In 2011, my girlfriend, my mate and I completed an incredible road trip around the western USA – this is our story.
Previously in this blog I described the road trip I took with my mate and my girlfriend in a 2011 Chevrolet Cruze up the American West Coast from Los Angeles to San Francisco and inland to Yosemite and Grand Canyon national parks before arriving at the stunning Monument Valley on the Utah/Arizona border.
When we arrived at Monument Valley the woman at the gate of the national park strongly advised that our car did not have sufficient ground clearance to make it around the seventeen mile trail through Mon Val and that we should not attempt to drive it.
Obviously being young wild and reckless (our nicknames in fact for the trip, as there were three of us and my girlfriend’s last name is Young) this sounded like a challenge. We weighed up the daunting track from the safety of the gift shop/restaurant and decided it was safe to proceed along the first half mile or so at least to a parking lot where we could turn around. Now this track was a very rocky dirt road only really suitable for 4x4s which wound over very large rocks down very steep inclines and around tight corners with dips in the road where a car like ours could easily get beached. Essentially it was a case of driving with the brake and steering all over the road and back around large holes in the road. Off-roading or rallying is a better description of what we were doing than driving, or rallying as slowly and as cautiously as possible I should say.
As soon as we got round the first corner and had to keep to the right due to an oncoming car we realised this would be a lot harder than it looked. I had Martin and Jodie on lookout for perilous rocks and dips in the road whilst I slowly drove a very zigzag route down what we thought was the safest path. It was genuinely scary but very cool at the same time – it was the only time that we were actually distracted from the majesty of the great monuments around us. We had contemplated pushing on for the first two miles of the 17 mile trail but by the time we got to the parking lot we realised enough was definitely enough and we had to turn around. It was even more precarious coming back up as it was so steep and there was so little traction you couldn’t just stop when you saw a large rock or natural pothole or the car would definitely get stuck.
We breathed a sigh of relief at the top and then I drove us along Highway 163 where Dr Who was filmed. Earlier this year I sat my finals and for 74 days I was stuck in revision hell. Knowing I would be coming to America this summer, I downloaded a photo of Monument Valley and made it the wallpaper of my iPod to keep me going through exams. I was determined to find the road featured in this photo and thought I had figured it out as just being a little further down the 163 as the monuments were in the distance.
Now a lot of the monuments look similar but I figured out which ones I was looking for when I saw them in reverse from behind and so when we got on to the bit of road I suspected was the one from my photo I kept an eye on the mirror to see if they would line up as I hoped they would. Martin thought it was wrong and that we weren’t far away enough and too low down but I could see that the road ahead was deceptively long and slowly went uphill. Sure enough as we turned the kink I suspected was the kink in the distance in the photo, I was proved right.
The monuments lined up exactly like in the photo and we pulled over at the lay by at the top and took photos at what is in my opinion the best photo opportunity in America. I know, big statement, but that’s just my opinion. It really is that iconic; I guarantee you’ll have seen a photo taken from there at some point.
We then made the spontaneous decision to drive 90 miles to Four Corners, the only place in America where four states meet at the same point. It wasn’t really worth the three bucks entrance fee each to see a plaque on the ground surrounded by stalls not even worth looking at, but I did get a photo of me with a hand in New Mexico, a hand in Colorado, a foot in Arizona and a foot in Utah. Yes, I was basically playing Twister with states. It was a long way for not a lot but it was worth visiting and now I can say that I’ve been to sixteen US states.
It was a long drive back to the first proper city – Tuba City. On the way I thought I was going to fall asleep due to the heat but the landscape was as exciting and rugged as ever now that we were deep in Arizona, playing The Good The Bad and The Ugly soundtrack on repeat in the car as nothing else seemed appropriate enough. Tuba City would become a running joke on the road trip for being by far the least glamorous and exciting place we stayed overnight – we stopped there purely because it was convenient. During the trip we would often frequent a McDonalds to use the free wifi and Tuba City was no exception. In the restaurant we saw a group of teenagers who looked almost like gypsy kids but were in fact Navajo Indians. Modern Indian Reservation kids are fairly normal kids who like to skateboard, apparently. You could see their trailer park-like (that probably does them a disservice as I hear they have a lot of modern facilities) communities set back from the road.
In my next blog, Lake Powell and Vegas, baby!!