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    From Grand Canyon to Los Angeles: the race around beauty

    Who I am
    Joel Fulleda

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    The last days of our American journey carry within them the embryo of a nostalgia that will last a long time: nostalgia for what? Etymologically, it is the pain of returning home. But can America be a home? Not for us, who have seen it change dramatically from landscape to landscape, from glimpse to glimpse, at an average speed of 70 miles, barely tasting it, forced to rob it in a short time, to plunder it with our eyes. It cannot be a home, as America is irrepressible, in a certain sense absolute, a place where one can only have faith. The nostalgia that one feels by eating the last kilometers of asphalt is linked to the intangible core of this experience, as if our continuous movement were a form of desperate race around the beauty that, layer by layer, unfolds, hiding more and more the point. of origin. We will have nostalgia for that point that has not been reached, and not for all that we have devoured.


    • 28 settembre: Grand Canyon, Bedrock City, Williams
    • 29 settembre: Oatman, Needles
    • 30 settembre – 1 ottobre:  Mojave Desert, Barstow, Pasadena, Los Angeles, Hollywood, Mulholland Drive
    • October 2: Orange, Disneyland
    • October 3 - a trip to the Pacific: Manhattan Beach and back

    28 settembre: Grand Canyon, Bedrock City, Williams

    It could be said that September 28 is the last day for us in contact with the incredible "natural proposal" of Western America: leaving behind us the expanses of red rock of Monument Valley, we will go towards the Grand Canyon South Kidney, last stop before returning to the civilized world of the big cities: Los Angeles awaits us. The journey between Kayenta and the park entrance offers our eyes the usual, great variety of landscapes, and a small novelty: the constant presence of the life of the Navajo Indians. It is not difficult to see them lurking on the roadside, with their ancient faces and long hair blowing in the wind, looking for a passage to the rare inhabited centers of this area. In the distance, their homes can be seen: shacks, campers, often left in disastrous conditions, signs of an authentic life and a lively tradition, albeit put to the test by time and history.

    After about forty miles, the road begins to rise: the landscape changes again, the vegetation thickens, the geology changes rapidly, the temperature drops. It seems incredible (or maybe not that much), but when we get out of the car, after an hour of travel, we have to put on a sweatshirt and an anorak. Already along the way, moving our gaze to our right, we had guessed what the natural spectacle that awaited us could be, since we were already following, from the top of the road, the course of the Little Colorado River, and his excavation work was imposed on us.

    But what you see from the viewpoints of the desert view it is beyond words: an immense gorge dug deep and strewn with crevasses and chasms, a scar of the earth that allows man to get into dizzying contact with the effects of the passage of time, the extent of each geological era. As soon as we arrive at the reception center, we head and get on Desert View Overlook, an Indian-style observation tower that allows us to dominate the incredible landscape. Our tour, from here on, will be by car: follow my advice, stop along the dense series of points of view and, if you don't suffer from vertigo, venture along the paths that start from there. At the exact halfway point, you will also find the Tusayan Museum, a small free museum, surrounded by the ruins of the first homes of the Navajo Indians: we recommend you take a tour, it won't take long.

    The mountain forests that you will see flowing to your left as you walk along the Desert view are teeming with life and, if you pay attention, you may encounter deer and fawns trying to cross the road, to go and nibble some roots. Our journey ends at Grand Canyon Visitor Center, where we refresh ourselves and buy some gadgets in the well-stocked market. With more time available, we could have ventured, using the special bus service, to l’Hopi Point and Hermit’s Rest, but we decide to continue on our way, satisfied with the grandeur of nature and indeed a little cold.

    On the way to Williams However, a pleasant surprise awaits us: just before the town, we notice a clearing with a large billboard that reads: “Yabba-Dabba-Doo Welcome”, and next to it a giant Fred Flinstones. At first glance, we decide to ignore this call from our childhood but then we regret it and, literally, we make a U-turn down the Highway (don't do it, if it's not necessary…!) And go back. Well, with a paltry 5 bucks, we visited Bedrock City, the town of Fred and Barney!

    Williams, the town where we will rest before leaving for Los Angeles, is a real gem. After Kayenta, we never expected to arrive in such a quaint and lively center, ideal for sleeping in the Grand Canyon area. In addition to the old train that takes you to the Grand Canyon, the main point of interest is undoubtedly the Route 66: for the first time, the tires of our Cadillac engrave their mark on this historic road, given that Williams is the last city it touched before the sale. You cannot give up taking a tour along the main street, where you can breathe a cinematic atmosphere in its own way: the unmissable Cruisers Café 66 (233 Historic Route 66, Williams) where you can eat a proper burger, the shops selling expensive leather goods, the souvenir shops full of California and Arizona license plates, T-shirts, posters and memorabilia that convey an "American atmosphere" ”, Very beat and really engaging even if a little touristy compared to other less traveled towns on Route 66.

    All accommodations available in Williams

    29 settembre: Oatman, Needles

    When you think that you have seen everything about America, you sin of presumption, and it is not advisable to challenge the United States when it comes to surprises. Small introduction to the stage of September 29: during our trip, the rest in the motel was the moment in which, destroyed by the journey, we took advantage of it to get back in touch with the old continent. We enjoyed curating a travel diary on Facebook, just to inflame the envy of friends and family, but we realized we weren't the only ones. There was also a contact of mine (I only knew him virtually) who was making more or less our journey - but in the opposite direction - at the same time.

    This one, in sweet company, was Silvano Martini, a very Tuscan, well-known rock expert, almost a legend of the places where quality concerts are held in Florence and surroundings: well, after having discovered it we spent a good part of our afternoons recommending interesting places to each other. (he above all, due to professional deformation and temperament, as he told me!) and natural beauties (us, above all): basically, without knowing it before, we were linked by a common experience, which only for a series of coincidences did not cross , but that made us feel "friends" for a while! Well, to Silvano Martini we owe the most sensational discovery of this final part of our journey: Oatman!

    To talk about this little pearl, it would take a separate article, and indeed there will be. Which is why we just quickly describe Oatman as a small one ghost town that does not surrender to its ghostly destiny, taken and placed in the middle of the mountains, right along the most dangerous and inaccessible stretches of the 66, the famous Bloody 66. Just when you think you will no longer find it, after yet another very tight curve at the edge of an overhang, you will see it there, Oatman, with its mules and cowboys, small and dusty, stuck in the past as if our present, out there, were a space-time misunderstanding.

    After the dive into the wild west of Oatman, the most disturbing stage of our journey awaits us: Needles. Coming down from the mountains, leaving you behind, Kingman and Goose Lake, you will arrive in this city, which will appear to you perfect from a strategic point of view if you are going dal Grand Canyon a Los Angeles or in Las Vegas. But, I assure you, only from a strategic point of view, because the city presents itself as the most inhospitable place in all of California we have visited so far: despite the not small size of the civic center, the streets are deserted, there are no shops. open, supermarkets or minimally appealing restaurants on the street. The few people we saw around - it will be a coincidence ... - seemed like extras from a film by Tarantino or David Lynch: ghostly, grumpy. Perhaps it is the perfect place to properly prepare for the far from comfortable crossing of the Mojave desert… In other words, if you stop in Needles, lock yourself up in the motel and watch HBO!

    All accommodations available in Needles

    If Needles doesn't convince you ... Do you want some alternative to Needles? Consider Kingman itself or Lake Havasu City. For more information read my guide on where to sleep between Grand Canyon and Los Angeles

    30 settembre – 1 ottobre:  Mojave Desert, Barstow, Pasadena, Los Angeles, Hollywood, Mulholland Drive

    Our September 30th is a buffer day: the road gives Grand Canyon to Los Angeles is very long and it is worth breaking the journey, even if the endless journey on the piece of Route 66 in California that guts the Mojave desert will bore you. It will also be useless to look for some attractions on the road: you will find practically nothing, in a place where gas stations are also very rare! If this day has served us any purpose, it has helped us to understand how it is NOT convenient to find ourselves having to refuel in the middle of the desert. Although low compared to the Italian ones, the fuel tariffs are among the highest, and negatively affect the inhabitants of the place. If you want some other advice on the subject, read my article on gasoline in the USA.

    The only natural element that interested us was the Pisgah Crater, halfway between Needles e Barstow. We thought of making a detour to make sense of what seemed like an American morning thrown overboard. Well, not even the Pisgah Crater gave us satisfaction: the road indicated by the navigator led us to a completely deserted dirt road that scared us and we turned our heels, mindful of the recent vision of Breaking Bad., shot in Albuquerque.

    The only consolation, before getting to Pasadena, on the outskirts of Los Angeles, was lunch at Idle Spur Steak House (690 Old Highway 58, Barstow), a place just outside Barstow that offers really good food at a good price, in a relaxing location and furnished with great taste and attention. We decide to stop in Pasadena, in Los Angeles County, an elegant and famous area of ​​many films and TV series, such as Kill Bill and Big Bang Theory.

    Advice on where to sleep in Pasadena

    The next morning, the alarm clock is almost dawn: when we leave the motel to arrive at a decent hour at the gates of Hollywood Studios, we see a truly unusual sight: on the street, still not very busy, some large peacocks walk with careless elegance, surreal scene to say the least, observed while sipping our cappuccino. The Studios of Hollywood are not big, but it is good to arrive early to visit the whole park calmly, but above all to drive around the streets where American cinema was born and lives and thrives. It is priceless to pass a few meters as the crow flies from aqueduct tower of the Warner Bros. studios, a Burbank.

    Instead, it has a price to enter the Hollywood Studios, where all cinephiles will feel like walking through the streets of a dream: at this time of year you will be able, in one day, to do all the attractions, which are mostly in 3D or 4D (Shrek e Despicable Me, for example): we strongly advise you to do the Transformers Ride 3D and the classic crossing on rubber dinghies in the world of Jurassic Park, or to witness the impressive show of the stuntmen who stage, before your eyes, the most memorable sequences of Waterworld (Want to know more? Read our guide to Universal Studios park). After taking your train tour along the real Studios, through the streets of fictitious New York or on the set of "War of the Worlds", "Psycho" and "The Jaws", if you are a fan of David Lynch, before returning to the hotel, you can't help but drop by Mulholland Drive, the setting of the homonymous, disturbing cult film by the American director.

    October 2: Orange, Disneyland

    You're right, we're talking about Los Angeles, yet we've never described the city. Here is the explanation: our itinerary included the last two days completely dedicated to relaxation and dispassionate fun, which is why we decided to spend them in the two amusement parks most famous of the city, without immersing ourselves in the chaos of the inhabited center.

    Heading to Los Angeles? You discover...
    • the best areas to find accommodation
    • where and how to rent a car
    • how to get around the city
    • where to park
    • like visiting Universal Studios

    After the Studios, we immersed ourselves in the frenzied traffic of the streets linking the districts of this metropolis and watched it take shape along the busy road from Burbank to Orange, county south of Los Angeles: our next destination was once again a universe of the fantastic: Disneyland.

    This is certainly an unmissable place, which deserves an in-depth study in itself: it certainly satisfies the interest, passion and curiosity of adults and children, presenting itself as an immense playground that manages to convey the fantastic and playful, even grotesque atmosphere of Disney world, in all its facets, from Mickey Mouse to Toy Story, from Davy Crockett to Pinocchio, from Tarzan to Star Wars (recently joined the Disney stable), from Nightmare Before Christmas to Indiana Jones. We recommend eating in the fascinating Pirates of the Caribbean bay, dark and piratical, but also adequately eaten!

    October 3 - a trip to the Pacific: Manhattan Beach and back

    After the Studios and Disneyland, even a marathon runner would be physically destroyed, but our last American half day before getting on the plane to Florence took us on the famous and worldly Manhattan beach, where we had a snack watching the surfers ride the very high and violent waves that overlap on a sea that was actually flat as oil. On the beach, the Baywatch-style huts and, in the distance, the fins of the dolphins before the infinite expanse of the ocean. If you have time, pop into the Manhattan Beach Pier and, after a coffee, visit the Roundhouse Marine Studies Lab and Aquarium: the aquarium will not be Seaworld, but admission is free, and you can observe the marine fauna of the place. From the beach to the airport there is little road: the time to abandon our Cadillac at the Hertz headquarters and we are already at our greetings, certainly melancholy, but aware of how much this journey will remain in our hearts, and how much value a full return has. 'experience. Goodbye America, you are not forgotten so easily.

    Did you miss the first 3 parts of this fascinating travelogue?

    1. New York in 4 days: the metropolis of American desire
    2. From San Francisco to Las Vegas: between advanced civilization and indomitable nature
    3. From Las Vegas to Monument Valley: itinerary between Utah and Arizona
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