Don't let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy
06.04.2010 - 06.06.2010 90 °F
The song in our title has a reference to Winslow, AZ, where we stopped and saw a statue/mural scene from the song:
Well I'm standing on a corner
in Winslow, Arizona,
and such a fine sight to see
It's a girl, my Lord
in a flatbed Ford
Slowin' down to take a look at me
Grand Canyon Day 1
After arriving in Flagstaff to a mess of people all headed to the Grand Canyon, we were very relieved to find a campground outside the park that had sites available. Actually, as we pulled up, the camp host came out and told us that 1) today is free at this campground and 2) the best tent site is available (along with lots of others). So around 10 AM we set up the tent, offloaded our heavy stuff, and went out to the Grand Canyon, about 20 minutes away. It feels extremely satisfying to be staying in the perfect place for free (the usual rate is just $10) after staying at the aggravatingly noisy KOA for $25 and a series of hotels that try to trick you into taking a more expensive room than you want. There is no electricity and the only water comes from a pump in the ground, but it is so much more peaceful and pleasant than anything so far. It has also been nice to have a day without too much driving, and the prospect of even less driving tomorrow. For context, it’s about 325 miles from Albuquerque, NM to Flagstaff, AZ and we drove all of that in a day.
You may be hoping to hear about the Grand Canyon, but there aren’t many words to say about it. It looks like a huge panoramic photograph – it is so enormous and so far away that it’s just… hard to believe you’re there. We walked around a portion of the south rim of the canyon, covering maybe three miles. Tomorrow we plan to hike a little down into the canyon. Frankly, it’s so good to be resting that we don’t feel motivated to conquer the canyon in any way. We’ll probably come back, eat some Mexican food, and play cards for the evening.
On our first evening at the canyon, we made burgers and puttered around camp for a while, then raced back to the canyon trying to get there by sunset. We arrived in time for a few orange glow-y pictures, but most of the sun was already gone.
We walked around for a little while in the gloaming and then drove to another part of the canyon where we’d seen ambiguous signs posted for a “Star Party.” We parked along the road where a bunch of other cars were and walked toward where we could hear a hum of people chattering outside. It was getting dark by this time and the first stars were visible. As we turned the corner, a jovial man welcomed us and urged us to stand on the left side of a rope along the road so that cars could pass on the other side. For a quarter mile in front of us, all we could see on that side of the rope was people milling around and enormous telescopes aimed at different points in the sky!
Grand Canyon Day 2
The campground was indeed supremely peaceful, aside from one mystery. We turned in on the night of the above post, slept marvelously, and then were woken suddenly at 6 AM by a loud noise that sounded like half-snort, half-cough. Above our tent. Kathryn was content to sleep through that, but Jeff shook her awake and said in a quiet voice “I think there is an elk outside our tent.” Now, this was fully possible. Kathryn had seen elk droppings and large hoof prints in the ground pretty near to the tent, and we’d seen elk eating grass next to the road outside of the Grand Canyon.
They’re certainly not tame, but they’re used to going about life with human objects (cars, tents, etc) around. But when we peered out of the tent on all sides, no sign of anything unusual. The food was all where we left it on top of the grill stand and everything looked normal.
Anyway, after some more sleep we got up and deliberated what to do next over pancakes. We wanted to hike in the grand canyon, but we were planning to see a friend in LA who was off of work on specific days. So we decided to hike into the canyon a little bit, then break camp and start driving to California and just sleep someplace short of LA.
We decided to take a quick hike on the Kaibab Trail. There are signs everywhere saying to be careful and don’t over-exert yourself. The most emphatic of these state that if you try to hike down into the canyon and back out on the same day, you risk permanent brain injury or death. Having read that you should allow twice as long to hike back up as down, we hiked just a half an hour into the canyon. Even that small amount was worth it, although it would have been better to reach the bottom. From above, the canyon is so deep and far away that it’s hard to believe that it’s real, even though you’re right in front of it. Climbing even a little down into it helps somehow to confirm that it’s real.
On the way back up, we noticed several squirrels behaving in a very unsquirrelly way along the path. Jeff noticed this first – these squirrels move cautiously, accounting for each limb before picking up another one. They pick their way slowly across the ledges, rather than running, jumping, or scampering in a carefree way.
After leaving the canyon, we returned to the campground, broke camp, and started the trip toward LA. Leaving around 2 PM, we figured that we’d just drive until we were a couple hours outside of LA and stop for the night. After an almost fruitless search for the London Bridge* in Lake Havasu, AZ, we crossed into California and started thinking about finding a place to sleep in an hour or so. And then we noticed. There were essentially two towns/cities between where we were and LA, and they were about an hour apart. Also, we were entering Needles, CA, the hottest place in America. It was after sun-down and still over 100 degrees. Jeff drove until his eyes crossed and then we pulled over at a rest stop to let the car cool down some. The center consol was almost too hot to touch at that point and we were worried that wires were going to start melting. Kathryn called the nearest and only hotel in Ludlow, CA and found that they were completely full, with the nearest hotels an hour away in Barstow, CA. Off we went to Barstow, finally settling for the night around 11 PM in a fairly dodgy hotel.
- Someone bought the old London bridge, shipped it across the ocean, and reassembled it in Arizona.