Sunday, June 27, 2010

Vacation Day 6: Grand Canyon then Kingman

We breakfasted at the hotel restaurant, the Little America. The hotel interior and exterior is straight out of the 1970s but it has been well maintained. The breakfast was excellent. We gassed up and hit the road to the Grand Canyon.

The scenery outside of Flagstaff on the way to the Grand Canyon is gorgeous, passing through ponderosa forest, aspen groves, and open parks, reaching a little over 8,000 feet before gradually descending. Occasional views of the San Francisco Peaks presented themselves where the forest opened up.

We paid our $25 entry fee for the privilege of seeing one of America’s great national parks. We found a place to park in the first lot we came to. We assembled our daypacks and prepared to spend a few hours touring around the park on their shuttle bus system. Before jumping on the bus, we did a quick walk out to the rim. The place was crowded with all manner of tourists, from obese Americans to Asian women wearing high heels.

We hopped on a bus to get to Yavapai Point, which has a good view and a geology exhibit. The bus wasn’t too crowded but Yavapai Point was crawling with tourists. This was getting depressing. I had been to the Grand Canyon twice during my college years as a geology major, both times in February when the South Rim was lightly visited and dusted in snow. During those prior trips I had hiked down to the bottom of the canyon with my fellow students to spend a couple nights at the Phantom Ranch. The best way to see the canyon is to hike it, leaving the tourons behind as they gaze wishfully from the rim on things they will never touch.

We left Yavapai Point to return to our car on a bus that was standing room only. We couldn’t leave the South Rim fast enough.

Our next destination was Kingman. We picked up I-40 in Williams with a brief stop there for lattes. I had a nice chat with a guy whose son was in Iraq. I hear too many stories like this one, our young soldiers enduring unbelievable hardships and suffering that will affect them the rest of their lives.

We got off the Interstate at Seligman to follow the original route of Route 66, a highway I had traveled many times during my youth from Los Angeles to Detroit and back again visiting my Dad’s family. There is quite a cottage industry that has developed around the Mother Road. Every town along the way has kitschy stores selling Route 66 memorabilia and knick knacks. However, once you leave Seligman heading west, there is virtually nothing along the way except a few fading settlements.

The old highway was lightly traveled and my older son with his learner’s permit got a chance to drive fast on an open road. Within two minutes a bird splattered on the windshield. He also got a chance to pass a slow moving truck. After traveling next to the truck for a few seconds too long in the oncoming lane at the same speed as the truck, I gave the command "Floor it!"

We made it into Kingman by early evening and checked into the Comfort Inn. It was a passable hotel for one night. We made a little excursion out to the Kingman airport where my older son and I did little evening photography. The airport is primarily used as a place to mothball airliners. It was once used as a training field during World War II.

Tomorrow Hoover Dam and Las Vegas. For the record, I don't like Las Vegas.

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