Last month during our down time and as a 4 year anniversary trip, Lindsey and I took another camping road trip, this time to Los Angeles. The previous year we went to Charleston, so this year it seemed fit to go straight in the other direction, and that was LA. Just like last year, we camped every night. Yes, all 8 nights on the road. If you didn’t see our live FB video, you should know, we’re basically camping road trip masters by now. Everything gets packed in reverse order for optimal unloading/tent staking. I think we had it down to 20 minutes from pulling in to being in our sleeping bags. That’s faster than you can check into a hotel room in some places!
I’ll say it right now, this post probably has WAYYY too many photos in it! In fact, if Lindsey was in charge of this post, there definitely wouldn’t be! (If they don’t all load, scroll all the way to the bottom and they should load eventually.) It was definitely a Burns-type vacation in that I had something planned for us at about every moment. The first few days were spent in Arizona with monuments like the Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon. Then we spent a few days in LA, hit Vegas for a hot second, and even shot an engagement session in Arizona on the way back!
Despite the traffic and congestion seemingly everywhere, it wasn’t hard to love Los Angeles! The city, especially Hollywood, just feels magical and surreal. One of our favorite things was getting to see La La Land in the heart of Hollywood and then going to the observatory right afterwards! We also saw a taping of Jimmy Kimmel Live and got to see Penn & Teller in live in Vegas!
We had to stop at Cadillac Ranch on the way out of Texas. Someone was kind enough to give us their spray paint on their way out, so we got to leave a special announcement! Pictures related to this became a theme a various landmarks throughout the trip!
And then we hit the road again and saw some of our first mountains in New Mexico. Being from flat Texas, any mountain, no matter how far off or how small was reason to take a photo!
Once into Albequerque, we setup camp and had some dinner. Notice below…we were the only tent…camping is clearly a lost art.
The next morning we hit the road EARLY to make it out to Four Corners Monument. Again, this Texas kid was in mountain wonder.
Unfortunately, Four Corners was closed because they were “observing” New Years Day, despite it being the 2nd. So we hit the road again, this time for Monument Valley. Scroll a little further to see what our “fun story” was for this trip.
See all that mud that Lindsey’s avoiding? Yeah, gonna come into play here soon. Look those two below – no clue what trouble they’re about to get into, just with the slightest little…
…deviation from the road to take a picture and…we suddenly realize we’re stuck in mud. Like middle-of-nowhere, Arizona and the car’s not going anywhere but further into the mud stuck. Last year we trecked a carload of gear 2 miles in the sand, this year we got stuck in the mud! I had just pulled off to the side of the road to take a picture like we just had a few hundred feet back, but almost immediately I realized I’d made a huge mistake as I felt the car sink into the mud and down the incline. We spent probably 15-20 minutes trying to push the car back onto the road with no luck, before some very kind locals stopped by to help pull us out! Thank the Lord! The funniest part of this though isn’t pictured. Our Caliber doesn’t get a lot of clearance off the ground, so when it got stuck in the mud, the tires were sunk in, and the mud was nearly coming up to the bottom of the car, leaving little room to climb under and hitch a chain to anything. So yes, I had to get very muddy…but, we got our car back. We cleaned off at the next rest stop, and learned to only pull over in the designated gravel areas.
The Navajo Indian’s visitor center had a quaint restaurant that overlooked the valley, so of course we couldn’t not dine there!
They called this a single burger on Navajo frybread.
After seeing Monument Valley it was time to head to the Grand Canyon for the sunset!
We had been checking the weather, and it was actually supposed to snow at the Grand Canyone while we were there. It was quite surreal seeing something that you would associate with the desert covered in snow.
The further in we got though, the snow fall had really thickened, and it felt like we were driving through the Smoky Mountains in the wintertime. Hard to believe we had just been in a desert not an hour earlier.
If we had a bride with us, the scene would have been just perfect for an impromptu bridal session. Since we didn’t have one on hand, I filled in for us with some of my signature bridal imitation poses. And if you love this as much as Lindsey does, you should definitely check out our behind the scenes from last year!
And then when we were leaving, the snow hit, and we felt like we were back up north.
That night we camped in Page, AZ, and the next morning we got up super early again to see the sunrise over Horseshoe Bend. This canyon is massive, and its size is only magnified by the fact that you can literally stand right on the edge of it!
See that small little thing that looks like a little boat in a miniature model set. Yeah that’s just a boat. We might as well be in an airplane looking down at traffic!
I setup a time lapse to film the sunrise.
After Horseshoe Bend, we headed down the river a ways to see Marble Canyon and the scenic bridge that crosses over it.
This is the road cutting through the ridge around the Colorado River and that leads to Page. The ridge is so massive it takes a two minute drive just to get up to a point where you can cross over it.
Lindsey didn’t join me on this expedition, but I’d heard about another slot canyon near Page called Waterholes Canyon. It’s about a 100 deep canyon right off the road that you can climb down into and explore. The left below is looking down into it, and the right is from the canyon floor looking up the climb down.
And then it was time for our Antelope Canyon tour. We took the photographers tour, which basically means you get twice as much time in the canyon and are treated like VIP to everyone you come across within the tour. Seriously though, most every time we came across a regular tour going the opposite direction their guides would hurry them out of the way so we could get the photo we wanted. As seen above, you basically walk into a hole in the ground to get to the canyon, and when you’ve been down for an hour or more, the sun is blinding when you back to the surface. Again, I apologize in advance for the massive amount of photos here.
And finally, we saw light and made it out of the canyon!
And then it was time to hit the road for LA. We made it through Flagstaff before the sunset, and again on the same road within about 40 minutes of each other, one moment you’re in the middle of the dessert, and the next you’re in a forest. Flagstaff is absolutely gorgeous in the winter time!
The next morning we woke up in Los Angeles, and hit the Warner Brother Studio tour! It was perfectly magical!
Our amazing tour guide, Jess, and below, studio offices that double as a drive-in motel set.
Above is the set used in the Friends episode where Ross asks Rachel to prom, and below is the “coffee shop” that Emma Stone works at in La La Land.
Above on the right, the exterior for the police station in Rebel Without A Cause, and below the ER ambulance entrance and set used as Gotham in a Batman film.
This is the Smoke House Restaurant right next door to Warner Brother Studios. Some of (and maybe the) best BBQ I’ve had. It’s also been used in many film, most recently you’ll probably recognize it as the restaurant that J.K. Simmons fires Gosling from in La La Land.
One of the days while we were in Hollywood, we were walking along the boulevard and walked up on a tent filled with people crowded around. Not knowing what was going on, we stepped up to the edge of the crowd and from where we were, could only see the bottom half of a woman giving a speech. Someone next to us was streaming the event live, and that’s how we realized we had just stumbled upon Viola Davis receiving her star on the Hollywood walk of fame! And accompanied by Meryl Streep no less!
Our last day in LA, we went over to Santa Monica to see the beach and the famous Santa Monica pier.
The previous day we had seen La La Land, so of course we had to visit Griffith Observatory and see the sun set. Looking out over the city and watching the sun set over it, was seriously the perfect end to our stay in LA.
The next day, we hit the road early to arrive in Las Vegas with enough time to tour the Hoover Dam and see the strip.
We were there on a Saturday, so the Vegas strip was packed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much flashy pizzazz packed into one area before. It’s a lot to take in.
Seriously, the sheer amount and level of quality, detail, and themed buildings literally everywhere is astounding!
We hit up Cousins Main Lobster from Shark Tank for dinner on Freemont Street before leaving the camera behind and seeing Penn & Teller. They were seriously just as much fun as we had hoped, and it was especially fun to be seeing them live in Vegas. We even got to meet them afterwards and get a selfie with each of them!
The next morning we packed up our campsite on the shore of Lake Mead and headed to Phoenix for an impromptu engagement session with one of our couples who lives out there! I’ve seriously never seen cactus’ this big in my life – they’re the size of a tree. That blog post with their engagements will be coming soon, so keep an eye out for it!
After the session we spent the night in Albequerque before heading home to sweet Texas! It was good to be back!
3700 miles. 6 States. 8 Nights.