Big Holes in the Ground

Published: January 4th 2018
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The big nature day of the trip delivered on all its promises. A full day in Arizona, and I’ve finally been gotten back to a place where I’ve already been before. I’ve been seeing something new ever since we left San Antonio last Thursday after the Alamo Bowl. But once we pulled into the Grand Canyon this afternoon, I was back on familiar territory. Of course this time, I went in the opposite direction from before.

We woke up in Page, Arizona, which is the gateway to several of the natural locales in the area. Just outside of Page is the Horseshoe Bend area, which I had seen in photos online and from friends. I was so jealous of those views, and when I was planning this trip, I knew I had to make a stop if we were going to be so close. And it did not disappoint. I mean, it was RIGHT outside of town. Maybe 2 miles south of the town, and you had to pass by it to go to the Grand Canyon.

There were several police outside the entrance, presumably because there were so many tourists expected. And the number of tour buses was astounding. But most of them were leaving as we got there, though a few pulled up as we were ascending the hill. It was a decent hike to the good views—up an initial hill and then down a winding path that was mainly sand. As we topped the first hill, dad asked whether we were there yet, and I think he was only half joking. But we eventually got there, and there was a profound moment of wow-ness upon first looking over that cliff.

It’s so photogenic, and there are few bad angles (if any). But getting pictures with myself in the picture, though, was quite difficult. I guess it depends on who is using the camera and/or how much you want it to look like a selfie. I gave it to dad, and he did not use the camera very well; he held down the shutter button and it took 61 of the same picture. But my camera also allows me to delete all of them at once. Convenient. It must also have parents who don’t know how to use a phone camera. I took several selfies, and dad even propositioned a Japanese guy to take the picture, since he had a big camera himself. And it was okay. They were all okay, but none “just right.” I guess there’s a perfect angle somewhere, and I did my best to get in the shot with this hot piece of nature. But taking pictures of the place itself was like child’s play.

It’s breathtaking. Some people went up to the edge and took pictures, but I had to wait a moment for the sheer awesomeness of the view to set in. And to think about the geological processes that produced this. I kept thinking about how normally a river will create an island when it merges at the narrow side, and so for millions of years, that never happened here. The striations (always my favorite) were stunning, and the terrain on our side of the river was at an angle to the surface—it jutted out at about 45 degrees, so I wondered what had happened, so long ago.

The good news for people visiting with senior citizens is that the downhill side of the slope has three stopping points along the path, each with a bench. So we took advantage of that on the way back up that side. Normally, it would’ve probably taken me no more than 10 minutes to get from the car to the overlook, but with dad, it took at least twice that long. And then before we left, we went into their restrooms, which are basically the most elaborate port-a-potties I’ve ever seen. I guess they’re more permanent than normal, but the seat and the hole into which all of the refuse falls is exactly the same.

It was probably about an hour and a half after that to the Grand Canyon. Thanks to dad’s advanced age, we were allowed to get a senior National Park Pass for only $20. It’s normally $30 per car just to get in. But we got a discount AND now we don’t have to pay for any more parks for a full year! And to top it all off, the ranger at the gate was from Savannah, GA.

The rest of the afternoon was spent meandering through various points of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The North Rim is apparently closed during the winter, so everybody was on the South Rim. I had been before, but it was nowhere near this crowded. Our first stop was Desert View Watchtower, where it turned out to be colder than we expected. We also stopped by the General Store at this place and got the requisite swag. We stopped by the next three overlooks—Navajo Point, Lipan Point, and Moran Point—before driving what seemed like a long way to the Pipe Creek Vista. At each of these overlooks, there were the usual suspects: foreign tourists just looking for photo ops, retired couples enjoying the views together, and then the kids and young adults who did not care about their lives. At the last of these stops, the Pipe Creek Vista, we were just enjoying the views ourselves, and even listening to what I assumed were professional guides talking to their small groups. A couple of these came and went, and then a pair of guys in their 20s hopped out of their vehicle with a big Georgia flag, trying to get a selfie with their Go Pro. Because it was so windy, we volunteered to hold down the lower corners of their flag. And once they were done, I asked if I could borrow the flag for the same purpose. They said sure, and with me holding the top two corners, dad holding the lower left corner and one of those dudes holding the other one, the remaining dude took a few pictures. Then we talked about the game, which they had also been at, and how we had all driven to Vegas right after the game. I didn’t ask what their plans were for getting back, so I wonder where they are tonight. I do know they were from just south of Atlanta, so they’ve got some miles to go, too.

Our last stop was at the Visitor Center, which was a bit underwhelming. We did get to Mather Point, which is behind the Visitor Center, where there were loads of people but spectacular views. It had a nice jutting-out point, so I can’t blame them all for being there. Plus, it’s the first place people who entered from the south would probably go. But back to the Visitor Center—they have a film to show, but the line for tickets was long, and we had really already seen all we wanted to. So a potty break and one final visit for Grand Canyon swag later, and we were on our way to Flagstaff. I did pick up a set of the retro-WPA-posters post cards. I would’ve gotten a bigger size, such as a small poster (as big as it got), but even those small posters were $40. No way.

And now we’re in Flagstaff for the night. Dad had always wanted to come here because HIS dad had sent him a postcard from here as one of his final acts before having a stroke and being forced to come home. So he’s wanted to come here for a while. It’s also on Route 66. In fact, our hotel is on “Historic Route 66” as listed on local maps. The sun had set by the time we got here, so we couldn’t do any looking around, but tomorrow, on the way out of town, we have to go down Route 66 to get to our next stop. So I hope we get to see what he wants.

For some people, it’s probably a waste of a restaurant trip, but we went to the Sizzler tonight for dinner. It wasn’t far from our hotel, and still on Route 66. I had never been to one, despite hearing about them for years. And dad had never been, either. So now we can say we have. It was okay. I wouldn’t go out of my way to get to one, but it satisfied my physical hunger. And now, I’m going to get some rest before making yet another 8-hour drive tomorrow. It was only 4 hours today, similar to yesterday, but the remaining three days of the trip will all be beastly in terms of the lengths we will be travelling.

Tomorrow, we’ll be visiting the Petrified Forest, as well as Albuquerque, before ending up in Clovis, basically the final city in New Mexico (and in the Mountain Time Zone) before entering Texas. And then Friday is all Texas. We gotta get back home sometime…

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