Free and easy down the road we go

Being as knackered as we were, has its pros. When you start counting 7-8 hours of sleeping starting at 9.00 pm, you’ll end up waking up somewhere around 4.00/5.00 am. Basically, just like any other trip, I woke up way too early. Count me in around 5.00 am. Luckily, this time, I wasn’t the only one who was dealing with this temporary affliction. To get to the point: the four of us were in the pool around 6.00/6.30 am. We went down for a dip, showered and packed all before the clock hit 8.00 am. The pros, the pros. Around 9.00 am we were in Walmart, stocking up our mini-van with breakfast and goodies for the road and ranch. We ate in style: in the back of our trusty Nissan Quest aka the car with the princess seats.

After a quick stop at the hotel to check out, Yvonne drove the first leg of this day journey. First planned stop: Joshua Tree National Park. Yet the best thing about travelling is that you see all these little and sometimes awesome stores along the road. After driving for 15 minutes top, we came across this western wear store. A stop was in order. These stores are a piece of heaven. The Netherlands lacks these kinds of shops.

Moving on, we drove up north to Yucca Valley and the the Northwestern entrance of Joshua Tree. After a stop at the visitors center to buy our annual National Park pass (and souvenir shopping – I couldn’t resist), we entered the park. Now I reckon that some of you might think why we’d be buying a pass that’s valid for a year, when we’re just there for two weeks. I have three words for you: it is cheaper. For each park you have to pay an entrance fee. Depending on how you enter the park, the fees vary. An example: during our trip, we had planned to go to four National Parks. Our group consisted of four people and car. The fee for a vehicle containing up to four persons was applicable to us.

Joshua Tree $25
Petrified Forest $20
Grand Canyon $30
Death Valley $25
Total $100
Annual Pass $80

It might be twenty bucks, but you’d never know. Some of us might be going again before May next year.

Considering we didn’t have all the time of the world (we still had to drive to Phoenix, AZ), Barker Dam, Skull Rock and the Cholla Garden were on our list for the day. While driving through the park, you get the general idea of what Joshua Tree is about. It’s a desert area (Colorado and Mojave) that’s either packed with joshua trees and huge rocks and boulders or pretty much empty with small bushes and some cacti.

Starting north, the rocky part in the Mojave desert were the first we passed. Along the road we sometimes made some small stops to take some photos. Our first big stop was at the parking near Barker Dam. Compared to last year, it was deserted. I don’t know why it was so busy last year in April or why it might have been a slow weekend this time around, but there were almost no people to be seen.

Geared up with sun screen and water, we started our little hike towards the dam and the water it could be holding. It all looked more beautiful than it did last year. Whether it’s the fact that it wasn’t clouded this time around or that we were there in May instead of April? It just looked amazing and so peaceful and serene. There even was more water in the lake and we were lucky enough to see a coyote calmly walk around with a prey in its mouth as if it was the only creature around. It officially started our wild life count: #1: coyote.

After the Barker Dam, we made a quick stop near Skull Rock to take some photos before driving to the exit via the Cholla Garden. Of course we meet people from Tilburg at the latter. The Dutch seem to be everywhere.

Yvonne drove till the exit of the park and from there, I started to drive to Phoenix, AZ. Last year, I didn’t have my driver’s license yet, so naturally, I wasn’t allowed to drive. I have to admit, it’s quite cool to drive around in the USA. Although I didn’t drive the busy parts, the fact that most cars aren’t stick, is another peace of heaven. I know how to drive stick, I don’t mind to be in them, but I prefer their counterpart. So during my first drive in the USA, which consisted of covering 230 miles of the I-10 (interstate 10), I also rode a greater distance, than I have driven in the Netherlands in total since getting my license. I love my bike. I don’t really need a car at home.

There aren’t many differences in the traffic rules and regulations in the USA, except for a few. Those are, however, easy to adjust to. Perhaps in some cases, I’d prefer the USA way over the Dutch (and perhaps even the European) way. For example:

  • You are allowed to turn right on red, unless it’s stated otherwise.
  • In the USA you pass cars by holding your lane. Cars may be passing you on both sides compared to only the left.
  • You don’t have to yield to cars coming from the right on intersection. The person that’s on the intersection first, goes first, then the second etc. Quite handy to be honest.
  • The best thing about US driving yet! The stop lights are on the other side of the road. Aka tall people don’t have trouble seeing them. Sometimes I can’t see the traffic light when I’m driving in the Netherlands, because it is conveniently placed somewhere above me when I’m first in line.

Nevertheless, we made it to Phoenix alive and well around 7.00 pm. We checked in this amazing hotel Kelly had arranged for us! We got our keys for our rooms and when entering the room, there were goody bags! Since we’d going to a ranch later on during our travels and we weren’t able to bring all necessary camping gear, Kelly had brought us some. It was a nice surprise.

On our way to the hotel, we had seen a Pizzahut. We went to grab a bite there, before going back to hotel to sleep. We were once again knackered, which isn’t strange since we woke up to early. I blame the time difference, although somehow I consider this a pro in that department.

Sophie Written by:

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