MAY 20, 1996: MONDAY


Scheduled trip: Flagstaff, AZ - Grand Canyon
Actual trip: Flagstaff, AZ - Grand Canyon - Las Vegas, NV (410 miles)

Camaro 2, Mustang 1
We checked out of the motel and drove the 15 miles or so to the Sunset Crater National Monument, an extinct volcano. The area surrounding the summit looked quite fertile. The dominant vegetation was some sort of pine tree that grew almost everywhere. The landscape was quite distinctive. Some places black magma formed small, uneven hills, which looked as though they could have been formed recently rather than hundreds of years ago. We strolled along the paths around the base of the cone. Traffic on the actual volcano was prohibited so nobody got the chance to look down into the impressive monument. After an hour we made our way back to Highway 89 and headed north. At Cameron a fuel and supply stop was made before turning west.

The road leading to the Grand Canyon was littered with Native American souvenir shops. We stopped and had a look around before proceeding to the first view point over the canyon. Although it was still early in the day, the place was swarming with tourists. A little haze hung over the enormous canyon but nonetheless you could see for many miles. We climbed a lookout tower as if the view wasn't already breathtaking from the ground.

By car we followed the rim for miles stopping at scenic lookouts to take pictures. Unfortunately due to our schedule we didn't have time to venture down into the canyon, which would have been interesting but could have taken at least a day. In the original schedule we had given Grand Canyon a whole day but because of the previous car trouble we decided to cut the visit short to gain time.

We returned to I-40 but just for a few miles before veering off on the legendary Route 66, the old highway to California, a one-lane road. After the introduction of the Interstate system, Route 66 is not used much any more. Still it is quite popular among tourists and it proved difficult finding a "Route 66" road sign, of which we all wanted a picture. Obviously the signs are highly appreciated among tourists. So much, in fact, that they are dismantled and driven away.

During the 110 miles on 66 we only met few cars going in the opposite direction so much of the time was spent driving side-by-side. Occasionally the headlights of an approaching car in the hazy horizon were spotted, which forced us to follow the rules of traffic. In the middle of nowhere we pulled over at a disbanded-looking tourist center, in what seemed to be an old gas station. Evidently this had served as a rest stop for generations. The rusting hulk of a car from the 1920s or 30s was a prominent feature of the site. Wherever the car had been going once, it was probably safe to say it hadn't reached its goal.
Route 66 rejoined I-40 at Kingman, AZ, but soon we left the Interstate again going northwest on Highway 93, heading for Las Vegas. Near the state line between Arizona and Nevada traffic passed Hoover Dam on the Colorado River. The dam is the main supplier of electricity to Las Vegas, which even after American standards is a well-lit city.

Accommodation can be cheap in Vegas. Somewhere along the trip we had picked up some ads about motels. Using this material we quickly found a place downtown where we could crash. Unfortunately, as we pulled up on the parking lot, the Camaro started making noises, which had become far too familiar. Nothing could be done about that at that moment because of the time; it was well after sunset. Those problems had to wait until morning. In stead we went to our room and changed our clothes. It was gamblin' time!

None of us had the courage or money to try our luck on the blackjack tables (Dave and Mark were excused because they both were below the age of 21), so we went for the slots instead. Manuel was the only one who came out on top, while the rest lost miserably!

A nighttime stroll in Vegas was a unique experience. In the distance, the Stratosphere Tower with the famous Big Shot thrill ride on top could be spotted and there was general agreement that we ought to walk over to it and check it out. Niels pointed out that it was a 3-mile walk but his friendly contribution was quickly cut down. After close to 45 minutes we finally arrived and went inside. By now every casino resembled each other so we got some refreshments while we rested our weary feet and started to figure out how to get back to the motel.

Outside a row of cabs was parked so we hailed one. The driver was Asian and a bit of a prankster. During the entire ride he told us about his many investments, and that in a few years he would retire and live on his vast savings. We didn't tip him very much. If he was so affluent, he probably didn't need the extra buck!

Around 10.30 PM everybody besides Niels decided to shoot some video of Vegas by night. Niels, whose feet had become blistered due to the long walk in fancy shoes, entertained himself with the movie "Deadfall", starring a glue-sniffing Nicolas Cage.

<<May 19, 1996<<


Day 00: Prelude
Day 01: Leaving NC
Day 02: Tupelo, MS
Day 03: Henryetta, OH
Day 04: Roswell, NM
Day 05: Flagstaff, AZ
Day 06: Las Vegas, NV
Day 07: Victorville, CA
Day 08: Long Beach, CA
Day 09: Los Angeles, CA
Day 10: Thousand Oakes, CA
Day 11: Malibu, CA
Day 12: Lompoc, CA
Day 13: Lompoc, CA
Day 14: Palo Alto, CA
Day 15: Palo Alto, CA
Day 16: Fallon, NV
Day 17: Escalante, UT
Day 18: Grand Junction, CO
Day 19: Lafayette, CO
Day 20: Colby, KS
Day 21: St. Louis, MO
Day 22: Knoxville, TN
Day 23: Burlington, NC
Epilogue: Author's notes




(20) images are available

Sound: Dave's 12 second tour
Sound: Definitely Vegas

Video: Sunset Crater, AZ (2:06)
Video: Grand Canyon, AZ (2:36)
Video: Las Vegas (3:53) B/W
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