The Great American Road Trip – Part 1 – Nevada, California and Arizona

Las Vegas, Death Valley, Seligman, Tucson and Tombstone

Myself and Leanne first met whist working as holiday reps in Majorca (Spain) in the summer of 2000. One night, over a table full of empties, the conversation stumbled onto future plans, and a common dream emerged.

To drive across America.

And so we agreed. “We’ll do it together”

I doubt either of us really believed it would happen, let alone it becoming the final leg of a trip around the world. However, fast forward 17 years, and that’s where we find ourselves.

Las Vegas

Venetian Las Vegas
Venetian Las Vegas

We flew in to Las Vegas on the 21st December, with the intention of spending Christmas and the New Year there, before picking up our hire car and hitting the road.

The first few days in Vegas were a blast, and it was great to finally be seeing some real Christmas spirit. (Sorry OZ & NZ, you just don’t take it seriously enough!)

Christmas at Vegas
Christmas at Vegas

However, despite what you may have read about Las Vegas being the ultimate bargain destination, I need to make one thing clear. You can “visit” Las Vegas on a budget, but you cannot “Vegas” on a budget. To do it properly you do have to see the shows, drink margarita-filled guitars, feed the slots, and pretend to be Dirty Harry at the local gun-club. Unfortunately we are on a budget, so we decided to cut the Vegas leg short.

Death Valley

We started our trip East by heading in the wrong direction. Our first stop was in a town called Beatty, this would be our jumping off point for Death Valley. Beatty reminded us of Radiator Springs, from the movie “Cars”. I’ll be honest, the “rustic feel” was a bit of a shock for us, having only previously experienced city-life in America.


Before heading into the national park we called in at a nearby ghost-town called Rhyolite. Founded in 1904 Rhyolite is a quintessential gold rush boomtown. With a population exceeding 10,000 at one point, by 1916 the mine was exhausted, and the town was deserted.

Rhyolite Train Station
Rhyolite Train Station
The Bottle House - Rhyolite
The Bottle House – Rhyolite

Death Valley National Park was certainly worth the diversion. We first stopped at an old borax mill, before heading to the salt flats, and then finally Artist’s Drive. Artist’s Drive was the highlight of the day for me, and we almost missed it, as the Death Valley official website said it was closed! We asked at the visitors centre after we saw other cars driving towards it, and found out it was in fact open.

Artists Palette - Death Valley
Artists Palette – Death Valley

The name refers to the diverse range of colours in the rock’s. But it’s not just the exceptional scenery that makes Artist’s Drive special. It’s like being on a roller coaster as you drive through tight canyons, over steep hills, and down into twisting canyons.

Salt Flats Death Valley
Salt Flats Death Valley

Route 66 Seligman

Next we headed south picking up the Mother Road at Kingman. The stretch of 66 between Kingman and Seligman was both beautiful and eventful. Talk about 4 seasons in one day! At one stage we could barely see the bonnet of the car the fog was so thick, then next moment the sun was blinding. We had torrential rain, high winds, and hail, but when the weather broke we were rewarded with breath-taking scenery in every direction.

Seligman - Route 66

Seligman - Route 66

Seligman was exactly what I had pictured a Route 66 town to be like, quirky and fun. We soon found that this was a somewhat romanticized version of a route 66 town, rather than a representative example, but it was good whilst it lasted.

Following reports of snow in Flagstaff, we decided to head south in search of warmer climates.


We visited the highly rated Senora Desert Museum, at Tucson which did not disappoint. That said, the scenery inside the National Park was not too dissimilar to the scenery outside it. The desert plains that had previously divided the imposing mountains, were now home to an abundance of cacti.

Tucson - Arizona

Tucson - Arizona Tucson - Arizona Tucson - Arizona


Our next stop was Tombstone. Home to the famous gun fight at the OK Corral. The town was a bit touristy, with daily re-enactments of the famous shootout, but still definitely worth a visit. The Bird Cage Theatre was awesome, exceptionally well-preserved and home to a bounty of historical artefacts including the card table where Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday played. Boot Hill cemetery was also interesting, being the final resting place of many of the Wild West’s most famous hero’s and villains.

OK Corral - Tombstone
OK Corral – Tombstone
Boot Hill - Tombstone
Boot Hill – Tombstone

Tombstone was our last stop in Arizona, and a great was to say goodbye to the area. So far our American Road Trip has been everything we hoped for and more. We’ve been halfway around the world now, and the scenery we have driven through over the last two weeks as been as beautiful as we had seen anywhere. Next stop New Mexico…..