Chipmunks and tears: Page, AZ to Las Vegas, NV

We left Page super early in the morning, slipping out stealthily so as not to hit the expected traffic of boat-trailer laden SUVs. Besides, we had a great big canyon to go and check out! We opted to go and see a side of the Grand Canyon that only 1/10th of all visitors to the region see – the North Rim – everyone else goes to the South Rim. A couple of reasons contributed to this decision: one, we didn’t want to get stuck with a crowd of other tourists (hypocritical I know, but all that noise and pushing and demanding just isn’t our scene), two, this part of the canyon was kinda on our way to Las Vegas (via the quickest route of course!) and three, this part is untouched for the most part – there aren’t vendors hawking helicopter rides etc and it’s much more natural as it’s surrounded by bushland. Well, that’s what I read on the internet the night before anyway!

Snaking through the desert in a rental car, listening to our favourite songs. The Navajo people certainly know how to select a dramatic landscape to call home. I had been very eager to buy some jewellery made by indigenous peoples – makes me sound like some kind of white imperialist doesn’t it? Well, I am a white Australian so I guess you can say it’s in my blood … nah just kidding (of course). I’d tried a couple of ‘trading posts’ on the previous day, but it all felt so phony – I didn’t wanna be giving money to an old white woman hawking ‘authentic’ Native American trinkets. As we headed West again full of anticipation for this giant hole in the ground, we spotted parked trucks (utes) with trestle tables set up and people fussing with things on them. Yes! Genuine craftspeople selling good that had been made by themselves or their family members.

After crossing the first ever bridge over the Colorado River – the Navajo Bridge – we stumbled across some houses built by cliff-dwellers. It was interesting to contrast these early 20th century constructions built by homeless vagabonds with the thousand year old structures we had seen the previous day at Mesa Verde. Set up within these modern ‘ruins’ were three stalls run by Navajo women. After much indecisiveness we all left happily with a souvenir, a story or two about our purchases and a wonderful warm belly feeling knowing that our money was going straight to the craftsmen, not a vendor!

Before we turned off to the North Rim, we stopped at Jacob Lake Inn. This is a cute little Inn that is at an elevation of 7,800 feet and where we decided to eat breakfast. The diner was pretty close to the authentic American diner experience … nah, it was authentic and not kitsche. We got cheap food that was really tasty – our first introduction to real American hash browns, actual potatoes and not those deep-fried Maccas-style crap we get in Oz.We also got some tasty homemade cookies to snack on in the car – Lee got a zucchini and lemon cookie!

Back in the car we once again were winding and curving, but this time through pines not red sand. Oh, and we saw Bison! Seriously it was like looking into the past – these creatures hang out together on the green in a big ol’ pack. Nice.

I don’t wanna go into too much detail about the Grand Canyon. Why? Cos I freaked the hell out! I am SUCH a wuss when it comes to heights and basically, well – this ‘must see’ destination is all about height, right? It was overwhelmingly impressive – the size, the depth, the colours … I didn’t know so many shades of red, brown and green could be combined without making black. It was far from black. But through my tear-washed eyes all I could see was a stumble and a scream that never ended. Honestly, anxiety and a damn big hole don’t mix that well. After my initial tears and sitting down refusing to go on (seriously, embarrassing, huh?) I did manage to smile for some photos with a backdrop of wow behind me.

One thing that I will say super quickly though – chipmunks are the cutest damn things ever. They are personality bottled in a stubby-sized beast … fluffy and stripy and devious. Brilliant.

I enjoyed the drive from the Canyon to Vegas … it was an eye-opener to see so many people living out in the middle of the desert! The Australian landscape seems so ‘same, same’ in comparison to the variety of the American desert … the rock formations (which are giant) rival any painting by Dali.

Las Vegas emerged abruptly within this desert-scape. My immediate response to the jagged silhouette of Vegas was sadness. It reminded me of Niagara Falls, and I really wasn’t a fan of that place. The cars started getting faster and the freeways wider (um, 6 lanes each way anyone?!) … and they all led to ‘The Strip’.

We were all pretty much aghast at the buildings we were seeing … my youngest was very excited to see the Eiffel Tower and the mini-NYC. We were once again very grateful for the TomTom and not being lost in this place!

Months ago in Australia when this trip was all ‘as if’ and ‘holy crap’, we booked the MGM Grand Signature suites … it was so cheap at $120 a night. Of course, the accommodation is ridiculously cheap for the luxury you get (just think the night before we’d spent the same amount to stay in the very dodgy Hotel 6 in Page) but obviously all the money is made in the casinos.

Our room was nothing short of ridiculously indulgent and I was thankful that we had spent quite a few nights in daggy motels. It made us all appreciate the over-the-top grandeur of the Signature. Seriously, it was beautiful and silly bundled together with tape. We were staying on the 33rd floor – which not surprisingly caused a tightening in my chest and some shallow breathing – and above our button in the elevator was ‘PH’. We couldn’t work out what it stood for, until Lee asked a stranger who helped out with, ‘Man, that’s the Penthouse floor.’ OMG – penthouse!

Vegas. Crazy.

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