Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Trip to the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon seems like the most classic place in the world to escape your troubles. If you are stuck in a cubicle all day and always feel like you are cramped in too small a space then the Grand Canyon is the place to run to. It's all about the wide open spaces. It has miles of breathtaking views, dangerous precipices, soaring heights, and a history of millions of dreamers gazing into its depths. I've always wanted to run away to the Grand Canyon. So here we were in Arizona and still haven't made it there! Well, we decided to close up the RV and take off in the Jeep for a trip to see those breathtaking views. Chris has never seen snow so we were excited to check the forecast and see that they are expecting to have a foot or so of accumulated snow. We made reservations at the Bright Angel Lodge which is right on the rim and splurged on a room with a view of the canyon. We planned to drive up Tuesday the 22nd. We would spend just one night in our warm hotel room watching out the window as the snow fell over the edge of the canyon, play in the snow a little, and then drive back to Quartzsite on Wednesday. Apparently these plans were not in our destiny. Here is the story of the adventure to the Grand Canyon.
We left Quartzsite, AZ at 7 AM Tuesday morning. We turned off all of the appliances we could, gave the cats a big dish of food, and jumped in the Jeep. Now we knew we were on a timer. We had to get back to the rig before the battery drained dead. Even though we had turned off as many things as possible there are still some items that suck energy. So we knew that if anything happened to delay us we could come back to a dead rig (not to mention some very upset kitties)! According to Google Maps this drive should only take about 4 hours. The first leg of the drive was through the most desolate desert highways you have ever seen. Two hours of nothing but sand and cactus. The few "towns" we came across didn't even have so much as a stoplight or a Shell. Suddenly out of nowhere a mountain loomed ahead. I swear this mountain is the most surprising thing ever. How does a mountain sneak up on you? No foothills, nothing. The road just turned up at a 45 degree angle and we started to climb these switchback mountain roads, winding in a hundred and eighty degree turns and always climbing. The conditions limited us to about 25-35 miles an hour most of the time (in the Jeep!) After climbing for about an hour we finally came to the picturesque city of Prescott, AZ. This was the first real city we'd seen and it was time for fuel. So we filled up and headed on our way. We drove straight out of Prescott and started winding around the mountains some more. A light snow began to drift down, sometimes snowing, sometimes raining. We drove through several tiny towns - one was called Skull Valley. The roads twisted and rose and fell for another hour. Then we came into Prescott again... We had taken a wrong turn!!! We just drove a hundred miles around in the Weaver Mountains and made a full circle! Apparently there is a right turn to stay on Hwy 89 in Prescott which is not very well marked. Oh well, we said, and continued on our way to the Grand Canyon. Once we were past Prescott it started to snow.
This was a thick snowfall with the snowflakes clumping together as they fell. It came down so hard you could barely see the road and the snow was accumulating fast. It was freezing on the windshield. The land around us was turning into a winter wonderland and we started watching for ice on the roads. Chris was very excited to see real heavy snowfall! We were approaching the last leg of the drive which was I-40. As we got to the highway, we saw red and blue lights flashing...the interstate was closed! The whole eastbound side of I-40 was closed. We stopped at a gas station in Ash Fork, AZ and carried in the old Rand McNally. The map showed a couple of back roads (gray on the map) which might get us to the Grand Canyon. The locals at the gas station said yes there is a back way, but do you have four wheel drive? Well, as a matter of fact, we do! There was a lady driving a Frito Lay truck which she had nicknamed "The Beast" who said she was going to try the back way and we told her we'd follow her. The directions were: follow Ranch Road AA until it forks and then take the right fork. It's 24 miles to Williams, AZ, and the roads are all mud. Sound like fun? We followed the Frito Lay truck for several miles. With the snow still falling it was getting hard to tell where the road was, everything was covered in snow! And this road had some pretty bad rocks and ruts in it. We could only drive at about 10 miles an hour. After about 20 minutes the Frito Lay truck turned around and told us, "I'm not sure if we're going the right way. I'm turning back." So we turned around also. The interstate was still closed and when we tried to ask the cops about an alternate route they told us to "Just go." So we started heading south again. There was another possible route, a mystery road on the Rand McNally (gray again) that heads through Drake, AZ. We found the road through Drake and turned off the highway. The road passed some factories or plants and quickly turned to a dirt road. At least the snow had stopped at this point, so we started down the muddy road. The Jeep was throwing up mud in every direction, the road was soft and slippery. In some places the Jeep would start to slip and we'd slide until the tires caught again. We kept thinking this road has to go somewhere! We saw other traffic on the mud road. We actually drove down this mud road for about 45 minutes and made it about 10 miles. It had started to snow again. The mud road didn't seem to be leading anywhere. The Jeep was so dirty you couldn't see at all through the layer of mud on the windows. We are starting to be suspicious of gray roads in the Rand McNally! We finally decided that the Grand Canyon didn't want us. Sometimes you just have to believe in fate; apparently we were not meant to make it to the Grand Canyon today.

We drove back to Prescott, AZ and found a hotel room at the historic St Michael. We had a great dinner at the St Michael's Bistro and met some nice people at the bar. We played in the snow at the city park, threw snowballs and made snow angels. We had some drinks on historic Whiskey Row. What an adventure! Maybe another time we'll actually get to the Grand Canyon!

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