The Great American Road Trip: Destination – Zion National Park (Part 1 of 7)


My mother is full of wanderlust. When we were kids, we couldn’t exactly afford trips around the world, but luckily for my mom, we were in the land of road trips–the American West. So my childhood was full of drives to Vegas, to the sequoias, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Oregon, Washington, Vancouver, and many places I didn’t even know the names of. We traveled every chance our schedules and budget could allow, and even then we still didn’t visit everything the Western U.S. had to offer.

It was thanks to all of this wheel turning and ground stomping that I really got to explore my homeland and embed this whole land into my childhood and thus into myself, as part of who I am. So when I began my research for Cowboy Ninja, I didn’t know much about cowboys or the Old West, and I thought I was going to be studying a subject “outside” of myself. What I found, in fact, was that I was learning all about the land I grew up on and the history of my home. Ghost towns, historic sites, and the old residences of celebrities of that time period were drive-able destinations, sometimes literally on my drive to work. As a result, writing the Cowboy Ninja series has been and will continue to be a digging into my own past and understanding my place in the vast landscape of history.

In my research trips for Cowboy Ninja, I am continuing on my mother’s tradition, and I’ve begun revisiting old family haunts while discovering new ones, and Zion National Park in Southern Utah is one I hadn’t been to before. This series of seven blog posts will record my experiences on this trip as material for the writing of Cowboy Ninja with some travel tips for others who have their own wanderlust to satisfy.

The first and most important thing I always get on a road trip is an Atlas to put in the car. Also, I purchase some travel books as well to keep with me. In this age of smart phones, it seems like a waste of paper, but when traveling, I’ve found that if you don’t have a paper copy of your information, a drained battery could spell disaster. Paper doesn’t need to be recharged.

Road Atlas

Between the two guide books, I found the Lonely Planet one a tad more helpful because it had maps on almost every page, which is quite handy.

Zion Travel Guide Books

The drive is a little over 6 hours as a straight shoot north on the 15 freeway. We took advantage of a perfect pit stop in between, Las Vegas. One the way there and on the way back, I stopped for hearty buffet brunches at the Aria Hotel and the Caesars Palace’s Bacchanal Buffet. The Aria buffet was nice, but the presentation was better than the quality of the food. Things looked fancy but didn’t really taste all that good. Bacchanal Buffet is definitely Vegas’ premier buffet, quality, quantity, and presentation. There’s a huge variety, and it’s all really delicious with a lot of unique dishes.

I love breakfasts, so I stayed away from the plain eggs and bacon and instead tried a lot of their different breakfast specialty dishes, such as this crab eggs Benedict.

Bacchanal Crab Egg

This veggie dip cup and the bottle of fresh juice was refreshing.

Bacchanal Veggies

Since I don’t make baked goods at all, the best bang for my buck at Bacchanal was actually hitting the dessert bar, which had a little bit of everything delicious. The cookies were my favorites here, especially the green tea one with lotus filling.

Bacchanal Desserts

Happily, there was a big and awesome Whole Foods at Vegas, so we stopped by and stocked up for our cabin up at Zion. On the car, I kept oranges, apples, and containers of water just in case the car broke down and we found ourselves in the middle of the desert for a while. For emergencies and for all the hikes and activities we had planned, I bought a bunch of protein power bars and jerky as emergency rations.

Whole Foods Snacks

Fueling up in LA and in Vegas, is a must, as my car can run about 350 miles on a full tank and the whole trip, not including sidetracks, was over 400 miles. One thing to keep into consideration is to have cash with you, as credit cards may stop working if there’s too much traveling going on and they think the card’s been stolen. That’s what happened with me, but luckily I had enough cash on me.

Next up, the place to stay is Zion Mountain Ranch (Part 2 of 7).

Zion Mt. Lodge Pony