Week 11 started crazy and ended in the most relaxing way possible.
We learned a lot about Vegas, a lot about Arizona, and confirmed that we both love the mountains and nature far, FAR more than the desert and cities. No surprises there. What did surprise us though is the lengths people will go to to help us out, and the power of having someone ‘vouch’ for you…
Nathan, our brilliant host from Venice Beach in Week 10, was reluctant to let us hitch hike to Las Vegas from his house in case we got “stranded in the desert and die and the police and the media come looking at me because I was the last one you stayed with and I let you hitch hike away”. So he bought us Greyhound tickets instead. We’re not complaining! (Though we did outright refuse for a long time until he said that he was just going to do it anyways and it was up to us if we used them). So, with just over an hour until the bus left, we found ourselves desperately trying to hitch to the bus terminal. It. Took. FOREVER. Finally, with minutes to spare before we were going to miss the bus, an Uber driver on his way home swung by to take us with him. Thank you, life saver! Could have had another Megabus moment on our hands otherwise…
Axel & Jasper
Couchsurfing is a fantastic tool that can land you in strange situations. Such as sharing a hotel room at Circus Circus in Las Vegas with a Swiss guy named Axel and an Aussie named Jasper (who was also couchsurfing, but he was helping with the cost of the room…) Thanks for having us stay!
Jen & Ivan
Jen & Ivan have to be the most eccentric, lively family I’ve ever Couchsurfed with. It was confirmed to be an interesting weekend when I arrived in their house (a fully open plan loft style building with coloured club lights and full size Spiderman statues hanging upside down from the ceiling) and was shown to the guest bedroom: a dark room with velveteen walls, a cast iron four-poster bed and a wide array of whips, chains and fluffy handcuffs tied to the posts. The sheets were black satin. Their toddler, George, was ridiculously cute and they included me fully in their home activities like going out to eat and to the cinema, and even had me join the wine and canvas evening Ivan runs in Las Vegas. Thank you!
I met Erica on the roof of a hostel in Thailand over three years ago, and we’ve travelled to, and met in, various countries ever since. Luckily for us, Californian Erica worked the summer as a tour guide and happened to be leading a group through Las Vegas just as we were there… A night of drinking, a party bus, Fremont Street, the Las Vegas sign and a club at the Cosmopolitan later, we were very happy (very hungover) bunnies.
Peter was a brilliant Aussie on the group tour led by Erica who, upon hearing our plan to just nap in a casino then hitch hike in the morning, offered up the spare bed in his room for us instead. What a gem! When we then woke up too late to hitch hike away easily the next day (vodka has a habit of doing that) he even let us stay another night with him. So. Nice.
When we finally managed to tear ourselves away from Vegas (for a place we actually disliked so much, it took us a long time to leave!) our plan was to head to the Grand Canyon. Thank you to Francisco who pulled over for us and offered to drive us all the way… until we realised he thought it was a place in Vegas and not a huge canyon over four hours drive away. Turns out he had no idea what the Grand Canyon was at all.
Something we’ve come to realise on this trip is that you can’t always cling to a plan. When the journey is out of your control, you have to leave a certain amount ‘to the wind’ and recognise when it’s pushing you down a different path. This happened at a gas station outside Vegas. After a few hours of attempting to go to the Grand Canyon we recognised our journey wasn’t meant to happen that way: we should go to Flagstaff first, then take a day trip to the Grand Canyon from there. Almost as soon as we had this decided, we met Greg who was driving to a town called Sedona and would be passing right through Flagstaff. He was more than happy for us to join him.
Suddenly we found ourselves headed to Flagstaff, without a clue of what was there or where we would stay. Wracking our brains we remembered Mike – Mike we had met hitch hiking wayyy back in Maine in Week One – had said he had a friend in Flagstaff. We got in touch and before we knew it we had the contact details of Sheila, who couldn’t host us but had asked around and spoken to a friend and former colleague Jonathan, who in turn had asked his friend and boss Rand if we could stay. He said yes. We were – within hours of deciding to go to Flagstaff – staying with the friend of a friend of a friend of a friend we met hitch hiking, thousands of miles across the country. On top of all the help Sheila had already provided, she made us a food bag and dropped it at Jonathan’s office to bring to us. Amazing.
Rand & Jonathan
We met up with Rand (pictured) and Jonathan in a bar as they were wrapping up a meeting for their marketing company, Mountain Mojo Group. Rand told us to get drinks and put them on his tab: great start. And it only got better. Over a week of gigs and bars and a house party and watching Game of Thrones and generally ~recharging~ we got to know Rand and Jonathan as two of the most open-hearted, caring people I’ve ever met. Here was two guys who cared about the world, cared about the people in it, listened to the stories people told like they were soaking them in and greeted every single person like they were an old friend. On top of that the town of Flagstaff blew us away with its charm and community – who knew this beautiful mountain haven existed in the desert of Arizona. If there’s anything we can say with certainty, it’s that we were sad when the day came to finally leave Flagstaff.