"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." - Marcel Proust
After a mostly restless night of listening to owls imitate truck air brakes, Joe and I gathered ourselves up and headed out of Durango towards the Four Corners Monument, which can be accessed in Arizona. Having barely slept we were up early and to the monument in good time. When coming to these places you never really know what to expect. In the case of the Four Corners, it was a single entrance road that led to a square outdoor pavilion, and a line up on the Arizona side to step on a single medallion that denoted the precise location where all four states (Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado) end their jurisdictions. What’s more, this place is located on Navajo Land, so technically you are in 5 places at once. Amusingly, people must have overindulged in photo shoots of themselves, because there are signs that state a maximum of 3 photos are allowed while standing on the monument. We selfied appropriately, wandered around the pavilion looking at Navajo made souvenirs, and then made our way toward the Grand Canyon.
We arrived at the entrance for Grand Canyon, utilizing our National Park Pass which has been a blessing for this trip. We stopped at the overlook point and peered over the edge of what felt like forever. It’s humbling to look down at a world that seems to go on forever, seemingly untouched by the invasion of man. We admired the miles of uninterrupted beauty over each of the cliffs and turned to get in to our car. Where we both saw a raven for the first time. Hello, giant bird.
We left the scenic overlooks and dog sized ravens behind in the search for food, and found a Mexican restaurant in town that would feed me, Plaza Bonita. With bellies full, we headed back towards the park in search of a campground to pitch for the night. We were denied by two different campgrounds, so we decided to head back out of the park a few miles south and pitch in a free campsite. It turns out that the particular spot we chose may have been someone’s personal favorite, because there in the trees, looking out over an open field was a built up toilet. No stall, no privacy, no toilet paper, just a toilet and endless scenery. We pitched for the night amidst the trees, and enjoyed the sunset.
We woke up the next morning, broke down and made our way back to the Grand Canyon for the morning view off the rim. We strolled alongside the edge and looked over the vast landscape. For what felt like miles there was nothing but scarred rock, leading down to the river bed that eroded the walls to what they are. We looked down towards the ground and enjoyed the feeling of the sunshine. Recognizing a short while later that we had to keep moving if we wanted to make our next destination, we piled in to the car and made our way toward Flagstaff and the Lowell Observatory.
We walked around the grounds of Lowell Observatory (which is where they discovered Pluto) and had the chance to view the sun through one of their telescopes. They had set up a “scale” model of how far away Pluto was from the rest of the solar system and it was encouraged walk through the galaxy. Lowell then out did themselves and made the model include neighboring galaxies, creating a lovely walk on their grounds. After working up an appetite we decided to stop in Camp Verde for lunch at the Verde Brewing Company, which is a bar styled restaurant that looked like it would have been a great place for a happy hour. However, we got to have the whole restaurant to ourselves, and exemplary wait service. After finishing our lunch, we headed up the mountain toward Jerome.
Jerome is a town with a population of 500 people that was built into the side of a mountain. The streets are shockingly narrow and winding, and the town has a very artsy “Preserve nostalgia!” feel to it. Wine was absolutely our main motivation for heading toward Jerome, since that’s where Caduceus Cellars store front and wine tasting room is located. Owned by Maynard James Keenan, (Joe’s favorite person ever) the singer for Tool, A Perfect Circle, and Puscifer; is now expressing himself by making his own wine. So of course we had to go! We opted to buy a different flight each so we could split them, and while drinking our wine briefly enjoyed the company of a very intoxicated man named Tom.
Tom was mimicking how to serve wine under the supremely reluctant tutelage of our sommelier. After a little while, Tom said his goodbyes and meandered out aimlessly to the street, and we continued our unique tasting. Afterwards we window shopped, but because we had gotten their so late, many shops were closed. We took our sommeliers advice and headed up the mountain to camp. Luckily climbing up the mountain also came with the terrific benefit of being able to look out over the valley from the highways and see over Arizona. We found our place in “Potato Patch” (so far my favorite name for a campground) and pitched for the night. It was there that we added another type of potty to our repertoire – Composting toilets. Surprisingly cleaner than Vault toilets, and a whole lot less smelly.
We woke up bright and early to the chirping of birds, and then watched in utter amazement as 2 birds chased one another through the car attachment of the tent. One bird made it in and out in one fell swoop. The bird chasing him however, was not so lucky. He panicked and stopped short, bumping in to the walls of the tent. Thankfully, we had the screen up, which meant that the bird itself could not enter our portion of the tent, but it also meant he was having a tough time trying to navigate his way out. This was a lot more chaotic than it should have been. Probably because as a female, it is my inherent duty to scream when wildlife intrudes upon my home. I’m sure this did not instill confidence in the bird, my husband, or myself, and instead caused significantly more anxiety; particularly on an echoing mountain top camp site, surrounded by camping enthusiasts. The bird continued to hurl itself against random surfaces, testing for their weaknesses, while Joe and I tried to figure out exactly how we were going to get this thing out of the tent safely. After a chaotic few minutes, the bird finally figured out where the breeze was coming from and climbed its way along the side of the car to freedom.
Thoroughly awakened by the morning’s events, we broke down and made our way off the mountain towards Hoover Dam. Joe had been to the Hoover Dam before, and I had not. Joe originally explained that when we arrived at the dam that they would make a big deal about crossing over the border from Arizona into Nevada; and that’s true. But what Joe didn’t know was they had since built a Memorial Bridge in order to divert traffic away from the dam. Essentially meaning that the dam road became a loop turnaround, due to its high profile possibility of being a target for terrorism. The reason for this becomes more apparent as you begin to tour the facility and realize the Hoover Dam is the primary source of water supplying Nevada, Southern California, Arizona, and other remote areas. It is solely responsible for their farming, and providing the most basic needs of civilization. If the Hoover Dam was damaged it would change the entire climate of the South Western portion of the United States. In order to better understand how the dam functions, Joe and I took the power plant tour, wherein the staff guides you along the creation of the dam, as well as functioning turbines; all the while certain not to miss a Dam joke!
We toured the inside, and then explored outside. What I really mean by ‘explore’ is scurry from shady haven to shady haven since the Hoover Dam’s temperatures were well over 110 degrees while we were there. We scurried back to the car so that we could drive over the dam and turn back, just to make the trip complete. After taking our photo opportunities, we turned our car back towards Nevada and drove to Las Vegas to visit with Sean for a few days.
Staying with Sean was great; we spent the 115 plus degree days in air conditioning watching the chronological Alien and Predator movies (Starting with Prometheus) or going to one of his 2 pools. Our first pool venture ended abruptly when we were forced to evacuate due to hygienic concerns (read: someone pooped in the pool) our secondary venture on a different day in the other pool went much better. It’s hard to beat the experience of driving around in a Pontiac Firebird with t-tops off in Vegas weather. We tried a bunch of different restaurants and enjoyed the feeling of not being on the road, and conveniently having access to a shower every day. One night we were able to meet up with our friends Johnny D and Kaori for dinner at Lucilles BBQ. On our last night in Vegas Sean took us to the strip where we were able to walk around for a while and see the Bellagio Fountain which is secretly the only reason I wanted to go to Vegas. We even saw someone propose on a gondola. Thankfully, she said yes and didn't throw him in the water. After we were done walking around, we hopped in the car and drove down the strip to head home.