In a rare act of altruism Judge left us in our Fort Stockton Motel to go and get the problematic Goodyear Interceptor fitted and it was later that morning that we left in high spirits to make our way to Flagstaff, the last populous town before the Grand Canyon. It was a long journey, one that took us through New Mexico and Arizona the temperature steadily dropping all the way as we rose in altitude steadily all the way to Flagstaff, a nondescript town, very similar to a lot of others in the States which when we arrived was under about three feet of snow. After the laborious all day drive we were more than ready for bed which we gratefully fell into without the regulation 5 or 6 beers to which we had become accustomed.
The next day was a trip of around 80 miles to the entrance of the Grand Canyon National Park. As we drove from Flagstaff the scenery gradually became more Canyon-like and the earth changed to the familiar red colour we all associate to the Grand Canyon through years of having seen it in Books and on TV, the temperature did not rise with the altitude and we stepped out of the car at the first look-out point to a fairly chilly 3°C. It shouldn’t have surprised us as everywhere we had been thus far, barring Terlingua which had been freakishly hot had fallen victim to the US’ worst snowstorms in 40 years, the inclement weather had been following us from New York and wasn’t about to stop here.
Despite the fact that we’d all seen the Grand Canyon before numerous times in both still and moving images the view was truly spectacular, it is over a mile deep and over 4 miles wide in places and gives such a breathtaking sensation of space where it drops off into nothing that any doubts about whether or not it had been worth the trip, fell away into the void. I could write a flowery and descriptive piece about the different colours that played about the shadows which moved with the sun, about how the whole thing was a deeply spiritual and moving experience but, I’m not a homosexual poet, so I won’t.
We stayed most of the day moving from look out to look out getting different perspectives of the world’s largest overwater canyon. We had read of the Skywalk, which was a glass walkway which overlooked a part of the Canyon which remained in an Indian reservation and decided to try and find it. It was a long trip from one side of the Canyon round to the other. We were a little bit concerned that the price may be prohibitive to our backpacking budget we decided to chance it. An hour and a half later and after negotiating some of the worst roads in the United States, fearing for our lovely, shiny hire car all the way we pulled up to the entrance of the Reservation where we were met by a tall man with two long braids in his hair. Apparently alcohol is illegal on reservations such as these and so the two litres of Duty Free rolling around loosely in the boot could have made for some pretty serious problems, despite this and showing true British resolve we answered the man’s ‘Do you have any alcohol?’ question with a heartfelt and resounding ‘NO!’ Pat even managed to look a little hurt at the insinuation. And we were in. Only to be back in the car moments later moaning about how $70 was unacceptable just so that you could look through your feet at the floor of the Canyon a mile below you.
After our wild goose chase of the stingiest kind we eventually we found a nice spot to watch the sunset dip down behind the cliff line. We stayed in that spot for about an hour and a half, it was absolutely freezing and not for the first time we were all woefully unprepared for just how cold the place was getting. We were sorely tempted to leave before the sun had set but we talked ourselves into staying, citing the fact that our next stop, Vegas, didn’t spare much time for natural beauty, or for going outside for that matter, so we stayed and I’m glad we did. We stayed til the last rays dipped behind the trees and jogged back to the car, our breath, billowing clouds of smoke in the last of the evenings sun. And so it was back to Flagstaff for a nights rest before we left the natural wonders behind for a while and headed to the gaudiest, most decadent and in some ways most disgusting monuments to human excesses – Vegas.