Tuesday, 29 April 2014

On driving and Monument Valley: America 2014; Part 2

When I told people that I would be driving in America they invariably thought I had mental problems. I can see their point, after all I’d only just re-learned to drive in the last year after not having driven since the day I’d passed my test 13 years before and I still don’t own a car over here. In fact I’ve only driven 3 times on the motorway since re-learning.

I swept everyone’s concerns aside…

Until about a week before we went on holiday and I suddenly realized what I was proposing to do. The first leg of our road trip was around 300 miles from Phoenix up to Monument Valley on the Arizona/Utah border. Not a little pootle round the streets.

I was going to be driving on the wrong side of the road. On the wrong side of the car. On strange roads. With different rules. And I was the only one responsible for driving because The Person can’t drive.

We were almost definitely going to die.

I do have a whole post that I could, and probably will, write about driving in America as opposed to driving in the UK but I guess that ultimately driving is driving, no matter what side of the car or road you’re on.

Our trip out of Phoenix went as smoothly as could be. We enjoyed the changing landscape which went from cacti to forests of pine trees to red rocks to completely empty barren moonscapes which caused me major feelings of anxiety. I began to have images flashing through my head of The Person and I stranded in the middle of nowhere with condors feasting upon our flesh.

Some of those roads were pretty lonely let me tell you. It is impossible to get that feeling of expansion in the UK because it’s just not big enough, there are too many of us on this little island. But out in the middle of Arizona where there’s nothing but nature out there and no other cars on the road you start to feel ever so slightly insignificant.

Especially when you realize that you are literally the only person on the road.

How do you know that? Because America is the land of the Ridiculously Straight Road. As in straight ahead of you until you can see no more. As in you don’t really need to touch the steering wheel. As in you turn on to the freeway and the sat nav says to you “Continue on the current road for 160 miles. Then, turn left.” As in, it’s ever so slightly dangerous to forget that you’re driving and let your concentration wander…

Back to the story.

As I said, our first day of road tripping was taking us out to Monument Valley and was the tourist destination that I had picked out when we first started planning our trip. I was determined to go and see it because it was so iconic but then I started to worry because, you know, it’s so iconic.

I had visions of us turning up and going “Oh yeah, it looks just like it does when you get glimpses of it behind Kim and Kanye on that motorbike”.*

This was not helped by the fact that as we got closer to Monument Valley we also drove in to a pretty intense wind that was making driving a little less fun and the view a lot more obscured by sand.

Like, a lot.

When we eventually pulled into the car park I got out of the car, keen to stretch my legs and immediately had my sunglasses whipped off my face by the 50mph winds. I was definitely beginning to regret my decision.

We were staying in The View Hotel which is the only hotel based in Monument Valley. Only three storeys high, all the rooms face out into the Valley offering amazing views and for a very small amount extra you can choose a room on the top floor which allows you to look out on to the stars in the evening with no balcony from the room above obscuring your view.

I’d read all this on the website and thought “Yeah, ok, brilliant, sign me up.”

But no amount of reading and no amount of seeing pictures of Monument Valley prepared me for the actual view that greeted us when we stepped out on to our balcony…

Even that photo isn’t doing it justice.

We decided to get up to see the sun rise over the Valley. Fortunately for me no alarm clock was needed as I was still having issues adjusting to the time difference and was finding myself wide awake at around 5am each morning. I waited and waited as quietly as I could until I thought it was acceptable to start pushing and pulling on The Person to wake up and see the magical sunrise.

Hey guess what? When the sun hasn’t risen in Monument Valley in March it is fricking freezing. Like actual freezing. Phoenix might be there all smug in its 30 degree heat but up there on the border it is no joke. We wrapped ourselves in blankets that kept giving us electric shocks and tried and failed to operate the coffee machine in the room [side note: no hotel room in America has a kettle, they have fancy coffee makers. Not that it matters because half the time they don’t give you teabags. WHAT?!] and sat there freezing our behinds off as the sun slowly rose. It was beautiful. It really was. 

But mostly it was cold.

We thought about taking a tour right into the Valley. It is possible to drive around but it recommends taking 4 wheel drive cars and I wasn’t about to risk Chad, our rental car that I’d already grown close to, and, much as I’ve spoken about how awesome it is to see – you know, sometimes a rock is a rock is a rock. Plus it would have taken the best part of another day and we had the next day of our road trip to get ahead of us….

[To be continued…]

*Don't know what I'm on about. Go and watch this video. It's so awful it's brilliant. No. Wait. It's just awful.


  1. Oh wow, those photos are amazing, though. I've always wanted to do the roadtrip thing across America. (You know, not the scary Hills Have Eyes type of one, though).

  2. Those photos are incredible, looks like you had a great adventure. Probably a good thing you weren't driving up here in michigan what with all the idiots on the road and Michigan lefts at certain intersections!

  3. It looks amazing. Good for you going for it with the driving. Looking forward to the next instalment.

  4. This looks INCREDIBLE, Mark and I are planning a road trip around the US at some point, it's just difficult to choose where to go!

    Maria xxx

  5. wow, Monument Valley looks phenomenal (but very cold).
    Looking forward to hearing more, I know precious little about America really x

  6. If those pics don't do it justice, then I NEED to visit Monument Valley, it looks bloody gorgeous.

    Also, the wrong side of the car/road thing, I kind think it's easier to get your head around that in heavy traffic. The US, as you say, super straight, super easy, but you also have time to think about everything. I did a bit of driving in Valencia, and there's nothing like the Spanish trying to kill you to instill a 'don't think, just do' situation.


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