Last known location: London, England

Grand Canyon and Route 66

D: After 4 nights in our swanky hotel we paid the slightly horrifying bill and checked out. We then caught a taxi to the airport’s car hire centre and braced ourselves for the inevitable bonanza of extra charges that always seem to accompany renting a car! We’d done a lot of research though so we were well prepared for the hefty one-way trip charge and even managed to get a much bigger/better car than we’d booked for the same price. So off we went in our rugged looking but comfortable Dodge Caliber, which was ours for the next four weeks.

Leaving due south east from Las Vegas towards the Grand Canyon we soon arrived at the Hoover Dam, which was an impressive sight at over 700 feet high, wedged between the rocky cliffs either side. Although Highway 93 no longer goes over the top of the dam, replaced now by the huge new bridge, you can still drive across, which we duly did! We got out to have a quick look around but avoided the slightly extortionate tour of the power station.

On passing the dam we’d entered Arizona and we were soon driving through the Eastern edges of the Mojave desert, a barren and rocky wilderness. Having not had any breakfast we thought it was about time we stopped for some lunch – Gem fancied one of the roadside diners, and it didn’t take us long to find one. ‘The Last Stop’ was exactly the kind of place we expected, a glorified shack completely in the middle of nowhere! It did a great burger though and seemed to be doing a decent trade on the day-trippers heading from Vegas to the Canyon. After lunch we carried on South to the town of Kingman where we joined Interstate 40 and began heading East.

G: We arrived in the town of Williams at tea time and soon found a motel to put us up for the night. Williams was on the legendary Route 66 until it was finally bypassed by the Interstate, amid much protest, in 1984. However, it still celebrates its Route 66 heritage and every other shop sells branded merchandise relating to the famous road. Thanks partly to this, and also to the fact that it’s a convenient rest stop before the Grand Canyon, the small town is pretty touristy. So much so that our pre-dinner drink at a local saloon (yes, I said saloon) was interrupted by a good old fashioned gun show. It turns out this is a nightly occurrence put on by a few of the locals. It was great fun and certainly made us giggle. For dinner we hit another diner, Cruisers Cafe 66. The primary appeal of this place was that it had it’s own microbrewery serving Grand Canyon beers. Basically Dan could do some more ‘research’ for his Beers From Around the World project! Still, it was pleasant enough. My “Vegas flu” had hit me hard, so after dinner we went back to the motel in preparation for a long days driving the next day.

We were up bright and early the next morning and hit the road after a quick coffee. Our first gas station experience went badly; it was a prepay station and we got $40 worth of petrol which turned out to be too much. Next, Dan couldn’t open the fuel cap, and then he failed to get the nozzle to work! Disaster! But with a little help from the very friendly attendant we were on our way! The Grand Canyon was even more spectacular than I’d remembered and Dan was blown away by the sheer scale of it. The canyon is roughly a mile deep and averages 10 miles across. Snaking along the valley is 277 miles of the Colorado River which has apparently been carving the canyon for over six million years. We’d chosen to drive the Desert View Road on the South Rim rather than take the shuttle bus route in order to save a few bucks. This road follows the canyon rim for 26 miles to Desert View. Along the way there are various spectacular viewpoints allowing us to get some great glimpses of the canyon features and it’s geology. It’s such an immense site and so hard to describe but we were definitely awestruck, to say the least!

Once we’d finished the route Dan finally gave up the car keys and let me loose on the American roads. Initially we’d intended to get all the way to LA that day but we soon realised that was a bit ambitious so instead drove back on ourselves for a couple of hundred miles and headed for Needles. A small town just over the Californian border – we’d made it to our 3rd state! Founded in 1883 and named for the group of sharp stone spires that stand near the Colorado River, Needles is one of the hottest places in the whole country with summer highs of 100 to 120 degrees. It’s another town on Route 66 and again was a pretty small place with even less to do than Williams. So much so that we decided on a quiet night in and paid a trip to the supermarket to get some supplies before settling into our motel room for the night. We were staying at Motel 6, a chain in the US that offers clean but basic accommodation. And, perhaps because it was so hot in Needles, we even had a small pool on offer which we were lounging by until gone 6 thanks to the high temps.

D: One quiet night in and a pretty restless sleep later and we were on the road again – destination LA. The original Route 66 is still fairly intact in Eastern California, roughly following the interstate that replaced it, so we were soon off the motorway and into the desert. En route we stopped off at a few infamous Route 66 sights. First up was Roy’s Cafe & Motel in the now almost deserted town of Amboy. Roy’s was once a heaving cafe cum petrol station cum garage, but the opening of the new road was the beginning of the end. Most of the buildings are still as they were in 50’s and a few years ago someone bought the whole town (permanent population 2) in the hope of capitalising on the growing Route 66 to tourism industry.

We continued along through the Mojave Desert, as the road followed the Santa Fe railroad westwards. Our next stop was The Bagdad cafe, which was the filming location for a film of the same name (which neither of us had heard of!). It was a weird place, and the service was terrible, but we did eventually get a huge milkshake each!

Eventually Route 66 disappeared and we had to get back on the motorway. We still had time for another shopping stop to try and give us something respectable to wear in LA. This was at a huge Target, a cross between an enormous Tesco and Primark – the fact that this constituted an upgrade shows the parlous state of our wardrobes! We then had to negotiate the maze of highways on our way into the centre of the city – there were a few hairy moments but we made it one piece and managed not to get lost along the way!

  1. Rose 7 Jun, 2011

    How do the motels compare to Pageboy Gem? !!!


    Mum x x x

  2. Gem 8 Jun, 2011

    On a par really, they’ve all been fine. Fairly basic but clean, and decent facilities – pretty cheap too even compared to South America.

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