Day 25 to 30: Zion-, Bryce-, and Grand Canyon. Route 66 and Joshua Tree National Park
Zion and Bryce Canyon
After a late check out from our Airbnb in Las Vegas, on our way to Bryce Canyon we head through Zion National Park. The winding route through a tunnel can be seen again later from the Canyon Overlook at sunset with spectacular panoramic views into the canyon.
Due to the COVID-19 precautions, the Visitor Center has already closed, but with the shuttle bus still in operation, we take a short excursion followed by a walk. Later we will watch the sunset from Canyon Overlook viewpoint. After a 30 minutes walk back to the parking lot and another 60 minutes drive, we arrive at the Rodeway Inn Bryce Canyon, where we have booked two nights.
The next day we have breakfast at Ruby's Inn. Then we drive by car to the different viewpoints of Bryce Canyon National Park. Each one offers an impressive view of a particular rock formation or perspective into the canyon. Most famous and probably most impressive is the breathtaking view of the snow-covered amphitheater! Accordingly, it is cold, but thanks to the sun it is very friendly.
Since the weather forecast for the upcoming days in the Grand Canyon region predicts bad weather, we definitely want to go there the next day. We accept the six-hour drive and reach the entrance to the National Park at about 2 pm. The first view into the huge canyon is spectacular! From the next, and the following viewpoints the view is still spectacular, but somehow always look similar. Maybe the diversity of Bryce Canyon has already prejudiced us a little bit, nevertheless, Grand Canyon is still amazing.
From one of the viewpoints that can only be reached by shuttle bus, we don't want to miss the sunset. Since it is getting pretty cold, we are happy again, that the shuttle bus picks us up and brings us back to the car. As we hear from a conversation between two bus drivers, the shuttle buses will stop operating from tomorrow due to COVID-19 precautions.
The measures are also becoming more and more noticeable at dinner. At Wendy's, we can still order in the restaurant, but no longer eat inside. So we eat in the car, this should become the new way of consuming fast food.
On the way to Williams, where we booked at the Americas Best Value Inn, it is already getting dark. As it was the same with recent night drives, we have to pay particular attention to deer next to or on the roadway, which sometimes requires sudden braking.
Today will bring clouds and rain according to the weather forecast. But that is only moderately bad for us, as we have a day of travel in the car anyway. To make the journey a little more varied, we will take the former Route 66. We pass numerous quaint, tourist-oriented towns, for example, Hackberry, or the Ghost Town Goffs. They are not as well visited due to COVID-19 and seasonal factors as they would be in the high season.
We reach one of these small towns over a pass road. The village called Oatman is completely decorated in the style of Wild Wild West. Donkeys strolling through the streets in search of food to get something tasty from a few tourists, who occasionally walk by. Only the beginning of pouring rain lets the animals move under the roof of the veranda of a saloon.
Since we have seen signs saying Flooding in the lowlands and the rain is getting heavier, we set off towards Twentynine Palms, where we want to find a motel in the evening. Before it gets dark we experience a fantastic rainbow at the nostalgic Roy's Motel & Cafe. The scenery with sunset makes the photographer's heart beat faster!
After some comparisons, we finally decide to stay at El Rancho Dolores Motel and have pizza for dinner. As it is quite common here, we get the biggest pizza for the smallest price. We will definitely not go to bed hungry today.
Joshua Tree National Park
Just as yesterday ended, so we begin today. We order a hearty breakfast with scrambled eggs, sausage, pancakes, and French Toast at Denny's, a popular restaurant chain in the United States. It's take away only, so we will have our breakfast at a rest area in Joshua Tree National Park.
According to its name, we see many Joshua Trees when driving through the park. Some of these cactus-like trees become huge. We make a stop at the Cholla Cactus Garden. These almost cuddly-looking Cholla cactus plants are anything but cuddly. In the best-case scenario, their spines, which fall off especially in strong winds, can only get tangled up in clothing and are very difficult or even painful to remove. Several warning signs at the beginning of the short round trail indicate this:
Warning! This Cactus Is Hazardous. Do Not Touch For Your Safety And The Protection Of The Resource. Travel Is Restricted To The Trail. No Pets.
In the evening we drive to Bakersfield, where we have reserved in advance for one night at the Econo Lodge Bakersfield Fairgrounds. Once again we have fast-food for dinner. Due to the endless queue of cars in front of In-N-Out Burger and Chick-fil-A, we finally opt for the McDonald's Drive-Thru, a good opportunity to keep social distance in addition to the short waiting time.
As of today, an official stay-at-home regulation will be introduced in the state of California, which among other things only allows necessary travel activities, as we heard from the news the evening before. What should this mean for us? We have already clarified with our rental car company that we can return the car to San Francisco, instead of Los Angeles as initially planned. But does this provision possibly mean that we are breaking the law by driving to San Francisco? Would there be roadblocks on the way, would the police stop us? Would we be the only car on the empty streets between the skyscrapers of San Francisco?
Well, by far it shouldn't be as dramatic as in one of those apocalyptic zombie movies just before the end of the world...
Points of Interest
Click the map to see all the mentioned Points of Interest: