These cloudy and rainy summer days leave me with less outdoorsy time. So here’s the setup for the Infinity Loop. The trip itself looks like the mathematical symbol, but we all know that there isn’t such thing as an infinite vacation. So let’s look at the necessary toolkit for the Infinity Looper.
A flock of Swedish people crossed my East Bay path around the 4th of July break. They came to the US to meet with common friends and to explore the West. So they rented a car and after spending a few days around Oakland and San Francisco, they disappeared in canyonland. Posting every day Instagram pictures of the wonderous places they came across. I was sort of jealous of their mileage, because I too had the intention of exploring the pre-Californian West. My desire was to drive all the way to Texas, so as to catch up with an old friend and see what’s the deal with the South West. But it would have taken almost one day to drive one way, without really stopping. And flying was not that cheap either. So plans switched for a shorter trip, that we later discovered almost mirrored the one undertaken by the Swedes, who even gave us a few tips. Here, I add some additional preparational tips.
1) Book an Antelope Canyon tour – and buy a decent/huge/amazing camera
This is perhaps to be done before you get to the United States (what? you’re a citizen? you were born in this country? well, do so anyways, because there’s a long line already there). The best time to see the tricks of the light that the wind-and-rain-shaped canyon displays are around noon. Those times are fully booked weeks in advance with tour companies in Page, AZ. However, we proceeded to the Navajo tour service just off the highway and got a very nice welcoming. I’m sure that they would accomodate you in case you were a small group (2-3). Our tour started at 8.45, when it was already 90F outside, and thanks to a timezone mistake (Arizona has not adopted daylight saving!), our tour was very tranquil and let us freely wander in the meanders of the rocks.
The canyon itself, however, is not stunning. It’s very pleasant to see how nature decided to shape those sandy rocks, but this happens in many other places. If you have access to a very good camera, your pictures will capture the true reflections that human eyes can’t see. This is the reason why there are special photography tours and the canyon itself was brought to the market by a photographer, to the disappointment of the Native groups, who had now to babysit all kinds of tourists – even those who carved their names in the walls of the canyon. In sum, you forget to bring a camera, you won’t understand Antelope Canyon.
2) Bring sunscreen – and water
I know, you’re dark enough that UV-radiation can’t break your natural shield. But if you bring sunscreen in your bag, it won’t hurt. If you undertake the Infinity Loop in the summer, you will be sweating all the way. Temperatures don’t fall under 75 degrees Farenheit until you get back to the Bay Area. A hat for your precious head and some pre-wilting cream for your soft skin are a must. Away from the sea/ocean, there is no sea-borne wind that cools off your body heat. The breeze is hot, especially in open plains. Without an overabundant stock of water – which quickly becomes flavorless soup – you will probably evaporate before you get to Nevada.
3) Map, smartphones, rough ideas – do you know where are you going?
Impro-traveling is awesome. However, having a clue of how long it takes to drive from one place to the other, knowing what to do when stuck without stamina in the middle of nowhere, understanding correctly the highway signs that announce: “Last Service for the next XX miles” are all details that will ensure that your trip doesn’t go awry. The sentence: “We could try to get there and see this, and if we can’t we’ll just stop there and go to this thing instead” should be uttered at least once a day.
4) Don’t be a snot and try motels – sleep in America, not in a standard room
Sleeping in flavorless luxurious rooms with silent AC is not for Infinity Loopers. We prefer stopping at random villages that host less than 10k people and asking for a motel room. Granted, you will find one bug, at the very least, and the TV is old-fashioned (when you see signs for “Color TV” it’s a trademark for two-generation-old technology). Even Motel6 with their überkitsch bed cover are distinguished from standard, clean, and aseptic sleep wards.
5) Bring cash – but don’t tell burglars
At some point, around the loop, you’ll be in need for cash (paying national parks, tours, dining in cash-only places, giving tips…). And your bank, even if you have an American bank account, will not be there for you. In Utah, as I understand, Zion Bank is the substitute for any Bank of America, Chase or Wells Fargo spotted everywhere else. Of course, keep your belongings with you. But stop being suspicious of everyone you see, you’ve left the big city and you’re among humans now.
6) Burn CDs, record cassettes, plug (and charge) your mp3 player! – entering radio-boredom country
Bible stations start in the Central Valley in California and probably only end in New York, if you’re traveling east. There is also an odd preponderance of Spanish-speaking stations in the core of California (the ratio to English is 75:25), which does not provide for enough commercial variety – somebody tell me why there are so few foreign songs played in this monolinguist America. All in all, there are also many hours of driving with little phone and radio reception, especially in the Death Valley area and in the Nevada/Utah/Arizona deserts. So having a long conversation is good, singing along your favorite tunes is still good, while the shotgun-reading-a-book scenario sucks for the driver, left alone in the big nothing. Uh, and don’t even consider the driver-reading-a-book scenario: you really want to avoid having a bored shotgun.
Next up: Infinity Loop – The trip!