There’s a force from underneath the dam that’s pulling me. I felt like jumping.

That’s what the Hoover Dam did to me. Was it acrophobia, the fear of height? Not quite. According to a physician I work for, I was dealing with angst; a German word for fear or anxiety, used in English to describe an intense feeling of strive. Angst normally means a nondirectional emotion. While acrophobia is an extreme or irrational fear of heights.

Done with Hoover Dam, we continued driving on the US Route 93. After about an hour, my ‘bottomless-stomach’ 6 years old son started to complain of being hungry. We saw a jerky store on the side of the road, it’s called freshjerky[dot]com. I thought, if they dare selling online, they must be pretty good, right? We went in and sampled some of their dried meat and fruit. Some of them sounded pretty nasty -ever heard of tuna jerky?- but after we tried it, it was actually edible and quite tasty. My favorite was the teriyaki beef and the dried mango.

Then the road trip continued to reach Williams, AZ. This town was picked as our base camp because it will only take us about half an hour to drive to the entrance of the Grand Canyon. We were debating whether or not to just drive to the South Rim area of the Canyon, which has accommodations too, so we don’t have to drive too far. But they were too pricey for our budget which was already depleted after losing thousand something dollars after the failed SE Asia trip plan (read the previous parts of this post). This small town lies on Route 66, and I haven’t been to any before. I watched the movie ‘Cars’ with the kids and since then always wanted to visit small towns on Route 66.

We booked a room at The Downtowner Motel. Everytime I heard the word ‘motel’, I can’t help but thinking of squeaky beds, smelly carpet, and loud heater/air-con. To my surprise, this one is completely presentable. We got the two bedrooms, one of each with very comfortable queen beds and flat screen TV on the wall. I thought it was going to have either a ‘mountain cabin’ decoration or tacky Route 66 memorabilia. It was not. Instead, the tastefully decorated cabin reminded me of a hip, urban-taste apartment of a big city. Normal motel would have one big undivided area of bedroom, living room, and a small kitchen/eating area altogether; this one was, again, has a big city apartment feeling to it; without a kitchen.

Done checking in, we went out to explore the town on foot in a 40-something degrees temperature. I was freezing my ass off. Hubby and the kids were fine, because they’re Iowans. Decided to go in a bar to warm up, met a very nice fellow who taught my 7 year old daughter, Davi, how to smooth her shuffleboard skill. This guy is everything you’d picture of a prospector. Very very nice. Drunk as heck, but nice. While Davi and I were in a shuffleboard match, Dante took Daddy up for a very intense game of cards: Go Fish.

Where to go for dinner, we wondered. The common American dine-in or hello… is that a Thai restaurant I see? We thought, in the spirit of Thailand, we should try the Thai restaurant, Dara Thai’s Cafe. When we entered the place, we found out that we’re the only customers. An alarm went off at the back of my brain, saying, “Bad choice. Don’t go here.” Of course, I ignored it. Made a small talk to the owner about how surprised I was to find a Thai restaurant in a place like this -small town, on Route 66, out of nowhere. Then she said that they were new, just a couple of months, and that they’re a chainThai restaurant. That alarm on my brain buzzed off again. All chain restaurants are mostly so-so, if not bad. Some people are fond of chain -international- restaurants, like Carlos O’ Kelly’s or Panda Express, or PF Chang. We are not. Our family prefers to go to a smaller but more authentic ones, even though it’s considered as a ‘dive restaurants’ to most Westerners. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) I was right. The food was not very good, it was blah. After paying, we went for more walk, stopped at a gift/souvenir store with a scary robotic Santa by the front door.

The next morning, we woke up early and had a hearty American breakfast at the diner. Packed all the necessities to stay warm (hats, mittens, etc), filled up the gas tank, fully charged batteries for camera and video camera were ready to go, full tummy… we’re off to see one of World Heritage Sites! Being the ‘Gateway to the Grand Canyon’, Williams is conveniently located, it only took us 30 min to reach the Grand Canyon entrance.

We visited Grand Canyon’s South Rim instead of North, because it’s ‘friendlier’ to us. The North Rim, which I’m pretty sure has more stunning views, is more remote and only open in mid-May through mid-October. For a first timer like us, experiencing the Grand Canyon from the South Rim (also known as Grand Canyon Village) is not bad at all. It ismore touristy, because they have more lodgings (El Tovar Hotel is amazing!), shops, and easier accessibilities. Planning a visit? Do some research here first. Interested in doing the mule ride? Better be in shape since the shortest one takes about 7 hours!

There’s no words to describe how amazing this place is. The way nature just ‘carved’ this georgous place. How the force of water cut deeply through the rock, forming numerous steep-walled canyons. And to think how difficult that time was for the pioneers to explore this wilderness, and survived. I was glad to be able to see this place, and for my kids to experience it too.

With this spirit, we drove back to Vegas feeling better that this family vacation was not a big disappointment after all. So what if we couldn’t go to Chiang Mai, Thailand, and visit the Elephant Nature Park. To be able to go to Los Angeles, roaming the Hollywood Boulevard, watching shows in Las Vegas, and to see one of the world’s wonders Grand Canyon, was not a bad experience at all. So what if we couldn’t be in a 80 degrees weather while sunning at the beach wearing shorts and sandals. To be in a 30 degrees weather, bundled from head to toe with chattering teeth, I guess it’s okay too. All I wanted to do was to be home again.

So there we were, in Vegas again. Last minute reservation to the Desert Rose Resort (I highly recommend this place. Very very nice and close to the Strip) was made via cell phone on our way from Williams, AZ. They had one 2-bedroom suite available, thankfully. I went to bed hoping that tomorrow we’d be able to fly back home with no problems.

Unfortunately, the goddess of drama was not going to let go of us easily. Started with the ‘fine’ of $150 from the rental car place because we didn’t fill the tank up (it was 3/4 full). Then when we checked in at the airline’s desk at McCarran International airport, they told us that hubby was not listed to fly with us! What?! Evidenty, due to shuffling things around, the online booking rep did not book hubby with us. She booked him on a different flight! I couldn’t emphasize more clearly how frustrating that situation was for us. I was about to loose it, because the departure time for the three of us was approaching, but we dind’t have an answer for hubby yet. After a while, somebody with a higher rank stepped in and took care of us. Not only he was able to get hubby in the same flight with us with the same price, we were also able to seat close together. Phew!

This whole ‘drama’ does affect our decission-making capability when it comes to travel internationally. Because it seemed that no matter how we try to make alternative options, they ended up being a bite on the butt. I understand that the military coup in Bangkok was out of our hands, as well as hubby’s sickness. I just can’t help but feeling that we probably should stay put in the US for a while. But we all did have fun, because it’s not the destination or where you are, but who you’re with; and I’m still glad that I share this adventure with hubby and the kids.