Mission Accomplished!

After 13 states, 17 interstates, 8 State/National Parks and 6, 426 miles our adventure to California and back was completed! Woo!

Upon exiting the diverse community of Berkeley we also experienced the diversity of California. We passed through impressive mountain ranges (some with glacier ice still visible… in September!), HOT deserts (Death Valley National Park…below Sea Level) and along impressive green valleys (along the side of the Sierras I believe).

I’ll try and hit the highlights of the return trip:

Yosemite Nat’l Park (part 2!)

Well, we discovered that the route through Death Valley and Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon took us back through Yosemite so we had the pleasure of driving all of the way out to Yosemite…again! Fortunately, once we entered the park we got to take a different road and saw an entirely new area of the park which was BEAUTIFUL

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There were gorgeous lakes and the peaks around them still had ice along the ridges. It made for a chilly, pleasant drive as we scooted along south towards a much warmer area of the States… In less than 6 hours we traveled from 10,000 feet elevation to -190 feet below Sea Level!

Death Valley Nat’l Park!

After a number of hours and a lot of declining roads, we approached Death Valley National Park! I wasn’t expecting as many mountains but  I guess you have to have mountains to have a valley… but still it was impressive and hot!

Plus, I think we were the only Americans visiting the area as every other couple or family we saw were speaking another language. Nothing like being a minority in your home country! Still, we enjoyed the drive through the valley seeing random sand dunes and driving below Sea Level. It was hot which I was perfectly content with. Here are two more shots from our time in the real Death Valley!

Okay…so I know that isn’t 2 pictures but I couldn’t decide so oh well…

Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas!

So we did a quick drive through Las Vegas just so we could say, “We’ve been to Las Vegas” and since it was on the way to the Grand Canyon. We wanted to see it at night with all of the lights but didn’t want to arrive at the Grand Canyon at 2AM so late afternoon sounded good for us. It was still cool to see the sites that feature in many movies though. One of my favorite buildings was actually one in construction… apparently it has no plans on finishing anytime soon (check out the picture…)

Then we strolled through the rest finishing up by seeing the famous “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign. Then after about 25 minutes we concluded the world’s quickest tour of Las Vegas. Too bad nothing happened in Vegas that stayed in Vegas while we drove through…

Hoover Dam (the unintentional visit!)

After passing through Las Vegas, we began to see signs for the Hoover Dam. I thought that it would be a side road and out of our way so we opted not to go see it but come to find out that the road we were on was taking us directly to the Hoover Dam so unintentionally, we saw the MASSIVE dam and the marvel of such a large structure built between mountains. WHOA! Plus, they also had weird, green alien statues near the dam which makes me wonder what’s really under the Hoover Dam…

Grand Canyon!

Then one of our major trip destinations had arrived (after 17 LONG hours of driving from California!) We had arrived at the Grand Canyon. Since we got there around 11PM we decided to make camp and then check out the canyon in the morning. We had originally planned to get up for the sunrise…but that didn’t happen. We did however see the sunset and sunrise (the next day) and they were gorgeous! I know this sounds obvious but the Grand Canyon really is quite large!

During our lunch break we overhead a ranger explain the formation of the canyon with the combination of moving tectonic plates, water erosion, mixture of hard and soft rock and something else I can’t remember. But the views were beautiful and with a little bit of hiking, sight-seeing and relaxing, it was a great time altogether! Below are sunset and sunrise shots taken at the GC. The sunrise picture on the right is interesting, as Allison pointed out, because it looks like a nuclear explosion!

Not a Big Fan of Time Zones Anymore…

So driving Westward was great because the Time Zones cut some hours out of our driving…but on the way back it was a different story. Leaving the Grand Canyon we passed through 2 time zones which added 2 hours to our destination arrival (meaning 2 hours less sleep!) We crossed almost the entire width of Arizona and the entire width of New Mexico, a much smaller section of Texas (thank goodness!) and about a third of Oklahoma. What a flat landscape!! I actually thought it was  quite interesting seeing the distinct change between New Mexico and Texas… watch out for that tumbleweed! We finally arrived at our campsite in Red Rock Canyon State Park about 11:15pm at night and we were about ready to sleep! But the drive wasn’t too bad and we even saw the famous “Cadillac Ranch” (although we didn’t know what it was at first!)

Back in the South!

Then with just one final day of 16 hour driving, we arrived back in the South! Nothing better to welcome us than rain and more rain. But we saw a few rainbows (including the end of one!)and I’ve come to realize that Arkansas is actually quite a beautiful state covered in green trees and twisty rivers! But alas, we returned to the South and with all of the traveling (as incredible as it was) I was ready for only 3-4 hour drives to get where I was going…

Clemson Football!

Before returning home, we HAD to make a pit-stop for some college football! (and free tailgate food!) It was great game and I loved that the drive to the game was not 15 hours!

Home Sweet Home!

Finally, after 18 days and over 6,000 miles, I was back home from an excellent adventure across the country and back! Sure, the trip had it’s ups and downs but so does life and the difficult times made the good times even better and to sum up the trip with a quote from one of my favorite movies, Into the Wild, “Happiness is real only when it’s shared.”

Mpaka wakati halafu…

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