This is my second time writing this blog. I lost the first version trying to insert photos. Why is this easier on the iPod? Anyhoo…
The Grand Canyon was on Tom’s Bucket List, so I decided to book a hotel near the south rim, so we could all watch the sunset over the canyon. On the trip up, we stopped at Sedona, which I narrowly missed on the last visit to Arizona. I shouldn’t have bothered; I hated it. It seemed very commercial and homogenized and cramped. Tight corners and shopping plazas, on said corners, were disappointing. The red rocks were stunning, but they didn’t stop me thinking I was attending Retail Boot camp.
We carried on and reached the canyon in plenty of time. We bundled up as the temperature was dropping rapidly, and headed to the rim. Becky and I had been here before several years ago. We had taken the train from Williams, which was a hoot; staged train robbery and all. Anyway, I had already experienced the awe-inspiring beauty and grandeur of this enormous space that was before us. Tom was a first-timer and duly said, “Wow”! I think it’s similar to Niagara Falls, in that, you can go at different times of the year, and day, and always see something new, so I was glad to be at the canyon again.
We waited for the sunset, and Becky started shivering. I wrapped her up in a blanket and assured her it wouldn’t be long. Normally, I would have taken her inside, but we’re at the Grand Canyon, so I decided to wait. The sunset took about half an hour. it wasn’t spectacular, but it did change the colours and shadows in the canyon. Of course, the batteries went in my camera at the appropriate time, so I don’t have any pictures to show you.
We decided to take the road back to the lodge as the path along the rim was a bit precarious (no railing) and it was getting dark. After 20 minutes, it was really dark and Becky couldn’t drive her chair because she couldn’t see. I volunteered to run back and get the van. Note: it is high altitude, I have asthma, and it is pitch black. I think I must have ran and stumbled for a mile before I saw the yellow glow of the lodge. My lungs were burning. I took a moment to get my breath, then jumped in the van, took one look at the park map, and headed out.
I understand the lack of lighting in the park, but I don’t understand the non-reflective brown signs that cannot be read at night. I drove down every road, one by one, trying to find Becky and Tom, knowing that Becky was getting colder by the minute. There was supposed to be a one-way loop, but I was buggered if I could find it. The map was rubbish as well, although my Dad thinks that women can’t read maps. It took me about thirty minutes in total, a lifetime in my mind, to find them. It put a bit of a damper on the evening, but we were all okay, so we didn’t dwell on it.
Next morning we headed to the East Gate. If you ever have a chance, it is worth the drive. It took us two and a half hours to go 30 miles! We stopped about ten times because the views were breathtaking. Places to stop included the Watch Tower, and Desert View, see below. Near the end of the park there are some ruins which we also stopped to see. Tom headed into the museum, and Becky followed me along the path. The next thing I know, she, and her wheelchair, were on the road sideways. Bloody Hell! A young couple pulled up and the man jumped out of his car and came to our rescue. He single-handedly, lifted the wheelchair, some 300 lbs, 8 inches up the curb, and back onto the sidewalk. Becky was shaken, but okay. Two mishaps in 24 hours, it was wheelchair voodoo; time to go.
Next stop was the Painted Desert, which was also on Tom’s Bucket List. It’s so peaceful. There are no sounds really, no birds, no vehicles, no people, just quiet. There is a smaller gorge, which compared to the Grand Canyon, everything is smaller, but it was still pretty impressive. I think the desert gets to you. Perhaps it’s a love or hate thing, but I definitely love it. I could spend hours driving or walking around. Arizona is amazing. The views change constantly. You go from desert to grassland, to mountains, to canyons, to forests and lakes. It’s all here.
Despite the mishaps, we made it back to Phoenix in good health. I guess there are always dangers with travel, but with someone who uses a wheelchair they are amplified. I think the dangers are far out-weighed by the chance to see a natural wonder of the world and to be enriched by the experience.