B and I are almost at the end of our two-week USA road trip... don't you love the poetic symmetry of how 'hills are alive' rapturous one can be at the start of a holiday and how 'woe is me' beaten down by the end?
To cope, we are finishing up tomorrow with a night spent in luxury at Palm Springs. How very 'Amanda' from Melrose Place of us.
Then B boards a jet plane back to Hong Kong (to our little dogs, the lucky thing) and I get to stay on in LA and wait around for some immigration papers (more on that later).
In the past few days we racked up some serious miles in Utah, Colorado and Arizona and saw some of the most incredible landscapes I will likely ever see.
I feel most lucky in the most humble of circumstances: surrounded by a healthy and happy family. But I also feel incredibly blessed to be alive when I am driving through the southwestern United States, with not a worry in the world except how fast my popsicle is melting onto my 'Twilight' series book as B turns the wheel next to me and taps his fingers to the Eagles Take It Easy.
So here's my top ten highlights from Utah, Colorado and Arizona:
1. A break from Vegas. Hello recovery, how good was your timing? Two nights in Vegas were enough to send B and I screeching tyres in the direction of Utah's green mountains and kind, calm, religious folk. p.s. Utah needs to sack it's PR person, because this state is gorgeous and I seem to never hear about it.
2. Zion and Arches National Parks; and Monument Valley. Incredible scenery that must be seen to be comprehended and truly appreciated. Hundreds of miles of rock formations, monuments, canyons and valleys. Driving across four US states has given me an understanding of the commanding feel of this ancient landscape. Not to be negative, but we are all truly nothing. Isn't that magnificent and a huge relief?
3. We took a rest day in Richfield, Utah to do NOTHING interesting. What bliss! Richfield is a very simple town with merely a few diners and road stop hotels. B and I spent two nights there and planned to spend the day in between driving to various Utah parks and 'must-see' locations. Yet we felt compelled to not leave the rest haven of Richfield. We slept in. We did laundry... huzzah! And we went to Walmart. I took less than ten photos all day. I had a normal, boring day. I can't tell you how exciting that was.
4. Telluride and the Colorado Rocky Mountains. This location has made it into my top three of 'most amazing things I've ever seen', which also includes the Canadian Rocky Mountains and the Great Barrier Reef in Northern Australia. Telluride in particular is GAH, like serious gah. At nearly 10,000 feet, I felt winded and breathless for much of the time, very similar to my experiences in Peru and Bolivia. Or was it the just the view stealing my breath? Oh and apparently Tom Cruise has a ranch in Telluride, so if it's good enough for Tom...
5. B's birthday. My baby turned forty in Colorado! And as I mentioned in a previous post he was asked for ID in Las Vegas, the cheeky thing. But what better place to clock into the '4' bracket than with the fireplace softly working away, amid the Colorado Rocky Mountain peaks. Nice timing, B.
6. Martinis. I have always wanted to try a Martini, since I am a gin gal. So we decided to order up two at the cosy Mountain Lodge in Telluride, before polishing off B's birthday champagne. The Ms were utterly delicious... but judging by the headache I woke up to in the morning, perhaps not best for regular consumption. Although that might have been the altitude? Oh go on, just one more...
7. Native American stuff. I have been interested in Native American culture for many years... I read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee when I was 18 (THE book you should buy if you want to read about Indian history) and I had a Native American spiritual symbol tattooed somewhere on my body when I was 21. While the United States is now a very different place from the native eras I have read about and so admired, it has still been cool to visit the deserts of Arizona and purchase Indian artifacts and hear some of their stories.
8. Walking with dinosaurs. While driving through a Hopi Indian Reservation, B and I zoomed past a rickety wooden sign that read 'Dinosaur Footprints next right.' So we spun the car around and walked into a truly rare and humbling treat. Scattered near Cameron in Arizona are 'running' dilophosaurus tracks (one of the starring dinos of Jurassic Park). B is a dino fan and even he has never seen footprints outside of a museum. Seeing them in their original location, surrounded only by the whispers of the wind, was remarkable.
9. The Grand Canyon. While undoubtedly unique, it reminded me of the vastness of the Blue Mountains in Australia's New South Wales... special props go to the surrounding desert. There is something very cool about seeing rattlesnake country with cactuses (or is it cacti?) dotted through the sandy earth.
10. I saw real bears and survived. I have a totally irrational bear phobia. Where did this come from? NO idea... like I said - irrational. There's something about grizzly bears standing on their hind legs that makes my skin crawl. Since we were in black bear country a lot on this trip (much more palatable than grizzly bear country), nonetheless, I bought a silver bear necklace to wear around my neck as a protective charm. Of course we didn't see any bears in the wild, but we did drive through 'Bearizona' in Williams, Arizona; one of those natural wildlife parks where you drive through with your vehicle and they walk around your car.
Okay, it's one small step for a mellisophobic, but it's a step.