Monday, May 16, 2011

The Gods were Building Sandcastles

In Williams, AZ we stayed at a beautiful campground Grand Canyon Railway RV Park, part of the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel complex. We had full use of the Hotel facilities; the indoor heated pool, hot tub, large gym and lovely grounds.  Every morning before the train departed for the Grand Canyon there’s a gun fight at 9am in the coral; we went one morning and had breakfast in the station afterwards. All very touristy but fun! There’s an old steam train in the station which now runs on Vegetable oil - not quite the same thing is it? Much too clean; I remember them being really dirty with lots of big black smoke that would choke you.

We spent a day wandering around Flagstaff and stopped for a coffee at a shop we had noticed on our walk. Sipping our hot coffee we noticed a young man and an older man come in – the older gentlemen was wearing a hat with “Curmudgeon” written on. While the young man was ordering the coffee the older man was looking around and I gave him the thumbs up sign and pointed to his hat. That was the start of what has become a lovely friendship; Art came over to us and asked if we knew what Curmudgeon meant. Of course, we replied we’re Irish the home of Curmudgeons. Art’s grandson Jason joined us and we spent the next two hours chatting and listening to Arts stories about WW2 and “The Mule Artillery Battalion”; we had a good laugh at that story but now we both know a lot more about mules. Delightfully, Jason asked us to dinner on Sunday which was Mother’s Day. We met Nan and Steve Jason’s parents and his friends Elizabeth and Drew. Jason cooked a delicious meal and the dessert was a “to die for” bread pudding. It was a wonderful Mother’s day for me; so unexpected.
Thanks to Skype we keep in contact with family here and in Europe. Hannah, Molly and Ciaran tell us all their news at around 10am on Sunday. Frequently, my brothers Tom and John in Canada tune in around 9am as does Cearull - if he is awake.  Then, Sunday afternoon we are entertained by Cian and Caleb in San Jose, CA.   My cell is my only phone, which works well in built up areas. However, sometimes I try to use it when we are travelling in the wide open spaces and I get cut off as some of you will have experienced.

Thanks to a gift from our friend Wanda, we spent a day driving along Route 66 to the Grand Canyon Caverns – a little known “must see” about 90 miles west of Williams. We started by buying our Route 66 T shirts in Flagstaff. Downtown Williams is on Route 66 with lots of old motels, shops, bars and cafes along the main street which is full of bikers every evening. Along the way on “66” we met a group of German bikers in the town of Seligman which looks like the set of a movie - a fun and colorful town. One of the interesting facts about the Grand Canyon Caverns is that the only link between them is that the air in the Caverns is proven to come from the Grand Canyon. Since the early 1960's the Cavern has been stocked with enough water, crackers, first aid and sanitary thingies to last for 2 weeks in case of a nuclear war!!
We drove to the Grand Canyon as the train would only have allowed us 3 hours there and we wanted to stay through the sunset.  When we had been there in 1980, we flew up from Vegas under the rim of the canyon and flew back over the canyon. This time we spent 7 hours and thanks to the shuttle buses we visited every lookout point and even hiked down into the canyon a bit. I really wanted to see the sunset and watch the colors fade on the canyon.  It was great to be there and see it.

The next day we drove up to the Powell Lake, Glen Canyon area where we took a tour of the dam; right down to the turbines and watched them turn and learned how much electricity is made and how much water is let through.  The lake is enormous and has more coastline than the west coast of the USA.  We never got to sail on the lake because I was playing “Emma” (Jane Austin’s Emma).   We had a single man one side of us and a single woman the other side and I wondered if I could get them together - I did at coffee one morning and we spent hours chatting, so our schedule went haywire. Later, Tom took me to dinner at the lakeside hotel in Waweap on the lake and watched the sunset over the lake and mountains – it’s one of the photo’s we posted. Beautiful!
Friday we crossed into Utah along Hwy 89 a pretty drive into the state of beautiful rocks. It was then that I said to Tom I think the Gods must have been playing Sand Castles.  The swirling shapes, the changing colors, the high cliffs, tall mountains and colorful valleys made for a lovely drive. 

We stayed in Kanab, a small town that is called “Little Hollywood” as so many western movies were made there; commemorated by a walk of fame and there are plaques of the stars, including Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne, all along the sidewalk. It is a lovely town. The people who greeted us at the RV Park Sandra and Ian were from Sheffield, UK and we really enjoyed talking to them and loved their sense of humor. As the RV Park was in the town we could take a walk downtown at night.
We visited Bryce Canyon on a windy cold day.  What an unusual place? We had seen pictures of Bryce Canyon but one has to go there to see those spires and Hoodoos (fat spires); the way the rocks change color and see new spires emerge peeping out of the pink sand falling down the cliffs. Once again there are shuttle buses to all viewpoints.  We walked down some of the hikes but they were wet so we did not go to the bottom as we might never get back up, too slippy.  It was busy there mostly with Europeans all enjoying the strange rock formation.  Nothing like this in Europe!

Next day we drove through Zion in the RV and what a trip that was!!   Tom thinks driving along Big Sir is a piece of cake compared to Zion, however, from the passenger point of view it was magnificent.  It is the best way to drive into Zion – east to west.  The drop in altitude is about 3000ft with two tunnels to navigate; one about a mile long, very narrow and all downhill.  Our brakes were very hot and we needed to stop to cool them down half way down the triple S bends.  How did we know?  Smoke!!!!  
We had no idea the drop was so steep so we recommend this as a car drive. The visitor’s center is on the west side and once again we took the shuttle bus to all the points of interest.  We walked the mile into the “Narrow’s” unfortunately, as the river was full and fast flowing, with warnings of flash floods we could not go into the canyon which is just 33ft wide. Some fellow passengers on the bus were people we had seen the day before in Bryce.

Apart from the topography the great difference between Bryce and Zion is that in Bryce you are looking down from the top into the canyons and in Zion you are looking up from the inside the of canyons.
We really enjoyed visiting these three National Parks.

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