Hello Campers - it's big hole time!
Convoy The route from Pahrump to Williams AZ - Thursday 6 October 2011
Ah Pahrump - a sound not a word. After breakfast on our final morning in Phmmphhhh, I decided to drive the car around the corner to a power spray car wash. By this time, the car was mainly a sheet of dust with a small automobile inside. I told Karen what I was going to do and headed back to the car where I promptly got into the wrong side and stared at the glove compartment in front of me. Now this is something I have been known to do in the UK so I can't blame it on the wheel being on the wrong side. After I worked out which of the four doors I needed to use, the car was taken to the cleaners and we were soon on the way.
This was a day for driving in straight directions. We went straight for a very long time (even with a detour to Hoover Dam) and then after a right turn at Kingman we drove straight for another long time. There were lorries everywhere accompanied by the usual tailgating muscle cars and pick-ups.
We stopped off at the Hoover dam for a visit to this marvellous piece of engineering that not only provides electricity and water but also a major recreational centre in the form of Lake Mead. It is not the biggest but it is impressive nonetheless.
Wild West Hero
The final long, long straight drive saw a gradual increase in elevation from about 2000 feet to 6000 feet at our journeys end just beyond Williams - the town at the bottom of the road leading to the South Rim of Grand Canyon.
It was desert country for the first few hours of driving but at about 4000 feet, the land turned greener and open range appeared. Rocks and cactus gave way to green fields, pine trees, oak forests and distant peaks.
It looked like Bonanza countryside and I half expected to see Little Joe and Hoss ride over the hill at any moment. Funnily enough, our new base (Quality Inn Mountain Ranch Resort) used to be called the Ponderosa and offers horse riding trips (hats and chaps provided!). It had Tepees outside the front and western clothing goods could be purchased in the hotel lobby. Yeeh hah!
The hotel was out on its own away from the touristy but fun little town of Williams. The main highway fronted the property but it backed into the woods leading to several small hills. Very large squirrels ran around the woods so I double locked our doors in case one of them wanted to nibble my nuts.
John kettle (is a weatherman)
Oh dear, after all of the heat and sun of the trip so far it was quite a shock to be in a place that was soooo cold. Sleet and snow was falling within minutes of our arrival and the local TV news was all about snow falling in the San Francisco mountain range between us and Flagstaff. The temperature dropped down to below freezing at night and only made 52 degrees during the first day.
It warmed up a little but not that much in the following days. Weirdly it was a little reminder of autumn back home and I had a feeling that it was the right time to be winding down our North American adventures and head for pastures new.
Way DownGrand Canyon - Friday 7 October 2011
We drove to the big hole this day. The weather was closing in on the east of the Canyon but sunny to the West. The rangers had set a controlled fire on the north rim and that added to the gloomy view over the east.
A quick stop at Mather Point and a spot of lunch by the rim in the village was followed by a trek down into the Canyon. There are several entry points for walking down and we chose the Bright Angel Trail. Our intention was to walk to the three mile rest point (2000ft below the rim) and then return. This was a sensible but strenuous day hike and well within our capabilities. However, as we turned bend on the cliff path a strange sight greeted us.
About 20 feet in front was a giant in a red romper suite talking to what I presumed was his octogenarian mother - a figure clad in black with shocking white frizzy hair who looked like she might smell of mothballs. Giant baby looked like a large James May and he had a very impressive main of light reddish grey hair. I assumed that this man was a nutter who was still dressed by his mother so completely ignored him. My impression was reinforced as I walked towards him behind a group of seniors and heard him announce to the group in a comedy German accent "How far are you proposing to walk today?"
Nutter opinion in place I strided past the giant German baby whereupon he leapt after me and announced "That vas a serious question" and I replied that I was not part of the group he had addressed. It soon became clear that this was a ranger in mountain rescue gear! His aim was to tell us that a snow storm was on the horizon and that we should shorten our walk to the 1.5 mile rest point.
We obeyed giant German baby mountain rescue ranger but noticed that nobody else did and the weather improved! Karen thinks we hallucinated the figure but I think that he is really a giant German baby nutter who had a bad tourist experience in London. I might be wrong …. he could be Austrian.
The place was heaving with tourists so the wildlife was scarce . However, we did see a pinyon jay and a cliff chipmunk on our walk down. A frog impersonating raven entertained us during lunch and on our drive out of the village we saw large coyote padding through the woods by the road.
When the going gets tough Bill Williams Mountain walk - Saturday 8 October 2011
I don't know what it was but we both found this walk tough. It was cold and the altitude was high but there was nothing particularly tough compared to some of the elevations we have tackled. We both had off days I guess.
The walk started at the Ranger station just outside Williams. It was very pretty with open forest and gentle slopes upwards in the first 1000 feet. The wood thickened as we approached the high point and the second 1000 feet of elevation had to be tackled in a very short distance.
The views were good at the top - particularly south across smoothly peaked and wooded mountains. Very warm and tired we sat down for lunch on some rocks by the side of an access road near the top of the mountain.
Our peace was disturbed when a couple of vehicles that looked like a cross between jeeps and quad bikes appeared on the road and disappeared round the corner. Shortly afterwards several quad bikes followed and as they turned the corner a jeep came down the road in the opposite direction. I wondered if my cross breeding theory had some legs.
Animals were few and far between, mainly small lizards and squirrels. You could hear woodpeckers and we spotted one on a tall dead tree as it searched for food. I spooked a mule deer on the way back down. All I could see was its backside as it scampered off after I trod on a twig as we descended the mountain. Of course it could have been another kind of animal backing off at speed with a very surprised look on its white hairy face
Towards the end of the walk we met a friendly local and chewed the fat with him for some time. He reminded me of my uncle James and when I remarked upon that he said that his middle name was James. The similarities did not end there, as a large part of his pre-retirement career was with the National Forestry Agency - very similar to Uncle James. Despite talking about Arizona, the National Parks, our trip, his family and working history, world economics and US politics we never exchanged names!
She loves you (yeah but no but)
After two days outside Williams we had decided to book into town to extend our visit and do a local walk. We also needed to carry out some domestic jobs so opted for an evening meal out.
It was cold; we were hungry and wanted to get back to watch Harry Potter on HBO so chose a Greek restaurant near the Motel 6 we had booked into. What a weird experience.
Our two waitresses were the US equivalent of Vicki Pollard (but friendlier) and a deaf Dot Cotton. I reckon Mr Popodopolous got fed up with Dot at the laundry and sent her over to his American cousins on an exchange trip.
Vicki P, asked us what we wanted to eat and drink as she showed us to our seats! Having hurried us into choosing white wine and a Bud light she gave us ten seconds before asking us again if we had decided what to eat. We asked for more time and a short time later she again appeared to mumble at high speed something about "underage", "can't serve alcohol" and "second day on the job". We quickly established a pattern - she didn't listen to what we said and we could not understand her. Everything had to be repeated at least twice.
Dot Cotton appeared eventually and had to cup her hand behind her ear (pushing the ear forward and tilting her head towards whichever one of us spoke) to hear us. She asked us if we wanted to drink and we said that we had already ordered a white wine and a Bud. Vicki joined her and asked us for our meal choices. A four way conversation began with deafness and misunderstandings on all sides.
Karen's first choice meal was not available so she asked for fish and chips and confirmed that she would have soup as her first course. Vicki asked if Karen wanted mash or fries with her fish and chips. Karen politely confirmed fries. Vicki then asked if she wanted soup or salad as a starter. Karen confirmed soup. I emphasised "mash" and "soup" as I put my order in whilst pressing Dot to get over to the Queen Vic for our drinks.
Dot was the booze master and stated that the white wine would require the opening of another bottle. I ignored her. My beer soon arrived but I had to chase for Karen's wine. Dot eventually got the bottle and we watched her almost kill herself trying to open it. A small, sample like glass of white wine appeared halfway through eating our main course.
We ate, drank up, paid the extortionate bill and left. Both of us were amazed that the right food we had ordered had turned up first time. Harry Potter was dull too.
The sun always shines on TV
There are lots of adverts for drugs to help insomnia, falling sleepy during the day and male performance problems (ahem). However, being the land of lawyers (heavily advertised on billboards and TV) each advert has 10 seconds advertising the product and then a minute containing disclaimers covering side effects such as depression, heart problems, don't operate machinery, not for children under 18, don't drink more than a couple of beers and don't combine with other medicines. Other than that it's alright to take! These adverts are worrying me so much that I can't sleep at night, feel tired during the day and … well that's enough of that.
As a connected point we saw the comedienne Rita Rudner last night and she pointed out that one of the side effects mentioned in an anti-depressant TV advert is "may cause suicide". Kill or cure I guess.
Off to try and sleep now.