Hitting the wide open spaces and some interesting places…

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Well, apart from some photos we’ve been pretty rubbish at blogging recently but maybe all that will change now we’ve got to Mexico – we’re planning a change of pace to go with the change of place so hopefully will find some time for quiet contemplation…
It seems like a different world now but we were in Disneyland at the end of our last post, and from there headed out on a monumental road trip through the vast open spaces of south west USA. There really is a whole lot of nothing out there with hazy ribbons of highways tying together dusty one street towns, and our little hire car trundled heroically from one motel to the next.
Our first stop on leaving LA was to an outdoor shop – now we’ve got outdoor shops in England and you might have thought some of them were pretty fancy with their ‘Now is the season of our discount tent’ signs and the occasional mannequin climbing up the wall – however this shop was on a different scale altogether, like some vast temple dedicated to hunting, fishing or shooting anything that moved. Not only was there a three storey waterfall plunging into a huge fishtank but there were stuffed specimens of all America’s wild creatures artfully arranged – like many of the meals we’ve had over here it was impressive in scale but left a bad taste in the mouth, and it was all too much for us and we fled the place with a new-found fondness for Milletts.
Our next destination was the Grand Canyon but this was too far to drive in one day so we stopped in Laughlin for the night. Laughlin is like a mini Vegas, with perhaps only the 20 million slot machines available to take your dollars and your dreams. However it did have a cheap hotel with a rooftop pool so the girls were happy.
Next day we drove to Flagstaff with a quick lunch stop in Seligmann en route, on Route 66. As this place is just off the Interstate but still on the historic highway it caters for coach groups eager to get their kicks along with their fries and burgers. It’s a nice enough slice of nostalgic Americana though, with comedy signs aplenty and waiters doing little practical jokes – get your quips on Route 66 anyone?
Just outside Flagstaff is Walnut Creek Canyon and this was our first proper taste of what we’d come to the USA for – the National Parks and their stunning scenery. It’s like a baby-grand canyon and has ancient dwellings carved into the cliff faces and was a thoroughly enjoyable place to spend an hour or so. We then went to Flagstaff and found a veggie cafe and a decent motel. Pete and Rach stayed in Flagstaff years ago and remember it as our favourite American town – a proper place of proper streets and shops and thankfully it hasn’t changed too much. Instead of an army surplus store there’s a peace surplus store and it was so much nicer than our previous outdoor shop experience! You can also actually walk around town rather than drive and get good food so we decided to stay for an extra day and visited Sunset Volcano for a walk through black sand around a huge lava-strewn landscape.
Next up was the Grand Canyon and Pete’s birthday and we decided to push the budget and stay up near the canyon in a supposedly posh hotel. The hotel was ok but the breakfast was a depressing sight. When I was a kid I remember asking why we couldn’t use disposable plates when I didn’t want to wash up – Mum explained how wasteful and lazy this was but America’s mom doesn’t seem to have given her hotels the same lesson. Everything is throw-away polysterene or plastic and at the end all the spare food goes into the bin as well.
However we hadn’t come all this way just to moan and the Grand Canyon didn’t disappoint. It’s giant scale is breath-taking, literally given the altitude and heat. If ever there’s a place which justifies the use of the word awesome then perhaps this is it, and we had a couple of great days taking in the views and managing a short hike down into the canyon itself.
Then it was time for another long drive as we headed to Lake Powell. We’d seen great pictures of the lake and heard good things but all the exciting tours seemed very expensive and the girls were happy enough just swimming in the lake with a new friend, Michaela. We also did a fab little walk to some toadstool rocks through an adventurous little canyon, and saw Horseshoe Bend which is a classic U bend sliced deep through the rock. The scenery is stunning and I’m running out of adjectives and superlatives so will try to post some photos before the journey continues…

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