The Infinity Looper that has been around hoodoos is the happiest person on Earth. A wise departure from such wonders of nature would be in the afternoon, headed towards the border between Utah and Arizona. Your next goal is to visit Antelope Canyon, a few miles off of Page, AZ. However, the mighty Lake Powell and the beautiful tiny Navajo canyon push prices for a room to the roof. So, why not make your journey cheaper and more diverse by sleeping close by? Kanab, UT – or “Little Hollywood” as the city prefers to be known – is a wise decision, with very good food, a nice atmosphere, and a film environment.
One shot in the Antelope Canyon
Wake up early and take into account the time difference between Utah and Arizona, which happens for the summer half of the year. If your tour of Antelope Canyon is booked already with the companies in town, then meet them and enjoy your ride on the dunes. If you happen to be there without a booking, go meet the Navajo huts nearest to the entrance of the canyon. They are very nice, welcoming, and accommodating; they’ll make sure you get a spot to see the marvelous canyon. Best timing: around noon. Second best: around 9 am. Take many pictures, making sure you don’t dry up all the juice in the battery, because it’s time for the Grand Canyon! On the road to Flagstaff (US-89), you can detour on the smaller AZ-64 which will bring you at the heart of the Grand Canyon. You’ve seen the movies, you’ve seen the pictures. Well, now you’re in it. Once you’re done with the sublime views, take your car down to I-40, be it Williams or Flagstaff.
As hazardous as you wish
The best three days of your life just passed, Infinity Looper. Now you’re California bound. Across the desert again, you can choose to ride on the I-40 or to take the Historic Route 66. A combination of the two, with a few detours will be the best for the sake of time and mileage. Use your gas station breaks to dive into the small towns along the 66 and enjoy the views. Approaching the border with California, you’ll be asked to declare whether or not you are carrying animals or plants, in which case you might expect inspection. Moreover, you can witness the typical NIMBY principle: it doesn’t happen often to read a sign that says “Hazardous Waste Permitted”! And you can find it just across the border. It’s California, but it’s still basically the desert that covers the huge plains of Nevada and Arizona as well.
You are back to the Central Valley, Bakersfield or just around there, and you’re only left with a small leg of the trip northbound. The choice betwen the boring I-5, the interesting US-101, or the gorgeous CA-1 is pretty straightforward. So spin your steering wheel across the hills between the Central Valley and San Luis Obispo, full of cows and oil rigs. At some point you will be able to see Morro Bay and its rock – probably all covered in the typical Pacific fog. Seagulls, crows, and squirrels welcome you to ocean side of California, from where you should take a slow drive north. The drive is usually slow for one reason: the only cars on CA-1 are there for tourism, and the many scenic turnouts force you to drive slowly in order to avoid pushing your fellow visitors off the cliff.
Elephant Seals arguing
One mandatory stop is Piedras Blancas, a small beach where elephant seals hang out seasonally. With their disproportionate trunk, they snore on the sand creating big puffs, their huge bodies jerk around in search for the best pillow of fat (usually another seal), and they throw sand on their back. Only slightly annoyed by the laughs of the public, elephant seals own Piedras Blancas: this is not a zoo or a reserve. Theirs is the beach, theirs the ocean. Whil driving and taking pictures, you will realize that Cambria is one of the last bits of human settlement before Carmel. So make sure your tank is full of gas and drive by the trees, rocks, and foamy waves of the Ventana Wilderness. In Carmel, you can decide to go back to the US-101 (for the first time in 200 miles or more) or to continue to Monterey. Monterey is a nice place for a lazy afternoon, it displays a few beautiful sand dunes just in its outskirts and it hosts a very interesting aquarium. Moreover, it was the setting and the inspiration for some of John Steinbeck’s writings (Cannery Row, chiefly).
When you are done dreaming of the ocean, of times long gone, and of the wilderness you just emerged from, drive up to San Jose and pick your final destination based on your hotel room or your home in San Francisco or the East Bay. The trip has ended, it has changed your life, and it has shown you the true essence of the West. The Loop might be over, but memories stay forever.
*Let it rain cheese*