Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Getting More Kicks on Route 66

Many mornings I walk with my parents before they go to work.  This way, I ensure they get their exercise and relief from the stress of dealing with the high volume of park visitors within a fast-paced store environment.  Mom and Dad, who had not worked in the retail sector previously, have been quite enlightened.  Mom, who prefers pets to people, is simply exhausted from being pleasant, helpful, and accommodating 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.  Not to mention the insanity they both experience of refolding shirts, straightening plush toys, and reorganizing the store to its original condition every few minutes as a new swarm of people come in and create havoc.  It is hard to believe how destructive people are, with no respect for store property.  My Grandma in heaven never would have tolerated my Mom or even me behaving so badly.  Ironically, some of the parents cause as much damage as their children.  Sorry, I digressed.  Anyway, one morning’s walk brought us to Yaki Point, where we witnessed a magnificent sunrise.  A spiritual experience, it certainly left us with a sense of serenity, at least until my parents’ work shift started at 11:30.   To quote Lloyd Braun from "Seinfeld", “Serenity Now, Insanity Later.” 

Sunrise View from Yaki Point

Sun Rising Above Wotan's Throne and Vishnu Temple

We hiked recently to Cedar Ridge Point down the South Kaibab Trail.  This trail, though less populous than Bright Angel Trail, is much steeper.  Cedar Ridge may only be 1.5 miles down into the Canyon (which our pedometers converted to 5.75 miles round trip in “steps"), but the elevation changes 1,140 feet.  Additionally, there is no relief from the sun nor any water refill stations.  So we were sure to get on the trail by 6:30 a.m.  Once again, we were in the minority of folks who made better time coming up (1.25 hours) than going down (1.75 hours), finishing within 3 hours.  Cedar Ridge is a beautiful view point, offering a panoramic expanse of Canyon rock formations.  

Look at the layers of rock, clearly defined just by their color

Beautiful blooming flowers grow right out of the rock

There were lots of aggressive squirrels on the Ridge, looking to pilfer hikers’ snacks, as evidenced by the pic we captured of one culprit.  Ironically, squirrel bites are the No. 1 injury at Grand Canyon.  They look so cute, beg for food, then attack your finger likes it is a Cheeto Cheese Puff.

Squirrel trying to pilfer snacks out of my backpack

We rode our motorcycles along another section of Historic Route 66, with the first stop being Ash Fork.  It is so sad how “progress” killed entrepreneurship.  There are few remnants visible of the small town businesses that once prospered from cross-country travelers along the Mother Road.  Today, the only businesses still alive and well are the flagstone quarries.  In fact, Ash Fork is known as “The Flagstone Capital of the World.”


 Location of The Hotel Escalante ,1876-1905 (when it succumbed to fire), part of the Fred Harvey chain along the Santa Fe Railroad


We continued along Historic Route 66 to Seligman, passing a series of Burma Shave® signs with quips like, “The man who drives when he’s been drinking depends on you to do his thinking.”

Had to include a horse picture for my Aunt Maureen!

Once upon a time a popular railroad stop, after World War II Seligman was a thriving town with its roadside attractions and eateries to accommodate motorists, earning the distinction of being the “Birthplace of Historic Route 66”.  After visiting, you clearly see the similarities between Seligman and Radiator Springs in the Pixar movie “Cars”, with its few businesses trying to stay alive, mostly through the patronage of nostalgic tourists.

We stopped for lunch at the Roadkill Café.  Owned and operated by the same family since 1983, this place is a real gem.  It may look a bit worn from the outside, but the interior is homey and clean.  And what a carnivore heaven!  With catchy menu names like “Fender Tenders” (chicken—get it, as in the chicken crossed the road—too funny!), “Ground Round of Hound”, and “Big Bagged Stag”.  Calm down plant eaters—they have vegetarian options, too, like “Weeds and Seeds”.  Dad ordered “Tire Tread Buff”, a.k.a. Buffalo Burger, while Mom tried the Elk Burger.  The burgers came with a heaping helping of fries, were garnished with lettuce, tomato, pickle, and red onion, and were served on a sesame seed bun.   We ordered a short stack of onion rings to complete the burger experience.  I taste-tested both burgers.  The juicy buffalo cooked medium rare and the sweet taste of the elk meat, both topped with gooey, melted cheese, provided me with some decent, reasonably-priced eats!  We quenched our parched lips with bottomless Diet Cokes (i.e., free refills).  

With my belly full, it was time to check out the saloon area, with its memorabilia and gift shop.  How do you like my new souvenir shirt!  Combining the food, prices, great service, history, and fun ambiance, the Roadkill Café earns a 4-cheese rating from Rambling RV Rat!

Glad I didn't see these guys BEFORE I ate!

My new shirt from Roadkill Cafe!

We walked around town a bit to transport ourselves to yesteryear.  When heading back to where we parked, we saw some foreign tourists posing on our motorcycles.  Guess they were getting their Kicks on Route 66, not realizing these bikes were not part of the memorabilia and nostalgic displays!

There are several prescribed burns in the area which are obscuring our views of the San Francisco Peaks.  Furthermore, we wanted to visit Wupatki National Monument yesterday on our way to Flagstaff for food shopping.  Unfortunately, an out of control prescribed burn has Highway 180 closed, prohibiting us from achieving our goal.  So our trip to Flagstaff did not contain any “fun” sightseeing.   Although in addition to stopping at Sam’s and Wal-mart, we visited the Sprouts Farmers Market.  Though they operate in 15 states, this was the first time we ever shopped in one of these grocery stores.  Sprouts is similar to Whole Foods, but more reasonably priced.  We loaded up on fresh fruits and vegetables, something that is hard to come by at the Grand Canyon General Store.

TV, too, is scarce for us here in the Canyon.  Mom’s too cheap to pay for satellite, and our over-the-air antenna picks up only a half dozen stations.  We get only one major network (CBS).  All the others are PBS channels, two of which are strictly kids’ programming (I’m too old for "Sesame Street").  So we rely heavily on streaming, although we don’t have an unlimited plan.  We supplement our addiction to streaming "24" with borrowing DVDs from our Grand Canyon Community Library.  Our latest DVD obsession is "Dr. Who."  We also fill our evenings with watching sunsets, an activity with which we never tire, especially since no two sunsets are alike.  I'll sign off with sharing these photos from Lipan Point in the Eastern section of the Park.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Hiking and Motorbiking We Will Go

While work continues to be quite hectic for my parents, we have taken the time during days off to enjoy the grandness of the Canyon and the surrounding areas.

My Mom, Dad, and I hiked the Rim Trail from Hermit’s Rest down to the Village last Sunday.  Including to and from our campground, we clocked 8.5 miles.  It was a sunny afternoon with comfortable temperatures, just perfect for the task at hand! I was amazed at how many flowers have bloomed since Mom and I last visited some of the points on this trail just two weeks ago.  The fragrant, flowering cliffroses are now adorning the trail in abundance.  

The Cliffroses--sweet smelling and smile-invoking, too!

With its distinct white markings on the underside of its wings and its pinkish head, we spotted our first California Condor of the season.  We learned these ancient vultures, although not the strongest flyers, can stay aloft for hours when floating on warm air thermals.  With a 9 foot wingspan, an adult California Condor weighs approximately 20 lbs., giving it the distinction of being among North America's largest flying birds. They can survive in the wild for up to 60 years!  Pretty cool.    Even more unusual, we saw the National Park Service (NPS) helicopter hovering above the Canyon carrying a big white load.  It wasn't a body bag, and it wasn't supplies.  I pulled out my trusty binoculars to investigate further.  It turned out the dangling cargo was a horse!  Can you imagine what was going through that poor stallion's mind!  I know what was going through my mind:  please don’t let him get nervous and poop in midair!

On another day off we visited the Desert View Watch Tower, a truly remarkable architectural design by Mary Elizabeth Jane Coulter.  When you look at the structure and its details (including what looks like a crumbling wall), you would think it was standing on that spot for centuries, serving as a watchtower for Ancient Puebloan peoples.   Instead, you learn it was built in 1932, and hidden beneath the masonry is actually a steel skeleton!  You can see Ms. Coulter’s painstaking efforts to replicate an ancient structure on the inside as well--every mural, pictograph, and artifact selected lends authenticity to the design.   And the view from the top of the four-story structure is stunning!  You don’t have to be a feminist to admire this woman and her accomplishments!  Born in 1869, Mary Coulter graduated high school at age 14.  She attended what is now known as the San Francisco Art Institute, apprenticed with a local architectural firm, and taught art, drafting, and architecture for 15 years BEFORE landing her gig with the Fred Harvey Company, where she served as chief architect and interior decorator for nearly 38 years.  Though she designed a multitude of buildings in the Southwest during her tenure with the Fred Harvey Company, we are fortunate to have a half dozen of her architectural masterpieces right here at Grand Canyon, which are listed collectively as a National Historic Landmark.  You go, girl!

While visiting the Watch Tower, my parents introduced themselves to some of the GCA employees on duty they had not met previously.  It turns out that co-worker Rhonda lives near Quartzsite, knows our QIA dance instructor, and had attended our 2017 March Madness Dance Party!   Additionally, we had the chance to catch up with Jan, one of our fellow dancers from Quartzsite, when she visited the Canyon recently with her brother.  It seems somehow, someway, everything is connected to our quirky winter desert retreat!

I also had the pleasure of making a new friend on this outing.  Meet Mattie!  Seemingly, my parents are not the only nutty people in this world who carry a life-sized stuffed animal with them on their travels (although I noticed Mattie's Mom doesn't dress her in human clothes)!

Say hello to my not-so-little friend Mattie!

We perused the other stores in the Desert View Watchtower area while waiting for another picture-perfect sunset.  As you can see, we were rewarded well with another masterpiece.

The weather has warmed up enough (finally!) for us to cruise on the motorcycles!  We traversed along the less populated Highway 180, a gorgeous, scenic byway with spectacular views of Humphrey’s Peak, Arizona's highest summit, topping out at 12,633 feet.

I squeaked and squealed as we rode the curves, hairpin turns, and pigtails up to the Snowbowl outside of Flagstaff, which broke a record recently for having the longest ski season in its recorded history.  The views overlooking the valley were breathtaking.  We did a short 1-mile hike to enjoy the fragrance of the pine trees and the beauty of the Aspen trees as they emerge from dormancy.  The various shades of green--melon, avocado, emerald--sure painted a beautiful landscape.

Our day of motorcycling would not be complete without a visit to Williams, the last city along Historic Route 66 to succumb to Interstate 40.  It is a quaint, sleepy town, yearning for yesteryear, staying alive only from the nostalgia associated with the Mother Road and the train ride that brings guests to Grand Canyon.  A little bit cheesy, but we all know how I love cheese!

The Williams Zip Line

Rambling RV Rat helping Smokey the Bear Prevent Forest Fires

The Red Garter--Once a brothel, now a coffee house/cafe

Shared a Grand Canyon Brewski with Dad at Cruisers...

...While Mom swooned over Elvis.  What a hound dog and crocodile!

Beautiful mural on side of a building

Well, we clocked 180+ miles and thoroughly enjoyed our day of motorcycling and sightseeing.

We topped off our evenings recently viewing one magnificent sunset after another at Yavapai Point.  This is my absolute favorite spot in the Canyon for sunset views.  When you look West, you watch the sun actually set.  But looking East gives you a different perspective--the sun casting shadows on the rock formations, literally changing the colors right before your eyes.

The Masterful Artist of Creation never ceases to amaze me with his canvases.