Driving

The Grand Canyon (or, How to Set Up a Tent in 28 Easy Steps)

The Grand Canyon. It was incredible.

Since Megan and I are moving to New York in the Fall, we realized our Grand Canyon window was dwindling fast. We kicked around the idea late last week, got our friend Randall on board, booked a campsite online, and left after work Friday afternoon for the 12 hour drive.

After 12 hours of sunflower seeds and energy drinks, our Prius arrived just shy of Grand Canyon Village at around 4am. Randall, a current CCC member (and best friend since 6th grade), claimed national forests were cool with parking and sleeping. Since national forests are usually outside of national parks, we were in luck. We parked in the forest and slept as long as possible.

27 degrees and 2 hours later. 

You know it’s cold when you consider peeing your pants for warmth. Or say, cutting open your friend to sleep inside him via Empire Strikes Back. None of those things happened. It was cold though.

Feeling spry, we woke up and drove into the park. The South Rim. It was $25 for one car, not bad considering all you can do once you’re in the park.

Our campsite wasn’t available until noon so we had to tough out the tiredness and make the best of it. We traveled to the East Rim (about thirty minutes, maybe) and checked out Desert View. There was an old tower to climb up in with a store right below you. Incase, you know, you want to buy a magnet or something.

Coming back, we stopped at one of my favorite views of the whole trip: Moran Point. It was killer. We tried to recall the name later to our camping neighbors. Megan called it, “Morgan Point,” and I called it “Moron Point.” It turns out we were both wrong, Moran Point. If you go, make sure and stop there.

Noon came around and we had a tent to set up. Megan and I were completely exhausted and since we borrowed the tent, it was our first time setting it up. (Thanks Scott, your rubik’s cube tent was a delight). In all fairness, if we read the directions first—instead of dead last—we would’ve noticed everything was color coded and kind of obvious. After about an hour of this tent embarrassment, Randall stepped in and helped. I collapsed into my sleeping bag and felt rocks under my body. Oh yeah, the air mattress… we forgot that.

Exploration

After some rest, we went back to the nearest town of Williams to try the Grand Canyon Brewery. I wont say it was awful, but just avoid it if at all possible.

The next day we hiked down into the canyon. Not far, a thousand feet or so. Not wanting to add, “Rescued by a mule” to our list of life accomplishments, we heeded the warnings of the trail and stopped at Cedar Ridge.

Once back up, we continued our day of exploration. Hopi Point was awe inspiring. The geology museum was great. The general store had a hot pickle.

Before we knew it, our trip was over. Monday morning had come. We drove a different way back, stopping in Vegas to lose $5. Before we left Nevada for good, we swerved off the desert highway for one last casino. The lunch buffet and $1 roulette signs nearly caused a freeway pile up.

We made it into San Luis Obispo around 9pm and I took the longest shower of my life. I’m still in it. That’s how long it is. Actually no, but nothing is sweeter than that first shower back from camping, eh? I next collapsed into bed where there was a mattress and no rocks.

It was sweeter than any canyon I’ve ever seen. Funny how that works.

Getting Stuck Sucks

In north Idaho, there’s a terrible stretch of the highway that runs through town: The Highway 95. It’s pure evil. I’m convinced it was created as a psychology experiment to test how many red lights a person can endure before punching their steering wheel.

For Halloween, I’m thinking of dressing up as the 95.

Everybody has a highway, freeway, or stretch of the city that terrorizes them. I’m probably reminding you of your least favorite place on Earth right now.  Sorry to tense up your back.

We get stuck and it sucks.

A few years ago I wrote a song called “Green Light District.” It was about enjoying the pause, in place of frustration, over highway red lights. Needless to say, I’m not really a fan of that song anymore. Green Light District. I wrote it before the 95 became apart of my daily driving rituals. There is no getting around it, the 95 is out to get you. 

But there is one thing I discovered and it’s crucial: Highway 95 is and always will, run slow. It’s a law. The more I accept it, the better I understand it. The more I understand it, the less likely I am to shout at inanimate objects.

Sometimes we get mad at the universe for not cutting us a break, as if the universe owes us anything after allowing us to exist. (For theological discussions, maybe substitute “universe” with God).

So it’s inevitable, the 95 will run slow. I’ll probably hit 5-7 red lights on average. You probably have a stretch that’s similar to you. Stop sweating; seriously it’s grossing me out.

Here are three steps to get you through your least favorite place on earth.

  1. Leave five minutes earlier. I’m always running late. This is probably a big reason the 95 feels worse than it really is. The more we hurry, the heavier gravity feels.
  2. Find productive use of your time in the car. For me it’s podcasts. They changed my entire outlook on driving. For others it could be an audio book. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be attentive drivers, but if you can’t listen and drive, then maybe you just shouldn’t drive. I wouldn’t recommend Sudoku.
  3. Pretend to be James Bond. Ok, maybe I just made this up because I needed a third point. But seriously, how cool is James Bond? He’s never in a hurry.

I think this whole idea of terrible traffic and/or bad stretches of highway can be a metaphor for the things in life with which we feel stuck in. Sometimes, we just need to acknowledge the obstacles in front of us and accept their influence on our lives.  By doing this, we can find an efficient way through the mess of inconvenience and simply move on through to the other side.