Monthly Archives: January 2006

Meta Analysis: Final Thoughts on CES/Grand Canyon 2006

Overall thoughts about CES 2006: I didn’t see too many revolutionary products at CES that are going to change our lives over the next year. This seems to jive with what the major publications were saying. Instead there is a steady and predictable march onward as manufacturers continue to improve their products by adding features and reducing size and cost. One of the trends I noticed is that car audio companies have finally become responsive to the digital media revolution and many are now offering stereos with USB plugs on the front that allow you to play your digital audio files directly from a standard USB thumb drive. Several stereos also offer the ability to plug in your iPod and control it through the stereo itself. This is one of the most disconcerting trends which is locking consumers into one specific technology (the iPod) by creating a proprietary interface. Another trend is the coming of age for Bluetooth. This was supposed to be hot technology several years ago but has been slow to be adopted. Manufacturers are finally understanding the benefits of this technology and it’s starting to show up in a lot more mobile devices. Car stereos have Bluetooth hands free hooks into your cell phone so when you accept a call the radio is muted and you can use the phone in a hands free mode. One of the more interesting applications was a standard cordless phone from Uniden which allows you to pair your cell phone with the base station and essentially use the phone as a second line from any of the cordless handsets. This means you only need to carry one phone around the house to receive all your calls. As an added bonus the cordless handsets also have Bluetooth technology allowing you to use a cordless headset with them. Unfortunately Uniden has no plans at this time to make this a feature in any of the less expensive phones.

Overall thoughts on the Grand Canyon: It was a little colder at the canyon than I might normally have chosen but the small crowds were tough to beat. In planning another trip I would probably shoot for Fall or Spring instead of Winter or Summer. The canyon itself is an immense natural wonder and I would love to have more time to explore it. I was a little disappointed by how easy the hike I selected was. I think I would really enjoying going back to the canyon and taking several days to hike several of the trails. Each trail has a unique personality and history which is fascinating to me and I would love to explore each of them. As a whole I did feel a bit underwhelmed by the Grand Canyon. It’s quite a different experience than a mountain and I didn’t feel that it was any more beautiful than many of the other natural wonders I’ve had a chance to see up close. For me it was much more interesting as a historical place than as a natural wonder. For that I much prefer the Grand Teton Mountains and Yellowstone. Still, I would welcome another trip to the area where I would further explore local history and enjoy some fantastic hiking.

Overall thought on the trip: What a great trip! Matt and I had a great time and I know that I enjoyed being able to put some of the skills I’ve learned on all our family road trips to good use. There’s something to be said for taking some time to explore the country and the interaction you get with the land on a car or train trip compared with jetting in and out seeing mostly an airport. Matt and I got along quite well, as he said we have no problem choosing restaurants on the road because we both like the same types of places. As for not Matt says he’s ready to spend some time at home before another vacation but I’m always ready for another adventure, who knows where I’ll end up next!

Hoover Dam, the Grand Canyon and East

Monday January 9, 2006 – We slept in just a little bit this morning before meeting checking out of the hotel and meeting Vinny at the Omelet House for breakfast. One of the off-strip ‘locals’ breakfast joints this restaurant definitely specialized in omelets with around thirty to choose from in addition to the requisite design your own. Following breakfast we headed out of town towards Boulder City. Boulder City is a medium sized town that sits in between Las Vegas and the Hoover Dam. Built during dam construction to house workers the city remains the gateway to the Lake Mead National Recreation area and our next stop, the Hoover Dam. Having seen several documentaries about the building of the Hoover Dam I knew about what to expect out of the dam itself but I was somewhat surprised by just how far it was from Boulder City to the dam. By the time you leave Boulder City the divided highway has turned into a two lane US Route which winds its way down to the dam. There is some construction going on in the area and it looks like they are attempting to improve the road to a divided highway but I don’t know what they’ll do at the dam itself which only has room for two lanes. We crossed the dam an parked on the Arizona side before walking back across. We did run into some security checkpoints on both sides of the dam where they just waved us through but were a little more inquisitive of people with trailers, RVs and trucks. They do offer tours where you can actually go down into the dam itself which would have been fun but we needed to keep moving to get to the Grand Canyon around dusk. After a few photos at the dam and a walk across it we continued on our way. The route along I-40 in western Arizona is nearly identical to the historic US Route 66 and along the way we found several reminders of this including a state highway 66 and several gas stations with references to the famous US Route. Just before dusk we turned north from the interstate and began our trek to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Before you actually reach the canyon you go through some additional national forest land and by the time we reached the Grand Canyon park boundary it had gotten quite dark. I guess because of (relatively) low car volumes in the winter they did not charge a vehicle admission fee or even have the entrance gates staffed. Once we got to the rim we made our way to the El Tovar hotel which is the oldest existing hotel at the canyon. Here we checked into our room located next door in Kachina lodge which was built in the 1960s or 70s and has no front desk. For dinner we walked down the road a bit and ate at the Bright Angel Lodge Restaurant even going so far as to live it up a bit and get some of the delicious chocolate cake. Even through the darkness I was able to see the massive depth of the canyon and decided it would not be a good idea to take a sleepwalk because of the “big hole in the ground” about 40 feet from our room.

Tuesday January 10, 2006 – With morning came a beautiful view of the canyon from our window and the plan for the day was to do a bit of hiking and exploring in the park. Knowing that a good hike starts out with some energy our first stop was at the white linen El Tovar Restaurant where I had the triple pancakes (wheat, buttermilk and blue cornmeal) which were fantastic and Matt had the waffle which he raved about for the rest of the trip. I’m also told that the special Fred Harvey coffee served at the El Tovar is the best around. After breakfast we drove out to the South Kaibib trailhead at Yaki Point. During the summer car travel and parking is severely restricted in the park due to high volumes of traffic. I believe the eventual goal is to completely eliminate car traffic in favor of mass transit but for the time being one of the advantages of going in the off season is being able to drive to all the viewpoints and trailheads. I was split between hiking down the traditional Bright Angel trail or the (supposedly) more panoramic and steeper South Kaibob trail. Knowing this was to be a day hike only I had no illusions of reaching the canyon bottom and returning to the top, in fact signs all around warn of attempting such a feat. The South Kaibib trail has an interesting history surrounding it (as do many of the trails in the canyon) but I’ll leave you to research that yourself. The short of it is that the trail is generally considered more strenuous than Bright Angel but offers better views of the canyon. Thinking we were up for it I proposed a hike down to Cedar Ridge which is about 1.5 miles and 900 feet of elevation change. We took our time on the way down taking in the views and a few photos. Once we reached Cedar Ridge I had some water and crackers and while Matt took a little break I took some photos. Expecting it to take up to three hours to ascend (you’re supposed to plan for twice as long to ascend) I suggested we start so we’d still have some time to explore the rest of the park before dusk. In the end it took us less time to ascend (about and hour) and I was a bit disappointed at how easy it was even for the casual hiker such as myself. I found the day hike I did in the Canadian Rockies this summer to be much more strenuous. When I return to the canyon I’ll certainly plan a longer and more challenging hike because that’s just part of the fun and excitement. On the way back towards Grand Canyon Village we stopped at Yaki Point to take in some of the scenery. Most of the visitors to the canyon never walk more than fifty yards from a parking area which means viewing only from the rim at points such as this. While the views are spectacular they are nothing compared to making an actual descent into the canyon. Continuing west through the village we took a driving tour of the rim out to Hermits Rest. Along the way we stopped and checked out a few of the viewpoints including one with a descriptions of some of the mining that went on in the canyon including Plutonium mining at Orphan Mine that continued will into the 1960s. All of these viewpoints and trails have some amazing history behind them and I would have loved to spend more time looking into that than I did. We also got to see some of our first fauna in the park which was evident by the small traffic jam caused on the road. Once we got to Hermits Rest and poked around a bit we returned to the village and looked around the village train depot which is one of the last three remaining log train depots in the United States. Matt decided he was going to take a rest until dinner while I returned to Hopi Point which is supposed to be one of the better places to see the sunset. I photographed the sunset with about a dozen other people. One thing you notice in the desert is that from sundown to sunup the temperature is quite a bit cooler than it is during the day, something I noticed again the next morning. We hoped to have dinner in the Bright Angel Arizona Room which I’m told is a better spot for dinner than El Tovar but a downside of coming in the off-season is that there are some services that are scaled back. Because of this and the fact that we had dinner in the Bright Angel Restaurant the evening before we walked back over to the El Tovar Restaurant where we each had a New York Strip Steak and a delicious cherry brownie for dessert, feeling we had earned such an indulgence with our hike into the canyon. Before retiring for the evening I copied photos from my Canon Rebel XT camera to my laptop, sorted the photos I had taken so far and did some updating of this travel journal. I turned in a bit earlier than I had been so that I would be able to get up and see the sunrise which is also supposed to be a fantastic view.

Wednesday January 11, 2006 – Waking about an hour and a half before sunrise I headed out to the east on the Desert View Drive. Another benefit of coming in the winter is that sunrise is much later than during the summer when I would have had to get up far too early for my liking. Along the way to Desert View I saw a lot of fauna near the road which seems much more active near dawn and dusk. I arrived at Desert View just before sunrise and was the only person there, with the exception of one National Parks worker, until after the sunrise was mostly complete. While not especially colorful this day the sunrise was beautiful as it rose along the canyon rim. Because the canyon cools down so much during the night I was quite frigid even in my winter coat, hat and gloves from Minnesota so I didn’t stick around very long after sunrise. On the way back to the hotel I stopped to check a few of the viewpoints east of the village. One of the most interesting was Grandview point which was home of the first hotel on the rim and an early mining operation. Once I got back to the room I woke Matt up, did some more computer work and took my things down to the car so we could get checked out. On the way out of town we stopped for breakfast at the Yavapai Lodge cafeteria but had just missed breakfast so we had a small lunch instead. Leaving the park we drove out of the east entrance instead of the south entrance where we entered. The land quickly dropped off as we continued towards the intersection of the Colorado, Utah, Arizona and Mew Mexico borders at Four Corners. Along the way we got to see some of the most beautifully red rock contrasted with some of the poorest living conditions and towns in the United States. We stopped at the four corners monument and took some pictures along with GPS coordinates. The actual junction is on an Indian reservation and the locals charge per person to access the monument so we wanted to make sure we were actually at the junction. After leaving we continued northeast into Colorado. Stuck in between the US interstates I knew we had a hard drive ahead as we drove North towards Grand Junction, Colorado. I drove as far as Durango, CO, where we had dinner, leaving Matt the real challenge of driving through the mountains on a two lane US route. Let me say there’s a stark contrast between crossing the mountains on the wide and graded interstate with its system of efficient routes and tunnels and the old US route system we were on. With many sections and sharp turns limited to 15 miles an hour it takes a long time just to go a short distance. Thank goodness we had good weather conditions and a full moon or it would have taken even longer. While Matt drove I was able to take in some of the scenery which is much nicer than what you find along the interstate. Here the road feels like a part of the mountain as it winds up and down through passes instead of a man made object just passing through. Late in the evening we arrived in Grand Junction and were even able to find a hotel with free internet access so I was able to post some pictures and travel log entries to my website where people could enjoy them before the trip was even over.

Thursday January 12, 2006 – When we left Grand Junction this morning there was just a little bit of frost on the car but once we got up into the mountains we found some real snow. I did encounter some snow when driving through the mountains on the way out but nothing like the snow we saw today. As I drove up I-70 towards the continental divide visibility got increasingly worse and at some points it was even difficult to make out the tail lights of the car in front of us. Needless to say I was thankful to not have encountered snow like this on the US highways last night. Once we got East of the Eisenhower tunnel things improved markedly, it seems the snow has stayed mostly west of there. Once again we found ourselves in the brown land of Denver. As we continued East the only weather phenomena we encountered were high winds in the flat plains of eastern Colorado and Nebraska. We stopped in North Platte, NE for dinner and ate at the regional Italian buffet chain Valentino’s. If you have ever been to the west central part of the country I would be surprised if you hadn’t stopped or at least seen one of these omnipresent restaurants. In any event after a filling dinner Matt took the helm and drove us just past Omaha, NE to Council Bluffs, IA. Pulling in just before midnight we found a room at the Motel 6 which was definitely the poorest accommodations on the trip but the price and location were right.

Friday January 13, 2006 – Today I had an easy drive from Council Bluffs, IA back to Minneapolis where we arrived just after 5:00pm right during the height of rush hour. I took Matt back to his apartment in St. Paul and slowly made my way home through the traffic. All told our twelve day trip took us over 3800 miles through eight states. Our longest day of driving was our first where we drove over 850 miles from Minneapolis, MN to Fort Morgan, CO that was quite a haul! Matt thinks I must have a secret life as an over the road trucker.

CAPTCHA for commenting

I’m working on testing a new plugin for b2evolution with one of the developers which requires entering a CAPTCHA code when posting a comment to an article with the goal of reducing needless comment spam. Please give it a try and leave any comments about the plugin functionality here. If you are unable to comment on an aricle for some reason please send an email describing the problem to

Spam Slide

I’ve been hit with an alarming increase in comment spam over the past few days. I’m working on rewriting a captcha class to help stem the tide and until I get that finished I’m going to disable comments on the site.

Proposal for the reduction of trackback spam

I was just sitting here and doing some thinking. Right now I have a renamed HTSRV directory which has practically eliminated trackback spam. Sooner or later the trackback spammers are going to get as smart and annoying as the comment spammers (especially as comment spamming becomes more difficult). My suggestion is to entirely rethink how trackbacks work. This is something that b2evolution could take the lead on as I don’t think anyone else has done this yet.

I’ve been thinking about how we could use captchas or other antispam techniques on trackbacks. Instead of having one trackback url for each post that’s listed on the site how about dynamically generating trackback urls as requested by users. Don’t list the trackback url on the post page, instead give a form for requesting a private trackback url. This would give us a place to use a captcha to verify a real user. Each user would get a unique and randomized trackback URL that would be valid for only one trackback. The temporary URLs and which article they are associated with could be stored in a new database table and a function could snag incoming trackbacks and post them to the appropriate article.

This would have to be a core feature change because it means multiple trackbacks per article and a database schema change. I know that a lot of people think the blacklist is the end-all be-all solution to spam and it helps a lot but it can’t solve everything. The HTSRV rename solution is temporary at best and this plan allows for a lot of future flexibility including the possible future ability of tracking how many trackback urls are request by a given IP in a given amount of time and rate limiting that. The idea of having temporary, user specific trackback URLs is a much more permanent solution to the trackback spam problem than what I have seen in the past. The current focus on reducing comment spam will certainly have the long term effect of pushing more spammers to trackback spamming and if b2evolution has a flexible framework in place for dealing with that threat we’ll be much better position to meet the challenge.

Wrapping up in Vegas

Friday January 6, 2006 – Matt got pretty hungry at the convention yesterday so before we left the Plaza we made a quick stop at McDonalds for some breakfast. We parked at the Sahara valet parking today and although they did hassle us a bit we made much better time getting to the show today. Our primary area of concentration today was the South Hall. Most of the computer stuff is found on the second floor of the South Hall. Big booths here included nVidia, Creative, AMD, Palm, HP and others. The lower floor of the South Hall is primarily home automation and audio equipment. We did take a run through there as well but stayed mostly focused on the second floor. In the afternoon we split up for a while and I continued looking through booths in the Central Hall and made a stop at the DL.TV booth where I bumped into Vinny again. After watching the tail end of the DL.TV recording for the day Vinny and I continued through the Central Hall. Around four-thirty we started getting tired and met Matt at the Hilton. Vinny took part in “Star Trek the Experience” to recoup some of his parking money while Matt and I called another friend to find some good places to eat. Ed suggested we try the Rio if we were interested in a buffet. After last year’s less than stellar buffet experience at the Mirage I was a bit hesitant but Matt and I decided to give it a go. The biggest challenge was to locate the buffet once we got inside the Rio. Signage in Las Vegas casinos is notoriously lacking. Eventually we located the buffet and although it wasn’t a deal it was a much better experience than last year. I’d probably visit it again although I have heard the buffet at Steve Wynn’s new Wynn Casino is quite good as well. After eating ’till our heart’s content we returned to the Plaza. I did some catching up on the WiFi connection from down the street while Matt went out on Freemont Street.

Saturday January 7, 2006 – When I got up this morning Matt told me he was going to sleep in and get one of those famous cheap Las Vegas breakfasts so I headed down to the show by myself. I parked in the Stardust lot today and hiked over to the convention center. On the way over I noticed $5 parking in the LVCC lot so I think we’ll try parking there tomorrow. I spent the first part of my day in the Central Hall. Soon after I arrived (around 9:45) the power went out in the Microsoft booth for everything that was powered from the ceiling grid (mostly lighting). It’s the first time I’ve seen a power outage at CES so it was memorable. A bit later I found out that DL.TV was doing a taping in the early afternoon so I spent a little time looking at the international marketplace at the Hilton before heading over there. In the past year I’ve learned to be more interested in what is going on internationally with consumer electronics as a lot of what you see on retail store shelves is rebranded, imported electronics. You can find manufacturers of anything from alarm clocks to Ethernet switches to displays who are ready and willing to cut a deal for custom branding right at the Hilton. This is one of the ways I see what’s coming down the pipe a year ahead of schedule, it’s also one of the most under visited and under reported parts of the show. One of the other things you notice is that the weekend crowd can be quite different from the weekday crowd at the show. Many of the executives head home on Friday night or Saturday morning and you see more of the average public on the weekend, especially in the car audio area. After spending a bit of time looking over the international products at the Hilton I walked back to the DL.TV taping. I took a series of behind the scenes photos of the taping which will hopefully be picked up by the folks at DL.TV. After the taping concluded I hooked up with Matt and we cruised the South and Central Halls some more looking over the products coming out from the major players. Around 4:30 I headed off to church at the Las Vegas Cathedral and Matt drove back to the hotel to try and catch up on email. Matt picked me back up later and we drove out to the Orleans for dinner. This was another restaurant suggested by Ed but it wasn’t as big a hit as the Rio buffet, partly due to poor service and partly due to bland food but it was much less expensive. After dinner we drove down to the America Café in New York, New York where we had a slice of the New York Cheesecake (they have extra large slices here) for dessert. Once we got back to the hotel we packed up our second laptop and headed down to Freemont Street in search of a better internet connection. Matt did a little work while I watched the Freemont Street show and we topped it all off with a Krispy Kreme doughnut.

Sunday January 8, 2006 – Today is the last day of the show. We stopped at McDonalds on the way out of the hotel again to pick up a quick breakfast. I decided to go for the $5 parking across from the LVCC today which worked out quite nicely. We spent most of the day (which ends at 4:00) today playing games and attending product demonstrations in search of the elusive swag. I did end up winning a Creative Zen Micro/Photo digital media player along with a number of T-Shirts and hats although the total amount of swag given away continued to decline this year. One interesting product I did see today was a Bluetooth cordless phone from Uniden. The unique thing about this phone was that it would allow you to not only use a Bluetooth headset, but you could connect in your cell phone via Bluetooth and use it as a second line from any of the handsets. I think this product would be of interest to a lot of people with unlimited nights and weekends on their cell phones if Uniden could find a way to get the price down some more. After leaving the show Matt and I drove out to Metro Pizza which is supposed to be the local pizza joint in Las Vegas. The prices were great and our pizza had a wonderful crust if only a mediocre sauce. I would recommend trying Metro Pizza as an alternative to the many chains and casino restaurants found in Vegas. After finishing dinner we drove back to the hotel and headed down to Freemont Street to see if we could get an internet connection and some “deep fried Oreos” that Matt had been eyeing all week. The Oreos were interesting and novel if not especially tasty. Along the way we encountered some rather poignant Christian protesters in the middle of Freemont Street. I wonder how much this negative attitude actually works, especially with the street crowd in Las Vegas who didn’t take too kindly to the message of doom and gloom.

Photos from the road

Thanks to a free hotel WiFi connection I’ve been able to post many of the pictures from the CES/Grand Canyon trip already. You can view them here in my photo gallery.

Start the madness

Wednesday January 4, 2006 – After a brief and uneventful drive into Las Vegas we made a stop at Fry’s Electronics. This perennial favorite is probably the most interesting and best stocked brick and mortar electronics retailer in the United States. Known for their deals, Matt was able to pick up a five port Ethernet switch for $5 while I looked over the current prices and stock. Following our visit to Fry’s we drove back up the strip to the Sahara where we had lunch at the Nascar Café. I’ve eaten here before but I was distinctly unimpressed with the food this time and would probably not go back again. After lunch we walked over to the Hilton to pick up our show badge holders. The line was quite short and we had no trouble getting this done. By this time I thought our hotel room might be ready so we drove to downtown Las Vegas and checked into the Plaza hotel at the intersection of Main and Freemont. We ended up with a Freemont facing room on the 14th (really the 13th) floor providing a great view of all the action downtown. After finding an open access point and a brief email check we drove back to the Sahara where we parked and walked to the Hilton for Bill Gates’ pre-show keynote. Because we did not have tickets we ended up sitting upstairs in a ballroom watching via monitor but this is where I have always ended up watching it so that wasn’t a big disappointment. After a demonstration of what Microsoft’s view of a future day might look like we got to see the most extensive demonstration of Windows Vista to date. When Bill wrapped up we were pretty hungry so we drove down to New York, New York and had a late dinner at the America Restaurant. When we got back to the Plaza I went down to Freemont Street and watched two of the shows on the giant screen covering the street before returning to the hotel and getting some sleep to prepare for the first day of the show.

Thursday January 5, 2006 – The plan this morning was to park at Sahara around 9:15 and hike to the convention center but for the first time Sahara was monitoring their parking and wanted people to park in a $20 a day dirt lot across the street. Instead of doing that we drove to New York, New York which is an official show hotel and attempted to take the provided shuttle bus to the show. Unfortunately, we read the sign incorrectly and waited for almost an hour before finding the correct door and a bus came by. We finally made it to the show around 10:45. Last year I had a good time looking through the future technologies in the “Innovations Plus” area so after finding the DL.TV booth and my local friend Vinny we went off in search of that. Instead of the usual home in the parking lot tents Innovations has grown large enough to warrant an additional venue, the Sands convention center. This brings the total number of CES venues to four, the Hilton, LVCC, Sands and Alexis Park. We waited in a short line for shuttle to the Sands and spent the rest of the day canvassing the exhibits there. After returning to LVCC Vinny drove us down to Caesar’s and we had dinner at the Cheesecake Factory before Vinny drove us back to our car at NY, NY. Once we got back to the Plaza Matt went down to Freemont Street to watch the show and I caught up on some email and information from the first day of the show before heading to bed.

A winter road trip?

Monday January 2, 2006 – Longtime readers will know that for the past several years I’ve been attending the Consumer Electronics Show held every January in Las Vegas. This year is no exception. A few changes are in store. For the first time I’ve been able to talk someone else into coming along with me so Matt, a friend and owner of the St. Paul based Fast Computer Service Company, will be accompanying me on the journey. Observant readers will also note that instead of the usual quick fly in, fly out we’ve decided to make a road trip out of it. I’ve also tacked on a few days at the Grand Canyon on the way home which should be a fantastic experience. Of course I’ve had the room in Las Vegas booked since September and the room at the Grand Canyon booked since October, other than that we’ll be playing it by ear. When I got up this morning at 7:00 I saw that we had freezing rain in the Twin Cities which is not a great way to start a January road trip. Not to be deterred I headed over to St. Paul to pick up Matt and get some breakfast before leaving town. Thanks in part to it being a legal holiday traffic was very manageable even on the slippery roads. By about 9:15 we finished breakfast and headed south on Interstate 35. Once we got out of the metro area the roads actually got much better and Matt drifted off to sleep as I entered Iowa. With little fanfare we passed through Des Moines and turned West on Interstate 80. As both Matt and myself are licensed amateur radio operators we tried to find locals to talk to or someone who could direct us to an Echolink repeater from which we could connect back to a system in St. Paul and talk to people there. Unfortunately we were unable to find anyone in Iowa but were able to make contact with a local and connect back to St. Paul from Lincoln, NE. I continued driving until we got to Fort Kearny, NE where we stopped for dinner. I had a great Nebraska ribeye steak at the Whisky Creek Steak Restaurant. After dinner Matt took over the driving and being well rested from his mid-morning nap we continued farther west than I had originally planned all the way to Fort Morgan, CO. We soon found a hotel room at the Days Inn that included both a continental breakfast and an internet connection. The breakfast turned out to be a bit disappointing but the internet worked just fine and allowed me to tie up a few things that I hadn’t been able to before leaving town. Final mileage for the day was 851 miles, not a bad drive at all.

Tuesday January 3, 2006 – Matt seemed to have a little trouble getting the time change right this morning and ended up setting his alarm for two hours earlier than he needed to which I found a bit amusing. After a small breakfast at the hotel I drove us west along Interstate 76 and into Denver, CO where we continued along Interstate 70. While in Denver we were able to contact a fantastic local amateur radio operator who directed us towards an Echolink repeater and allowed us to connect back to St. Paul and talk with another friend back there. As far as Denver it had been very dry and our local contact explained to us that they had even been told to water their lawns and trees to prevent them from drying out and dying before spring. We were told to take a look at the snow in the mountains though where they had received 200% of normal snowfall. Matt enjoyed going through the tunnels and aside from some mildly slippery roads and low visibility we had no real problems. Once we got through the Colorado Rockies things dried up as we descended towards the Utah border. With the decrease in snow cover and the increase in sun the beautiful copper colored mountains began to show and I did stop at two scenic view turnoffs in eastern Utah to snap a few photos. Continuing through Utah I rediscovered just how far apart things are out here as I got a bit lower on gas than I’m comfortable with when traveling in remote areas. Eventually we stopped for dinner in Richfield, UT and Matt again did the evening shift bringing us even closer to Las Vegas than I had planned. Right now we’re settling in to the Coronada Suites in St. George, UT where we again got a decent room at a good rate with a continental breakfast and internet access included. Tomorrow we should be just a few hours from Las Vegas which will conclude the road trip section of the trip until Monday when we continue on to the Grand Canyon. The plan right now is to pickup our badge holders once we hit Vegas then check into the hotel and scope out the crowds until Bill Gates’ keynote at 6:30pm. Stay tuned for photos as internet connections allow.