Vacation, finally. After a few busy weeks in the office and a terribly long journey, I actually made it to the US (Albuquerque, NM to be specific) and was picked by Philipp to commence a road trip across the United States. Philipp has already been on the road for roughly 3’000 miles (~ 4’800 km), but my trip started only here. We left Albuquerque early on Saturday morning to drive to the Grand Canyon, my first real stop.
My first 400 miles trip made it very clear to me that the US are a very big country. The landscape in the southwest is quite different from Europe and also offers way less variety. Even driving along the interstate we hardly passed any big cities and Gallup, the town we stopped in to watch Germany’s second world cup match, was rather quiet. Also, the sports bar there still had CRTs, the waitress had never heard of the term WiFi before, the food was mediocre and the
soccer football match was not exciting either. Once we left Gallup, everything got better though.
Around 6 pm we reached the Grand Canyon National Park and were pleasantly surprised, that the park passes are issued par car, not per person, and that they are valid for seven days. It was too late to for any hiking tours, although there was time however to enjoy the – very impressive – view into the Grand Canyon from the Desert View watchtower. I have seen the desert before, I have also seen it stretching into eternity before, but Dubai’s desert is kind of flat, so its size is hard to grasp. The Grand Canyon on the other hand is very much three dimensional, massive and very impressive. As it turns out though, the watchtower is not actually an Indian watchtower, but just a „recreation“ that is meant to mimic an Anasazi watch tower. Without reading the signs though, you will never notice. After another hour in the car, we got to Williams, where we found a place to stay and a the Station 66, a nice Italian bistro serving proper food.
On Sunday we got up early to hike the Rim Trail (pdf) from the Grand Canyon Village to the Hermit Rest – a very manageable yet not boring route along the cliffs of the canyon. Since I am not super experienced nor super equipped, it was very convenient that parts of the trail were paved. If you fancy it, you can even do the route by bike. Despite the pavement, we still saw a squirrel or two and managed to catch a few more breathtaking views over the canyon. The trail was quite close to the edge at times yet there were no fences and hardly any warning signs. While I think that this is perfectly reasonable, I am still a little bit surprised that it is possible in the US (Philipp suggested that most of the visitors are tourists from abroad who know how to take care of themselves). After those 16 km we decided to not also take the Hermit trail (another 14 km) but instead get on the shuttle bus back to the village.
For dinner we planned to reward ourselves with a nice steak but did not manage to find a steakhouse that convinced us (outside seating without live country music, please). Instead we ended up in the Pine Country Restaurant, where the food again was mediocre – the whole food part of this journey needs to get better, soon – and we were not served any alcohol. So much for the rewarding dinner. To make up for it, we found our way into The Grand Canyon Winery and helped ourselves to a few glasses of local beer (never mind the name).
Monday was our last day around the Grand Canyon but I told Philipp that we should not leave without either visiting the skywalk or taking a helicopter / airplane tour across the canyon. Since neither of us has ever had a helicopter ride, I had to make a small exception to my no-more-air-transport-for-two-weeks mindset. The 25 minutes flight again showed how massive and wide not only the Grand Canyon but the whole American countryside is and was a very good close to our stay here. Around noon we waved the canyon goodbye and got in the car to visit Las Vegas, looking for
blackjack and hookers more excitement and better food (hopefully).
You can find more photos here.