U.S. Road Trip Re-Cap: Week One (California, Nevada and Arizona)

U.S. road trip week one recap: California, Nevada and Arizona

We’ve hit the one-week marker on our U.S. summer road trip, and I’ve already got ambitious dreams of visiting each of the 49 states we can reach by car. Do you think we can do it? I do! But to start, here’s a photographic overview of our first week on the road. 

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You can get an overview from each week here on the blog, but we’re posting almost daily updates of our cross-country U.S. road trip on Facebook.

view of the Grand Canyon from the South Rim

Diana at the Grand Canyon South Rim, Arizona

Kelso Dunes, Mojave National Preserve, California

Kelso Dunes, Mojave National Preserve, California

States Visited

  • California
  • Nevada
  • Arizona
hiking at Valley of Fire, White Domes trail

hiking at Valley of Fire, White Domes trail

Milky Way photography with the OnePlus One smartphone at Valley of Fire Nevada State Park

Milky Way photography at Valley of Fire with Ian’s smartphone


  • Kelso Dunes, Mojave National Preserve, CA
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Valley of Fire State Park, NV — Diana’s favorite
  • Lake Mead, NV
  • Hoover Dam, NV + AZ
  • Grand Canyon National Park (AZ) — Ian’s favorite
Hiking the White Domes trail at Valley of Fire Nevada State Park

Hiking the White Domes trail at Valley of Fire Nevada State Park

Diana and Ian at the Hoover Dam, Nevada

Hoover Dam selfie time


  • gila monster sighting (video on Facebook), plus a desert tortoise, bighorn sheep, elk, a kangaroo rat, and various other wildlife
  • shooting Milky Way photography with a smartphone
  • star photography with a new friend, Patrick, from Switzerland
  • an engine thermostat problem that led us to Vegas and cost us an unexpected $250
  • active snow at the Grand Canyon

WATCH FOR TORTOISE — The signs don’t lie! #wildlife #desert #tortoise #NTSroadtrip2015 #roadtrip #animals #reptile #turtle

A photo posted by Diana Southern (NorthToSouth) (@dianasouth) on

Watch for photos of future highlights on my Instagram!

a misty sunset at the Grand Canyon

Sunset at the Grand Canyon

We’re camping our way around the U.S. Want to know what gear we use? Check out 5 of our summer camping essentials here.

White Domes trail, Valley of Fire State Park

Hiking the White Domes trail at Valley of Fire Nevada State Park

Notes and Insights

  • Lake Mead was super duper windy. We almost left because of it, but we toughed it out. Once we had the tent up, it wasn’t so bad.
  • Hoover Dam is cooler (and bigger) than I thought it’d be. Ian thought it would be even bigger.
  • You can camp at the Grand Canyon for ONLY $12 per night! (at Desert View Campground)
  • There are a disproportionate number of dead pigeons in Nevada vs. other states. I saw 4.
  • Mushrooms can grow in the desert. I saw it at Kelso Dunes, where we also saw furry wingless bees running around on the sand.
  • The 4HB diet isn’t that hard on the road. I think it may be even easier to stick to! We just seek out all the Mexican food we can find.
  • Freddy’s is delicious. We randomly went here in Arizona, attracted by the “frozen custard” their name advertised. I’m from St. Louis, and it’s basically a Steak ‘n Shake and Ted Drewes rolled into one place. It was especially awesome to visit on cheat day.
Kelso Dunes, Mojave National Preserve, California

footprints in the sand at Kelso Dunes

Photo Gallery

Lake Mead hiking at Valley of Fire, White Domes trail Hoover Dam Kelso Dunes, Mojave National Preserve, California winning at Vegas Valley of Fire old cabins Hoover Dam selfie view from bridge Kelso Dunes, Mojave National Preserve, California Valley of Fire State Park nighttime camping at Valley of Fire State Park photoraphing the Grand Canyon a misty sunset at the Grand Canyon

All photos were taken by Ian and Diana with the Sony a7 II (Ian’s camera), Sony RX100 III (Diana’s camera — review here) and our smartphones.

Week Two Preview

  • The Grand Canyon is a cold, dark place. Like REALLY dark.
  • Canyon Lake, Arizona
  • Montezuma Castle and Casa Grande National Monuments
  • Cacti that actually look like the pictures you drew when you were a little kid
  • White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
  • Texas and maybe New Orleans!

I hope you enjoyed our week one U.S. road trip re-cap! Have you road-tripped to any of these U.S. locations? Tell us about your trips in the comments.

Until next week, follow us on Facebook for the latest news and photos from our trip.

About the Author

Diana Southern
In March 2014, Diana called it quits on her traditional American working life and set out to explore the world with her partner in crime (and love of her life) Ian Norman. They now live a sustainable life of full time travel, working for themselves and seeking adventure at the same time. Here on North to South, Diana documents their journey in achieving and maintaining this "road less traveled" way of life.

2 Responses

  1. Alana May 23, 2015 / 9:08 am

    Amazing photos. Love the shot of the Milky Way. Did you use an app for that?

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