Before we could see the Grand Canyon, we had to ride for a good while longer. We planned to ride the North rim of the Canyon, as that’s what a really helpful bike gang told us to do near Durango, Colorado. But then we were told by this gas station employee that the North was the South rim and South, North. Before then, I asked a whole gas station full of people who lived a little over an hour or two of the canyon. None of the four had ever been there, but they were quite helpful and gave me a map that included the top part of Arizona, but not any area I actually needed… this was back in Utah.
So we didn’t really know where we were going, but we heard the Grand Canyon was big and thought it’d be hard not to find it. But, before we even got that far, right as we passed the border, Aaron stopped to help some elderly folk who’d got their car stuck in the sand on the side of the road. There really wasn’t much we could do for them, but we dug around in the sand and we tried pushing it out all the same. I suppose it’s the thought that counts in the end, as a man came by with a truck and took care of things and the woman insisted we take the money she’d offered us for our time.
The day started off hot and got hotter, but as soon as we’d crossed the border to Arizona, things changed. By the time we got to where the Grand Canyon was showing up on road signs, there were dark clouds in the sky. Then we rode through some rain.
After a certain point in Arizona, it seemed like riding up to each gas station was like riding into some kind of post-apocalyptic hellscape. Half the pumps were out of order, people were just milling about aimlessly, and stray dogs were begging after every patron of the shady looking convenient store affiliated with the dark place.
There also seemed to always be at least a one person or group who just need a gallon of gas to accomplish something important. On several occasions, we helped their effort.
So in our experience, Arizona is a strange place. Beyond strange, though, Arizona is a cold, rainy and dark place. When we finally got to the Grand Canyon, we were given the choice at a crossroads and went with the South rim, it was almost 7pm. We parked and went straight to the viewpoint. What we saw was fog. Both Aaron and I had been looking forward to seeing this natural wonder of the world and all we got to see was a deep, thick fog. Even worse, the areas closest to the edge were blocked off with orange caution tape. We wanted to sit down and drink some coffee to discuss our next move, but the Grand Canyon Cafe closed as we walked up the sidewalk to the door. In fact, everything had just closed.
The upside to this was that the entry fee was waved, as we went through when there was no one on watch and the sign basically said, “Go on in and enjoy your time.”
So, as we were cold and wet and unable to find a comfortable indoor area to figure things out from, we talked things through in the bathroom. We agreed that we had, technically, been to the Grand Canyon, and that we could check that off a bucket list… despite not having actually seen anything. We also agreed, however, that, though it only be 7:30, it was dark and wet and we might not have it in us to make it all the way to Las Vegas, which was our next checkpoint.
So we went to the Grand Canyon camping area and found a spot there for $12. We couldnt really have a fire, as they forbid foraging for wood and the only purchasable firewood in the area was at the store that closed at 7. Thus, we were cold.
We couldn’t eat, either, as our stove wasn’t working.
I washed my hands of the situation, but Aaron was determined and solved both dilemmas with copious amounts of gasoline and firestarters. He put fire starters and gas on the leftover log in the firepit, periodically repeating that process to warm himself and tossed more firestarters and gasoline in a lesser loved pan and boiled water over the flames. I heard this happening from the tent where I was reading and felt safer for not being a part of it. I was, however, very thankful for the food we cooked with the boiled water.
We woke early the next day, packed, and finally saw the Grand Canyon. It’s pretty cool. We rode along the Southern Rim for a while, stopped for breakfast, then drove a bit away from the thing, because it’s a bit of an obstacle.
As we approached the border of Nevada, we stopped at a gas station (yes… it was also a strange wasteland of a stop). We could see a storm forming and, after speaking with Aaron’s friend in Las Vegas, learned that there were serious flood warnings ahead. So off we went.