Leaving Vegas we headed east towards the Grand Canyon. With Wahid driving (Barney and I were feeling a bit too delicate) it was a hot and sticky drive, going via the Hoover Dam. As we approached the Hoover Dam we were stopped at a security checkpoint (I’m assuming for terrorists) and an incredibly hot and sweaty state trooper entered the RV, looked in the bathroom, refused to have a photo taken and made very small talk before leaving. Not exactly a great defence against a terror threat there… The heat out in the desert really hit us hard, and no matter what level the air-conditioning was on in the RV, it did little to provide relief for us.
The Hoover Dam is an impressive sight – this huge man made structure out in the middle of the desert. I was however really surprised at how touristy the place was though – people swarming all over the place and tours being offered at rather extortionate prices. We stopped off slightly away from the dam for some pictures, and then it was back into the sweat box to continue on our way. I tried to have a nap in the back of the RV – not particularly easy on the bumpy, twisty highways, of the Nevada desert. Coupled with the plastic mattress becoming slippy from my sweat it meant that more often than not I found myself flying off the sides of the bed – bit alarming to say the least!!
|The back of the dam|
The journey was a long one, requiring a few gas stops along the way. We came across one gas station which was unique to say the least. Calling itself “The Last Stop”, we weren’t sure what it meant by that and a little worried it was a literal name before the wilderness of the proper desert we stopped for gas to be safe (sods law we later found a Texaco garage less than ½ a mile down the road with much cheaper gas…). I’m glad we stopped there though as it really was an interesting place. Every square inch of outside wall were covered in murals and paintings depicting all elements of the US desert – from Area 51 (not that far from where we were) to classic Wild West images and classic American cars. And it was in the middle of nowhere. Amazing… Ive mentioned it before, but really does astound me at how spread out the USA is, and how un-developed of much of it is too. We would go for hours and hours through the desert without seeing anything and then a small habitation of a few buildings would fast appear and then we would be back to seeing literally nothing but wilderness for miles again. It fascinates me how people live in areas like that, and really bugged be how these places were dismissed by some in the RV as “shit” having no knowledge about them or even taken the time to have a polite look. I guess my reaction to people’s attitudes a semi-conscious surprise and almost pity at their apparent closed-mindedness (in my opinion at least) at simply writing places off without more than a brief glance through the window.
|Getting gas at 'The Last Stop'|
|The "Last Stop"|
|On the road entertainment|
|Kim asleep as usual!|
That night we stayed at a very random and isolated RV park off the highway, right in the desert complete with blowing sand and tumble weed (no, seriously!). We evening was one of the most content evening of the trip so far – sat on the hood of the RV with beer in hand and Antonia’s awesome music playing through the windows. Michael and I got chatting to a girl in the RV spot next to ours who lived their permanently with her boyfriend. It really shocked me at how real it actually is in the USA to actually live in an RV, and driving the routes we are it is surprisingly common for rural people to live in RV’s more than actual buildings. I’m not sure if it’s a commentary on the poverty that can be witnessed in the USA, or simply a life choice, but it was incredibly interesting to hear about something I’ve never come across in the UK. Except for gypsies. Which aren’t particularly popular…
The next morning was again a slow one – Facebook playing a large part in this yet again and yet again me getting frustrated at certain people’s complete lack of ability to do anything for the group. When we eventually got going I drove to the Grand Canyon itself, and with a $25 for a seven day pass, it was one of the cheapest national parks I’ve had been in all year. The actual park itself is huge, with its own village and everything – very geared towards tourists but nowhere near as bad as I feared. After getting lost a few times (due to SatNav issues and people putting in their 5 cents worth from the back), leading to numerous U-turns (and a wrong turn down a road prohibited to RV’s longer than 25ft), and me getting incredibly pissed off people moaning about the to-ing and fro-ing, whilst trying to drive the RV, be aware of other traffic and find a parking spot that we could actually fit in. It’s hard enough to drive a 30ft beast on the other side of the road without everyone getting hysterical at missing a parking spot or making another U-turn. Something I really don’t think the other non-drivers don’t realise and totally take for granted – I guarantee they would have been thinking differently if they were trying to do what the drivers have to do. On top of taking turns to sleep on the floor (which has to be done with the limited bed space in the RV), which isn’t a great night’s sleep whatsoever (all the lads have taken their turns, some of whom three times while certain girls have yet to do so. Or even offer), as well as contributing to other aspects of RV life such as emptying sewage (not a particularly pleasant experience I will say) whilst others just sit there – very few of the group actually seem to actually think of the group dynamic and not simply about themselves and ‘their’ holiday. Anyways, after parking up the RV I took a few minutes to myself to calm down, climbing down a short way down the canyon sides to an isolated overhang and watching the sunset. Which was pretty impressive. We stayed there for the night, overlooking the canyon, and the next morning I really pushed for what I wanted to do for a long time – hike the Grand Canyon.
|Amy looking out over the Canyon|
|Amy, Antonia and Kim|
Despite the Rim Trail being very touristy – all nicely paved and sign posted – there weren’t as many people on it as I expected. It was a great walk and nice to have a slightly smaller group of us who actually wanted to walk. We only ended up achieving roughly 5 of the planned 8 miles – taking our time and occasionally scrambling down the sides of the Canyon. Oh and an amazing 1.5 hour lunch break right on the edge of a lip in the side of the Canyon wall with our feet hanging off the edge. There is one word for the Grand Canyon. No actually a few: stunning, majestic and bloody huge! It was just amazing how every corner we went around the trail offered new perspectives onto the Canyon below. I really wasn’t prepared for how huge the canyon was – in a lot of places you couldn’t even see the Colorado river running through the bottom of it, let alone the hikers on the bottom paths. It was simply breathtakingly beautiful.
|The Cameron Trading Post|
|Me and Michael on the Arizona/Utah Border|
|Me driving through the desert|
Passing through Monument Valley I was struck at the pure bizarre-ness of it. The desert is somewhere I have never been before, and coupled with these bizarre, naturally formed structures seemingly just plonked into place I was fascinated with the place. However, this again was at odds with some people in the group, including a certain person who was adamant they wanted to go there, but couldn’t actually be bothered to look up from the card game at hand beyond stating that the place “looked shit”. I honestly couldn’t believe it. Whilst I agree the desert may not be the most interesting or comfortable place to be in for some, to disregard it in such a manner when you haven’t even bothered to get out the RV and have a look around just shocked me. As I have said before, I loved the desert and its complete difference to anywhere I have been previously. I guess in that respects I really am quite at odds with the majority of the group.
|The 'Mexican Hat'|
Anyways, as Monument Valley was so “shit”, we passed through quickly and crossed the state line into Colorado, stopping in the city of Cortez. Via another Walmart stop and the realisation that Colorado alcohol laws were as ridiculous as North Carolina’s (a grocery store cannot sell liquor, nor can it sell wine and beer in the same place. I.e. only one or the other can be sold in a Walmart store. Everything else has to be purchased in an independently run liquor store), meaning a further stop had to be made at a costlier liquor store. Great… It was then a rock up job to an RV park on the main street through the place, which thankfully had much needed laundry facilities, get a BBQ going and attract complaints at the level of our merriment. Oops!
(map from Google Maps)