Driving Southwards through California reveals just how dry the state really is. No wonder they need so many reservoirs to keep life going. On the border with Nevada, the Sierra Nevada range sucks the remaining moisture out of the air, forming the word famous Death Valley.
Drought and dead, interspersed with ultra colourful mountains, salt pans and sand flats. What a fantastic, peaceful place!
A little more towards the East lies a little less peaceful place: Las Vegas. A place to gander at the weirdness in our world. Look through the thousands of stag and hen party-goers and you will find local grannies spending precious time falling asleep at their favourite slot machine. What a life! Sin City was explored, but not consumed … except maybe for that one night in the Bellagio. Happy birthday, Didemcim!
More national parks up ahead! The state of Utah takes us towards the most eastern point of our loop. After disarming a dead car battery, ignoring an immoveable neck (and thus, head) and dodging an enormous rattlesnake we make it, alive and well, to Zion National Park. The start of the Canyon Route is nothing but spectacular: blossoming cacti among river-fed greeneries set in a red-tinted mountain landscape.
A new “Made in the USA” car battery brings us, this time without problems, via Zion and Bryce Canyon, to Page, Arizona. I know, it starts to sound like an eventless numbered list of natural sights, but with a National Park or Monument every 150km it is hard to describe things differently.
Next on the list? Page. A city built for the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam. For us, a base to explore Horseshoe Bend and the fabulous Antelope Canyon.
Be warned: Upper Antelope Canyon, the famous slot canyon with its surreal curves and laser-like sunbeams is an extremely busy tourist attraction. Special photo-tours that allow a tripod, the only way to actually take a picture inside the Canyon, are a complete and utter rip-off. The alternative? A visit to Lower Antelope Canyon. The major drawback is the lack of light shafts, but this is easily compensated by the more relaxed atmosphere and much lower entrance price. There you have it. Practical information
The Grand Canyon State deserves a visit to its namesake attraction: the Grand Canyon. A tourist trail navigating the South rim, you say? Don’t make me laugh. The North rim is where all the action is packed. Everyone knows this. And besides, the grass is always greener on the other side … except today. Today the grass, or better, the rocks, are white. Covered in snow by the extremely unexpected late-April snow storm and sub-zero temperatures that led to the closure of the North side of the National Park. Bummer. The South rim it is then.
Geek note: you can watch the documentary “Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets” in the IMAX theatre of the Grand Canyon Village. Not that spectacular if it wasn’t for the technicalities of the whole ordeal. The feature was shot and is projected using analog 70mm film. Oh, my … the amount of detail captured is just incomparable to, unfortunately, all too common 2K digital screenings.
Moving on: a quick stop-over in Seligman shows a glimpse of glory long-gone. The bad-ass route 66 changed from a symbol of freedom to a rather dull tourist trap. Ah, well … let’s hope they at least conserve or restore the diners and gas stations of the Golden Fifties.
Back in California, Joshua Tree National Park is worth a visit, even if it is only to enjoy its excellent camping spots. Giant boulders and weird cactus-tree hybrids. All a person can wish for before entering the madness that is Los Angeles.
And the madness starts even before entering LA. Wishing for a city in the middle of the desert, promoted as the perfect getaway? Look no further: Palm Springs will fulfill all your dreams. In reality it looks more like an unorganised mess of upscale retirement homes located in the middle of an extremely windy valley. On a positive note, we had a lovely dinner with one of Didem’s Erasmus friends.
The City of Angels is full of contrasts: from its criminality ridden outskirts to celebrity neighbourhoods of Beverly Hills, from buskers in Venice Beach to the tourist-ridden streets of Hollywood. A lot of stuff, but nothing that exciting.
US of A, it is almost time to say goodbye. A friend’s visit in quiet Huntington Beach followed by a drive through San Diego marks the end of a wonderfully busy time in The States.
Next up: Baja California!