We left LA to make our way to Palm Springs and the landscape changed very quickly. Suddenly there were vast plains of rock and sand surrounded by large barren mountains and a vivid blue sky. Not much grows in these conditions except for cacti, Joshua trees and creosote bushes. The Colorado River is the source of life for this dry Arizona desert. The landscape didn’t change for hours, then suddenly the green paddocks of alfalfa and date palms suddenly woke us from a little slumber because the change of colour in the landscape was a surprise.
Palm Springs – an oasis in the desert and a population of 42,000 and 354 days of sunshine a year. As we hop off the air conditioned coach we step into a sauna of 112 degrees Fahrenheit or 41 degrees Celsius. The first sign that we are in a rather hot climate was that the shop fronts are spraying out water as you walk along the road and I can tell you that after 20 seconds we are ready for it! However, the temperature was so hot that the spray was almost evaporating before it hit us. After about 20 minutes of walking we escaped into a Museum to get some relief from the heat – another 20 minutes of walking and into Ben & Jerry’s for a BIG smoothie! We chose to forget about the calories today! Who cares? In these temperatures we will do anything to cool down! Those people brave enough to walk their dogs here actually put booties on the dogs to protect their paws from getting cooked. On the journey again and another stop in Ehrenberg by the Colorado River and we are entertained on the journey by the dust devils or little twisters that are noticeable in the huge expanse of sand as they dance along the landscape.
Arizona is HOT and there are a huge number of big truck rigs on the journey. When we make a stop at a truck stop along the way for the usual queue at the restrooms, looking under the doors for feet etc, we notice that the drinking cups here are HUGE. No such thing here as a small bottle or glass of drink – the body obviously needs fluid and not just a small amount. The cups resemble small buckets actually!
So onto Lake Havasu and we are amazed to see this lake in the middle of this enormous expanse of sand, dust and rocks and we arrive at London Bridge Hotel – yes a wealthy American purchased London Bridge many years ago and rebuilt it right here in the desert! Can you belieeeeeve it? Well, we could but the walk down to it to take the photo was like being in the sauna. The photo was a quick one and then off to find the closest restaurant we could because the heat was intense. We ordered the 12 oz beer and 7-Up – 2 of them in fact! We did the washing and hung it out on the verandah and 1 hour later brought it in dry as a bone!
We now travel to the Grand Canyon – oh deary me in the middle of the desert we come upon a Land Sales office – what on earth is this about? Well, I am thinking you could buy as much land as you want but what on earth would you do with it? The boss isn’t tempted so that’s a huge relief because unless you could build an igloo I would not have a bar of it!!
We are now on Route 66 and the music is playing on the coach. Route 66 stretched from Chicago to Los Angeles when it was built during the depression when people in Oklahoma needed to travel to California to get work – it officially became a highway in 1956 and is 2451 miles long. It was designed to enjoy the journey – it wasn’t the destination but rather the journey that was important. (If you went to see the Disney movie “Cars” it was really about Route 66). The highway went through little towns that grew into interesting stops for people travelling the route. As Nat King Cole said “you get your kicks on Route 66”. However, Dwight Eisenhower introduced autobahns or highways. He decided that cargo etc needed to be moved efficiently so the motorways now bypass a lot of the towns that were part of Route 66. Of course, the small towns eventually suffered because the traffic wouldn’t divert off the highway to visit them. So Route 66 is now not officially classified as a highway and parts of it have deteriorated.
Now the boss is almost dancing around today because Tutti Fruitti (she is the driver of this coach) called him a “young man” this morning. Well, she certainly needs to go to Specsavers, but he took the compliment and it has surely gone to his head! She didn’t call me “young lady” so he might be looking for a Trade In!! We’ll see about that! Now he has revved it up a notch and is singing along with the music playing in the bus here which is all the Route 66 stuff and he is almost dancing in the seat! Oh well – he’s sure getting his kicks on Route 66 but he’ll get over that when we get up to 7000 feet and he is struggling to breathe!
Next stop is Williams for lunch and as the altitude increases the landscape changes and we start to see a little green grass, juniper trees and as we get higher lots of Ponderosa pines. So the brown landscape gives way to green which isn’t lush but which makes it seem like at last there is life in the land. There are just a few cattle on the ranches and a bit more civilisation out here. Williams, Arizona, is an old logging town which bears the grim distinction of being the last place along the old route to be bypassed by the highway. It was here Route 66 officially ceased to be in 1984. The fur trade was alive and well here many years ago with beaver supplying the fur for those felt tip hats that were high fashion here. As we cross these plains we see curtains of rain falling in the distance and lightning strikes.
So here we are in the Grand Canyon staying right on the rim and we do a walk up and down the rim by the Bright Angel Trail near our hotel with the one in charge of the B’s staying right back from that rim. He managed to look out at the Canyon but certainly not look straight down, where in places it goes down one mile. To look out at this enormous Canyon is like looking at scenery on a grand scale with the rose coloured hues blending with the green and grey of the rock and 2 billion years of geographic history before your eyes. This ancient wilderness of rock is an ever changing palette of colour and light and as the afternoon progresses into evening the colours change. It is one amazing sight and no photos do it justice. People trek down right to the depths of the canyon and there are also mule treks available at different times of the year. Going down is one thing but coming back up would be entirely another and is certainly not for the faint hearted.
I need to tell you something – the apprentice has had an epiphany……he has seen the Grand Canyon from top to bottom; left to right; he has seen the rocks up real close; he has ridden a mule to the depths of it; he has soared over it and dived deep down into it and he is so proud of himself. He did all this by purchasing a DVD at the souvenir shop. After presenting this to me when I arrived back from a walk to the rim and up to a lookout he told me that actually, if he had managed to get to the rim and he did have the misfortune to slip, because he has grown into a little round man he would have rolled down to the bottom of this ‘ere canyon and possibly up the other side without injury!!! On a sadder note, we saw a notice on a post in the park – a photo of a lady missing on the Blue Angel Trail since April this year.
I can tell ya’awl that we are having a right Westie experience ‘ere in the Arizona desert from the Davy Crockett and cowboy hats to the big buckle belts and neckties. Next stop Lake Powell, Glen Canyon and Bryce Canyon so more challenges for the apprentice!