American Southwest

 

 

Here I am once again, ready for my return to the United States. This time I’m going to the beautiful southwest, with all its amazing National Parks. The destination of my flight is Las Vegas but that’s just the city where I’ll start and finish what I hope it will be an amazing drive. Ohhh…and because my trips are not all about photos, also on my plans is a “short” detour to Fort Worth, Texas, for my first ever Nascar race. I love motorsports and Nascar is my favourite of them all. That has been on my wish list for a while :). Ok, see you later today, as soon as I get to an hotel room in Vegas.

 


 

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As usual on the first days of all my trips, today I spent most of the time inside airplanes. I arrived to Las Vegas by late afternoon and when I got my rental car, it was night already. I really don’t like to arrive to a destination when it’s already night time because even with the help of the GPS, it’s a bit harder. Even if it’s not the first time I drive in the U.S., there’s always a period of time to adapt to different rules, different speed limits, different traffic signs and so on. Anyway…that being said, the first thing I did was to drive on the famous Las Vegas Strip, just to see all those lights. Quite impressive, even if I’m not a fan of cities.

I went to Walmart a couple of hours ago and if I didn’t know in which country I am, I would guess somewhere in south america. All I could hear was spanish. Ohh…and it’s funny how slot machines are everywhere, starting at the airport. They want your money and they have no problem to show it :).

Tomorrow morning I leave Vegas and I’m off to the first National Park on my list, Zion National Park…some 300 km away. So see you tomorrow, hopefully with some pictures not taken through the window of an airplane :).

 


 

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First day of my trip and I’m loving it. It’s a beautiful region of the United States and it’s worth a visit by anyone who has that chance. It’s a very different landscape of what we have in Portugal and also in Europe. Today I drove through two National Parks which are close but are quite different. Zion and Bryce Canyon. I wont get into details about them, since that info is very easy to find if someone wants to know more…but both offer some breathtaking landscapes and both were worth more of my time, but I just didn’t have it. One of the problems of traveling with such a tight schedule is that it becomes impossible to be in the right place at the right time to get the best photos…but this time I just have to be happy for having the chance to just be there.

I chose this photo for today because the presence of the people enjoying the view, gives a sense of scale to the landscape. I will post just one image per day while I’m on the road because I don’t want to spend my time in front of my laptop editing photos…but I’ll post more once I get back home.

The weather was excellent. The sun was shining all day and thank God for that. That’s because today’s visits where at altitudes of 2 to 3 thousand meters and that, together with the strong wind, would make the temperatures really chilly if it wasn’t the sunny day. According to the forecast, tomorrow I wont be so lucky. Let’s hope they are wrong :).

Tomorrow the day will start with a visit to a place that we see so many times in movies, specially westerns. Monument Valley. And it will be the third state of the trip. I started in Nevada, today I was mostly in Utah and tomorrow I’m heading to Arizona.

 


 

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The crappy weather forecast for today didn’t become a fact and the day was pretty much perfect.

2 days gone and I drove almost 1700 km so far. I think the person who will get back my rental car the day I return it, will get scared when he checks the odometer. He will think it was a mistake by the person who registered the number of miles when I picked it up…and the worse is still to come. It’s great that fuel here costs less than half of what it costs in Portugal.

It was another day surrounded by beautiful landscapes, both in the state of Arizona and Utah. I started the morning with a visit to Horseshoe Bend, just outside the city of Page. It’s a breathtaking place, I was really impressed. That bend created by the Colorado River is really amazing. Then I moved on to Monument Valley and ended the day in Canyonlands National Park.

It was also the day I thought I was going to get a speeding fine. There I was, driving with all the calm in the world, when I see lights getting closer to me. I thought “Crap, I’m screwed…I’m speeding again”. Even if I’m very careful about it, it’s impossible to be always looking at the dashboard. Anyway…it wasn’t me. The car just passed by and nothing happened. I was very much relieved!

Just posted one single photo today because the signal reception is really non existent in most places. It comes on when I cross some city but after a few minutes, it’s gone once again. We’ll see how it goes in the next few days.

Tomorrow I have 2 more National Parks to visit and I’ll start driving east to end up in Fort Worth, Texas, by Friday evening.

 


 

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Another day of driving, another 2 states that I visited. First Colorado and New Mexico next. I arrived to Arches National Park before sunrise and I’m happy I did so, because it was the most crowded one so far. When I was returning to my car from Delicate Arch (in the photo), dozens of people were going there. Maybe because it’s just outside the city of Moab, a lot of people go there.

Then I moved on to Mesa Verde National Park. I didn’t have any special interest in going there but since I was going to pass nearby, why not, right? And it was a nice drive, not only for the ruins, the thing that bring most people there, but also because of the nice landscapes.

And no wonder people here behave will driving, sticking to the speed limits. The vast majority of them, anyway. I’ve been here for 3 days and I have seen police stopping cars seven times. Yes, I’m counting. That’s why here it’s different to calculate a distance and the time it will take to drive it when compared to Portugal.

I don’t have any plans for tomorrow. There aren’t many points of interest along the way from Albuquerque, where I am, to Fort Worth, where I’m going. We’ll see if I stop somewhere.

 


 

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Fort Worth, Texas. The sixth state on my list, almost 1000 km later. It’s one of those days with nothing to say, really. A lot of driving and nothing else. And driving almost 1000 km always under 130 km/hour is a real test to patience and self control :). But it will be worse on sunday!

I’m here to watch the Nascar Sprint Cup Series at Texas Motor Speedway tomorrow. I have been following this championship since the races started to be broadcasted in Portugal a few years ago…and since I really love motorsports, I always wanted to enjoy one of these races live. Well, now I have that chance. I’m sure it will be a lot of fun and well worth all the driving.

And that’s it’s for today. Not much, I know…but nothing happened :). See you tomorrow.

 


 

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I’ve arrived. I survived the drive! Actually it went better than I was expecting. A long drive for sure but maybe because it was sunday, traffic was low and things were very smooth, considering that the top speed possible is 75 miles/hour, something close to 130 km/hour. Crossing Texas and New Mexico is much like crossing the south of Portugal, just on a much bigger scale. And they have oil wells in Texas, which could be very useful in Portugal as well :). The landscape is flat and boring. Then there was the problem with radio stations. For some periods, the choice was country music, mexican music or religious music. Very hard choice! And then I almost run out of gas. The car was running on fumes for sure. I was very very happy to see the service station.

Regarding yesterday and the NASCAR race, it was a unique experience and absolutely spectacular to someone like myself who loves motorsports and nascar in particular. Races are a party, much more than a race. There aren’t all the restrictions that we have in Europe when we go watch a football game. As an example, they take coolers full of beer cans inside the track and that’s not a problem. I was also surprised to see so many women there. We usually relate motorsports with men…at least that’s how it is in Portugal…but there were many women there, of all ages. The race itself was also amazing. People in Europe usually say that nascar is just turning left. It is…but they have to do so with cars that have 700 horse power and go faster than 300 km/hour. The sound is also crazy, specially when they all come together on every restart.

When I decided to go to Fort Worth and watch the race, I bought the most complete ticket I could buy. I wanted to live the whole experience. It costed me around 200 euros, which can look a bit expensive but this price included the following: ticket for the race, food and coca cola from 13:30 to the time of the race, a bag with some souvenirs, access to the track and pits, a pass to the pre race show and drivers presentation, a Q&A session with some of NASCAR’s personalities, in this case Greg Biffle, number 16 driver, Richard Childress, the owner of one of the main teams, one of Danica Patrick’s crew members, the CEO of Texas Motor Speedway, and finally, Richard Petty, a true legend of the sport, who I can compare with Ayrton Senna and F1. So…all things considered, I think it was cheap. How much for something similar in F1? 20 times more?

Leaving the track after the race was the only down side of the day, it took quite a while…but they can do a party even out of that, with people singing and dancing on pickup trucks…with the help of lots of beer, I suspect :). But it was expected…we’re talking about over 100.000 people leaving one single place, most of them using the same road. The speedway is some 25, 30 km away from Fort Worth so everybody goes there by car.

All things being said, next time I come back to the U.S., I’ll go to another race for sure!

And tomorrow the day starts with sunrise in Grand Canyon. Another day waking up at 4 AM :).

 


 

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Grand Canyon, one of the most famous places in the world, 6:00 AM. I thought that, even that early in the morning, I would have to share the place with a small crowd. I was really amazed to realize that I was there just with a few other people. I was completely alone in the spot I chose to watch the sunrise. Weird. I guess most people visit the Grand Canyon on daily tours departing from Las Vegas and those arrive there later in the morning. It’s quite an impressive place but I think thr WOW factor for me would be higher if I hadn’t visited the Canyonlands National Park a few days earlier. The landscape is very similar and even not being as big, it may be even more beautiful.

After spending some time shooting the Grand Canyon, I started my way back to Las Vegas but didn’t stop there. I kept driving for some 200 km more and visited the Death Valley (photo above). It’s one strange place. Very hot but at the same time there was some snow in the mountains around it. And a very very strong wind. I heard it’s quite normal this time of the year. It’s was a very quick visit because I got there in the middle of the afternoon and had to go back to Vegas.

And speaking about Las Vegas, finally I saw it during the day and find it even more strange :). It’s located on a huge valley and it’s a huge city…but the only high rise building that the hotels and casinos. And I also find it strange that in a place with so much space, all those hotels are almost on top of each other. And then there’s the airport. It must be the closest to downtown airport in the world. The hotels are right there! Close to the runway!

Tomorrow it will be my last full day in the United States, although it will be very far from here. Another of those detours I decided just a few days before I left Portugal, otherwise things would be better organised. Oh well.

See you tomorrow.

PS: Now I see that I chose a photo that’s very similar to another one I posted a few days ago. Bad choice but now it’s done…too late :).

 


 

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First of all let me tell you that today’s picture was taken with my cell phone, just to have something to illustrate the day, since I didn’t take any proper photos :).

So…today I decided to go to New York City. This “small” detour was decided as few days before I came to the States and that’s why I didn’t organise things in a different and better way. Everything was booked. Hotels, rental car, flights…and change everything would end up being more expensive than simply get a ticket to go from Vegas to NY and come back. The good thing about doing things this way was that I did get more time in New York and didn’t have to take bags with me. If I decided to go there on my way to Portugal, I would have to carry all my camera stuff with me. The bad thing was to add 2 more flights to my trip and spend one day of my trip which could be used in a different way. No problem.

I’m not a city person. I really am not. When I visited New York 14 years ago, that time for 4 days, I didn’t like it. This time I didn’t like it as well, although this was such a short visit that I didn’t even have time to dislike it :). I don’t like the mess, I don’t like the traffic, I don’t like the pollution, and so on…I don’t like everything that comes with these huge cities. Just give me those National Parks. I’m a nature person and that’s easy to see by the places I visit on my trips.

And tomorrow, time to go home. This trip was done in a very fast pace, that’s true…but I was still able to visit all the places I wanted to visit and that’s the most important thing. Now I have a lot of editing to do once I get home. Pictures will come in the next few days :).

 


 

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Now that I’ve been back to Portugal for a few days, I’ve had enough time to rest and to start going through the pictures and select the ones I like the most. Today I bring you the first ones, with more to come soon. I hope you like them.

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10 more pictures of my trip to share with you. Zion National Park, picture above, is extremely difficult to shoot due to the huge contrast between shadows and highlights.

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And I bring you 15 more pictures to finish this page dedicated to my adventure in the American Southwest. The next trip is booked already but there are a few months of waiting in between :) I hope you have enjoyed this travel diary.

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