Thursday, May 23, 2013

No 378 – In God’s Country

Performer: U2
Songwriters: Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr.
Original Release: The Joshua Tree
Year: 1987
Definitive Version: None

I always have been a big fan of parks—national parks, state parks, local forest preserves—it’s all good. So when Jin invited me to participate in my first Ratpack Vegas outing, I had but one request: If we’re going to be that close, I would love to see the Grand Canyon.

Of course, by close, I mean within reasonable driving distance, because the Grand Canyon isn’t really close to Las Vegas at all. It looks close on the map, but It’s about a four-hour drive away.

It didn’t matter. Jin had never seen it either, so we decided on the plan where I’d fly to L.A., hang out there for a while, then drive over to the Grand Canyon and spend a day there before turning around and heading to Vegas. We booked a room at a motel in Flagstaff, Ariz.

The drive over was cool, because, it was something new for me. I had never been through Death Valley, so that was more new terrain to explore, although we didn’t go to the national park, nor did we stop to pay homage to the joshua tree. I did, however, have Hunter S. Thompson careening through my head when I saw the highway sign that noted Barstow.

It was close to dark by the time we arrived in Flagstaff, so the park was closed already. We wouldn’t have been able to see much anyway, so that was fine. Our motel—I can’t remember the name—was an independent, wagon-wheel-themed joint that was clean.

It also had its own restaurant, which ended up being a huge benefit, because we couldn’t find anywhere else that appealed to us. Jin didn’t want fast food, and I prefer to go somewhere I can’t go at home when I’m on vacation. The menu was basic down-home food, and it, like the motel, was acceptable.

The next day we got up early and headed to the Grand Canyon. I had flown over it, so I actually had seen it before, but this would be the real deal. We drove into the park, which was about an hour from our motel, parked at the main tourist lot and hiked to the south rim.

The Grand Canyon, of course, is awesome in the original sense of the word. If anything, however, I was surprised that it wasn’t as overwhelming as I might have been expecting. I mean, it didn’t grab and thrash me the way that, say, the first time I saw a redwood tree did. It was awesome, but I wasn’t overwhelmed.

Jin and I hiked around a bit on the rim. I wanted to hike into the canyon, but Jin said we didn’t have the hiking equipment for such a feat. Besides, by the time we got very far, we’d just have to turn around and come back anyway before making the drive to Vegas. Nevertheless, I burned through four rolls of film. (I bought the last consumer film camera just as digital was starting to take off.)

My experience at the Grand Canyon might have been the first time I was aware of my vertigo. As I recall, there weren’t a lot of sections that didn’t have sturdy steel railing that you’d have to purposefully climb over before plummeting over the edge. But here and there, there were open ledges. At one point, I felt this knot in my stomach when I looked down and had to physically back away from the edge before it went away.

Jin, meanwhile, was at one with the land, and even though it wasn’t part of the original plan, she was glad we made the side trip. All things considered, it probably was good that we visited God’s Country before pitching headlong into Satan’s Domain: Vegas, baby!

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