Wild West ... Tour de Dust
Real living occurs when you're covered in layers of dust and doing laundry in the gas station. The The realization of how fortunate you are smacks you in your face, but also that you haven't truly lived until you're a highway vagabond.
We met a day early with a few guys from our group and the five of us crowded into a SUV with cameras, sunscreen, and water. [Yes, I took my very own Fuji XT100F and all of these photos are mine, unless otherwise noted. A big first and overall, I'm super impressed with the image quality.] On Monday, we looped from Red Rock Canyon (yes, we went again) to Valley of Fire State Park then to Hoover Dam and finally back to Las Vegas. We grabbed some Mexican Food and margaritas and called it a night; Tuesday morning we were up early and heading to meet up with our entire group. All 18 of us. The group piled into 5 SUVs. Our car, Team Buffalo, consisted of the Ex-pat, the Editor, Trey, and myself. The Editor and I have a mutual affection for refined sugar and I introduced him to all of the crazy American candies including Pop Rocks, Nerds, Pixie Sticks, Airheads, and so many more. The Ex-pat, reminiscent of Dos Equis' Most Interesting Man in the World, was the quiet and reserved type who seemed to have traveled everywhere, and had amazing stories.
After heading out of Las Vegas and hitting Route 66, we stopped in Kingman, Arizona to enjoy lunch and a homemade root beer at Mr. D'z. After lunch, we visited the Santa Fe Railroad park and then listened to the history of Dunton Motors and the classic cars they have in inventory. Further down Route 66, we stopped at Hackberry General Store for a Coke before continuing on to Williams, Arizona.
Once in Williams, we stayed at the Grand Canyon Hotel which happens to be the oldest hotel in Arizona. We really enjoyed the hipster vibe at Historic Brewing, where we went for a late dinner and some local brews. The next morning, we had breakfast at Pike Country Restaurant where they serve slices of cream pie as large as your head. After passing on pie for breakfast, we headed to the Grand Canyon for a quick stop before driving to the Cameron Trading Post for lunch. Guess what we did after lunch? Yep, we drove. Once in Tuba City, we realized that half of the town observes one time zone and the other half observes another. Apparently, the State of Arizona doesn't adhere to Daylight Savings Time, but the Navajo nation (located inside the state of Arizona) does adhere to Daylight Savings Time. We could walk from one side of our hotel room to the other and the times on our cell phones would change. After checking into our hotel, we headed out to Blue Canyon for sunset. The moon was almost full and the sky was an amazing pallet of blues and pinks.
The days ran together just like blowing sand sticks to sunscreen. Other stops were Coal Mine Canyon, Hopi Cultural Center, Little Painted Desert, the Wigwam Motel, Petrified Forest National Park, Spider Rock at Canyon de Chelly, Monument Valley....
We stayed one night in Mexican Hat, Utah. A town so small, if you blink you miss it. We stayed at the Mexican Hat Rock Inn and were beyond impressed with the renovated rooms. They were clean and comfortable. I would stay there again without hesitation. I'm not sure if it was eating under the stars or the simplistic perfection, but dinner at the Swinging Steak was one of the most memorable experiences I've had. The menu is simple, your choice of steak or chicken (and maybe one other option) grilled over an open flame and served with pintos, house salad, and Texas toast. Also, another place I hope to return soon.
... Forrest Gump Point, Antelope Canyon. Wow. Just wow. Cleaning sand out of every crease of your body for two days is well worth the experience. There are several guide companies for both the Lower and the Upper Canyons. If you have any sort of physical limitation, I suggest the Upper Canyon as it doesn't have stairs (very narrow stairs). I went to the Lower Antelope Canyon with Dixie Ellis' Antelope Canyon Tours and I would definitely go again. It's truly a natural beauty.
Horseshoe Bend. This is definitely worth the hike up and down the sand dune. (I did it in Chacos sandals which were fine. I did see a lady in heels... She appeared to regret her wardrobe choice.) There were 40-50 mph gusts and with nothing to stop the sand, we were literally sandblasted with every gust. I have never been so happy to have worn pants, even though I could feel the sand stinging through them. Lady E (another person in our group) said the sandblasting felt exactly like a microdermabrasion without the vacuum. Army crawling to the ledge of a 100+ foot drop and hanging over to get the photo was an adventure in and of itself. The Editor and I are trying to get our shots and this giant gust of sand comes stinging and all of a sudden I hear his screams. In - probably the calmest voice I've ever mustered - I asked, "Are you falling?" He said,"No." and I responded, "Well that's good, because I wasn't going to try to catch you." Even my beloved Nalgene Silo has a custom texture to accompany my campfire story.
Navajo Bridge, Glen Canyon, Balanced Rocks, Zion.
Oh, Zion. I long to explore your hidden gems and magnificent beauty. After watching sunset at the Watchman we headed on to Springdale for dinner and sleep. Zion, I will return to thee.
Grafton Ghost Town. Valley of Fire State Park. Las Vegas.
With sand covering all of our gear (and us), we felt guilty going back to Hiroko's immaculately kept AirBnB, so we booked a last minute room at Paris for a bargain. Checking in, we humbly smiled to explain our salty, sandy, smelly selves to the clerk and she kindly without question upgraded our one night room to a suite with two full bathrooms. (If you ever read this, from the bottoms of our heart, we are beyond grateful. Thank you.) We used all of the towels, and as I say this, please believe, we needed them all. Clean. We slept gladly in the quietly air conditioned room - all the while dreaming of the desert.
For more photos of our trip, check out Trey's website here.