Manic Month, Part 3

The sun setting over the Grand Canyon, Arizona. Here’s the final part of my traveller’s tales. Having covered Christmas and our time in Phoenix, it’s time to tell you about the Grand Canyon and the holiday aftermath. Then, I think it’s about time for some proper Web Design ramblings after this one! Anyway, my manic month has passed and I’m just about caught up with things. And so, I am now officially…

Back to Reality

We drove up to the Grand Canyon on the Friday of our stay in Arizona – it was New Year’s Eve. There were seven of us and a shit-load of luggage in our 8-seater Chevy! We visited Sedona on the way north. You’re getting into real red rock country around there, so we stopped and went for a walk around with the bears and the coyotes. We also tried to visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross, an amazing looking place with a cross design set right into the gap between these two rocks. The place had closed an hour earlier than advertised for New Year, so there we were trying to figure out how to open the electronic gates leading up to the place. We didn’t feel quite so stupid after a convoy of other families came to visit and someone came out to tell us it was closed.

It started snowing as we headed further north. It was so fine in places, like white dust blowing across the road – I’d never seen anything like it. We got up to the town where we were staying, just a couple of miles from the south rim. We found our hotel, settled in and were nearly too late for dinner. After our meal, we wanted to go sit in a bar or something and see what was happening in the way of New Year celebrations. The bar, appropriately called the “Wintergarten”, was closed for the winter. Marvellous. We were told at reception that a hotel down the road still had its bar open and that another hotel was running something at $20 a head.

Party central (sarcasm) for New Year.

With a party of seven, we decided we’d try our luck at this other bar… where we doubled the number of people already there! By 11pm, we began to out-number the other people in the bar, so we decided we’d head back to our hotel, get some champagne or something, and celebrate ourselves. Asking at the reception, we were told that we couldn’t get any alcohol because the rest of the staff had gone home for New Year. In fact, we couldn’t get anything at all. Just when we thought all was lost and our faith in the famous American hospitality had let us down, we met a lovely couple who’d come from another state (I forget where) for a holiday. They too were looking for something to do to celebrate the New Year. We went outside and threw some snowballs around for a bit, but soon headed back in because it was so cold! The couple were staying a few doors down from us, and when we all went back to our rooms to watch the New Year in on the tele, the guy came around with one of two bottles of wine he had brought with him for us to share. Our New Year was saved! We thanked him and toasted in the New Year with the wine. My girlfriend and I had been together for two years on that evening, so we had a double celebration.

The next day, we headed to the south rim of the Grand Canyon hoping to take a hike down a little way, but the snow the night before had made it unsafe for even experienced hikers to go. We had to settle for a walk along the south rim path and take in some of the awesome sites! It also gave us another chance to visit some gift shops for presents to bring back. At one shop, we met the guy who’d given us the bottle of wine for New Year and thanked him again, but we never got to repay him or anything – we intended to send a bottle of wine over to their table at dinner, but we never saw them again.

It was quite an experience walking along an incredibly icey path so close to the edge of an 8000 foot drop! Some people were having snowball fights, which was quite scary to watch at times. The view down the canyon was incredible though – little trees and bushes covered in snow for the first few hundred feet and then the red rock appeared, broke and twisted right down to the black rock where the Colorado flows. On our way back to the van we saw some elk amongst the trees, and we stopped at one of the viewpoints to watch the sunset before heading back to the hotel.

On the Sunday morning, our last day at the Grand Canyon, I had one of the greatest experiences of my life. I’d never been up in a helicopter before and I was really looking forward to going for a flight over the Grand Canyon in one. And that’s what we did. It was a strange feeling at first – almost like being in a tin can in the sky. The amazing thing was when we flew over the south rim and the canyon opened up below us. Of course, you don’t actually change altitude at all, but your stomach disagrees with you no matter what you say to it. One second you’re over luscious green forest, the next there’s an 8000 foot gorge opened up below you. We were taken all the way over the canyon, saw a few points of interest, flew over the north side of the canyon (which was closed for winter) and then back to the airport. What a way to start our last day there!

We spent that afternoon on a bit of a trek on a path which was now safe to go down. Of course, this would have been absolutely fine if my trainers actually had any grip whatsoever. But they didn’t. Parts of the path were still covered in slush from the snow, so I didn’t feel like going too fast! My girlfriend had hurt her ankle the day before, so by the time we had reached two-thirds of the way down to where we were headed, the rest of us were on the way back up. We headed back up too, but in taking our time we had managed to get some nice photos. A chill-out in the hot tub and a nice meal rounded off our time in the Grand Canyon quite nicely.

We spent Monday driving back south to Phoenix for our flight in the evening. We managed to find time to stop off in Sedona again, and actually managed to make a visit to the chapel we’d seen on the way up. We got back to Phoenix, returned the van and checked-in for our flight. Nothing much to note about the airport – we were quite unimpressed with the duty-free really. We cunningly grabbed some grub at the airport so that we didn’t have to eat too much of the food on the plane. I intended to spend most of the flight sleeping, but it just wasn’t happening. Flying back from America is so much harder – I must’ve got a grand total of two hours sleep. Still, I managed to watch a couple of films I hadn’t yet seen.

Well, that’s the end of our American adventure. I’ve got a few souvenirs, which included a bag of Oreo cookies but I’ve eaten them. And I also got some mixed fruit mentos. A friend sent me over some from Canada once and I loved them, so I had to get a few packs to bring back. I know you can get them in Europe, but I’ve never found them here in the UK! There are still some of them left. No, you can’t have one. Can anyone tell me why Americans buy Hershey’s chocolate? It’s disgusting! I don’t know why we brought any of that back. Of course, we brought back some less edible souvenirs too!

Upon return to London, we stayed there again for a couple of days to try to get over jet lag before heading back up to York. News reports about the tsunami hit home. As we were in Phoenix for a holiday, the newspapers were all we knew of the tsunami and its impact. Back home watching BBC News 24 really helped us to understand the extent of the devastation and how it had affected the whole world.

A couple of days rest and we were heading back to York. But the manic month didn’t end there for me. After a few days in York, it was time to head down to spend some time with my family – it was my Dad’s 80th birthday. You wouldn’t know it, y’know! Anyway, a bit of a break at home was just what I needed. I was still not over the jet lag and up until gone three in morning. Unlike most geeks, I’m in bed by midnight most nights now. Which is strange, because I normally get my best work done in the wee hours of the morning.

Anyway, I’m now back in York again, and it’s back to the grind! I’ve slowly been catching up on e-mails, blogs, forum postings and the backlog of work. I’m hoping to clear as much as I can in the next two or three weeks so that I can make a start on a couple of new projects I have in mind. But more on those another time.

No speeding ticket yet!