US Road Trip Travelog: 17th March 2005

In a pause on the quest west, today will be circular drive of about 200 miles - following Highways 180, 64 and 89 - up to the Grand Canyon and back to Flagstaff.

The Grand Canyon National Park costs $20 to get in and, as usual, I end up in the wrong line of traffic. The one behind all the people who left everything they need in the trunk and then want to get maximum value for money by asking every question they can before going in. All this is forgotten when, as yesterday at the Petrified Forest, the young lady Park Ranger gives me a "Nice car!" as I pull up. In the right hands - not mine, obviously - the Riviera could be a real chick magnet amongst the outdoorsy types.

Grand Canyon colours
Grand Canyon colours.

I haven't got the words or the photographic skills to do justice to the place, suffice to say it really is just as impressive as any documentary or posters you may have seen. The weather today isn't perfect - overcast, cold and windy - but as there's rain and snow forecast for later in the week it'll do just fine. Apparently the view in the summer isn't as good due to air pollution.

Grand Canyon squirrel
Grand Canyon squirrel.

The walk along the rim of the canyon is entertaining not just for the views but also for observing the large number of foreign tourists. Everyone is behaving according to national stereotype - the English reading their guidebooks out loud to each other and generally being much too enthusiastic, the Japanese photographing everything in minute detail, the Italians and Spanish milling around blocking the path and complaining about the lack of anywhere they can get an aperitivo, and the French feigning disinterest as if it's quite impressive but they have better back home. The Americans, needless to say, just need lots of photographs of themselves standing in front of the canyon to show the folks back home.

Grand Canyon size
Grand Canyon size.

A good few miles walk around (a very small part of) the rim of the canyon blows away the cobwebs. I was hoping to walk down to the bottom of the canyon but the guide I was given on the way in says that you need proper hiking boots and crampons to do that safely. That's a bit out of my league, I think, especially as I forgot to put my thermals on this morning. Ok, I was being a wimp.

Back in Flagstaff I head for the Super 8 motel. A gigantic room with a microwave and fridge, wireless internet access, and all for $45 plus tax a night. Better still, it's within easy walking distance of Granny's Closet, an oddly-named but very pleasant restaurant where I can refuel.

Today is St Patrick's Day, which seems to be a much bigger deal here in the US than it is back in England. I've seen it referred to as St Paddy's Day, St Patty's Day and even - in New Orleans - The St Patrick's Season. In Savannah, which apparently has the second-biggest parade outside of New York, the Econo Grotlodge would charge you $200 for a night's stay tonight. I think I'll avoid all the shenanigans and green beer and spend the evening planning where to go next. Maybe this time I'll do a better job of it ...

US Road Trip Travelog: 18th March 2005 >