Four states in four days. That was the plan for my annual adventure. It was shorter than usual by a few days so I had to cram as much as possible into a short amount of time. Sleep was never part of the equation.
I arrived in Las Vegas late, well after midnight, and all the regular hotel rooms at Treasure Island were taken. That left me with an upgraded corner room with a panoramic view of the strip. Awesome, right? Mostly, except during your two hours of allotted sleep are interrupted by the Treasure Island hotel’s large plasma screen sign changing advertisements every thirty seconds. No black out curtains will keep that out. My love/hate relationship with Las Vegas started then.
If you have ever been to Las Vegas, then you know that the quietest time of day is between four and eleven in the morning. The strip is quiet, except for the occasional runner and the last few drunk stragglers in stilettos. After I procured a $7 soy chai latte (yes, $7), I began my walk toward the Bellagio. The conservatory is my favorite location on the strip and I couldn’t wait to view their Japanese-themed spring flower show. It didn’t disappoint. Fremont Street, on the other sunburnt hand, left me feeling like old Vegas should offer more than streetside lap dances and bad cover bands playing the same tired rock songs.
After a couple hours of sleep, I awoke the next morning ready for a trip over to California in a pink jeep. Death Valley National Park was residing at number seven on my bucket list. I was so giddy that I didn’t mind handing over $7 for another soy chai latte. By eleven, it was 102 degrees. Walking on the salt flats should have worked up a sweat, but it evaporated quickly so I hardly noticed. What really struck me, though, was Artist’s Palette. There, the minerals in the soil and rock turn the landscape green, purple, yellow, and red. Truly a sight to behold.
The following day, which happened to be my birthday, lead me to Antelope Canyon in Arizona. It was a long ride at over four hours one way, but the route took us through Utah so I didn’t mind. We drove by Zion National Park and it brought back memories from a previous Utah adventure. With Antelope Canyon being such a narrow slot canyon, the sun needs to be right overhead for good lighting. At noon, the sun shone through cracks and crevices in the rock and warmed my spirits. It made rising from my beauty sleep at four that morning worth it. Suddenly the long drive in an aging tour bus that smelled slightly of dirty feet and onions was forgotten. The sun cutting through shadow warmed my soul.
One last full day in the desert and I had to make it count. I woke early once again took a tour with Pink Jeep Tours (they also took me to Death Valley). The group tours are small and the tour guides fun and knowledgeable. The south rim of the Grand Canyon would be our destination, me and a family of four from New Zealand. After the long drive, it felt good to take a short hike down Bright Angel Trail and stretch the legs a bit. The scent of ponderosa pine trees and sage kept my mind at ease while I put my camera aside and took in the sights. Here, where I was hoping to see a rattlesnake, I ended up seeing a dozen elk instead. I couldn’t have asked for a better last day in the desert.
Back in Las Vegas, I packed up my possessions which never seem to fit back in the suitcase even though I had room to spare when I left home. When I landed in Minneapolis the next day, I was thrilled that I no longer had to pay $7 for a soy chai latte but could have done without the forty degree temperature difference. Maybe it will be warm when the fourth of July arrives. Maybe. Until then, the desert warmth calls to me while I dream.