After getting hitched in Vegas, Flight Centre Travel Consultant Eva Martin, set off on an unforgettable All-American road trip!
If you ask most newlyweds what they look forward to most about their wedding, many will say their honeymoon; the chance to spend time with their new husband or wife and to relax into their new lives together after the rush and excitement of the wedding. After 7 days in the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas, we were ready to move on to somewhere new and calmer! We picked up our white Dodge Challenger and hit the road to begin our All-American road trip. We had originally opted for a run-of-the-mill Ford Focus but hearing the roar of the Dodge engine and the images of Starsky and Hutch that it evoked, we knew we wouldn’t be doing this road trip justice in anything less.
Our first stop was Zion National Park; a 2 ½ hour drive from Las Vegas. We entered the park and were greeted by a park ranger. My heart skipped a beat as I realised that everything I had seen in the movies and read in books was turning out to be true! We drove along the windy road with hairpin bends and huge drops and took in the beauty of our surroundings. The scale of everything was so big! We drove through the park and arrived at the Zion Mountain Ranch to be told that we were the only ones there that night. We arrived at sunset to see the wild Buffalo coming in to graze. Seeing buffalo outside your window was not something we had anticipated and seeing it on the on-site restaurant’s menu was even more of a surprise. I couldn’t resist indulging in some Buffalo Bolognese and despite the awkward moment where I looked out the window to see my dinner’s brothers and sisters, it was absolutely delicious!
The next day we headed to Bryce Canyon, the part of the USA called the Grand Staircase. It was a long drive across Utah to Bryce but was well worth it. When we reached the top, we had to pause to take in the sheer vastness of the view. You could see Utah, Arizona and New Mexico; you couldn’t imagine a view like this anywhere in Britain. On the way back, we stopped to find somewhere to eat but soon realised that travelling off-peak, meant that a lot of the places were closed at this time of year. We drove through lots of ghost towns and realised we were in the back of beyond – the trailer parks we saw and strange looks we received were straight from the movies. Restaurants seemed non-existent so we drove back to Springdale just past Zion and went to Wildcat Willies Saloon; a traditional western diner complete with drinks served in jam jars and burgers served in baskets.
On our third day we headed to Monument Valley. The road is often referred to as being the most scenic drive in America and as we weaved through long desert roads and past Lake Powell, we were inclined to agree. The land became redder and the vegetation was sparse. We passed through Native American settlements and it was sheer indulgence to not see a single supermarket and be bombarded by the mundane of everyday life. We felt a real sense of adventure in that moment, one that we thought was impossible to achieve anywhere else.
In Monument Valley we stayed at the View Hotel. This is the only hotel in the park itself and as it is built on a Native American reservation, it was a lot cheaper and more authentic than any of the motels just outside. Every room has a stunning view across the valley and as luck would have it, there was a hot air balloon festival just beginning as we arrived. After dinner at the hotel restaurant that has been voted one of the best meals in the USA, we watched the sun set over the Valley as the huge monoliths changed from orange to crimson. We slept with the curtains open so the sun rising would wake us up. It was simply one of the most stunning views I have ever seen. We sat out on our balcony and watched the hot air balloons rising over the valley. A once in a lifetime moment.
Then it was time to see the Grand Canyon. An excursion from Las Vegas would only take you to a viewing point filled with other tourists hungry for their photos of one of the great natural wonders of the world. From this side, we were able to drive all through the National Park and see the Grand Canyon from several different angles. As with Bryce, the scale and vastness cannot be described. We could see some water breaking in the river and were told that although it looked tiny from up there, the waves were in fact 8ft high. That sense of vertigo from Bryce Canyon came back to haunt us as we stood as close to the edge as felt comfortable. We were staying in the Grand Canyon village just outside the park. There were restaurants, shops and plenty of hotels and we were checked in by an Amish man called Jeremiah who was stunned that we had actually got married in Vegas. It was little moments like this that brought home the size of the States. A taxi driver in Vegas had never heard of Zion National Park despite it being just 2 ½ hours away. It was like living in London and never hearing of Stonehenge. But there is so much to see over there, I’m sure it is easy for them to never see it all.
Our last day was a five hour drive back to Vegas for the flight. We drove along the oldest surviving part of Route 66. We were expecting to find old motels and diners straight out of a Jack Kerouac novel but in reality, apart from an awesome old gas station, a road-kill cafe and a freight train that ran on for what seemed like miles, we didn’t see anything for over an hour. We made our way to the Hoover Dam as the traffic became more frequent and the roads widened. We pulled in and were straight back in to the tourism that we had left behind in Vegas. Like most things in the US, the Dam was on a vast scale. It has changed the face of the desert states, giving them electricity so they can evolve and so places like Las Vegas can exist and is great feat for engineering.
We left the dam behind and driving past Lake Mead, considered everything that we had seen. From the decadence of Vegas to getting our kicks on Route 66, we had seen so much yet still only covered a small area of the States. The best burgers, the coolest cars, the deepest canyons, never-ending deserts, once in a lifetime views; It all adds up to make the south-west of the States an amazing place to visit and one that I will never forget.