Last night, in a weak moment, we arranged for a 6am wake-up call. The clerk was friendly enough about it. He said he would be knocking on our door with cold water at 6:00. The comedy is included at the Canyon Plaza Resort in Tusayan.
We were out the door in 75 minutes, and when we pulled into the parking lot at the park about 20 minutes before sunrise, we got the absolute closest parking spot to the Grand Canyon. That is how we roll.
It seemed we were the only Americans at the park at this time. There were not many other visitors around, but those that were waiting with us were Europeans and Asians.
We lucked out on the weather. The temperature was 24 degrees when we left the hotel. It can be a LOT colder than that at 7000 feet in January.
It was not crowded at all, and at one point, we saw three mule deer just a few feet off the trail.
Once we experienced the sunrise, our plan was to walk the Rim Trail. This trail is fully paved, is level, and is about 3.5 miles long. We managed to make it about 2.5 miles.
The canyon was beautiful, of course. It is so massive. It is hard to understand how people fall into the canyon while taking pictures. The canyon stretches from horizon to horizon and is 10 miles straight across. Why would you need to reach out one more step to take a picture?
On the walk, the park had developed the “Trail of Time”. Every so often, there would be a huge chunk of rock from a specific strata that was exposed by the Grand Canyon. It started at the most recent later, and by the time we got to the end, the rock was almost 2 billion years old. Very cool stuff.
Our Rim Trail walk ended at the Verkamp’s Visitor Center and El Tovar Lodge. The volunteer who worked in the visitor center was very friendly and gave me some unsolicited suggestions for lunch. Stephanie bought a water bottle and filled it up with fresh spring water piped over from the North Rim. Cold & tasty!
The El Tovar was built in the early days of Grand Canyon tourism, and was designed to resemble a Norwegian or Swiss chalet. Apparently, that is what the rich people wanted – not a design that fit in with the surroundings.
We caught the free shuttle from there back to our parking lot and shed a few layers. We had promised hot chocolate to the kids so we stopped at the McDonald’s in Tusayan. This McDonalds has the distinction of being the country’s most expensive. Tusayan is 70 miles from Flagstaff, so everything has to be trucked in a long distance. I guess that means this might be the most remote McDonalds in the country as well.
We stopped an hour down the road in Flagstaff. This is an interesting town. There are an insane amount of pedestrians. We noticed that going through Flagstaff yesterday, and today. I don’t have anything against pedestrians, but it says a lot about the culture of this town.
We stopped to fill up the van, and the convenience store had 4 times as much microbrews for sale versus traditional, “brand name” beer. I wasn’t shopping for beer, but it was featured so prominently, I looked around the store to see if they even sold products like Bud or Coors.
On our drive out of Flagstaff, we lucked out and got behind a fellow Cowboy fan who was making good time. It was the only Cowboy fan we saw the entire day. It appears that we were 24 hours behind the major exodus of fans back to Oklahoma.
To pass the time, we looked forward to our next stop. We kept seeing billboards for Chee’s Indian Store on the Arizona / New Mexico border and we were intrigued. Once we arrived at the exit, we pulled over.
Chee’s is owned by Navajo Indians and they have been selling their wares along Route 66, and later I-40, since 1948. We intended to stop in and use the facilities, but we’re suckers for trinkets and we ended up spending $40.
Stephanie is somewhat of a renowned connoisseur of funnel cakes and frybread. So when she saw the outdoor hut selling authentic Navajo frybread, she got in line. The hut was blaring a radio station that appeared to be an older man speaking in what I assume was the Navajo language.
Once we parted with as much money as we could stand, we were back on the road. Next stop: Albuquerque!
We arrived at Albuquerque after dark and we drove directly to the home of Stephanie’s Aunt Mary. (We each have an Aunt Mary, which I find interesting.) On our trips through New Mexico, we always make a point of stopping in and sharing a meal with her.
We picked her up and went to dinner at Garcia’s, which is a favorite of hers. We have eaten here with her on several occasions. And with good reason – the food is tasty and well priced. Plus, we’re not rushed through the meal, which allows us to take our time visiting.
After our meal, we hit the road once again. We had no hotel reservations and were determined to drive as far as we could.
Our hopes were set on Amarillo, but just a mile east of Tucamcari the interstate turned into a parking lot as far as the eye could see. We jumped off the road, and drove back into town to stay the night.
Tucamcari Tonight! It sounds a lot more nostalgic than it turned out to be. The hotel we selected, formerly a Microtel, was quite possibly the worst hotel we have ever stayed at with the entire family. The room was nasty, carpets were worn, and the bed was dirty. But it was late, we were tired, so we sucked it up and made it through the night.
The following day’s drive back to Tulsa was non-eventful. We were happy with the trip (to put it mildly) and ready to be home.