The mighty USA part 1: from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon

The United States of America is on a lot of people’s wishlist. This big country is famous for it’s national parks and big cities. We were very excited to go there! We made a two week roadtrip, starting from Las Vegas, and ending in San Francisco. This holiday would be a very special holiday, because it is our last long journey before the baby comes. Although the baby is not born yet, I can feel her moving and kicking inside my belly all the time:) So it was not really Rob and me, but something like 2,5 people going.

2,5 people in the USA

When the plane landed in Las Vegas, it was a strange sight to see this city in the middle of the desert. At the airport I was surprised about all the gambling machines. You can already start gambling inside the airport, next to the luggage belt!

Happy to go!

Las Vegas turned out to be an odd place. On one side of the city was the ‘old Las Vegas’, with a lot of shady looking casino’s and people that looked like they have gone crazy in this city. They looked so bewildered, that I did not even made photo’s of them, afraid to turn someone mad or get in trouble. It looked like the former glory of a tourist hub.

This hub now moved to the other side of Las Vegas. At this side, the city was modern, with a lot of lights and extravagant and over the top entertainment. There was for example an amusement park inside a building and an imitation of Venice, inside a building. Including channels, gondola’s and a fake daylight ceiling.

Our hotel was in between these old and new Las Vegas. It was situated in a wedding area, with a lot of chappels. Which brings me to the actual reason we went to Las Vegas: we were going to get married! We thought it would be so cool to marry in Las Vegas, in a pink cadillac, with Elvis singing to us. So that is what we did! And it was fantastic!

Getting  married in Las Vegas is super easy. You have to get a Marriage License, which you can get in Las Vegas. The Marriage License bureau used to be open 24/7, but now closes at midnight. At the bureau, papers are sticked to the wall, telling you that you do not get your license when you are drunk. I guess a lot of mistakes happen. Like at the counter next to us, where a woman was telling the employee of the bureau that she did not mean to get married, and asked if it was possible to get rid of this marriage. Las Vegas is a crazy town!

After you get your marriage license, you can pick any chapel you like and get married. You can even drive with your own car through a drive-thru, where you make your vows inside your own car. A really quick way to get married. There was also the option to get married by a midget. You can do an oempa loempa wedding, or a midget Elvis wedding. Everthing is possible in Las Vegas! We really liked our wedding, and the Elvis imitator was actually quite good and we could choose the songs he sang. So we married with the musical accompaniment of ‘ Blue Suede Shoes’  and ‘ Teddybear’.  To get the marriage registered in the Netherlands, we have to sent our official papers to Holland. It takes ten days for the papers to be ready, and since we were only in Las Vegas for one more night, we ordered the papers online. Now we have to wait for 4 till 6 weeks, and then we can go to the city-hall in the place we live, and everything is official in the Netherlands. Easy as that!

After these few days in Las Vegas, there were already some things I noticed. Everything is big! The roads are big, the hotels are big, the cars are big, parking lots are big. Houses are build in blocks, and these blocks are also very big. When it looked like a short distance on the map, it was actually quite a walk. Living in the Netherlands, I am used to some cosiness in cities. This was something not present in the USA. For example in a motel: everyone has their own entrance, there is not a nice lobby to sit in. There are also not a lot of terraces.

One thing that was also substantial were the portions of the food. A lot of times we shared a small version of a dish. A breakfast for example could be three pancakes or two waffles. The small drinks are about 0,4 liter. That’s also for coffee! In all menu’s the amount of calories was noted, so you could see that the milkshake was 1000 calories and the breakfast was 1500 calories. See this photo for an example, the wrap was so big, and the amount of coke was so much!

Too much food and drink

Besides huge portions, the food was also very fat! A lot of cheese, gravy and oil. No wonder that there were so many obese people. I always thought the amount of obese people in the USA would be overstated, but there were actually so many fat people! Which is not surprising with the limited food choices and the huge portions of food as well as soda. The people were all very friendly though and the service level was also very high. Maybe this is because of the tipping culture. In the USA it is normal to tip 15% or more. A lot of people, like waiters, get paid under minimum wage, they are supposed to complete their salary with tips. You can even tip your Uber driver with your creditcard within the app. About Uber, this is so handy! I wish we had this widely available in the Netherlands. In the USA you can download the app, and connect your creditcard with it. This way you do not even have to pay the driver in person. The rates were also very reasonable. We used Uber in Las Vegas and San Francisco and spent about as much as it would cost us to hire a car, but we did not have to pay for fuel or for parking.

In the countryside of America it is very difficult to move yourself without a car, so we hired a car outside the cities. Our first stop would be Death Valley. In the summertime, Death Valley is way too hot to go, but because we were in the winter, it was a very nice temperature. The roadtrip to Death Valley was wonderfull, we saw a changing scenery of desert.

The road ahead is empty

The National Park itself was also very beautiful! We went to the Badwater Basin, which is a salt flat. I always wanted to see this, so now was the chance. It looked amazing!

Salt flat in death valley

We were lucky to be at Death Valley during sunset. A photographer’s dream! At one moment Rob had to get me back in the car, because it was getting too dark and we still had to drive to our accommodation. The first of these photo’s is from the ‘artist pallete’. Somehow the mountains  get these wonderfull colours.

That night we slept in a cute caravan, in the small town of Beaty. It was a strange town, with a lot of trailers and restaurants closing earlier than we expected. Luckely, in Nevada there will always be an open Casino to eat. The waiter in this Casino/fast food restaurant reminded us of Mr. Mackay of Southpark, responding to everything we said with ‘m’kay’.

Breakfast at sunrise at our caravan in Beaty

The next morning we visited the ghost town of Rhyolite. The town began in early 1905 as one of several mining camps that sprang up after a discovery in the surrounding hills. During a gold rush, thousands of gold-seekers, developers, miners and service providers flocked to the Bullfrog Mining District. Many settled in Rhyolite. Rhyolite declined almost as rapidly as it rose. After the richest ore was exhausted, production fell. By the end of 1910, the mine was operating at a loss, and it closed in 1911. By this time, many out-of-work miners had moved elsewhere, and Rhyolite’s population dropped well below 1,000. By 1920, it was close to zero. Nowadays it is a ghosttown. Next to it is the Goldwell Open Air Museum, with public art pieces against a beautiful desert backdrop.

Rhyolite: ghosttown with a backdrop

After this, we left Nevada and the casino’s, to drive through Utah and end in Page, Arizona.

Near Zion National Park

The nature around Page was so beautiful! It was still desert, but with more orange colours.

The main attraction here is the Antelope Canyon. This Canyon is located in the Nevajo Indian reserve, and very famous for it’s colours and shapes. There is even a Microsoft background with a photo of this canyon. I made too many photo’s there, it was all so incredible looking! It was actually quite difficult to make photo’s, because it was also very crowded. But here is a selection of photo’s from inside the canyon.

Antoher famous attraction near Page is the Horseshoe Bend. The river here is actually the same one as the one inside the Grand Canyon!

Horseshoe bend

Grand Canyon was our next stop, so we followed the river and ended at the Grand Canyon. Untill now we were treated with very nice and warm water, but at the Grand Canyon it was quite cold, there was even snow! But the skies were still clear and it looked beautiful!

We stayed inside the park, so we could see and photograph the sunset as well as the sunrise. Which one do you like more?

Sunset at the Granc Canyon

Sunrise at Grand Canyon

The sunrise gave us an early start, which was nice, because next in our planning was a long roadtrip to Joshua Tree National Park, another very different beautiful desert. I  will keep that for the next blog, as well as the amazing coastal route of the Big Sur and sunny San Francisco. Hope to see you back at this blog soon!

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