North America Travel

The (s)trip in Vegas

I remember when we arrived in Kentucky Camp while on the Arizona Trail just 2 weeks ago.
We were both sitting in that couch leaning on each other, getting some rest. I took a break from my readings to soak in all the emotions flowing through me at that particular moment. It reminded me of those evenings at home when we were both sitting in silence on the couch, my eyes closed, feeling that incredible mixture of emotion somewhere between happiness and peace. I guess I could fully understand Prousts’ Madeleine for the first time. For a moment I asked myself why? Why did we leave everything behind? I shared my feelings with Kenzi. We couldn’t come up with an answer..

The Strip (not the clubs you perv)
One big extravagant area of hotels and casinos, shamelessly throwing millions of dollars away in their folly of excess. Where consumption and making the people consume stands at the top of the pyramid of madness. Where all the lights, music and fountains show off a complete denial to today’s environmental and social issues.

Las Vegas proudly puts up its middle finger to the world’s need to reduce water and energy consumption, and it is a disgusting, although entertaining, show to watch.

A bit too much in a hurry to leave the city two days after arriving in Vegas, we took the wrong bus and ended up on a bridge on the opposite side of the highway we were supposed to hitchhike on. No one seems to know how to go to the other side of the highway. We must have looked pretty lost there, wandering around KFC and other food chains, unsuccessfully trying to get some WiFi on our phones to take a look at Google Maps. Not really sure if that random lady misinterpreted our wandering, thinking we were starving and looking for food. All we know is she gave us 20 bucks and some coupons and told us to go get something to eat.

We got some mashed potatoes at KFC – don’t judge our cravings – found some WiFi and started the 45 minute walk towards the right side of the highway, our “Death Valley” sign visible for the passing cars. Nobody picked us up, but this time a German lady apologizes for not going that way and gives us 8 dollars. Yep, just like that.

Sometimes getting cash is easier than getting rides in the States.

The clock hit 7PM but still no ride for us. Luckily, we weren’t in downtown Vegas anymore and Google Maps shows that there’s a green area nearby, a potential camping spot. The winds started rising just when we started walking, bringing dark clouds closer to us with them. We knew the water-resistance of our tent would be challenged that night.

“You guys need to get somewhere?”
We only realized a car slowed down when we heard Brandy’s voice.
We told him we didn’t have any luck hitchhiking and that we were looking for a place to pitch our tent. We heard him mention the park we were planning to go to but he had other news; his wife and himself were thinking about going to Death Valley the day after and he suggested to go with them. We agreed on heading towards the park nearby where he would meet us in a couple of minutes to discuss this further.

We were getting mentally prepared to sleep under picnic tables that night, as that park was more of an open playground where the whole neighborhood had vision of us, until Brandy came back, telling us we could spend the night in his house.
With a sigh of relief and a last look at the dark clouds, we hopped in his car, leaving the playground behind in the cold darkness.

We took off our shoes – Kenzi a bit ashamed of having to take out his – got up the stairs and Brandy introduced us to Kim, his wife, and to himself. It clicked instantly. There was no wall that had to be broken. No awkward first get-to-know each other conversations but instead the sounds of constant chatting and laughter filled their living room that evening. It was as if we were having an old friend reunion with good Gewürztraminer wine.

Petrichor had filled the air of Las Vegas with its perfume by the next morning. The rain had fallen and cleared the sky of its clouds, letting the sunrays warm up the air again. We could see it was going to be a beautiful day while we were all getting ready to go to Death Valley.
We rode up to the National Park in the same atmosphere than the night before. We chitchatted about everything and nothing at the same time, while Kim and Brandy were sharing everything they know about the area.

Death Valley

‘In this below-sea-level basin, steady drought and record summer heat make Death Valley a land of extremes.
Yet, each extreme has a striking contrast. Towering peaks are frosted with winter snow. Rare rainstorms bring vast fields of wildflowers. Lush oases harbor tiny fish and refuge for wildlife and humans. Despite its morbid name, a great diversity of life survives in Death Valley.’

With the super bloom going on, Death Valley was facing high expectations. It’s vastness and emptiness has a beauty on its own. A beauty that didn’t appeal to any of us. To quote Kim “I’ve done all of the National Parks of California but Death Valley. And now I know why.”
We were surrounded by grey. Not a full-scale grey a black and white photo reveals. Almost a unique, single tone of grey, from the mountains to the soil. The blue sky was the only contrast in the landscapes and even its bright color didn’t bring the Valley back to life. We were in a place where all colors had died. It felt sad, it felt dead.

After driving around the place for a while, we decided not to camp there and on Brandy & Kimmy’s invitation we returned to Vegas. We didn’t give up the idea of camping though. As soon as we arrived in Vegas we packed up the car once again but this time full of camping gear and food.
Kim and Brandy had left Oregon behind to go to Vegas but that didn’t mean they gave up their love for nature. They had tried to go hiking every weekend and had already discovered their two favorite parks of the area. One of those two was Red Rock Canyon and they promised we would love it.

It was spring break and the whole camping was packed with tents and people. There wasn’t even a little fire pit left for us. We didn’t abandon here though and went to the remote rural areas of Vegas, and made our own fire pit, cooking our (veggie) sausages and marshmallows, while enjoying the view of Vegas at night. We did give up on the idea of camping after all and tucked ourselves into our comfy beds in their condominium.

Kim, Brandy, Rayne and us in Valley of Fire

Kim, Brandy, Rayne and ourselves in one of the many caves and gaps of Valley of Fire

The next day the five of us all hopped back in the car again, towards Valley of Fire State Park.
If Vegas is called Disneyland for adults, Valley of Fire was Disneyland for us. With its breathtaking red structures of all forms we couldn’t move our feet fast enough to explore the area. Together with Rayne, their daughter, we spent hours climbing around the place, going through gaps and jumping over deep holes. Rayne showed us how good she was at climbing the highest peaks, but getting off of them was another challenge.

When on the way back “home” I got silent for a while. I wanted to give myself time to understand the feelings that were going through me. That’s when I realized, here in the car, watching the mountains passing by, listening to the music and the sounds of laughter, that this was why we left everything behind.

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25 Comments

  • Reply
    Mary munroe
    April 11, 2016 at 10:03 pm

    Hi kids. Thanks again for putting me on Google Earth. Have had three couples stay since then!!!! Love what you’re doing….keep on writing. Cheers, mary

  • Reply
    Zeljka
    April 13, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    Interesting post! Vegas is on my bucket list and I love reading about it 🙂 Best regards 🙂

    • Reply
      Tako Yacki
      April 13, 2016 at 4:32 pm

      Vegas is definitely a place to check out! Hope you have fun. 🙂
      Thank you for the kind words!

  • Reply
    thetravelpockets
    April 13, 2016 at 3:53 pm

    What an adventure you had!!! Kudos to the lady that gave you guys 20 bucks and some coupons 🙂

    • Reply
      Tako Yacki
      April 13, 2016 at 4:34 pm

      Definitely a crazy adventure haha and you get to see how nice people can be!

  • Reply
    WanderWithBri
    April 13, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    My favorite part is the last sentence “watching the mountains passing by, listening to the music and the sounds of laughter, that this was why we left everything behind.” So true…sometime’s it’s not even the full trip but just the little things after that make you realize how lucky you are! 🙂

    • Reply
      Tako Yacki
      April 13, 2016 at 4:36 pm

      Thank you, glad somebody else can agree with us! 🙂

  • Reply
    Sierra@TMWY
    April 13, 2016 at 4:31 pm

    What a neat adventure! Las Vegas is definitely ….interesting. I like the way you described the strip.

    • Reply
      Tako Yacki
      April 13, 2016 at 4:37 pm

      Thank you, it’s completely how it feels though.

  • Reply
    La Vida Sunshine
    April 13, 2016 at 4:37 pm

    WOW!! You guys are BRAVE!! Hitch hiking is not common in the U.S. In fact, we’re taught not to pick up hitchhikers. We went to Vegas in January. We stayed in a 5 star hotel in a suite, anything less than 3 stars would be roughing it for me. So, I have a lot of respect for you sense of adventure. Happy and safe travels!!

    • Reply
      Tako Yacki
      April 13, 2016 at 5:56 pm

      Haha thank you!! It’s crazy you’re taught not to pick them up; we’re all friendly and cool people you know how did you like your stay in Vegas? We were at the cheapest hostel on Fremont street, not too far from the druggy areas. Thank you for the kind words, have a wonderful day!

  • Reply
    Simona
    April 14, 2016 at 5:59 am

    Hitch hiking in Vegas? That sounds awesome. When I think about Vegas is more like all bling bling and betting in my mind. Along with crazy alcohol drinks and getting married in a shorter time than making a soup! :))
    Really enjoyed reading your piece!

    • Reply
      Tako Yacki
      April 14, 2016 at 6:14 am

      It’s so much more than that if you’re lucky enough to meet the right people or if you know where to go!
      Thank you, glad we could entertain you for a bit. 🙂

  • Reply
    MarieAnne
    April 14, 2016 at 6:55 am

    I totally agree with you on this one. I love going to Vegas but sometimes I do get mixed feelings about it. When I go to Vegas I always go to the desert as well, trying not to stay only in the city.

    • Reply
      Tako Yacki
      April 14, 2016 at 7:05 am

      I believe both have their advantages and their cool & entertaining parts. 😉

  • Reply
    Rosemary
    April 15, 2016 at 6:03 am

    Wow, what an experience. Your experience is a good reminder of the “goodness” in people. Never been to Death Valley and so interesting to read that it did not live up to your expectations. Bummer! Very brave for hitchhiking in the U.S. Safe travels 🙂

    • Reply
      Tako Yacki
      April 15, 2016 at 3:40 pm

      It definitely is! We have only met good people so far, it has been amazing. Thank you!

  • Reply
    Amanda Connolly
    April 15, 2016 at 5:21 pm

    Too cool! Love meeting people on the round and it sounds like you guys had an absolute blast!

    • Reply
      Tako Yacki
      April 15, 2016 at 8:59 pm

      Yeah meeting people when you’re hitchhiking is one of the best things ever! You only have amazing people stopping and sometimes you even make friends for life, like with Kimmy & Brandy. 🙂
      We ARE having a blast!

  • Reply
    Daniel L. Manske
    April 18, 2016 at 10:02 pm

    I love your blog and am very much looking forward to meeting you and having you both for house guests! Nothing is a better education than a travel adventure. See you soon!

    • Reply
      Tako Yacki
      April 19, 2016 at 3:42 pm

      I’m glad you love it Daniel! Thank you for the kind words and for the beautiful experience of meeting you!

  • Reply
    Thomas Hermans
    April 20, 2016 at 11:11 am

    Hi there!

    My girlfriend and I will be hitchhiking from LA over Las Vegas to Yosemite, San Francisco and then all the way up to Seattle and Vancouver in Canada, where we will be taking our flight back to Belgium. Do you have any suggestions about leaving Vegas to get to Yosemite? I imagine it is not easy to pass Death Valley and the deserts around Las Vegas without a decent ride that takes you all the way…

    We’ve been hitchhiking around in Europe, but it will be our first trip in the USA 😉
    Cool stories you write! It’s these kind of things we like about hitchhiking!

    • Reply
      Tako Yacki
      April 20, 2016 at 7:04 pm

      Hallo Thomas!

      Your trip sounds exciting! When are you planning to do all that?

      The way we would do it is going north-west of Vegas through Route 95 to get to Death Valley, and then you can get to Yosemite through Route 395.
      It might seem hard to hitchhike in and out of Death Valley but the hardest part will be to get out of the city, which is why we would advise you to just get a local bus to go as far out of the centre and as close to Route 95. From Death Valley to Yosemite should be fairly easy as it is packed with travelers driving from park to park.

      We actually just wrote a guide on keeping it cheap when backpacking in the National Parks, like when you hitchhike to get in the parks, you won’t have to pay the entry fee. Read more here http://takoyacki.com/backpacking-us-national-parks

      Have an amazing trip!

      • Reply
        Thomas Hermans
        April 22, 2016 at 3:42 pm

        We have a flight to Los Angeles on the 6th of august and we fly back from Vancouver on 1 september. So basically we have 23 days to do over 3500km, I guess that’s doable, right? It all depends on how many time you want to be visiting things and how many time you want to be hitchhiking…
        We still have two options for the route:
        1) https://goo.gl/rUOy32
        2) https://goo.gl/kWAvou
        They go pretty far apart but in total distance they are quite similar! Which one would you pick? We have no must-sees, but they both pass quite some beautiful places, cities and parks.
        Since we are students, we are not rich but it’s not that we’ll have to be dumpster diving to survive haha 😉

        Thanks for the advice! To get out of a city, we always go as far as possible with public transportation and start hitching somewhere near a shoulder of a highway. I don’t know about the amount of travelers going to that side of Yosemite in august though, since Death Valley is litterally an oven at that time of the year…

        I read your guide! It’s really well written and full of good suggestions, thanks for that. How long will you/have you been staying in the states?
        What do you guys do to remain online and charge phones and stuff?

        • Reply
          Tako Yacki
          April 27, 2016 at 11:23 pm

          I would totally go for option 1 just not to miss Yosemite. We couldn’t make it there during our trip unfortunately as it was way to cold this time of year, but if you’re there in the late summer you’re gonna have a blast!

          I feel like people will feel bad leaving you in Death Valley with that kind of heat, so I’m sure you’ll be fine finding rides.

          Thank you! We’re so happy to know people appreciate our guide and find useful tips in them! That’s why we do what we do. 🙂
          We’ve been in the US for three months and we left just yesterday.

          Kenzi had a data sim that we used from time to time but when you’re out in the nature, you’re not gonna have too much service so we’d just get on a WiFi when we’re in a town. I also highly recommend the Anker external chargers. We had the 20100 mAh one and we could charge our phones over 5 times! You can find different models on Amazon. Don’t hesitate to ask if you have more questions!

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