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Thursday, September 11, 2003  

Not Just Another Day

We woke up in Williams, Arizona, a town that’s roughly halfway between Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. That’s not as alarming as it may initially sound, because we could remember having gone to sleep there.

This was during our two-week road trip out west with Kraftmatik and The Krank, a trip to which I have referred in previous writings. Our plan for the day was to drive to the Grand Canyon, look down the big hole, take a few pictures, and move on to a campground in the northern part of the state. Then we’d be in a position to hit Four Corners the next morning and begin the New Mexico leg. There would be much shorter Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico legs at Four Corners, each a few seconds long, but you get the idea.

It was about an hour’s drive to the rim of the Grand Canyon. I don’t know how they’re able to charge admission to something so big, but they do. We looked out over the big hole. It’s a very big hole. They tell us that the Canyon is still being carved by the Colorado river, but I have to say that it didn’t look noticeably deeper than it did when we were there six years before. I will never forget one of the sights I saw on my first visit: a graffito in the men’s room that read “It’s not that big.”

It was an overcast day. There were clouds in the sky overhead. There were also clouds below us, down in the canyon. That’s something you don’t see every day.

We moved on to the next pullover, but while we were in transit, the cloud cover flumped down onto us and turned into fog. The view from the edge of the Canyon at the next place we stopped was gray nothingness. I’m serious. There was the rocky path, a few scrubby bushes, the edge, and then a featureless void. It looked like the end of the world.

Then it started raining. As Trash’s journal entry from the day points out, Arizona gets an average of 0.95 inches of rain in September. I think all of it fell while we were there.

Our last stop at the canyon was at a gift shop at the south rim. There was a slight overhang next to the front door, so we huddled under that to eat our sandwiches out of the cooler. We felt a little self-conscious while people squeezed past us to get in and out, but what were we going to do? Eat in the rain?

It wasn’t until we left, and our exit route took us around the back of the building, that we spotted the large, sheltered picnic area attached to the rear of the building. Then we felt more self-conscious.

Kraftmatik was driving that day. He doesn’t get road rage because he releases it in the form of haiku. We could always tell when other drivers were pissing him off because he’d be running through lines in his head and we could see him counting off the syllables on his fingers. We drove thousands of miles in two weeks, so this trip produced a veritable corpus of haiku. Here’s the one from that day:

Tailgating Sebring
Pass me already, you fuck!
Enjoy the scenery.

The irony being, of course, that the scenery was invisible.

We drove for several hours through the flat part of Arizona. The rain stopped and our rental minivan glided over a black ribbon that threaded over red earth under a gray sky. We stopped at several Native American-owned jewelry stands and bought silver, onyx, and turquoise.

It was late afternoon when we arrived at our campground on a Navajo reservation. I couldn’t tell you what time it was exactly, because were in the Mountain Time Zone during Daylight Savings Time in a state that we weren’t sure observed Daylight Savings Time on a reservation that we were somewhat sure didn’t, although some reservations apparently were on a time that was a half-hour or fifteen minutes or forty-five minutes earlier or later than the surrounding non-reservation land, just because they could be. Time for us was reduced to “dark” and “not dark.”

We were also higher than we thought. We’d driven over the Continental Divide in Montana a few days before, and spent the previous weekend in the Black Hills, so we thought we knew what high ground looked like. It was supposed to be steep and rocky, like the pass into Butte, not the level ground we’d spent the afternoon on. Then we put a pot of water on the camp stove, watched it reach a rolling boil in forty-five seconds, and were forced to reconsider. A sign next to the bathroom facilities informed us that we were at 7800 feet above sea level.

“That explains why I can stick my hand into the water when it’s boiling,” Trash observed. We were very careful opening our pop cans after that.

It got chilly that night. I think Kraftmatik and I skipped our usual campfire jam session. The four of us sat around the fire, drinking warm cocoa (hot cocoa would have evaporated and left us with nothing but a crusty residue in our mugs) and a bottle of Klingon Blood Wine we’d gotten outside the Star Trek Experience in Vegas.

It was September 11, 1999, and the only reason I remember any of this was because we were on vacation. We kept a travel journal, and Trash wrote that day's entry. The halfway point between that day and today seems a lot closer than halfway. I couldn’t tell you the first thing about September 11, 2000, other than that it was a Monday. On September 11, 2002, I listened to some of the names being read on the radio and I wrote this about September 11, 2001. Something tells me I’ll remember more September 11s in the future.

posted by M. Giant 8:15 AM 0 comments


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