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Old 24th January 2016, 11:29   #1
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Default Winter visit to the Grand Canyon - A day trip

What is Grand Canyon?
As most bhpians already know, the Grand Canyon is a canyon carved out by the Colorado river in the state of Arizona, USA. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world. Most people visiting Vegas make it a point to make a trip to the Grand Canyon.

How did we decide on it?
My wife & I were recently on a vacation to the United States. The plan was to stay with my brother and sis-in-law in Atlanta for 11 days and then tour the country for another 11 days. The initial plan was to make a family trip to Miami for 3 days and celebrate the new year. Unfortunately due to work my brother would not be able to make it hence, we dropped that plan. We then decided that we will leave from Atlanta a day earlier and try to squeeze in another city/destination. I kept looking at the itinerary prepared. We had planned on Las Vegas from 10th- 12th January. My wife had just spoken with a friend who suggested her to visit Grand Canyon. She just made a passing comment about this. It immediately struck to me that a day trip can be done from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon. With this the Vegas plan changed to 9th-12th January with one day in the middle for Grand Canyon.

Logisitics
Now the most important thing was planning how to visit the canyon. Everybody knows that unlike India, the US has very limited long distance public transport options. I had lot of apprehensions about renting a car in a foreign country. Having driven in India for a decade, I did not feel confident about driving at higher speeds. Moreover, I had a booklet DL with me which would not be accepted. It seemed like I did not have enough time to get it converted into a card type DL. I used this as an excuse to hide my doubts and started looking for bus tours to the grand canyon. I found some options like Viator but I was not convinced. I sat on it for about 10 days and wasted valuable time. Suddenly, I had this urge from within that if so many people can do it, I can also do it. I have been driving a car for a decade. I can definitely do it. Now the big challenge was to get the booklet DL issued in Mysore to be converted to a card DL issued in Bangalore. I got this done through an agent and I received my DL on 10th December which was very fast. I informed my brother in Atlanta that I will be renting a car from Vegas to Grand Canyon. He asked me to wait and do the booking when we get to Atlanta. I finally booked a Chevy Cruze through Avis for the 10th of January morning 7:30am. Hence, a road trip to Grand Canyon was in the coming

10th January: Las Vegas to Grand Canyon
I had made a booking for 7:30am from the McCarran rent a car center (near the airport). Took an RTC bus from the hotel to the airport and then the Avis shuttle to the car pick up point. It was already 8:20am by the time we reach there. All the formalities get done and I get upgraded to a Nissan Rogue. There was a lot of anxiety and fear about driving a large car in a new place.

We get the GPS prepared and we start by 9am. Already delayed by an hour. As I pick up speed and burn miles and fuel fast, I start developing confidence. In about an hour or so all the fear is gone and I started enjoying the drive. The route is extremely scenic. Bulk of the driving is on US-93 and I-40.

Winter visit to the Grand Canyon - A day trip-20160110_091931.jpg
Winter visit to the Grand Canyon - A day trip-20160110_091948.jpg
Winter visit to the Grand Canyon - A day trip-20160110_092020.jpg

We had decided that we will stop for breakfast only after I get confident with the driving since we will need to take the exit and then again enter the freeway. After about 90 minutes of driving we decide to have breakfast at a McDonalds by taking exit 53 (if I remember correctly). We had a rather unhealthy breakfast of burgers and fries. I also tank up the car as I had read that the road to GC has few gas stations (This is actually not true. There is only one stretch of 53 miles which has no gas stations). This costed me $9 (2.25 per gallon).

Winter visit to the Grand Canyon - A day trip-20160110_120928_1.jpg

This break turns out to be really long. We spent about 60-70 minutes here. We are then back on US-93S doing about 65-70mph. After quite sometime, we get onto I-40E. The speed limit now increase to 75mph. I step on the gas and raise to about 80mph. It was quite new & thrilling to drive hundreds of miles at such speeds. This is a very long drive of about 120mph.

Winter visit to the Grand Canyon - A day trip-20160110_125504.jpg
Winter visit to the Grand Canyon - A day trip-20160110_125510.jpg

As you drive and go higher, the terrain starts to change from dry to snow covered. We start wondering whether we have made some mistake and are travelling to the north rim (That would be a disaster since it is closed now).

Winter visit to the Grand Canyon - A day trip-20160110_135302_1.jpg
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Winter visit to the Grand Canyon - A day trip-20160110_133041_1.jpg

After about 120miles on the I-40, we need to take exit 165 to Grand Canyon. This will be via the route 66. Now this is a single carriageway (2-lane) road. The speed limits here vary between 45-65mph. Even though it is a single lane you would almost never need to overtake another vehicle as everyone is fast. This road will lead you straight to the Grand Canyon National Park entrance. Here we paid $30 as entrance fee. This is per vehicle and not for each person. From here in about 5 miles we reach the parking lot.

Winter visit to the Grand Canyon - A day trip-20160110_150655_1.jpg

The moment we step out of the car we realize how cold it was. It might have easily been -10 to -15 degrees. We wear all the winter clothing we had and started walking towards the rim. On enquiring with the staff, they directed us to the viewpoint. The view was really mesmerizing.

Winter visit to the Grand Canyon - A day trip-20160110_152800.jpg
Winter visit to the Grand Canyon - A day trip-20160110_152222.jpg

We spent about 2 hours at the Grand Canyon and took several pictures of the amazing place. There were several other tourists and we got them to click our photos apart the selfies that we took. .

Winter visit to the Grand Canyon - A day trip-20160110_151613.jpg
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Winter visit to the Grand Canyon - A day trip-20160110_164806_1.jpg

After enjoying ourselves, we decide to leave before sunset. We get started on the rather uneventful return journey.

Winter visit to the Grand Canyon - A day trip-20160110_171957.jpg
Winter visit to the Grand Canyon - A day trip-20160110_171953.jpg
Winter visit to the Grand Canyon - A day trip-20160110_171944.jpg

While returning we took much lesser time to reach Las Vegas. After exiting I-40 and then onto US-93, I make a mistake. I was driving in the right lane and talking with wife. By mistake, instead of continuing straight I coolly take the exit and end up on highway 68. I panicked a bit. Then I pullover near an ATM, and then come back on the correct route to merge onto US-93. This was the only time I had an issue with the driving. We again stopped for dinner at the same McDonald's and eat the same burger and fries. I also refuel a little to take me to the destination without needing another refuelling and leaving as little fuel as possible. I still feel I could have saved 4-5 bucks by fuelling less. By about 9:30pm we reach the rental cars return. Checkout is extremely fast and we get the next shuttle to the airport. We pick the wrong shuttle which takes us to Terminal3. The return bus was to be from terminal 1. We then reach T3 and take the airport shuttle to T1. From here we again catch the bus and get back to the hotel. With that an exciting trip came to an end. We came back with lots of stories and photos to share. I also gained a lot of confidence in myself that I do drive pretty well. I have attached the route that I used for reference.

Winter visit to the Grand Canyon - A day trip-capture.jpg
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Old 24th January 2016, 13:13   #2
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Default Re: Winter visit to the Grand Canyon - A day trip

Congratulations on overcoming your anxiety and driving in the US. I had the same anxiety and did not drive on my 20+ visits. It was only this year in May, that i started driving. Once you overcome your initial uneasiness, it is quite easy. The hard part is reading the signs, since we are not used to in India.
Good report and photographs. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 24th January 2016, 16:15   #3
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Default Re: Winter visit to the Grand Canyon - A day trip

Lovely report and good photos. Reminded me a lot of my own two day trip (with my brother as the principal driver) to Grand Canyon and Vegas. We went ex-Phoenix and it was also in December, second weekend, but back in 2003. Thanks for sharing.

p.s. meant to ask, is the skywalk operational? Did you go on it?
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Old 25th January 2016, 08:55   #4
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Default Re: Winter visit to the Grand Canyon - A day trip

Quote:
Originally Posted by earthian View Post
The hard part is reading the signs, since we are not used to in India.
This is exactly what I felt. We always need to be on the lookout for "Stop" signs and then yielding at intersections etc. was new to me. I try to be a disciplined driver in India but it does not always work out.


Quote:
Originally Posted by vaibhav_a_a View Post
p.s. meant to ask, is the skywalk operational? Did you go on it?
I did not go on the skywalk. I guess it is closer to Vegas. May be in the north rim? A cousin told me not to visit it as it is a waste of time and they do not even allow photographs.
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