The day started with a hot shower in the wigwam (thanks, Bri for taking the first lukewarm shower and allowing the pipes to heat up for me.)  We piled in the car and started out trek towards the Grand Canyon, stopping every few exits to hit an old Route 66 landmark.

jackrabbitIn Holbrook, AZ, we found a great family of dinosaurs.  Then we couldn’t find a gas pump that actually worked.  We finally located one at the Circle K — generic gas and lousy coffee. A great start!

We stopped along the highway to see the Geronimo — “largest petrified tree” (which was nice, but didn’t seem THAT big), a large Jackrabbit, and the famed Twin Arrows (which are decayed almost beyond recognition).  In Winslow, AZ, we saw a strange 9/11 Memorial, a statue of a “Guy Standing on the Corner” (a tribute to an old Eagle’s song), then purchased two pieces of the old Route 66 as a souvenir — oddly, the total price came to $9.11. Strange, but true — especially in a town with a weird 9-11 obsession (the statue of the Guy on a Corner was dedicated on 9/11/98.)

twinarrowsAn interesting stop was at the Barringer Meteor Crater — a very well preserved and intact example of a meteor impact site.  We arrived in time for a 10-minute film (well done with some decent effects and interviews), and then took the group tour on a hike around part of the crater rim.  Brian has little patience for the general public — and does not like crowds — so this was a HUGE stretch for him.  I give tours to groups from 2-40 at the Building Museum, so I am used to groups of tourists.  Granted, visitors to the NBM are a little better educated and have an interest in the building arts or the amazing Pension Building structure — as opposed to the masses who descend upon the meteor crater to gawk and snap photos at a roadside attraction.

winslowStopping at these little points along the map made me realize how important a single idea is to create a sense of community.  I know we wrote about Roswell as the town that UFOs built — and the same holds true for these old Rt. 66 pit stops. Not only did they dispense gasoline and snacks — but they helped to spread the American culture to those who passed through their doors.  Each exit introduced families to new cultures, art and ideas.  Unfortunately, today’s mega-rest areas and truck stops just dispense gas — and fattening junk and convenience foods.  Looking at the dilapidated Twin Arrows site, I imagined the stop in its heyday — a symbol of American fortitude and enterprise.  I wonder if it is available for sale — it could make am AMAZING destination diner for an innovative chef. Hmmmm.

By mid-afternoon, we arrived at the south rim of the Grand Canyon.  I have never been, and based my expectations on what I learned from the Brady Bunch’s visit.  After we passed the traffic on the way into the park, and hunted for a parking space, we started our hike to the edge of the canyon.  Only problem was the throngs of people and the snow and ice covered trails made the hike less of a stroll and more of an obstacle course.  Still, we managed to walk about a mile or so, snapping plenty of pictures.

The canyon really is an awesome site — I can only imagine what the first person to discover the canyon thought — other than “damn, guess we’re not crossing here.”  I know that we only saw about 1% of this natural phenomenon, but I think I got a sense of its power.  Listening to the others on the path, it was rare to hear English spoken. Of course, plenty of Spanish — but also French, Italian, Castilian Spanish, Asian languages, African languages — tongues from all over the planet.  I think it is sad that others in the world appreciate our natural wonders — but Americans can’t seem to be bothered to enjoy what our country holds as its own — instead, vacationing in all-inclusive or theme resorts, devoid of any real connection to the land. Yes, I am speaking to you Dolly and Walt and Dan Snyder.

canyonWe ended our trek of the canyon with a nice rest at the edge during sunset.  Watching the fleeting light cast its last spell of the day on the edge of the canyon was a sight to behold — gorgeous pinks and yellows and oranges and reds glowed vibrant and faded over the course of our 20-minute sit down.  Brian, Pilot and I just watched — and took the scene in.

At the suggestion of a few of the blog readers, we made a special dinner reservation at the restaurant at El Torval — the elegant 100+ year-old hotel at the rim on the canyon — originally run by the famed Harvey Girls (yes, I like the Judy Garland movie.)  I am gad we had the experience, but I must tell the truth — the dinner was mediocrity at its average.  The bean soup and endive salad were fine.  You can’t really screw those up — tho the salad consisted of a few ingredients too many — endive and spinach and apple and gorgonzola and shallots and bacon and a salty dressing.   Pick any three of those and the salad would have been perfect. The frozen duck was cooked to the point of dehydration and smothered in a “sauce” of watered-down marmalade.  The crab-stuffed trout was might have been good if it was just crab and fresh trout — not mayonaisey crab (or was it krab) in an overcooked piece of fish that could have been cod for all its tastelessness.  We passed on dessert, as I was afraid it would have been defrosted Costco warmed over and slathered with Hershey’s syrup.  Did we complain to the manager? No — although I would never have accepted a meal like this at home, I felt that we were really there for the experience more than the food.  Of course, now it is about 2 hours after we got back, and I am experiencing pangs of hunger.

Tomorrow, we will breakfast in Bedrock (an RV park that is Flintstones themed — complete with round, rocky buildings and jumbo cartoon characters.)  Then off to an afternoon in Sedona and a relaxing New Year’s Eve in the small town of Gila Bend, AZ.

Happy New Year!