a new hope (for low milage), part one of the road trip trilogy
24.01.2009 - 31.01.2009
View the big trip on jamienrach's travel map.
So if you’ve read the previous post then you’ll know we’ve hired a cargo van and stocked it with some food, a mattress, our clothes and plan to go to Vegas and back.
Home sweet van
Now if someone had asked me before we set out if I knew how far you could get on one tank of gas heading west from Fort Worth I would have had no idea...well now we know. We’d gotten of the interstates just before getting into New Mexico and were taking some back roads trying to cut some time getting to Carlsbad. Rach had noticed that we were getting a bit low on gas so we planned to stop in the next town. Of course this is America so the next town was way too far away (40 miles) and as the engine cut out we rolled up a crest and onto a nicely placed gravel patch.
It was a pretty deserted road but our only chance was to flag down the next car, when I say we I mean Rach (who’s not gonna stop for a damsel in distress). I jumped in the car with the 2 local oldies who just happened to be going in the right direction.
Where I left my wife
Locked in the van with some pepper spray
At least she had a nice sunset
Half way to the town the guy stopped at a middle of nowhere bar which the old guy knew to be an old petrol station. We both ambled in to an A-typical biker bar, leather and denim clad long grey bearded guys in a dingy room with motorcycle emblems spread all over the walls. So I put on my best Kiwi accent and yelled out “Hey mates, I don’t sapose ya know where I can get some petrol?” to which the bartender replied in a slow drawl “What’s petrol boy” (we must be well into the states, it’s all gas round here). We eventually got some directions to a mine a few miles along that might be able to help.
The mine entrance (a shack in front of a gate with a few trucks outside) was manned by a missing tooth stained singlet wearing guy (more reminders of where we are) who was really nice. He sent a boy out to a machine to drain us some gas and got one of his drivers who was heading back our way to wait so he could take me back to Rach. ‘Jed’ another missing tooth stained singlet wearing guy took me back the 20 miles in his fast food strewn 18 wheeler, although the conversation went a bit dead after he asked me what type of death metal I liked, who knew there were types?
So back on the road and we did get to Carlsbad for our first stay at what turned out to be one of the ‘major sponsors’ of the road trip, Walmart (number 1). No, Walmart has not introduced accommodation to their wide and wonderful range of products and services but they do have lovely car parks that have 24 hour security and happen to have toilets inside for when nature calls.
The reason for coming to Carlsbad is the close proximity to a cave network conveniently called Carlsbad Caverns. We weren’t there at peak season when 300,000 bats come out of the cave mouth at night but we did go down into the caves to have a nosey.
Descent into the caves
Our next stop was to be Roswell so we found a state park with camping 20 miles out of town and headed straight there, what followed was to be known as the freezer night. Apparently an ‘ice storm’ was blowing from the east and the previous night had gone through Texas and frozen our cousin pool. So that night after our camp dinner (nachos) we hunkered down in the van. And then the temperature dropped and as we snuggled to keep warm we were woken up by scratching under the van.
7 lakes state park
Before sleepy time I had put the chilly bin outside under the van to give us some more room. It took us a few minuets to figure out that it was probably a animal under the van and not a serial killer and because we were way to cold I opened the side door (which was in reach) and gave it a slam, that’ll scare it off.
Well it didn’t and we woke up to a centimetre of ice inside the roof of the van and an open chilly bin, dragged from under the van with the lid open, cheese and meat eaten and the basil pesto nowhere to be found. What fussy upper class raccoon takes basil pesto.
A quick note on Roswell as it was the reason for us venturing this way, don’t bother. We were hoping for tack and lots of it. But instead of tackiness we expected at all the diners and shops there was just a lame ‘museum’ about the ‘abductions’ and that’s it, just a town.
Roswell, not worth the time
So carrying on the journey east into Arizona and we made one more New Mexican stop at White Sands national monument where we jumped around a bit and the wind was whipping the sands up so much that well, just have a look at Rach’s ‘final solution’.
Climbing back up
The final solution to the sandy wind issue, also good camouflage
Arizona, hells yeah
Another few hours on the road and a nights rest in a trailer park and we were in the great state of Arizona, and Sugouo national park. A really awesome place as we had no idea what was there...at all. So when we rocked up and it was a cactus forest we were prickled tink.
We spent ages just walking the trials wowing at the plants and the weird shapes they take.
Not sure what rach is doing?
After this we ended up at a Tucson Wal-Mart (number 2), so happy I’m jumping for joy.
North of Tucson is a wee place called Pheonix, all 4 story motorways and 3 million people small. We had a mission of a time getting into the place and not a few arguments with the voice in the GPS as to which exit we were supposed to take. We went straight to Scottsdale one of the suburbs, walked around, saw some Native American performances which were on in a park and just laxed out for the day. That night we found a drive in movie theatre, backed our van up to the screen and opened the doors.
Our first movie finished (Grand Torino, grrrrr Clint Eastwood), and we were on our way out when we noticed that the next screening was on and there wasn’t really anyone around. So we snuck in to another movie....awesome.
We found out later that the second screening is actually part of the payment, not so sneaky sneaky then. That had been such a big day that we decided to treat ourselves to a well deserved rest and so upgraded from a Wal-mart car park to a Safeway (number 3).
Arizona was shaping up pretty well but there was a big gaping chasm in our itinerary that we hadn’t ventured to yet.....the big GC (grand canyon)
Elk just chilling by the side of the road on the way into the national park
We spent two nights in the GC national park, camping out in the van. And don’t be fooled by the photos, this was winter. And even though it’s Arizona, we are 7000 odd feet up and there were ice drifts around the van. Handy though as we were able to fill up old water bottles and keep the chilly bin cold, also the hot water bottle and extra sleeping bags were by then well in use.
There’s not a lot you can say about the GC that hasn’t already be said..... huge hole at the top of Arizona, river at the bottom and literally breathtaking. You basically have to go and see it for yourself.
Pretty freaken beautiful but still so early and freezing
On the precipice
A great leap into the great canyon
The king of vistas
Hiking into the GC, chilly in the shade
Passing the donkey trains
Tired coming back up.
Half demolished ice cream sundae for 1, although me and Rach struggled to finish it between 2 (diner on the way to kingman).
From the GC we kept on course to Las Vegas. When we got to Kingman, a nothing much to write home about Arizonan town we decided to stop for the night and find a bar that was playing the super bowl. Now we didn’t mean to be in Arizona for the super bowl it just turned out that way, serendipitous as the Cardinals (Arizonan football team) had made the final for like the first time in ever.
After asking at a supermarket where a good place to watch the game would be we headed on down to the bowling alley which happened to have a sports bar inside. It was about 15 minuets into the first half so we played a couple of game of bowling to pass a bit of time but this is American football so only 20 minuets of game time had actually gone on.
It was a pretty standard American sports bar.... cheap beer in jugs ($2.50 and when they stuff up the size and give you a large you get that for the same price, score), free half time food (sloppy joe’s and hotdogs), free t-shirts thrown out at random times for correct score guesses and a big old moth eaten lazy boy parked right in front of one of the big screens which was raffled off for the locals.
After the game Rach drove us (I had a bit of a tiddle on) the 300m to what was to be the last Wal-Mart (number 4) before Vegas.