It’s 4:45 am on a luxury coach in the middle of the desert. The curtain in my bunk opens and I’m awoken by a hand on my shoulder and a familiar (if exceedingly excited) voice saying, “We’re here! We’re here!”
I scramble down out of my bunk, delirious from the two hours of sleep I managed the night before, and run to get my backpack. I rush out of the coach to a strangely empty, but familiar, parking lot. I start running — both to warm my bare legs (it’s unexpectedly cold), and to make sure I don’t miss the big show.
It doesn’t take long to lose the crowds and suddenly I’m alone at the edge of the world. I find a spot on a rock to drop my camera gear and sit down — I’ve scored the best seat in the house. As the sun starts to come up over the Grand Canyon, I can’t help but tear up. I’ve seen it before, but just like everyone else will tell you” This view never gets old. It’s iconic for a reason.
I sit alone, perched on a lone rock with my legs dangling a mile above the canyon floor, for what feels like hours. Maybe it is. After a week on a luxury coach with nine strangers, the release is mandatory. It feels luxurious. In just a week I’ve surfed in San Diego, explored Santa Monica, hiked in the dry desert heat of Joshua Tree, and faced my fear of heights in Palm Springs. My time alone is a chance to reflect on my trip and on the diverse land and cityscapes this country continually offers the eager travelers.
So how did I end up on a tour bus (most recently inhabited by Olivia Newton John) at the Grand Canyon at 4:45 am on a Friday morning?
I was on the road with (the aptly named) Roadies, a travel startup, on their inaugural tour. Roadies, founded by Lee Roth and Mark Wills, is aiming to “reinvent the road-trip” through heavily curated week-long bus trips through some of the American Southwest’s most iconic locations. But this isn’t your grandmother’s bus trip — Roadies contracts luxury tour buses with all of the amenities (lounges, tv’s, wifi, snacks) that drive primarily during the night — so travelers wake up in a new location each day.