In 2011, my girlfriend, my mate and I completed an incredible road trip around the western USA – this is our story.
This series of blogs has focused on the amazing road trip I took with my mate and my girlfriend from LA up the West Coast to San Francisco and inland to Yosemite, Death Valley, the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley. On the night of August 28th we were staying at the not so glamorous Tuba City…
One interesting thing about being in the middle of the Navajo Indian reserve site is that, unlike pretty much all of the rest of America, you do not have to pay taxes. Unless there’s a major crime, in which case the FBI can get involved, the Navajo Indian reserves are allowed to police themselves.
The other interesting thing about them is the confusing time zone situation. In Detroit we were five hours behind the UK, in Chicago that went up to six hours behind and in California, the Pacific Time Zone, we had been eight hours behind. So far, so straightforward. But then in Arizona we moved east to Mountain Time, in theory seven hours behind the UK. Except we weren’t because Arizona is the only part of continental USA not to observe daylight savings time. So it was not until Utah that we were actually seven hours behind the UK. So when we returned to Arizona (for a while the road wove in and out of Utah and Arizona) and it came to came to working out when we needed to be up to check out of our motel, we thought “ah, we are in the Mountain Time Zone but they don’t observe daylight savings time so we can just treat it as California Pacific Time”. Except we were wrong as the Navajo Indian region is the one exceptional part of Arizona which DOES observe daylight savings. Confused? We certainly were but managed to get our heads around it eventually.
We peaced out of Tuba City and I drove us to Glen Canyon and Lake Powell. We had planned to spend the day and night at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon but felt that we had done the Canyon and wanted to see the beautiful Lake Powell area, particularly because it was where a large part of Dr Who was filmed for the first two episodes of this year’s series (yes, we’re geeks, I know). Glen Canyon Dam is very cool and incredibly impressive. It is also where Rory was chased by Canton Delaware the third at the start of Day of the Moon. Valley of the Gods, which we had driven past the day before, is where Amy was chased.
We hit up Walmart for lunch, which had a refreshingly large selection after days of stopping at gas stations and national park restaurants. Then we drove up to Lake Powell and chose to go to Lone Rock Beach at Lone Rock Point, a slightly more secluded part of the lake with perhaps the most stunning surroundings of any lake I’ve ever seen.
The monuments flank the shore and of course they do not just stop at the level of the lake, the steep drop continues. This means that if you walk three steps into the lake, it suddenly just drops away beneath your feet and you are massively out of your depth. We went the equivalent of about five steps out (the last two you’re swimming) and dived down to try to touch the bottom but after a while as you approach the bottom your ears start popping and you run out of breath realising you have a long way back up to swim. As you do swim back up the surface never seems to come and you feel your brain just starting to slip into that panic survival mode – it really is that deep. The lake is also the warmest lake I have ever been in – certainly it was a great deal warmer than the lakes we swam in during the two summers I’ve spent working at a summer camp in northern Michigan.
Lake Powell is the only natural body of water I have ever entered and not felt in the slightest bit cold; it was just like entering a warm bath and the most beautiful swim I have ever had. I would just be swimming around the lake and stop for minutes at a time, just treading water, looking up at the phenomenal monuments and Lone Rock itself which emerges from the middle of the lake with unrivalled grandeur. Another thing that famously emerged from that lake is the astronaut in Dr Who. We managed to work out that they filmed at Lone Rock beach, just around from where we were camping.
We had the best day just chilling in the lushest of lush locations. At one point in the afternoon there was a brief sandstorm where we had to stay in the car but aside from that it was beyond idyllic. The wind came back, though, at night and blew all our cards around the tent during a crucial game of Shed. This was the last night we would be using the tent (we had just booked our hotel for Vegas in the local McDonalds) and, as if it knew this was its last duty, it broke on us. Fortunately it just about held up during the night and we thought about setting fire to it and casting it out into the lake like that Viking funeral they did for the Doctor at Lake Silencio (actually Lake Powell) – okay, I’ll shut up about Dr Who from now on.
We woke up and just ran in the lake before we even had a chance to realise what was going on and I swear it was the best start to a day of my life. I could swim in that lake every day and never get bored of the temperature, the steep entrance, the view and the sheer majesty of it – it actually feels like an honour and a privilege just to swim in it.
Next up, we drove to the world capital of hedonism, Las Vegas…
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