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No Worries 'Mas o Menos' 2 years on the road, travelling South East Asia, China, South & Central America and who knows where after that... Photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dojo77/collections/

Roadtrippin’ USA

USA | Saturday, 12 March 2011 | Views [2936] | Comments [2]

We arrived in Los Angeles in time for Oscar night, and even though I was incredibly excited to be there, I had forgotten my award-winning frock, so we decided to pick up a rental car and head out of town. After taking a few wrong turns out of the airport and finding LA’s beaches, we drove for a couple of hours out of the city and found a place to watch all the Oscar action in style...in a motel room with a Taco Bell big box meal to fill us up (not recommended)!

Death Valley

The theme for our planned road trip was to take in some of the country’s National Parks, so we drove a few hours east towards Death Valley. We were warmly welcomed into the park with a fighter jet fly by as it shot over our heads and swept down into a canyon, twisted, turned and then disappeared as fast as it arrived. The views as we drove down into the valley were awesome, a word I repeated all day long. I wouldn’t want to be there in the summer when temperatures can reach over 45 degrees daily and the highest ever temperature in the USA was recorded here, 56.5 degrees, after someone saw birds drop dead from the sky and wondered why.

The park has sand dunes, canyon treks, salt flats, the lowest land point in the western hemisphere and a harsh history, not to mention the fantastic views over the valley from the mountains above.

We stayed the night in a small town in Beatty, crossing the state line into Nevada. At night there was an eerie red glow coming from behind a mountain range and after wondering if it was a nuclear bomb from the Nevada test site or an alien invasion from Area 51, we realised the sky was lit up by the lights of Las Vegas that was over 100 miles away!

We returned to Death Valley and back into California at sunrise and loved the fact the we could see that the Nevada state welcome sign was riddled with bullet holes, and the sunrise views were awesome too.

Mojave Desert Reserve

After a long, lonely drive, we took a detour into the Mojave Desert, a free park with a great drive through a Joshua Tree forest.

We then hit the interstate and there was nothing along the roadside until we hit the state line where there was a huge Nevada Welcome Centre sprawled along the road, with casinos, hotels and rollercoasters of all things, maybe a taste of things to come further down the road!

Las Vegas

Arriving in Vegas made my jaw drop. It was fascinating to see the lights of the casinos that we had seen many times before in movies but it was also great for people watching to see who was in town to have a good time and who was down on their luck.

It was exactly as we expected it to be; materialistic, over the top and tacky, but you kind of have to get in the spirit of sin city and just enjoy it.

We spent hours getting lost in the rabbit warren casinos and shopping malls that have ceilings painted to look like the sky so you think you are outdoors and with no exit signs anywhere, it’s easy to get trapped inside. We walked the whole length of the strip, which is a long way, passing by Venice, Cairo, Paris, New York, along with pirate ships, erupting volcanoes, flamingoes and roaring lions, and the highlight was the famous Bellagio fountains.


So was Vegas lucky for us? Well after a round of poker for Ryan and an attempt to conquer the slot machines for me, we left with zero winnings.

Hoover Dam

Just outside of Vegas is the famous dam, so we took a quick tour inside and felt the power of the Colorado river rushing through it’s pipes and were very impressed with it’s size and engineering skills.

We then crossed the border over to Arizona and headed down the historic Route 66, which had wonderful scenery and cute small towns full of old style motels and diners, before we took the long drive to the edge of the rim.

 

Grand Canyon

This had been high on our list of places to visit for a long time but we arrived just after sunset so we had to wait until the next morning to get our first view. We were so eager to see it we left our room in darkness and caught the shuttle bus to the rim were it was still pitch black and freezing cold. As the first rays of the sunrise hit the canyon it revealed it’s true size to us and even though we had seen many pictures of it before, it really was amazing to see in person.

We spent the whole day taking in all the different view points by trekking along the south rim and as the sun rose and set we saw the whole canyon under different light. It really was Grand!!!

Zion National Park

The great thing about road trips is you never really know where you will end up each night. Often plans work out well, but after leaving the Grand Canyon we had to drive through a couple of towns on the map that we thought would have motels, but had nothing to offer us, so we had to keep driving late into the night, but thankfully we found a nice place in the end.

The next morning we headed further north and crossed into Utah to explore some of the canyons this region is famous for. Zion National Park runs deep inside a canyon and has great rock faces, river scenes, treks and a scenic drive with impressive tunnels through the canyon wall.

Our favourite part was the wavy rock surfaces that were fun to climb all over.

Panguitch

Utah is full of national parks so we drove north to visit some more of them but after passing through a few tiny towns that were mostly closed for the season, including their petrol stations, we took a diversion to a larger town to find some gas as we were running low. As the sky on the horizon looked dooming and it was getting late we decided to stay there the night. When we set off early the next morning a light snow shower started and as we drove south it started to get very heavy and there was no one else on the road so we had no tracks to follow, so we had to turn back and wait it out in Panguitch.

Waiting it out meant we had to stay another night as the storm was big and moved through the state making travel too dangerous for two inexperienced winter drivers without snow chains. Luckily the town was a lovely place to stay as it had lots of wild west charm, classic American diners with cowboys sipping coffee at the bars and ordering pumpkin pie, plus a wonderful smokehouse that did a great bisket for dinner, if you didn’t mind the moose head watching you as you ate!

Bryce Canyon

The next morning the sun was shining so we could hit the road, if a little slower than normal as there was still some ice around and eventually we made it into Bryce Canyon national park. Most of the park was still closed as they were clearing snow from the scenic drive, but we could still access the main part of the park where there is an amphitheater full of Hoodoos.

It was very picturesque covered in snow, even if it was freezing cold!

Capitol Reef

Heading north the roads cleared up as the sun came out and we had a fantastic drive up over a high pass and then down into more canyon land, passing through the Capitol Reef national park, where the earth was as red as the outback and the air is some of the clearest in the whole states.

 

Arches

After a couple more hours through the middle of nowhere, trying not to run over Prairie Dogs, we reached the town of Moab that is next to the Arches National Park, which contains over 2000 natural sandstone arches, the most in one area in the world, and the afternoon sun really lit up the parks highlights in another amazing setting. Utah is fast becoming our favourite state.

The unusual formations and gravity defying rocks, really made me think I was on the set of a western movie and it was even the film location for the beginning of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, so we really could feel like Indie here!

The final arch we visited was the landscape arch that is the length of a football field and is very fragile. There was a huge crash some 10 years before and it’s not known when the rest of it will fall.

Dead Horse Point State Park

This park is so named because cowboys used to corral wild mustang horses at this dead end point and fence them in and one time they left a herd there that died from thirst while overlooking the Colorado river. We toyed with not driving out into America’s last uncharted land as we thought we may have seen too many canyons and red rocks, but yet again Utah just stunned us when we drove up to the view point and saw the view from this tiny but amazing park. It’s also the film location for the opening of Mission Impossible II and, more importantly, it’s where Thelma and Louise drove off the cliff at the end of that movie!!! Cool.

Monument Valley

If you really want to feel like you are on a movie set, especially a western, then Monument Valley is for you. It has been the setting for four John Wayne films among many others and it is part of the Navajo Nation Tribal Reservation, where many Navajo Indians still live amongst the buttes and mesas. With the sun setting on the buttes, they glowed orange and were gorgeous to look at.

Flagstaff

We didn’t spend long here, but it was a real warm hearted place in a great location and the old historical part of town was charming, along with the hickory smoked pulled pork plate we had for lunch! Sometimes you just have to indulge in some of America’s best cuisine.

Phoenix

Arriving in the city at 4pm allowed us to enjoy the classic grid locked roads as we had to drive through the city, because everyone drives here in big cars, no matter how far. We didn’t see a single bus on the road in the two hours we drove around.

 

Being spring time meant it was Spring Training time for the major league baseball teams, so we caught a game between the White Sox and the Chicago Cubs and enjoyed it with a classic hot dog.

And that was it for our road trip. The next day we drove to the airport to drop off the car and head to...

Jo y Ryan

Tip

Buy the National Parks annual pass if you plan to see more than a few in a year. It costs $80 for entrance for one car with up to four people in it, for all the national parks. It saved us money on the entrance fees that are around $20 per park. Also, all the parks are easily accessible to all, whether you just wish to drive to a few scenic view points, take a quick stroll to a monument or lookout, or hike for 2-8 hours. With good planning you really can make the most of this excellent national park system.

Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dojo77/

Tags: arizona, california, death valley, grand canyon, hoover dam, las vegas, los angeles, nevada, utah, zion

 

Comments

1

Some great pics here. Looks like you really had a classic Western experience.

  Martyn Apr 1, 2011 11:07 PM

2

Hey dude, I see you saved the best for last. Kurt is in Chicago now so stop by and say hello.

  Holmy Apr 2, 2011 7:04 AM

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