Go West (and South) days 4 and 5

Thurs 7th & Fri 8th Feb 2013
Day 4 Flagstaff, AZ to Las Vegas, BV
21 hours – 350 miles – 2 States AZ+NV

Day 5 – Las Vegas. NV to Los Angeles, CA
6 hours – 300 miles – 2 States NV+CA

Yesterday was a vey long day. We managed to see the sunrise at one end of the Grand Canyon then the sunset a the other end at the Hoover Dam and ended up partying in Vegas.

We were determined to see the sun come up at the canyon so we dragged ourselves out of bed at 4am and headed from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon National Park. The journey took about an hour and a half and we were still early enough to arrive before the people who take the money as you drive in so we didn’t have to pay!

We found a parking lot just inside the boundary of the park and regrouped. We ate the muffin that constituted ‘breakfast’ at the place we stayed the previous night and waited for the sun. We took a walk to the edge of the canyon and by the time our eyes had adjusted to the dark the stars were incredible. Even better than the night before in New Mexico. We were truly in the middle of nowhere with no light.

Looking out over the edge we could not make out the peaks and valleys that make up the canyon but there was an eerie mist hanging there and as the light slowly started to improve the black started to turn to greys and the shadows of the topography of the inside of the canyon gave it an ‘other-worldy’ feel, as if something could jump out at any moment.

We headed off to find the spot where we would actually see the sunrise; Yakapai point. We wrapped up warm (it was very cold!) and made our way in the dark to the edge.

Chicago to LA-2

Chicago to LA-3

It always surprises me just how fast it becomes light once the sun starts to come up. We were lucky and arrived a good thirty minutes before anyone else did so managed to get some good photographs and enjoy the quiet undisturbed. Even so, we were only joined by about half a dozen people so it really felt like our own private viewing.

Chicago to LA-4

I have never been to the Grand Canyon before but have always heard people talk about it with a kind of awe that i never really understood until I went there. It is simply breathtaking. Once cannot really comprehend just how big it is. As you look down it almost looks like a model and the Colorado River which runs through the bottom appears like a tiny stream. It was quite humbling to see it in person. I will be a long time before I forget the sight of the rocks changing from grey to a deep reddy brown as the sun fully appeared over the horizon and fell on them.

One of the highlights of the day was actually befriending a squirrel who also enjoyed the view of the Canyon. Kristen named in Murray and they swapped details and are in touch on facebook and stuff.

Chicago to LA-5

Chicago to LA-6

Before we explored the rest of what we were able to see we had some breakfast and warmed up. Throughout the whole day I was very pleasantly surprised at the setup they have in the park. All of the food and coffee is very reasonably priced and served by very friendly people. There is a small village up there that includes various visitor centres, hotels, and restaurants and the accommodation of the people who work there. However, I never really felt that the buildings encroached on our experience. Each building is surrounded by trees or set in the woods in a way that makes you feel like it belongs there. Overall I was very impressed.

Chicago to LA-7 Chicago to LA-8

We spent the next few hours driving along the edge of the south rim, stopping at a few of the lookout points along the way then finally decided to head out to Vegas.

The drive was to take us about 5 hours but about half way there Kristen realised that to get to Las Vegas we would have to drive virtually over the Hoover Dam, of course we had to stop.

This was an awe striking experience of a different nature but it is still quite impressive. A true engineering masterpiece. However, we discovered that we should not have paid the 8 dollars each to go to the viewing platform when the view is just as good from the road…for free.

Chicago to LA-9

Chicago to LA-10

We lingered there long enough to see the sun go behind the hills then headed of to Las Vegas. I had sorted some tickets out for Blue Man Group so we had to make it there in time to eat before hand…and get changed in the parking lot. We had set off at 4am that morning and had been on the go all day so we were ‘fresh’ to say the least. We grabbed a bite and saw the show and met up with the guys afterwards.

After a drink in the bar opposite the theatre in the casino we headed downtown to old vegas to a great bar called Commonwealth. I had never been to ‘Old Vegas’ and loved it. We managed to hang out long enough for Kristen to practically fall asleep at the bar. After being up for 21 hours I could not blame her and despite the fact that I had somehow found a 5th wind we left to go to bed (something I was very grateful for this morning…I could see it turn into a long night!)

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We were asleep before out heads hit the pillow and woke up this morning ready to complete our adventure. We stayed with a good friend of mine, Scott, a fellow Blue Man, and he joined us for a coffee and some breakfast this morning before we hit the road.

The drive from Vegas to LA was equally as good looking as anything we had seen before. Mountains and desert and even the odd piece of tumbleweed blowing across the highway. We listened to a CD of cowboy songs that I had bought at the Grand Canyon the day before (‘Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs’ by Marty Robbins – highly recommend it!). Quite fitting for our journey across the desert.

We stopped at Peggy Sue’s 50s Diner long enough for some incredible malted shakes and some banana cream pie and a photo of a giant gorilla then it was on to LA.

IMG_0725 IMG_0731

We arrived in LA this afternoon and began unloading some of Kristen’s belongings into the apartment where she is staying temporarily before he rented apartment becomes available. Despite the fact that we were nearing the end of our adventure the excitement was not over. As we walked from the car to the building a mass of sparks flew from the over head power lines accompanied by the relevant ‘bang’ and we entered the apartment to find all the power out. Not quite sure what happened there but I guess it will be back on again soon. Not that we have to worry. We have come to the coffee shop across the street to decompress a little and to afford me to opportunity to write this final chapter in our adventure.

So that’s it. We left on Monday and five days later on Friday afternoon it feels like a month ago. We have squeezed every inch of life out of every opportunity we were presented with and have arrived in LA with some wonderful memories.

I could not have asked for a better road trip buddy and I am so glad I volunteered to help Kristen. To be honest it was as much a help for me as was for her as what we have been through this past week will stay with me for ever. It is difficult for any from a country as small as England to truly comprehend the magnitude of an undertaking such as Kristen is embarking upon. The furthest you can travel in Britain is a 10 or 12 hours before you fall off the edge. To pick up your life and move across a country as big as this, to completely start again in a new city from scratch is brave and admirable. I wish her the best of luck, not that she will need it. She is going to conquer LA in a similar fashion to the way we conquered the Grand Canyon and come out on top.

I have already said that if she ever needs to drive back again for a visit to Chicago she should give me a call. Next time we can take on The Rockies….

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2 thoughts on “Go West (and South) days 4 and 5

  1. Nice to see you’re well and on the road again, Dan, if a long way from home. And no detour via the hospital this time!!!
    I have to agree, sunrise at the Canyon is awesome!

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