Monthly Archives: September 2012

Are those carrots from California?

The final day was here and I couldn’t have been happier to finally be arriving in La La Land. Not that the trip was going poorly, but over seven hours in the car each day doesn’t exactly bode well for personal hygiene. Or lumbar support.

We headed out of Williams and towards beautiful Southern California. Jokes on us though, to get to Southern California you have to go through Eastern California which is comparable to the setting of The Hills Have Eyes without deformed hellbent mutants trying to kill you for no reason.

As we entered the final state of our trip, I finished strong with state welcome signs:

REALLY?! Eleven states later and I still didn’t learn to turn HDR off.

A few minutes later we encountered something in California that we didn’t elsewhere in the country – in order to cross the border into the state you have to go through a “border control” that checks to make sure you’re not bringing in any foreign plants or animals to the state that can harm the ecosystem. Surprised? Neither was I. Hippies.

After convincing the border control lady we didn’t bring in any carrots from Colorado we drove the few hours into the city. Finally, after 7 days and over 50 hours of driving, we got our first glimpse of the City of Angels:

I was elated to finally be there. As expected, it was sunny, warm, all was right in the world.

As the trip entered its last 20 miles, I reflected on everything that I’d experienced over the past several days. Things that many people never get to see in their lifetime. It made me realize that this country truly is amazing. Lampshades in Toledo, Chicago, the Great Lakes, vast cornfields, the Midwest, Omaha, the Badlands, the prairie, Mt. Rushmore, the Black Hills, Wyoming (even Lusk), the Rockies, Denver, I-70, Arches, the Southwest, the Grand Canyon, Los Angeles. And it’s not just a gorgeous place – it’s incredibly diverse. Every area where we stopped seemed like it could be a country in itself. The people we met were all so different that you’d think they could never live in the same county. Yet they do and, at the risk of sounding cliche, together we form the melting pot that makes America so great.

What makes it even greater is that I knew I was doing it all over again in two months.


“A cowboy dies every night in Williams.”

About an hour down the road we found Williams, Arizona. Our campsite was just outside of town, so we went “downtown” to get some food. I put that word in quotation marks because there are just over 3,000 total people living in Williams, so downtown was smaller than my high school.

And there was a lot of weird shit happening in downtown Williams.

Apparently it’s a pretty big tourist town, especially in the summer, as it’s the closest town to the Grand Canyon that has hotels and restaurants. When we got there, a huge group of people was standing in the street circled around something. We couldn’t see what was going on, but there were cheers, “oohs”, “aahs”, and other odd sounds being produced. We had no idea what was going on and we steered very, very clear of it.

We got to the Red Raven restaurant (I never spell the word restaurant correctly on the first try). It was a little place with good reviews. The minute we stepped inside we asked the hostess what was happening in the street. “A cowboy dies every night in Williams” was her response. What.

Ignoring the potential homicide occurring a block away, we sat across from each other and checked out the menu. Our server was very friendly and was being followed by a bus boy who spoke about 3 words of English. We ordered – I got spicy shrimp with pasta that was really good. I can’t remember what Justin got, but he liked his food as well. We ate a ton of bread too. The restaurant (messed it up) was great – I’d definitely recommend it.

However, as I mentioned, weird shit was happening in Williams, and the restaurant (messed it up) was no exception. I finished my food and the busboy came by to grab my plate. He reached for Justin’s butter knife, but Justin waved him off because he wasn’t done. He looked at Justin, nodded as if he understood, but then looked a little confused (with the no English speaking and all). He began to reach for the knife again. Justin put his hand out and repeated that he wasn’t done eating yet. The busboy nodded his head in understanding again and started walking away.

Then it was as if the world went into slow motion, because I remember this moment so vividly. After a short chuckle about the miscommunication, I looked up to see that the busboy had only taken two steps away. He was still facing us, dish in hand, confused look on his face. He took one step towards us and was now directly behind Justin’s right arm, out of Justin’s view.

Then, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the busboy reaches around Justin’s elbow and, in one swift pinching motion, takes one more stab at the butter knife. His pincers grab hold and he manages to lift it in the air before Justin notices and turns towards him. Holding back laughter, he tells him for the third time that he still needs the knife and grabs it from the busboy’s grip. At this point I’m failing so badly at stifling my laughter that I almost pee myself. The busboy smiles, nods in understanding, again, and walks away.

I laughed so hard I cried. It was one of those times that you think you’re done laughing and then it all starts over again completely. We laughed like schoolgirls for what seemed like an hour. This is exactly how we sounded:


Three minutes later, when we finally got our act together, we paid and went to our campsite for the night. All the excitement from Williams wore us out, not to mention the hiking we had done in the Grand Canyon all day.

We hit the sack. One short 8 hour drive and we would be in Los Angeles.

It looks just like the pictures.

Driving through Arizona was flat and hot. We could see for miles, made two turns, and at one point a slight right. I fell asleep driving for 20 minutes and when I woke up we were still alive and going the right way.

I didn’t actually fall asleep because of the adrenaline that was running through my body. The road we took was two lanes but passing was allowed which is fun and pants-shitting scary at the same time. After a while I was getting pretty bold and managed to pass not one but two busses. BALLSY.

We got to the Grand Canyon mid-afternoon. We visited the South Rim which is kind of like Disneyland because it’s crowded with little children and fat people. The North Rim is supposed to be much more woodsy and give you that one with nature feeling but it was too far away from our campsite to be reasonable. So we joined the masses and went to some lookouts.

What we discovered is that we were very underwhelmed. Here is the first view we got:

Sure it’s pretty, but it’s just like every picture we’d ever seen of the canyon. It actually looked like there was a canvas in the distance with it painted on. From that high up and that far away you lose any point of reference and can’t appreciate it as much as it should be appreciated.

So we left.

Just kidding. We went to the visitor’s center and got the low down on what to do. The area is so big that there is a bus system that runs to different parts of the canyon. Since we only had one afternoon and evening there we picked out a couple things to do before the sun went down. By now it was late afternoon and exactly the time that they recommend hiking down into the canyon, so we made that a priority.

All over the place were signs warning you about hiking into the canyon. The rule of thumb is one step down equals two steps up, meaning that however far you go down into the canyon, it’s going to feel like double the length to get back because of the steep incline you have to climb. So you may not feel tired going down, but going up is going to be a bitch. Also they warn about getting dehydrated, lost, and dying. No lie. Apparently temperatures down in the canyon can get up to 120 degrees, hikers don’t bring enough water or food, and they overestimate how in shape they are. They basically try to scare you into not hiking.

But we said “nah bro” and  went down with no water or shoes.

We took a trail that’s a mile and a half long and went down about 700 feet or so into the canyon. The hike began by turning back and forth down a cliff wall. There was mule poop everywhere which made me think how scary it would be to ride a mule down into the canyon. I’ll use my feet thank you.

The hike was one of the best parts of the trip. It really made us appreciate the canyon way more than just looking at it from above. After the turning back and forth, the trail started snaking around the canyon and gave us some beautiful views:

It no longer felt like a picture but more like what we were expecting. After being underwhelmed, we were now overwhelmed with the enormity of the canyon.

Here’s a view from inside:

When we got to the bottom of our trail we read a sign that said we just walked through several hundred million years of erosion and rock. Nuts right? I grabbed a rock that was like 945 million years old.

The turnaround point jutted out over more of the canyon like so:

I gazed out, grabbed my lion cub and this happened:

After putting my child king to sleep, Justin and I hiked back up the canyon. They weren’t kidding when they said it was like doing double time. We had to take several breaks and drank a ton of water until we reached the top. It was worth it though. Definitely one of my favorite parts of the trip.

You’re allowed to hike all the way down to the Colorado River and camp there for a night or two. It’s a day long trip one way, so we couldn’t do it. However it’s now on my bucket list.

We walked a short path along the rim of the canyon and called it a day but only after meeting two guys that were also from Pittsburgh. Small world.

We hopped in the car and headed to Williams, AZ where our campsite was. Little did we know we had quite the evening ahead of us.

Don’t drop the water bottle.

The attendant at the entrance of Arches National Park told us not to hang the parking pass from the rearview mirror because it would melt from the heat. Welcome to Utah.

This place was so hot that eggs fried in the air before they hit the pavement. Dogs had to wear shoes so their paws wouldn’t melt and scar. I got a sunburn inside the visitor’s center.

We got a bunch of water (which was warm – yum), drove through the park to the end and worked our way back to the entrance. This area was much different than other areas we’d been to on the trip. The rocks and sand were red, which was cool and confusing at the same time. And by rocks I actually mean enormous rock formations, not little pebbles. For example, this is one we passed driving in:

Picture those dotted along the landscape as far as you can see, and you have Arches National Park.

We took a short hike down a trail to see the first few rock arches. Basically these are rock formations like the one above that have eroded over time to create what looks like a hole in the rock or, in some cases, simply a rock that looks like a donut standing up. It’s really cool.

On the hike we saw a lizard that we almost stepped on (way to overdo it on the camouflage) and TWO rabbits. As lame as that sounds, it was the most wildlife we’d seen on the trip thus far, so it was exciting.

After the hike, we made our way to the most famous arch in the park – Delicate Arch. It’s supposed to be beautiful at sunset, and luckily the sun was going down, so we walked the 1.5 mile trail.

Little did we know the trail was actually really hard. It was entirely uphill and mostly up a rock face. Near the end of the trail we had to basically scale a cliff around in a circle AND there were two lanes of traffic going opposite ways. Naturally my fear of heights set in, so when the little girl behind us and I stopped crying we finished making our way to the arch.

The fears and tears were worth it – the arch was amazing. As we climbed up over a little cliff wall, a natural bowl created great seating for everyone to observe. And the arch was huge – like nothing I’d ever seen in Central PA (surprisingly):

(If you look to the far left you can see a person for reference how tall the arch is.)

Little children kept running through it making me and everyone else nervous that they were going to fall off the edge and be gone forever. None did but how nuts would that be to see?

We sat and watched and clutched on to our water bottles for dear life for a few minutes. After some time we left and headed off to our campsite.

But alas, we were hungry. Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park are only a few miles apart, separated by the little town of Moab, UT. We wanted to find a place to eat that was local and representative of the area.

We got sushi.

And afterwards we got Wendy’s. Really dove into the culture that night.

We showed up to the KOA around 10:30, set up our tent in the dark, woke up every camper in a three site radius, and hit the hay. The next day we were off to see the grand daddy of them all – the Grand Canyon.