Day 9 – Las Vegas to Grand Canyon (almost)

Today was to be a straight forward driving day, taking it relatively easy driving across to find a hotel near the Grand Canyon, to be explored tomorrow.

We didn’t rush to check out early, and enjoyed breakfast in a quaint little café by the casino floor, to the accompaniment of the cacophony of beeping slot machines.

The only diversion we had planned between Vegas and the Grand Canyon was the Hoover Dam.  Built in the 1930’s as a stimulus project for the ailing American economy battling the Great Depression, the information board showed it had been completed in 5 years using the labour of 5,000 men.

An adjacent monument honoured the workers who died on the project, without specifying how many met their maker during construction.  Somewhat less of a stimulus for those men and their families.

In what has long stood as a proud symbol of American civil engineering achievement, the dam remains an impressive structure, especially considering the era in which it was built.

Up until recently, the main road east from Vegas travelled across the top of the dam, but this has been replaced by a huge bridge, which spans the ravine down stream of the dam wall.  Visitors to the dam can still drive and walk across the top of the dam, and we spent half an hour there, narrowly avoiding being blown off the top by howling winds.

After leaving Hoover Dam, we found ourselves driving through a dust storm whipped up by the fierce winds, so we were hoping the scenery by the highway was uninteresting, because we weren’t seeing any of it.

Half an hour down the road, I checked with Jane that she had retrieved her passport and US currency from the hotel safe before we left Vegas.  The look on her face immediately told me she hadn’t.   Bugger …

All the implications immediately race through your mind, primarily being the impact of a lost passport.  Losing the cash would be annoying, losing the passport would be a pain in the proverbial.  Jane tried calling the hotel but was put through to a particularly irritating voicemail for “lost and found”.

With the SatNav telling us it was just over an hour back to Vegas, the executive decision was made to turn around and go and retrieve it.

There wasn’t a LOT of conversation on the drive back to Vegas, wondering whether we’d be needing to contact the Australian consulate, but the mood brightened when the hotel called us, just as we were on the outskirts of town, to say Jane’s passport and the cash had been found and were being safely held at the concierge for collection.

With everything safely collected, we left Vegas for the second time today, and three hours after realising the error, we had made it back to the same place where the back-track began.  When we were last there, it was mid-afternoon and shrouded in a dust storm; this time it was early evening and pitch black, so no impact on our appreciation of the view, so there’s a silver lining …

Driving on through the night, we were entertained by the concession and victory speeches of the four Republican candidates in the South Carolina Primary held that day.  An unexpected victory for Newt Gingrich over the more fancied Mitt Romney, but all four speeches contained, to varying degrees, a mix of xenophobia, irrational views on economic theory and chest-beating patriotism.

Having listened through all four “interesting” speeches, we pulled off the Interstate and found a small town diner for a meal.  By luck, the small town of Seligman was one of a number of towns relying on and pushing the revival of the historic Route 66, trading in kitsch and memorabilia of a bygone era.

Although we considered the “Roadkill Café”, we chose Lilo’s Café, where Jane ordered a Wiener Schnitzel that could literally have fed a family of five (my chicken steak was only big enough for two … )

Before leaving home, everyone I told we were driving across the States asked if we were travelling down Route 66. I can now confirm we have driven part of Route 66, albeit only about 10 miles and in the dead of night.

With the temperature dropping below freezing and the night getting late, we decided to pull up short of the Grand Canyon and stayed in Williams in a soulless but comfortable Holiday Inn, to leave 60 miles to drive in the morning.

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