As I sit here in the passenger seat of the car, as were driving through Zion National Park in Utah, I realise how lucky we have been to be able to see and do so much so far on our adventure. We are 44 days into our travels and are currently in state number 40. 41 if you include our stop in Washington DC. We have gone way off our itinerary but that has turned out to be a good thing, as we wouldn’t have seen and done some of what we have, if we would have stuck to it.
Tuesday consisted of a morning FaceTiming my best friends, followed by us checking out of our room at the Stratosphere. We even got to keep our keys! The first stop of the day was to be the infamous ‘Welcome to Las Vegas’ sign, a short drive along the boulevard. It was well sign posted and you could park right in front of it. In the middle of the road. There was an Elvis impersonator as well as two scantily clad girls with decorative headdresses ready to pose with you under the sign. We didn’t join the 30-40 long queue of people waiting to have their photo taken by a professional, we walked to the side to take a photo of it. It was quite underwhelming too as we definitely thought it would be bigger.
Next stop was the Carroll Shelby Heritage Centre. This is the world headquarters for Shelby America and it was free. As you walked in you were greeted by a gift shop and a sign saying free tours at 1030 and 1330. We had missed the 1030 one but after a few minutes of wandering around, we realised we could just join the back anyway. So we did. The guy was describing all the cars and about Carroll Shelby’s life and career. I don’t proclaim to be a car expert by any stretch of the imagination, I mean I didn’t understand why when the brake fluid light came on, we couldn’t just top it up. Apparently it needs bleeding into the brakes or something. Nor did I understand the bits about the engine he was talking about or different modifications or why the brake calipers are red. I just thought the cars looked nice 😃.
As we finished looking at the cars, he took us into the body shop, where they were working on cars. They had 27 work stations, and when building a car to someone’s specifications, they assign two people to make sure that everything is right, from start to finish. They also only paint the Cobra fully from start to finish. See, I listened! The tour took about an hour and then we signed ourselves on the wall and left via the gift shop.
Sadly with no new car 😔. We stopped at Twin Peaks for lunch then headed out thirty miles to the Hoover Dam. We stopped at the Lake Mead National Recreation Centre first and headed down to the beach. The water was an incredible blue once you got deeper surrounded by the Mojave desert. People have been flocking to Lake Mead since 1936, when the Hoover Dam was completed. Lake Mead and Lake Mojave became the first national recreation area in 1964 and they attract six million people a year.
The area consisted of rocks that are billions of years old, lava which flowed millions of years ago and they say it is the place you can see a millions of years in the same place. The water to the lake comes from the Colorado river and Lake Mead is one of the largest and cleanest in America. It is also where 25 million people depend on for their drinking water.
We continued a bit along the road, passed under a bridge and through a security check before we located the Hoover Dam free parking lot on our right. You don’t need to pay the $10 to go to the visitor centre and then even more to park and have a guided tour. If you come from Las Vegas, follow the signs for the Dam, then once you’ve passed the security check it about half a mile up on the right. Totally free. Just a short walk up a zig zag path, or stairs, you pass through some, what appeared to be wind shields full of information about the bridge. The wind up on the bridge was insanely strong. At one point a small girl cried because she thought she was going to get blown away. The bridge is called Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman memorial bridge, name after the two men aforementioned. It only opened in 2010. Mike O’Callaghan was the governor of Nevada 1971 to 1979 and Pat Tillman was a pro football player with the Arizona Cardinals who left his career to join the fight in Afghanistan, and was killed in action in 2004. The bridge is 579 metres long and 270 metres high.
The views from the bridge were fantastic. You could see the Dam in all its glory. We snapped a few pictures then headed back to the car, only to see a woman get her pet pig out of her car and put a blanket down for it because the floor was too hot. We’ve seen it all now. The Dam was named after President Herbert Hoover and constructed between 1931 and 1936. It cost over a hundred lives. It was opened for tours in 1937 but closed during WWII, reopening at the end of 1945.
Our last stop of the day was Zion National Park, a few hours away in Utah. The scenery driving from the Dam to the park was beautiful . As we passed through the Virgin River Valley, there were towering mountains and the road wound through them. It was beautiful.The journey didn’t seem to take long at all and we passed through the town Hurricane then Springdale and we approached the fee booth to enter the park. We were already armed with passports and our America The Beautiful pass so once again we got in for free instead of paying the thirty dollar entrance fee. This pass is really paying off. We were up to about a hundred eighty dollar saving so far! I urge everyone visiting to do it. You only need to visit three parks and it pays for itself.
We drove in and parked up. First issue, the visitors centre was closed. Second issue, all the campsites were full. They were the walk in first come first served campsites and they were full. That scuppered our plans again. We had a horrible sense of dejá vu…campsite full and no signal…it was starting to feel a lot like our first night in the Grand Canyon. All we needed was a bedrock style campsite just outside and we would be fine. We left the park and headed back to Springdale looking at the lodges and campsites. Full….full….sorry….full….
This really was like the Grand Canyon only worse as all the campsites were full. We headed back further along the way we had just driven. It was about thirty miles roughly until we hit the town of Hurricane. Thankfully the phone found some internet and I was able to book us a room at Days Inn using my five percent voucher from hotels.com! We checked in, caught up the days antics and proceeded to fall asleep about five hours later…
Considering we were disappointed that we couldn’t camp, we couldn’t get to sleep despite being tired. That meant a later start than we would have liked this morning (Wednesday). Still we were up and out within no time, driving the thirty miles we had driven back last night, twice…As we passed through Springdale, the campsites still said full, as did the Zion campsites in the park as we flashed our pass and drove through again. This time at least the visitors centre was open so we could get our mandatory national park stamp before heading further in.
The red rocks were striking towering high in the sky. They were all different shapes, sizes and colours. Sadly for us the scenic drive was only open to the shuttle bus, so we took our own. We drove towards the tunnel and parked up then trekked into the wilderness. It was so incredibly hot and humid surrounded by red rocks. We located a stream that housed tadpoles after walking through sand. It was like a beach. We drove up the winding road to the tunnel and waited for a while so Nathan could attach his GoPro to the windscreen, and because it was single traffic through the tunnel. As we exited, the rocks became layered and slanting almost. It seemed like two different parks! Zion national park was established in 1919. People started to live here about 8000 years ago! We finished up along our drive and headed out towards Arizona again. Our destination was the stunning Horseshoe Bend. We passed through the Glen Canyon Dam and the town of Page before we reached Lookout Point. You can access the bend from the parking lot about 1.5 miles from the rim. The trail is deep sand, boiling hot with no shade and steep. We should have swapped into our walking boots. It was worth it. Horseshoe Bend is the most stunning view we have had to date. The viewpoint is 1000 feet above the river. The Colorado rivers erosion has caused the shape.It was stunning and the best bit was there were no railings. You could pretty much dangle off the edge! As you peered over the edge you could see kayaks and boats making use of this fantastic piece of nature. You must take water on this short but relatively strenuous walk!!!
We got back to the car and blasted the air on before putting Bluff, Utah in the Satnav, a few hours away. I may have nodded off slightly in the heat (we both managed to get burnt in the time at Horseshoe Bend) but before we knew it there were signs for monument valley. Needless to say, we followed them. East and west mitten buttes are hand like spiritual beings watching over the valley.Camel butteElephant butteRain God mesa. Navajo medicine men pray to the Rain God for storing water for the people. It marks the geological centre of the park.Thunderbird mesaSpearhead mesaCly butte. Named after a well known medicine man who is buried at the bottom.
The park cost $20 to enter and you drive round the park stopping off for short hiking trails and viewpoints at each of the formations. The road is a dirt south red sand track. The Navajo tribal park spans 13000 square miles. There are till people who live inside who have learned to live a simple life. Tse-Bii-Ndzisgaii….the people who live inside the valley within the rock. The park was beautiful, albeit dusty. A truck got stuck going up the hill on the way back to the visitors centre so we sat and watch for about fifteen minutes as a tractor tried to get through to push it up. Nathan attached the GoPro to the front of the car as we were driving so I’m sure that will be entertaining to watch.
The views we have seen over the last few days have been stunning 😃🇺🇸❤️