Wednesday, October 08, 2008

"a gnat that lands on the ass of a cow chewing his cud..."

Alas, no supernatural sounds disturbed our REM sleep last night...however the unnatural man-made sounds of the every hour-on-the-hour Sante Fe rail trains, the drunken college kids hanging out at the bar directly below our room until 2 a.m., and the jackhammer crew several blocks away working from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. straight (yes, I said a jackhammer crew), made for a restless slumber.

Add those disturbances to the half-actualized state of consciousness I slept in as I listened for a phantom bellboy knock at the door, and you'll grant me this word of advice...when staying at the Monte Vista in Flagstaff, get a room on the northeast corner of the building. You may be closer to the haunting dead, but much further away from the sleep depriving living.

Jackhammering at 2 a.m....I kid you not.

We slept in to make up for the lost hours of the evening and barely made it out for 10 a.m. checkout. Trucking out of town on Flagstaff's weird hodgepodge section of Route 66 we found the world's slowest gas pump just outside of town that S theorizes was purposely jimmied to get patrons to come in and c-shop in their c-stop.

The Mother Road kinda disappeared in this area so we hopped on the interstate and found our way to a waiting booth in Old Smokey's Pancake House on Williams' Route 66 nostalgic business loop. Scanning the gluttonous platefuls of food that the other diners were feasting on, we again decided to split our meals and just order what most citizens would consider a single serving breakfast.

Say one thing about breakfast offerings from Route 66 diners, they don't skimp on the portion sizes.

The breakfast burrito with refried beans and single plate-sized buckwheat pancake that Smokey's served up was enough to feed our entire family of 4, let alone the Wife and I.

Rolling out of the town dubbed, the Gateway to the Grand Canyon, we made a 65 mph beeline for what many consider the greatest natural wonder of the world and this middle-aged couples first glimpse of it since our family camping/road trip days of our youth.

Taking in the IMAX flick at the heavily commercialized National Geographic Grand Canyon Visitors Center was fun on many different levels of the entertainment scale.

First, the flick itself offers views of the canyon that only birds and ultralight flyers get to see. Second, the IMAX format was made for swooping aerial canyon shots, POV river rafting footage, and panoramic intervalometered pans of the canyon and surrounding sky.

Finally, sitting among busloads of tourists from all over the world as they marvel, ooh-and-ahh at both the Grand Canyon footage and the huge you-are-there IMAX film format is first rate entertainment in and of itself.

Now, back when we planned this trip, our original intention was to tent camp a few nights in the Arizona outdoors to save a few bucks and air out our camping stuff which had been sitting unloved and unused since FreeWheel back in June. However just about everyone we queried, including those online, told us that if we hadn't made campground reservations ahead of time, there was no way we'd find an open spot within the Grand Canyon National Park.

Yet here I sit in our Coleman 9x9 tent in spot #203 in the non-hookup section of the Mather Campground less than a mile away from the south rim itself. The Park Ranger who checked us in told us that only about 65 of the available 320 spots were reserved and we'd be relatively on our own.


Dinner tonight was a similar thrill ride, as we were told by so many folk that the dining experience of the famous restaurant at the El Tovar resort on the South Rim was reserved for those who made arrangements weeks or even months in advance.

Upon asking, the El Tovar Dining Room hostess told us that if we wanted, she could seat us in 30 minutes with a table that looked out over the rim, and had a perfect view of the sunset over the canyon. Sure it was only 5:00 in the afternoon and the sun wouldn't be setting for another hour, but by the time our creme brulee and decaf was making its way to our table, the uppermost peaks of the canyon's south rim view were getting their last licks of the Arizona sun.

About the GC itself, I'm not going to attempt to tap into my limited public school education vocabulary to describe how magnificent this canyon is, and how fortunate we are to have such a wonder within the borders of our country. Danny Glover said it best in the Lawrence Kasdan's feel-good 90's flicker..."Man, get yourself to the Grand Canyon."

Note - also the source of the line that titles this particular blog entry.

One last observation before the last of our seven dollar rick of store bought firewood goes out and I duck into our tent for what I hope will be a snuggly night amid the ancient pines and fellow campers in our area.

As we searched for a precious parking spot in one of the miniscule lots situated at the top-of-the-hill resorts on the rim, S spotted the now familiar Bullitt Mustang sitting in a much coveted spot beneath the shade of a twisted old pine tree. As I circled the aisles we spotted Mr. Bullitt and his Mrs. making their way from the rims edge toward their car. We exchanged waves and smiles of familiarity and he motioned in that unspoken language of drivers everywhere that if I wanted his spot, it was mine for the taking.

A few minutes later as I pulled into the spot recently vacated by the '68 and prepared my senses for the visual feast awaiting mere meters away at the canyon's edge, the sound of the pristine Mustang accelerating down and away from the parking lot rang in my head like an old friend.

Karma is a wild and crazy thing.

As the stars grow brighter and the skylight is replaced by the ground glow of the three-quarter moon, there are a few hearty tent campers around us (even though the spots directly adjacent to us are empty), enjoying the 40 degree night time lows and listening to the silence of the night - without the benefit of a passing freight train, without the rancor of martini swilling coeds, and without the melodic beating of an early morning jackhammer crew.

The Napa Valley muscat and dark chocolate truffles we purchased at the local supermarket (strange to buy wine in a supermarket again) were the perfect fireside nightcaps.

Bears don't like they?

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