From my travel journal: Tuesday 5 April, 10 pm

Flagstaff, Arizona

Apparently the time here is the same as it was in Nevada – no idea what those signs were about then.

Leaving Las Vegas (hmm, wasn’t that a film?) took a lot longer than we’d planned., Firstly because we all slept in after our night on the town, but also because the crack in the windscreen had grown to the point of being dangerous, so we had to first find the rental company’s offices (which took a while, because GPS woman kept directing us wrong – she seemed determined to send us to casinos), and then wait while Skyring filled in a million forms and the company found us another car. The new one is exactly the same as the old, other than the colour – it’s now a nice red, much easier to find in carparks than the silver one (though the NZ flag flying from the radio aerial also helps :-)).

The entire contents of the car dumped in the carpark while we wait for our shiny new red car – it’s amazing how much junk we’d accumulated in just a few days!

Anyway, between all that it was past lunchtime by the time we got out of the city, and we hadn’t even had breakfast yet (we didn’t have breakfast at the hotel, because we’ve been having more fun finding somewhere to stop along the way). So we stopped off at a Starbucks briefly for muffins and caffeine to keep us going for another hour or so until we found an actual stretch of Route 66 with an old 50s style diner. Cheeseburger and shake for lunch, of course – what else could it be? (I love milkshakes here – they put whipped cream and a cherry on top!)

FOS recovering from her burger (or possibly just hadn’t woken up yet)

(Yes, I am easily amused, why do you ask?)

Travelling through the desert was an interesting surprise. I expected it to be like in Africa, where the landscape is identical for days on end. But instead every hundred miles* or so it changed – sometimes very dry and rocky with just the occasional shrub, sometimes scrubby, sometimes grass, and for a while there were amazing windblown rock formations all around us. And then when we got closer to Flagstaff we found ourselves in a scraggly pine forest, still with snow on the ground – not at all what I’d imagined.

*We’re all having to learn to think in miles and yards for navigating. It’s very confusing, especially the fact that a mile isn’t a sensible number of yards! And having to remember that something being x miles away is a *lot* further than it being x kilometres away, which makes a big difference if it’s a toilet (or petrol, or coffee, or any of the other essentials of the road) you’re heading for!

Another surprise was the Hoover Dam. I hadn’t realised it was on our route until we suddenly came across a huge lake in the middle of the desert. A little further on we found a road leading to a viewing area with a great view down to the dam and the Colorado River way down below.

By the time we got to the turnoff for the Grand Canyon, with still 60-odd miles to go, it was obvious we were going to be racing the sunset, and that we’d at best have only a few minutes of daylight left by the time we reached it. So after consulting the map we decided to go straight to Flagstaff, only about 10 miles away (and where we were booked into a motel for the night anyway, having intended to go there after the Grand Canyon), and have an early start in the morning so we can backtrack to the Canyon in the morning.

So here we are in Flagstaff. No late night adventures tonight, because we have to be up super early in the morning, but we did make one little side-trip after dinner, up a nearby hill to the Lowell Observatory (which I just had to make a pilgrimage to, having done a project on Pluto in 3rd form science :-)). The observatory was closed (:-( it’s open in the evenings on Monday and Wednesday nights, but not Tuesdays), but I was happy enough just to take a photo of the sign and say I’d been there.

As we were leaving the carpark, our headlights caught two deer standing on the edge of the forest. DOS and FOS got out of the car and tried to get closer, but only succeeded in spooking them (yeah, calling out “Here Bambi” will do that – they’re definitely not cut out to be hunters :-)).

So, five days in, three states down already, and I’m totally loving it! This trip is such a wonderful adventure!

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