I left off in may last post, leaving Tucson on our way to Las Vegas. The thing with this trip, along with many others, we’ve learned not to get bogged down in the details. Before our Great Roadtrip of 2013, which I’ve touched on in previous posts, I was a bit of a planner, every detail had to be ironed out and it honestly got to be too much when planning a two week trip with nowhere specific to be at any point in time. So what did we do… wing it of course. It was a great trip, despite its hiccups and ever since, I’ve been more of the research the possibilities and then see where we end up type.
This trip had a few destinations, centered around specific interview times and places, but was otherwise like most of our trips. Get up in the morning and see where the road takes us. When we left Tucson on a Friday evening, we had nowhere to be until Monday morning. We had discussed where we could go during this time, but hadn’t really solidified anything due in part to the fluctuating weather in the area. Northern Arizona is one of those places, like the Midwest, when it comes to winter weather, maybe cool and pleasant, maybe freezing with two feet of snow. Thankfully on this trip, it was the former. Our late departure and empty stomachs meant we were only going to get so far before we’d be stopping for the night. We aren’t much into the nightlife scene so our brief stop in Phoenix was just long enough to enjoy dinner and then we were off again. We would make our way on to beautiful Sedona for the night.
Sedona was one of those places that we’d heard good things about, but had never been ourselves.
While our time there was brief, only about half of the following day, we tried to make the most of it by doing a little hiking near Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte and enjoying the scenic drive. We’d originally considered going up to Page and seeing Horseshoe Bend or even Antelope Canyon, then taking the northern route toward Las Vegas. We reconsidered this after looking at the weather in that area and the North Rim being closed this time of year. This worked out just fine though. It gave us more time to enjoy our visit to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Our first visit was just shy of five years ago. One of these days, it’ll be our destination, but we enjoyed it all the same.
After only a couple hours, we were back on the road. If you haven’t been out West before, particularly the Southwest, the distance between population centers is enormous compared to much of the midwest. In all of our trips west of the Mississippi River, we’ve managed to find ourselves passing signs that say ‘Next Services’ some ridiculous distance. I’ve seen them as low as 30 miles or as high as 130, which makes it all that more laughable when I saw one in my home state of Indiana that said next services 8 miles… Growing up where there’s an exit off the interstate about every 5 miles, with gas stations and stores, can lull you into a false sense of security when you go out West where you actually need to keep an eye on your gas gauge or end up 50 miles from civilization and no cell service. So several hours later, we called it a night in Kingman, Arizona to plan our next day’s adventure.
When we set off the next morning, we’d decided we’d go right on past our destination in Las Vegas and head straight on to Death Valley National Park in California! This was the first trip for either of us to California and while it didn’t include any of the large cities or much of the mountains, it was a great experience. Our time was limited as we had to be back in Las Vegas that evening, but we tried to make the most of it. We’d made the mistake of not looking at the distances between parts of the park, so we had to adjust our expectations of how much we could see. But the park did not disappoint, except when my receipt didn’t print at one of the entry pay stations. Never the less, we proceeded on to Zabriskie Point and enjoyed the view, before heading on to the visitor center to get a map. As is common in many of the larger national parks, the cell service is spotty at best and is a welcome excuse to disconnect from the world.
After the visitor center we were on our way to Artists Drive, which we caught just in time, as it was closing for repairs the next morning for several months. We stopped at several places along the road where the views were wonderful, including Artists Palette. The colors in the rock are wonderful and surprising to see in such a desolate place. Really makes me want to go to the Rainbow Mountains of Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park in China or Vinicunca in Peru. Afterwards we headed down for a short hike out to Natural Bridge. Use caution on the dirt road out to the trailhead. Going to fast will likely rattle your spine beyond what one might consider reasonable. It’s a nice little hike up to the bridge itself. While I’d liked to have been able to venture further, our time was running short, so we were back on the road. In my mind, one of the things that came to mind when thinking about Death Valley, was the sand dunes. So, with our remaining time before we had to head back, we went out to Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes for one last photo op. While there were far too many people to get much worth printing, it was still a memorable experience. Since we weren’t able to make it to many of the places we’d have liked, including the Racetrack, we’ll just have to go back. I find it’s always good to leave yourself an excuse to return to wonderful places. It’s a much better motivator than, been there, done that.
With our time running out, we headed toward our hotel in Las Vegas. While it may be a couple hours to get there, it’s actually a pretty pleasant drive and after spending as much time as we had on the road, two hours didn’t seem like much anyway. After an evening walking around the hotel and dinner, I set out planning my next days adventure, as I’d once again be traveling solo while my wife was in her interview. Much would depend on how the weather shaped up, alas it is Vegas, so there’s no shortage of things to do in town, but I’m not all that interested in gambling or going to the shows by myself. I ended up out at Red Rock Canyon, where there is a wonderful scenic drive. Of course when I got there it was just starting to rain, so I parked at the visitor center for a bit to let it pass and wrote the majority of my last post. After an hour or so the rain subsided and I was off to enjoy the scenery. It wasn’t long until I got to the first pullout and got out to have a look. I’d thought about doing a little hiking, but the rain was going to make that a challenge and as soon as I got out of the car the wind nearly blew me over. So as it turned out, the weather was going to be less than cooperative. I continued on my drive stopping at just about every pullout and some places that weren’t thanks to the lack of traffic on the one way road. There was one seen overlooking the valley with this wonderful weathered tree.
I watched one photographer try for at least 15 minutes to get a break in the wind long enough to get a long exposure and I’m not sure if he actually got the shot, but he was hanging on to his tripod for dear life the whole time as the winds were relentless. So with my hopes of a mild weather hike dashed, I finished my trip and headed back to town to pickup my wife and relax before the most dreaded part of any trip, the end.
I’m not shy about my opinion of places I’ve visited and while there are certainly things I enjoy about Las Vegas and shows I’d like to see, I think I’d be perfectly content to spend my time outdoors, driving, hiking and enjoying the magnificent landscapes within just a couple of hours drive. So, as our trip came to a close, we packed our bags, boarded our flight and were headed home. Another adventure in the books and a clearer idea of whether or not we’d like to call any of these cities home in the not too distant future. Our first adventure of 2017 was a success. Can’t wait for the next one!
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