Postcard From The Grand Canyon

It was early morning in Flagstaff, Arizona and I was sitting on an old, weather beaten picnic table in front of the Howard Johnson motel on Route 66 waiting on a guy from Enterprise to pick me up to take possession of a rental car. The next leg of our vacation would be via car to the Grand Canyon. It was already hot and traffic on the road in front of me was very light so I was just sitting there working my brain the way bored guys do, in other words, not thinking anything at all, when a car pulled to the curb and stopped. I looked over and saw it was driven by a stunningly beautiful young lady. The driver's window was down and she was looking right at me. She smiled, casually flipped her blond hair behind her ear and said, "Hi, there." Confused, I looked over my shoulder to see if there was someone behind me. There wasn't. When I looked back at her, she laughed and started to drive away. I really wasn't sure what to think, but guessed it was just some good looking young woman who saw some poor, old guy sitting by himself and decided to have some fun at his expense. I didn't mind. But then she pulled into the hotel parking lot and drove up, stopping right beside me and gave me a big smile. "Hey, how are you doing?" she asked. Oh, now I get it - she's a fallen dove looking to make some money the old fashioned way. She laughed again and said, "Are you Ken? Cause if you're not, I'm going to be really embarrassed. I'm Denise, with Enterprise. I'm here to give you a ride to the office."

The Momma-woman and Youngest-daughter
at the park entrance
At the Enterprise office Denise gave me a choice of three vehicles - I chose the Nissan Rogue with only 3,000 miles on it. After going back to the Howard Johnson to pick up the Momma-woman and Youngest-daughter, we started on the 80 mile drive to the Grand Canyon. Getting on the interstate, shortcomings of the car became immediately apparent. Merging into interstate traffic was an adventure as pressing the accelerator didn't do much except make the little 4-cylander engine wind-up and scream in protest. When you go up a modest hill and have to keep you foot down almost to the floor and an 18-wheeler truck still passes you, the car is woefully underpowered. The most annoying thing though was the constant floating from side to side. The car would not stay going straight. It would float to the left and with just the slightest little touch of the steering wheel, it would then float to the right. Constant attention was required to keep it within the lane. The good part though was the great gas mileage. We put a good number of miles on that thing and only filled up once and topped off the tank when we returned it. Maybe the issues were because it was a rental, had not been treated kindly by other renters and needed adjustments, but with just 3,000 miles on her, I'll just say the experience ensured a Nissan Rogue is not in our future.

After several little side trips and a stop to eat, we made it to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The entry fee per car is $30, but I showed my National Park Senior Pass and the friendly park ranger smiled, handed us maps and info booklets and wished us a good visit. I bought my senior pass four years ago for $10 and consider the purchase to be one of the wisest and best I've ever made. We love visiting the national parks and it has saved us hundreds of dollars in entrance fees and other discounts over the years.

This young elk was outside our room
every morning eating breakfast
We had reservations inside the park at Yavapai Lodge, but we arrived at 2:00 and signs indicated no check-ins before 3:00. We looked around in the gift shop for a few minutes and the Momma-woman bought a summer Cowboy hat. She didn't think I would like it, but she was wrong - I think she looks sexy in it! I went back to the reservation desk to ask where we could buy stamps and after she gave directions to the post office, she asked if we were checking in. I said yes and even though it was just 2:20, she said our room had just been released by the service staff and we could check in now. Great!

Yavapai Lodge East consists of six individual 2-story buildings and Yavapai West is ten 1-story buildings in a totally separate location. We got a room in one of the East buildings as it had air conditioning whereas the West rooms do not. I'm sure having no A/C is fine in the fall/spring/winter, but it was summer and we were grateful for it. Nice room, not fancy, but clean and comfortable. There is no Wi-Fi in any of the rooms (it is available at the Lodge) and the satellite TV kept cutting in and out, but we didn't stay in the room much except to sleep so that wasn't a big deal. The room had a big picture window looking out into the forest and I spent a good bit of time looking out of that window watching squirrels scamper about playing and elk grazing as I waited for my two girls to finish showers and get ready for the day. It was a really nice way to start the day.

Our visit to Grand Canyon was thoroughly enjoyable. It had been 20 years since the Momma-woman and I had been and it was Youngest-daughter's first time. The biggest change we noted, other than the free buses which you can now take to anywhere in the park, was the crowds. According to our memory, there seemed to be at least twice or 3 times as many visitors and there were many, many more foreign tourists - especially European, Japanese, Chinese and people from India. With a few exceptions, the vast majority of folks were friendly and courteous. The most inconsiderate we encountered during our 3 days there were three youngish Americans.

Youngest-daughter admiring the view

We had made special effort to be at Hopi Point to see the sunset. It is in an area where you have to take the red route "Hermit's Rest" shuttle as auto's are not allowed. We arrived early enough to get a good viewing spot and were patiently waiting as the sun was edging down toward the horizon when one of the world's most beat up, ugliest, dirtiest diesel pickup trucks came into the empty parking area spewing diesel smoke and fumes. It was covered in bumper stickers and hand-made signs declaring "Save the Trees," "No Fracking," "Clean Air" and "Water is life!" I especially liked the "Clean Air" one as we had to wait for the air to clear of diesel exhaust before it could be read. The bed was filled with camping items, a generator, and a number of other mystery items which had tarps over them, all dirty. It had been outfitted with a handmade, iron balcony sort of thing over the bed. I have no idea how they got there since autos were supposedly not allowed. Three people got out, two guys and a woman. There had been a pretty large crowd at the viewing point, but until these people arrived, everyone had been real subdued, talking almost in whispers while watching an awesome sunset. A sight like that in that setting just naturally makes one look on in quiet awe at nature's beauty and power and have thoughts of how small you really are. Just before the colors turned to gold and bright red and orange, the older guy (he reminded me of Wavy Gravy from way back in the days of flowers, peace and love) climbed up on the top of their truck and started shouting at the top of his lungs, "My name is Johnny!" "My name is Johnny!" "My name is Johnny!" "Water is life!" "Agua es vida!" Gee, thanks a lot, Johnny. Way to break the mood.

Now that he had everyone looking at him, he brought out a drum and began loudly chanting, Indian-style, and banging that drum like he is a Native-American shaman or something. After a few minutes of this, the younger guy brought a guitar out, climbed up and joined him in chanting. The woman walked around shouting, "Water is life!" "Water is life!" This went on until the sun had set and it was dark.

Long lines formed to wait for the bus. We were in line for almost an hour because there were only two buses running and only about 20 people could get on each time. The line snaked beside Johnny's truck and I glanced in as I slowly passed. It was just as filthy inside as out and it obviously had been serving as living quarters for them for a long time. The woman was telling everyone that passed, "Water is life!" I was upset that they had basically ruined everyone's enjoyment of a beautiful sunset, a beautiful moment. As she looked at me and said for the hundredth time, "Water is life" I wanted to say water is also for bathing, you should try it sometime, but it had been a long day, I was really tired and I doubted she would get it so I walked on without a word.

Inconsiderate, self-centered Johnny
We left the next morning and other than Johnny and company's inconsiderate chanting and proclamations, we had a wonderful time. I would definitely recommend staying in one of the "inside the park" accommodations. They are all close to a shuttle stop and the buses run every few minutes. Cost for a room is around $200 - $250 per night and worth it. We had a car so we drove the routes some of the time, but even though we never had much trouble finding a parking spot at an overlook or other site, we found it easy and convenient to take a shuttle. We spent three full days in the park and that was enough to see everything along the southern rim. If you plan on taking a hike or two, you will need to plan more time. I hiked several trails here years ago and recommend you do too. (It was on one of those hikes that I first encountered Ponderosa pine trees - their bark smells like vanilla!) Unfortunately, hiking at the 7,000+ foot elevation and in the heat was not possible this time and I regret it. Oh well, it was still most enjoyable and the visit gets 2 thumbs up from all of us!

Feeling small at Grand Canyon
This big fella was on the side of the road and didn't
mind his picture being taken at all

This picture of Youngest-daughter perfectly sums up
our trip to the Grand Canyon - awesome!