This was our last full day in Vegas and we had decided to hire a car and head on a road trip to the Grand Canyon. We had gone all in on the American experience and booked a bright red convertible Mustang. We spent an age waiting for the paperwork to be sorted in the office before walking up to the garage to pick up our car. It was parked next to a classic mustang and looked amazing. J started off the drive and, as we had been told that mobile signal was a bit patchy out in the wild, we hired a sat nav to make sure we got there ok.
Before we got out of the car park we decided that we would have the top down but flashing lights on the dashboard meant that we couldn’t get things moving. I hopped out and had a look and there was a plastic coke bottle trapped in the mechanism. Once this was out of the way, the roof collapsed, the dashboard lights went off and we were ready to go. I went to the ‘recent places’ on the sat nav menu and picked ‘Grand Canyon’ and off we went. Just the open road and a four hour trip ahead of us. As we drove out of Vegas on the slip road circling up to the freeway above, I looked down and saw dozens of people living in the water pipes in the middle of the roundabout. Another example of the absolute misery living inside the magic of Vegas but swept away out of view. It was all a bit sad.
I nodded off after about an hour and woke up about an hour later as our car pulled up at the side of the road. We had stopped to put the roof up as it was freezing cold and noisy. Why are convertibles even a thing? It is always exactly the same; great for half an hour then the reality of cold, noisy trips with flies in your hair hits home. As I woke up, another reality hit me. The sat nav was suggesting that we drive another mile down the road, do a U-turn and then head back exactly where we had just come from.
No matter how many times I reset the sat nav, it always suggested that we needed to turn around. I felt sick. I offered to drive the next stage and drove like an idiot back to Vegas, right through Vegas and out the other side for another 2 hours in that direction. Before we got too far, we stopped for petrol and half a ton of chocolate and confectionary. I went to fill up the car and a guy at the next pump shouted over, ‘Hey, the green pump is the diesel over here’. No kidding, I was about thirty centimetres away from filling a hired American sports car with the wrong fuel in the middle of a desert. I loved that guy and when I went inside to pay for the fuel and take a comfort break, I told him so just as he was in mid comfort break which just seemed to terrify him a little bit.
We drove over the Hoover Dam but didn’t get to see it. The 400 car traffic jam on the road that we should have taken suggested we had dodged a bullet there. We crossed over into Arizona and changed time zones which just further added to the confusion in my mind about the day. That wrong-way Tom Tom made me feel like even satellites were out to get me. We drove through miles of dusty nothing broken up by the odd rickety farm or motor home surrounded by scrap and broken walls or toys. We eventually turned off the motorway and drove another 40 minutes to the Grand Canyon National Park Centre. There were all sorts of options for helicopter or plane tours but that all seemed a bit too much and far too exciting.
We paid our money over and were directed to a bus that would take us around the park. The first stop was Hualapai Ranch, a Wild West themed cafe and horse stop where you could do a horse trip into the canyon. My allergy to horses was so bad/silly that we skipped that stop altogether and made for the second stop which was the glass walkway at Eagle Point. After a brief walk through the visitor centre which outlined the struggles that the First Nations had faced being kicked off their land and then oppressed for generations, you had to hand over pretty much everything that you owned into a locker. Phones, coins, anything electrical….it was easier to just put everything in there to not get shouted at by the menacing security team.
Once all of your possessions are handed over, you get to step out onto the glass horseshoe floating above the canyon. This is your first real view of the Canyon and it is only when you get out onto the walkway that you get a feel for the scale. A helicopter flying through the canyon looks like a dot and allows you to work out the enormity of what are you looking at. As you get onto the walkway, without your camera, you see that the Native Americans are getting their own back after their years of oppression. They have been handed cameras and no training and then take 10-15 pictures of couples in various positions, arms out like an eagle, pretending to push your friend off the side, funny falls pictures, you get the idea, and then you get back inside and they charge you $100 to get them printed. The price in no way reflects the quality of the photography as they were so over exposed you couldn’t make out THE most amazing view I had ever seen and it looked like the couples were standing in front of a white screen.
There was a t-shirt in the shop that showed the scale of the canyon; it was three times the height of the Eiffel Tower. It was simply stunning and I couldn’t take it all in reasonably. It was too beautiful, too much to take in. It was called Eagle Point as the rocks in the middle of the canyon looked like an eagle flying down. I can only imagine how amazing this must have been to the First Nations looking at this for the first time; how inspiring it must have been, and I could understand the inspiration for their legends in such a magical place. Can you imagine being the first pioneer on the back of a horse exploring the area, coming across this view and telling everyone else to turn back as there was nothing here to see. Give me a few years and I will have a visitor centre knocked up and will be charging $75 to get in there….Ker-ching!
We hopped onto the bus for the short ride to the third and final spot called Guano Point. I was stunned to hear that someone had had a similar idea to me about money making in this amazing place, just a bit more dangerous and stupid. Upon seeing THE most stunning vista on the planet they decided to climb down it and take a look at the cave and found it was filled to the brim with thousands of years worth of bat shit, Guano. Ignoring the opportunity of the visitor centre and photo opportunities, this guy nailed it. Let’s mine out all of that bat shit and sell it as fertiliser. This wasn’t in the time of cowboys and the Wild West, this was 1957. At today’s prices, they invested $31m in mining this, literally, 100,000 tons of shit that was calculated to be in the cave. It turned out that there was only 1,000 and so at $900 per ton they lost a huge amount of money.
What a testament to human stupidity that someone could lose money in this most amazing part of the world. We were there at about 5pm and every time you turned your head to look at the view the light had changed as the sun dropped and no matter how many times you looked at each place, it became more beautiful. Words cannot begin to do justice to how glorious this place is. You have to see this place at some point in your life, it really is that good. There were a lot of people there that seemed so inspired by the magic of the place they decided to see if they could fly. That was the only reason I can think of that people were standing so close to the edge of the hundreds of metres deep crater on the Earth. Tools.
It was getting dark and very, very cold and so we made our way back to the car to head home. It was by now properly dark and we got a hell of a shock when we opened the car door to find that the wing mirrors cast a horse shaped light on the floor, a very cool feature! It must have been a 250 mile trip but it was maybe 175 miles as the crow flies from Vegas to the park. It seemed impossible to believe as there was nothing else it could be, but you could see the glow of Vegas pretty much from the car park onwards. We watched the glow on the horizon all the way home and we were right, that was all it could have been. It summed up Vegas, a colossal waste of resource in a huge party of vanity and self-obsessed hedonism.
We dropped off the car and walked back to the hotel for a quick shower and dress for dinner. We had a buffet at the Stratosphere and it was like the third circle of hell. The food was OK but it was just too much. You could have all four corners of the culinary planet on your plate at the same time and no one could judge you. Again, Vegas in a meal, excessive, classless, do it because you can, not because its right. I felt sick but only after my fifth plate and two bowls of ice cream. I needed to pack but could no longer walk without feeling sick, so I retired and lay like the fat pig I was. There could be no bigger contrast to the magical day that I had had than the state of me right now!