If you love the Cars movies as much as my goddaughter, Amelia May, and I do, you may have wondered where the inspiration came for Radiator Springs. I had always assumed it was a general mash-up of iconic Southwest locations: a base of Monument Valley, a dash of Zion National Park, a soupçon of the Grand Canyon. Wrong! The minute I entered Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park, I knew exactly where I was. Because turn by turn, feature by feature, vista by vista, Radiator Springs is an exact replica of Valley of Fire. In fact, navigating the scenic drive between the Visitor’s Center and the White Domes was exactly like doing the Cars ride at Disneyland (which, incidentally, Amelia May rates as one of the BEST rides). Except not in a toy car but in a teeny RV about the size of a taco truck. Even better, there are pullouts and parking lots about every 100 yards, so you can take pictures. I took hundreds. None of them did Valley of Fire justice. The sand and cliffs are a deep deep red and, now in early April after a relatively wet winter, the desert is in bloom. Juxtaposed with the red cliffs are brilliant green plants and bright flowers. You’d see amazing scenery if you just drove through the park, but there are a dozen or so hikes that get you out to even better vistas. Many of them are less than a mile’s hike. All this about an hour outside of Las Vegas. So skip that second day’s trip to the casino, rent a car and head for Radiator Springs. Be your own Lightning McQueen. Or, if you are driving a taco truck sized RV, maybe you can be Mater.
More photos here on Flicker.