Where I’ve Been: Somewhere in the Southwest

A road trip is a strange and wonderful kind of thing – the open road, a killer playlist, sunshine streaming through the windows of a car packed full of laughter and adventure and, or course, the opportunity to face at least one disgusting gas station bathroom. Okay, so it isn’t all rainbows and kittens (well, actually there were kittens, but I’ll get to them later).

Andy and I, neither one of one to ever turn down a trip, quickly agreed to one last winter when our friends Chris and Ali invited us on a drive to Austin, TX and back. Then we thought, “that’s a whole lot of driving,” so instead we just flew to Austin, said a quick hello to Andy’s brother and family and joined our friends for the return portion of their trip.

Road trip companions

It’s only now that I realize I don’t have a single picture of us in the car on our road trip. But anyway, here’s the whole gang.

Initially, we had grand plans. We were going to see Roswell, NM and do the whole kitschy alien-tourism thing; we were going to see the Grand Canyon and do the whole marvel at nature thing, and we were going to see the Hoover Dam and do the whole see electricity being made thing. But for various reasons, some of that didn’t pan out – which was okay, because sometimes the best sights are not the ones written up in a million guide books.

First we lost Roswell. It was a timing thing and no one cared all that much.

Instead what we did in New Mexico was stop to throw rocks at the desert and then turn back to the road to completely lock eyes with a terrifying-looking inmate on a transport bus. I kid you not, it was a Hollywood lock eyes kind of moment and if I’ve learned anything from the movies, I’m pretty sure that man will come back into play at some point during my life to terrorize me.

New Mexico - guys throwing rocks

I don’t have a picture of the prisoner but his image will forever be ingrained on my mind. Instead here’s one of the guys throwing rocks at the desert – back when we were blissfully unaware that some serial killer was about to mark us for death.

Up next, after a night in Las Cruces and a night outside Phoenix, we headed up toward the Hoover Dam and Las Vegas. On a side note, if you should find yourself planning a road trip, it makes the trip far more comfortable to go with companions who have friendly relatives with lovely guest rooms along the way.

It was on the next leg of the trip that we lost the Grand Canyon due to an elevation issue and the fact that one of us would quite literally keel over at such heights. No joke, it’s serious stuff – I do have to wonder why that particular friend would not have researched such a grave issue beforehand though. (Chris, any thoughts?)

So we continued onward toward the Hoover Dam but on the way found this town.

The burst setting allowed us to actually get a shot of all of us in the air at once while jumping for nothing in Nothing, AZ on a road trip last winter.

Jumping for nothing in Nothing, AZ. How did I manage to get this shot when clearly all four of us are in the shot and in the air? Find out here.

It was outside of Nothing that things got a little hairy. Here’s the thing about a modern road trip: you still need some things that aren’t so modern. I had dismissed the idea of buying a paper road map because in the age of smart phones and Google Maps, who needs them? Being from an urban area, I always forget that not all places have coverage. When traveling internationally I remember that I’ll have to rely on public Wi-Fi (or “wee-fee” as they say in Spanish-speaking countries) but here in the US, armed with my grandfathered-in unlimited data plan, it just didn’t cross my mind.

Without a tangible map, if you don’t save an offline version of your route (which I did not) it becomes a guessing game. So we did what anyone would do, we veered off the main road because, why the hell not, and after about 20 minutes of driving we found this sign:

Pavement ends sign

Sense of adventure? Check. Full tank of gas? Umm… let’s go with check.

So what happens then? Well, if the person driving happens to be a guy named Chris who is a stop and-turn-around-for-nothing kind of guy, you just keep on going past that sign. This also could, in part, be due to the fact that even though I’ve never had anything close to a photographic memory, I might have told everyone that I was, like, 99% sure that the last time I’d had service I’d seen that this road did eventually meet up with a bigger one.

So we kept going on the sans-pavement road and then, just for a second, I got cell service. It was just long enough to spot a funky grid pattern just beyond a nearby hill and we all decide it was imperative to do a little off-road investigating. As it turns out, whatever Google Maps was showing was nonexistent and we really just found more desert. That’s when we built our own version of Stonehenge – hoping that someday, someone with a similar sense of adventure might find it and be completely confused.

Arizona Stonehenge

It’s possible that our version might be a little smaller than the real thing.

Eventually we made it to the Hoover Dam and then up to Las Vegas.

Hoover Dam pet sign.

This caption is courtesy of Chris: Don’t put your dog on the dam! Unless its a service dog…then go crazy.

The next road trip randomness happened when we were driving along on this road…


And then Bam! In the middle of nowhere we found an the Amargosa Opera House. Seriously, it was the middle of nowhere. Play around with that map right there, look back, click forward… there’s really nothing except an opera house.

This is made even crazier because we happen to be traveling with Ali, who happens to be a an actual opera singer. No joke! It was just so deliciously random!

Ali with the Opera House

At the time she was sleeping peacefully in the backseat but we just had to wake her up so she could be in this picture. Totally worth it.

We felt like we were back in the olden days. Not only because we were in the wild west but also because we found an opera house in the middle of nowhere and we couldn’t Google it to find out more. I blame all the current technology for this kind of overwhelming and impatient curiosity – it nearly killed me. However, once we reached an area that Verizon deemed important enough to provide service to, we found out a bit about its history. Also apparently it looks like this on the inside:

Amargosa Opera House

We didn’t go in but maybe we should have tried; it looks pretty cool for the middle of nowhere. CC Image courtesy of arno gourdol on Flickr.

Overall, it was a good road trip. We drank copious amounts of caffeine, sang loudly to random radio songs and made up silly car ride games about kittens from space… or maybe they were earth kittens but just traveling to outer space… the whole thing was very confusing (see, I told you there were kittens involved). So despite having to face a few gross gas station bathrooms, the trip was a total success. FYI, despite their nastiness, the bathrooms did indeed have toilet seats – the mystery remains unsolved.

Here’s a couple more of my favorite pics from the trip:

Cacti posing

Cacti BFFs. Too cute.

Death Valley

Holy cow death valley was beautiful!

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4 responses to “Where I’ve Been: Somewhere in the Southwest

  1. I wonder how often there are performances at that opera house. How bizarre that it’s in the middle of nowhere!

  2. Pingback: Travel Fail: The one where I compare drinking tequila to traveling | See Jules Travel·

  3. Pingback: Where I’ve Been: Dubai Fountain vs. Bellagio Fountain | See Jules Travel·

  4. Pingback: Travel Fail: Phantom blog posts | See Jules Travel·

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