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Posts Tagged ‘Dollar car hire’


“Road Trip” – is there another phrase that better exemplifies the heart of the American experience? Apple pie perhaps? Have a nice day? Manifest destiny? No, none of those come close to capturing the same sense of freedom and adventure that is synonymous with the American Dream.

Well, dear reader, as you are a valued friend, I am inviting you to join my wife and I on our very own road trip of the American southwest over the next three weeks. Come with us as we criss-cross five states (Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico) and three time zones.

We’ll hear the siren song  of the slots in Vegas casinos, listen to the mournful wail of country music radio as we glide the endless highways, and gasp at massive, multi-coloured incisions in the earth’s surface.

We’ll meet peoples from the rich diversity of American culture, including Mormons and Native Americans.

We’ll take juddering jeep trips with Indian guides into the heart of their reservation where we will purchase Navajo and Zuni jewellery.

We’ll stand at the only point on the North American continent where four states intersect, and have our photo taken like the dutiful tourists (I prefer the word travellers) we are.

We’ll eat at authentic cantinas and  tacquerias and sleep in beds where once slumbered the the Hollywood stars of yesteryear.

We’ll even find ourselves standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, waiting, or at least I will, for a girl in a flat bed Ford to slow down and take a look at me.

The itinerary?

I write this in our hotel (Mandalay Bay) room where we spent last night after a tortuous 15 hours on a Virgin Atlantic plane and equally frustrating wait in line for the car hire. But a fine meal and live swing band in The House of Blues, followed by a solid night’s sleep, has us ready for the road this morning.

Today we drive to Hurricane, Utah for two nights, the base for our exploration of Zion National Park. We then move on to Panguitch, Utah, close to Bryce Canyon for a further two nights. Staying at Page, Arizona for another two nights will enable us to visit Lake Powell and Glen and Antelope Canyons.

The highlight will be our trip to Monument Valley in the heart of the Navajo Nation, iconic location of so many westerns directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne.  A stay in Kayenta, Arizona that night will predate two nights in Moab, Utah, our base for Arches and Canyonlands national parks.

On the premise that we will be “red rocked out” by then, and that our hiking boots might have earned a rest, we will wind down a little at this roughly mid point. The sightseeing will become more leisurely as we move on to Durango, Colorado and then into New Mexico for stays in Santa Fe (two nights), Albuquerque and Gallup before driving Route 66 to Flagstaff, Arizona.

A two night stop there in which we will “pop over” to Sedona and the long drive back to Vegas, sixteen days after we left it, for the final four nights, the second of which will be my sixtieth birthday.

The rigours of the road will dictate whether we might take short detours to Los Alamos, New Mexico and the Mesa Verde National Monument.

Sounds fun?

So jump in the back seat of the car, tip your hat over your face, but not before grabbing a couple of Buds (or rather Sierra Nevada or Anchor Steam beers), kick off your cowboy boots, sing along to Hank Williams and Toby Keith, and enjoy the ride. It’ll be a blast!

Time to head out on the highway.

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I need hardly start with an account of the weather.  Despite repeated warnings of rain this was yet another bright, clear day.  Equally predictably, we would have had a long wait for the MUNI bus on Fulton had we not decided to press on by foot.  At Scott we mounted the steps into Alamo Square where, not for the first time, we marvelled at the very San Franciscan dog play area in the park.  One of our guides on Janet’s birthday bus tour had informed us that there were more dogs in the city than children, and we have no reason to dispute that assertion.  Moreover, they are treated royally, not only with their grooming parlours, retail stores and cemeteries but this lush spot of green and glade.  And how they seemed to enjoy the privilege!  There must have been at least 20 cavorting and canoodling whilst their owners caught up on the local gossip.

Cutting back onto Hayes we caught a no.21 bus to Powell and Market where we waited for a cable car.  We mounted a Powell and Hyde car this time, disembarking at the top of “the crookedest street” on Lombard.  With this being our llast full day we were unashamedly being “touristy”, walking, rather than driving, down the street and into North Beach.

Taking one last look at, and photo of, Club Fugazi, home of the wonderful Beach Blanket Babylon, we walked onto Columbus Avenue searching for a lunch venue.  We eventually tried Caffe Puccini, and a good choice it was as both my chicken foccacia and Janet’s eggplant sandwich testified.

We strolled back through Grant Avenue in Chinatown, where Janet committed an uncharacteristic extravagance by buying a lovely set of matching turquoise bracelet, earrings and necklace, though she did balance the books somewhat by purchasing just one pair of shoes at DSW Shoes in Union Square.  Whilst she was drooling over her favourite San Francisco store I slipped into the Rasputin record store a few doors down Powell and bought, after negotiating the bizarre lift from the second to fourth floor, Jefferson Airplane‘s Thirty Seconds over Winterland and a New Riders of the Purple Sage DVD and CD package.

We caught the F Streetcar back from Powell (the one from Milan which has a really interesting interior) to Fisherman’s Wharf in oder to collect the car we had hired from Dollar for our final 24 hours in San Francisco.

But first we were both in need of a cold drink, and not just any cold drink but one from Starbucks.  Now, I am not the company’s greatest fan – I find the coffee too weak and milky – but I love their cold concotions, especially a coffee frappuccino, though, having sampled Janet’s strawberry smoothie on this occasion, I might be converted.

We picked up the car and returned to the apartment to finish packing (Janet) and complete the day’s diary entry (me), before getting ready to go out for our final meal.  Last year, when we stayed in Hayes Valley, we had intended to frequent Hayes Street Grill but never did.  We made up for this time and, arriving after the ballet crowd had left, we found it quiet, well apart from the two couples on the adjoining table who were American equivalents of what we call in Britain “hooray Henrys”.  It was worth the wait, however, and certainly one of the best meals of the vacation. 

Janet had warm goat cheese salad with toasted pecans followed by Mexican sierra, a meaty white fish, with fries and sechzuan peanut sauce, whilst I had wild Half Moon Bay smoked salmon with cucumber salad and creme fraiche followed by grilled local fish (I can’t recall the name of it) with fried and lemon and caper butter.  We were saved the 20 minute walk up the hill by our good friend the no.21 MUNI bus.  Garbage duty was our final act on our last night in the apartment.

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