Last year my wife Inna got a little jealous that I went to the Grand Canyon without her. So when my buddy invited us to Phoenix for a Spring Training baseball game, Inna and I decided to leave a couple days early and swing by the Grand Canyon beforehand. Well, we did and it was awesome and here’s my blog post about it!
DAY 1 – Our plan today was to drive to Williams AZ, the city nearest to the Grand Canyon, where we would spend the night (we thought about camping inside Grand Canyon National Park, but we were concerned it would be too cold). Williams is a seven hour drive from Los Angeles and we had all day to get there, so we took the scenic route.
Originally, we wanted to visit friends in Vegas, but they were all out of town. And unfortunately, besides Vegas and Joshua Tree National Park (which Inna and I have already been to, blog post coming soon!), there’s not much between Los Angeles and Williams.
But you know what is between the two cities? Route 66. Route 66 actually goes from Los Angeles, through Williams, all the way to Chicago. And there’re lots of stops along the way, so that’s the way we went.
First stop, Roy’s Motel and Cafe.
Roy’s Motel and Cafe opened in 1938 and, like many of Route 66’s businesses, it was booming until I-40 opened in 1972, at which point business went dead. Roy’s stayed dead for more than twenty years, when the whole town (Roy’s, a post office, and not much else) was leased and Roy’s was re-opened. Again, it did not do well. Ten years later, the town was bought by another entrepreneur, who is now restoring the property, with parts of it already reopened. Currently, Roy’s is operating more successfully than under the previous owner, although much of it (the cafe, the motel) still remains closed.
Unfortunately, except for Roy’s and Baghdad Cafe before it, there is nothing on Route 66 in California. Seriously, nothing. It is boring. Everything looks like this:
Route 66 in California. There is nothing here.
Not only that, but the portion of Route 66 immediately paralleling I-40 (near Newberry Springs) is virtually destroyed; we had to drive 20 mph there to not damage our car (we went back to I-40 as soon as we discovered this). Because of this, it took us much longer to get to Roy’s than planned, and when we got there we were hungry. Hungry but we couldn’t eat because, unknown to us, Roy’s cafe had not been reopened. When we discovered this, we left Roy’s and went straight to Needles (there’s nothing between the two destinations anyway), where we had lunch.
After lunch, we left Route 66 and headed north, to the Hoover Dam and its neighboring newly built Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge.
Inna and I have been to Vegas several times, but we never bring a car and always stay on the strip. Because of this, Inna had never been to the Hoover Dam and I hadn’t been since I was a kid. So when the the new bridge opened and I saw how amazing it was, I knew I had to go back. I’m glad I did.
Inna, Leia, and myself in front of Lake Mead. Yes, we took our dog with us, and, other than the car rides (Leia doesn’t like long car rides), she had a great time.
US-93 connects to Hoover Dam through a windy mountain road. You can’t see anything until you round the second to last corner, when you are hit with this. The bridge is massive (it’s the tallest concrete arch bridge in the world and the widest in the western hemisphere) and amazing.
The Hoover Dam is also massive and an incredible feat of engineering. Built during the Great Depression, it was the largest concrete structure in the world when it was completed. Over 100 people died building the dam, as many of the construction techniques were not proven and had never been done before.
The Hoover Dam and the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, together in the same photo. For those who don’t know, Mike O’Callaghan was Nevada’s most beloved governor and Pat Tillman was an Arizona Cardinals safety who left the NFL to serve in Iraq, where he was killed by friendly fire. The Hoover Dam is (controversially) named after Herbert Hoover, who was president when the dam started construction. The dam used to be called Boulder Dam by those (including FDR) who didn’t agree with it being named after President Hoover.
The Hoover Dam created Lake Mead, the largest reservoir by volume in the US. Lake Mead supplies water for 18,000,000 people and 1,000,000 acres of farmland. It also supplies lots of energy for the surrounding areas. Notice the bathtub rings around the lake: Lake Mead’s water level is very low.
The bridge from the dam.
The dam from the bridge.
After finishing at the dam, Inna an I drove back to Route 66. Unfortunately, because we spent so much time in California, plus all the time we spent at the Hoover Dam (pets aren’t allowed on the dam, which meant Inna and I had to view the dam separately, effectively doubling the time we spent there), by the time we got back to Route 66, it was dark. Because of this, we decided to skip the Arizona portion of Route 66 and instead took I-40 straight to Williams.
DAY 2 – Today is Grand Canyon day, and we got up early so we could maximize our time. Before we left, we went into Williams and had breakfast at a cafe on Route 66.
Route 66 through Williams. This is the Route 66 Inna and I were hoping for: a small old-timey car culture town, a cool place that was unique and fun. We now know that Route 66 is much better in Arizona than in California.
Alright, Grand Canyon time. Last time I visited I spent a day at both the North and South Rims, but this trip we’re only here one day, so we chose the more developed South Rim. While here, we hiked seven miles on the South Rim trail (we couldn’t hike into the canyon because pets aren’t allowed inside it) and also drove to other lookout spots. Here are a few pictures we took:
Panorama from the South Rim Trail. The Grand Canyon is amazing; its most striking aspects are its size and colors (especially the numerous shades of red). The whole place took our breath away.
Inside the canyon. In this photo you can see part of the Bright Angel trail, the most popular trail into the canyon.
While hiking along the South Rim, a helicopter flew into the canyon. The canyon was so huge the helicopter became completely dwarfed and all perspective between the helicopter and the canyon was lost. It was like the canyon was a matte painting, not an actual natural thing.
Can you find the helicopter in this photograph?
Inna, Leia, and myself at a South Rim Trail lookout point.
Another panorama, this one from Mather Point.
Remains from a tribe that lived near the Grand Canyon almost 1000 years ago. The tribe is estimated to have been ~30 people large and to have lived here for ~40 years.
A view of Humphreys Peak, the tallest mountain in Arizona, 65 miles from the Grand Canyon.
The Desert View Watchtower. I went here on my previous trip and I knew Inna had to visit it, one because it is amazing and two because it was designed and built by a female architect (something that was almost unheard of when the watchtower was built 80 years ago).
The Colorado River from the watchtower.
Cedar Mountain from the watchtower. Also, there’s snow in the canyon! How is that possible? The weather was so nice when we visited, it wasn’t cold at all.
As we left the Grand Canyon, Leia knocked out in the back of our car. Those who know Leia know it takes a lot to knock her out.
We left the Grand Canyon through its east entrance, where we entered the Navajo Nation. While here, we stopped at the Cameron Trading Post and had authentic Navajo meals, including their ridiculously delicious fry bread. Then we made our way south, to Surprise Arizona, to hang out with our friends. We arrived around midnight to find our friends still out partying, but we were tired so we just went to sleep.
DAY 3 – Today we hung out with our friends and also went to a Dodgers Spring Training game. At the game, the Padres pounded the Dodgers 12-4 and we had to watch it all under the baking hot sun. Add to this Inna and I had to get back to LA, and so even though the game was fun, we left early.
On our way home, we stopped in Salome and had dinner with another friend who was crossing paths with us, driving to Dodgers Spring Training as we were driving away. It’s always nice to see old friends.
After that, we drove back to LA, ending our awesome weekend roadtrip.
Me and Inna and our friends at the Dodgers Spring Training game. Unfortunately, this is the only picture I have from that day.
A map of our trip. 3 days, 10 highways, 1272 miles, 1 national park, 1 national recreation area, 3 architectural/civil engineering landmarks, 4 historic buildings, 1 baseball game, and 13 friends visited.