Short Road Trip Out West

Short Road Trip Out West

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1,500 miles of quiet road: laying under the stars, down into the Grand Canyon, striking out in Vegas, and getting caught in LA traffic. Read more: www.rajahamid.com/alone-out-west

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    There was one last item left on my list before my flight: eating poke (basically a raw fish salad, originating from Hawaii). I stopped by Big Daddy's Poke Shack for dinner. There's a long wait between ordering and eating, but it's worth it if you've got the time. Read more: www.rajahamid.com/alone-out-west
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    It happened to be Valentine's Day, and the beach was spotted with couples and families enjoying the sunset and the cool, Pacific breeze. Read more: www.rajahamid.com/alone-out-west
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    The sun was setting, and I had several hours to sober up alone on the beach. Before Zak and Ranadeb left, we saw two girls on roller skates, struggling to get their photo taken by a woman who was having trouble with their smartphone. They then struggled to simultaneously pose for a selfie and stand up straight at the same time. Zak rescued them by casually lying that he was a photographer. Read more: www.rajahamid.com/alone-out-west
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    Ron's friend Zak joined us as we scarfed down some disappointing coconut fried chicken at Cha Cha's. The place is BYOB and looks like it'd be a fun spot to have hung out if I didn't need to drive. Read more: www.rajahamid.com/alone-out-west
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    For me, barbecue and ramen top the list for me in best food after a tough hike. I already checked the first off, so I had my sights on Monta Ramen, located on a strip mall that was popular for Asian food. As wonderful as the ramen was, I can count how often I've had better by being spoiled in NYC. However, I did go to sleep though thinking about that amazing pork belly bowl sitting with a warm bed of rice. Read more: www.rajahamid.com/alone-out-west
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    Horseshoe Bend was just off the highway, and wouldn't take much time to see. It would be my second time visiting, and I was again amazed at the massive scale of the formation as well as the lack of any safety gates (I hope it stays that way). Read more: www.rajahamid.com/alone-out-west
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    After dinner, I walked around with my headlamp, gazing up at the incredible scene of stars framed by the silhouettes of the inner canyon walls. I found a picnic table far from everyone and lay facing upward, until the dining cabin reopened at 8PM for drinks and games. On the way back, I ran into one of the staff. He told me that he had been at Phantom Ranch for 17 years, spending half of each month here and the other half on vacation. Read more: www.rajahamid.com/alone-out-west
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    At a certain point, I could hear the Colorado River from a distance, but I also heard something else rustling. I spotted two elk grazing near me. Since I was making good time on my hike, I decided to stop and watch until they moved on. Read more: www.rajahamid.com/alone-out-west
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    My plan was to hike down into the canyon before sunset along the South Kaibab Trail. I had a reservation at Phantom Ranch, nestled along the Colorado River. I had 7.4 miles til reaching the site, and I stopped seeing other hikers after the first two miles. In the cool afternoon air, all that I heard were the soft crunches of my boots and my quiet breathing. Read more: www.rajahamid.com/alone-out-west
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    I convinced myself to try high-stakes roulette at The Venetian. After setting a limit on how much I was willing to lose, and limiting myself to five rounds, I pulled 7 crisp hundred dollar bills out of the ATM. The only other person playing was a large, sweaty Frenchman who had what had ~$20,000 in chips. I watched for more rounds than I played. Every round his pile would be shaved off, and rarely incremented in the least. Read more: www.rajahamid.com/alone-out-west
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    My drive to Las Vegas was more or less uneventful and in the dark, and I wasn't looking forward to Las Vegas either. From my first visit last year, all my biases against the city were confirmed. It was only out of convenience that Vegas was on my itinerary. I chose the Stratosphere because it was cheap, and then I was hit with a check-in fee of $23. Read more: www.rajahamid.com/alone-out-west
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    I drove into Joshua Tree National Park and immediately was amazed by the funny-looking Dr. Seuss trees and oddly shaped piles of rocks all around me. My phone no longer had service, so I relied on the map and landmarks to guide me, and then gave up altogether and let my curiosity guide me. Read more: www.rajahamid.com/alone-out-west
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