The Grand Canyon, USA

Visiting the Grand Canyon was a non-negotiable on this part of our holiday. It was something that we had dreamed about and factored into our road trip even after we had revised our route a trillion times. When we discovered that the Grand Canyon National Park was to be closed during the government shutdown, I cried with disappointment. It was unfair – of all the weeks that we could have been in the US and doing this roadtrip, we found ourselves having to find another route and other sights to see. While the US has no shortage of incredible sights, it was still disappointing to think that we’d miss out on the Grand Canyon.

Jez and I boarded the plane from Atlanta to Las Vegas where we were to begin the roadtrip. It was a long flight made longer by my head cold and the prospect of a shortened roadtrip. An hour or so before landing in Las Vegas, the Captain spoke out on the PA urging us all to look out the windows as we were flying over the Grand Canyon. We peered across the guy sitting in the window seat and saw the Grand Canyon from above. I thought to myself that I had at least seen it from the sky.

When the shut down ended, we were overjoyed that we would be able to visit the South Rim of the Canyon park. On the morning of October 17 we woke up, dressed for a day of walking and drove to the entrance where the Ranger was just as excited to see us as we were to see them! We’d decided to walk the South Kaibab Trail down into the canyon and while the boys were adamant they could reach the bottom of the canyon and back in a few hours, we made it to Skeleton Point before turning back. It probably took us about four hours in total.

While walking along the bright red dirt track, passing switchback after switchback and looking down at the perilous drop below, you get a sense of just how tiny you are compared to this vast natural wonder. Rocks the size of small houses were perched above the walking trail and chipmunks searching for food leaped over the bushes that clung to the cliff face. As we ate lunch overlooking the deep ravines, it was pure luck that we were able to catch a glimpse of a helicopter far off in the distance. It was tiny and you couldn’t hear it at all, so big is this Grand Canyon!

It was amazing to see one of the world’s natural wonders.

The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon

Road Trip USA, Part Three

By mid-October, things were really starting to cool down. We had driven through some of the highest peaks of Colorado so now it was time to start the long swing down and back around to Vegas.

We made a bee-line for Denver, where Jez and I explored the Museum of Nature and Science for the afternoon. We saw a fabulous IMAX documentary on the Rocky Mountain Express, simultaneously in awe of the feats of engineering and planning our next holiday around this train! When the museum closed we walked back into downtown Denver and wandered along the main shopping mall. The restaurants and bars were overflowing with people, while the trees in the mall had fairy lights draped around their branches. It was a cold Saturday night but there was warmth and merriment in the atmosphere!

We continued through to Colorado Springs where we took the Cog Railway to the top of Pikes Peak. The Cog Railway has been running since 1890 and scales the enormous incline to the summit of Pikes Peak at 14,115 feet (4303 metres)! Even though the view at the top was wonderful, it took about 90 minutes to get there. The round trip took about four hours in total, including a stop for a few greasy donuts at the top. Manitou Springs, where you get on the Railway, was a beautiful town with loads of shops and places to eat. We also found what must have been one of the oldest Coca Cola vending machines in the world. Crazy times!

Pikes Peak Cog Railway

Pikes Peak Cog Railway

After Colorado Springs we drove quite a distance to Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was a very quirky and unique city with Spanish architecture and a lively art scene. We spent a morning walking down Canyon Road, an entire road of art galleries and cafes, marveling at the enormous sculptures and equally enormous price tags. I enjoyed the city and loved how friendly and welcoming everyone was. On a side note, we ate very well in Santa Fe, with incredible Mexican food in abundance!

Since we were in the vicinity, we took a detour through the city of Albuquerque. We are huge fans of the TV series Breaking Bad, which was filmed in Albuquerque, so we swung past Walter White’s house to take a few photos. The couple who own the house must be very patient – while we were there three other cars pulled up to take photos as well!

Walter White's house. Albuquerque, NM.

Walter White’s house. Albuquerque, NM.

We made a brief visit to the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History which held some interesting information about nuclear power, weaponry and the impact of nuclear warfare. It also had a small collection of planes including a B-52.

Jez with a B-52.

Jez with a B-52.

We had a busy day in Albuquerque and a long drive ahead of us but our spirits were buoyed by the end of the US government shutdown. We knew exactly where we were heading next – the Grand Canyon.