“The Hoover Dam. Ladies and gentleman, if you look to your left you will see the great Hoover Dam”.
It was the way he said Hoover, turning it into an onomatopoeia word. Hoooover. Hooooooooover, with a slow long American drawl. Even ‘dam’, the way he made it sound like he had joined all the letters together. It was as if the whole phrase was said in a low unrushed whistle. “The Hoover Dam“. I’ll never forget the way he said it.
Our tour guide for the trip was Ralph or was it, Dennis or Larry? Wearing his company tie and crisp shirt, he epitomised the coach trip stereotype, working the same trip day in day out, he managed to make his daily commute exciting and monumental, even in its repetitiveness. If I say the words, ‘Hoover’ and ‘Dam’ to my brother, in the right accent, we are transported back to that day, that time over a decade ago. Isn’t it incredible how two words said in a certain way, unlock a
suitcase backpack of stories, of memories?
Driving over it, you couldn’t really grasp its size. It seemed to go on forever, like a small town. Or a feature in the landscape. The sun was just rising as we passed through and it made everything glow, a beautiful cascade of orange and yellow. Casting shadow and bringing light, It illuminated the water and intensified the unending blue of the sky.
We got out for a quick, obligatory photo stop. It was good to stretch our legs but we pushed on, driving onwards through dusty roads and red rocks. The same view from every window, every minute. The road rolled on and on a few cars occasionally passed, but as the sun grew higher in the sky, the road got redder and longer.
“Joshua trees. Ladies and gentleman if you look outside your window you will see the Joshuaa trees”.
It was the way he enunciated the “u”. He turned Joshuuuuuua into a 5 syllable word. Slow and deliberate, I guess on a tour of the Grand Canyon, you’re not going to have much to show people on the way into the desert. He made the most of what he could. At the time I didn’t realise the significance, but looking back I can see there was such hidden beauty in the journey to the canyon.
It seems like I spend most of my travel life on buses. Missing buses, waiting for buses, sitting on buses. This trip this was no exception. In fact, I even made this once in a lifetime trip twice. Once in 2008 and again in 2011.
A 14 hour round bus trip, that’s how it was sold. Let’s be honest, we all know you need to add on at least another 2 hours. But I don’t care. I love bus tours, I love the stories they leave you with. I love that it forces you to look out the window, to notice what’s passing by. I love that the time is carved out, you can’t go anywhere you’re just present, in that moment, with those people, building anticipation and excitement for the moment of arrival. I love that it’s planned and cheesy, the characters you meet are textbook but mostly, I love them because they are easy. I always thought travel had to be hard and planned and off the grid or off the beaten path but bus tours, they changed my mind.
“Ladies and Gentleman, the Grand Canyon“.
It looked fake. I’m telling you now, the Grand Canyon is so huge it looks fake. It’s as if, someone has just created a giant screen, projecting a picture of rocks, and crags, ledges and ridges that stretch for 100’s of years. There are so far away you can’t even imagine them ever ending yet in the same breathe it feels like you could stretch out a hand and touch it. Touch the other side in a heart beat.
If you get close enough to the edge, you can see the murky green water, covering the basin floor. The ugly brown moving sludge, it hides its power so well. The power that created the huge marks and shapes in the rock. The mysterious dark river that has the power to move the earth. To shape its path. To literally change the world.
It’s was a beautiful autumn day and the sun was warm but not hot, the type of day where you can wear a t-shirt at lunch but need a jumper for breakfast and dinner. The type of day when the sky is made bluer by the crispness of the air, the cold breeze. That was the type of day it was when I travelled to the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas, one a bus trip. In the spring and in the Autumn. And It was the contrast of the Las Vegas strip, paired with the barren Mojave desert that made the bus journeys even more surreal but equally as beautiful and precious.
It was on the way home on one of the trips that I reflected, it doesn’t take long for the light of the stars, burning bright above the canopy of the desert sand, to be replaced by the neon city signs. One by one the stars gradually fade out replaced with all the glittering gold of the city of sin and the promise of tomorrow.
“Ladies and Gentleman, this was the Grand Canyon bus tour, we thank you for your custom and we would like you to know that gratuities were not included in the price of your ticket…”
*If you liked this travel story, check out some of my others below: