Tag Archives: Arizona

USA ’17 – Day 16 – On the Road to Joshua Tree

Today was probably the longest drive of the whole holiday travelling from Williams, Arizona to Joshua Tree, California. Helen and I both realised that even though we still have five-ish days of the holiday left with the Grand Canyon out the way all the “big ticket” destinations are now done (with apologies to the Joshua Tree National Park and San Diego!) which is sad.

The route took as through the Mojave Desert which had long, long straight roads with flat sandy desert either side. Pretty much like the above really. Not the most exciting scenery we have been through on our travels.

The views from our overnight stop though were fantastic, even if it did require some off-roading to reach. The Desert Lily is just at the edge of the Joshua Tree national park and is reached via an unmade road to a beautiful B&B in the quietest location I think we have ever been. I’m currently sat outside in the shade typing this and it really is idyllic (and hot – 30 degrees).

Tipping

As I have some free time let’s talk about tipping. Whenever you read anything about eating out in the US tipping always comes up and it does seem to be a big deal. That is because tipped workers are paid less than the minimum wage in the expectation that the difference will be made up through tips. I personally think that is outrageous. Basically it is an excuse to pay workers less.

So you are expected to tip heavily. If you tip 10% (which would be usual in the UK) this is considered that you haven’t enjoyed your meal or service in some way. 15-20% is considered the norm.

I don’t mind tipping but my reason for giving a tip is for good or exceptional service not just for doing the job but that seems to be the case here. I remember the service being great in Florida but here on the West Coast it hovers somewhere between ordinary and mediocre. That is apart from the woman at breakfast this morning who I wanted to tell “look you are getting a tip can you please turn off the smile? It’s 8am for goodness sake!”

Where tipping gets really silly is places like Applebees (a mistake going in there I know) where we ordered through a machine on the table and also paid this way. We only ever saw our server once when they brought our food to the table but I was still expected to tip even though I had done all the work!

And while we’re at it the process is incredibly insecure too. First you get the bill which you check over and find that, of course, there are two flavours of tax added. In San Francisco along local taxes (7.25%) there was also an additional 4.9% “in part to help offset the cost of Government mandated expenses”.

You leave your credit card and THEN THEY COME AND TAKE IT AWAY!!! Have they never seen The Real Hustle?

Having no doubt cloned my card and taken the money off it is returned to me (no chip & pin required here, nor a signature check for that matter). I am now also given multiple bits of paper and a pen onto which I can add a tip. This is then returned and at some unspecified later date the additional amount is also taken from your card.

What a complete and utter pain in the arse. It’s a wonder anyone leaves anything.

USA ’17 – Day 15 – Grand Canyon

Another stop at a national park today but for once we weren’t driving but arriving by train.

Last night we stayed in a town called Williams which happens to also be the starting point for the Grand Canyon Railway. Originally built to transport goods to and from the south rim of the canyon it now fulfills the same but for tourists.

We arrived at the station in time to see a fun wild west show before boarding the train. The amount of leg room available in our carriage was impressive when you are used to GWR as was the pastries provided.

The view out of the window was pretty flat and uninteresting but fortunately there was plenty going on in the carriage to fill the two hour journey including a singer/guitarist and our host Starlie (I sometimes think that there is merit in the old French rule limiting the names you could select for your child).

When you arrive at the station you wouldn’t know you were at the Grand Canyon. You then walk up a set of steps and suddenly you are on the edge of the canyon. And wow what a sight it is!

Like Yosemite nothing prepares you for the sheer scale of the canyon. It is very deep and very wide. No, not that very deep and very wide but even bigger than that! And again the pictures really don’t do it justice and even on a wide angle you cannot capture the whole thing in a single shot.

We had just over three hours at the canyon before the return train so we took one of the free shuttle busses to a point a few miles along the rim and walked back from there. We took pictures every few yards so have captured the place from every single angle.

One thing that was surprising was that given the perceived view of litigation culture here that there was no guard rail between the path and a one mile drop to the bottom of the canyon. Helen stood well away from the edge… The walk back was slow as we made regular stops to admire the view and take more pictures.

It really is amazing just how much damage a little water can do. The Colorado river that created the canyon did so over a relatively short five million years (unless you are a creationist in which case it was done last month). I was left wondering where all the material that it removed ended up. The Colorado feeds out into the Pacific somewhere so it must be piled up there I guess.

I was thrilled that the engine on the return trip was steam. It was great looking out the window as the engine made a turn ahead of us and I could see the smoke filling the air. We were lucky as they only run the stream trains on the first Saturday of the month which happily coincided with our trip. All in all a fantastic day.

USA ’17 – Day 14 – Las Vegas, Hoover Dam & Williams, Arizona

There was one thing left that I had on my todo list before we left Las Vegas and that was to go to the Welcome to Las Vegas sign. We drove along the strip until we got to half a mile from the it when everything ground to a halt – everyone wanted to stop and see the sign it seems.

Eventually we were able to park up and walk to the sign. It was newer than I expected and so I suspect that it has been renewed fairly recently. It was also quite busy and there were a couple of news crews there too. This turned out to be as a temporary memorial to the recent shooting had been erected there. I have to say that you could have spent all your time in Vegas and not been aware of the tragedy at all. Business as usual it seems.

The sign done we left Las Vegas and made our way to our next overnight stop in Williams, Arizona. This we did via the Hoover Dam another oversized American monument. It really is huge but the most interesting thing is just how low the water is in the dam. You can clearly see how high the water can reach in the picture below.

Ever since we have been in the States there has been talk of a drought here but no sign whatsoever of anyone taking any positive action. There has been plenty of sprinklers, fields being watered and, in LA, the pavements being cleaned. The water level in the dam suggests that they do need to take some positive action but, as we were told in LA – the Californians like their water.

Despite the level of the water being low I am still impressed that anyone could have swam across it. How did they get down to the water for a start.

Tomorrow we ride this beauty to the Grand Canyon!