After California, we were super excited for Las Vegas! In my mind, this was going to be a major highlight of the trip. Jess was stoked for Vegas because we were meeting her best friend Alyssa from Australia there. She grew up with Alyssa, and hadn’t seen her in a few years.
The first night we were really excited to party and were going to see a DJ called Marshmello at one of the big night clubs in Vegas. We may have over did it a bit, because Alyssa got escorted out of the Wynn hotel (and banned from it) so we didn’t get to see him. We walked around and drank until the early hours of the morning instead.
The next day I woke up way before everyone and decided to go on a voyage to the end of the strip, which wasn’t all that far from our stay at the Flamingo. To keep me fuelled, I started with a buffet breakfast and to keep me hydrated, I stopped at every single pharmacy along the way to the Luxor, to purchase single beers of course. The best value is always the tall boy cans, but in 40 degree heat, they don’t stay cold very long. That’s the incentive to drink them quickly, even if it still was morning.
That night, we all took it easy. The next day, the girls went to an escape room during the day and I was hungover dead so I stayed home. In the evening, Alyssa and her friend wanted to go see Chippendales, the male strip show. Jess wasn’t feeling it since I do that enough for her on a daily basis, so we waited for them to finish and planned to go and have a crazy night of partying, FINALLY!
The girls didn’t get in touch with us until way after the show had ended, and by that time Jess and I had fallen asleep waiting for them. The next day, our last night, I was feeling kinda crappy since we hadn’t actually gotten to party in Vegas yet. I had spent a few hundred gambling, drank a lot, ate a lot, but basically hadn’t done anything yet. I wanted to see a show like Cirque du Soleil but with all the binge drinking it slipped my mind, like many other things.
Finally, on the last night, Jess and I made up our minds that we were gonna go crazzzzzyyyy finally! We got a little floozy and went to Hakkasan at the MGM Grand to see a DJ called Cash Cash. We heard of them before, and we were able to get free entry so we figured why not. It was a fantastic night to top off our stay in Vegas, and somehow we didn’t even feel like crappy the next day.
From Vegas, we headed to Zion National Park in Utah. This was another place Kyle Swanson recommended for us and it did not disappoint. I thought it would be cool because Zion is the name of their home in the Matrix movies, so I figured it would be a sanctuary of some kind.
When I looked up the hikes, the coolest one was called The Narrows. The Narrows is a 1-8 hour hike through a river. Basically, you hike as long as you want and then come back. The water can be very shallow, but at parts it can keep you completely submerged. There is also a great risk of flash flooding and people do die here because of that.
Thankfully, we were in the clear weather-wise – clear skies for days! I knew we would need some walking sticks for this hike just from what I had read online. At the Visitor Centres and gift shops they sold wooden hiking sticks for $19.99 but I didn’t want to pay that. I had a feeling there would be some sticks left for us along the way. Right when we walked up, there were two sticks waiting for us, just as I had planned. You may notice there aren’t many pictures of Jessica here… I was very, very frightened that I would drop her phone in the water so I didn’t play cameraman much.
The walking sticks were extremely necessary. Some people didn’t plan for sticks to be waiting for them so they were shit out of luck and you could tell they were struggling. The rocks move with the water and shift when you step on them so it’s easy to stumble. The water got above our knees at some points so that made it more difficult. This was by far the coolest hike I had ever done, and the easiest since rivers don’t usually travel vertically, it was flat! The rest of Zion was spectacular, but would have been best viewed from atop some peaks. There’s a hike called Angel’s Landing. They say it’s so high only the angels can land there. Everyone hikes it though so that must be some bullshit saying from back in the day.
From Zion, we headed to the Grand Canyon, another highlight of the trip. Come to think of it, there has been like 10 highlights on this trip. The US is so vast and diverse in its geography it should really be considered a bunch of different countries. The people, the laws, the culture changes daily too so it really could be a bunch of different nations.
I forgot I was afraid of heights, but the we went to the Grand Canyon where the pathways don’t even have railings. I swear there must be tons of people who die here every year. As you walk to the lookouts the pathways are just a bit bigger than one person. You’re allowed to hop up on rocks and walk off the pathways onto the cliffside. I did not like it one bit. I stayed on the path mostly, Jess wanted to test fate.
The Grand Canyon was one of a kind. I know I’ll never see something that insane ever again. I don’t really want to see it again either, because I thought I was going to fall over the edge the entire time. In the nearby North Rim Lodge, there were people passed out all over the furniture in the lobby and the other areas. Those people had obviously done a hike down into the canyon. The unique part about this hike is, it is easy in the beginning, and wayyyyy harder at the end, which is the reverse of most hikes.
While we were in Arizona, I wanted to check out a place called Antelope Canyon. Check this out:
These slot canyons were created by water dripping through soft rock and eroding it away, or something like that. Our tour guide was a native Navajo tribesman. He played a native flute for us, there was a tribal dance at the beginning, and we were told about how the white people used the natives and then took there land, just like the white people have done in Canada and New Zealand alike – this seems common. It was great to get a quick history lesson and insight into the Navajo culture as part of our experience.
The tour guide had another job as a wedding photographer, and he knew how to get the colors and the lighting to work together to create these great photos. At each of his favorite spots, he’d grab the camera from each person in our group and take the photos for us so we’d capture the best details. This makes sense from a marketing perspective too, so now people will want to go there and see what we saw.
The only part we did not like, was he kept making us look away for photos so they look really super cheesy. I guess that’s what he does for weddings. I took these last two, so I’m basically qualified to photograph weddings now if anyone needs a professional photographer lemme know.
Antelope Canyon was stunning and beautiful in ways I have not seen before. Basically, you can’t take a bad photo there. Jess said it was like a photographers dream; it was a really fun experience to create these stunning photos.
Conveniently nearby Antelope Canyon, we were by Horseshoe Bend. The gateway to both these places is the town of Page, Arizona near Lake Powell. Check this location out of you are in AZ ever. Horseshoe bend had a swack of tourists around, and we soon discovered why.
Horseshoe Bend is a big bend in the Colorado River. Straight down from this view, another drop of doom. People were laying on the edge taking insane pictures, kids were running around recklessly, I am sure many people also perish here. I just can’t believe that these major tourist sights don’t have guard rails or anything!
From Arizona, I wanted to head to Colorado to check out Mesa Verde National Park, a place where the homes of ancient people still exist under cliffsides. On our expedition, we had the fortunate pleasure of passing through Monument Valley, you’ve seen it on TV right?
It was pretty cool driving through here. It’s just vast, flat land and then buttes and rock formations shooting out of the earth. It doesn’t even make sense.
Mesa Verde was pretty cool, but not amazing. We showed up in the afternoon and some of the pathways were closed due to rockfalls so we couldn’t get very close to the ruins without a tour, which would have forced us to hang out there for four more hours.
Colorado was a great experience even though we just barely dipped into the Southwest corner. The people were kind, genuine humans with a forward-thinking hippie vibe. We stopped at one of the dispensaries and had a lovely experience before sleeping in the Walmart parking lot behind it.
On this leg of the trip, I learned why the American cell phone commercials we get in Canada always talk about the widest coverage and the best network and such. While we were in northern Arizona, we had zero service or reception because AT&T does not operate within most of that state. This is something that we discovered once we were in AZ, which was frustrating because every time we wanted to look something up we had to go into a Walmart or McDonalds. I suppose that is a good example of first world problems for ya. In the desert, you sometimes get worried when you don’t know the next time you’ll find water or fuel, so that was the biggest issue, not that we couldn’t scroll through Instagram or anything.
I also learned that when you go into a National or State Park, it’s best to go straight to a visitor centre to find out what paths, hikes, or roads are closed, what sights you should check out, and time estimates to do everything. We made a few mistakes and missed some sights that could have been avoided by just checking in with visitor centres from the beginning.
I learned that the desert basically goes from California all the way through Texas, which is really tough for a Canadian & New Zealander to handle in the heat. Sometimes you’ll have days where you can handle the heat, other days you are exhausted and stressed. Jess and I seem to take turns having off days, so it’s up to the other person to keep the team spirit up!
I learned not to worry about spending money on something you want to do. Just do it, because experiences are what matter most. You may never go back to that place so just do what you want in the moment!
Lastly, I learned that sometimes in life you may never have the luxury of drinking cold water for a very long time. When you do, you’ll really, really appreciate it.
From here, we headed to New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment!