Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Grand Canyon's South Rim, The Painted Desert, A Mormon Parade

We woke up and went to breakfast. Coming out of the restaurant we found our way out of town blocked by a Mormon parade. People on horseback, two women in pioneer garb, long dresses and bonnets, perched on a flat bed pulled by a pickup truck, standing on either side of a butter churn. It was a mercifully short affair. Oddly, there did not seem to be any spectators. We killed time in a lapidary store until it passed. Stopping briefly by the motel as we left we inquired "Why the Parade?" The girl at the desk replied "Because it's July 24th!". July 24th, of course, how stupid of us?!?! Later research revealed that July 24th is "Pioneer Day", commemorating the Mormons arriving at the Great Salt Lake. It is a state holiday in Utah. In Chicago we celebrate Pulaski Day. Pulaski was a Polish officer during the Revolutionary War. I had never heard of him prior to moving to Chicago. I guess my point is who are we to question? Local heritage is different things to different people in different places.

We set off. We drove along the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. The road follows a red cliff miles long which has shed stones over the eons that have tumbled down and now resemble staircases ascending to the cliffs summit. Again, as we traveled up each rise in the road we waited, breathless, for the visual feast that would await us on the other side. We drove through The Painted Desert with it's kaleidoscope of colors. Half of a dune would be the beige shade of ordinary beach sand, the other half as purple as an eggplant. At one point we came across a quarry which, where the ground had been stripped away, revealed stripes of colors, different layers of the earth built up over time. We stopped at an outdoor trading post. After we finished shopping we had the proprietor take a photo of us leaning against either side of the hood of the hot, sexy, at this point somewhat dusty camaro.

Our goal that day was the south rim of the Grand Canyon, having visited the north rim the previous day. We were taken by surprise by a smaller canyon which leads into the larger, more famed one. There is a large tourist trap market there. Aisles of stalls vending all manner of southwestern and Native American wares. We stopped to view this smaller canyon, our car top down, our shirts off. Along side us another convertible pulled up. Out of the car emerged a man, his wife and two teen daughters. He gazed at us with a look that was an equal mixture of envy and hatred. He then looked, in a forlorn manner at his shirt and then his car with it's top up. We drove off, our car top still down, our chests still bare,  feeling somewhat sorry for him.

The south rim of the Grand Canyon defines the term National Treasure. At a lower elevation that the north rim the wind sculpted rock formations and the bands of color in it's sides are more evident. We arrived late in the afternoon affording us the opportunity to watch the shadows slowly morph along the canyon's walls and in it's depth as the sun lowered in the summer sky. We made a brief visit to the historic Grand Canyon Village before heading to Flagstaff where we intended to spent that night.

It had become dark. A small sign appeared along the roadside reading "Flagstaff City Limits". We saw a few house lights then found ourselves back again in darkness. Assuming we were back on the open road due to the lack of buildings or street signs we returned to full speed. Suddenly we heard a siren and saw the dreaded spinning light on the car behind us. We pulled to the side of the road. A handsome, beefy, blond highway patrolman approached. He asked my friend to get out of the car. We asked him what we had done. He told us we had been going 65 in a 35 mph zone. He also said we had been swerving. To make matters worse, the pollen that day and been particularly bad and my friend's eyes were seriously bloodshot. The hot patrolman asked us if we had an explanation for our actions. My friend relayed to him how we had seen the lights, then didn't see lights and thought we were back on the highway. The swerving was us trying to see if we could pass the car ahead of us then returning to our lane after seeing oncoming cars. He then turned his flashlight on my friend and asked us if we had been drinking. We said no and explained the bloodshot eyes.

As an aside, many years before I knew him, my former roommate in San Francisco once spent 30 days in an Arizona jail after a routine traffic stop went horribly wrong. I began to sweat. Apparently he considered our story plausible and let us go after giving us directions to a nearby area where we could find a motel to spend the night. Gazing at his blond hotness I considered asking him if he wanted to frisk us for any reason but thought better of it. God only knows what would have happened if we had chosen that red convertible at the beginning of the trip.

That night we stayed at the "Arizonian", a one story affair built during the middle of the 20th century and then never touched. Fake shutters on either side of each window had the silhouette of a pine tree cut out of the center of them. It was the second time during the trip we had to hit the air conditioner with a shoe to get it started. The room did have free HBO however.

1 comment:

  1. I was not aware of 7/24; It is not a 'holiday' here, which surprises me, given the high amount of LDS folks in town.