Add Heading HereThe ol’ timers say, “Get your kicks on Route 66”. Well, we went, and we got our kicks. I clearly remember the first time when a friend of mine, Hrishikesh (Pintya) told me of his grand idea of traversing the entire United States on “The Main Street of USA”. It was then that I started dreaming about the doing one of the most well known road trips in the states. The 1920’s era of flourishing automobile industry, 1930’s era of depression or the golden era of 60’s and 70’s, characterized by drugs, rebels, Harley Davidson motorcycles, free love and rock n roll, the highway has witnessed endless number of enthusiasts, outlaws and angels alike, who have driven in the pursuit of “The Great American Dream”. The highway, which runs from Chicago to Los Angeles, and covers three-fourths of the country, out of which we got a chance to cover from Tulsa, OK to Los Angeles, CA, not to mention the “n” number of times I have done the “Rolla-Tulsa” patch. So, Chicago-Rolla is still left. But, fortunately we still have a lot of years to take care of a 9-hr drive.
The evening of 17th of June saw us leaving from Tulsa to Santa Rosa in New Mexico, because we had a reservation at a motel. Luck parted ways with us when we met this desi guy, surti to be specific, at the front desk of the motel. He was one of the most uncooperative guy we had ever met. Luckily, we managed at another place, and left for Flagstaff, AZ the next day. The car mentioned its ability of not going in reverse to us at a small gas station at a “middle-of-nowhere” location. Now, let me mention one thing here. The mid-west and western states of this country, unlike the eastern and northeastern states have loads of “middle-of-nowhere” locations. On one of my drive from Tulsa to Seattle, I witnessed a rare board – “Exit – Food and Gas, Next Services – 135 miles ahead.” In other words, an urgent situation of nature’s call on the road demands either going the illegal way (road side) or being in possession of an empty 44oz. soda glass, from the last gas station halt.
The car was given for repairing, under the pretext that the Grand Canyon would be covered in a rental car, and then the journey would resume in our dear own car. This latest incident with Gokhale’s car again strengthened the fact that Cars and Sameer NEVER go along. We had started saying this because this 1997, $ 9000 Toyota Camry was supposedly going to be his fourth “no-nonsense and completely reliable” car, after a Nissan, Honda, and a Dodge. Well, we were given a Pontiac Grand Prix, in which the only good thing we all found were the car speakers, and its ability to pump up the bass as we listened to all possible types of CD’s. The rear seat people had already started complaining about feeling like sitting in a jail, which sparked off the controversial issue of grabbing the coveted front seats.
To put it in mountaineering’s jargon, a small place/village called Tusayan could be called a base camp for the Grand Canyon. From an IMAX theatre showcasing “The Grand Canyon – The Hidden Secrets” to numerous campsites, it had it all. Unlike camping (or trekking or mountaineering) in the Sahyadri’s and Himalayas, where we leave the motorable road behind and come back to it after a long stint in the mountains, we did camping in a typical American way. At around 12.30 am, we paid $21 for a designated place in a campsite, parked the car RIGHT IN FRONT of the campsite, and pitched the great North Face Himalayan 47 six man tent, which Rakesh had bought. We all thought that it was the ultimate insult for the tent, which should have got inaugurated somewhere at 18,000 ft above sea level, in the Garhwal Himalayas, serving as a base camp manager’s tent, for a major Himalayan expedition (or at least at the base of Mt. Denali, the highest peak in USA). Well, I hope that the tent sees that day someday. This very expensive tent has been basically bought for similar anticipated Himalayan expeditions, when Rakesh, me, Pintya, Mahadik, we all return back to India for good, pair up with the likes of Bobby, Ajit and Martin to form “The Magnificent Seven” again.
Grand Canyon has been aptly christened. One has to see it to believe it. It feels like nothing else but like a gash in the crust of earth. A gash, which has been made around 2 billion years ago, and has helped form around six hundred smaller canyons within itself. All the canyons are nothing less than chasms, cliffs, rock faces, buttes, and spires running into shadows. The beautiful Colorado River runs through the canyon’s underbelly, roaring at some places, and serene and peaceful at some. The canyon has been an awe inspiring beauty of nature, probably since man has walked this earth. The abode of the Anasazi’s, or the ancient ones, the canyon has seen man come and go, time and again. It’s so surprising that the very people, who belonged here, have become a trailing edge of a timeline and have quietly passed into oblivion, when contrasted with the eternal presence of the canyon. The expanse and age of this natural beauty, makes one believe as if, like the Anasazi’s, for the canyon, man’s life passes is nothing but a whisper.
We were fortunate enough to be one of the 10 million visitors the canyon has each year. We tried to hike down to the Colorado River, but at a certain point, after seeing the “never-ending” trail. Manasi gave up. She really put up a brave fight up to six out of nine miles, which was the base of the canyon, from the top. Considering the situation at hand, we split and Rakesh and Gokhale went ahead with the tent, and me and Manasi climber up to the mid-point campground. The ranger at the “Indian Garden” campground was helpful to the extent that she provided us with a tent. It was a different story that the tent had one of its poles missing, and we had a hard time erecting it. After a bread-sauce ‘n’ cheese dinner, we went off to sleep in that rackety tent. Done with a night’s semi-peaceful sleep, I suggested Manasi to leave for the top at dawn only, before the sun starts playing its part of exhausting you. With a bottle of Gatorade, she started and reached the top, i.e. 4.5 miles in quarter to four hours, and I wound up everything, left an hour later than her, and reached in three and a half hour. Up there, she was waiting for me for quite some time. She did a commendable job of sprinting to the top though. Rakesh and Gokhale started ascending against the advice of the ranger, reached the mid-point at around 12, took a rest till 3, and then started to the top. The temperature at that location was the highest, i.e. a whooping 118 degrees Fahrenheit. They made it to the top around 7 pm. It was the first time that all of us had “hiked down” first, and then “hiked up” later. After 2 grueling days of hiking, all of us wanted to go and get cleaned up. The cheapest motel we got was for $95 per day. After all, that’s how it goes when the demand exceeds the supply. It was a different thing that they goofed up in their service, and we got a 30% discount. The next day, we watched the IMAX movie on Grand Canyon (me and Manasi watched it for the second time). It was awesome, with its little pieces of history about the heroic quests man had endeavored along the river in the canyon.
All in all, it was a very good experience. But, if we go to the Grand Canyon, ever again, we will surely start a bit early.