Saturday, January 14, 2012

"But no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time in the world. Whatever it meant."*

Road Trip Part II           
              This is the story about how  my dear friend Mike and I continued our journey to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas. You can find the first part here. And yeah, you're gonna wanna read that.
             Mike and I scooted in under the wire and moved our In-and-Out fattened butts over to the edge of the Canyon in record time.

            I have to take a moment to explain how awe-inspiringly beautiful The Grand Canyon is. It actually brought out emotions in me that were totally unexpected. It’s like as if the world held all of these sort-of sub-par moments and then you experienced one that was just beyond all of that and you saw something that was so much greater than any painting or book or piece of music and it just left you utterly stunned and moved in a way you never thought possible. 
The Grand Canyon just after sunset.

            It hits you in the solar plexus and bleeds out your eyeballs. 

            Also, the air is a bit nippy at night, so you might start looking like you’re tearing up, even if you’re just having an awesome time and you’re not crying at all. You ARE NOT crying, okay?

Still doesn't capture it.

         So we immediately set about taking a gazillion pictures of ourselves from every angle imaginable and ended up looking so cute in one that I almost proposed to Mike right there on the spot. (If you look good in a picture together, what difficultly can the world hold for you, even if you are not at all in love romantically? A story that illustrates this point: I was dating a guy one time and someone took a picture of us kissing and it was so gross, I wanted to break up with him when I saw it. See? You gotta look good in the pictures.)
My lord, aren't we adorable?

            But then we realized a bunch of things needed to happen if we were going to be happy for one more minute: we had to pee, we had to find our digs, and we had to eat.

            So Mike busted out his incredible navigational skills while I popped on my driving glasses (which I keep in the glove compartment and which he kept insisting I should keep over by my door, probably because the glove compartment door kept hitting the knees of his tremendously long legs. But I explained that I don’t drive at night all that often so maybe he could keep his big mouth shut), and we wrangled our way to our lodgings.

            (Bossy Mike had made me the person in charge of lodgings all along the trip, so this was destined to be the first in a series of letdowns for him. But he was a butthead to leave it to me in the first place! I’m poor! And I’m horrible at planning things!)

            We pulled in to the cheapest of all possible venues: The Maswik Lodge, on the south rim of the Canyon. On first glance it looked like the summer camp I attended as a kid, but on second glance it proved to be much awesomer. (Yeah, I said awesomer. Suck it.)

            Maswik Lodge is essentially a lobby with a big cafeteria inside and a bunch of little cabin-style rooms scattered out around the premises. We retrieved our key and headed over to our cabin with mixed expectations.

            I opened the door and turned on the light.

            “Oh my god, Mike! It’s just like a regular room in here!”

            He laughed and followed me in. We settled ourselves and picked beds and took turns in the WC. His turn was running a little long so I stepped onto the porch to call my mom.

            It was an obliterating view. Pitch blackness and smothered in stars.

            After I talked to Mom, Mike met me on the stairs and we got in the car. The woman on the phone at the Bright Angel Lodge said it would be a quick drive, but it was definitely not walk-able, and this was where we planned to eat dinner. We followed her directions and found ourselves taking a series of left-hand turns and ended up in front of the Bright Angel approximately 2 minutes later (with traffic).

            There was no parking and it was one block from our hotel room anyway, so we took the car back and parked again.

            So then we set out on foot, but found it difficult to navigate because it was so utterly dark outside. He lives in San Francisco and I live in Los Angeles, so neither of us had seen stars in some time, let alone experienced darkness so profound as to allow for stars of this abundance.

            Mike, ever resourceful, pulled out his iPhone and used the LED light as a flashlight. He pointed at the sky and said that he could see the Milky Way. I pretended to know what he was talking about.

            Then I made a confession.

            “Mike, I’ve been known to fake constellations before.”


            “I pretend to know what people are pointing to, but the only thing I’ve ever seen is the Little Dipper. Or maybe the Big Dipper. I can’t tell them apart.”

            “Yeah, I can’t really see too many, either. Except Orion’s Belt. And the Seven Sisters.”

            “Oh, where are they?”


            Mike craned his neck up at the sky.

            “Yeah, I don’t really know,” he finally acquiesced. “Do you think I can take a picture of these stars?”

            He tried. It didn’t work. We walked on. It was black. (It occurred to me later that mountain lions or bears or even aliens could be standing three feet away from the pitiful light from his phone and we would be none the wiser.)

            As we approached the Bright Angel Lodge (which is settled right on the rim of the Canyon, on the south side), Mike pointed up at the sky.

            “There’s Venus!” 

            “I thought Venus was the morning star?”

            “Nope, Venus is the evening star and that’s it. Right there.”

            (Okay, I did a little research and in a way we were both right: Venus is known both as the morning star and the evening star.)

            “Okay.” I lied and pretended to believe him because I was hungry.

            We sauntered into the Bright Angel.

            It wasn’t that much fancier than the Maswik Lodge, but it smelled like tourists and old people. And the Bright Angel turned out to be named after a scary, Native-American themed bird sculpture hanging over a large fireplace. And it was neither bright nor angelic, but sort of...hmmm, hideous?

            So we rerouted and put our names in for a forty minute wait at the more unassuming restaurant in the lodge. We then wandered down the hall and found ourselves in a quaint little bar with a man playing endless covers of Van Morrison songs (with a huge tip jar in front of him) and ordered some strong, fortifying cocktails.
            There was nowhere to sit, but a nice couple offered to share their table with us. Our butts were too sore from sitting all day so we passed, and stood there in the middle of the bar sucking back our cocktails.

            Ugh…this is long, so I’m stopping.

            More later…
*More from Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

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