Slow Budget Travel
By Patrick Robertson
The travel restriction for non-essential travel to the USA was lifted on February 28. We heard the announcement on February 12 and by February18 we were on our first international trip since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
We had decided that we would be comfortable with a driving trip for our first cross-border sojourn outside of our bubble. We felt safe from Covid in our own car. We knew hotels had developed effective Covid prevention protocol and we were booking hotel rooms with kitchens to do our own cooking and meal preparation so that we were not exposing ourselves in dozens of crowded restaurants. We had covered all the bases to reduce our risk of becoming infected and felt safe to go on our month-long driving trip.
The drive through the US began at Coutts, Alberta and terminated at San Diego going through Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. The four and six lane divided interstates go through some of the most scenic areas in the world. This time of year is stunning with the white mountain tops, golden valleys and brilliant blue skies.
The speed limit on Interstate 5 is 85 mph (145 km/h) which allows you to cover a lot of ground. We were able to cover almost a thousand km in a six-hour day of driving. Las Vegas is 18 hours of driving and takes us three days.
We spent our first night in Helena, MT staying at the Residence Inn. The second night we spend south of Salt Lake City in Draper. Both places had kitchens and we were able to cook dinner and enjoy a nice meal after a great day of driving.
The third day took us to Laughlin (NV.), 150 km southeast of Las Vegas, where we spent four nights at Harrah’s. We had a large corner room with an eating area in the corner of the Colorado River. While we didn’t have kitchen, we did have a coffee maker and small fridge. We bought our meals from the Safeway Deli and had wonderful meals in our room with a view of the Colorado River and mountains to the east.
In the first week I found that I was not all that excited to be traveling which felt strange as I am usually very excited. Perhaps it had something to do with the two years we were unable to travel so it was a form of travel depression. The depression did not last long and by the end of the second week, I was excited to be on the road seeing new things and having new experiences.
We spent a couple of days at the Raven Golf Resort in Tempe on the south side of Phoenix. The resort was well planned. We had a rental with a kitchen that overlooked a country pastoral setting. We sat in lounge chairs at the pool. It was too cold to swim and we had our jackets on watching the sun set.
Tempe is a clean and orderly city. Most of it seems new. New gated communities. New river city scape with new public buildings like the performing arts theatre. The roads are new and smooth. Traffic is light during the times we drove around. I could see myself spending some time there.
Our next stop was Yuma. We had never been before and we wanted to see what it was all about. Most of what we have heard was about the RV parks that extend for 50 km to the east. The city of Yuma is not like the surrounding RV parks. It is an interesting western US town. The main tourist attraction is a jail but what is more interesting is the history.
Briefly, the land in Yuma receives over 320 days of sun a year that is optimal for growing market crops but the wild Colorado River often flooded the land. Controlling the river allowed the land to be cultivated. Over 4,000 trucks a day haul fresh lettuce to markets all over the US and Canada. The story of the harnessing the power and water of the Colorado is an interesting one and full of drama and intrigue.
Our last week was in Las Vegas where we stayed at the Paris Hotel and Casino by the pool, Eiffel Tower and the Fountains of Bellagio. From our room with a view, we were treated to the enchanting water and light show that lasted 15 minutes every 30 minutes. The pools in Las Vegas had opened the day before we got there and the sun was comfortable 28C while we were soaking up the sun after five months of cold weather.
I was back to my excited self that comes from traveling. We felt good about traveling again. We had managed to protect ourselves from the virus in crowded areas by staying away from people and wearing our masks.
We feel so good that we decided to take a plane trip down to Puerto Vallarta at the end of the month – the next step in stepping out of our bubble. Next month I will write about our trip to Puerto Vallarta.
– Patrick Robertson is a travel writer and long-time resident of Fernie. He is an expert in planning independent travel and finding budget travel deals. Read more travel articles like this at https://www.budgetslowtravel/articles. Like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/budgetslowtravel for travel tips.