From the cool breezy afternoon of the Lake Arrowhead forest to the dry hot desert air of Arizona – today I’m writing on the bed of our hotel room in Phoenix, trying to move as little as possible to prevent all unnecessary extra body heat.
After our night in the forest, we drove through the beautiful growingly arid landscapes of the road from California to Nevada, into the neon ruckus of Las Vegas. As you approach the city, it feels almost like a mirage, it seems so impossible for anything to grow from that extremely dusty soil. But there it is, casino after casino, neon sign after neon sign – Sin City. Our stay was very short, which I didn’t regret that much, since it is fun to see all the lights and experience the atmosphere of a Vegas casino, but it’s really not my thing. We spent most of the day in the amazing hotel pool, relaxing in the water under the sizzling desert sun, with up-beat hit music playing all day long, with all kinds of groups lounging around – from families with small kids to groups of 20-somethings leaving empty bottels by the pool chairs.
As the sun set over the skyline of the Strip, which we could see from our hotel room, making the neon lights of the city pop against the purple desert evening sky, the air seemed as still and warm as before, as if someone was constantly following us with a hairdryer, which, in contrast with the extremely cold temperature set on the restaurants’ and hotels’ ACs is slightly uncomfortable. Just as it has its own Eiffel Tower, Venice Canals, Statue of Liberty and Pyramid and Sphinx, Vegas also has its own Hofbräuhaus, complete with waitresses wearing Dirndl dresses and a country band in place of a Schlager one, I guess – and that’s where we had dinner, to prepare my lil’ bro’s departure to München in the fall. We drove up and down the Strip, saw the crazy lights, crowded streets, and headed back for a quick gambling experience, which, in my case, consisted of spending all of the 3 1$ bills I had with me on the slot machines (woohoo) – and then falling like a rock on my bed because I hadn’t been out so late ever since we landed in Canada.
We slept “in” (until 8h45), because we miscalculated how long it would take to get to our lodge by the Grand Canyon, but made the most of the 3-something hour drive through beautiful desert landscapes, some flat, some rocky and mountainous, always dry and in tones of yellow and red, with more or less vegetation, even water (by Lake Mead), and the astounding sight of California Condors gliding across the deep blue sky – landscapes that were completely new to me.
We arrived at Grand Canyon Village in the middle of the afternoon, dropped off our luggage at the lodge, grabed a quick bite to eat and headed to the Visitor Center for our late afternoon walk by the canyon. In the end, it worked out pretty well that we arrived so late – we walked a little bit less than probably would have if we’d had more time, but the warm late afternoon light was gorgeous, casting spectral shaddows that gave the canyon a beautiful texture and painted its orange and red tones in hues of blue, and there were very few people around which made the place even more awe-inspiring. We walked East first, on the Kaibab trail, a pleasant walk under the shade of the local vegetation along the South rim, with amazing views of the canyon, and, again, the black spread-out wings of the Condor sprinkling the air. Then, we took the free shuttle bus back to the Visitor Center, and drove West to descend into the Bright Angel Trail, which lets you hike down the canyon and experience it from a different perspective. This is how we spent the last moments of sunlight that day, after hiking down to a viewpoint, we sat on the dusty rocks watching the last sunrays disappear behind this unique natural wonder. The magnitude, colors and just overall experience of it is really indescribable and unphotographable – so I’ll just urge everyone who has a chance to see it for themselves and leave it at that.
When we got back into the car, the light was almost all gone, and there is almost no electrical light on the roads, so we drove in almost complete darkness, along with many other cars filled with visitors, caught a glimpse of the mules who also ride down the canyon, and twice, almost out of the corner of our eye, of the silhouette of a wild deer behind the moonlit shaddows of the trees. After dinner, we drove into the middle of the road, away from the lights of the village, turned off the car and stepped out to gaze at the sky. I can honestly say I’ve NEVER seen so many stars in my life. The constellations were shining clearly in the darkness, and the sparkly milky way seemed almost painted it was so perfectly visible. The chilly night air didn’t let us stay out too long though, and shortly after we were in bed, gathering up energy for our drive into our last destination in this roadtrip – Phoenix, Arizona.
Which is where I’m writing now. As I wrote before, the air is almost unbearably hot, and quite uninviting for outside strolls, even for warmth-sun-lovers like us. When we arrived, we took a quick dip in the pool, and then drove into town for lunch, and a visit of the city’s historic neighborhoods of Coronado, Encanto-Palmcroft, FQ Story and Woodlea – which are all quite similar: cute streets lined with palmtrees, one-storey houses with green lawns and beautiful porches. Dowtown, there were a few tall buildings, and everything seemed extra clean and even ghostly, as if no one lived in this earthenware town. I guess even the locals can’t handle the extremely high temperatures and feel more comfortable inside the AC-filled buildings.
Tomorrow is our last full day in the U.S. We’re driving back to L.A. to catch our flight from LAX, and, hopefully, still have some extra time to spend at Venice beach. On the one hand, it feels as if just yesterday we landed in Vancouver and started this adventure. On the other, it feels as if I’ve never had a different life than this: suitcase always packed and ready to go, always on the move.