Les Carnets de Traverse see the Southwest with a Sixt car rental
Sixt was happy to help out French travel bloggers Les Carnets de Traverse with their recent road trip. Read about their impressions of the US as they drove through Arizona and Colorado with a Sixt car rental. Check out their Facebook and Instagram and see their incredible photos taken on the journey.
Day 1: We arrive!
We land in Los Angeles around 1pm and pick up our Sixt rental, a Chevrolet Traverse (we couldn’t have even imagined a more perfect coincidence). Given the time, we can’t make it all the way to Scottsdale and decide instead to stop in Beaumont, California. We go for a meal at the Farm’s House, where we get to joke with our waitress, Crystal, who learned French at school (but who doesn’t remember much). I order a plate of ribs too big for me (even though I took the half portion) and a Dr Pepper and then have to lay down on the leather banquette because, jetlag (that means you wake up at 3 am with a strong desire to do crosswords).
Day 2: To Scottsdale
Mission of the day, find a Walmart and buy a SIM card (yes dear readers, this is our fate we must stay connected in any situation- even in the depths of Arizona- to post photos to Facebook and update the blog). After at least an hour long, nerve wracking crisis trying to activate (the joys of technical telephone conversations when you’re not super fluent in English) this f *** prepaid SIM card we finally achieve success (T-Mobile $ 60 per month unlimited data, SMS and calls).
These first two days that include our flight (11h), drive (6h) and a bit of insomnia (I did not count) bring us finally to the third day and Scottsdale, Arizona. Finally in the thick of the Southwest and sleeping in the super classy, colorful Saguaro Hotel. We took 200 pictures just by the pool 🙂
Day 3: Saguaro National Park, Tucson!
I am a crazy about cactuses, so I convinced Renaud to spend a few days here in this paradise! It’s quite an experience to be among and walk beside these huge cacti and to top it off, we’ll spend two nights at the White Stallion Ranch. Yes, living the dream !! We love ranches and the thought of horseback riding amidst the saguaros fills me with happiness and excitement!
There are two parts of Saguaro National Park (East / West) and we explore the western side (the eastern part is on the other side of town). We take the scenic Bajada Loop Drive (about 10km) that takes much longer than the advertised hour as we are stopping every 2 minutes to walk and take pictures. Watch out for rattlesnakes while walking, which is harder than it sounds when you’re staring at all these wonderful and huge cactuses that point to the sky!
Note: we got ATTACKED by baby cactus, specifically by a Teddybear Cholla Cactus. It might look cute (almost “soft”) it is NOT AT ALL !! It’s horrible, it takes you by surprise and it enters the skin super easy !! And my god, trying to remove it #Ouch. Pro tip: watch your step and take along a small pair of scissors or tweezers.
Day 4: Ranch, cowboys and cactus
Another perfect day at the White Stallion Ranch begins! Today we rode horses and I can’t tell you how happy I am to be here! A few words about the White Stallion, it’s a “guest ranch” (a ranch that receives travelers) and family run for the last 50 years. Our room is at the back of the ranch near the horses (too good) and there is a pool, large lounge, and terrace where you take meals … when the bell rings 🙂
We were scheduled for a “breakfast ride” at 8:30 am, but it started to rain a little so we postponed until 2:30 pm. I am feeling impatient but the sun quickly returns and we head out to explore the ranch and its cows, horses and nooks and crannies before having lunch in the sun. Finally it’s time and I get to ride my new friend, “Jolly Jumper” and the magic begins! We stop for a break at the foot of the mountains and it’s completely cinematic (check out our photos to see what I mean)!
Day 5: Tucson to Scottsdale
I must confess it’s a bit hard to have to leave our wonderful ranch but the road is calling us! Before leaving we return to Saguaro National Park and visit the beautiful Mission San Xavier del Bac and its impressive Spanish Colonial architecture. Back in Scottsdale we are once again at the Scottsdale Saguaro Hotel. See you tomorrowwww!
Day 6: Petrified Forest National Park
Today we leave Scottsdale, on our way to the Petrified Forest National Park! The road through the Tonto National Forest and the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest can be summed up in these words: cacti and pine forests! It’s beautiful and reminds me of the second part of this road trip, Colorado, that you will find out about in a few days!
After a few hours in the forest, we arrive in Holbrook and there is radical change of atmosphere. This stretch is part of the historic Route 66 and we are no doubt on the ‘Mother Road’ with its signs, rundown diners, faded colors and statues of giant dinosaurs. We will return to it later, but I already love it. Renaud immediately begins to take photos like crazy. But I am forgetting THE topic of the day, the Petrified Forest National Park! Dear reader, the famous “Petrified Forest” is actually an ancient forest that has been petrified, in other words, fossilized trees (trunks actually)! Quite amazing but perhaps not the most impressive park in Arizona (however, if it’s on your route, it’s worth a visit). The park closes at 7pm so we go eat in Holbrook (at El Rancho, an old Mexican restaurant with old faded colored benches), and sleep at The Globetrotter Lodge, a motel (well yeah, obliged !!) which was very clean and cool! This road trip just keeps getting better and better and feeling more and more American!
Day 7: Holbrook and Meteor Crater: A taste of Route 66!
Route 66! I must say I did not know what to think (seen too much, too kitsch, too overrated), but in just the first few minutes yesterday we fell under its colorful charm. Our driving goal today is to arrive and sleep at the Grand Canyon. Along the way we stop at the famous Meteor Crater which claims to be “the world’s best preserved meteorite impact site on Earth”. The crater is the result of the impact of an asteroid that came crashing here 50 000 years ago at the very slight speed of 12km / second, which made some minor damage. At $18 per person, it’s a bit expensive compared to the amount of time we spent there, but we don’t regret it. We continue to Flagstaff Rapidos (did you know that there is a ski resort and a volcano?) and via a pretty road to Valls we reach the Grand Canyon! It’s gray and ugly, raining, snowing, and then even hail! We had never seen the Grand Canyon like that!
Day 8: The incredible Grand Canyon
We get up early to explore the South Rim reaching it with a well-organized shuttle (free, every 10/15 min). What to say ? Those who have been already know how hard it can be to describe. Even if you have seen thousands of pictures of the Grand Canyon, when you reach the edge of the rim for the first time (or the tenth), it will always be breathtaking. It is a feeling of surprise (it’s bigger than you thought), mixed with fascination, vertigo (this immense void before you), wonder …
You feel tiny. And this is only the first point. As you drive or walk long there are still dozens of vistas, dozens of mounds, abysses, plateaus, endless cliffs, gaping holes. All we can do is share our photos.
Afterwards we are on the road towards Monument Valley. We plan a detour on Hwy 89 to see Marble Canyon and especially Horseshoe Bend, the famous tight meander of the Colorado River, a few km south of Page.
Horseshoe Bend- we had of course already seen some pictures- but oh, wow!! It’s really impressive. With no barriers around this high cliff I can’t help but think those who attempt a selfie are crazy! Too dangerous for me, sorry dear readers, you will can enjoy a picture of my feet, but not 100% suspended in the air!
What a day … What a road trip …
Day 9: Horseback riding in Monument Valley at sunrise
Just sleeping at our hotel, The View, is already an experience in itself. It is aptly named because each room offers stunning views of Monument Valley. The restaurant too so you get to take your morning coffee while admiring the incredible landscape dotted with buttes. But above all a new truly ultimate experience was tested: Monument Valley on horseback, at sunrise.
Sound like a dream? Well it was.
We chose to do with Roy Black, who hosts the Navajo family Black’s Horse Tour (around 2 hours for $89) whose son winds up being our guide. Once in motion, there is little talk. This is not a place we want to chatter. This is a moment for contemplation. The three of us are alone in this great valley that is gradually emerging out of night. I don’t know how to share this moment, it was so intense. Monument Valley has a special aura, as if it were inhabited by spirits. You have to see at sunset or sunrise, I think, to really experience this magic.
On a horse, you can better get a feel for the landscape. You are closer to nature, you are one with your surroundings, and not just a spectator. No noise, just the horseshoes in the sand, earth, rocks. Before you are vast plains with huge rocks that seem frozen there since time immemorial. There are always familiar forms. That one is an elephant, another looks like an eagle. I guess finding similar shapes reassures us in some way, things become less mysterious, less threatening. We arrive at Totem Pole and it’s completely unreal with the early morning light. I look at Renaud, we smile, it’s hard to believe our eyes. Another advantage of the horseback ride is you have access to limited restricted areas that you can only see with a guide. Afterwards we take the car to further explore the valley. The sky turns cloudy, it’s time to check out.
So that’s the end of Arizona for the moment, next we take the road to Colorado through New Mexico!
*Translated from French and condensed and edited from the original