say) for 2 and either a round of golf for two or two swedish massages in their spa.  Okay, if that doesn’t sound like enough, every time you stay with them you get this insane coupon book that includes 2-4-1 buffets, free money to gamble (the only time we gamble), and a ton of other fun stuff like go carts and mini-golf (no we don’t have kids, that’s for us!). 

Anyway, my husband swore off buffets long ago, but when he saw that we could both eat for $12, we “had” to go.  I was nervous.  Not only do I loathe buffets, but a cheap buffet?  Well, it turned out to be pretty darn good, and there were just enough dairy-free/vegan options to keep me satiated.  If you are traveling between Las Vegas and Utah, Mesquite will keep you entertained and well-fed for a night.  All in all, we spent less than $50 in Mesquite, which included a hotel room for one night, a dinner buffet, breakfast (scarily large), and some free gambling. 

Of course, the next day we set off for a full day hike in the park.  Escaping the summer heat, we headed up the Virgin River, a true oasis.  You follow the river up the canyon for a half hiking, half wading through water venture.  It was a blast, and the best hike ever for a hot summer day.  Because most of the hike is well shaded by the canyon too, no sunburns were suffered!  The park was breathtaking, and I wish I had more photos, but I am new at this stuff.  We came face-to-face with a family of bighorn sheep (alas, I left my camera in the car) on a mini overlook hike.  That was very cool, if not a little close for comfort.  Below is a picture in some shallows of the river and one of many little lizards we saw….

I also loved how environmental the park was.  Heading up the canyon, no cars were allowed, only their quiet propane buses that ran with ease.  You park and let you feet, bike, or the buses do the work for the day.  It made for a very serene environment all around.  Of course, recycling abounded, and not a speck of garbage could be seen on the ground.  People seemed to show the park respect, which was nice.  While admission to the park is a bit steep ($25 for the two of us and our car), it did include parking, all day use of the buses, free museum/movie access, and a very affordably priced cafe.  We were amazed to see a menu that had hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, and Garden burgers for $4 to $6, and they weren’t half bad. 





Obviously, I have taken a detour from the kitchen, but wanted to share our travels, which I suppose included some frugal foodie action!