7 years ago today Ian and I stood in a gazebo in 90° heat and said ‘I do’. The sky was azure blue, the sun shone brightly above us and there wasn’t a cloud in sight. There were 3 other people there to share the day with us; a photographer, a videographer and a minister. As we nervously read out loud the vows we had written, we made a promise to love each other unconditionally and always be true.
Although in the early years of our relationship neither of us wanted to get married, we still found ourselves discussing the hypothetical question of what we would do if we changed our minds. The answer was always the same; there would be no fuss, it would be just the two of us and we would go to Las Vegas. I know this isn’t for everyone, but for us it made sense. It wasn’t about anybody else, it was about the two of us making a promise to each other and 7 years into our relationship that’s exactly what we did.
We had no intention of gambling while we were in Vegas so we booked into The Signature; at the time it was one of the only hotels on the strip without a casino. It gave us the luxury we wanted on the first part of our trip and provided us with the facilities that would serve us best; Starbucks and a gym! Whenever we travel anywhere if there isn’t any hiking involved I always make sure we have access to a gym – it’s a must have and a non-negotiable. I had big plans for Vegas, but when I tried to book us in for a show and a night-time helicopter flight, I soon discovered that perhaps I should have booked in advance. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
Our honeymoon was a mini road trip across the West Coast, so after 4 days in Vegas the next stop was the Grand Canyon. It was my first time in America and I was in awe at how big everything was. I couldn’t believe how wide the freeways were compared to the motorways here in the UK, but although the roads were supersized I found them surprisingly easy to navigate. Leaving the freeway I also discovered the novelty of driving an automatic car and setting the cruise control; with the distances we were covering, it came in extremely handy. En route to the Grand Canyon we made an unscheduled stop at Hoover Dam and just as I was discovering with everything in America, size apparently matters. Although we didn’t pay for a tour we still spent about an hour taking in the sights before continuing on our journey.
The hotels inside the Grand Canyon were fully booked so we were staying at The Red Feather Lodge in Tusayan. About 1 mile away from the South Rim, I’d read mixed reviews on Trip Advisor but we didn’t have any issues. The staff were very accommodating and even made suggestions of what time we should head to the park to catch the sunrise; this hadn’t even crossed my mind so I was grateful for the tip! The reviews I read were mainly from people concerned about how run down the place was back then, but if I’m going hiking in the Grand Canyon, luxury isn’t really at the top of my list; a clean bed to rest my head will do fine and that’s exactly what we got.
The next morning, we rose early and headed out to watch the sunrise. I had visions of us sitting there in a hazy morning light as a great fiery ball slowly made its way into the sky. What I hadn’t anticipated was the overcrowded mass of visitors and photographers elbowing each other out of the way to get their tripod in the correct position. Unfortunately 7 years ago I didn’t have the camera skills to correctly capture a sunrise, but even if things had been different I can assure you I would have kept my elbows to myself.
As I sit here looking at photographs I’m reminded of how insignificant I felt. Gazing out across the canyon in all its splendour, I was just a tiny speck and no matter how many photos I took, I couldn’t do it justice; I couldn’t capture the depth and magnificence. It’s something you need to experience in person. As we continued along the trail we found ourselves among a mass of blackened trees that had been struck by lightning and just a short time later we were to experience the canyon’s extreme weather conditions for ourselves. Throughout the day we were met with sun, rain, hailstone, snow and gale force winds blowing sand everywhere; it was crazy. As we battled against whatever elements the canyon threw at us, we played a constant dressing up game of putting clothes on and then taking them off again.
Particularly hungry after our long day, we drove back to Tusayan looking for somewhere to eat; we were pointed in the direction of the Cowboy Steakhouse, the best place in town – apparently. In reality it was grim. Inside it was so dark; it was like someone had forgotten to pay the electricity bill. The food was questionable, the staff were rude and we got shouted at for eating our meal in the wrong order. It was an entertaining night; there was no doubt about that. It also makes me extremely happy that I’m now a vegetarian.
After a good night’s sleep, we woke feeling refreshed ready to start our long drive over to Death Valley……