grand canyon

The Grand Canyon experience was all part of the Great Vegas Roadtrip.

I have to admit we were all pretty sad to put Vegas in our mirrors.
We stocked up on food at an all you can eat buffet in the Mandalay Bay Hotel, which is quite the swanky joint.
And it was quite the feast! There was pretty much every single type of food you could dream of, so we stuffed our faces and our pockets too.
It was a swelteringly hot day outside and by the time the valets brought our car around the seatbelts were hot as branding irons.

So hot it could melt the ears off a mouse!

We headed East, our goal for the day was to make it into Utah. Tess had picked out a place called Blanding, I assume because of its name, as our overnight destination.
Blanding, Utah.
Sounds like a happening place.

So into the blue sky we drove…

It’s all in the name… 

To the hills!

Don’t let that smile fool you, she’s doing at least 140mph

It was a really exciting drive!

And not just because Tess drives way too fast, it was a beautiful landscape of dusty desert mountains, exactly what you imagine when you think of an American roadtrip! 
 

A pretty good summation of things

I’ve always been wary of those three-legged goats


Within a couple of hours we were at the dam. 

Or at least the trail leading to the “Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge” which is an engineering feat almost as impressive as the dam itself.
At almost two thousand feet long and a thousand feet high, it’s a bit of a monster. I remember looking at pictures of the construction a few years ago and thinking how amazing the view must be from it, so my eyes were very excited to see it for real.

The gap is bridged

Danger pay, anyone?

At least they have Porta-loos. No peeing over the side then.

Epic Shot!

It took them over five and a half years to build and cost two hundred and forty million dollars, but when you step out onto it, it’s all worth it.

It’s a pretty breathtaking sight.
And a pretty nerve-racking lean.
 

The Hoover Dam in all it’s glory

Lovely Long-Lens Ladies

We marvelled at the view for as long as we could before the scorching sun and the ticking clock forced us back into our vehicle. Back to the branding iron seat belts and the water bottles now just filled with steam.
The upside of this was that to continue on our journey we had to cross the dam itself, which conveniently gave us a great view of the bridge.

This Bridge

Leaving Las Vegas and losing an hour

A very exciting sign

A very excited Katie

Oh. Good.

I had always pictured Arizona as a pretty dry place.
Full of scorpions and vultures and cacti and cowboys riding horses along dusty horizons.
You know what I mean.
 
I was really excited to see everything but we were only passing through the very North-West corner. I couldn’t believe we were that close to The Grand Canyon but couldn’t go see it because of our tight schedule.
Of course it was all my own fault, if I’d got my paperwork sorted, I wouldn’t have had to go back to England which meant I wouldn’t have had to be back in Toronto by Sunday night therefore we wouldn’t have needed to be in Denver by Sunday morning so we could all have gone to The Grand Canyon that Friday.
Gah.
 
We continued along the motorway for a couple of hours before I got the feeling something was up. I checked the map and realised we were heading a lot further East than I’d anticipated, I raised the concern with the girls but they reassured me that they’d Google’d it and that despite appearances on the map, this was, in fact, a quicker route.
Ah the good old Googlephone…

I’m not being funny but give me a physical, hard-copy map any day of the week over some GPS-google-map-replacement device that tries to tell me I need to go the wrong way down one way streets, through private farmyards and across rivers where there are no bridges. 
And people seem to follow them mindlessly.
I’m sure if we’d followed the map we would have been in Utah by now, but here we were undeniably getting deeper into Arizona. However, I was but a mere passenger on this train, I wasn’t going to argue.

 
 

The open world

I watched the landscape move past the windows in quiet awe, it was like nothing I’d seen before.
The sky was bigger. 
My eyes relaxed into a far focus, the hills inched along as we went from one breathtaking panorama to another.

Mountainous horizons

It took me a while before I noticed all the signs.
Metaphorical as well as physical.

We were, unmistakably, heading for The Grand Canyon.
Those sneaky girls had tricked me again!
Perhaps it was the massive, blaring signs every two miles that counted down to the exit we needed to take, or maybe it was that everything, everywhere had “Grand Canyon” written all over, either way, the cat was well out of the bag now, we were about to lay eyes on one of the wonders of the natural world!

Exactly what I wanted to see!

If only I could play it, this would be a cool shot…

Sneaky Madam!! The girls were, once again, very happy with themselves

Stopping at the side of the road to take shots in the beautiful setting sun is all fine and good but it occurred to me that maybe, perhaps, if we were actually going to see the canyon, we might want to stop wasting the sunlight on me pretending to play the harmonica just so I could get a new Facebook profile photo and crack-on. As far as I was aware, the canyon was not indoors so if we got there after dark, the eight hour detour could seem like a bit of a waste of time. 

So we bundled into the car and continued in the direction of the chasm, which is a lot harder to find than you may think.
After a few more miles we came to a toll booth.
I don’t think any of us considered the possibility that we would have to pay to see it.
 
We drew up to the window and asked the attendant how much it was to get in.
 
It’s twenty five dollars for seven days
 
How much is it for three hours?
 
Twenty five dollars.
 
But we don’t need seven days, we’re only passing through.
 
It’s twenty five dollars.
 
But it’s almost dark! We might not even get to see it.
 
 
You don’t care do you?
 
Twenty five dollars please.
 
At least she said please. We hadn’t the time nor the inclination to argue, so we paid up and moved on as fast as we could.
 

Elk and Safety…

We finally pulled into a promising looking car park as the sun was disappearing behind distant clouds. We had really only got to that point by sheer fifty-fifty decision making, we had come to so many forks in the road and when it just says “Grand Canyon West” pointing one way and “Grand Canyon East” pointing the other way, or “Amazing View Outlook” this way and “Beautiful Photopoint” the other way, it’s really hard to know which way to go, especially with no clues about how far away these things are.
But thankfully we seemed to have made some right decisions because we’d found a carpark. And carparks are always a promising sign that there is something worth parking for close by.
 
 
We all dived out of the car and discovered how quickly the temperature plummets in the desert. We grabbed our jackets and we raced down the first pathway with any visible activity.
We couldn’t see anything beyond the bushes that lined the winding path so we had no idea if we were going in the right direction but as we rounded the next corner we were met with one of the most incredible sights my little eyes have ever experienced. It’s as if they were taken out for a candlelit dinner at a very expensive restaurant, oysters to start, perhaps a bottle of champagne, the pianist playing all their favourite songs, sparkling conversation, a plump, juicy ribeye steak with all the trimmings and a delightfully rich raspberry cheesecake for dessert. Then later; dancing.
And the whole time Mr Canyon is picking up the bill.

It was unbelievable.

I thought I knew what to expect but it didn’t matter how many photos or videos I’d seen of it, nothing could have prepared me for the real thing.

The four of us just stood there in awe.
It was so quiet, so serene.

In a move of sheer brilliance, the sun decided it was NOT going to end the day behind cloud and blasted us with a warmth of golden, magic-hour, rays that just poured into the Canyon making the cliff faces glow a mesmerising deep red.

Unbelievably Beautiful

I still can’t get over the colours

Those crazy kids

It’s over a mile deep in places

The viewing areas and walkways all seemed to balance on the very edge of the canyon. 
The only thing stopping you from tumbling over is a decidedly short iron railing, which in some places is bent out and wonky which really doesn’t fill you with confidence but it’s so much better than some tall, ugly thing that doesn’t let you get anywhere near the edge.
This way is far more thrilling!!
 

It doesn’t even look like it’son the same planet as Las Vegas

Alley-oop!

The eight hour detour was absolutely worth it!

We stayed until the sun had vanished.

It had been wonderful.
 
With our hearts full and our imaginations wild we loaded back into the car and headed out of the park (which, by the way, doesn’t seem to have any kind of toll booth on the roads steering North leading me to believe that you can access the park for free from that direction…)
 
It was obvious that we weren’t going to make it to Blanding that night. None of us wanted to drive through that kind of stunning landscape in the dark.
That would be a chump move.
BUT we did have to make up some time, so we picked a town close to the Utah state line, where there were likely to be hotels, it meant we had to drive a couple of hours through the darkness but if we got up nice and early we wouldn’t miss too much.
The town was called Tuba City!
How could we not stay there?

We stopped briefly on our journey to marvel at the giant skies packed with stars. This shot was taken from the roof of the car but after shuffling noises were heard around us we quickly retreated to our vehicle and got the hell outta there!

Well apparently Tuba City can get busy on a Friday night. Something to do with it being an old Navajo trading centre or something and just our luck, the hotels were brimming.
There was no room at the Inn.
The only place available was a stable full of hay at the Moenkopi Legacy Inn & Suites.
But this stable was a little out of our price range and the hay had a thread count of at least eight hundred.
Somehow, I charmed the guy behind the desk to drop the rate to something a little more reasonable and throw in some breakfast coupons to boot! Yes!
It had been a huge day and I was exhausted. 

We had started in Vegas, driven over the Hoover Dam, peered into the Grand Canyon and were now bedding down in Tuba City!
The three of us. In one huge bed.
Goodnight Arizona.

 
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