After a few days of chores including washing our riding suits in San Diego and Los Angeles, we made use of the excellent interstate highways to move on to Las Vegas to meet up with our Italian friends Max and Miriam to celebrate Max’s 50th birthday.
Las Vegas just has to be seen to be believed. Where else can you see a volcano erupt, take a rollercoaster around New York, ride on a gondola through Venice and have a drink in a replica of St Mark’s Square, all in the same day? All we could say was, ‘only in Vegas’. Honestly, where else could you find gaming machines in the petrol station! We had a little flutter of $6 on Roulette which we managed to turn into the incredible sum of $24 and we walked away happy.
Our favourite place was Fremont Street where the free light shows and free music make for a great Saturday evening. Too soon our time with Max and Mir was at an end as they headed north a day ahead of us. But by the miracle of technology that is ‘WhatsApp’ we keep in touch. So far we have been very fortunate but our luck ran out in Vegas when someone decided to help themselves from our old canvas pouches we have slung over the tank. Nothing of great monetary value, just some oil, a water carrier and a tool for the bike but we were disappointed having come so far and no one in south or central America had touched our bike, other than out of curiosity.
Another must see on our list was the Grand Canyon and to our delight this involved us riding part of route 66. The scenery isn’t awe inspiring on that section but we were there. Well, it has to be done doesn’t it. We saw more bikers that day than in the whole of our previous 6 months on the road, including a group of bikers from Wales. Most were on short trips on hired bikes but all enjoying the thrill of the open road and there was much swapping of stories and suggested places to see.
Parking up at the Grand Canyon National Park, a great system of shuttles and trails enabled us to travel all along the south rim and to use a favourite American word, it is truly ‘awesome’ and no photo we could take could ever do it justice.
A trip to the north rim wasn’t possible as the road had not yet opened for the season. No matter, there was Bryce Canyon and Route 12 coming up which were also said to be spectacular. However, the weather had other plans as first we encountered a hailstorm and riding along with hailstones hitting your helmet is a weird feeling and we were left wondering what had happened to 33c we had been experiencing in Vegas as the temperatures plummeted. Pulling over into a service station
Jim asked a snow plough guy what the road conditions were and he said he doubted we would get across route 12 on the bike but that things may improve later. So as usual, it was give it a go. The snow was quite light to start with but by the time we reached Bryce it was coming down quite heavily and we had to turn round and head back to highway 89. Disappointing to abandon a planned route but on a journey as long as this flexibility is key and there will always be other roads and other sights to see.
Storm clouds gathering, short video: http://youtu.be/XlUNZrnF_K4
Continuing north on route 89 towards Salt Lake City we were amazed by the big vistas, snow-capped mountains and lakes. Expanses we hadn’t seen since Patagonia but here with good tarmac and plenty of signposts. Salt Lake City on a Sunday is quiet with little open especially near the Temple Square area, but the city is clean and modern.
Route 89 seems to have been our main route north with small deviations and it is an excellent road to ride with light traffic and great scenery, passing through small towns which appear large on the Rand McNally state maps we have been using but in reality can have a population as small as 150. Heading north out of Salt Lake we stopped off for a wander around the Hill Air Force Base aircraft museum in Ogden so more boy’s toys.
Our ultimate destination in this part of USA is Yellowstone National Park which happily route 89 runs right through.
Our plan to stay in the park was dashed by most campsites being closed still (hooray) and the hotels that are open are way out of our league (boo hoo) so we had to settle for just south of the Grand Teton park which conveniently leads into Yellowstone. We had not realised how far it was to get into and round Yellowstone and a bridge being down had closed our short route to Old Faithful Geyser. Still the 463km round trip was worth it. Old Faithful held on till we got there and then performed. Stunning scenery mixed with bison and the odd moose, great day (sadly no sign of Yogi Bear and Boo Boo). There are plenty of signs warning of the wildlife in the road but there should have been more signs about the snap happy tourists who just stop their cars as soon as they spot something, regardless of what is behind them.
So, are we on our adventure or are we now on holiday. Well visiting so many famous sights, good roads, plentiful accommodation and food options, it has had a holiday feel about it, but it won’t be long before the vast wilderness of Canada and Alaska beckons, so for now we will enjoy the holiday feeling.
Some more of our favourite photos below after this short message ……
We would like to thank everyone for their generous donations to our JustGiving page for Shelterbox. Over £800 so far or nearer £1000 if you include gift aid from UK doners. We were going to close the page off so the monies would get to Shelterbox now but it seems we do not need to, the donations are being passed to SB weekly or monthly depending on the amount. Shelterbox are currently involved in a number of disaster zones including Nepal. If you want to give to their work you can do so here https://www.justgiving.com/James-Mitchell15/
You see some unusual people in Vegas
Route 66 and on to the Grand Canyon