The Great American Road Trip: A Tale of Four States

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As I See It

BY ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO

I thought it was only in my dream to be able to experience the Great American road trip to four adjoining US states: California-Nevada-Arizona-Utah.

I was wrong! Last week, my dream came true when my family ventured on a 10-day road trip to California-Nevada-Arizona-Utah and back to California! It was a master plan broached by my children from Jacksonville, Florida (son Jojo and wife Alvi with their two children Kayla and Bibay); Tweety from Oahu, Hawaii (her husband Jonathan Rasay wasn’t able to join us); May (together with her boyfriend Steve Law); Jayson; Paul; and of course my wife Delia. My eldest Gigi and her husband Eric Malapitan from Sydney, Australia were not able to join us.

The 11-man family caravan of two rented vehicles (an 8-seater Black Suburban Chevy and a red Nissan car) went through the planned road trip leaving our Milpitas home focusing on the trail, the road, tourist spots, the mountains, the beautiful sceneries along the way, the horizon, and beyond!

The spots we watch on television, places we read in books and travel magazines, and the tourist attractions we hear from people… we were able to reach them, visit them, follow the trails, take pictures, experience the earthshaking rock formations; see all kinds of animals and plants, and above all, appreciate the world-famous grand canyons at the North Rim, Arizona.

Day one started, of course, visiting California gateways and other tourist attractions such as the Fisherman’s Wharf, the Golden Gate, Lombard Street (Croocodest Street), Coit’s Tower, Golden Gate Park, and the streets of San Francisco. Most of us visited these places separately before but visiting them again with family members is more enjoyable, more fun and more meaningful.

Starting at 6:30 a.m. the following day, we headed to Las Vegas, Nevada. First stop was Gilroy, the garlic city, for gas. While the garlic festival was scheduled the following day, the area is already full of activities and people enjoying the early fruit sales. My children, especially my two granddaughters who love avocados, kept noticing the cheap fruits sign along the road especially avocado selling at 6 for $1.00 and other stores selling 10 for $1.00 whereas they are sold in big stores at 2 for $5.00

A day after, we learned that a mass shooting occurred at 5:40 p.m. at the garlic festival, resulting in four deaths, including the gunman, and 13 other injuries. The Gilroy Garlic Festival is an annual three-day event which is one of the nation’s best-known food festivals, centered on garlic drawing visitors from around the country.

Proceeding with our road trip, we stopped in rest areas located in Los Banos, Firebaugh, Coalinga, and Baker which is the gateway to the Death Valley where the tallest thermometer is located. We also stopped in Boron, California, 32 miles east of Mojave at the Mojave Desert and stopped for lunch at Yermo, California, which is 95 miles to Las Vegas.

We arrived at the 4-bedroom house my son rented at 5037 Teal Petals St., North Las Vegas, Nevada at 4:35 p.m., a 9-hour drive (includes several stops) from Milpitas to Las Vegas, two-hour more than the usual travel time.

Then at 6:15 p.m. we went to dinner at the house of my son-in-law’s parents (Gil and Rowena) in a subdivision in Vegas who prepared sumptuous dinner and served lots of native cakes such as tupig, sapin sapin, palitaw, puto, kutsinta, latik (rice cake), and suman.

On the third day, we went to the border of Arizona and Nevada’s Mike O’Gallagher – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge Plaza connecting the mountain ranges of Arizona and Nevada. We took the 80-steps stairs (8 sets of 10) to reach the 290 feet high and 1,965 feet long bridge spanning the two states.

We had a brief stop at Bootleg Canyon Park posing with the animals (bunny, scorpion, snakes, lion, tigers, and centipede), all curved with stones.

Then we headed to Bellagio Hotel at the Strip and the Eiffel Tower at Vegas enjoying the fireworks and water display of fountains. We ate our dinner at the Buffet @ Asia before heading back home to our rented house.

The following day on Sunday, we checked out at 11:00 a.m. to join our longtime friend and neighbor in our subdivision in the Philippines whom we haven’t meet for more than 21 years Rannie and Josie Matias, together with their son RJ and his wife Crystal at the Buffet @ Asia for lunch.

We went back to Downtown Vegas at Queen’s Hotel and Casino to wait for our other children who took the plane from San Jose to Vegas: May, Paul, Jayson, and May’s boyfriend Steve Law. They arrived at 5:15 p.m. with a rented red Nissan car then at 6:15 p.m., we headed to Arizona which is about two-hour drive.

We arrived at the boundary of Nevada and Arizona after a two-hour drive then proceeded to Utah where my daughter rented a 3-bedroom house for us to stay at 186 N. 870 W, Hurricane, Utah.

Already in the 5th day, we visited the red canyons at Dixie National Forest, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. Entering the park, a private vehicle is charged $35.00 while those in the military and veterans, they are free in all national parks in the country. We were free because my son was a veteran and my son-in-law is in the active duty.

We had to stop at the Lunt rest area at Cedar city then had our dinner at China Buffet in Hurricane near our rented house.

The following day, we were back on the road! This time, we went to Red Hills Desert Gardens at Red Hills Parkway, St. George, Utah then to the border cities of Cedar and Fredonia from Arizona and the Kanab City in Utah.

We passed through the colored mountains of Pariah in Utah along Highway 89. The colors were due to their encrusted minerals like iron oxides, manganese, cobalt and others that geologists describe.

Then at 4:30 p.m. we visited the Lower Antelope Canyon in Arizona. This is a slot Canyon in the American Southwest. It is a Navajo land east of Page, Arizona. It includes two separate scenic slot canyons section referred to as the Upper AntelopeCanyon which is about 660 feet in length and the Lower Antelope Canyon which is about 1,335 feet in length. We went to the lower Antelope Canyons.

Passing through long stretches of mountain ranges along Highway 15 with intermittent showers along the way, we were now headed to the Grand Canyons, after almost three hours of driving from our Utah house to Fredonia. After another hour of long-winding road trails, we reached Kaibab Lodge along Highway 389 at North Rim Country Store, 10 miles away from the Grand Canyons. Then we entered the Grand Canyons with an Elevation of 8,827 feet at North Rim at 3:16 p.m. At the entrance gate, we drove another 13 minutes to reach our destination at the Grand Canyon Lodge where we viewed the famous Grand Canyon.

We went back to our Utah house after 4 hours of driving (started at the Grand Canyons at 6:30 pm, and arrived at 10:05 p.m.). Ma cooked dinner, ate and slept at 1:30 a.m.

The following day, my daughter May, her boyfriend Steve, children Paul and Jayson drove back to Las Vegas to catch up their 12:55 p.m. flight back to San Jose while we drove back to Milpitas which took us 15 hours (includes stop overs) and arrived home at 11:30 p.m.

The following day, we attended the 25th anniversary celebration of Kumu Marlo Caramat (hula dance instructor) three halaus (dance group) located in the Bay area held at the high School’s Center of Performing Arts of San Bruno in California. Kumu Caramat announced their lone entry to the hula competition held last week in Sacramento, was won by the halau’s solo performance of Paul V. Estioko, winning both the contemporary and traditional hula categories. Paul danced the winning solo traditional hula performance with the elation of all present.

After the hula anniversary, we all had our dinner at a Korean BBQ restaurant in Milpitas, ending the day’s escapade.

While road trips are expensive, it yields the following: family bonding, effective planning, enjoyment, fun, appreciating/communing with nature, and relaxation – all of which out way the expense portion!

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