Where did we leave off?
Oh, that's right. We drove for millions and millions of miles.
After leaving Arches National Park, the drive became a little less exciting. Although there was a huge canyon:
I'm a fan of huge holes in the ground, so that was cool.
Here's a fun fact: did you know that Utah is the biggest country in the world? No, you didn't know that? Well, you must have never driven across it then. The sky grew cloudy and began to rain, grumpy at having to be in Utah too, I'm sure. I feel you, sky.
After a year had passed, with Keene now behind the wheel, we passed into Arizona. I wouldn't have known it except that he hissed at the state sign, sounding like the cats when the kids are "just playing" with them. He is currently boycotting Arizona as a whole, so it peeved him to have to use the state's portion of the freeway.
It was here that I discovered something new. In addition to crawl spaces, dark mirrors, and homeless people, it would seem that I'm scared of being a passenger. By most accounts, Keene is technically a better driver than me. (And by "most," I mean his. And maybe some little ol' grandmas.) Long, straight stretches of highway typically don't bother me. However, not being in control during winding roads, especially at night and in the middle of a storm, makes me a little crazy. Squeals, deep inhalations, grasps onto the "oh shit" handle (using my first stepdad's words), and cries of "Slow down, Keene!" are not unusual.
In order to keep somewhat calm and to take my eyes off the road, I tried to take pictures of lightning. As it turns out, this is much easier when you are not the driver! After maybe thirty failed attempts, I succeeded:
A half-hour later, we left Arizona and the world seemed right again. The skies cleared, the road untwisted itself, and Las Vegas rapidly approached. Although it was about 11pm by this time, we kept the kids awake, regaling them with G-rated stories of Vegas. What is a G-rated story of Vegas, you may wonder. Well, it goes something like this:
"There's a building that's shaped like a pyramid!"
"But what do adults do in Vegas?" a kid may ask.
"Um...another building has a circus inside of it!"
"Can we visit that one?!" the other kid begs.
"Maybe..." says Keene.
"I know a girl whose husband took a hooker there," I whisper back to him.
"...not," finishes Keene.
And so we drove down the Strip to let the kids see the flashing lights and scantily clad women on billboards.
I'm not sure why this photo turned out the way it did or what the focus was supposed to be, but it seems to have a glowing...uh...anatomical appendage in the middle of the stripes. Vegas, you slay me.
Finally (finally!) around midnight, we stopped for the night at Hacienda Hotel in Boulder City. We slumped through the casino, to the front desk where Irritating Little Man checked us in to a room. When he gave the price (a grand total of $27), I asked if he accepts cash. Irritating Little Man rolled his eyes and said yes. I handed him a hundred-dollar bill, to which he sighed and said, "Do you have anything smaller?" While the hotel got off to a bad start in my mind, it turned out to be pretty decent, considering the low price. They had a 24-hour cafe and cable, which is like Christmas for our deprived, little kids.
The next morning, we set off for the final part of our drive. I had previously researched the area around the California and Nevada state lines for work, so I was interested to actually see it for myself. And ooh-da-lolly! What a sight it is!
The most important part of this area is its access to Route 66. What's the big deal with this highway? Basically, it was one of the first interstate highways in America. Its designers laid it out in such a way that it would wind through the many small towns dotting the country. It created the culture of road tripping. And for a road trip aficionado, driving on Route 66 is like paying homage.
What you should know before setting out to coast along this highway is that it is damn elusive. Because it has since been decommissioned, there aren't many informational signs to guide you. I knew the highway passed through Barstow, California, but I didn't know where. After a bit of driving back and forth along Main Street, I noticed this:
Tricky, tricky. We were already on it. However, we soon grew confused about which way to go. Because the road faced north and south, rather than east and west, we didn't know which way led to San Diego. So, Route 66-ers, get one of those historical maps you hear about prior to setting out. You will likely need it.
(I have since elaborated on my goal off to the right. Now that I have been on Route 66, I feel like it wasn't enough to fully absorb the culture. But I like checking things off of a list, anyways.)
A hop, skip, and floored gas pedal across the Mojave Desert later and we hit the first sign of civilization: smog. I hadn't realized Southern California had mountains. That is a mountain, right? In the background? Squiiiiiiint. Yes, it must be. Mirages don't usually look so dirty.
Keene is a Californian, though I must elaborate (so that he doesn't read this and point that out and force me to add a Note from the Future) that he is from the northern region. Driving into town, he said, "Californians are actually really good drivers...they're just fast."
On a side note, I no longer trust anything he says.
Note to Californians: the left lane is typically referred to as the "fast lane." This means that when someone wants to go faster than your shiny Mercedes is going, they will merge into the left lane and speed up. I know it is so tempting to be in that lane with the other big boys, but if you are only going 40 mph, please avoid this lane. It is very frustrating always having to pass on the right. Also, the brake pedal is the one on the left. Use it when the car in front of you has abruptly stopped and not when you are trying to scare the tourist driving behind you.
Next up: camping, theme parks, and huge freakin' spiders.