SUNDAY: From Lincoln, NE to Denver, CO:
The trip began around 2 o’clock. We headed west into the depths of Nebraska. There is not much to keep you occupied on the road out there. We passed by cows, cows and more cows. Seriously, there were so many freakin’ cows. And unfortunately there were also stockyards (we think that’s what they are called.) These stockyards produce the foulest smell ever imaginable, you can’t even imagine, I promise. But, throughout our suffering an exciting moment happened, we spotted llamas. Who sees llamas on road trips? Well, we do. After the excitement of the llamas died down (I may or may not be exaggerating the llama excitement), it was a while before we saw the Kearney arch, oh wait, shoot, The Great Platte River Road Archway Monument. It’s apparently a BFD – Big F*in Deal. The entire drive went by very quickly, and before we knew it, we arrived at our lavish hotel in Denver. We ate our weight at the local bar & grill before crashing at a solid 10:30 p.m. in our matching, giant, pillow-top queen beds. How tough it is to be a weary traveler.
MONDAY: From Denver, CO to The Four Corners Monument, to Cameron, AZ
Today’s trip started with stopping at Starbucks, before hitting the road to our next destination. I had not yet realized we’d be driving through, over, and under the Rocky Mountains in our cross country trip so I was a bit surprised when I spotted snow covered mountains in the distance, I know, I know should really brush up on my geography. Anyway, this was a breathtaking experience I couldn’t get enough of. Seriously, check out the pictures (on my facebook mostly). They are stunning, even if taken on an iPhone through a car window. We saw runaway trick ramps, falling rock and moose crossing signs. We had to take a detour through a scenic byway after what we assume to be a road closing caused by these runaway trucks, mischievous falling rocks, and crossing moose. Needless to say, the cars trapped on the highway prior to the implementing of the detour, were standing impatiently outside their cars. Good thing we aren’t early birds. Next, we experienced the Eisenhower Tunnel – all you need to know is that it is a freakishly long tunnel, one where you start to wonder how it is holding up this giant mountain, and if today will be its last. Your claustrophobic –ness also starts to kick in, even though you have never been formally diagnosed.
We continue to drive through winding mountain terrain, watching the temperature gauge range from 67 degrees to a whopping 41. Good thing I wore shorts. Smart one, Shannon. But, after reaching Vail, Colorado, we spotted a scenic turn off. Naturally we stopped. We took touristy pictures. Elizabeth took artsy ones; I took awkward digital photos that unintentionally captured fellow tourists huddled together at the bottom of the frame.
After completing our Rocky Mountain drive, we drove through Archers National Park in Moab, Utah. This place is BEAUTIFUL. Seriously, I had trouble paying attention to the road – and this was my leg of the drive, oops. I will return here with a mountain bike and explore, I decided. Once we drove through all of Moab (pronounced MO-AHB, which I previously thought was MOOB), we spotted what we assume to be a tourist attraction: a giant cliff with the words Hole N’ The Rock with an arrow pointing to what is most definitely not a hole. We drove some more, saw a resort that was named Four Corners Inn, assumed the four corners were close, and decided to add that to our destination list. It only added an hour to our trip, close is relative when you already are driving 25 hours total, right? Well, either way, we changed our route, and continued on. Then started seeing oil drills and pretty horses. While admiring these horses, we noticed there were baby horses, and who doesn’t love baby horses? While admiring these baby horses, we noticed there were horses outside their fence, and who doesn’t get scared they will get hurt? While worrying about the horses outside their fence we continued driv—OH MY GOD, there’s a horse on the road!!! Yes, one of these beautiful ‘stangs was conveniently trotting across the 65 mph highway. Luckily it was trotting away from us in the oncoming traffic lane. So all we could do at this point was to admire, and pray no oncoming traffic came for a solid 4 seconds.
After thankfully NOT witnessing the impending death of those rebellious horses, we arrived at the Four Corners Monument and realized you have to pay. What the hell Navajo Nation, you are charging me three dollars to stand on the ground. The ground that YOU claim is the borders of four states… sure it is. Either way, it was cool. Check that off the bucket list. And on we went, after our 10 minutes being in four places at one time, we hit the road again. We were pushing 10 hours on the road at this point. Anyone will start to get a bit stir crazy. After an hour of reading, the “I’ve-been-trapped-in-a-vehicle-for-far-too-long” began to kick in. Here is a snip-it of our conversation:
Shannon: “Hey, do you know if the lodge we’re staying at has a hot tub…and/or pool?”
Elizabeth: “Um… maybe…”
Shannon: “How about a hot tub?
Elizabeth: (After bursting into laughter), “Well, I think my answer is still maybe since the last time you brought it up.”
Ha. It was funny, I promise. It especially rivals my earlier “I’ve-been-trapped-in-a-vehicle-for-far-too-long” moment, which went a little something like this:
Shannon: “Hey! It’s 10:31! The cool radio station in the twin cities is 101.3 KDWB. Oh wait… it’s not even the right time… Oh… shoot. I’m anorexic.”
I clearly meant dyslexic. Harmless mistake. Well, we continued on to complete our 12 hours on the road to arrive in beautiful Cameron – 1 hour from the Grand Canyon South Rim. It’s incredibly rustic, and Native American themed. These were nowhere near as nice of queen beds, but far better than a parked car at a rest stop.
Tuesday: From Cameron, AZ to The Grand Canyon to Manhattan Beach, CA
Bright and early we woke up, ready to make the trip to the Grand Canyon. But, we had made the unfortunate discovery that weatherchannel.com believed it was going to snow at The Grand Canyon. This was impossible. So we dressed warmer than the day before, but not blizzard weather warm. We walked out of our hotel room and noticed our lodge was on the edge of a cliff. Funny, how we didn’t know that was there. Or what we drove over it to get here. Funny, right? Anyway, we drove the hour to The Grand Canyon all while witnessing the temperature gauge drop from a satisfying 68 to a mere 31 degrees. Miserable. We also noticed there were no places to stop for food in between Cameron and The Grand Canyon. This was another slight setback. We finally made it to The Grand Canyon and let me tell you, it was amazing. Exceptionally breathtaking. I will admit though, it’s almost too vast to even comprehend the magnitude of what we were looking at. We continued to get snowed on, like lots of snow, making the ground white and fogging out our beautiful views. But alas, we pressed on and still enjoyed ourselves. We decided to stop at the visitor’s center to perhaps purchase a souvenir. The first thing I saw when I walked in, a book titled, Over The Edge: Death at The Grand Canyon. I bought it in a heartbeat. So far it is a great read, seriously one of my recent favorites. Nothing really exciting for a while on the drive after The Grand Canyon though, snow, more snow, and then all of a sudden 70 degrees somewhere in that stretch of desert. We stopped for ice cream at a local dairy queen/gas station. This is when things started to get really interesting. A mini van pulled up and a man, two women, and 3 children hopped out all wearing “Amish” attire. We overheard another traveler ask one of these women if they were Amish. Her response was “No, we are from Canada.” Ah, well that explains it, right… Wrong. As we were leaving, we noticed that all of these kids were calling BOTH women mommy. Hm, that’s interesting. I thought Sister Wives only existed in reality television shows. I was wrong. Anyway, after we spotted real-life polygamists, we continued and made it to beautiful Manhattan Beach, CA. After I tackled driving the terrifying roads into Los Angeles, that is. That was an adventure in and of itself. Not only were the city freeways intense, to get into the city you have to drive over a more mountains. And by mountains, I mean cliffs. Terrifying was an understatement. Thank goodness Elizabeth has Nebraska plates so everyone was a bit more understanding of my exceptionally reduced speed. Upon arrival, we went to the local movie theater and saw Thor. I HIGHLY recommend. Chris Hemsworth is as dreamy as they come. Seriously though, I want one.
Wednesday: From Manhattan Beach, CA to Lincoln, NE
This day pretty much consisted of successful shopping, followed by lots of travel headaches. We decided to lounge on the beach and then browse through the local boutiques. The funny thing with small shops is they range from being exceptionally cheap, to laughably expensive. What’s also entertaining is what happens while figuring out which one of these a store is. There are always those few moments that you walk in, mosey around, and spot something worth glancing at the tag. Either it is right up your financial alley, or you take a silent gasp, turn away as if you changed your mind, and try to hide the fact that you are not a wealthy socialite. Then you tend to hang around a few useless seconds more, say you are “just browsing,” and get outta there faster than your credit score would fall if you even considered purchasing that $350 belt. What’s even more entertaining is usually if you are shopping with an accomplice, you both go through this experience silently, and yet communicate the exact moment to make your discreet exit, before discussing your financial inadequacies. Luckily for Elizabeth and I, after a handful of these experiences, we found a store that was perfectly up our alley. Both in style and price. We shopped until we dropped. After that, it was about time to get me to the airport to make the simple trip back to Lincoln. Easy enough, right? Wrong. Once I arrived to LAX, I checked in, my flight boarded, all went smooth. Denver was a different story. It was blizzarding there. Convenient. Well, not only was the gate packed, but also it was a gate that had about 10 smaller gates where all the puddle jumpers loaded their passengers. These are the gates that basically consist of emergency doors that you exit, walk outside for about 100 feet, and climb the ladder into your tiny plane. Mind you my flight had been delayed for over an hour and a half, and there was a blizzard outside. I had on sandals. That was a stellar moment right there. Anyway, eventually after numerous more delays and de-icings, I managed to get back to Lincoln. At 4 am. Couldn’t imagine a more fitting way to end the road trip. All in all, it was a wonderful and exciting trip. But that’s me, I love myself a good ol’ adventure.