Thursday, 29 October 2015

Las Vegas, Nevada

Tuesday 15th September - Wednesday 16th September 2015


Vegas
The Golden Nugget
The Golden Nugget
Day 3 of the Trek America Western BLT tour was one of extremes. We had just left the Grand Canyon, one of the most natural places in the World, and headed to Nevada to Las Vegas, one of the most commercialised places in the World.  After playing van DJ for the 3 hour 45 minute drive and getting everyone hooked on Boyce Avenue we stopped off at a supermarket to stock up on essentials. When I say essentials, I mean alcohol, and make-up as I didn't bring any eye brushes or eye makeup with me. 

For the next two nights we stayed on the old Las Vegas strip, Fremont Street, at the Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino. The hotel was absolutely huge, and we actually got lost trying to find our rooms! With a Starbucks, numerous shops and restaurants, and a theatre, there wasn't much else we wanted. Oh, apart from a pool with a water slide going through a shark tank. Yeah, it had that too. 


Fremont Street



Party Bus

Omnia Las Vegas






After settling into our rooms we quickly rushed to get ready for what was to be a manic night. We first headed out of the hotel onto Fremont Street to watch the light show. Set to upbeat music, the entire canopy becomes alive with videos in true Las Vegas fashion. We then walked back through the hotel and got on board a Party Bus. A 45 seater party bus with poles, and lights with your new best friends. 

Well, it was at this point things got a little messy. The bus stopped at the Vegas sign and Bellagio Fountains before we made our way to a rooftop pool party at Drai's. With panoramaic views of the Las Vegas strip we danced the night away with incredibly strong drinks in our hand. You might remember me saying there was two groups doing this tour. Both groups mixed during this night and I somehow got talked into heading to Omnia. Somehow Chad, the other group's leader, managed to get us in for free. After too many vodka and cokes we eventually made our way back to the Golden Nugget. We felt like we had taken on Vegas and won.


Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip


Vegas actually won that night, as we all found out the next morning. I'd watched the Hangover films countless times and laughed at how unrealistic they were. Well listing to the stories from that night, those films could be a documentary. Let's not go into too much detail but just say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

Not one of us was fresh-faced and busy tailed and by lunchtime we were all lay by the pool feeling pretty sorry for ourselves. Until we remembered we were in Vegas, and when in Vegas, do as the Americans do. After a long shower we headed back on to the strip, this time completely sober and ready to see the sights. We headed into each hotel amazed by the pure size. Every hotel had a shopping mall inside them and stuck to there theme like glue. We decided we needed to experience a true Las Vegas buffet so headed to the Spice Market at Planet Hollywood. I've been to buffet's, but nothing like this. If you wanted it, they had it. If your drink was half full, they filled it up. We later found out you were limited to 4 hour sittings. Is that all?!


Cirque at Aria

Cirque at Aria

Cirque at Aria

Cirque at Aria

Cirque at Aria



After a while we decided to make the most of our time and grab some tickets to see Cirque De Soleil's Zarkana at the Aria after a recommendation by our Taxi driver. The main storyline is that a dead circus is brought back  to life, but let's be trueful, you don't go to see a Cirque show for it's meaningful plot, you want to see some jaw dropping acts. Can I firstly just point out how amazing our seats were. We got tickets 2 1/2 hours before the show, for 4 of us and paid under $100 each. Well somebody liked us. 

Being able to take photographs in a performance was something of a novelty for us, but we were soon snapping away at what our eyes couldn't quite believe. I've seen Cirque shows before when they toured and came to Manchester, but seeing one in Vegas was special. All four of us sat there with our mouths wide open catching flies and our eyes bulging in disbelief. If anyone looked at us we must have looked like demented Goldfish, but they wouldn't have looked because, well you're at Cirque! Seeing this show was the perfect way to end my Vegas experience; ridiculously over-the-top and perfect in every way. 

In the show I started to feel really ill again, just like I had felt at the Grand Canyon the day before. I decided to head home and leave the rest on the strip so I could get an early night (in bed for 12) and sleep some of it off before our mammoth 9 hour 45 minute drive to Yosemite National Park the next day. 

xoxo
J
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Sunday, 25 October 2015

5 Ways To Cure Your Blogger Blues

blogging motivation


Hi my names's Jess and I'm fighting a problem. And you know what the worst bit of this problem is? I'm the only one who can help me recover. That's right everyone, I've lost my blogger mojo. Did you just take a sharp breathe in? Can you hear the violin's playing? That would be the soundtrack to my very own pity party. Sad isn't it. 

I have all the symptoms. Negative thoughts about my own blog; check. Avoidance of all blog-related sites; check. Lack of motivation; check. There's no need to wait 2 weeks for the test results to come back on this one, I'm full of the Blogger Blues. Don't worry, it's not contagious. I think.

Luckily, I've tried to knock some sense into me and thought I'd share some secrets and help you get your missing mojo back too. Think of it as group bonding.

1.  Stop being a Debby Downer. Like, now!
Call it obvious, but if you think negatively about something, eventually you will feel negatively about it too. Being the typical Brit that I am, I find it a lot easier to point out good things on other people's blogs and by the time I look at my own, I'm pretty fed up. While your reading this now, open up another window with your blog. Find five things you like about it. Be it the colour scheme, the photography, the type of posts or how the posts are written, we often forget that a blog is made up of many components. Whilst it's natural for some of these components to be stronger than others, don't forget about what you do best.

2.  Be constructive and not constricted.
So you naturally focus on the weaker components rather than the stronger ones? Me too. I'm definitely more of a glass half empty person and it sucks. Rather than letting the whole negative vibe keep you down, use it to your advantage. Find out your weakest bits, find out why their weak and work towards making them stronger. Now I have quite a few weaker bits, but rather than trying to doing them all at once and feeling pretty overwhelmed, I've decided to focus on one, work on that for a while, and then move on to the next. Sometimes fixing one thing will make everything else fall into place, and you'll unconsciously up your game on other parts of your blog. 

3.  There's no I in blogger.
Oh yes, I went there and made a new little blogger cliche. But it does work so I'm going with it. When I've lost my blogging mojo, I tend to avoid anything blogger related. My camera gathers dust, bloglovin is ignored and I avoid twitter chat's like the plague. Don't. When people say "the blogging community" it's not just to add an extra spoonful of sugar to a Miss World-esque speech. Talking to other bloggers and making friends is the best perk of blogging. Heard a problem shared is a problem halfed? It's true. Need help with SEO? Bet someone has done a post on it and will happily direct you to it. Got a question about camera settings? Chances are someone has the same camera and would be more than happy to help. Feeling a part of something is the best way to stay motivated and the only way your going to do that is support your fellow bloggers, have a chat and get involved. 

4.  Inspiration is everywhere.
OK, so before I sat down to type this post, I'd spent all morning moaning to my Mum about how I had nothing to blog about. Lies, as I have a blog notebook full of ideas, but it happened. The bringer of sense that she is, my mum simply said why not blog about not knowing what to blog about. Genius. My Sunday morning drama aside, inspiration for posts hits you in the weirdest of places. I like to make a mental note of features in magazines that grab my attention and topics my friends & I talk about. If it draws my eye and is good enough for a good chit-chat, chances are other people will be interested and want to read it too. Another way is to read plenty of blogs, and don't just stick to your own genre. Reading a good variety will encourage you to try new things and see new takes on the same-old-same-old. I would not advise copying anyone's posts, and believe me, it's obvious, but use it to inspire a new post with your own unique stamp on it.

5. Stop blogging.
Controversial, but I think that, if you don't want to blog, you shouldn't. I'm not saying you should stop forever, but having a break might help you fall back in love with your blog. They do say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and as blogging is pretty full on, taking some time for yourself might give you a chance to relax and re-energise. Some people need a couple of days, others a month or two, but taking the pressure of blogging off your shoulders may remind you why you started a blog  in the first place.

How to you recover from blogger blues? I'd love to hear your tips!
xoxo
J
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Thursday, 22 October 2015

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Monday 14th September - Tuesday 15th September 2015
Arizona Storm

Arizona Storm

Arizona Storm


It was only Day 2 of the Western BLT Trek America Tour and I'd already been in 3 States, seen the Colorado River, driven on Route 66 and was about to visit the Grand Canyon. From Seligman we headed further into Arizona to one of the Natural Wonders of the World.

The drive felt like we were storm chasing, with a grey sky ever present. We eventually reached Grand Canyon village, and I couldn't believe my eyes. There was a roundabout! So they do have them in America after all. After leaving the trailer at our hotel for the night, the Red Feather Lodge, we headed into the park for a spot of lunch. And a hail storm. Now, everyone say's America does things bigger and better, and judging by the size of the hailstones, I totally agree. Luckily it finished as quickly as it came, and by the time we had finished eating we could see the sun again, albeit behind a few clouds.

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon, Arizona



Do you know what amazed me about the Grand Canyon. How green it was. You have to drive through a forest to get to the actual canyon. In my head I was expect a sandy type of desert and then then BAM, there it is. It's nothing like that. We pulled up into the car park and Shawn announced we were going to do a trust exercise. Well, I don't do trust exercises. I trust people, don't get my wrong, but they genuinely make me have a panic attack. And I'd known these people 2 days. We were each presented a bandana, and told to blindfold ourselves. Then, in a sort of sensory-deprived conga line, we did a nervous shuffle to the edge of the Grand Canyon. With the sound of laughter and giggles in many languages providing an embarrassing soundtrack. If I wanted the world to swallow me up, I was in the right place. After what seemed like hours of shuffling and navigating a couple of steps up we all removed our blindfolds on 3. The sun hit our eyes and it took us all a couple of seconds to see it, but when we did we all had the same reaction. Wow. 

Now, this is not the time to get gushy, but I just want to thank Shawn and Trek America for doing this reveal. If you just walked up to it, of course it would have been good, but you can see it and then you get to the edge and it's like oh a big hole. We, on the other hand got to experience the sheer size. So big that you can rainstorms across the rim actually moving, but be stood in blazing sun. It's crazy. I wasn't actually too fussed about seeing the Grand Canyon. I mean I wanted to, but I didn't think it was going to be the highlight of my trip. After seeing it for the very first time, I was left speechless (always a first). I wandered round the rim in a bit of a daze, staring at the eagles and the squirrels. Just taking it all in. Despite it being after lunchtime and fairly busy, it was so quiet. It seems it has this effect on everyone. 

Red Feather Lodge

We arrived back at the hotel and had some time before our group Mexican tea. Can I just say how much this lodge reminded me of Pretty Little Liars. You know in series one where Mona hides out while she's being A? 

Over dinner Shawn was umming and ahhing about getting us up to watch the sunrise. It had been a pretty stormy day today, and he didn't want us getting up before the crack of dawn for something we might be disappointed by. In the end he decided we just needed to do it. So after Shawn had taught Stewart & I about American Football and we were all stuffed from eating Tacos and Burritos we head back to pack our suitcases and get some sleep before our early rise.

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon, Arizona

When I said early rise, I meant 4 am. Surprisingly we didn't have to wait for anyone and after loading the trailer up, we left for the Canyon at 5am. It was eerie driving back into the park in the dark, and looked a lot less friendly than before. We made our way to the same view point, armed with hoodies and a few blankets from the trailer. We all sat curled up under a blanket in complete silence and watched the sun rise.  There were a few other people around, but it was completely silent. All of us just taking in the incredible experience. I've never actually seen the sun rise before, but wow. 

This picture will never do it justice, and I felt pretty emotional. In the back of my head I was expect ing all the little critters to line up like in the Lion King, but mostly I was just amazed with how beautiful it was. By the way, the above picture hasn't be enhanced and altered at all. It was perfect. As cheesy as it sounds, I feel extremely lucky and privileged that I got to see this, and I couldn't have imagined sharing it with a better group of people. It's a sight I will never forget for as long as I live, and I honestly don't know if it could ever be topped. The early start was worth it.

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon, Arizona


After we had all gotten over the sheer wonder of watching the sunrise over the Grand Canyon we got set to trek. One thing I haven't mentioned yet is that I'm petrified of heights. I didn't think it was a massive deal. Until I got to the Grand Canyon that is. I decided to give the hike a go and we headed over to the start of the South Kaibab Trial. 

There was actually a handful of us that were a bit nervy so we all stuck together while everyone else walked on. We slowly walked down the ever winding path. I think the one thing that freaks me out the most is that there is no hand rails. I actually heard an American guy say "Where's the safety?!". There is none my friend.  After a while, Emma and I had done what we could. The paths were getting steeper and the drops were more sheer. It was time to head up. I was so proud of what I actually managed to do. The day before I was nearly in tears trying to get a photograph on the edge of the Canyon, so this was a big deal for me.

I'm actually quite glad we headed up at that point. Any further and I would have died trying to get back. You know like normal walks, the hard bit is going up the mountain and it's dead easy on the way back coming down? It's the opposite at the Canyon. As we still had over 2 1/2 hours left to hike, Emma & I decided to do the Rim Trial instead. Rather than going into the canyon, we walked round it and saw the most amazing views. The thing about the Canyon is, that it's never not breath taking. I have over 100 pictures of rocks on my memory card to prove this. If you want to see a picture of a pretty rock, I'm your girl.  

It happened to be Emma's birthday and we had a good old gossip, talked about bits and pieces from home, and just got to know each other better. We met up with Becky half way on the trial after she had had enough of the first trial, and continued our peaceful walk, only bumping into a handful of people. It was such a nice way to spend the morning. walking over 3 miles back to our meeting point, and kicking the same pine cone along the path for nearly 1 of those (it was more fun than it sounded).

Once everyone had hiked, we headed back to the village to grab some lunch. It was here I started to feel a bit ill. We were sat in McDonalds. Yes there is a McDonalds at the Grand Canyon. Now I know what you're all going to say, you come all this way and you go and have a McDonalds, but it had the best Wifi around so, naturally we camped out there. At first I thought it was because we had been up early and I'd yet to have something to eat. But, after eating a huge burger I couldn't get warm. I was physically shivering and my teeth were chattering. Always a trooper I shrugged it off as a teeny tiny bug and became the van DJ as we headed from one wonder to another, Las Vegas.


Make sure you come back next Thursday to hear about Vegas (Baby).
xoxo
J

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Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Cold Choices

easing a cold




You can't walk from one end of my floor at work to the other without hearing it. A cough, a sneeze or just a general sigh, it's obvious cold season is amongst us. Over the last week I fell victim to the dreaded illness. OK yes, it is just a cold, but honestly, I've felt dreadful; my head has been pounding, I'm constantly swapping from boring to freezing in the blink of an eye and my eyes are dry one second, running the next. It's a nightmare.

Thank goodness I had a couple of pre-booked days off so I could rest and relax. Apart from the usual magazines and trashy telly, I've been reaching for three products to nurse me back to health. Possibly my most repurchased product of all time, This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray is for those of you who find counting sheep a bit bahhh (couldn't resist). A calming pillow spray, I reach for this bottle whenever I'm stressed, ill or just suffering from insomnia. It does work, and it's amazing. When I have been awake, I've been reaching for H. Gillerman's Sinus Remedy. OK, yes it is pricer than you average tub of Vicks but when a single drop of this divine smelling oil relives painful, stuffy sinuses for the entire day, it earn's it's place on bathroom shelf. Invest and you won't regret. Lastly I've been slathering on a generous coating of Origins Drink Up Intensive Mask. Ridiculously hydrating, this mask can be left on over night to conquer thirsty skin. As I've been having a few duvet days, I've left this on all day, leaving me feeling good as new by the evening.

Do you have any products you swear by when you're ill?

xoxo
J
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Sunday, 18 October 2015

OOTD: Getting My Kicks on Route 66

New Look Floral Skater Dress


Fashion wasn't at the front of my mind whilst travelling round America. Living out of a suitcase and staying in a different place every night makes you live in the moment, and I definitely spent more time exploring than I did planning outfits.

One outfit I absolutely adored was this floral cold shoulder dress from New Look. The weather changed quite a lot as we travelled so much so it was perfect for wearing with leggings with it was overcast and raining. I loved that it had a shape to it and wasn't just a  sack, so it needed hardly any styling.  Oh, and it didn't crease!

What are your go to travel fashion must-haves?
xoxo
J

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Thursday, 15 October 2015

Seligman, Arizona

Monday 14th September 2015

Segliman Arizona



Segliman Arizona

Segliman Arizona
After being in two States the previous day, we left Laughlin and started our journey to the Grand Canyon. But, as we crossed over into Arizona, the skies darkened and we seemed to get caught up in a horrible storm. Shawn kept reminding us that California was experiencing a 10 year long drought, but we weren't in California and at that moment in time I definitely felt like I was back in rainy old Manchester. 

Mid-morning, we stopped at a small town that we were introduced to as the birth place of the traditional Route 66. Seligman has now been preserved to celebrate all things Americana and is possibly the quirkiest place I have ever been. A single road lined with small souvenir shops, motels, diners and houses, the only word I can use to describe it is American.

Arriving in the middle of a heavy down pour, we ran across the road into one of the larger stores to pick up a few gifts and keep out of the rain. Shame the roof had the odd leak. Lucky for us the storm soon passed, and we headed out into the town to explore.

Segliman Arizona




Segliman Arizona

Segliman Arizona
Segliman Arizona
Segliman Arizona
One fun fact about Seligman is that it was the inspiration for Disney' Cars. It's crazy to think that such a big film was based on such a small town. All along the street were old, rusted cars which could have come straight out of the film, but these were the originals! Even though I'm not particularly interested in cars, I loved looking at all the vintage nostalgia and it really got me excited for the rest of my Western road trip.

Segliman Arizona


Segliman Arizona

Segliman Arizona



Shawn told us we needed to go into Delgadillo's Snow Cap while we were here, and to just "trust him", something we'd hear quite a few times over the next few days. A little peckish from our drive, we headed in to grab a snack and drink before hitting to road again. The building itself is the opposite of the Tardis. It looks big on the outside, but in fact, it's just a corridor. A pretty small corridor at that , covered head to toe with sicks and just a simple hatch in the middle. My friend Hannah got a hotdog and when asked if she wanted any mustard, had the bottle squirted at her. Seeing yellow stuff flying out at her made us both scream, but it was just yellow string. My turn came up, and I asked for a regular Coke. The Waitress said their small was pretty large, and being naive I just said that would be fine. Little did I know I would be given a thimble. Oh.

Once we finally got our order we sat down at the picnic tables and treasured this fun, unique piece of Americana, before jumping back on to our bus headed for the Grand Canyon. 

xoxo
J
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Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Saving Spree



The irony that this post follows a Haul hasn't been lost on me. Actually, that's part of the reason why I'm now watching the pennies. I had the time of my life in America and don't regret anything for a second, but with Christmas rolling in (yes, I did just say the C word), I've suddenly become all too aware of my finances.

Whilst travelling on the trip of a lifetime, having the time of my life, I realised this is what I wanted to spend my hard-earned money on; experiences I would never forget. Now I'm not saying I'm going to stop buying nice bags or bath bombs anytime soon. You all know as well as I do, I'm a true beauty addict and some habits are here to stay. What I am saying though is that I want to stop wasting money and think twice before I get a spur of the moment lipstick or make that 2 am Amazon purchase. I have more beauty products and clothes than I know what to do with, so it's daft buying more when I already have a stash. Believe it or not, lot's of things stress me out a bit. I hate having too many options, and clutter gives me anxiety, so at the moment I really am my own worst enemy. 

So on the plane back from San Fransisco, I made a little promise to myself. When I got home I would book another Trek America trip, and I would cut down my shopping to help save up for it. I save cut down my shopping and not stop shopping for a simple reason. It's impossible; I need essentials, and I will want to buy a pair of winter boots or whatever. Now and again, I'm even going to treat myself to a high end purchase or two. What I am cutting out are those little purchases you don't even realise you make throughout the month and putting that extra cash away for my travels. I want to use up my stash to get it to a normal size and stop buying shoes I can't even walk in. Next August I'm travelling down the East of America, starting in New Jersey and finishing in Miami; let the saving begin.

Have you got any tips for me on how to save up for travelling?
xoxo
J
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Sunday, 11 October 2015

American Drugstore Haul

American Drugstore Haul

American Drugstore Haul
American Drugstore Haul

Whilst the majority of the stuff I got from was from Sephora, I couldn't go all the way to the USA and not check out their drugstores. Now, if you are American, you're probably a little confused on why us Brit's get a wee bit excited over drugstores, but there so much better than our pharmacies and supermarkets. Believe me, you have it made.

I got a little bit excited in Ulta and the majority of this stuff is from there. Of course I had to picked up the much loved, highly acclaimed Covergirl Clump Crusher mascara and I really fancied trying out this Sally Hansen 18K Gold Cuticle Eraser, because, well it's 18K gold!

Now, I mentioned in my Sephora haul that I went a little bit foundation crazy over in the States, and the drugstore was no exception. I was very excited to get my hands on some of the Neutrogena foundation, and picked up both a liquid and powder version to give a go. There were quite a lot of makeup brands working with skincare so I decided to give the Covergirl & Olay foundation a try too. Oh and the L'Oreal True Match foundation? Well that just "slipped" into my basket. Other little bits from Ulta included a lipgloss & lipstick from their own range, 2 EOS lip balms & a hand cream, a Baby lips lip gloss and a Maybelline Dream Bouncy Blush.

Whilst stopping for a drink at Target, I made a mad dash for the cosmetics isle in search of Sonia Kashuk. Pressed for time, I grab the last contour stick, a concealer stick (on the recommendation of Amelia) and a crease brush just for good measure. 

And there we are, I've showed you my beauty bounty from across the Pond. Anything you want to see reviewed?

xoxo
J


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Thursday, 8 October 2015

Laughlin, Nevada

Sunday 13th September 2015

Laughlin, Nevada


We drove about 3 1/2 hours from Los Angeles, California, and made our way to the Colorado River. Shawn told us we would be driving through the desert and things were going to get pretty darn hot for the next couple of days. Either I was very naive, or just un-travelled, but I thought the desert had cacti?! Well the Nevada desert doesn't. It does however have Joshua Trees, and lot's of them.  I also thought the desert was flat. Turn's out there's pretty decent foot hills too. This trip was already an education.

As we were driving along through this new kind of desert made up of different shades of browns, things all of a sudden got green. When I say all of a sudden, I literally mean, here's a bit of desert and  BANG, here's a field right next to it. I learnt in Geography at school that civilisation develops around water sources, but it's only seeing that contrast, that I understood how important major River's are for the surrounding areas. 

As we drove  through Laughlin, we seemed to meet a lot of half-completed and 99% empty apartment buildings. Evidently, they wanted to expand, but were waiting for the influx. We eventually pulled up onto a stretch of Casino hotels, all lined up next to each other, like a miniature Las Vegas strip.  

Laughlin, Nevada

Laughlin, Nevada


We all checked in at the Aquarius Casino Resort  for our first night on Trek America. I'm not sure what I was expecting on this Budget Lodging Trip, but this hotel was a happy surprise. Boasting a casino, a couple of restaurants, and a few small shops in the lobby, this hotel definitely made us all thankful we had paid an extra couple of £100 to stay in hotels rather than camp. We were paired up with another trekker for rooming and I was paired with Jacqui. Possibly the most talkative people in our group we clicked from the moment we started chatting, so much so we lost track of time and forgot about our group meeting ... oops.

After running round the corridors trying to find our group meeting, and actually listening to the activities on offer for this evening and the plan of action for tomorrow, we all decided to get some much needed r & r. And by R & R I mean cocktails by the pool. Starting off as we meant to carry on, we sat by the pool in the desert heat while the sun set behind the foothills, all helped with a couple of frozen Strawberry Daiquiris. 

Laughlin, Nevada

Laughlin, Nevada



Rather than have dinner in little groups, we chose to eat although and ended up in an Australian-themed steak house called The Outback. After an 1 hour 45 minute wait for food, we were all exhausted and decided to have a quite night (the only of the entire trip), in preparation for going on Route 66 and visiting the Grand Canyon the next day.

See you next Trek America Thursday for Route 66!

xoxo
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