In the second instalment of Tony Herbert's American Road Trip blog series, he meets the Grand Canyon's local wildlife - both in their natural habitat, and at Route 66's famous Road-Kill Café...
We rent a gleaming new Nissan SUV just outside the Bellagio and, having said no to Sat Nav, are hoping to be able to rely on good old-fashioned maps and directions given, as necessary, by friendly natives.
We drive through desolate, mountainous landscape towards the Hoover Dam, which we cross - sadly - without being able to see it. This landscape makes the moon look hospitable, but itsoon transforms into flat, scrubby desert. Soon after, we pass a splendid pair of road signs in a tiny village: 'Veterans Home', reads one pointing to the left. 'Veteran's Cemetary', reads the other, pointing to the right. No delicacy here!
You kill it, we grill it
We take an exit entirely randomly and find ourselves on the famous and historic Route 66. As everyone probably knows, it was the first proper road from Chicago to Los Angeles, and came to symbolise the path to freedom and riches for the beleaguered northerners in the 1920s. It survives in parts, having been replaced by the modern interstate freeways in others - our stretch is full of historic memorabilia, including a shed marked ""Jail"" (along with a sign confirming that it really was one) along with a Road-Kill Café, whose saying is 'You kill it, we grill it.'
By mid-afternoon, we arrive at the Grand Canyon and clock into the Yavapai Lodge, a rambling collection of buildings. Later, we take ourselves off to see the Canyon at sunset. The first view you get must always be the best, regardless of where from, as words can't really do justice to the sheer overwhelming magnificence. It's largely because of the scale of it all: 10 miles across, a mile down and filled with awe-inspiring rock formations. There's a fear that it's so sublime that you'll soon get used to it and take it for granted - all the more important to let that precious first impression seep in.
The next morning, we get up early to make our way to the farthest eastern point of the national park, Desert View, and are greeted by two large female elk, grazing happily around the lodges. Later, we spy even larger bull elk with magnificent antlers, manoeuvring itself with some difficulty through the woods. We learn that elk and deer sightings are plentiful - trickier to spot are mountain lions, moose and the Californian Condor, all of which evade us.
Wildlife aside, Desert View boasts spectacular views - it's the highest point on the south rim at 7,500 feet. There's also a slightly curious tower, constructed by an architect called Mary Jane Colter, using local stone and incorporating Native Indian design, but built around a decidedly non-Native Indian steel frame. It ranks as a historic monument - just!