It was in the 70’s when we woke up and I saw the couple outside their tear drop so decided to walk over. They were an older couple and the man told me they were heading to Michigan for a college reunion. This tear was made by a small manufacturer in California, with aluminum skin, but it’s arc was smaller than mine. I can stand in Arabella if I hinge at the waist, not an easy proposition but it has been done. They have no such room. They are pulling it with a small sedan and the man mentioned the addition of electric brakes, “a must have for the mountains” he tells me. In the four years they have owned this tear drop, there have been nothing but problems and the man has rewired it (he’s an engineer) and asked the builder to fix the leaks. It has gotten to the point that the builder is no longer returning phone calls. I wish them safe travels, a little envious of their route back North, and we start packing up.
My only neighbor was a pickup camper with Michigan plates, another Northerner. He walks over after buttoning her up and asks about our camper. They are heading to Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam after this and I am again envious of the route. I would like to see the Hoover Dam, it’s just not on this trip’s agenda. He lives near Grand Rapids and I told him I went through it on the earlier portion of my trip. He owns a saw mill and life is easier now that he has backed off, he is 80, and has a foreman to run things. The mill will go to his sons and he is giving them “as much as the Government will let me.” I get the feeling he isn’t particularly enamored with Government tax policies. Married for 60 years, I ask their secret. “I wasn’t always the easiest to get along with, but she was. Find a good woman and don’t let her get away.” I agree and we wish each other safe travels.
I meet my first idiot on the trip in the Holbrook Safeway parking lot. While packing my cooler a man walks over and says, “hey there Squarehead,” and I looked up not knowing who he was talking to. Then he starts with a bad Norwegian/Minnesota accent. I don’t answer and he proceeds to tell me this is how he starts conversations and tests people out; determines what they are like. We go back and forth a little, he adamant that there was nothing wrong in insulting a person to start a conversation. Now, I am not insulted if considered of Norwegian descent and our recent Ancestry.Com DNA test stated I have Scandinavian in me, but he was downright rude. I told him I have been travelling the country, meeting loads of people, and never would start a conversation like that. He reminded me of that guy who walks into a bar with his buddies, starts trouble, and then hides behind them when they do his business for him. Didn’t Forest Gump say, “stupid is as stupid does.”
We left Holbrook, traveled some more on Route 66, this section in a little better shape and pulled into Winslow, Arizona for a picture on “The Corner”. They have it set up for pictures and others had the same idea as me, so the taking of turns was necessary. I took a photo for a nice couple from Washington, he emailed me, offering a place to stay if I get jammed up. We walked down the streets, the shops mostly geared towards tourists looking for a bit of Americana. My Dad told me later that my Grandmother also had her picture taken at the same spot; she just didn’t know why. I can picture her doing it now, just because it was something cool to do.
Our next stop was the Meteor Crater near Winslow, a big hole in the ground created many years ago by a big rock from space. It is privately owned and billed as the best kept, most intact example of a meteor collision in the world. That alone was not worth $18, more like $12 in my opinion. The museum was geared towards kids and I wasn’t in the mood to learn science, but the hole was impressive and very large. I took some pictures, it was hot out, and got back to the camper to spell Mabel for some relief.
We were headed West on HWY 40 where we would pivot North to the Grand Canyon. They dreamed big on this section of HWY 40, and their dreams burst big as well. Many examples of commercial ventures gone wrong, left for the graffiti artists and elements to destroy. It felt like I was driving through an apocalyptic movie set, and I had the urge to stop and explore the ruins. Trading posts, gas stations, restaurants, and even theme parks, nothing was spared the economic ruin. Now we get to look at the dilapidated buildings as we speed by on the highway.
We stop at the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument and marvel at the Bonito Lava Flow. The craggy rocks interspersed with struggling green trees. My camera is acting up, the shutter not functioning correctly, so I don’t take a lot of pictures. It was neat to see the after effects of the volcano, the cooled lava looking inhospitable.
Mabel is not allowed to walk the paths so we stop at the Coconino National Forest which has a friendlier dog policy. She runs around the little lava pebbles looking for animals to chase. This is her at her happiest. The forest is sandwiched between the lava flow and the Wupatki National Monument, our National Parks pass allowing for admission to both.
The Wupatki National Monument is home for two pueblos; the Wupatki and Wukoki. Both are very striking when you approach, their lines a contrast to the open desert. They have been restored, not fully to their former glory, but you get a good idea of how people lived and raised families. But their designs make sense for the area, abundant local materials used to create shelter in a stylish fashion. No Home Depot back then to get a 2x4 when needed.
We will approach the South Rim of the canyon on the Eastern side via Hwy 64 at Cameron. The canyon is coming into view and I can feel the elevation in my ears while keeping one eye on the road and the other on the view. I am already amazed at the deep canyon and we are not yet into the National Park. I see cars pulling off for an observation area and I follow, not realizing how rough the parking lot was. I carefully turned around, intently watching for the large rocks and ruts; we don’t need a flat tonight. This appears to be a private turnout as there are small plywood booths, what you might see at a carnival, selling jewelry. I say hi as Mabel and I walk to the canyon rim, keeping an eye on the edge to not get close. Mabel has no fear of heights and walks as close to the edge as the leash allows. I can feel the swelling of fear in my stomach as we get near to a very steep edge and the wind isn’t helping matters any. A large picnic like area affords a great view and I take my pictures from a comfortable distance. Mabel tries to get close and I think her confidence comes from her four points of contact. Me, with only two points, is more hesitant to get close. Apparently, the man next to me isn’t afraid of heights because his girlfriend is taking pictures of him looking over the edge. No Thanks!
We come to the park entrance, show my pass allowing me to forgo the $30 entrance fee. The fee is for a carload and valid for 7 days so actually a pretty decent value. I was hoping to find camping in the park but had no clue on the procedure until I saw a camping sign with an arrow. I followed a few cars, in a parade like fashion, and asked a passing ranger if there was space. He said yes, but it was filling fast so I proceeded on and found an open pull through. What a score! We walked to the pay machine and deposited our $12 to receive a receipt that the camp host will turn into a parking pass once he registers you on his sheet. A German man was trying to help a group of Asian men, none of their credit cards were working, and the camp host was at lunch. We set up camp and the host came by in his electric Polaris cart to get our name and license plate #. He seemed frazzled as I asked him how his night was going. He mentioned all the people that came in over the last hour and asked me, since I was part of the onslaught, why I came when I did. I told him it was purely coincidence that I was a member of the group. He, also wasn’t too happy with the Asian men, mentioning their payment problems. If I understand correctly, the camp hosts are volunteers and they basically work for their spot so I am sure tonight’s activity was cause for him to question if his spot next to the bathroom was worth it.
We walked to the canyon and found a bench to stare into the dark nothingness. For some reason I wasn’t as anxious around the edge, it must have been the darkness and inability to see where I could fall, but in truth, I wasn’t sitting that close. I could sense the power in the canyon, it was like being at the ocean at night. You can’t see it, but you can feel it, and you just know the power it possesses. Mabel and I looked at the stars and at the canyon void before heading back to the campground.
On the way back, we ran into a twentysomething from New York named Adam. He was car camping and locked his only set of keys in the car so in effect he was now homeless. We walked back to our site and found the number for non-emergency emergencies and he used my cell to call. I could hear the ranger on the other end tell him she would send someone out to help but it would be a few hours. I offered to wait with him but he said he was cool and went back to his car at the spot up the road. I guess they got him in as I didn’t see him sleeping outside when I took Mabel on her morning walk.
It had been a busy, touristy day so we hit the hay. It was cool to be sleeping in the Park and we planned on getting up early to see the sunrise. Hopefully I can get up when the alarm goes off.
Thankful tonight that I did not go off the edge of the Grand Canyon.