I woke up in the middle of the night absolutely frozen and in a tug-of-war over blankets. I'm from Canada. I believe I am an expert in cold. I don't need to make up stories for my grandkids, I actually do walk to work when it's below -40 degrees celcius. So it's simply naivety that I, of course, knew it got cold in the desert at night but I didn't realize exactly HOW cold it got. It is downright bone-chilling! Having said that, I'm from Winnipeg so naturally I won the battle for the comforter.
If you've never been to the Grand Canyon, let me describe the experience: if visiting the South Rim—the most popular location to view this natural wonder—you will start your day, preferably early, driving in from either Flagstaff or Williams. The journey will take just over an hour on a single lane highway in which not a single vehicle will pay heed to the posted speed limit. There are few places to stop. You will, however, pass a Flintstones campground that looks like it was constructed in 2018 B.C. (it might be enjoyable to visit for nostalgic purposes if it weren't so damn depressing). As you near the national park entrance, the landscape will change from desert to thick forest. Afterwards, you will be met with several supersized parking lots. Even if you arrive early, like we did, they will all be near capacity.
I managed to park in the last row of the last lot which was near some trees that I hoped would provide a bit of respite from the blazing sun. HA! Northern idiocy redux. Both my car and myself would feel like they were set on fire at the end of the day, the non-covered parts of my skin turning a hue comparable to Pantone 186. What you might not realize is how few amenities there are next to these giant parking lots at the Grand Canyon, just a visitor centre and a scenic overlook. To get to the township and other points of interest, one must get on one of several bus lines that takes visitors around the park proper. Of course, during the summer these have longer line-ups than Disneyland. It makes for a long, sweltering day of mostly just standing around. I did about an hour's worth of hiking, took a few selfies to prove I was there and then left with a souvenir bottle of Canyon Cutter white wine.
The Grand Canyon is, undoubtably, spectacular. But I did not feel relaxed there or in touch with nature. I felt hurried. I felt stressed. At the end of it, I didn't feel any deep connection. For me, it paled in comparison to the isolated, howl-at-the-moon wild of highway 89A from the previous day. That was very much the highlight of my trip.
The evening was spent back in Williams, Arizona, only this time at a hotel rather than a teepee. Williams is a small town located on historic U.S. Route 66., also known as the "Main Street of America". It is, perhaps, the most iconic highway in all of the United States, previously acting as the main thoroughfare for people who migrated from the midwest to southern California during the Great Depression. The town of just over 3,000 citizens definitely caters to tourists with a nod to Americana; there are more classic fifties-style diners within its boundaries than any major city I've visited before. As well, the imagery of James Dean and Marilyn Monroe appear to still resonate, symbolizing a feeling (or idea) we collectively aim to capture.
We walked the streets as sunlight transitioned to dusk, conversing about what America was and what it's become. We later returned to our hotel room to drink.