This bucket list item was completed on 4th January 2013 in Arizona, USA.
This blog post will pick up where #26 Gamble in Las Vegas left off. After a successful night of gambling we got some sleep for, our much anticipated, next day. When we realised that we would not be playing in the third day of the WSOBP, we went to the concierge at our hotel and booked a rental car. The concierges in Las Vegas are top notch. They are always happy to help out, no matter how crazy the request. A rental car booking was a walk in the park for them.
After breakfast, we made our way to the rental car agency to pick up our navy blue, convertible Ford Mustang. It takes about 4.5 hours to get to the southern viewing point of the Grand Canyon so we wanted something fast to help us cut down the time. Also, we were in Vegas mode and money no longer began to matter when it came to our decisions. After three days in Las Vegas I realised that my concept of time and money had dwindled. I slept when I remembered to and made my decisions based on what I thought would be the coolest, not the most economical. It is a strange phenomenon and not one that I had ever experienced anywhere else in the world.
We hit the road around 8:30 am and got on the I-515, leaving the Las Vegas strip to fade away in our rear-view mirror. We made it to the border between Nevada and Arizona shortly into our journey. This is also the location of the iconic Hoover Dam. As soon‑to‑be engineers, Kyle and I had to stop and witness this feature of engineering. The Hoover Dam has been popularised in many Hollywood movies so it was great to finally see it in real life. We spent about 30 minutes admiring the structure but we had a lot of driving to do so we got back onto the highway.
Back on the open road, we decided to take advantage of the car and pushed it beyond the speed limit. United States highways are straight, smooth and flat, which makes them less exhausting to drive. The Mustang helped us make good time and we were watching the GPS as we began to get closer to our destination. When we were 30 minutes out we were in a vast open desert and we could see for miles. We were slightly elevated and I thought I would have been able to distinguish the canyon from our location, but nothing was apparent on the horizon. There was no part of me that believed a massive hole in the earth was directly in front of us.
We continued through Grand Canyon Village and the GPS indicated we were 10 minutes from our destination. The landscape had change from desert, to an evergreen forest. Obviously we were heading in the right direction but it didn’t feel like we were about to end up at the edge of a canyon. We began to crack jokes. “Maybe there are two Grand Canyons, this must be the smaller one”. “Maybe it’s not as big as it looks in the photos, it must just be a small pit”. In 10 minutes time we arrived at the Grand Canyon Visitor Centre and parked our car.
We were now separated from the Grand Canyon by a thin row of trees but the canyon was still not visible. It wasn’t until we walked past the row of trees and then… “Whooooaaaa. Look at it. It’s massive. How does it just come out of nowhere like that?” I was shocked and in disbelief that I couldn’t see it until I was standing at the edge. It was truly majestic and blew away all my expectations.
I think the fact that I couldn’t see it from a distance made the surprise that much better. It even had snow. I had never seen an image of snow at the Grand Canyon and did not know that it even happened. I stood there for several minutes in the same spot just staring from right to left, then left to right. It is hard to appreciate the scale in photographs and it is still difficult when you are standing at the edge. It is so wide, so deep and the definition of the canyon walls is hard to appreciate due to the scale. The geological processes that carved the Grand Canyon have been going on for millions of years and the end result is truly spectacular. I was in awe of what my eyes were witnessing.
In the spirit of the beer pong tournament, that we travelled so far to attend, we had brought some beers with us to the Grand Canyon. I wanted to get a photo of myself chugging a beer on the edge of the Grand Canyon. We walked around the rim trail a bit to find a good place to take a photo. I found a large rock that was perched precariously on the edge of the rim with a thin layer of snow covering it. I hopped onto the rock with my beer and got into position. I tilted the beer back and finished in one chug. Kyle snapped a few photos and then we switched positions and he did the same. Another item completed and scenery I will never forget.
After the photo session we hopped back in our Mustang and drove along the rim, to the west of the visitors centre. Around every corner, we were presented with a new view of the canyon. I thought eventually we would round a corner and see the end of the canyon where it began to taper and rise up to level ground but it never happened. Even after driving for 30 minutes west of the visitors centre, we had only explored a fraction of what the canyon had to offer. We drove to the end of the rim road and then turned around and made our way back to the visitor centre, where we would begin to retrace our steps back to Las Vegas.
Even after a long day of driving, the smooth ride of the Mustang was enjoyable as we drove back to Las Vegas. Darkness had fallen long before we arrived back in Las Vegas, which gave us another surprise. We had never witnessed Las Vegas from afar.
The city was founded in the middle of the desert and the light pollution can stretch for miles with a clear sky. A clear day lead into a clear night and, as we rounded the corner of one of the passes, I noticed a glow in the distance. We were several miles away from Las Vegas and didn’t think we would have been able to see it from our location. I also noticed a beam of light projecting into the night sky from the ground. It took me a while to realise what I was witnessing. Then I determined the light pollution was, in fact, from Las Vegas and the beam of light was from the Luxor Hotel. It looked like something out of an alien movie where items are beamed up into space.
The day was filled with excitement and, by the time we arrived back in Las Vegas, we were ready to relax. It was a long day of driving and my eyes were sore from marvelling at the Hoover Dam, the Grand Canyon and the unworldly light show put on by the city of Las Vegas. We had packed a lot into one day and decided to finish it off with a stop at Hooters for a meal.
Have you been to the Grand Canyon or the Hoover Dam? Let me know in the comments below.
Make sure to check out my next post, [#25 Lesson] Witness Things With Your Own Eyes, which discusses the lesson learned by completing this item and also the other items I completed on this trip. Want to be notified when new blog posts are uploaded? Subscribe below.
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Dave has been on a mission, since 2010, to cross off the 100 items on his bucket list. The stories of his adventures are complimented by life lessons learned along the way and his travel tips are unique to his experiences.