Saturday, 6 August 2011

A trip part six

The Grand Canyon
After the memorable and amusing checkout from the Luxor, we headed from Las Vegas towards Boulder, where we intended to visit the Hoover Dam. This is quite close to Vegas and so we were able to get there quite soon. At one time the main road went over the dam but due to its age and the accumulated vibration of heavy trucks passing over it, it was decided to build a bypass, so the main road crosses the Colorado River on high bridge below the dam and you now have to divert off route 93 if you want to visit the dam itself.
It took four years to build

Looking up  Lake Mead.  Low water levels due to lack of rain

 The old road still passes over the dam but it is blocked from re-joining route 93 on the far side, so you have to turn around and come back across the dam again if you cross it. Once over the far side, you enter Arizona and at certain times of the year the time zones are an hour different each side of the dam, because unlike Nevada, Arizona does not have daylight saving.

From the Arizona side of the dam, you can see the road crossing along the top of the dam
There are car parking spaces on either side of the river and you can then walk down to the dam itself. Whilst it had been hot in Vegas it had been dry heat, here on the dam the temperature was at 110F (43C) but humid so we did not stay very long. We also chose the multi-storey car park, which was one of the furthest away from the dam because there, the car was parked in the shade.
Back on route 93 after our visit we crossed the new bridge and headed for Arizona.

The new bridge below the dam
After leaving the Hoover dam, we stopped at Kingman for our lunch. Kingman is a town which was on the old route 66, now often referred to as the Historic Route 66. This road once ran from Chicago to Los Angeles, a stretch of over two thousand miles. It was removed from the highway system in the 1980s and has been mourned by the people of the US ever since.

It has had a song written for it, a TV show named after it and is trekked on by nostalgia seekers from all over the world. It is now a tourist attraction at Kingman and the town lays claim to being on the longest remaining stretch of the road. Leaving Kingman, the I-40 heads straight east whilst the old Route 66 loops north-east up to Peach Springs and curves south again, merging with the I-40 about one hundred miles east of Kingman. This part of the I-40 then follows the path of Route 66, that stretch having been improved to Interstate standard and renumbered, which means that we have driven along some of Historic route 66 whilst heading from Kingman to Williams.

Williams is a favourite spot for tourists to stay who are visiting The Grand Canyon and there is a railway link from this town to the Grand Canyon Village.
From Williams we headed north up the 64 which takes you to Grand Canyon Village, a distance of about 60 miles.

The scenery along the way was different with mountains covered in small bushes but little grass. The land was still dry and arid but as we approached the Grand Canyon, the trees became larger with more grass and other foliage growing beneath them.
As we approached the canyon, the trees got bigger and more frequent
The Grand Canyon is very long, stretching for over two hundred and seventy miles and we were headed for one end of this vast hole in the ground.
Arriving at the Information Centre we looked at the geological information about the creation of the canyon and the kinds of strata exposed in the canyon walls and then walked to the rim.
The model of the strata found in the canyon

Around this part of the canyon you are around seven thousand feet in altitude, so the air is a bit thin and walking up a few steps became a major challenge for someone as unfit as myself and TBH. However, we spent some time simply walking along and gazing and photographing the incomprehensibly vast ditch we were seeing and felt a growing sense of awe as the sheer size started to penetrate our numbed brains.

After getting our fill of the view, we drove along the rim and stopped at another view point further east and went through the WOW! Factor again and then again.

Walking along another viewpoint, the wind was picking up and it was beginning to get a bit late but we were still looking at the canyon as the shadows started to lengthen and the view changed from pale pastels to hard dark shadows that emphasised the ruggedness. I had been wearing a white hiker’s sun hat which I had owned for some time, it was a good sun hat and entirely necessary for someone of thinning hair whenever there is any sun, because lacking a thick thatch, I now burn easily on top. Standing near the rim, a gust of wind suddenly took off my hat and blew it into the canyon. It fell a long way down and we could see it stuck in a bush but without climbing gear there was no way to get it. So it is probably still there, a lasting token of my visit until is rots away or someone much more agile than me finds it.
Further along the rim is a tower built in the 1930s by the architect Mary Colter to provide a view across the canyon and designed to look similar to the Anasazi Pueblo architecture found in Colorado and Arizona. Anasazi towers are much smaller than this one but exist at several sites once occupied by the Anasazi people but no one sure what their purpose was. They are often referred to as watchtowers.
The Watchtower

We eventually had to leave this impressive place and head for Flagstaff, where we were booked in to a hotel for that night. Driving east towards route 89, the 64 follows the Little Colorado River which has carved a much smaller canyon, but which is still quite impressive scenery. Joining route 89, we headed south towards Flagstaff. It was starting to get late and the sun was quite low as we headed south and the sun created interesting shadows.

The Little Colorado 

We were paced by this shadow car for some miles
On our left as we approached Flagstaff, there is an extinct volcano, known as Sunset Crater. This was very appropriate because the sun was setting as we drove past and it was side lit by the low sun.
Sunset Crater near sunset
We were booked into a Howard Johnson motel and had a little difficulty finding it, discovering there were two in Flagstaff as we searched, but we finally got to the right one.
Flagstaff is not very far from the Barringer Crater, the first terrestrial meteor crater to be recognised as such and something of a turning point in geology. I would like to have visited this but unfortunately we did not have enough time.
We ate in a restaurant called The Cracker Barrel, a chain found only in the south of the USA, which are themed to be a real old time country store and you walked through a scene from a Hollywood western to get into the dining area. Cracker Barrel had the most wonderful menu we had experienced in any of the eateries we had been to so far on this trip.


  1. It's a shame Route 66 is consigned (in the most part) to nostalgia. That's progress for you (sighs). The Grand Canyon looks amazing. Your poor hat! The Hoover Dam looks hot, hot, hot. I'm actually amazed such a thing only took 4 years to build. Where to next? :)

  2. Snafu, I am in awe at all you were able to see during your visit to the States - What a trip of a lifetime! The Grand Canyon certainly is awesome. If you view it on Google Earth, that satelite view is quite remarkable, too.

    I'd be a little suspicious of that shadow car, if I were you :}

  3. The Grand Canyon is certainly a great sight. When we visited it, Glyn was 4 and rather hyperactive. In the end we had to put him in the car. He was giving me fits dashing round by the edge. I love the photo where the canyon just looks like a great split in the ground. We went to what was known back then as the Mile Wide Crater. Don't know if this is the same as one that you saw with a name change or a different one. Fascinating area. You must have had a great trip!

  4. There is a corner of some foreign canyon that is forever Snafu. Did you get a new hat? Is it a cowboy one?

  5. Wow! This is some amazing trip, Snafu. x

  6. Jayne, Rout 66 has become a real tourist industry, and not just in Arizona, so there are some winners.
    Kaybee, it was The trip of a lifetime and not likely to be repeated unfortunately.
    Chrisj, I am sure you would have been having fits with Glyn running around there. There are places where there are no barriers at all!
    MA-J yes I got a new hat, but cowboy hats are really difficult to get home without crushing them,when carrying as much hand baggage as you can manage in order to eke out your stingy baggage allowance. Photo of the new hat part seven.

  7. Can't wait to see that new hat! It's lovely to think, as MA-J said, that you left a part of you behind in Arizona!