American Landmarks

There are some things in life that you cannot mentally prepare yourself for.  When we drove in to Vegas, I remember thinking that the films and pictures cannot compare to the spectacle itself.  When we made it to the Grand Canyon the feeling was even greater.  No panoramic lens can capture the vastness of the canyon.

I was kind of stressed out when we got to Vegas.  It was already 9:30 and we needed to shower and eat before hitting the town, although it was vegas and it seems that a lot of it is open all night.  We checked in to the Flamingo to find that we had been upgraded from the budget room to a king-suite.  It was a pretty epic looking room with double doors at the entrance, two flat screens, a full living room, a bar, and a master bathroom with an enormous shower and bath.  It was significantly more glamorous than our standard for the trip (sleeping on the floor of a tent that is) and it had a nice view of the city.  We both took really long shower and I watched the Olympics some while I waited for Molly to finish.  We ventured down into the lobby and found a suitable looking place to eat in Carlos-n-Charlies.  The food was not awesome but they had a decent margarita selection and the staff was entertaining (dancing and such).

By the time we had eaten it was already pretty late, but we wanted to walk around some.  At this point I feel the need to admit, that we did not do Vegas very proud.  When spending as long as we have on the road, you can’t pressure yourself into doing too much or you will be miserable.  Molly and I aren’t typically the very crazy type.  We did our best though.  We walked around the Bellagio and the Paris and had a few more drinks.  We gambled at a few different slot machines, but apart from winning $7.50 worth of beginners luck (which we of course lost again) it wasn’t really our thing.  Maybe I am stupid, but apart from the most rudimentary machines we could not exactly figure out how they worked.  Vegas was really cool looking though.  There was a lot of glitz and glam, a lot of bright lights, and a lot of really interesting people watching.  By 2:30, however, we were tired and not particularly interested in checking out the other casinos.  I guess I also felt like I would be back there too.  If nothing else, to indulge Jason (my ever crazy friend from high school).  So when Wednesday morning I felt the need to get the hell out of there and away from all of the crowds, we settled with taking a single set of pictures in front of the hotel’s namesake flamingos and getting the hell on the road.

It was almost noon by the time we left Vegas (because we weren’t going to leave our glamorous room before 11am check out) and we were getting hungry so we stopped in Boulder City at a place called Little City Grill.  It was surprisingly charming and the food was pretty good.  Around then we started seeing signs for the Hoover dam.  Because we were not particularly in a hurry, we decided to stop and check it out.  I am glad we did.  It wasn’t a particularly life-changing experience but it was really an impressive dam and I felt like it completed our trifecta of Americana for the day (Vegas-Hoover-Grand Canyon).  We stayed a very short while and took some photos and awed before getting back on the road to the canyon. 

We got to the Grand Canyon around 6:30 with just enough time to pitch our tent before tracking down a spot to see the sunset.  Although the sky was lovely, I was mostly awed by the canyon itself.  It is incredibly huge and deep and multi-faceted and impressive.  Okay, it is one of the seven natural world wonders.  I really have no idea why its impressiveness was such a shock.  Once we had elbowed a bunch of tourists aside to get some sweet photos we climbed back in JJ to find some sustenance.  We had noticed a Mexican place coming in to the park and decided it would be a good option for dinner.  I clearly forgot we were in Arizona, because I was kind of surprised at how awesome it was.  I had a chicken mole (I had forgotten how much I love a good mole) and Molly got some other smothered chicken type thing.  While we were at dinner I began scheming our next move.  We are both getting kind of tired of the whole road-tripping thing (we will be gone three weeks tomorrow!) and our next concrete destination is Chicago where there are lots of people we love.  So I formulated ambitions plan “Brooklyn” (yeah I just named it right now, think “No Sleep ‘til Brooklyn”) that involves us driving our bums off for the next three days in order to make it to Chicago by Saturday night. After dinner we drove home and I pretty much went to bed so we could have an early start today.

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We checked out of the campsite in record time and went into the Village to buy breakfast and send postcards.  Then we decided the thing to do was to check out the visitor’s center and took a ton of photos at Mather’s point.  Then we started driving. 

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MOOOOSEEE (Although I think this is technically an Elk, I was still surprised to see it)

We set Steve (the GPS) for monument valley and once again I was shocked at how phenomenal the scenery was.  Apparently they film a bunch of westerns there because it is essentially a section of desert with all of these awesome looking plateaus and rock formations.  We stopped at some visitor’s center there (woo being tourists) and took a bunch of photos again before getting back on the road. 

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Monument Valley, UT

One thing that has really surprised me in these national parks is the number of international tourists.  I guess for some reason I was convinced that the Europeans only came to Florida and California but we saw a ton at both the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley.  It was weird to entertain myself by playing “Spot the Europeans” in the states, since “Spot the Americans”  is kind of one of my favorite forms of people watching in Europe.

Anyway, we decided that we should stop for lunch a bit past monument valley, but there was NOTHING there.  Actually nothing.  It wasn’t until 6:30 when we reached Moab, Utah that we found a place we felt like eating and I think we picked pretty well.  We went to the Moab Brewery where I had a Scorpion Pale Ale and a Gyro salad.  Molly had a Lizard Wheat Ale and a pesto pasta.  The food was really good and our server was friendly.  Now we are heading onward to Grand Junction where we hope to stop for the night. 

Anyway, day 1 of plan Brooklyn has been a success and I believe we are only 18-hours of drive from Chicago!!!! Tomorrow we are going to drive east through Colorado and hope to get into Nebraska before stopping for the night.  Then we are conserving our last book tape to do the final drive through Nebraska and Iowa into Chicago! 

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