Published: June 12th 2012May 19th 2012
An empty street in Cedar City in southwestern Utah
Vast swathes of sands replace the buildings as the network of highways become one wide interstate. I’m sitting on a bus looking at an invisible point outside the window, spaced out by the wide stretches of the Mojave Desert. After hours of waiting for the sign, I see it at last – "Arizona, the Grand Canyon State welcomes you." The sands give way to towering red rocks hewn into interesting shapes by millions of years of geological processes. The views outside are unanimous in their announcement – we are not in Los Angeles anymore.
Today is the first day of a twelve-day road trip around much of the western U.S. Just a day before, we were in Seattle, where we got off the ship, and after a few hours of rendezvous with friends there, we hightailed it to L.A., slept at a motel, and waited for the bus to pick us up the next morning. Soon, we hit the road, lunched at Barstow, picked up a few more passengers in Las Vegas, and went on. There’s 60 of us, including the 15 in our group (Lola Vangie, who’s based in L.A. skipped this trip), and most are Chinese exchange students
A sign announces where we are after a day of cruising Interstate 15
using their free time to travel with their parents.
Richard, the tour guide, goes through the rules and the itinerary for the next three days. John Denver’s “Country Roads” is playing through the bus’ speakers. The Everly Brothers’ “All I have to Do is Dream” comes next. My seatmate, one of three female exchange students in an Oklahoma City university, is reading from her iPod (not iPad). Some passengers have dozed off. A few seats ahead seat two young women – in their early 20s, I presume – who caught my attention earlier in Vegas.
I love road trips but I’m not a fan of guided tours. There’s this one we joined in China five years ago and we ended up spending more hours in factories and outlet stores than in the actual landmarks. Besides, I’m one of those who believe that to really appreciate a place, you have to explore it on your own pace. But this trip, the kind I’d usually not look forward to, does have its advantage –as first-time visitors in the region, we can go to places more efficiently and allow us to plan in the future for off-the-track trips in case an
Looking out the Window
The road becomes a whiz of blur as the bus rolls down the interstate.
opportunity arises. They say it’s impossible to explore America in one go, but who says you can’t try?
I wake up from my nap. We have been in Utah for a few hours now. I missed the sign at the state boundary. The bus hisses at it slows down by the roadside. We’re in some small town where smatterings of cars pass by the highway. It’s already 7p.m. but there’s enough sunlight to see the surroundings without the street lamps. “We’re in Cedar City,” Richard says. “We are going to have our dinner here. Utah is an hour ahead of California so please adjust your watches. We’ll stay here for an hour. Then we will go to Richfields, where we will stay for the night.”
Everyone climbs out of the bus. I climb out of the bus. But dinner be darned. I’m taking pictures.
There are more photos below