We high-tailed out of Vegas early in the morning, knowing that we were going to miss the convenience of the valet and the comfort of the luxurious rooms of the Signature but also looking forward to finally meeting the true Wild West.
Our destination was Flagstaff, Arizona and on the way we would pass Hoover Dam. It’s surprising how close this impressive structure is to Vegas. If you didn’t know, the middle of June is really bloody hot in Nevada/Arizona. When we peeled ourselves off the black leather seats of our rental car it was well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. I dunno what that is in Aussie temps but it felt like Darwin in the Dry. Heavy dry heat pushing you into the asphalt. And we parked a fair bit away from the Dam (it costs to park in their official parking lot, although we did notice that it’s pretty much the same distance from our free spot) so we had a bit of a walk to get across the top of the Dam.
And wow – like wow – this thing is freaking huge and just makes you humbled by the genius and the man-power behind its construction. Before we left for the US, my father-in-law told me about Hoover Dam and how the Colorado River was diverted during the construction of the Dam. It’s so crazy to think this was built in the 1930s. I was so nervous looking over the edge way down the sheer concrete sides, imagining the men abseiling down the cliff faces to build this thing. Nuts. And what a project! A marvel really … it sounds lame but there was a quote about the Dam that I really liked, something like ‘the vision to bring life to these lonely lands’ … I know I have it wrong, but the spirit is right.
Looking down on Hoover Dam is another marvelous man-mad structure – the bi-pass bridge – the Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. It is as epic as it’s name – all stone arches and creamy concrete. From the Dam you look up at this towering bridge and occasionally you see a glint of light and realise the tiny figure behind it is a person. Literally the size of a toy army man. That bridge is big. I was happy just taking photos of it from the Dam and then holding my breath as we drove across the bridge – its now the only route to Flagstaff, the old Hoover Dam route is closed. But Lee had other ideas and I found myself shuffling nervously across the mammoth bridge. I don’t even wanna know how high up it was. All I know is that it was way higher than the room we stayed in Tower 3 of the Signature – on floor 23! I was so scared on our balcony that I wouldn’t let the boys stand near the glass railing. Yup, I’m a freak about heights. So being on this bridge looking down at Hoover Dam was insane … but you gotta do it if you ever get the chance. I’m glad that Lee insisted we walk across it. Oh, and I got a little teacher-geeky as well and took some photos of the info signs – it went through the process of the construction of the bridge from vision to celebration. It was totally PBL and I was stoked. I wonder what their driving question was?
After we hit Flagstaff and checked in to our hotel (it reminded me of the scary place we almost stayed at in Limon,Colorado – the layout was the same and the car park was full of ‘trucks’ … but it was daytime, sunny and clean – far less scary!) we made the decision to drive the 1.5 hours to the Grand Canyon.
On the drive out of town, following the signs to the Grand Canyon, we came across a cute shop that sold drinks and beer and stuff. I can’t remember the name of the shop but it was cool – just nice people and great craft beer for cheap. I don’t know why I told you that, haha. It was about 4.30pm when we got to the Southern Rim of the Grand Canyon. Last year we did the Northern Rim and we loved it. It was deep – sooo far down. We loved how natural and in-touristy it was. It wasn’t very crowded. The same can’t be said for the Southern Rim. It is touristy and crowded BUT it is stunning. The canyon down here is wide and varies in colour. The sun was falling in the sky so we were treated to a show of shadows spreading across the canyon. I don’t even want to try to describe it for you – I honestly was surprised that I was so impressed. I was a bit flippant about the Southern Rim cos I’d already seen the Northern Rim. Stoopid me. Both are brilliant. Both have their own character. Both are capable of making you question your own significance. Truly.
You’ll be pleased to know that we found fresh fruit and vegetables as well as vegetarian frozen meals at a gorgeous supermarket called Bashas – the guy who served us even gave us a discount and chatted to us about Flagstaff.
And that was a big day.