Grand Canyon: Long road, lonely road

At the end of my business trip to Las Vegas, Chelsea and I made the long drive out to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. I thought it was crazy talk before we got out there, driving five hours each way to see the big hole in the ground. Chelsea had a good point, though – Vegas was much closer to the Canyon than Philadelphia. Besides, she’s wanted to see it all her life.

Off we went.

The South Rim is 150 miles (240 km) from the Vegas Strip as the crow flies, but we’re not crows. Because of the contours of the Canyon itself, you have to drive below its southern edge, then east for a stretch, before coming back north to the spot on the South Rim where the Parks Service set up shop so many years ago. Just outside Vegas along this barren route, you come across the Hoover Dam.

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It used to be the case that all traffic between Vegas and Arizona went across the top of the dam, but post-9/11 security concerns drove the government to build a bypass bridge downstream. This new bridge is higher than the New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia, which was previously the highest span in the US.

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Getting out to the Hoover Dam now requires you to pass through a security inspection on your way in. They don’t want you to have any fun once you get there, either:

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We didn’t take a tour of the Dam’s innards, opting instead to get back on the road and keep going. I’m sure the inside is even more impressive than the outside. We just felt that, well, the Grand Canyon was our real destination.

The highways leading into the Grand Canyon take you through desolate mountains and scrub, punctuated by occasional mile marker signs to the big destination:

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We really have nothing back East that compares with the sere beauty of the Arizona landscape. It was a completely new experience for me.

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