Road Trip - Route 66, The Grand Canyon and The Hoover Dam, Arizona
Road tripping USofA (California, Arizona, Utah & Nevada), 5th - 8th July, 2010
We picked the car up from Los Angeles Airport so we can drop it back there in a week's time when we leave for Fiji. Every time we've hired a car we've got it from Enterprise and they have always upgraded us from an economy car to a higher range model. The one time we actually needed a higher grade car they gave us an economy. The woman even asked if we wanted to upgrade to an SUV for an extra $5 a day as that would be better for a road trip.Now why would we pay $35 to upgrade a car when we could spend that money on cocktails, I ask? So we stuck with the icle Chevrolet Aveo (that is until I managed to blow up the engine 3 days later, but I'll come to that shortly!)
We drove out of LA and headed towards Grand Canyon territory. Over the first couple of days we would come off the highway and drive parts of route 66 until we felt the car could take no more. Most of route 66 is an historic route and only a few parts of it are still used, so the road surface is pretty bad and most amenities along it are now closed. It's also pretty eerie as no-one uses it so you drive along for ages without passing any other vehicles.
Whilst we were driving along route 66 we saw quite a few mini tornados. The first one we saw had just finished and we got some pics, then we saw another one starting and pulled over to take pics. These are nothing like the massive ones in the films, and neither of us was worried about them, and we probably saw close to 20 of them during our road trip.
The first night we stayed in a town called Kingman which is in the Mojave Desert, Arizona.It took 6 attempts to find somewhere we were willing to stay. The first two were way too expensive, the 3rd we didn't even get out of the car due to the type of 'clientele' in the car park, and the 4th was an old guy who looked and sounded like he was mentally deranged, and the 5th was hotter inside than it was outside and also stank, so we quickly left that place too. To start with we'd both go in, but as the night went on I would go in, and Selena would know by my face when walking out if she should get out, or put her seat belt back on.
I don't know if I can explain just how hot it is out here.Even at night it is baking (and for some reason I thought deserts were meant to be cold at night). It's a really dry heat where your throat gets dryer with every breath and your eyes feel like all the moisture is disappearing with each blink.It's like being in an oven and when the breeze blows it's not cool, but in fact feels like your standing under a heater. The plus sides are you actually feel warmed to the bone, and the tans coming on pretty well too. :)
On Tuesday we finally made it to an IHop restaurant which is a pancake stack house. I think we drank a bit too much coffee (is 2 cafetieres too much?) and we had bit of a doolally couple of hours. It's just as well we did have all that caffeine because it took us most of the day to find the place we were going which was the Petrified Forest. Now you'd think from the name that there would in fact be an actual forest. Nope. The Petrified Forest is in the middle of the painted desert, and it's full of trees laying down that are up to 250 million years old, and they have actually been turned to stone. It was really strange driving around and seeing these as they still look like trees, but they've crystallised and have changed colour.
The next day was the Grand Canyon day. We set off early as the Grand Canyon was 150 mile from where we were staying, and we also wanted to see Antelope Canyon which was just over 100 miles after that (and shut at 5pm). We got to the Grand Canyon turn off after a couple of hours and for some strange reason I was expecting it to be just off of the highway. It's actually a 20 mile drive just to reach the entrance to the National Park. We made our way to the first Vista point and were absolutely blown away. No photograph, painting, video or description will ever be able to accurately describe the Grand Canyon. It's only when it's right in front of you that you can comprehend the sheer enormity of it, and it is the most gorgeous sight I have ever seen. It is up to a mile deep, there is an explosion of colours all around, the Colorado River runs through the bottom of it, and it goes on as far as the eye can see. There is one vista point where there is almost a 360degree view all around the canyon which is just breath taking. It is so peaceful and you realise that everything in front of you is nature's work and that the elements have literally carved these canyons out of the rock. It's just absolutely stunning, and I can't wait to do our helicopter tour of it from Vegas. :)
We spent a couple of hours at the canyon and then headed off for a town called page in northern Arizona. There is another canyon up here but it is underground and full of chambers which in parts has light flooding into them. It's really hard to find, but I wrote down the directions and we made our way up there. Now the canyon shut at 5pm and we had 3 hours to do it in. Now the woman at the car rental place said the car would shake if we got it up to 60mph and it definitely wasn't suited to off road driving. Well, we had places to be and things to see and I absolutely booted it up highway. It took 2 hours and Selena was either holding on for dear life or laughing hysterically at me shouting at everyone to get out the way, overtaking wherever I could, and getting a tonne out of it most of the way. Now to say this car was a basic model would be an understatement. This car was like driving a go Kart, didn't even have central locking, electric windows or water in the window washers (which really didn't help matters), the service light had started flashing too and it really didn't like 100mph. It actually didn't even like 80mph as it was making a struggling, high pitched eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee sound (ok, you try and explain a sound in a blog!) but quite frankly we were fully insured and I was going to work that thing like a rented mule. ;)
Whenever we wanted to take a picture of the passing scenery instead of pulling over, Selena had to master a little routine. She would remove her right earring (so as not to have it ripped out of her ear from the speed I was driving), lock the door, fasten the camera to her wrist, wind down the window and then hang out of the window whist trying to avoid getting the aerial in the pics, not to let the instant influx of desert heat knock her for 6 and not fall out. We certainly got some strange looks from other people - but we were on a mission, and that did not allow for stop offs. Oh my God, I've just realised I've turned into my dad on our car journey's to Devon as a kid! Nooooooooo.
We got some great pics and we also drove through a sand storm which was really cool too :) So we finally got the location stated on the directions, however this is not where the canyon is. We finally found someone to ask directions, and we made our way to the canyon. When we got there at 4.15, the ticket booth was closed and I was not impressed. Selena thought I was joking when I said I reckon we could go find it and break in. How wrong she was! After a bit of driving around we finally found the entrance to the canyon and we headed towards it. Well if we ignored the advice about not driving the car to the Grand Canyon, and that it wouldn't like speeds over 60mph, we certainly weren't going to listen to the 'not for off road use' advice. Yep, there we were off road, bouncing around in our little car (who we decided to call Busta). It really didn't like cornering, but I figured it out in the end too. So we got to the entrance of the canyon at and as our bad luck would have it there was still a guy there who was just closing up. He blatantly knew what we were up to and wouldn't leave until we had. I was gutted. We had travelled all that way to try and make it and the bast*rds were closing up early!
We could have stayed in the local area and gone back the next day, but decided to start making our way towards Vegas instead as it obviously wasn't meant to be. We drove for another couple of hours that night, but this time I eased up on the brake pedal. We stayed in a small town called Hurricane, and set off early again the following morning.
I've uploaded some random pics of the scenery throughout our road trip. The scenery is absolutely stunning, and just goes on and on for hours. We worked out that we had spent 15 hours driving around the Grand Canyon and was probably only a ¼ of the way round.
The final day of our road trip came and we started making our way to the Hoover Dam which is just outside Las Vegas. Omfgg this is the hottest location I've ever been! Even the writing on the road signs have melted. We were use to say gas mark 2, and we were catapulted to gas mark 10! It was so hot we couldn't spend any more than 5 minutes in the sun, your breath was literally taken away and I felt my skin burning the second I walked out into the sun. We drank a whole bottle of water each in 10 minutes, and our throats were burning with every breath. We walked over the dam in the shade and got some good pics. We then stupidly decided to walk over to the other side of the road to take pictures of Lake Mead. Big mistake! We started walking back in the sun thinking we could cross over, but we had failed to notice that there were wire barriers to keep pedestrians out of the road.So we had to walk back in the sun. Now, there is a thing called the "J walk", which is a name that has been given to how slowly I walk. Apparently I have a whole league of my own, and could never work in London cos someone would get road rage with me. My reply - I am built for comfort, not speed and am usually quite happy doodling along. However, it was so hot that not only did I walk at a normal pace we actually started running to get into the shade. My skin felt like it was about to catch fire, and we ran back whilst still taking pictures without stopping - god bless 'sports mode'. When we finally got into the shade I very nearly sat on a boiling hot stone seat, but thankfully put my hand down first, and we sat there for 5 minutes trying to cool down a bit. There was no point and we decided to make our way back to the blissful AC in the car.
We got back to the car, opened the door and a smell of gas (not petrol, but a gas smell) flooded out. We put the AC on full blast to get some cool air on us, and opened the windows (yes I know it doesn't work best like that, but we needed cooling down and for the smell to disappear.) Once the air had become breathable again we started making our way to Vegas. However, the smell came back with a vengeance.So we've now got a car stinking of gas, an engine sounding like it was about to explode, service lights flashing at us and a car that now took about 10 seconds for any kind of acceleration to kick in. Whoops - I seem to have burnt out the car!!! 1,400 miles in 4 days, off road driving, 100mph and ignoring the service light ... R.I.P. Busta :(
Now usually I would have pulled over, but in that heat there was no way we could have stood on the side of the road waiting for someone to get us, that and I really didn't want that car out in the sun, so we finally made it to the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas. The pair of wishing and petting the car every couple of minutes, praying that we would actually make it to the hotel.
We called Enterprise explained that the car was broken and that we needed to exchange. You should have seen the guys face when we took it in - falling apart and 1,400 miles added to it in 4 days. He kept checking the piece of paper about the mileage and we just played dumb. Anyway, they finally upgraded us to a nice mid range car - if only they'd done that at the beginning we wouldn't have had to trash their car for them.