We have spent the last two weeks cruising The Southwest USA. We started out in Phoenix and have ended up in San Francisco, with a couple of enforced detours along the way.
Road trip? Yes we did them when we lived in Texas, but this seems different. One trip, for the sheer hell of it was to drive from Houston Texas to Copper Mountain , Colorado. After 12 hours of driving we were still in Texas ! Our return route took us due east with the disappearing Rockies in the rear view mirror! The only things we saw were, a grain silo, a Sears catalogue store, a Dairy Queen and the odd isolated farm house or trailer. Another trip we did, I say we, I mean the Moms did, whilst the Dads flew, was to drive from Houston to Orlando, two Moms and five kids !
The one thing I had forgotten about the USA is that it is possible to eat 24 hours a day, even on a road trip like ours, but it is food like going to a gas station, fill up and move on! There is a plethora of eateries, even in the most obscure locations. Denny’s, ( most are open 24 hours, ) Macdonalds, Jack in the Box, IHOP, ( International House of Pancakes) Taco Bell, Long John Silvers, Dunkin Doughnuts, Popeyes, Pizza Hut and of course always a Starbucks ( I dislike Starbucks, but the USA have never fallen out of love with them), KFC, Subway, Sonic ( drive through burgers, eat them in your car !) Wendy’s, Luby’s ( where the old people stand in line at 4pm to get a cheap dinner) Dominos Pizza, Hooters ( where the waitresses all have to wear Hot Pants)Super Duper Burgers, Arby’s, Burger King, Dairy Queen ( where Anna Nicole Smith once worked, before she was a blond, before she was a model, before she married J Howard Marshal a billionaire,) or one of my favourites, ( by name that is ) is Freddy’s Frozen custard and burgers! What is that about?In fact there are over 250 national fast food outlets, so almost one on every street corner.
In Sedona, and you have to go, if ever you are in Arizona, a beautiful area surrounded by the nostalgic amazing red rocks. Very much native American country, many ancient historical ancient artefacts and wall art, you only have to look!
Dining out was a bit more of a challenge and ended up in a Mexican ( well, Mexican by USA standards) and as we went there twice, obviously it was not that bad! We did find an independent eatery for breakfast and I actually had my favourite, avocado on toast with an egg! This was a one off as two weeks on the treat has not been repeated! Himself? Chilaquiles, again, but said they were good! Not like our hotel, which was fine, spacious clean and comfortable, but dining, a small not very clean dining area, which doubled up as a restaurant at night. Breakfast was included, so all the world and his wife, descended upon it as if it were the last supper! This we avoided ( hence the double up on the Mexican! )
From Sedona, we travelled north to the Grand Canyon , which is 83 miles north of Flagstaff ( Route 66, from Flagstaff Arizona, don’t forget Winona). We had reservations at El Tovare, the place to stay in the National Park. It was built in 1905 and is grand in style. There are three lodges run by the same company, but I think they need someone to give them a kick, Blue Angel, had a no reservation Restaurant, Thunder lodge had apparently been recently renovated and El Tovare, had a rather cavernous Restaurant.
Our room in El Tovare was small, with a quaint old fashioned bathroom, WITHOUT heating ! Not even a heated towel rail! Consequently, we had to leave the bathroom door open to get it just a tiny bit warmer than freezing ( it was -16C outside,and no double glazing!) but this resulted in the Hot Air Heating system blasting very noisily all night long!
This was our third visit to the Grand Canyon, the first over 30 years ago, more recently about 20 years ago, when my son and I dared to take a small plane over the canyon and now, I quiet fancied the mule ride down into the canyon, having seen how sure footed they can be, after my trekking in the Himalayas, where donkeys trek up and down carrying everything, including the kitchen sink, a washing machine and refrigerator or two ! Himself declared, that there was a weight limit for the mules, and he was over it! We were saved from making any kind of decision ourselves, by heavy snowfall!
But back to the El Tovare, the Restaurant , large, for the most part gloomy unless one was lucky enough to sit in the windowed smaller room.
Usually in most American restaurants. One is greeted with “Hi! I’m John, Sara, Jane! And I’ll be your server tonight! Etc, this is mostly because, the wait staff depend heavily on tips, not sure if this is the case in El Tovare, because their lack of enthusiasm would not warrant too much of a tip. The restaurant was overseen by The Dragon Lady, reminiscent of such ladies from the Soviet era! ” Your reservation is for 9 ( but read behind this, it really means, I gave you a reservation for 9 and even though there are plenty of empty tables, for your audacity to come 15 minutes early, I will not seat you until 9 and on the gloomy part!)
So for that we had a very mediocre dinner, I chose the Salmon ( and here you have to think me Stupid! We are miles from Salmon producers). It was edible but everything I hate, smothered with this and smothered with that! Don’t take the Salmon ! Himself? Well he took the Australian Lamb! Equally a bit daft, a bit over cooked and not a lot more to say about it.
After a very noisy night with the heating system, a very chilly visit to the bathroom, Breakfast ! Or maybe not! A days calorie intake was available in all that was on the menu, completely mind blowing, but what was and still is even more amazing, is the amount of food that is not eaten, but then stuffed into a styrofoam box, and taken away, whole families, walking out, each clinging onto their box! What were they going to do with it? Congealed poached eggs, cold soggy pancakes! It blows my mind!
Himself took the Quesadillas, which should be made with flour tortillas, but Grand Canyon version was with corn, thick flabby and guess what covered with a Day Glo sauce! Ah well. At times he will eat anything! Me? I had a protein bar!
Moving swiftly along we took the tour around the rim of the Grand Canyon, along with 3 other intrepid souls, braving the elements and it was well worth it! Our moustachioed guide/ driver has once been a ?? In Houston Texas which gave another twist to his tales.
But let us move more swiftly onto Dinner and another Breakfast. For dinner and for breakfast we were allowed into the smaller nicer dining area, already a plus. Our waiter marginally happier than the ancient John of the previous evening. For the first time in our lives we Split a starter and a main course! Perfectly acceptable in the USA but we had never done it before! A salad big enough for 4, followed by a reasonable Weiner Schnitzel, perfectly, fine adequate. Breakfast? Ah, ah there was oatmeal on the menu ( porridge to you and me) probably the most expensive porridge ever served at $9.95, but it was oatmeal with berries. To give them their due, it was freshly made, I assume that as it took at least 15 minutes to come, longer than the fried eggs, or the pancakes, but when finally it did arrive, I said to the poor waitress, ” Berries? This is a joke” 15 of them and Just blueberries ( which by the way are very good for you, full of antioxidants) , she was a bit taken a back, but did go and bring a small bowl of blueberries for me! Another choice could have been the pastries? Maybe not !
End of this section, am I a bit negative? Maybe about the hotel or lodge as it is called in the Grand Canyon, but not about the Grand Canyon itself. It is awe inspiring and massive, 270 miles long, up to 2 miles and a mile deep, going from Lake Powell in the East To Lake Mead in the West. Imagine the first woman to navigate down this raging river, in her long skirt, it is almost mind blowing.