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NORTH AMERICA - THE “BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITIES” TOUR

Grand Canyon Postcard

THE GRAND CANYON

“BEAUTY, MAN DID NOT CREATE YOU”

If you are travelling on a tour of the United States you should probably go anywhere that has the word Grand within its name. After all that is what the country is. Grand! There is no holding back in this country where everything is done on a grand scale. And when you are on top of the world, in this fiercely competitive, money means everything country, how do you expect to feel? Grand!

However I had limited time, money and patience. For me the Grand Canyon would have to suffice.

After our Saturday spent in Las Vegas, Alfred dropped me off at Union Station in Los Angeles on the Monday and I boarded the train headed to Flagstaff. Flagstaff was a small town on Route 66 and a short bus ride from the Grand Canyon.

Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Trail

As the bus from Flagstaff approached the Grand Canyon, one of the natural wonders of the world appeared nothing more than a large crater in the ground. I wondered how I could have travelled all this distance to see a wonder that was nothing more that a void where the earth had fallen away in decay. From the bus I could not see into the Grand Canyon and therefore I could gather no perspective of what I would later see, grandeur.

I planned to spend the day at the Grand Canyon. The bus dropped me off at the south rim of the Grand Canyon and I organised my activities at the nearby tourist office. I decided to walk the Bright Angel Trail which would take me to the Indian Gardens and down to Plateau Point where I could look down 1,360 feet to the Colorado River. The Indian Gardens were not much more than exotically named cactus plants but the view at Plateau Point was well worth the walk down. Whether the view would be worth the arduous climb back up would be another question.

As I made the steep ascent back towards the top of the Grand Canyon the day was getting late and the sun was beginning to set. With the setting sun the side rock-faces of the Grand Canyon began to reflect the dazzling spectacle of the desert and change to a bright crimson colour. It was a truly exhilarating experience.

Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon

I halted my climb and stood high above the Colorado River watching it weave its way through the arid territory that only it could control. The rivers strength left behind an indelible statement that could never be underestimated nor ignored. I stood above the world’s grandest river valley. The setting sun was showing its power and majesty. I marvelled at its ability to create beauty from the most harshest and unforgiving of localities.

Grand Canyon

As I continued my climb to the top, the sun sank lower into the reddening sky. I reached the top of the Grand Canyon and quickly found a vantage point to watch the setting sun as she closed her eyes. I was in a position to view the sun with a panoramic view of the Grand Canyon. It was Mother Nature at her finest - the strength of her will which created the Canyon, the beauty of the changing colours of the rock formations and her grace as she closed her eyes on another wondrous day.

I then had a problem. Mother Nature had chosen to create her grandiose Canyon in a desert so it was likely to get extremely cold now the sun had set. I had chosen to watch the setting sun rather than catch the last bus back to Flagstaff. Now I would have to spend the night at the Grand Canyon.

I did not have a tent let alone a sleeping bag so I couldn’t spend the night at the park campsite. As to hiring a room in a lodge for the night, the mere mention of the word lodge (i.e. expensive) sent more shivers down my spine than a cold night in any desert.

It was now dark.

I wandered around the tourist office till that closed and then wandered around the camp site until someone in their tent mistook me for a stalker. Walking was the best way to keep warm but my legs were getting tired. I wandered into a phone booth hoping it would provide some degree of warmth. But the problem with most phone booths is they are well ventilated and provide minimal comfort.

Setting Sun at Grand Canyon
Setting sun

I was running out of options.

Eventually at about 4 am I wandered into the lodge reception. Here I saw a group of travellers slumbering in its foyer. I cursed myself for a lack of foresight, joined them and finally found my wish of a few hours of sleep at no charge.

That morning I caught the first bus back to Flagstaff and from there the first train back to Los Angeles’ Union Station. I then boarded the next train bound for Las Vegas on the basis the Saturday spent there with Alfred and Susan had been time too little to take in all the city’s sensory images.

It was good-bye to Los Angeles with no time to become reacquainted after my Grand Canyon experience. It was upwards and onwards. My final destination was to be New York but in the interim I would travel up towards Vancouver B.C.

On the train to Las Vegas I began to think about my career. I was softly spoken. In fact I did not speak much at all. In a corporate, where communication skills were at a premium, my career was likely to suffer. Hopefully travelling and fending for oneself, in what can be a harsh and cruel land, would help offset some of the negatives of my personality.

Route 66 at Flagstaff
Route 66 - Flagstaff

It must be noted there were few negatives when it came to Las Vegas accommodation. The city had a plethora of cheap hotels but I stayed in an even cheaper hostel. The hostel offered cheap tour packages which included the Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks. I had originally intended to visit both Zion and Bryce National Parks which offered the chance to view canyons and unusual rock formations. However transport and accommodation were going to prove a problem. The hostel tour package could have provided a solution but I had already been to the Grand Canyon. After some thought I decided to miss the Zion and Bryce National Parks altogether.

In Las Vegas I started a search for the original Elvis. However after a few days the original enthusiasm for my search and the town of Las Vegas was wearing thin. Too much litter, too much pornography and I was sure Elvis had long ago departed Las Vegas, left the city to his impersonators and found himself a nice little place in a small town in the Mid West.