On our third day driving through the USA, we were woken up by two security guards at 5.40 AM at the parking lot in Las Vegas. They told us that we weren’t allowed to sleep in a car, only in mobile homes. So our day started early, but as it turned out, that was actually a really good thing.
We were going on an adventure to Death Valley, the warmest place on Earth. But unfortunately, it didn’t quite turn out that way. When we were halfway there, in Pahrump, we realized that there was a problem with the car. A signal was showing and we figured we needed to find out why before going any further into the heat center of the Earth. We went into an auto shop, where a nice employee helped to check our car. There was a serious problem with the air filter, which potentially could cause a breakdown on the engine, which could very possibly be fatal for us in the Death Valley.
The employee called up Hertz, from whom we had rented the car in Los Angeles. They told us to come back to Las Vegas, where we could exchange our car. We were bummed to miss out on Death Valley, but we figured it would be better to be safe than sorry, so back we went.
There had been other problems with the car as well, such as the gear stick getting stuck, so we were happy to exchange it. From a problemsome Nissan to a luxurious Hyundai Sonata from 2017!
It was a really great deal for us. The best thing was that the car had a USB, meaning that we could now listen to our own music on our roadtrip instead of the radio and the one Celine Dion CD that we had found in the car! We also got two extra days, meaning that we would have our car until the 23rd of August, where we left the country from Chicago. That meant less stress and also having a car to drive around the windy city!
We decided to knock Death Valley on the head and save that experience for another good time. Instead, we were able to save an entire day by going to the Grand Canyon that day instead of the next, meaning that the next few days would be much more relaxing with less driving and more sightseeing.
We drove back to Kingman in Arizona and on the way, we stopped at a lookout for the 1,450-mile-long Colorado River.
In Kingman, we went into a gas station to get some water, and they had replica flint arrows from an Indian culture several thousands of years old. As an archaeologist, I simply had to buy some!
Back on the Route 66 we went and drove to Hackberry General Store in the ghost town of Hackberry. It’s a very atmospheric bar with Elvis and Marilyn Monroe figures, and walls and ceilings plastered with posters, stickers, badges and flags from all over the world, just like Bagdad Café. It seems to be a very typical Route 66 thing!
The original Hackberry General Store was opened in 1934, but had been closed since 1978, until it was re-opened in 1992 as a Route 66 tourism information post and souvenir shop.
Shortly after the general store, we entered the Hualapai Indian Reservation, home to the Hualapai, a federally recognized Indian tribe in Arizona with over 2300 members. The main village of the reservation, Peach Springs, is located right on the historical Route 66.
We drove along Route 66 all the way to the village of Williams, through the most beautiful green hilly landscapes. The landscapes reminded me of a mixture between the Song-Kul area in Kyrgyzstan and the Tatra Mountains in Poland and Slovakia. It was funny to see how the landscape turned so green all of a sudden.
Then we made a turn off for Grand Canyon, which was only a 80 kilometer detour each way (which is absolutely NOTHING by American standards). We had to pay 30 USD to get into the national park, but it was without a doubt worthwhile!
We tried to find a place to park our car to sleep in, and ended up settling for a parking lot two kilometres outside of Grand Canyon Village. As soon as I got out of the car, the cool air hit me. It was amazing to feel some coldness in the air after being stuck in 40 degrees heat for four days. The temperature in this part of Arizona was much more of my liking!
After we had chosen our sleeping spot, we drove to a parking lot near the canyon. It didn’t take long and soon we were standing at God’s most beautiful creation on this Earth, the mighty Grand Canyon.
Grand Canyon is a steep-sided canyon carved by the Colorado River. It’s 277 miles long and 18 miles wide with a depth of over 1,850 meters!
I took so many photos from all angles. I climbed down the cliffs to get my photo taken. I stood there and stared in awe for a while. Grand Canyon is magnificent.
The sun was slowly setting and painting the canyon in all shades of red and orange. It was such an amazing sight. I’ve seen a lot in my career as a travel addict, but I can honestly say that Grand Canyon beats it all. It truly is the most beautiful spot on Earth.
Grand Canyon also has amazing wildlife. We saw countless exotic birds, an opossum and even two elks!
After exploring the canyon for a bit, we went to a supermarket/café, where we had our dinner, and then we went back to the canyon to see the breathtaking night sky above it with a clear viewing of the Milky Way. Grand Canyon has some of the clearest air in all of the USA, and therefore one of the best night skies. Picturing it didn’t go quite as well as I had hoped, but I think it was due to too much lighting coming from the village. In any case, that’s my excuse 😉
The next morning, we got up really early to catch the sunrise over the Grand Canyon. We had imagined a beautiful display of orange and red colours, but unfortunately, the canyon was in the shadow when the sun eventually came up. Still, it was a beautiful sight. Grand Canyon can never disappoint.
After sunrise, it was time to head back to Route 66 and onwards to our fourth state – New Mexico!