I awoke the next day refreshed and ready for more travel. The road was my guide, and I followed it. There was only one way to go, and that was west back through the canyon national park. This took me past the places I had seen the day before along the short pines, which are only visible/ viable above seven thousand feet. They were on both the left and right, and sometimes between breaks on the right, northerly, side there were vast glimpses of a canyon much older and rougher than I.
Packing to go.
along the way
The day was sunny and warm even early in the morning, but at that elevation the heat was tolerable and dry. This time of day there is little traffic on the park roads. Afternoons see the heaviest load. Some busses were just pulling in as I turned south to leave the park. My experiences at the Grand Canyon were over, the images secured in my mind; I would never forget.
South of the park is a small town setup to serve the heavy traffic of 10 million visitors per year. I spent as little time there as possible, only seeking a place to burn my photos to cd, which I found for 7 dollars: quite a bargain when your memory card is full. It was late morning now, and after eating a snack I continued the journey south, and down.
The Grand Canyon is in an elevated plane well above the desert floor. It itself spans nearly a mile in elevation and therefore must be quite high at the rim. But half an hour south and it is back to 3 thousand feet and less. The trees stop growing there, and the heat really picks up. I understand that up high, in the middle of the desert, it often snows, but down here on the desert floor nothing, rarely any precipitation.
On my mind were a couple things. The canyon is located quite out of the way for any roads going anywhere. It was nearly 75 miles north on a local road through Indian reservations to reach the park, and it was the same distance back to a primary road. I was trying to make it to Las Vegas that evening, and it would be quite a stretch.
The heat picked up and so did my thirst. At every stop it was hydration time, and it seemed I was giving back less water than normal. The leather jacket was bunched up with my luggage behind me, and only my vest protected me. Vests are often compared to women’s purses. They carry everything from wallets, combs and cameras, to nail clippers, phones, change, and this time my mp3 player. The tunes kept me company as the miles clicked by. It was a hot day, and away from the park the scenery isn’t quite as demanding.
The second thing on my mind was to look for a speedometer cable. My only way of knowing speed and distance was the GPS unit loaned to me by Kerry Hill through Eddie D. It was still working, but that would change soon. The attempt was futile, as the small towns had nothing to help me except gas to get to the next stop. I did succeed in losing quite a bit of time however. The second stop that day, like the first, was to refuel and refill the water bottles. It was going fast, and I needed it.
By that second stop my lips had started coming off and would soon start bleeding. Being a native east Texan, and at the time living in St. Louis my entire body needed humidity just to survive. Pain was only part of the problem, as I am sure sores would have started once the lips split. What saved me was a nice woman at the Chevron station who showed me an all-natural lip balm, which blocked the hot, dry wind from doing any more damage.
Back on the road, but this time headed north the terrain started picking up, and big brown hills filled the horizon. There was no color to speak of, only the dusty brown dirt of North West Arizona and the near cloudless sky. The road was nice, double lane in most parts, and lightly trafficked. I was able to relax with the throttle lock on and take in some of the view. The heat was bad though, and I drank water through a straw continuously.
What you’ve seen if you’ve ever taken that road from Kingman, Arizona to the Hoover Dam is hard to forget. My imagination was working, and my memory sees it like this: glops of dried mud piled high with no real pattern. It really looked like some child had been making giant mud pies and after turning them upside down left them to dry. It seemed as if these big hills and soon to be mountains had no rocks and would wash away with any rainstorm. Of course that perception was wrong, but it was an odd sight I’ve never seen again.
Finally signs of humanity, other than the well paved road, appeared, and would you believe it: a traffic jam. Out in the middle of nowhere this was hard to imagine, and hopefully by now the source is cleared up. Construction crews were building a bridge to cross the canyon below the Hoover Dam and had blocked the road to move equipment.
I sneaked stealthily through using superpowers only given to motorcycles and soon arrived at the dam overlook. This was a happy sight, and after removing my gear I relished in the idea of cooling down at the gift shop and possibly buying some memento.
This proved dangerous. Outside the temperature had cooled down to 114 degrees Fahrenheit, but inside the concessionary lady from Washington state kept it at a brisk 70 degrees. It felt great – for about 2 minutes, then I nearly passed out. As much as it pained me to do this, it was mandatory that I go back outside to the warmer temps. My body could no accommodate the over 40 degree swing.
This time while outside I met a nice couple from Alberta, Canada who were traveling as I was by motorcycle, and enjoying some of America’s most prized sights. They were cool people too my first impressions told me. She was an artist pursuing a career from home after deciding the office life was not for her. He supported her and the decision, and to celebrate their new lifestyles they took this trip.
We took photos for each other and walked across the dam noting the huge updraft that came from downstream. Once we were back to the bikes she asked me if I had any time to read along my journey, and without thinking my reply was affirmative. Well, this is the time when first impressions wear off and more of a true person reveals herself in this case. She offered me a magazine entitled “The Watchtower”. I still don’t know to which religion that belongs, but taking her for a crazy person I mounted up quickly and headed across the dam, this time on the bike, in the direction of Las Vegas. I suppose my close encounter of the weird kind doesn’t have to stay there because I wasn’t yet to LV.
Thinking back they weren’t the weirdest people I had met that day. Earlier, before even leaving the campground in the park I got a chance to speak with a family camping there in a homemade RV trailer. Being as kind as possible, I’ll say they appeared Amish with the homemade clothes and girls in dresses. They looked out of place there though, the whole family 2000 miles from home – in a car! The story gets much weirder though, more than I cared to ask, but the topping of it all was their rig.
They were pulling a long trailer with plywood siding and roof. There were no windows to be seen. I supposed they were like the doors, both exactly paneled in plywood like the rest of the trailer. I can only imagine how much this thing weighed, probably 2x + what a normal trailer would have. Add to that they were pulling it with a Ford Explorer short bed! Now you probably know that Uhaul won’t rent a trailer to someone with a Ford Explorer because of the danger, but these people neglected to mention that to whomever rented them the car. Now you’re not going to believe this, and I wish I had a photo, but that Explorer was bent! This family had driven it to Oregon and somewhere up there had hit some bump. The truck went up, but the heavy trailer did not. The frame bent right where the cab met thee bed, and they drove this a-framed truck all the way down to Arizona. In all of my travels I think that was the strangest thing I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a few strange things.
It was time to get my head out of the clouds because traffic was picking up. I saw the signs to Las Vegas well before the city itself. Sin City lies in a huge valley, and once past the rim you can see the entire expanse in one view. It was late in the evening, Saturday night was fast approaching, and I was in Las Vegas.
more of the weird mud pies
Martian looking scene. – with extra water and shrubs of course
After finding a hotel, quite nice actually, and cleaning up I hit the town. Now I wish I could tell you that I met lady luck and hit some jackpot or made a lady friend, but those things don’t happen to me. I walked up and down the strip enjoying the shows; especially the water works at the Bellagio. At 1 AM the temperature was still 95F and it felt every bit that hot. The Treasure Island show with scantily clad women and a floating/sinking battle scene was quite cool, and so I went inside. Casinos are spectacular places: huge, bright, loud, and full of people. After making my way past what seemed like enough people to fill a stadium I found the tables and bars and concert halls. There is a lot to do in a place like that.
There wasn’t much money in my wallet so I watched from a distance. I can say however that I did leave Las Vegas with more money than I started (not counting gas, the 3AM breakfast of steak and eggs, or the hotel bill). I put a quarter in a machine and a full dollar came out. Greedily I gave them one quarter back before quitting, so over all I gave them one of mine but left with 3 of theirs!
The night was pretty uneventful otherwise, and I will have to go back to get the juicy stories from Las Vegas that everyone else seems to have. Truth be told Lake Tahoe is more my kind of place, and much nicer all around. But that’s another day in the life!
All the photos are here. They are more of the same, lots more.