The Grand Canyon is a bucket list item for many, myself included.
Many will opt for a helicopter tour from Las Vegas, but when there’s a muscle car with your name on the rental agreement; that seems like a better option to me!
Map of the route – https://goo.gl/maps/hXtO3
Ok, a quick admission here before we get started. We’d originally planned to visit both the Grand Canyon and the Hoover Dam in one day, but we spent so long in awe at the Grand Canyon (nothing to do with having a few drinks the night before and sleeping in) that we had to scratch the Dam and visit it the next day.
On leaving Las Vegas we were once again heading for Highway 93; this time Southbound towards Kingman, Arizona. You really see another side of Las Vegas as you head out towards the South. Many signs of the credit crunch; businesses and residential developments that just didn’t make it.
The first major sighting of the journey was from the steep downhill from Boulder City towards Lake Mead; the largest reservoir in the United States. It looks every part of it’s 640 square kilometre area formed behind the Hoover Dam by the Colorado River.
On the subject of the Hoover Dam, we saw this from the new bypass (only in recent years has the main road avoided the dam itself). I must say it looked very impressive but we’d be back later to take a closer look.
We got a glimpse of some stunning scenery at we skirted the Colorado River; this was only a taster of what was to come. The next few miles we all arrow-straight, two-lane highway that did get a little monotonous. After just under an hour, we turned left into the familiarly named Dolan Springs.
Dolan Springs would be the last civilisation we’d see until the Grand Canyon West Airport. It’s one of those places that isn’t very big, but is stretched along along the main street and only a block or two deep. I don’t recall seeing anyone out and about! It was eerily quiet.
We’d read that the last part of the journey was on an unpaved road. Yet again there was apprehension on taking a rental car along it with 20 inch wheels and low profile tyres.
Fortunately, the road had only just been fully paved and the tarmac’d surface was absolutely perfect. I’d have loved to be attacking it in something more exotic, but the Challenger would have to do!
On arrival at Grand Canyon West Airport we were herded into a parking lot. We’d decided while we were there that we’d like to walk the Grand Canyon Skywalk and check out both Eagle Point and Guano Point. To do this we needed to buy some tickets and board a courtesy bus. If you ever plan to visit, make sure you bring plenty of money with you; it’s hideously expensive!
Expensive but worth it i’d say. How often can you say you’ve walked on a glass platform 70 feet from the canyon edge with the Colorado River 4,000 feet below you? There are some staggering facts about the engineering of the platform and I’d encourage you to check out the website.
The single-most thing that strikes you about the Grand Canyon is the size of it. It’s vast. Vast like I’d never have believed. Given we’d seen how frequently the helicopters leave Las Vegas, it was no surprise how many we saw flying up and down the canyon. This gave us a real sense of scale; the helicopters looking like black coloured dots against the rich palette of red / brown rock.
When the time came, we jumped back in the car, cranked up the air conditioning and began to retrace our steps back towards Las Vegas.
Arriving at the Hoover Dam it was a welcome sight to be parking in the shade of their multl-storey parking lot. It was hot; properly hot. The weather report the previous day had said it would be the last 100F day of the year and it felt every part of it.
The first car of note that was spotted was the awesome looking new C7 Corvette. This is definitely on the list of cars I need to try at some point.
The Dam itself is an engineering marvel and a fitting tribute to the 112 who gave their lives during it’s construction. If you have any interest in Civil Engineering then it’s worth a visit; especially since it’s only about 30 minutes drive from the Las Vegas Strip.
For something that was built in the 1930’s, it still looks pretty fresh today. If you have time when you visit, there’s a visitor centre and for the more energetic; a guided walking tour of the dam and the power plant.
As you cross the dam on foot (or in a vehicle if you wish), there’s a stark reminder that we’re living beyond our means when it comes to our natural resources in this area. Lake Mead is filled behind the dam but it’s at fraction of the level of where it was when the dam first opened.
On the way back to the hotel I decided it was time for the Challenger to get it’s first wash of the trip. I must admit that I did feel slightly guilty about using water given the above.
Our time in Las Vegas is coming to an end and we were headed back to California to sample the famous Route 66 and for some Kardashian spotting on the Mulholland Highway in the final part of our West Coast Road Trip!