Total Kilometres: 781 (485 Miles)
High/Low Temp: 18 Celcius (at the hotel in kingman, az) and as high as 38 Celcius (at a place called ‘The Gap’ a gap only equally by the immense space in my brain for riding in such heat)
Total Riding Time: 8:00am MST – 8:00pm MST
i’ve learned that the raison d’etre for most of the towns i’ve stayed in recently is a spur of the railway moves things from there to another location. i’ve also learned that the rail service operates frequently an efficiently in the western US. actually, on an hourly, or semi-hourly basis one is interrupted by the sounds of the trains horns. surprisingly in only 3 days i was able to tune it out and sleep through it.
i began the day with a top up of gas, returned to pack my things and ask for directions to my route since my map is fairly general at the small town level. asked the older front desk lady – “which way to route 66?” the town is famous for this, and it’s the gateway to the real grand canyon excursions. not sure what the deal is, but some americans look at me like i’m speaking a foreign language. “you know, route 66? the highway”. then she got it, guess i wasn’t specific enough – response = “yeah, it’s down there, other side of town then turn at the lights.” right. okay, apparently i’d figure it out on my own. not only does the average american not know where canada is, they don’t even now where they are – turns out it was just two blocks further south.
route 66. ah yes, the place to ‘get your kicks.’ well, not sure what kind of kicks people were getting on this route back in the day, but i wasn’t getting any. it goes through desert, there are some nice buttes and rock formations on the side, but narry a twist or turn, nor anything of note on the entire section of road. a bit disappointing. apparently it’s a ‘historic route’ though i’ll have to google it, since i didn’t see any landmarks or anything of historical note – perhaps just the song made it famous. one thing interesting has developed on this trip – i remember when 80 miles an hour sounded fast, now it’s become the average cruising speeds for the day.
encountered another oddity that pisses me off, and makes me wonder what american businesses are thinking. okay, bank debit cards don’t work in 90% of ATMs. now as i’ve gotten farther south gas pumps require a PIN or a zip code with credit cards – um, hello, don’t you want tourists to spend money – we don’t have a zip code or a pin on our cards. when i asked the old feller in the station he retorted “oh yeah, of course not, international cards won’t work here…” i’m missing something – depressed economy, international travellers getting good deal by travelling with their inflated currency in the US yet they have no links to interac or any national standard. plus some fuel stations you can pump away and get gas, others it’s only by credit or debit at the pump, otherwise you have to go inside, pay a deposit or the amount for the fuel then they’ll turn on the pump for you. i guess at home we just trust each other to come in and pay. anywho…
route 66 leads into I-40 which turns north at Williams, and the real interesting journey begins, off to the Grand Canyon. the desert gets a bit tiring after 2 days of travels, but slowly the elevation changes and the desert becomes more alpine. still no sight of the canyon, though i can see after almost 200 miles of riding that i’m getting close.
the last stop i had to make for nature’s duties and a snack was at the gates for the park, tusayan – yep, there’s a mcdonald’s at the grand canyon. unreal eh? nothing says a place is a destination of importance more than a mcdonald’s restaurant. turns out it was quite an interesting stop a couple on a white gold wing with arizona plates starts chatting, oh yeah, we’re both canadian. they rented the bike in phoenix then road there for the day. turns out they are from calgary too, what a small world. what was particularly odd was that they chose to adopt the new laws for the road in the US – no helmets for either of them, nor were they wearing any, ANY, protective gear – just wife-beaters and shorts. boy that wipeout would leave an indelible mark of the vacation of 2007. it was stinking hot, 34 degrees, but not as hot as 6 months of 3rd and 4th degree burns to your entire body. craziness.
it’s only 12 bucks for a week’s pass to the park. good deal considering passing through banff costs you about 8-10 for the day.
i knew when the moment came to actually see the grand canyon it would be impressive, but it was even more impressive than i had imagined. you can literally walk to the edge of the canyon, in many places unrestrained by barriers, and the drop is almost a mile straight down. honestly, i can’t bring together any words that describe it’s sheer beauty, majesty and scale. the only thing that puts it into some kind of perspective is that i spent the better part of a day and a half riding around it – 270 miles long, and i’d guess at 20 miles wide in spots, and nearly 1.5 miles down to the bottom. pictures don’t do it justice, and mine certainly don’t – nothing compares to getting gobsmacked looking at something that took millions of years to create.
the evaporative vest saved the day again. it was ‘only’ in the mid to high-twenties around the canyon. but surrounding roads and the highways north to utah were up to 38 celcius, more broiled frank and beans.
there are simply more things to see, visit and photograph than can be imagined. you could spend days and weeks visiting all the little areas and exploring, only to realize you’ve just scratched the surface. i was expecting the clark w. griswald two nods and back on the bike experience, but the whole day i was blown away by the scenery – arizona and the bottom corner of utah that i’ve seen so far are second to nothing else on earth. rugged, immensly old and completely captivating.