10 unexpected yet totally memorable experiences
1. The view of Monument Valley from Muley Point
2. Seeing a white alligator in Hogle Zoo (Salt Lake City)
3. Eating chili polenta at the Red Rock Brewing Co (Salt Lake City)
4. Driving off-road through the Valley of the Gods
5. Watching wild humming birds in close up
6. Traveling along Route 66
7. Standing under Double Arch and looking up, and up.
8. Losing count of how many buffalo were in the herd we saw on Antelope Island
9. Driving over the Hoover Dam
10. Getting excited when a genuine Wild West style tumbleweed ‘tumbled’ across the road right in front of our car.
10 experiences I’d rather forget
1. Drinking prickly pear flavoured iced tea
2. Buying an out-of-date bottle of Diet Dr Pepper from a dodgy vending machine
3. Turning too soon when we were looking for Cracker Barrel and having to drive back down the freeway we’d just driven up
4. Some scary moments adjusting to driving in America
5. Making a fool of myself at an old-time petrol station in Williams, Arizona (“You, lift the handle up, Pardner!”)
6. Most of Las Vegas, especially…
7. The nicotine-heavy smoky smell of the distinctly unglamorous casinos
8. The unhelpful attitude of the Avis sales clerk at SLC airport
9. Having to unpack/repack overweight cases in SLC airport before we came home
10. Waiting for my cases to appear on the conveyor at Heathrow (they were the last ones of our group by a long way and I’ve got prior history of lost luggage!)
Best restaurant of the trip: Red Rock Brewing Co, Salt Lake City. So good, we broke our ‘no going back’ rule and ate there twice. In fact I'd fly back to SLC today just to eat dinner at the brewpub.
Worst restaurant of the trip: The other guys would no doubt say Taco Bell, but I thought the food at The Canyon Star restaurant attached to the Grand Hotel in Tusayan was mediocre, and the waiting staff were distinctly off. But at least we avoided the guy with the banjo! Cracker Barrel needs to get a decent vegetarian option onto its menu as well.
Best hotel of the trip: Metropolitan Inn, Salt Lake City. Right in the city centre, with a decent sized car park, a nice room, a pool, and free internet access in the lobby. Plus breakfast!
Worst hotel of the trip: Hmm, tough one. It’s probably gonna have to be The Stratosphere in Las Vegas. Our room looked out on a concrete wall, and was pretty small by American hotel room standards. The Strat would also have been better if there was some way of avoiding walking through the giant slot machine alley which was the casino.
Best driving experience of the trip: Rallying around mesas in the Valley of the Gods, listening to the gravel pinging off the car’s under-tray.
Worst driving experience: Escaping from the airport, and adjusting to life on the right hand side of the road. Sitting in traffic on the Las Vegas Strip was frustrating.
Biggest serendipity: Humming birds hovering outside the window as I ate a delicious egg salad sandwich at the Thunderbird Lodge. They were drinking sugar water from plastic feeders, and we could walk up to within inches of them, after we'd eaten. After the over-crowded and slightly artificial atmosphere at the Grand Canyon, and the bad-taste gaudiness and sleaze of Las Vegas, it was an unanticipated soul-refreshing moment.
Biggest disappointment: Las Vegas.
Lessons learned: Next time I wouldn’t bother leaving Utah. The Grand Canyon was less impressive than I thought it would be, and Vegas just felt sad.