2008.12.27 Grand Canyon and Another Passenger

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THEN SINGS MY SOUL! MY SAVIOUR GOD TO THEE! HOW GREAT THOU ART! HOW GREAT THOU ART! The bedside lamp flickers on and off repeatedly like a disco ball. The clock radio is on MAX volume pounding out classic hymns. This was the scene in our motel room at 5:30 this morning. Stephanie had tuned the clock radio to the one and only FM station it could pick up, and somehow the volume got turned all the way up. When it started shouting HOW GREAT THOU ART, she fumbled with the lamp, but every time she would twist the knob to turn it on, it would only flash on, then go instantly off. Meanwhile, she is hitting the radio hoping she might land on the Snooze button. Finally, she got the light to stay on long enough to see the controls and get it turned off. Needless to say, everybody in the room was awake by this time, and Stephanie did not appreciate the supportive laughter.

At 6:40, we were pulling out of the Cameron Trading Post motel. This is a great place to stay. Clean, large rooms and parking right outside the door. Our room was advertised with a “Canyon View”, but we arrived after dark and left before light, so I’ll just have to take their word for it.

Our goal was to be at the Grand Canyon at sunrise, as we have heard from reliable sources that the best viewing times are sunrise and sunset. Sunrise was at 7:34 and at roughly 7:10 we passed through the unattended gates of the Park. We pulled into the parking lot of the Desert View scenic turnout, home of the East Entrance Watchtower. We were the first folks there! We parked up close, layered all our clothes on, and walked through the snow to the canyon rim. One good reason we might have been the only visitors there for sunrise was the temperature. On the drive from our motel to the Grand Canyon, the outside temperature bottomed out on KK’s truck at MINUS 11. That is pretty darn cold. Thank goodness there was no wind.

We did manage to see the sunrise light up the Grand Canyon. It was definitely a beautiful thing. Besides the shadows and light, and colors of the canyon walls, the snow also adds another element to the view. KK said it is definitely the prettiest he had ever seen it.

 

The Watchtower is at the East end of the Park. This was where we had our first scenic views of the day.

 

We stayed at the first location about 30 minutes, but we knew there were more vantage points, so we loaded up and began the 30 mile scenic drive to the South Rim. The road was snowpacked practically the entire drive, which consumed most of our morning. We pulled over at every scenic lookout on the drive. Sometimes the kids got out, sometimes they didn’t. We took lots of pictures, but as you might believe, pictures really don’t do the vastness of the Grand Canyon justice.

 

The Traveling Kings at a very cold Grand Canyon.

 

At the various stops, you run into interesting people. We met three young German men who were in the United States working for five months, and spending one month sightseeing. KK also took a picture of four young men from India who posed for their picture lying down in the snow with the Grand Canyon in the background!

 

The shadows at sunrise enhance the beauty of what you’re seeing.

 

Stephanie slipped on some ice and fell at one of the scenic turnouts. She will appreciate this picture.

 

The road along the rim was often surrounded by pine trees. Even the drive was pretty between views of the Grand Canyon.

 

We finally arrived at the Visitors Center about 10:30. The few parking lots were half filled with snowdrifts from the snowplows, so they had all the cars parking alongside the road. It was hard to tell if this is how they handle traffic in the busy summer season because of all the snow, but I suspect it is. Unlike the other National Parks we have been to, there does not seem to be one main Visitors Center. The facility we went into was not very large, but it did include free shuttle bus rides to other locations within the park. We rode the shuttle to the Marketplace stop, and there we were able to satisfy our need for Grand Canyon souvenirs.

We left the Park about 1:00 and spent a few minutes in the town just south called Tusayan. Miles’ 5th grade teacher is Mrs. Vail, and her son owns the Red Feather Lodge in this town. We easily located the lodge. We were very impressed with its retro sign, and Miles had his picture taken next to it. Stephanie and Miles even went in to see if they could meet up with the owner, but he was not on-site at that time.

 

Miles in front of the Red Feather Lodge, in Tusayan, Arizona.

 

While in Tusayan, we also had our first sighting of another OSU Cowboy fan in another vehicle. We exchanged a friendly wave, happy to know that we were not the only Cowboy fans to make the trip by car.

Our next stop was Bullhead City, Arizona, where we would meet up with KK’s double first cousin, Earlene, and her husband, Wally. Earlene never misses a bowl game, and she is going to ride with us on to San Diego. We arrived in town at 5:00, and they had prepared a great meal for us. We were eager to get out of the car and relax a bit, so this was perfect. Earlene lives just a stone’s throw from the Colorado River and the Arizona/Nevada state line. Across the state line sits a row of casinos in Laughlin, Nevada.

 

Group photo at Earlene’s house in Bullhead City, Arizona. We are standing in front of a Date Palm.

 

Earlene is a blast, and I had informed the traveling party in the other vehicle that I wanted them to let me know their favorite Earlene story after we got to San Diego. However, much to my delight, Scott & Erin offered to drive the three kids in KK’s truck and let the rest of the adults, including Earlene, ride in our van. That was a spectacular offer that we didn’t have to think too hard about.

Earlene has a very self-deprecating sense of humor. A typical conversation with Earlene might go something like this:

PK: (bragging on her daughter-in-law) Erin really is great with her iPhone. She looks up hotel information from the backseat while we’re driving. It has Satellite hooked up on it.

Earlene: Oh, it must be great to be smart. I wouldn’t even be able to plug one of those in!

Earlene & Wally have a slot machine in the corner of their living room. The kids enjoyed playing on it, until Marissa accused Miles of breaking it, after she was a big winner and bells & whistles were going off. She didn’t understand that was a good thing.

 

Marissa enjoyed hitting the buttons on the slot machine at Earlene & Wally’s house. Disclaimer: SHE WAS NOT ACTUALLY GAMBLING!

 

We pulled out of Earlene’s house around 7:00. Interestingly, as we drove from Arizona into California to catch I-40 west from Needles, the price of gas jumped 40 cents/gallon just by crossing the state line. I’ve never seen anything like that. It was their version of a “Welcome to California!” sign.

I feel very fortunate that I was able to listen in on the conversation between Earlene, PK & KK during our 6 ½ hour drive from Bullhead City to San Diego. They talked a lot about family, and I learned a few interesting things. Earlene is 15 years older than KK, and Earlene & her younger brother, actually went on KK’s parent’s honeymoon. All four of them rode together from Oklahoma to Iowa, to visit family. At night, they would just pull over to the side of the road and sleep in the car. For meals, they would make a campfire beside the road and cook the food they brought. Hearing stories like this make you understand that the youth of today really have no idea how blessed their lives are.

As it was dark, there was not a lot to see on the ride from Arizona to San Diego, but driving into the greater Los Angeles metro area at night actually has an advantage. It was definitely a sight to see when we descended over several of the mountains and could see the lights of the city stretch out as far as you can see in all directions.

While we were enjoying good conversation in our vehicle, Scott & Erin were playing games with the kids. At least one of the games was “20 questions”. At one point, Erin told us via our Walkie-Talkies that Miles gave a clue that was “Almost everybody has held one in their hands except babies and Middle Eastern Gangsters”. (The answer: Christmas lights) By the time we arrived in San Diego at 12:15, all the kids were asleep (thankfully).

We are staying at the Travelodge in La Mesa. It had very good reviews online, and we are all impressed with our rooms. They are very spacious and each room had a complimentary basket of food.

Earlene’s daughter and son-in-law, Lynda and Neal, had much more interesting travel issues than we did. They were flying from St. Louis to Las Vegas, and then renting a car to drive from Vegas to San Diego. Their problem was that St. Louis was under a severe weather advisory and their plane was grounded. They finally were able to take off 5 hours late, leaving St. Louis around 8:00 or so Pacific time. They were still planning on driving all the way to San Diego after they landed in Vegas. They are a lot tougher than we are!

We are all very tired from today’s lengthy activities, and we plan to sleep in tomorrow, and then head out to Legoland, which is primarily on our agenda because Marissa is the perfect age for this attraction.

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