The Vegas Disaster
I landed in Las Vegas on March 28, 2017 at 9PM. I was ready to start my National Park adventure. I went to the rental car counter. I had completed the online check in and went to pick up my car, the attendant said that I was unable to rent a vehicle because of an outstanding billing problem. Imagine my confusion because up until the point of my arrival the only communication I received from the company was reminding me of my upcoming rental. I said to the employee that I would just step to the side and call the billing department to get it straightened out and he said, “they are only open during normal business hours.” I’m not sure how to describe my face, since obviously I couldn’t see it, but I’m not sure the employee appreciated my disbelieving stare. I said “well can you refund me then?” He had the audacity to ask, “you want to cancel the rental reservation?” And he was truly genuine in his confusion. Sir, you won’t let me have a car, why on earth would you think that I would want to keep a car rental and pay for it if I can’t have the product being paid for?
I went to another car rental counter and paid for an available rental, which of course was incredibly expensive. My car was upgraded to a large SUV, it was a 2017 Ford Explorer, I was thrilled since I was secretly planning to sleep in my car instead of actually making camp in each park where I had a campsite reserved. I left the airport, finally, and did my shopping for all of my supplies for the week.
I arrived at the Statosphere hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. I waited in line for check in and had a thought, I didn’t get any reminder emails about my hotel reservation like I did for the flight and the rental car reservation. I frantically looked through my emails and didn’t see anything, then I started checking my credit card statements and had a horrible realization, I didn’t have a hotel reservation. I had booked one, but then cancelled it because I found a better price for the same room, but I forgot to actually rebook the hotel. I got to the counter, sort of defeated, and explained that I didn’t think I had a reservation, but could they check. Surprise! No reservation for me. I left the hotel and booked a quick reservation at the Excalibur Hotel just down the road. I was exhausted and finally got to bed at I don’t even remember what time.
The First Park – Joshua Tree
I woke up early on March 29 and started the drive to Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California. I took the scenic route partly driving through the Mojave Desert and on a portion of the historic Route 66. I got to the national park in the early afternoon and didn’t even know where to begin. I parked in the visitor center parking lot and immediately saw a roadrunner, I was so excited!
Going into the visitor center and bookstore I looked around to see what souvenirs I wanted to take home. I made my first purchase, a set of magnets and a National Park Stamp Passport. The passport would become my constant travel companion and a goal to fill. I asked the attendant what suggestions he had for my first visit and what I should do with only a few hours to experience the park. I had directions to visit Skull Rock and to take some time to go on some short hikes.
I explored the area around Skull Rock and walked around some of the trails in the immediate area. Then I began the drive to Black Rock Campground, essentially the opposite side of the park then where I entered. It felt like the drive took hours, but I was also exhausted after having flown and then dealt with my Vegas fiasco. I stopped a few times to take some photos, but didn’t stop for any more hikes. I wanted to get to the campground to get the lay of the land and set everything up before it got dark.
I set up camp, but really didn’t plan to sleep in the tent. I was too nervous to sleep alone without doors that locked. I made a little bed in the back of the car with the seats folded down, I left the moonroof slightly cracked so I could have fresh air and went to sleep. In the early morning I heard what I imagine were coyotes or something else that made howling or barking noises…so maybe just some birds? As the sun began to lighten I packed up my camp and hit the road for the next park!
One day I’ll go back to Joshua Tree National Park and actually experience it properly. Hopefully next time I’ll have more rest and more time in the park.
To check out what Joshua Tree has to offer, you can visit the NPS website here: