We're on a road trip. In my book; the 'ultimate road trip'. We're travelling Route 66 - also known as the 'Main Street of America' and the 'Mother Road'. We're very excited.
Continued from Part One:
If there's one thing to do before crossing the border into New Mexico, it's to fill up on petrol and water. The next big city on the Mother Road is Albuquerque, three hours away. The chances are temperatures will be scorching too (we were driving in 110 degrees Fahrenheit here), so definitely stop at the idyllic Santa Rosa town for a dip in a natural water hole.
Our biggest detour happens in New Mexico. Rather than follow the traditional route through Albuquerque, we decide to head north on the 285 to Santa Fe to check out the state's famous art district. Staying at the Motel6 at Santa Fe Plaza, the next couple of days are spent wandering through the native markets, picking up pretty anklets made of turquoise (the area's natural stone) and getting to know locals at the friendly Second Street Brewery.
Brunch is a mouth-watering platter of over-easy eggs, corn tortilla and black beans with green chili at the Luminaria restaurant at the Inn and Spa at Loretto - and an hour up the road, we spend a lazy evening in a muscle-melting hot pool at the Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa ($40 for two people, for the day). For a real treat, book in an Ancient Echoes therapy of the head, neck and shoulders ($109 for 50 minutes) and be transported into a world of massage heaven.
Just a casual five hours from Santa Fe, my friend Charlie and I are amongst the ruby mountains of Arizona, soaking up the sun on the grass in Flagstaff. Around the corner on San Francisco Street, friends laze outside cafes while in the central square, pop-up creperies and burger bars fill up for the evening. We enjoy a savoury crepe (the Aspen - apple and Swiss cheese with honey is dreamy), before hitting the road for another couple of hours (note: when you're driving across America, two hours seems like a breeze) - reaching the neon-lit diners, late-night karaoke, white-picket-fence town of Williams - gateway to the Grand Canyon - in time for dinner.
The Grand Canyon
Each day, tiny Williams town thrives with thousands of visitors - all of whom are either about to or have already taken a ride on the Grand Canyon Railway. Trains depart at 10am daily to this spectacular natural wonder of the world (starting from $75 return) - but not before visitors have experienced a (pretend) Wild West shoot out near the platform. On board, you are encouraged to sit back with a glass of wine while the old carriages rustle through the desert.
Once at the South Rim, the eight-mile hike along the Bright Angel Trail into the canyon and Colorado River is magnificent, with four turn-around spots along the way so you won't miss the 3.30pm return train.
Our final drive from Arizona into California was the hottest, with outside temperatures hitting a sizzling 121 degrees Fahrenheit (that's almost 50 degrees Celsius) at the border crossing near Needles. This is the Mojave Desert, and needless to say a full tank of petrol is vital. A few hours of nothing but sandy surroundings later, we enter the city limits of Los Angeles - the final stage of our journey.
Pulling into the cool surroundings of Silver Lake, Charlie and I reward ourselves with a juicy beef carnitas burrito at El Conquistador Cantina. The service is impressive here and we hungrily tuck into the free basket of tacos and bowls of gazpacho.
Having just one day in LA doesn't allow anywhere near enough time, so if you do make it to the West Coast - stay for at least five. We spend our final 24 hours perfecting our one-day-in-LA plan; pancakes in Pasadena, photo ops at Griffith Park in front of the distant Hollywood sign and taking in the final rays of sunshine on Malibu Beach - before heading back to our Motel6 Hollywood home. From here, it's an easy stroll to the Roosevelt Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard for cocktails and burgers. Founded in 1927 by a well-loved group of film industry personalities including Douglas Fairbanks, this hotel has been home to many-a-movie-star during filming - like the beautiful Marilyn Monroe, who adored the place. A visit to the famous Grauman's Chinese Theatre is a two-minute walk.
Finally, we settle into the cushiony red booths at what was Humphrey Bogart's favourite bar, The Formosa on Santa Monica Boulevard, for one final drink to toast the end of our road trip.
We have travelled more than 1,450 miles in ten days. That deserves a 'Cheers!'
Motel 6 promise a clean, comfortable room and great service for the lowest price of any national chain in the USA. Rooms cost as little as $25 dollars per night. To book visit www.motel6.com
Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa: http://ojospa.com/
Grand Canyon Railway: http://www.thetrain.com/
PICTURE CREDIT: KAREN EDWARDS