Friends and family back home always keep asking me about where my next big road trip is going to be. Some of them even wanted me to share my experiences from some of the earlier road trips. And since I want to get back to writing, I felt this is might a nice place to start.
This was during the summer of 2010. I had moved to a new place with new roomies and I was lost in my research work. So lost that one day while sitting back and thinking about what I had done in my one year in the US, I realized that quite literally my whole world had shrunk to the confines of the UA campus. Apart from the monthly trip to the nearby grocery stores, I had not stepped outside the boundaries of the UA campus in one whole year. Yes, I needed to get a life!
What followed was going to be a general trend for so many road trips to follow: within a matter of 15 minutes, the trip was planned and everything was finalized a day before we were supposed to start. The plan was to do Grand Canyon and Page, AZ over a weekend.
So first stop Grand Canyon. We wanted to reach early in order to catch the sunrise at the Canyon and do some hiking across the rim depending on the amount of time we have. Our timing was pretty good. We made it to the National Park early in the morning and took one of the shuttles to reach the south rim of the canyon.
I could exhaust all the adjectives in my limited vocabulary and still not be able to describe the enormity and the magnificence of the Grand Canyon. The rock formations found here cannot be found anywhere else in the world. It is also kinda weird to imagine that one river would cause all of this. There was a lot of cloud cover around the area so as the sun peeked through the clouds for the first time during the day and the rays hit the canyon, it just made way for some spectacular views.
Unfortunately, the rain gods decided to intervene from that point on. The forecast did not say anything about rain, so this was a little bit of a surprise. We did hang around the Canyon for a while but persistent rain dampened any hopes of a possible hike along the rim. We decided to head towards Page, AZ.
I am not sure at what point we decided to also include Vegas in our plan (mostly because I was asleep when this was being discussed ). But my guess is that since most of our “Grand Canyon plan” had gone down the drain, it was decided that we could use the extra time to try and possibly hit Vegas after we were done with Page. Our next stop was going to be Horseshoe Bend just off the state highway.
This is when our GPS decided to act “super smart” and took us off the state highway into a dirt track heading towards Page. I thought this was fun. My roomie who was driving the car,on the other hand, was having a hard time keeping the Chevy Malibu on the track. The rain was making things more interesting. This also stimulated a discussion on how GPS devices actually worked. In this case, of course, our GPS device had royally screwed us. We somehow managed to spot another vehicle and learned that Page was not too far away . This is what our car looked like after the ordeal.
Luckily, we hit Page, AZ in another 10 miles or so. After a car wash and some lunch, we decided to head towards Horseshoe bend Canyon. The Horseshoe bend is another wonderful example of the beautiful rock formations that are commonly found in northern Arizona. After spending some time at the horseshoe bend, we decided to move towards the Lake Powell museum and then towards our accommodation for the night at Marble Canyon.
While the original plan was to go to the Antelope Canyon, there was no way we could do that and Vegas within one day and return back to Tucson in time. And it looked like the majority of the group wanted to hit Vegas more than Antelope Canyon. So Vegas it was was.
What followed was maybe one of my best experiences in US so far. The drive from Marble Canyon through the Kaibab National Forest first on state highway 89A and then through State Route 389 was breathtakingly beautiful. This is partly because the vegetation in this region with its pine, sycamore and cottonwood trees is completely different from what is commonly found in southern Arizona (which is nothing but cacti and wild desert flowers). But combine the greenery with the spectacular views of the red and white canyons mainly formed out of limestone and sandstone and you have one really scenic drive. Route 89A continues till Fredonia, AZ and then connects to Hurricane, UT through Route 389. Finally, this route connects to I-15 on the way to Vegas.
This brings us to the last part of the road trip: Viva Las Vegas! And to be honest, this was the most boring part of the trip in my opinion. This is not because Vegas is dull or anything. Quite the opposite in fact. With its tall buildings, fancy city lights and all its glamour, Vegas is full of life. But, by nature, I tend to hate loud, noisy and crowded cities. I do not gamble. And I am also not particularly keen in those other activities which fall under the umbrella of the phrase ‘what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ . However, that said I did like the experience of walking on the Vegas strip which until that point I had only seen in movies. The water fountain show in front of Bellagio is worth a watch. Here are a couple of pointers for those of you who are visiting Vegas for the first time:
- This is NOT a recommended place for a family outing with your folks, uncles, aunties etc. Vegas is ideal if you want to visit it with your partner or with a bunch of friends who share the same “wavelength” of thought.
- Walk along the Vegas strip in the night sky with all the buildings lit up, is something you should NOT miss.
- Vegas is also well known for its dance shows. Of course, my group did not have the time to check this out. But I would recommend checking this out before hand.
- Finally, we come to gambling. You are surrounded by casinos here. So there is absolutely no shortage of opportunities to spend money (in the hope to make more money). But before you start acting like the real life avatar of Daniel Ocean, I would advise you to set a strict upper limit on the amount you will be betting on.
The highlight of the whole trip was the drive through the canyon lands and the Kaibab National Forest. I would highly recommend doing this drive if you do plan to visit the Grand Canyon and if you are driving from Vegas sometime during the Fall season (August on wards) so that it is not too hot and the Canyons are not covered with snow.
PS: Pics taken from Saurabh’s (my roomie) camera.