17 July 2013

Getting to the Canyon

We were watching the guy walk the tightrope across the Grand Canyon and it occurred to me that I never told the story of going to the Grand Canyon in November.

Kevin went because he knew the rest of us wanted to.  He even stated that he was worried that it would just be a giant ditch in the ground and he would be unimpressed.  To clarify, he is the pit boss of an excavation company.  He has seen what nature can do to the earth, daily.

It was the last day of the trip for us so we were over it and ready to go home.  It was the sixth day in Vegas and if you've ever been, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

I am Suzy Research Nerd so before we even left Washington State I had looked up the best way to get to the canyon.  There were two options: the tourist way and the "locals" way.  I was down for the locals way, even though I did have some trepidation because: you're in the desert.

Kevin asked the concierge what the best way to get to the Canyon before we left.  She tried to upsell us the tour packages then tried to get us to take the day trip to the main overlook, eight hours away.  We walked away figuring we'd just figure it out along the way.

This is where I explain that Kevin's brother is anxiety ridden, all the time.  And, to add to the fun, he doesn't trust signs, as in street & freeway signs.  He will argue with you about the direction you take even when the sign says "Freeway Onramp: turn left" and you're sitting in full view of the freeway.  It's insanity making.

I had my two sets of directions to the same place, I had my GPS on my phone working and we were on our way.  We are on the freeway two minutes when he says that HIS PHONE says to GO THE OTHER WAY.

We aren't even out of Vegas yet, we can still look across and see the casinos.  The racerack is on the north end of Vegas, opposite of where we're headed, and he knows that the canyon is not that way but OMG THE PHONE SAYS TURN AROUND!!!

I finally set the directions on the dash and my phone on the console and told Kevin that I'm out of being the navigator.  Kevin shoots me the warning glance of "Don't be a bitch" that I'm all too familiar with.  But I'm not going to argue with someone who doesn't trust mother-effing MAPS.

Even the diplomat, Kevin gets us out of town then pulls off into a gas station.  Leaving his brother to gas up the van, he took the directions into the store and asks the clerk.  The clerk is from Hollywood Central Casting: gravelly voice, clearly had a hard life, dyed hair, and chewing gum.  She confirms that the MAP is CORRECT and said we were idiots if we didn't take the locals way.

We get back into the van and Kevin explains that the clerk says the directions are correct.  "We can either go back to the hotel and do something else or we can keep going."  My sister-in-law says "Let's keep going!!" and the brother mutters in agreement.

Off we go.  You travel not far and you're clearly in the middle of the desert.  Now we live in the country but this is seriously unpopulated country.  One tries not to remember every movie you've ever seen about being stuck in the desert.

The way to Grand Canyon is clearly signed along the way (I KNOW) but quickly, our directions tell us to turn off.  It looks a little kitschy with "Come see the Indian Village!" signs and fake teepees in the distance.  We traveled past that and soon crossed into the Reservation.

Now, where we live we don't regularly travel on reservation land.  It's just not done.  It's not like there's true danger there but people like us clearly are not welcome.  It felt weird to be traveling through this area.  Especially since we were one of few cars on the road.

We came into a little town with a sign that said "Last Stop before the Canyon"  We decided to stop for one last potty break.  The "store" looked like an old fashioned Western store front but once you stepped inside, it was like a convenience store set up in someone living room.  The owner was a native Indian with beautiful skin, hair, and eyes; again with the Hollywood Central Casting.  She had a shaky voice as if she had a stroke but upon looking around we spotted a Relay For Life Survivor shirt and we learned that she was a cancer survivor.   (Kevin's never met a stranger in his life)

We went to the bathroom, which appeared to be her bathroom, bought water and postcards and were on our way.  She confirmed that the locals directions were good and we were halfway there.  She also said that beyond her town was nothing.  There was nothing but desert between there and the Canyon.

Off we went and she was right.  Within five minutes it was as if the town didn't exist and we were in the middle of a Western.  We saw wild horses, rabbits, and snakes.  One often felt like "Didn't w already pass that rock?" because everything begins to look the same.  Every once in a while we would see a house and each time I would wonder how in the world anyone would ever live there. 

We continued to travel and the road became narrower and less well kept.  It felt like we were going to travel off the edge of the earth.  Finally, signs began to appear that the road to the West Rim was upcoming.  Turning off onto this road, we had a choice to make: we could join a tour bus or continue to drive on our own.  Both ladies at the stores had suggested going it on our own because then we weren't stuck on a schedule and didn't have to pay extra.

So, with anxiety emanating from the backseat, we continued on.

Sure enough, the maintained road stopped and we were on gravel roads.  Now, Kevin as into four-wheeling when we met so this didn't deter him for a second.  Right until the sign that said "West Rim: 60 miles"

Wait, what?  60 MILES?  On THIS ROAD?  On a well-kept freeway that is one hour of travel.  On this wagon trail of a road, we feared for our wellbeing.  But we continued on because it would be stupid to stop at this point.

Stupid was continuing on.  Stupid was not taking the tour bus.  Stupid was not staying at the hotel and ordering room service.  Good GOD, that road was rough.  And dry.  We had to stop numerous times because Kevin couldn't see through the dust.  Our teeth were rattled, our bums sore, and our general health compromised by all the rattling around.  I could only think of the settlers coming through here in wagons and simultaneously being impressed and feeling like a wuss.

Kevin got to a point of "Eff it", which meant not slowing down nor minding the curves or bumps.  He and I got into the absurdity of it and just started laughing. It was a rented mini-van with insurance, let's beat the sh*t out of it. I'm fairly certain that his brother thought we were going to die. 

Two hours later, we reached the Canyon.  Or did we?  It turns out, after all that, we still had to get onto a tour bus to be taken to the observation point.  Sigh.  It turns out that at a certain point the reservation only allows guided tours to prevent damage to the environment. 

We bought tour tickets and crawled onto the bus.  Five much more comfortable minutes later, we were at the observation point. 

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