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Posts Tagged ‘Road Trip’

We woke super early on 24th May and hit the roulette wheel at Gamblin’ Bills one last time before leaving Vegas to fade into the dust in our rear-view mirror. In a very typical A & S moment, our last stop in Sin City was:

Welcome indeed!

From Las Vegas we headed north-east towards southern Utah. Our destination? Zion National Park. We had originally wanted to see both Zion and Bryce Canyon, but there was never going be enough time, so S cast the deciding vote and we went only to Zion. We were not disappointed. After what felt like an endless drive through seemingly featureless landscapes (although we did pas a rather large sand dune at one point, I think…) we finally reached our destination.

Having researched the park only enough to make our decision to visit, we weren’t really sure what to expect. Well, I can tell you one thing for certain – Zion National Park is a wonderful, beautiful place. The road that winds through the valley is no longer accessible by private vehicle, but the park runs an excellent bus which circles the route very frequently. It stops often which gives you a chance to hop-on-hop-off and explore the surrounding areas. An outdoorsy person would be seriously spoilt for choice at Zion. The hiking and rock -climbing opportunities are endless. We, well, we stayed on the bus until it reached its terminus and only then did we get off.

Zion National Park

I wasn’t too pleased with the idea of the bus at first – however, I now have to say that it is very, very good. There was a constant commentary explaining about the discovery of the canyons and the history behind the area. They explained some of the names of the individual features and why they’re called what they’re called. If I was able to remember any of it, I would share it with you now, but I don’t. (Thrilling story, right?)

Cliffs across the river.

At the end of the bus line there’s an extremely accessible and peaceful mile-long walk along the green waters of the Virgin River. We took our time wandering the path, which was quite crowded considering the early hour. For reasons known only to themselves there was a group of older tourists there who were obsessed with taking pictures of squirrels. Honestly. Here you are in a canyon of absolutely stunning natural beauty and you’re taking pictures of the…squirrels? Yeah, ok….

Beautiful, beautiful, wish you were here!

It really was phenomenally beautiful. Quiet and peaceful, despite the fact that it was quite busy. Again, it’s interesting to imagine the very first person who ever encountered these canyons…it would certainly fuel belief in a higher power, that’s all I’m saying.

When we returned to our car we headed straight back onto the road. This was one of the longest driving days of the entire trip – but there was no way I was going to come to Southern Utah and not go to Monument Valley. I mean, really, who does that?

So we drove and we drove and we drove. The scenery does not change much in this part of the world, I’m afraid. The view from the window was either the backside of an 18-wheeler (if I was driving) or the horizon stretched out interminably (if S was driving). It was the very essence of a Road Trip – and I enjoyed every single mile of the journey.

The Road.

Our plan was to arrive in Monument Valley in time to wander the monoliths in the settling dusk, then spend the night camped nearby. However, I am sorry to report that the only camping in the area was certainly not suitable for us. There was no running water or toilet facilities, no place to cook or anywhere to make a fire. If you add onto this the fact that there was a very, very strong wind that evening, you have all the information which fuelled our decision to power on through to Flagstaff, AZ after our brief, but no less wondrous visit.

Like I said, it was one of the heaviest driving days of the entire three week journey.

However, having said that, it was entirely worth every extra mile and every cent spent on the gasoline which took us there.

If there is only one place to ever see in the Southwest of America, I recommend this above all else that I have seen:

Monument Valley

It is a hushed, silent and scared place. Totally awe-inspiring. Iconic and unforgettable. We stayed for a very long time just looking.

Along the roadside.

Unfortunately, due to the reasons I mentioned above, we did not have long to linger. So we looked our fill and then headed back onto the road. The drive to Flagstaff was long and tiring, we did not arrive until early morning. Luckly, the 25th of May was a quieter day (more later), so we were able to sleep in a bit and get out from behind the wheel of the car. Although, with views like this:

In the mirror.

…it’s certainly easy to drive…

xo

A

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What can I tell you about our Sunday in Vegas? Well, nothing much that I’d like to admit to, that’s for sure. I was…well, hmmm… I was…incredibly hungover. Spectacularly hungover. Not much at all took place during the day except I stayed in bed and drank a lot of water.

So, yeah. Avoid alcohol, kids, it’s BAD FOR YOU!!

🙂

Sunday night, however, we had tickets booked to go and see The Rat Pack is Back – dinner and a show! I have nothing bad to say about this excursion. Except the whole Marilyn Monroe thing was a little over the top. But the atmosphere was light-hearted and fun, the steak dinner was delicious (being the only thing I ate that day…again – alcohol is bad for you!), and the music was fantastic. I have to say, in my opinion, the guy playing Dean Martin was the best, although they all had their parts down pat. It was funny and irreverent and nostalgic and we really enjoyed ourselves.

After that we did an in-and-out tour of a lot of the casinos. Why? Well, we wanted to say we’d seen them, we wanted to scope out where we’d like to stay if we ever went back and (I can’t stress this enough) so that I could get a free pen from as many casinos as possible. It was a good laugh. We did not stay to gamble in any of the casinos, just wandered around briefly then moved on to the next one on the list.

When we did gamble we played the Roulette. We did not win big money but we did end up profiting overall. Take that, casino conglomerate people! HA! We played early in the morning and kept to the quieter casinos so that the limits were low. I know, we’re such risk-takers, right?

Twice I was overcome by a strange feeling that I should bet heavily on Red 14. Twice I won “big” (big for us, which is, in reality, rather small!). Hence the name: Red14Photography  of the shop where I sell my pictures. So, yeah, there’s that.

Two further notes on Vegas: 1) I was offended by the guys handing out photographic business cards for call girls on the street corners. They are very incessant. I was starting to get really irritated by it and starting to plan routes so I could avoid them all (impossible) until Sarah (see previous post) mentioned that she’d seen two college-age guys playing Top Trumps with the cards. This made me laugh A LOT and after that, I wasn’t quite as offended. 2) The fountain at the Bellagio is phenomenal. I could have stayed there and watched it all weekend. In fact, I did spend quite a lot of time begging S to take me back there to see it again (and again, and again). More than just the music and the lights and the water show, I liked how the fountain sounded. If you’re in Vegas, don’t miss it. Especially at night.

Arizona. It’s hot here.

On Monday morning we left quite early and headed East into the desert. En route to the Hoover Dam we stopped in Boulder City for breakfast at The World Famous Coffee Cup. This was the first of a few Diners Drive-Ins and Dives restaurants I’d found along our route. It was delicious, charming and everything you would expect from somewhere that gets a thumbs-up from Guy Fieri.

We then continued on to the Hoover Dam. What can I say? It’s an engineering masterpiece. Totally stunning in both scope and execution. Plus, it’s HUGE. Don’t forget that part. Really, seriously gigantic.

Hoover Dam

Also, it’s a pretty scary place for someone (me) who is terrified of things that are underwater (including all types of pumps, generators, intake valves, etc). I know I wasn’t close enough to anything to really be afraid – but that didn’t stop me being frightened. I may not have been able to see the inner workings of the dam, but I knew they were there….

Lake Mead

(Also, if someone could please, PLEASE, explain to me the mystery of why the rocks below the waterline are completely white?, that would be a huge help. Thanks!)

The view of the new road bridge was also quite wonderful. Although it only served to emphasise jut how high up we were…

The new bridge and the river

After seeing the Hoover Dam we drove over the new road bridge (where, sadly, it is almost impossible to see the dam!) and headed further east and further still into the desert. Our destination was the Grand Canyon, but the drive was well worth it. We had debated, before we left, booking one of those day-tripper things where you spend the day on a bus – – I am SO glad we did not do that! It gave us a chance to explore Arizona ourselves. It gave us a chance to drive some sections of Route 66 (swoon) as well, which I was desperate to do!

Of course the Grand Canyon was amazing. How could it not be?! I mean, there isn’t much I can tell you except it’s something you really need to see for yourself. In real life. It’s an experience not to be missed.

Having said that, looking back over your own photos of the event is kind of anti-climatic. The drama and majesty of the place simply does not come alive through photographs.

Having said THAT, have a look at some of the ones we took!!:

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

The view from every single overlook is completely different – it seems as though if you blink the scene before your eyes changes. I know there are sections where the rock face opposite is so far in the distance that your brain can’t process the images as 3D, and that is incredibly cool. The fact that it was partly cloudy also helped to bathe the canyon meandering patches of darkness and light which enhanced the drama of the place.

It was an amazing day. There was a funny incident which involved a small rock (higher vantage point) from which I wanted to take pictures. I was about to clamber to the top when a Japanese tourist jumped in front of me and right to the top of the rock, which was only big enough for one person. He then proceeded to take panoramic photos. With six different cameras. Which took forever, but I waited. When he started over with the first of his six cameras and started taking panoramic video I gave the rock up as a bad job and moved on. When S and I left the viewing platform nearly fifteen minutes later the man was still on top of the rock taking videos. I am sure I would have found it impressive if I hadn’t been so annoyed.

Also, if you’re like S and I and are playing the License Plate game during your road trip, definitely go to the Grand Canyon. Cars from every state. And Canada. And Mexico. And Europe. It’s like a great, big watering hole in the middle of the Arizona desert – everyone is there.

We drove back to Las Vegas after our day at the Grand Canyon. On our cross-country trip we would eventually cross the Arizona state line 10 times. More than any other state. There is a LOT to see in Arizona and, if you can handle the heat, you should definitely go there. It really is very impressive. Grand, really.

xo

A

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