Inga’s Travelogue: Mustangs, Pickles and a Really Big Hole

Righto, let’s get this show back on the road. Specifically, the I-40 in Arizona, en route to the Grand Canyon.

Despite annihilating ourselves on vodka at the MGM pool party the day before, Nikki and I were only moderately seedy when we rolled up to Thrifty to collect our rental car. Now at Australian car hire establishments, they have your car already booked and waiting for you in the loading bay, and you make do with whichever one you’re given. So when the Thrifty lady presented us with a row of glistening Mustangs of varying colours and conditions and told us we could choose any of them, this was our reaction:

Riiiide Sally, RIDE.

Riiiide Sally, RIDE.

It took us about twenty minutes to finally decide on the gun metal grey (even though in my head I could hear a disembodied GOF ranting about the virtual invisibility of vehicles that match the colour of the road surface. Luckily I’m getting good at ignoring him). Then came the real challenge: driving the damn thing.

I was in the driver’s seat, but it seemed imperative that Nik play co-pilot and confirm every single manoeuvre.

“So I’m turning left, but I’m aiming for the right side of the road?”


“Does ‘yield’ mean I’m meant to give way?”


“Who gives way here?”

“I don’t know, just floor it.”

Yes, driving on the opposite side of the road requires two brains – especially when both brains have been pickling for five days in fluorescent cocktails and desert heat. Even after two days of driving, I had no idea which direction to look at intersections, so I ended up doing virtually a 360 degree scan at every stop sign, like a paranoid psychopath.

After five hours of desert-threading freeway, badass road trip songs and a surprising absence of cactus, we arrived at the biggest damn hole I’ve ever seen in my life.

The Himalayas! No, wait...

The Himalayas! No, wait…

I won’t post too many pics – y’all have seen this place before.

Being such an iconic and indelible feature of Earth’s topography, you really don’t expect the Grand Canyon to sneak up on you. But it does. We assumed we’d spot it from miles away, though what our reasoning was I’m not sure, considering it’s a chasm not a mountain. I was half expecting to hear it, or feel a change in the wind, or simply sense its grandeur in my bones. Instead, we pulled into the carpark and had no idea where it was. The whole area looks like any other arid, scrubby part of Arizona. You wander past some informational noticeboards and a few patches of thirsty-looking vegetation, then BAM:

Suddenly, CANYON.

Suddenly, CANYON.

It was magnificent to look at, but at the same time it didn’t feel real. It was like looking at a painting; it’s so hard to wrap your brain around the scale of the damn thing, and as a result I was left feeling like I hadn’t experienced anything. The hordes of tourists, unholy dry heat and lingering hangover didn’t help much either. Next time, I’m going to take the time to do some hiking and get away from the crowds. And I won’t get blackout drunk on vodka the previous day.

We stayed overnight in Williams, which is one of those tiny towns that would have nothing going for it were it not situated on the old Route 66. It’s 50% accommodation with trading names that incorporate the word ‘canyon’, and 50% Native American tourist candy. I liked it though. A very large part of my heart was glowing as we drove our topless Mustang down its short scrap of Route 66 – it was everything I’d imagined America to be.

Get your kicks...

Get your kicks…

We spent a lovely afternoon exploring the stores and chatting to the locals, and eventually wandered into a ‘trading post’ store that was clearly a badly disguised marijuana den. The generously proportioned stoner guy behind the counter seemed alternately dismayed and delighted by our banter, and when I pulled a Big Papa pickle off the shelf and demanded an explanation, he seemed genuinely astonished that I’d never seen a pickle the size of a black dildo in a single serve package before. When I got back to Australia, I sent a ‘Thank you for the disgusting pickle’ card to the shop address, with a photo of us enclosed. I liked him too.

Our accommodation was the historic and enterprisingly-named Grand Canyon Hotel, opened in 1891. It was eerie as shit, but again I liked it. Nikki was less than impressed, but she’s accustomed to my strange tastes and she submitted with good grace to the wash stand, creepy décor and jet turbine air conditioner. I had weird dreams that night, and when I woke up I swore my bed had moved a few inches away from the wall.

It was nice to return ‘home’ to the Flamingo Hotel the next day, but I still have the strong feeling I haven’t seen the last of Arizona.

The Fast and the Chronically Dehydrated

The Fast and the Chronically Dehydrated

Our first cactus. Rango was a deceptive film.

Our first cactus. Rango was a deceptive film.

Hoover Dam. Too hot to stop for a look.

Hoover Dam. Too hot to stop for a look.

Nikki started taking photos at 99 degrees, then had to take new ones every fifteen minutes as the temperature climbed.

Nikki started taking photos at 99 degrees, then had to take new ones every fifteen minutes as the temperature climbed.

Exactly how I'd imagined an American road trip.

Exactly how I’d imagined an American road trip.

The 'Three Sisters Room' at the Grand Canyon Hotel, Williams AZ.

The ‘Three Sisters Room’ at the Grand Canyon Hotel, Williams AZ.

Don't mind us.

The three sisters watch you. All night.

Red Rum. Red Rum.

It’s ok, I didn’t need to sleep anyway.

At least it has character.

At least it has character.


12 thoughts on “Inga’s Travelogue: Mustangs, Pickles and a Really Big Hole

  1. A prickly pear is barely a cactus. We even have them on the plains. And they are edible, which is about all they have going for them other than a very brief flower blooming time.

    You know, I’d never really thought about it – driving on the opposite side of the road would be easy enough to get used to, but turning a corner would indeed cause all sorts of new dilemmas. (I do the 360 head spin at all intersections anyway because there are too many idiots on the road).

    • I know right, we even have them here! I don’t know where all the cool cactus was hanging out, but we didn’t see any.

      Freeway driving was easy, but yes, turning was traumatic. My blood pressure was through the roof, especially navigating around Vegas.

  2. Laughing all the way! Ok, ok, I’ll get some of my Vegas pics posted!

    I haven’t seen the Grand Canyon since I was a teenager, but I remember the exact same feelings you had….surreal. Like looking at a painting.

    Lol at the inverted Himalayas!

    I loved driving on the “wrong” side of the road in Ireland. It helped that my daughter is an excellent navigator so I just spent all my time saying “On the left, on the left, on the left” to myself. Then she would tell me when to turn!

    • Haha, yep I had to keep repeating “stay to the RIGHT” over and over. I must’ve drilled it into myself pretty hard, because up to a couple of weeks ago I was still second-guessing myself over here….wait, which side I’m I meant to be on?!

      Yay, Vegas pics! I want to go every year too…take me with you!

    • It was certainly unlike anything I’ve ever seen here. What amazed us were the little shanties and trailers in the middle of nowhere – sometimes a handful, sometimes just one. What do they do for a living? How do they get water? Why on earth would you live in that baking heat with no shade?

  3. Our first cactus

    LOL! Couldn’t stop laughing. Those tiny ones are everywhere. They don’t even hurt that much when you step on them. Hardly a proper cactus!

    The GC looks magnificent. I found the Badlands to be too dark and foreboding. (As my boyfriend quizzically asks though, why do you think it’s called badlands?) I got many close ups of the soils; the reds, pinks, clays. Beautiful but eerie and way too vast for my tastes.

    I liked the photo of the 3 girls with the 9 above it. Despite its Stephen King tone.

    • We didn’t see ANY good cacti! I was looking forward to taking a bunch of zany cactus photos, and nothing. Poo.

      I think I’d find the badlands creepy as well after a while. Like big pine forests – creeeeeeeepy.

      • I am trying to think where you would have to go for “good” cacti. Joshua Tree National Park? If it weren’t closed due to government (Ha, my ass) shut down.
        I have to admit that I have seen lots of small cacti, but never any saguaros or anything really mind-blowing.

        • I’ve been trying to keep up with the goings-on in your neck of the woods, but it’s all getting terribly confusing. Come to Australia – everything is stupid-expensive, but we have wombats.

          I just had to look up ‘saguaro’ but yes, that’s exactly what I was hoping for! I bought some prints by a local artist that featured various cacti, but I have no idea where the hell she was getting her inspiration from.

          • Wombats would make my brain explode!

            I have cactus pics from Vegas….ok…tomorrow I really will make a post….really…..
            *shifty eyes*

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