Day Twenty Six – Thursday September 15, 2016

 

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Something different today. As I write this, it is a little after 7:30 AM, Mountain Standard time, and we have been up a little over 2 hours. The alarm was set for 5:30 this AM, so that we could get up and out to the rim of the Grand Canyon in time to catch today’s sunrise at 6:11 AM. It was a good show!! It was quiet, almost reverent, and everyone who was out for the sunrise was speaking in a whisper. Slowly, as the sun rose in the eastern sky, the color and light patterns on the canyon changed. Even though sunrise was 6:11, it was after 6:30 before we saw the actual sun come over El Tovar (the hotel next door), and had to put on our sun glasses. Slowly but surely, the rays of the sun started to play on the canyon until it was in full sunshine. I read that you needed to be out there about a half hour before till about a half hour after sunrise to appreciate the changing colors. Now we have officially seen sunset and sunrise over the Grand Canyon. Can I sleep till 7 tomorrow?

A little after 6:30 AM, we decided to head into the Bright Angel Lodge and have some breakfast. For some reason, Susie and I both felt like pancakes and bacon, and that’s what we ordered. When our breakfast came, the pancakes were beautiful, and looked like something prepared for a photo shoot, rather than a real breakfast! They were beautiful, but they were HUGE!! Had we known they were going to be this “substantial”, we could have split an order! Susie only made it through a third of the stack, and while I did a little bit better, neither of us belong to the clean plate club!

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Full beyond belief, we headed back to our cabin, to relax for an hour or so, before the tour we booked for this morning that leaves at 9 AM. Of course, we inserted the digital key into the lock and instead of getting the green LED and an open lock, we got the red and yellow LEDs, and no opening! After trying it for 5 or 6 times, we had to head back to the registration desk in the Bright Angel Lodge, which we had just passed on our way out of breakfast! Oh well, a little more exercise I guess!

 

Welcome to afternoon in the Grand Canyon National Park! It’s a little after noon, and we are back from our morning tour. We took the 2 hour guided Hermits Rest tour, in part because from March 1st to November 30, private vehicles are not allowed in this section of the canyon. Also, every time we have taken one of these tours in the parks, it has been a good experience and we have learned more than we knew before we took the tour. Today’s was not the exception to that rule!

We met our driver/tour guide JD just after 9 AM, right outside the Bright Angel Lodge. There was Susie and I and another couple, and we figured the bus would make a stop at another hotel, before starting the tour. Nope…we were it! Did we luck out!

Rather than just drop us off at the various view points, and tell us we had 15 minutes, JD came with us and gave us a private tour. He described what we were seeing, pointed out things we would have never seen without his guidance, and gave us history, geology, meteorology, and gossip about the Grand Canyon. At every one of the three stops we made, he had something new to share with us, and boy did we see and learn a lot in the 2 plus hours we were in his care. Questions were asked and answered, discussions were held, and it was a great experience, and well worth the $30 each we paid. You could tell that JD was passionate about his subject. Just like Leslie, our driver/tour guide on the Yellow Bus Tour we took in Yellowstone, JD had studied the Grand Canyon. He knew the history, knew the ecology, knew the science, and knew the new, and sometimes yet to be proved theories about how this natural wonder came to be.

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After getting dropped off at the lodge, we went into the Bright Angel History Room, and looked at the many displays. The Grand Canyon, like many other National Parks, was originally developed as a tourist destination by the Santa Fe Railroad. Included in the displays, was a lot of information about someone who worked with the Santa Fe, and who was very involved in the early development of the Grand Canyon, Fred Harvey. Fred Harvey, who’s dining business was closely tied to the railroad, was the original concessionaire at the Grand Canyon, and was responsible for the construction and running of the hotels and restaurants servicing the park. You may have heard the term Harvey Girls, or seen the 1940s era Judy Garland movie of the same name (a favorite of Susie’s). Well Harvey Girls was what the women who worked in Fred Harvey’s restaurants were called, including those at the Grand Canyon. In fact, we found out from our tour guide JD, that the present concessionaire Xanterra took over the businesses in the Grand Canyon from the Fred Harvey Company.

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Since we’d had that huge stack of pancakes for breakfast, lunch was out of the question, but we stopped at the Bright Angel Soda fountain for a soda and a snack (Susie had an ice cream cone and I a pretzel), before heading back to our cabin. As I’m writing this, Susie is reading one of the books she has bought in the last two days. This one is called, Death in the Canyon, and includes a lot of historical information about some of the really stupid things humans have done in this beautiful place, over the years. I’m also going to go get a couple of maps out of the car and plan our exit from the park tomorrow and plot our trip to Monument Valley.

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Yesterday you saw the inside, here’s the outside of our GCNP home!

This afternoon we are going to do some more exploring around the area, and perhaps try a little of the Bright Angel Trail, and follow the advice of JD to see a couple of very interesting Grand Canyon sights!

And another advisory, seems we’ve lucked out here, with some usable, if slow, internet service, but no guarantees for our night at the View Hotel on the Navaho Indian Reservation. If you don’t see a Day 27 blog tomorrow, never fear, I will get it published when I can!

Day Twenty Five – Wednesday September 14, 2016

 

Surprise, surprise…it looks like there is limited internet access in Grand Canyon. I’m going to attempt to post a blog for today, but not sure if pictures will post.

We started this morning at the Best Western in Kingman, Arizona, and our plan was to follow as much of Route 66 as we could, heading to our eventual stop for the night, Grand Canyon National Park. In our opinion, the parts of Route 66 that we traveled yesterday were much more of what we expected. Today’s travel was dull and boring, with very little remnants of Route 66 establishments that failed. Unlike yesterday’s travels through mountain passes, the majority of today’s travel was straight as an arrow. Honestly, when we got to the point where Route 66 joined with Interstate 40, we were happy.

We traveled Interstate 40 to Williams, Arizona, and then headed north towards the South Entrance of GCNP. Just outside the entrance to the park, is the National Geographic IMAX Theater, which presents Grand Canyon, The Hidden Secrets. We’d read about the 35 minute movie, and it sounded good, so we stopped to check it out. Lots of incredible photography, and a couple of interesting stories about early Grand Canyon explorers.

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Then it was on to the main attraction, Grand Canyon. Only a few cars in front of us at the main gate, and an easy entrance using my Senior Pass, and we were on our way. About 4 miles from the entrance gate, we followed signs to the Visitor Center and Mather Point, so Susie could get her first glimpse of the Grand Canyon. I’d seen it once before as a 10 year old, but it’s 56 years older than it was back then, so perhaps it had changed. Well, I’ll tell you one thing that changed is the amount of crowds we encountered! The parking lot was practically full, and there were people everywhere walking! Speaking about the crowds, we feel like strangers in our own country, because 90% of the people we’ve encountered are foreign tourists! English, Mexican, Danish, German, Swedish, and oh God, every Asian person who is old enough to travel! I guess they are all aware of the natural beauty our country has!

We walked, and walked, and walked, and finally Susie had her first sight of the rim of the canyon, and said, “Oh My God!” You may have seen pictures of this place, but they just can’t compare to being here in the flesh! After a few dozen pictures, we got back into the car to head to our ultimate destination, a Bright Angel Lodge Cabin, just feet from the rim!

We managed to find a parking spot, not too far from Bright Angel Lodge, and check in was very simple. We were given a key and a map showing us where our cabin was located. Luckily, we parked close, and soon were in our little cabin. It’s now about quarter to six, and the day visitors are clearing out and hopefully, those of us staying in the park will be in the majority. The temperature is only around 70, and there is a pretty good breeze blowing, so we are thinking of changing into our long pants and wearing our sweat shirts. Our plan is to make a drink, and walk out to “our rim” and sit and sip, as we watch the canyon and wait for sunset! It should be a little after 6 PM tonight, Mountain Standard time, and what I’ve read is that you want to be observing the canyon for a half an hour before and after the time of sunset. Wish us luck!!

Well, sunset was definitely everything it was cracked up to be! Just to explain, you don’t see the sun setting over the canyon. What happens is that as the sun slowly sinks to the west, it changes the way the canyon looks. The sun makes some parts bright red, while other parts go into deep shadow. Cocktails and sunset on the canyon rim definitely worked out well! A couple of vodkas on the rocks (with a twist) made it easy to sit on the rim wall, watch both the sunset and the passing parade of tourists, and enjoy a great view! That it’s just a short walk from our cabin made it even better!!

Then it was off to the Arizona Room for a bottle of wine, and a delightful dinner! Stopped briefly in the gift shop, and actually bought something! A book for Susie and a hat for me. We have been thru many gift shops on this trip, but have restrained ourselves. Now, some relaxing, and to bed early. Bed Early because we need to be up at 5:30 or so, to watch the sunrise over the Grand Canyon. Yea, we know it’s nuts, but when are we going to get to do this again???

Night you all…see you tomorrow!

Day Twenty Four – Tuesday September 13, 2016

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This morning, we checked out of the Rio Hotel a little after 10 AM, said goodbye to Las Vegas after our 3 day stay, and got back to our “on the road” routine, which we were both looking forward to. We realized as we as we left Las Vegas, that today we did something on our way out of town that we have never done before…we drove by the Las Vegas Airport Rental Car Return facility!

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Yesterday I told you about visiting one of our favorite places, Red Rock Canyon, a place that has become a Vegas tradition for us. Well, this morning we made a slight detour to Boulder City so that we could have breakfast at what has become another Vegas tradition for us, The World Famous Coffee Cup Cafe! Ever since we first saw it on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, about 5 years ago, we have stopped every year for one breakfast. Located in Historic Downtown Boulder, the Coffee Cup is a favorites of locals, and they graciously let us tourists enjoy the food too! They have a huge breakfast menu, but the star of the menu on Triple D, and in our minds is the Pork Chili Verde. Susie had the Huevos Rancheros, which promptly features the Pork Chili Verde, and I had Papa con Chili Verde! We had planned to take food pictures, and have to apologize, but as soon as the waitress put the plates down in front of us, all we could think of was eating it! All we have for you is some pictures of the cafe!

After breakfast we headed south on US 95 towards Needles, California. Soon after getting on the road, we passed huge fields of high tension wires, bringing the power generated from Hoover Dam to the outside world.

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The trip through the rest of Nevada was easy and the road was a nice 4 lane divided highway. After about an hour, we crossed into California and suddenly the road went to a 2 lane country road. We were only in California for about 25 miles or so, but it was another state on our list.

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Our purpose of going to Needles was to meet up with Historic Route 66, and to get to spend a little bit of time on the Mother Road. Back when I was 10 years old in 1960, my Mom and Dad and I drove from the mid-west to California, the majority of which we did on Route 66. Being 10 years old, I only have fleeting memories of the trip, so I wanted to experience a little of what’s left of the historic road. My point of reference for this portion of the trip was a blog, https://adventure2016web.wordpress.com/author/adventure2016web/ , written by Walter Pratt. It’s a great day by day accounting of a trip on Route 66 from end to end, and it is the result of my cousins Jeanne and Walt’s trip this past spring. Thanks Walt for the guidance!

As I write this tonight, we are in Kingman, Arizona, and have done better than 50 miles on Route 66. For the first 20 miles from Topock, Arizona I think we might have passed 5 cars. This is a desolate section of the road, where you drive through washes that have obviously brought lots of mud to the road, because it looks like they plow mud here, in much the same way we plow snow at home! The next “town” along the way was Oatman, Arizona, which seems to be known for burros and tourists wandering on the main street, which is Route 66. We had to dodge the jackasses…and the burros!

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Then it was time to head into the “mountains”, where a switchback two lane takes you into the Hualapai Mountains and over Sitgreaves Pass. All along the way, we saw evidence of businesses that once existed on the road, but when Interstate 40 opened, and bypassed them, died. Some have been repurposed and still exist, others are just rubble or big empty lots.

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As I said, we are staying tonight in Kingman, Arizona, in a Best Western Hotel. Today we only drove 187 miles, but again we are not on a mission to reach a destination, but to enjoy getting there. Almost as soon as we got into Kingman, we stopped at the Kingman Visitors’ Center and Route 66 Museum. We spent over an hour touring the museum and watching a film about the parts of route 66 we have, and are going to travel on. It was interesting to hear their perspective on what Route 66 meant to the country, how it helped development in this part off the country, and ultimately destroyed many lives when it was delisted as a US Highway. Another nice small museum, that at $3 admission was definitely not a rip off, and was a worthwhile place to stop.

Tomorrow, we will head along Route 66 for as long as we can, until we get to Williams, Arizona, and then head north to our destination for the next two nights, Grand Canyon National Park. We will be spending two nights in a Bright Angel Lodge Rim Cabin, enjoying the sunset and sunrise over the canyon (which is just feet from our cabin), and seeing what is truly one of nature’s wonders. In that trip I talked about before, we did stop at Grand Canyon, but all I have is a 10 year old’s memories of our visit. Susie has never been, and the two of us are very excited to check off this Bucket List stop on our Big Adventure! Susie just looked at the weather, and tomorrow night in the Grand Canyon it’s going to be in the 30s and 40s…a big difference from the 101 it was in Vegas yesterday!!  Also, the state of Arizona is the one state that doesn’t observe Daylight Savings time.  Right now, we are in Mountain Standard time, which works out to be the same time as Pacific Daylight Savings time.  Because of this, it got dark tonight very early!  Cool temps and early sunsets….we may have to dig out our Pikes Peak Summit clothes at the Grand Canyon!

Speaking of the Grand Canyon, an advisory for all of you who are following along with us via this blog. If you remember back 2 weeks ago, when we were in Yellowstone and there were no posts because there was little or no internet, I fear the same situation will probably exist in Grand Canyon National Park. So, if you do not see a post for day 25 tomorrow, understand that I will be writing the blogs, but may not get to publish them. After Grand Canyon, our next stop is the View Hotel, in Monument Valley, on the Navaho Reservation. The same situation may exist there too, so please understand if there is a “data dump”, once we are back in the 21st Century on Saturday the17th!

PS – We followed our usual pattern tonight, and dined at a local Kingman establishment. We found this book on our table…are they trying to tell us something???

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