Paula and I spent some time in Las Vegas before heading out to Tusayan in the Grand Canyon National Park. We have been here for a few days attending an Affiliate Summit at the Rio. So it’s up bright and early on this last day to pack and get ready to head out.
During our time here we stayed a couple of days at the Rio Hotel and then moved to the Gold Coast Hotel & Casino, which we booked through Expedia. It’s great value for money and is right across from the Rio, so it’s nice and handy for catching the bus down to the Strip. which saves us having to find parking. After an early morning breakfast in the Monterey Room, it’s time to check out and load up the car for our approximately 4½ drive from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon.
We had picked up the car from the airport a couple of days earlier so I’ve had a bit of time to get used to driving on the other side of the road. It takes a while to set up the GPS system because the gadget has difficulty recognising “Grand Canyon” and in the end Paula types in the name of the Holiday Inn hotel where we will be staying in Tusayan.
Getting out of the city wasn’t as much of a hassle as I thought it would be, thanks to having the GPS. We actually found it to be invaluable. although at times it would have been a bit more helpful if the voice instructions were given a little sooner so that I could move to a particular lane ready for turning a bit earlier.
After a couple of miscalculations, we headed south through Boulder City and on to the Hoover Dam. The scenery was pretty spectacular to start with but after driving for a while we were a bit over the it. We wanted to get to the Grand Canyon before dark so we only stopped for a short time at Hoover Dam to take a couple of photos.
The road is pretty good and the speed limit varies between 65-75 miles per hour.
The scenery from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon changes from mountainous with flat plains of scrub and what look like stunted palms, becoming interesting rocky outcrops of stones, and finally becoming pine forests that currently have snow covering the undergrowth.
During the first part of the trip you expect to see jackrabbits bounding and rattlers scurring over the arid landscape. Images evoked from watcing too many westerns as a child. Every now and then we see some cattle grazing on the dry brown plant growth.
We are rewarded with the sight of three deer who first look quizzically at the car and then bound over the road in front of us. Of course this is the one time I don’t have the camera ready and they have almost vanished in amongst the pine trees by the time I get the camera out of my bag.
As we got closer to the Grand Canyon the scenery changed and we were surprised to see that there was ice all over the ground. For some reason we thought the Grand Canyon area being desert, would be hot during the day and cold at night. However, we never expected to see snow.
Paula takes over the driving just outside of the Lake Mead National Park turnoff. This is her first stint at driving in the US although she has driven on the wrong side of the road in Italy. There are lots of rest stops on the way and we finally pull over at Ash Fork to fill up the gas tank.
It doesn’t take long to find out that the pump doesn’t take our Australian credit cards, so Paula heads into the store to prepay for the gas. The store owner holds onto the credit card until the gas has been put into the car.
I know from my last driving experience in the States that there is no automatic gas tank lever in the car and the gas tank has to be opened manually on the outside of the car. Last time I had to ask another driver how to open the gas tank as I couldn’t find the automatic opener, only to receive an ‘are you serious look’, and to have it pointed out to me that there is no lever inside the car. So at least this time I am fully aware of how to open the gas tank.
Once the gas tank is full we go in to finalise the payment and pick up some drinks and nibblies for the rest of the trip. You can see in the image collage below how amazing the interior of this gas station was.
Paula had been talking to a gentleman who resembles ‘Grizzly Adams’. He had picked up on the accent and chats with us about where we were from and where we were off to. His sage advice was to go and see the Grand Canyon movie at the IMAX theatre in Tusayan instead of the real thing. He reckoned we will look at the Canyon and say “Yep that’s an impressive hole in the ground and yep that’s an impressive pile of rocks”. However, we are pretty sure that we are going to have more of a reaction to our experience there.
The Ash Fork Gas Station and store is very Western looking, just like in the movies. A large bear statue at the door, Indian artefacts and stuffed animals and heads around the store. Along with other touristy bits and pieces.
mainSo it’s back in the car and we continue on and finally arrive at our hotel after a trip that has taken approximately 5 hours from Las Vegas. After checking in and dropping off our bags we head off to check out the surrounding area.
Tusayan is a quaint little village of rather impressive looking hotels and stores that are reminiscent of a bygone western era. There is a McDonalds, Wendy’s, a few other restaurants, a mini market and a general store with a Post Office which unfortunately is closed. I have some stuff to post home to Australia and have been waiting to find a post office, looks like I will be waiting for a while longer.
The town is approx. 2 miles from the South Entrance to the Grand Canyon and it looks as if it’s main purpose is to serve tourists visinting park.
Snow lays all around and the air is rather cool to say the least. We check out the Imax centre but decided not to go as we were heading off to see the Grand Canyon the next day. After reading reviews about the movie I wish we had taken the time. Apparently the movie is shown on a 60′ screen and gives one the feeling of soaring over the rim of the canyon and diving deep into the canyons. Whitewater rafting down the Colorado river is also included. So it does sound like it would have been fun to see.
I love the atmosphere here, it reminds me of the Wild West (with snow). And even though it’s quite cool we continue taking a look around, starting with the Imax Centre.
The shopping area and restaurants are a short walk and across the road from our hotel. See what I mean about the ‘old west’ feel.
Love the horse and carriage, with the covered wagon in the background.
The air is getting decidedly cooler and although we have jackets on, we don’t hang around outside for too much longer, plus it is starting to get dark.
Note: This post was first published on 29 Feb 2008 and has since been updated.