Day 1: Drive from LA to Las Vegas. The road there is mostly sheer nothingness--no people, no trees, no interesting rock formations, just nothing. And then suddenly, Las Vegas! It was as tacky as we expected, and gambling doesn't really seem like fun and it's kind of intimidating to a beginner, so we only lost about $50, and called it a day. I did order my first martini! (I've led a sheltered life.) And the rooms there are crazy cheap.
Day 2: Long drive--Las Vegas, across all of Utah, and into Colorado, to Grand Junction. Amazing scenery the whole way. Grand Junction is a kind of Shangri-la, a town of artsy shops and sophisticated restaurants in the middle of nowhere. We ate Nepali food there!
Day 3: Begin re-tracing our steps homeward, at a slower pace, with stops to see national parks. Colorado National Monument is far more interesting than the name implies. Utah Route 128, a scenic byway, was phenomenal, more picturesque than many national parks I've seen. We stopped for lunch at Red Cliffs Lodge and also got some wine at the winery (Castle Creek Winery). Boatloads of raft-ers were also having lunch there, as the road follows right alongside the Colorado River. Then Arches National Park, where you can't actually see many arches from the road, and we are not hikers. But still, some beautiful sights.
Day 4: Spent the night in Richfield, Utah, and drove to Boulder, Nevada. Drove through Bryce Canyon National Park, which has rock formations called hoodoos, that look like they must be ancient weathered human statues, and Zion National Park, one of the most amazing roads--a mile long tunnel through the middle of a high mountain, with occasional windows where you can catch a glimpse of vistas out the side, and then you are out in a canyon surrounded by enormous red mountains everywhere. Then on to Boulder City, Nevada.
Day 5: Boulder City is right next to the Hoover Dam, an engineering marvel, now overlooked by a bridge named for Pat Tillman that connects the NAFTA road from Mexico to Canada.