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This is the part where I should make a confession. I don’t know if you noticed, but this road-trip had a bus and now a plane. Yes, it was a little bit of cheating. But with the days that we had available, we had to cut some of the stops. One of the states that was sacrificed was Texas. So we took a taxi to the New Orleans airport, made a quick stop in Dallas and landed in Las Vegas at the end of the day.
Nevertheless, it was also here that started our true road-trip. We went directly to the Hertz desk and upgraded our reservation with a few more extras. Be prepared for that – there are some extras that are worth it. In our case we chose to pick up a car that would be left in another city, so that option alone increases the price. However, it is a very comfortable option for those who make a trip like this.
In US most cars have automatic gear. I was scared because I had never driven an automatic car, but in fact it’s even easier. I just had to get used to forget that I have a left leg and a right hand.
From the airport to the hotel it took us 10 minutes. I have to say that arriving to Las Vegas at night is something special: the city shines and everywhere you can see women in short dresses and long heels as well as men in suits.
Our hotel was on the Sunset Strip, once again we made sure we stayed close to the action, even though we had a car. The time zone change from New Orleans to Las Vegas made us get tired early. We saved the next night to enjoy more of Las Vegas. However, we did make a bet in the casino of our hotel. We lost.
The next day was divided between duty and pleasure. We started the day by going to the nearest Walmart to buy what we needed for the most adventurous part of the trip. The plan was to camp from then on: the state of Arizona is rich in natural parks and to visit the US without visiting the Grand Canyon was unthinkable for me.
One of the things we decided to buy on the spot, instead of carrying, was the tent. We had made a quick search of prices and realized it was worth it. At the end of the trip we also left it behind. Moreover, most purchases were food and camping gear. When it comes to food during a road trip, for us it was important that there were always snacks within easy reach – chocolate wafers in this case – it prevented many arguments caused by fatigue and lack of energy.
After the obligations, we returned to enjoy Las Vegas more seriously. We started by watching the sunset in the pool of the hotel, having one of the typical drinks: a tall plastic cup full of a cocktail made with lots of ice. At night, we went to see one of Las Vegas must-see shows: the Bellagio light show. We walked through some casinos – including the oldest still operating: Flamingo. We bet a few more dollars on a roulette on the Mirage and had dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp with a fantastic view of the Sunset Strip.
As we could not leave Las Vegas without a picture on the famous Las Vegas sign, we took the opportunity the next morning to go there. It is the only sign I know with its own parking area. Usually there is a queue for someone to take the picture in return of some tips, but we did not want to stand in line and we took some pictures from the side that were acceptable.
From this point on we took the risk of not having reservations. We wanted to feel the freedom to drive and discover places off the map and to camp here or there. The first bet was a failed one, though. We drove up to Zion National Park and we had no place to camp. We took the opportunity to buy the national parks pass ($ 80 for unlimited entries in parks with the entry price on average $ 30) and went to Bryce Canyon. When planning the trip, we looked into buying the pass or pay individually and realize that it would be worth it to buy the pass.
Driving through road number 9 can already get you a little bit of Zion, but we arrived at Bryce Canyon at the end of the day and were dazzled. The next morning we made a trail called Queen’s Garden leading down to the center of the rock formations and back up again. Crows, deers and squirrels were our companions for this hike. The next day we visited a waterfall and a moss cave.
ANTELOUPE LOWER CANYON
Being in the state of Utah, with a tour scheduled for 9:30 am in Arizona, forced us to get up early. One of the only reservation we made on this part of the trip was the visit to Anteloupe Canyon. There are two options: Anteloupe Upper Canyon and Anteloupe Lower Canyon. From what we read in the guides, we chose the Lower Canyon, since it is more extensive and less touristic.
One of the things we forgot to account for was the time change. We were lucky since it made us get an extra hour. We ended up going on the tour as soon as there were vacancies. These canyons was created by the actions of wind, water and sun, factors that turned sand into rock. The rest was the work of earthquakes, which opened the slit that we visited.
Anteloupe was often used by the natives to protect themselves from hunters since it is not easy to find: it’s an hole in the floor. It was also one the most beautiful places I’ve ever been in my life. Our guide was fantastic and beyond getting to see the beauty, we got to learn more about native history. It is worth taking pictures, but you should just look around and enjoy the beauty that surrounds you.
GRAND CANYON – NORTH RIM
Driving to Grand Canyon is not easy and it takes 4 hours to drive from the northern part to the southern part. North Rim is less touristy, easier for those who want to camp and it does have even more beautiful views than the southern part, but we’ll get there.
To be honest we were not expecting to be able to camp inside the park, since it gets full very easily and there are always reservations made months in advance. But luck was on our side yet again: that day the campsite had two cancellations and we could stay for one night.
It was everything we wanted. Since we still had a few hours before the sunset we went up Bright Angel Point and it was wonderful to see the views along the route. They were breathtaking.
I will not hide that my greatest expectations were reserved for the Grand Canyon. I was lucky to be able to visit both the northern part and the southern part, and I am grateful for that. I have seen sunsets there like I had never seen anywhere else and the nature is majestic.
Next morning, we chose to see the park in an American way: by car. We stopped by various viewpoints and walked a small trail before dinner with a wonderful view. But from there to our next stop would still takes us several hours and we wanted to arrive during the day.
This post was also written in Portuguese. Read the Portuguese version here.