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it's a long way from whitley bay... Hi everyone and welcome to our journal where you can see and read what we've been up to and where we're going next. We hope you enjoy it, and would love you to keep in touch with your news, and send us your comments! Lots of love, Sarah and Phil x ;)

Route 66 (part 2), Grand Canyon, Vegas & Utah

USA | Saturday, 2 August 2008 | Views [2014] | Comments [7]

Hi everyone,

We're still on the road and zooming our way through the US with the distance to Los Angeles shrinking faster than Gordon Brown's approval ratings.

We're now in Idaho and not far off the top of our big western loop. In fact we've managed to stick very closely to our original plan and have got through 5,000 miles in two weeks. Fact fans may be interested to know that that's the same distance as London to Beijing. Maybe road trips could become a new Olympic sport?

So, we left you in Elk City, Oklahoma and another 100 miles took us into the Texas 'panhandle' (the sticky-outy bit at the top) where, true to stereotype, we saw lots of cattle and roadkill armadillo. Less expectedly, we also came across 10 cadillacs half-buried into the ground just outside Amarillo...

Pink cadillacs, oozing, erm into, the street

We didn't find Peter Kay or Tony Christie in Amarillo (presumably they still haven't found anyone who knows the way yet) but we did find this inspired bit of advertising at a Burger King right next to a McDonalds...

The local burger joints not on such good terms in Texas then...

We stopped for lunch at 'the Midpoint Cafe' in the tiny town of Adrian, - another fantastically retro place, which marks the halfway point on Route 66 between Chicago and LA (the clue is in the name!).

It's a cafe, at the mid point!

The roast beef, spuds and veg was the first "proper" Sunday lunch we've had on the trip. Thai stir fry and Vietnamese spring rolls just don't quite cut it. We nearly managed it in Argentina but as they haven't discovered vegetables yet, Sunday beef and red wine didn't count...

After lunch we crossed the border into New Mexico and right on cue, the landscape turned a lot more barren and red and generally more desert than farm-like, and the roadkill armadillo stopped, thank goodness. The place names and radio stations all became Spanish too, so the country and western music that had accompanied us for the past few states changed to, er, Coldplay, whose CD we picked up in Toronto. Have you tried listening to Mexican music?!

New Mexico was beautiful though and we stopped off at Santa Fe and Alberquerque. Santa Fe is all adobe buildings and it has the oldest church in the US.

View of the Plaza Santa Fe

Alberquerque is a bigger modern city but the old town is really well preserved with a nice square in the centre. They also have hot dogs, but, sadly, no jumping frogs...

Between the two cities, we also found a little place called Tinkertown. It's a quirky little home-made museum, stuck in the middle of nowhere, and full of what seems like millions of miniature towns and people that were crafted out of scrap and things found by a husband and wife over 40 years. If not to everyone's taste, it was pretty amazing, and quite inspiring to see what they'd created just in their spare time. A plaque near the entrance sums it up brilliantly: "We did all this while you were watching TV!"

One of the exhibits in Tinkertown - a tiny circus (and why not?!)

After New Mexico we crossed into Arizona and stayed in Flagstaff before heading to the Grand Canyon the next day. There's not much we can say that the pictures can't do better but the Canyon was of course fantastic. The scale of it is just incredible and the different coloured layers of rock, some of which are billions of years old, make it a truly awesome sight.

The Grandest of Canyons

After leaving the Grand Canyon, we hit Route 66 again for the last time. We left it in Nevada, just 250 miles short of LA so we could head north to the bright lights of Las Vegas.

Bye bye Route 66, hello Las Vegas!!

We knew Vegas was pretty much in the middle of the desert but we were a bit concerned as we watched the temperature gauge steadily creep up as we approached, despite it being late evening. By the time we pulled onto the (in)famous Strip (where all the casinos are) and parked up at our hotel, it was gone 11pm and the temperature was 100 farenheit - about 36 Celsius. We couldn't believe it, so in case you don't either, here's the proof!

We only had two nights in Vegas and had to make the most of them so we checked in and promptly went a-gambling and a-drinking till gone 3am. Perhaps the a-drinking wasn't such a-good-idea though, as having steadily turned his 20 dollars into 100 on the roulette wheel, Phil started to think he was George Clooney and went all in on black and lost the lot on the last spin of the wheel!

Oh well, if you can't lose your shirt in Vegas where can you? Luckily we won it all back the following evening and this time tucked the winnings safely away before temptation (or booze) could get the better of us.

Leaving Las Vegas - with some money!

We were staying in the Flamingo hotel right in the middle of the Strip, opposite Caesar's Palace (where Elton John was playing that evening) and just along from the Bellagio (which was the casino in Ocean's Eleven) and the Venetian (which has to be seen to be believed).

The Flamingo, and comparing sunglasses with Elton

The Venetian was until fairly recently the largest hotel in the world and features a replica of Venice's Rialto bridge (to scale!) and has a canal running through it with gondoliers offering rides on genuine Venetian gondolas. Unbelievable. Vegas may well be the most over-the-top, ridiculous place in the world but it's hard not to be impressed.

Real gondolas in not-so-real 'Venice'

Our hotel was a little more normal (at least by Vegas standards) though it still had live flamingos in an area near the pool. A pool which came in very handy on Wednesday afternoon when the temperature peaked at 42 degrees!

On Thursday we left Vegas and headed to Utah, with a detour to the Hoover Dam. The dam is on the Colorado River and provides all the power for Las Vegas with enough left over to power another million homes. That's quite an achievement considering Vegas must have more neon lights than there are grains of sand in the desert. And almost as many air conditioned hotel rooms.

The Hoover Dam - with all those neon lights to power, how does it ever get the vacuuming done?!

Utah was really fantastic. We visited three national parks: Zion, Arches and Canyonland. They were all great with incredible scenery and massive rock formations. Zion was very beautiful, with pink, red and white formations, and the arches in, well, Arches were really picturesque.

Zion National Park

Arches national Park

But Canyonlands was the most awe-inspiring. It's absolutely vast and the red rock canyons are like nothing we've ever seen. Apparently it has some of the most inhospitable terrain on the planet and we can believe it. It looks like Mars and if you had some better walking shoes, and better heat tolerance than we did, you could happily spend weeks just exploring.

In Canyonlands National Park (not the Grand Canyon - just a normal one apparently!)

Today we've driven north through Utah and into Idaho, via Salt Lake City. We had a quick paddle in the lake, but it's not somewhere you'd probably want to spend too much time in. The lake is surrounded by sulphurous smelling flats and the rim is covered in millions of tiny tickly flies. It was nice to look at, but a little bit eerie. A bit like the city itself.

The salt lake

We parked in the centre of Salt Lake but there were no shops, just lots of offices, conference centres and churches belonging to the Mormons. There seemed to be about 20 different newlyweds having their wedding photos taken but no one else was around. We walked into a big food court which had just two other people in it, so we left. Maybe we should have come on a week day or we were in the wrong part of town but it felt a little like wandering into the twilight zone.

The state building, Salt Lake City and could this be the only shopping mall in America that is empty on Saturday??

So we scarpered to Idaho. Which is famous for....drum roll....potatoes. Exciting eh? Idaho's nickname is The Spud State. They're very proud of their tattie heritage, so much so that they even have a spud museum. Really...

We're spending tonight in Idaho Falls and plan to spend the next two days in Grand Teton and Yellowstone parks. After that we're heading to Seattle and hopefully we'll fit in a day trip to Vancouver. Then it's a drive all the way down the west coast to LA via San Francisco.

Just before we go, a quick word on American television: Aaagghh! Just had to get that off our chests!

Take care everyone,

Love Sarah and Phil x x



My word- how are you fitting in all this stuff AND driving so far? I don't understand?

Well i'm back off to Cardiff with Simon in a couple of hours. I'm spending a few days there with him this week and getting the train back on thursday. We hope to see the dark Knight and visit the Brecon beacons along with a trip to buy Simons bag for india and doing lots of reading up and planning!

On my way back from London and Lauras leaving party, I paid a visit to hitchin which has become the focus of any possible way-off plans to move south. It is a really nice old market town and has excellent train links to kings cross (half hour) while also being near the M1 for those trips up north. I really liked it and can imagine being there. It also only took an hour from Mum and Dads in bad traffic, prob about the same to Simons Mum and Dad and would be near St Albans if you move there! I can't see it happening really as there is so much to sort out before we could but we shall see.....

enough time reading from a computer now you two- go get busy with that camera! XX

  anna Aug 4, 2008 9:21 PM


It all looks so amazing I don't know what to say any more! A lifetime in 9 months I reckon. Except that it sounds a bit hot and I hope you're finding a cactus big enough to hide behind Phil, I can't believe you've done all that driving and seen so much in two weeks or so, and I hope you've hit the jackpot by now. How amazing is that Venetian hotel too. This has to be the longest blog ever - as Anna says, how do you manage to find the time to do all that as well - don't you ever go to sleep? Hope you don't get too suicidal when there are only a couple of days left but at this end we are so looking forward to seeing you.
Lots of love
Mum xxx

  Mum B Aug 5, 2008 10:01 PM


Hear Hear Mummy B! We're all really looking forward to seeing you both, but hope you enjoy your last couple of weeks. Lots of exciting things to look forward to here..... engagement celebrations, weddings, babies etc......

See you very soon

Love Alex xx

  Alex Aug 6, 2008 12:48 AM


Hey you guys (said in a corny American accent),

Just caught up on the last few postings and rather like your Mum, don't know what to say! It's all WOW isn't it? You've got to love Americans, for all their sillyness and naivity, they do have a great country don't they? If only they realised it and didn't have a complete fool in charge! Auntie Eileen sends a big thank you for the sin city Birthday flowers! An amazing surprise. They have recently gone home after 'ground forcing' our garden - we didn't ask but there's just no stopping them! Dad went to the cricket with your Dad and Auntie Ann and as a result I have had the pleasure of fresh courgettes and potatoes from the allotment. Very nice too Uncle John if you're reading.....
Really looking forward to seeing you soon, but will be sorry when these blogs have finished. Perhaps you could carry them on from Brixton or Houndslow say? No? Maybe not.
Take care both and enjoy the rest of the US,

  veronica Aug 8, 2008 6:50 AM


Hi you two,
Sorry we've not "blogged" you for a while; will email you as to why.
But reading a large chunk of these have really cheered me up.
If I had more stamina and could dream of leaving Chops home alone for eons then we would love to visit some of the fab places you have.
Well not long now (about a week) boo hoo - still there's the new football season to look forward to Phil - no touch of irony - and some wonderful English summer weather. Well it's the pits actually. Just how much have you missed that?
When I was about 10 and was away from the UK for a couple of years I missed the BBC News. How sad is that for a 10 year old!
I still really think you should try and get this journal published; it's been really great to read and one wouldn't have to know you to enjoy it.
Have fun for the last few days and look forward to seeing you soon.
Lots of Love Uncle Cliff & Michele xx
PS. - and meouw from Chops x purr purr. He's still Mr Tubs despite being put on numerous diets.

  Michele & U. Cliff Aug 10, 2008 1:01 AM


TAA-DAA. It's ME - don't pass out.

As your adventure is almost over, I just had to register what a thoroughly interesting and entertaining (plus some smashing photos) journal you've kept, and if the other readers have enjoyed the window into your travels as much as I(we) have then you've given much pleasure. I, for one, will be sorry you're coming home!
Anyway, I'm off for my usual trog up and down the Dow. See you soon.

Love U.Cliff xx

  U. Cliff Aug 13, 2008 2:16 AM


Hey you two , I agree with Uncle Cliff and Michele....... this would be brillant published - its a great read!
Sounds like you are still having lots of fun - there is so much to see! Really looking forward to seeing you when you return.
lots of love kerr, lee and the little ripster!!!

  kerry Aug 13, 2008 2:24 AM

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