Road trip time! One car, three states and 675 kilometres of highway are in between my current favourite town and our destination for today: Las Vegas!
We say hi and bye to Adrian, the breakfast man, pack our suitcases and jump in the car. A small bit of the historic route 66 leads us to highway 89 north. We pass through the area we drove through earlier in the week and the land is as abandoned as it was two days ago, and probably 200 years ago, too.
As we drive past Cameron, we head into new territory and it is more desert. More desert, and more mountainous terrain as we near the southern rim of the grand canyon again. The roads are a little more crowded than at other places, probably because we are driving to one of the main tourist attractions in the area: horse shoe bend.
Bye Flagstaff. Going to miss these views!
Hahahaha. Alright, just to get an idea of the proportions here: That pickup truck is like a monstertruck, and my face nearly reaches it’s windows. The trailer has 3 (!) axles. Go big or go home.
Never get tired of these roads. Just a little sleepy.
You know what it is, it’s the photo you always see in calendars and on screen savers and stuff, it’s basically a bit of the Colorado river that makes a bend in the shape of an U, or a horse shoe, as horse shoe bend sounds a lot more exciting than U-bend. We need to drive up a mountain and through a mountain pass to get there and the view from the top is stunning. I know I keep using superlatives to describe the landscape here and that I eventually will run out, but really, it is hard to describe views you can’t believe they exist before you witness them.
Life is extremely tough here, and it shows in the landscape, too. The mountains aren’t nice and friendly like a Swiss sloped mountain, with green fields, lovely waterfalls and happy, smiley cows. Oh, no. The mountains here are made up out of big, nasty, sharp rocks with instead of a jolly cow, an American Eagle, ready to feast on your dead corps as soon as your car breaks down. The view from the car is unlike anything I have ever witnessed though. I keep taking photos.
We arrive at horse shoe bend, or so we think.
As it turns out, from where you park the car to the actual bend in the river, is a 20 minute hike. A lady with a yellow high visibility vest (I immediately assume she belongs to the horse shoe bend), a hat and an umbrella over her head looks at Annemiek in the wheel chair, looks behind her to the hill and looks confused. She advises me to leave Annemiek on top of the hill and continue onwards alone. And take water.
No sweet Swiss mountains here..
Spectacular views as far as the eye reaches.
Our itinerary for today
Good advice, as it turns out. We are in the desert, and it’s nice and warm here (yes, that’s a euphemism). 39 degrees of warmness, to be precise. 39 degrees. That’s 2 degrees warmer than your body’s core temperature.
Our bodies work well in lower temperatures, because we wear pants, t-shirts and jumpers, to keep our body temperature at a constant 37 degrees. The warmer it gets, the harder it is for your body to maintain its core temperature, and you can take off only so many clothes before it becomes illegal.
Anyway, as advised, I leave Annemiek at the top of the small hill and descend towards the edge of the canyon to the famous horse shoe bend, take some pictures and start heading up again. Is it beautiful? Yes. Is it the best thing you will ever see? No. It’s a bend in the river, and that’s all that it is.
My way back is a lot tougher with the desert sun having a right old human meat barbecue on my skin. Holy moly. I’ve never been in a desert before, and I’ve been so curious what it would be like, being here. Well, let me tell you. It’s hot (surprise!). No, but seriously, it is very hot.
Way hotter than you now think, “Oh, it must be very hot there.” It’s hotter than that. You know how you when you bake something in the oven and halfway through want to check how it’s going? You open the oven door and get hit in the face by the heat of your own pizza or pie. Well, in the desert here it is kind of like that, but then it is a constant punching in the head, torso and rest of your body.
Rock plus some water. Beautiful? Yes.
Mandatory tourist shot with the Colorado river. About as close to the edge of the 300 meter drop I dared to get.
Too hot to be any fun
39 degrees is hot enough, but the sun attacking me with its vicious rays truly makes it too hot to be any fun. Happily I greet Annemiek up the hill again and we head back down to the car. Putting the airco on full power, it still takes me some 15 minutes before my body decides to stop leaking. A quick, well deserved pit-stop results into me enjoying a huge strawberry milkshake to replenish my fluids.
We drive off north again, cross the Colorado river and enter the state of Utah, which is as empty as Arizona and possibly even prettier, with more rugged mountains and nothingness as far as the eyes reach. We whizz through the state, as the car thermometer indicates it’s 44 degrees (yes, celsius) outside, the highest we’ve seen today.
The desert here seems even more unforgiving then it did in Arizona, there are a couple of plants, some bushes and that is all. Every now and again there is a pluck of trees, indicating there is a small stream of water close by, but that’s about it. Eagles glide through the sky, looking for fresh meat.
New state to be crossed off the list: UTAH!
So this is a bit of a close up shot of what the desert here looks like. Mostly sand, low vegetation and burning sun. Not the cosiest of places.
By now, it’s about six in the afternoon and it is just as hot. You shook me all night long from AC/DC sounds through the speakers, the sun
shines in my face, burns my face – yes through the window – as we descend from the mountains towards vegas. Some 550 kilometres done, we are just 45 minutes out of Vegas, where we will be putting everything we have on black. (Annemiek doesn’t know this yet). Vegas gets closer and closer and slowly I’m able to distinguish it’s skyline.
It’s been a long day, let’s see what the night in Vegas brings..
–At this point I put away my laptop as we drive into the city. To be honest with you, I wanted to end the post about today right here, but after we went out for dinner I couldn’t help but write a little more. Before you start, know that I always try to be as positive as possible, and try to follow my number one rule in whatever situation, “never complain ever,” – nobody likes people who complain. Having said that, let me break that rule for once and tell you what ensued.
After checking into our -really quite nice- hotel, Annemiek is starting to get a little hangry and as she has seen something Italian restaurant somewhere, that is where she wants to go. Alright then. Our hotel is just around the corner from the south side of the strip, and the place where she’s seen the sign turns out to be the megalomaniac Excalibur casino. Little did I know what we were getting into..
Getting onto the strip is something at itself. Big, bright lights attack your eyes, continuously fighting over your attention while taxis filled with ads of half-naked ladies whizz past. I see the skyline of New York, with the Empire State building, the Chrysler building and lady liberty. I’m in a state of confusion, which only gets worse as I witness a horde of screaming people racing through the skyline in a rollercoaster. The hell? Welcome to Las Vegas…
Excalibur itself is a HUGE castle with colourful towers and bridges and everything with hiding in between its walls a big casino, a hotel and lots of fast food joints (I refuse to call them restaurants). After walking a bit around the casino floor, my mood drops.
Lady liberty in the foreground and the ridiculous Excalibur casino in the back
It’s the first casino we enter, but man is it a depressing place. The floor is carpeted. The most unsightly carpet you have ever seen. I imagine when they built the place and had to choose the carpet, they all gathered around the central lobby where they had laid out 50 different types of carpet. Someone brings in a blindfolded goat, gives the goat a big burger and everyone waits anxiously for the goat to shit on one of the carpets. Where ever the goat poop fell, that carpet has been chosen. Or maybe they just had a blind man choose.
Anyway. After having driven through the most incredible sceneries the past couple of hours, the sight of a multicoloured neon show of slotmachines, their users fat, sad and lying in their chair, looking slightly angrily at the screens of their machines, touches my happiness. I know it shouldn’t, but it does. The croupiers wear worn, oversized, un-ironed shirts and look about as happy and fruitful as their customers on the other side of the table.
One of the first things I noticed: there are no ecstatic, enthusiastic or even happy people in the casino. Everybody just seems zoned out, all caught up in their own bubble.
Buco di Beppo, the ‘Italian’ (note my sarcastic apostrophes) restaurant Annemiek fancied is on the first floor, together with a McDonald’s, and some other fast food things. After a short 10 minute wait -while the restaurant seems half empty- we are seated at the far corner of the restaurant, next to the kitchen doors. I feel like having a beer after a day of driving, so order a nice Peroni Azurro. Rita, our waitress, asks me for an ID. “Are you having a laugh?” I ask. “I’m almost thirty.” Rita isn’t laughing..
Apparently by law restaurants and bars are obliged to ask for ID’s if they suspect the customer is under forty. That’s four zero. FORTY. Well, that’s not her fault, and rather grumpily I – to show my discontent – order a demonstrative glass of water, with a couple of slices of lime. A while later it turns out Rita doesn’t know the difference between lemons and limes. She quickly makes up for it though by throwing in my plastic glass what I ordered anyway.
The look of discontent you get for denying me beer, drinking water out of a plastic glass instead. The messed up hair comes with it too.
“Everything in Buco di Beppo is served family style,” Rita explains with a thick New York accent. Alright, we order some chicken, some garlic bread and spaghetti. The chicken is good, but the spaghetti is cold, and way overcooked.
You’d expect in a Italian restaurant they would at least understand how to do the basics right. Right? Well no. We send the spaghetti back and with it, Rita takes our plates, leaving the chicken to get cold while we wait for the next serving of what turns out to be another bowl of (this time slightly longer) microwaved, overcooked pasta. It’s as bad as the first, but warmer. I guess that’s a win.
At the table next to us there are 600 kilo’s worth of Americans on four chairs feasting on five pizza’s, discarding their cutlery as redundant pieces of metal, or maybe not even understanding their true function. “What’s this big shiny thing with those four pointy bits on it?” I see them think. They all wear little hats, like most people here.
“I don’t like lemon in my dessert, but in my water it is fine,” a lady shouts to her table mates, us, and the rest of the casino. Her son walks in, also with a hat on, with a Mike Tyson facial tattoo, causing the table fellowship to applaud. I cringe.
Annemiek showing off with her wine. Very nice. Very nice.
Annemiek is drinking her wine, as she did get her drink. Hopefully it eases her pain of having to sit at this torturous table in this terrible place. I glance over to my knife. “Would it be sharp enough to cut my wrists?” I think. “It’s not like it would kill the mood.”
At last, there comes an end to both the food and the torture. We ask for the bill, and it is the most expensive one we have had so far, and we have eaten at some very good places. A closer look reveals that Annemiek’s two glasses of wine cost a ridiculous 22 dollars, Rita charged the shitty spaghetti twice and they had the guts to ask ten full dollars for some pieces of garlic bread. This place is a f*cking joke.
Reading back paragraph one, I try to relive my excitement for Vegas, but right now there is nothing left of it.
Please take me home.
This is where I am right now:
READ NEXT: A glorious hike in my favourite US town
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