I have a problem with drinking and driving.
Not that kind of drinking and driving. The other kind, the one where I imbibe liquids in the car, despite knowing full well that my bladder is the size of a watermelon seed. Jon, my college roommate, had placed a ban on me drinking anything the days we spent in his Ford Escort, headed home for school breaks. But Jon wasn’t there with me at the Flying J Travel Plaza in Arizona, so the ban was null and void. I filled up my car and mentally flipped Jon off as I got one of those big gas station fountain drinks, the distribution of which was probably sixty percent Diet Mountain Dew and forty percent ice.
Arizona is getting a lot of crap in the media these days, but I can’t help but have a lot of goodwill built up toward the Grand Canyon State for aesthetic reasons. Of the 42 U.S. states I’ve visited, I think Arizona is the most beautiful. There was a lot of close competition — New York and California and Oregon and Wyoming and Arkansas and Nevada, of course — but Arizona’s desertscapes just do it for me. Anyone who has seen the brilliant reds and muted violets of the Grand Canyon with their own two eyes probably gets where I’m coming from. The Grand Canyon is rightfully one of the seven natural wonders of the world, but I still consider it the silver medalist of Arizona scenery.
I’m winding through the craggy mountains on Highway 93, not too far from Las Vegas. But right now, “not too far” seems, well, really far. It’s about 115 miles from Kingman to my house in southwest Vegas. In hindsight, I can’t believe I had the nerve to think my bladder could last 115 miles after drinking a big cup of soda and then essentially eating a big cup of water.
I think a big part of having to use the bathroom is mental, like not being able to go makes you feel you have to that much more. By the time I see someplace I can pull off the narrow, two-lane road, my social grace and sense of decency is gone. I sort of duck behind some sagebrush, too short and too sparse to provide adequate cover, and hope no passersby notice me blatantly peeing in broad daylight.
After, I realize what I had just done. Looking for nothing more than a quick bathroom break, I had inadvertently stumbled into the most incredible place I had ever seen.
It’s a dusty, gravelly mesa, the kind of reddish brown that borders on being a member of the orange family. The area is spotted with wispy patches of desert grasses and the occasional sagebrush, adding some green that serves as a halfway point between the ruddy brown landscape and the light blue sky. In the distance, the Colorado River disappears into the rugged Black Mountains.
Tucked in the mountains along 93, it’s about 15 miles from Nevada’s state line at the Hoover Dam. There is no signage and no name; it’s just an anonymous scenic viewpoint on the side of the road with incredible panoramic views that epitomize the Southwest’s unique beauty. It’s incredibly easy to miss, but just as difficult not to be impressed.
Moving from Las Vegas back home to New York, I drove nearly 3,000 miles across 17 states. There were many gas station fountain drinks with obnoxious amounts of ice and many bathroom breaks. But I still have yet to find something as breathtaking and as worthy of being my desktop background than the unmarked viewpoint on Highway 93.
Editor’s Note: This viewpoint is actually closed at the moment, it is being used as staging area for the construction vehicles working on the new and improved version of US-Hwy 93…