Just over a week ago my roommate and myself set off for a long weekend driving in the Nevadan dessert into California and then back to Salt Lake City, and I have to admit it was one of the best weekends of my life. (Despite my mother’s jealousy when we visited the Lehi Roller Mills, where the iconic dance scene of Kevin Bacon in Footloose was filmed).
First off, America is huge. It takes longer to drive from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas than to get to Paris by car from my hometown. Many of the roads seemed like there was no end to them, but the views from the car were spectacular. Mountains encompassed the horizon, the views stretching on for miles. Driving on long roads in essentially the middle of nowhere allowed us to visit places that you could easily miss. My particular favourite was the Tonopah hotspring that we visited on our way back to Salt Lake City. To a passer by the decaying white outhouse with its chained fence just looks like an abandoned house, but it is where this hidden gem is. For me, a sufferer of Raynauld’s (basically my body hates the cold), the warm water was amazing and something that I know I would never experience back home in the natural landscape. The slight smell of the sulphur did unfortunately linger on the pair of us for the duration of the drive back to Salt Lake City, showering was like heaven.
On the Thursday night arriving in Las Vegas, the strip was lit up like Christmas and there are no words to describe the magic of the strip. Your eyes are overwhelmed by the glittering signs and the extravagant buildings that are the heart and soul of the city.
The first day of the trip involved going to Rhyolite, a historical ghost town which now features some interesting European artwork, which was eerie with the abandoned buildings, rusted cars and my first run in with a tarantula. Again, it was tucked away on the drive to the Death Valley National Park and our ultimate destination. My first impression of Death Valley was that it was hot. Even at the end of October the temperature was around the 30 degrees Celsius mark. We started off at a relatively high altitude and through our journey in the National Park we descended until we were 282 feet below sea level at Badwater Basin. It was exceptionally windy there and I almost lost my newly bought Death Valley baseball cap, which would have been a tragic loss. At sunset we sat at Zabriskie Point with the sun falling behind the spectacular zig-zagged mountains that surrounded us. As the sun began to fade we drove through Artist’s Drive, which got its name from the beautifully coloured mountain faces. Driving back to Vegas in the dark let my roommate think that every weird light in the sky was a UFO, and my skeptic remarks of ‘it’s a plane’ or ‘it’s a star’ most likely dampened her excitement of the unknown.
As we stayed in Las Vegas (thanks to my roommate’s parents who owned a condo out there) we did some typical tourist trips but then some more obscure ones too. Early on the Saturday morning we headed out to the ‘Welcome to Las Vegas’ sign to get the obligatory photo and then proceeded into the suburb Henderson to try and reenact Panic! at the Disco’s ‘Too weird to live, too rare to die’ album artwork which was taken just outside of Las Vegas. After attempting (and somewhat failing) the photo, we went to Bad Owl Coffee which is a Harry Potter themed coffee shop, although there was also a Tardis in the shop too… It was amazing and for anyone who loves Harry Potter like I do, this is the coffee shop for you. The only problem about the place was that when taking my name for my order they thought ‘Katie’ sounded like ‘Kasey’. Apparently the English accent is hard to understand, which is very ironic. After a couple of more unique stops, we then traveled to the Hoover Dam, which was impressive and busy. Anyone with a fear of heights would not enjoy visiting it. However, the height did not affect me and I got to stand with one foot in Nevada and one foot in Arizona and see the grave of the beloved dog that the construction workers loved, despite a truck running the poor thing over. Following this we then went back into the suburbs to see a millionaire’s house who had a rather large collection of random objects. Once a year the house was opened to the public to explore the realms of junk. The dinosaur fossil cast with an E.T. mask was probably my favourite piece in the house, but there was just so much to see. There was all kinds of monuments (a yellow submarine, Lincoln with a hippo?!) cars, paintings, objects. It was borderline hoarding, he had to buy the two houses next to his own just to have somewhere to put all the stuff. But it was like being in a modern culture museum, just more chaotic.
One thing I hated about being in Las Vegas was that I wasn’t 21. I’m used to being able to drink and because I couldn’t it seemed like I was treated as a child, which I did not approve of, especially as legally I have been able to drink since the age of 18 back home. There were groups of people just walking along the sidewalk with these tall plastic containers with frozen alcoholic beverages and walking past chic bars was hell. Thankfully, instead of alcohol I had food in the form of Carlo’s Bakery which was everything I dreamed it would be. I chose the signature cannoli and I regret only getting the one, even if it was a mess to eat. This was while sitting in the Venetian shopping centre, fitted with its own canal with gondola rides. We witnessed one couple get married in one, which obviously would only happen in Vegas.
On Saturday evening we sat in my roommate’s car on the roof of a casino’s car park to watch the sunset over the strip and the lights switch on. Which was fitting as we had a night tour of the Neon Museum, home to the history of the Vegas casino signs. It was fascinating to learn how a once mob-run business became a corporate enterprise through the decades.
Sunday meant driving home to Salt Lake City and the stops I’d least been looking forward to- Area 51. I’m not a huge fan of the whole alien idea, and although I love the film ‘Paul’, Area 51 just was not my cup of tea. It was incredibly creepy and sparse. My roommate wanted to go to the famous diner/bar that was featured in the film ‘Paul’, but it was probably the biggest dive of a place I had ever been in. Frankly I just wanted to get the hell out of there but my roommate wanted to stay and get food, so I sat there, very awkwardly and very tense, desperate to leave. Also, I didn’t appreciate the dig the waitress, an older woman, had at me for being a foreign student. Thankfully, after about half an hour we left.
The penultimate stop was at Wendover, where one side of the town has casinos in Nevada and the other doesn’t thanks to being in Utah. It was so windy as we went out to inspect the ‘Con-Air’ plane and the surrounding airbase, which I learned was where the Hiroshima bomb originated from. The last stop on the way home was to the salt flats, but the weather was not on our side, the wind had really picked up and the heavens began to open. So unfortunately I didn’t get to enjoy or explore the salt flats.
The roadtrip was an eventful weekend that was a once in a lifetime experience and I’m extremely grateful to my roommate for driving, there was a lot of it. I hope you enjoy reading about my travels, until the next blog.