Driving into a land of 75 mile per hour speed limits, motorcyclists with a “no helmet” option, and signs posted outside of restaurants and shops informing patrons of just when they can or can not bear their firearm…subtle changes like this remind me of the beauty and the strangeness that it can be to enter another culture, even if that means merely crossing the state line that is 276 miles away from home. Two words that can fill my mind and soul with such sun-warmed memories of contentment like no other words can…road trip.
My mother, a very spontaneous traveler and day-tripper, was yearning for a little getaway to celebrate the infamous and highly academic spring break. Through an everyday conversation with my uncle, my mother discovered that he’d never seen the Grand Canyon. She also remembered that although I’ve climbed Mt. Fuji, have glided over the marine life of the Great Barrier Reef, and have island-hopped around Tahiti, I’ve never seen one of the greatest natural beauties in my own backyard. Bam! It hit her – this could be the spring break trip she was longing for – perfect road trip material: 8-hour car trip, a wonder to behold, and reasonably priced accommodations. She was all set, within a matter of two days she made the necessary calls, checking in with lodging options, confirming serious interest on behalf of my uncle and myself, and was set to run off on a moment’s notice…until she remembered the appointment she’d set up for that pesky pain in her foot. One doctor visit later and it turns out my mom has a minor, but definitely bothersome fracture in her foot. Her hopes were crushed. Disappointed that it didn’t work out for Spring Break, my mother was still determined to make the trip happen. Just three to four weeks after her doctor visit and armed with a very attractive “boot” to protect her foot, we set out on our adventure.
To say that the Grand Canyon is awe-inspiring or even magnificent is a complete understatement. Each step we took, I admired the changing landscape, marveled at the striations in color and rock, and tried to capture what I felt swelling inside with the lens of my camera. I did my best, but even after two days and 249 pictures (and that’s after weeding out duplicates) I failed miserably.
Grand Canyon vista from Hopi Point
Aside from the view, I thoroughly enjoyed being able to gain a “Glimpse into Geology” through a Ranger program, arrange my own self-guided tour via cell phone,
and hop on the free shuttle to travel from one end of the South Rim to the farthest stop West. We were reminded of the three types of rock: sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic. We learned about the four conditions that in their divine happening together resulted in the majesty that is the Grand Canyon – deposition, uplifting, down-cutting (of the Colorado River’s waters), and erosion – easily remembered by the pneumonic D-U-D-E! But what made the Grand Canyon getaway for me truly memorable was the gathering of so many from all over the world – Sweden, India, South Korea, Germany, Japan, France, Portugal, Brazil, all over! Listening to the many languages, seeing products with unfamiliar labels and brands, appreciating subtle differences in greetings, love it! Add to that the inclusion of so many accessible and fascinating resources – Ranger-lead hikes and programs, free shuttles with incredibly friendly drivers, and the preservation and sharing of such great history.
Sign for mobile Ranger audio tour
How cool to learn (again – sure I learned it before in school) that when Franklin Delano Roosevelt stepped into his challenging seat as President in 1932 he chose to stimulate the economy, occupy many unwillingly idle young men, and work to conserve our nation’s natural resources by developing the CCC, otherwise known as the Civilian Conservation Corps. How interesting to discover that the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is actually about 1,000 feet higher than the South Rim. Really? Mules go through a training program of a year before they can carry folks down into the canyon (I hope so!) – wow! We learned so much. But more than that, we had great fun. Car games like listing musical artists and bands from A to Z, then to actors, producers, and directors, stumped to come up with any performers to fit the “Z” – aside from the Zappa family, of course. Wondering about such earth-shaking quandaries as “what’s the difference between salami and pepperoni?” And delving into the far corners of our memories, trying to remember just what were those yummy chocolate and peanut-buttery wafery cookies that came two to pack in foil-wrapped paper? No, we didn’t debate the pressing issues of our time, we didn’t solve the world’s problems, we didn’t even come up with a proposal for world peace, but what we did was step out of time for a couple of days, enjoy one of God’s many gifts, and rest in the company of family. Good times. Good trip. Wish you were there.
Even if you weren’t there, if you know what is the difference between salami or pepperoni, or even a raven and a crow, for that matter, OR if you remember what those yummy chocolate and peanut-buttery-wafery snacks were –- do share – and you’ll be well on your way to your own road trip discoveries.