View of the Grand Canyon from the plane while flying from Atlanta to Las Vegas
Western US Travel Diary

Day 1: Traveling from Atlanta to Las Vegas

Our day traveling from Atlanta to Las Vegas started at 4:45 am thanks to our fragrant and sometimes noisy neighbor, The Pink Plumber. Normally, we hate this. Also, it’s usually around 6:30 am, so I’d like to give PP a gold star this one and only time for being my extremely early alarm clock. Anyway… we {thankfully} packed ahead of time and were ready to hop in our Uber at 6:00 am.

Ernest, our Uber driver, was one awesome dude. Bless the Uber gods for sending us a good one when it actually mattered. He told us his best friend is Bobby V (aka Bobby Valentino) and he flies with him all the time. He gave us all sorts of travel tips and made sure we got to the best Delta check-in (lower level departures). We were the only ones there; it was awesome. They greeted us like they hadn’t seen a soul all day, but also had like 5 cups of coffee, “GOOD MORNING! WELCOME TO DELTA!”… but I guess it was only 6:30 am.

While I love to travel, I become extremely anxious at the airport for some reason. The whole Uber ride I was imagining these ridiculous lines at security snaking with no end in sight making us miss our flight. That couldn’t be further from our experience this morning.

I was a lucky duck and magically got selected for TSA pre-check. But when we got to security there were maybe 30 people in the REGULAR (peasant) line, so I waved goodbye to my privilege and went with the non-blessed half of our traveling party.

Here comes the most glorious part of it all: we did not have to remove or take out ANYTHING. They waved us on through the dinky metal detectors, boots on and laptops and liquids still in bags. WHAT?! No idea what benevolent deed we did to deserve such a glorious airport experience. Security took maybe 10 minutes (not even enough time for me to irrationally panic thinking someone put drugs in my bag). I think I used up a lifetime of good Atlanta airport security experiences with that one.

We grabbed some breakfast near our gate and almost immediately boarded the plane. We got pushed back to the no recline seats by the middle bathrooms; no biggie, at least I still had my view. The plane was full, so we knew we had a 3rd person with us. However, our lucky travel day continued when a flight attendant offered our seat neighbor an open reclining seat. He obviously moved which meant we had an open seat to stretch out a bit… on a “full” flight.

Other than quite a bit of turbulence, we had an uneventful flight and watched Finding Dory. We even got a gorgeous preview of the Grand Canyon from above.

View of the Grand Canyon from the plane
Sorry for the window glare
View of the Grand Canyon from the plane
Better view of the Canyon

Once we landed, it was off to get the rental car. We hopped in our Chevy Equinox and were on our merry way to the Hoover Dam (HD)!

Our drive to HD proved just how different the landscape is here. Seriously, it looks like another planet.

Hoover Dam Sign
We arrived around 12:00 pm. While we had planned to take the full Dam tour, the next one they had available was at 2:00 pm so we opted for the regular power plant tour instead so we could go right away. Still awesome! We traveled deep into the Dam and learned all about how it works, what it does, and how it was built. Truly just remarkable!

After the Dam tour, we went up to the observation deck where the Dam views were absolutely breathtaking. Then we took a little walk on the Nevada side of the Dam itself. The old tourist office has this 10 min presentation using a model of all the dams in the West. So Dam boring. Don’t do it. I mean, unless you have big Dam fascination or something. All my tiredness started setting in when I was in there. Bad Dam decision.

After all that Dam stuff, we wanted to take a walk across the “new” bridge connecting Nevada to Arizona (2010, Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge).

Bridge at the Hoover Dam
We drove back the way we came in and parked in a lot just outside of the Dam area (ok, ok, I’ll stop). We walked up a winding pathway that led us to the bridge. Woah, that bridge is HIGH. Sometimes I say to myself, “I’m not really afraid of heights. I just think I am. I’ll be fine.” LOL NOPE. So terrifying. Eric was leaning over the rail getting his cool pictures and I was standing with my back up against the inner wall looking at him with terror. Here are the pictures I managed to take while panicking.

Standing on the bridge at the Hoover Dam
You can’t see it because I have on sunglasses, but I’m so scared
View of the Hoover Dam from the bridge
The shadow is the bridge we were standing on

Sign for the Hoover Dam bridge
So we left the death bridge and started making our way to the Grand Canyon. Current temp: 55, but feels like 70

Fun fact: Arizona does not observe daylight savings time. So we left the Hoover Dam in Nevada at 2:30 pm and arrived in Arizona at 3:33 pm; it took us about 3 minutes to get to and cross the death bridge by car.

Around 5:15 pm MT, we exited and made a beeline to In-N-Out. It was my inaugural experience; very exciting stuff. Overall, I gave it an 8/10 mostly because the fries weren’t cooked long enough. Current temp: 45 degrees F.

Food from Inn N Out Burger in Arizona
Yes, I got animal style

8:00 pm MT, we pulled up to a Safeway (like Kroger) in Williams, AZ to grab some water and food. There are limited places to eat at the Grand Canyon, so prices are high and quality is lacking. We knew we would have a fridge in our room, so we got some premade salads, granola bars, and yogurt. Dinner is going to be at the nice restaurant on Sunday night.

By the way, when we exited there was SNOW! I can’t tell you the level of excitement I was feeling because it was off the charts. I haven’t seen more than a light dusting of snow in like 3 years! Current temp: 32

Snow in Arizona
Yes, I made Eric take this. Yes, this is outside the Safeway.

We left Safeway around 8:30 pm MT and took Route 66 through the little {adorable} town of Williams, AZ. Reminded me a bit of Milledgeville with a Wild West saloon vibe.

As we neared the lodge, the snow became more prevalent and the roads were very icy. Current temp: 26

9:00 pm MT we finally arrived at the Bright Angel Lodge! There was an abundance of fat raccoons running around and 2 deer were walking up the steps of our lodge when we pulled up. Current temp: 16

The lady that checked us in gave us a map and told us to walk through 2 lodges in order to get to ours. We sure made a mistake not packing 2 small bags to carry to the room. I think we went up and down probably 10 small flights of stairs with our giant suitcases and groceries. It was awful and I think we woke up the entire Canyon. Not to mention the bits we walked outside were completely iced over so that was fun.

Our long day ended at 11:00 pm MT.

  • Total time awake: 21 hours
  • Final temp: 16
  • Elevation: 6,800 ft



Continue reading my Western US Diary: Day 2: Hiking the Grand Canyon South Rim

4 thoughts on “Day 1: Traveling from Atlanta to Las Vegas”

  1. I am so happy you are writing about this marvelous trip! I was reading this to your Nana and she happily said, “Papa and I stayed at the Bright Angel Lodge right after we married and were driving to our new home in California!” It brought her sweet memories, and she is thrilled you two are experiencing that lovely part of our country.

    1. Wow! That is so neat! We were learning about it’s history this morning. They built it in 1912 and used a horse and buggy to give people tours of the rim. Very cool!

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