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Published: October 9th 2013
Today saw an early start as the time had come to hit the road. We packed our bags and enjoyed a light buffet (buff what?) breakfast at the Spice Market Buffet in our hotel before checking out. Next we headed to the lobby to catch a cab which would take us to collect our hire car.
As many may know, I like driving, both leisurely and otherwise, so needless to say I was excited. I was also a little apprehensive (read shitting my pants). Since our arrival, I had attempted to take in as much as possible with regard to driving in the US, but there isn’t much to learn from the passenger seat of a taxi or my observation point from the side-walk. I figured I would pick it up on the job.
We arrived at the car hire place for about 11am and were due at the Grand Canyon for late afternoon. This gave us 6 or so hours to complete our 4 hour drive, allowing us plenty of time to go the wrong way, get lost, explode in a ball of flames, or whatever else unfortunate event was bouncing around in my head.
Fortunately none of that happened. Although, what did happen next was quite unbelievable, and upon first hearing I think I would have enjoyed the exploding in a ball of flames idea a hell of a lot more.
While conversing with the Thifty car hire dude he happened to casually drop the bomb that the Grand Canyon was closed.
“Why?” we asked.
“Government Shutdown,” he replied
“What’s that then?” we further probe...
“It means the Grand Canyon is not open,” he explains.
Not quite understanding how this was even possible, we asked to use his phone and Tina called the hotel we were due to stay at that evening.
After a long time on hold it transpired the Grand Canyon was indeed closed, along with every other government run national park in the U.S. As our hotel was on national park ground, that too was closed. We’re still not entirely sure what a ‘government shutdown’ is, but it appears to be a strike of some sort.
For the next few minutes we panicked a little before deciding that rather than go to the Grand Canyon we would stay the night
in the nearby town of Flagstaff before continuing to Monument Valley the following day. That would only alter our plans for the one night. The next thing we did was book a hotel in Flagstaff through the car hire place’s WiFi. Job jobbed, time to hit the road, albeit having eaten into our 2 hour contingency plan time. Bugger.
As it happens, driving in the U.S is a piece of piss. The low traffic density, ridiculously wide roads and snail’s pace speed limits all make sure of that. I’d established this quite quickly so we settled in for our drive to Flagstaff
The Hoover Dam is located to the south-east of Las Vegas and was a short drive from the highway we would be taking to Flagstaff. We felt it would be silly not to stop off and have a look around, so that was our first destination.
We must have been on the road for about 30 minutes before it became clear Tina was not well. We think it was a dodgy fruit smoothie she had consumed at the buffet, so we shoved her in the back of the car (and into the back of our
minds) while Dan and I enjoyed our voyage up front.
We arrived at the Hoover Dam in about 30 minutes or so of leaving Vegas and at about the same time we started to realise Tina’s condition was deteriorating. Cracks were also starting to show between mine and Dan’s relationship. The idiot dropped our gallon of orange juice out the back of the car when he opened the boot, splitting the container, forcing us to consume a gallon of juice between us. Not cool when we were about to be stuck in a car for hours.
Out of our nuts on Vitamin C, Dan and I enjoyed the views that staring down into the Hoover Dam had to offer, while Tina stared down into the beauty of a public toilet. I hope she took some pictures.
Anyway, after another 30 minutes or so we got back in the car and were on the road again for a 3 hour stint to Flagstaff.
Now let’s talk about the car. We’re driving a black, 240bhp, 4WD monster, which is the Ford Escape. Its turbocharged 2.0l I4 propels its occupants to 60mph in about 7 seconds and to 100mph
in 19.6 seconds. They’re some impressive stats for the brute that it is. It’s just a shame it’s shit in every other way. Driving position? Shit. Steering feel? Shit. Auto box? Shit Throttle response? What? Wish I had packed my ‘5.
On a positive note however, the brakes are good, as we found out when we had to screech to a halt on the hard shoulder so Tina could get out and be sick in the middle of the desert. Watching her scrambling for the switch to lower the window while at the same time throwing up into her own mouth through my rear view mirror while was putting me off my driving.
After a few hundred miles of driving in a straight line we arrived in Flagstaff at about 7pm, at which point it was dark and I was very tired. We had booked a Mariott to spend the night in, consider it a treat to ourselves for the massive let down that was the Grand Canyon. It took a while to find as we were getting used to the roads but we eventually made it.
Dan and I thought it would be
a good idea to dump our stuff, including Tina, in the room and head out for a wild night out in Flagstaff. We went to Buffalo Wild Wings, which was wild by name. We enjoyed a burger and a few beers before calling it a night. A bit pissed we struggled back to our room where we enjoyed a good night’s sleep. It’s just a shame the room stank when we got back. It turns out Tina had also had a wild night on the lavatory.
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