One of our things we love most about our little adventure is that it often throws up people and places that we never expected. We’ve organised and planned our time so always know where we’ll be living and when we’ll be moving on but it’s the unexpected moments and relationships that make it all worth while.
Our latest jaunt threw up quite a few surprises, and we loved every single one.
Another Road Trip
Part of our plan from the beginning was to visit the Grand Canyon, how could we not go to one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. We looked into organised tours and coach trips but decided we needed to do it the JWalking way by hiring a car in Las Vegas and driving ourselves.
Rented from our old friends Thrifty we were delighted to have another Nissan Note (obviously a cousin of Notey that drove us around South Island New Zealand. Kiwi Road Trip). Getting out of Vegas proved a bit tricky but we were soon on our way and Jo’s super developing navigational skills got us to our first stop off, The Hoover Dam.
Hoover Dam and Lake Mead
We’d heard of the Hoover Dam of course but had no idea of the history and significance of it. It’s situated about 30 miles south east of Vegas on the state border between Nevada and Arizona, in fact the border actually runs down the middle of the great Colorado Rover that feeds into Lake Mead.
Now we didn’t just visit the Hoover Dam, we drove across it! Fascinating and a bit scary in places. The Dam is huge with a museum, visitors centre, food court and loads more to see. It wasn’t too busy, maybe because of a bit of drizzle, so we had a good wander around with Jo in her element reading plaques of every shape and size. Even had a long chat with a fella from California who was photographing every brass elevation bolt across the dam. Very interesting apparently. He had a vast collection of photos of sea level markers that he told me all about. His wife struggled to contain her disgust and lack of interest throughout our chat however, wonder why?
At this point Jo would tell you all about the dam wouldn’t she? She’d say it was started in 1931 as the Boulder Dam and controversially renamed after ex-President Herbert Hoover many years later. She would also tell you that 112 men lost their lives building it, Boulder City was built specifically to house the workers, and the Lake Mead is a man made lake created by the Colorado River being dammed. All interesting stuff.
Our first nights lodging after the bright lights of the Sin City was in a tiny town called Seligman. It was just a couple of hours down Route 93 through the bigger town of Kingman and just over halfway to the canyon. It was just booked as a quick night stop but turned out to be so much more.
Route 66 and Seligman
How excited were we as we drove along Route 66 through the Chino Valley towards Seligman? We felt as if we really were in some sort of road movie. Jo kept going on about Thelma and Louise but it just made me nervous as I wasn’t keen on being either of them. The drive into town was almost surreal. A wide road leading through desert wasteland into single storey buildings of the tiny little town. Stores and bars on both sides were covered in Route 66 paraphernalia, most dusty and old but dripping with character.
We had a room at the Romney Motel, basic and clean and just what we needed with loads of big trucks and RVs parked up next to our little Notey. Perfect. The real joy though was when we headed out to explore the town and found just the most amazing places.
The Route 66 Roadrunner store was incredible. Jammed packed full of Route 66 memorabilia it was also a bar and a restaurant and we couldn’t stop ourselves looking at absolutely everything. So much we would have loved to have bought but due to the constraints of a single suitcase and no house we pathetically ended up with just a couple of postcards.
Our friendly motel manager had kindly tipped us off that the place to eat was called Westside Lilo’s so that’s where we headed. It wasn’t difficult to find as the whole town only had a handful of buildings. On the way I just couldn’t help but get distracted by the fabulous old cars and weird shops selling ‘Genuine Route 66 Goods’. What a place.
We weren’t sure what to expect as there was no-one else around, the odd car chugging by, and the place seemed a little dead. What had we let ourselves in for? As soon as we opened the door though we were blown away! The place was full of people eating and drinking and we were welcomed like old friends by the waitress. I hadn’t realised but the bar served Hofbrau beer from Munich (if you know me you’ll realise how exciting that was) and in a few minutes we were munching our way through some of the best food we’d ever had, their Southwest Burger is up there in my Top Five Burgers. The waitress was incredibly chatty and we forgot the time as we passed a couple of hours in this wonderful place.
As we settled our bill we struck up another conversation with the lady on the till as she asked us where we’d been and where we were off to. Obviously everyone in these parts is visiting the Grand Canyon so we chatted about that for a while before she recommended we went to a place called Sedona if we had some time as she was sure we’d like it. So next day we did.
Only after popping into our new favourite bar Westside Lilo’s for breakfast though! We’re regulars now.
Sedona via Oak Creek Canyon
We could have stayed another couple of days in Seligman and were sad to leave Route 66 but excited to be off somewhere new and unexpected. Our next lodgings were in Flagstaff and with Sedona just 20 minutes south we headed straight there. The road ran through a lovely pine forest before hitting the edge of Oak Creek Canyon.
The drive down Oak Creek Canyon was one of those steep twisty turny mountain roads that Jo absolutely loves (ok, she may not exactly love them). With towering red sandstone stacks and cliffs on both sides it was just one of the best drives of my life. Definitely a Top Five. If the drive wasn’t spectacular enough the town of Sedona was equally impressive. The whole town is made of the same red sandstone and looks amazing.
We wandered up and down main street looking at the crazy named stores and all the over-the-top souvenirs. I even managed to buy myself a Sedona T-shirt. Shock horror. That means I have to throw an existing one out!
The weather was a little changeable so we dived into the Wildflower Bread Company for a couple of bowls of delicious sausage and vegetable soup. Seriously recommended. Then back out for more sightseeing. This was when we found some of the really interesting things about Sedona. Since the 1920s it has been used in a whole host of Hollywood movies, specifically cowboy epics, and has been used to portray Texas, California, Wyoming, and even Canada. Stars such as John Wayne, James Stewart, Henry Fonda, and Elvis Presley all stayed and filmed there. Fascinating stuff. We both want to get down to watching a few old cowboy films now.
From Sedona it was just a short return up Oak Creek Canyon to Flagstaff where we had a motel booked for a few nights. The scenery all over Arizona is just incredible and every corner and brow of a hill brought forth new landscapes.
Next stop The Grand Canyon …………………
9.4 – 10.4.2016