To begin the story properly, I must begin with the farewell of Bessie, our trusty 2003 Dodge Grand Caravan. She was a great car, we had virtually no issues with her, but with 115,000 miles we decided a new van would give us a greater sense of security on our long trip. Enter Carmen, our 2011 Kia Sedona. How fun to start off on such a long journey in a brand new car. Definitely a blessing!
We started off on Sunday, July 31st, after collecting Nicholas from a 3-day stay at Camp Pendleton with the Young Marines. Heading east, we picked up the 40 (that's I-40 for you non-Californians!) in Barstow, CA and stayed on it until central TN! Crazy!
We stayed in Kingston, AZ on our first night. I should say that we stayed in Marriott hotels all along the way, and because of Gustav's ridiculous number of points, all of our stays were free. YeeHaw! That means free lodging AND free breakfasts for seven. Jackpot, baby.
We were all very anxious to see the Grand Canyon the next morning. The kids and I had never been there. I have wanted to see it since we moved out here to Cali, but alas, had not been able to make it. So I was psyched to go. Here is the gang walking the path to the rim. Gustav had been telling the children endlessly that the Grand Canyon was "just a big hole in the ground" for months prior to our visit. It had become a bit of a joke, really. I must have heard that statement twenty times as we approached the rim.
We chatted and giggled and skipped our way up the winding path. Then everyone fell silent. I had heard people telling stories of how quiet it is at the Grand Canyon. Everyone - young, old, foreign and domestic - stands in rapt awe as they come around the corner and see it for the first time. It is truly one of the most magnificent natural phenomena I have ever seen. Ever. Pictures cannot possibly do it justice.
We walked the rim for a while, taking pictures, watching the squirrels and birds, and periodically standing, mouth agape, at the wonder of it all. As much as I loved the sights, I did feel a particular anxiousness as my family moved in and out near the edge. It is, after all, a "big hole in the ground" and I had periodic irrational fears of offspring plunging to their untimely ends. Case in point:
The happy ending of that part of the story is that nobody went over the edge. Whew!
As we approached one of the on-site museums we could hear some ominous, not-so-far-off thunder, and realized that the sky was getting rather dark. We, along with what seemed like hundreds of others, took refuge in said museum while the skies opened up. The sudden and violent storm was just another awesome event for us. Remember, it never rains in California. (Well, ALMOST never.) The lightening was amazing, and the deluge was captivating for all.
We walked more of the rim after the storm passed over, enjoying the fresh, cool, post-storm air. We hopped a bus for the trip back to the car. The bus driver was rude and brusque and not particularly helpful. I was aghast at the way he was treating the foreigners who clearly could not understand him. Then he gave himself away by saying, "Main pah-king lot next stop." Ah, he was from Massachusetts. My people. I should have recognized the charm :-)
After some more beautiful driving along the rim and into more canyons we made it to Flagstaff, checked into our hotel and had dinner. In the very wee hours of the morning Kurt began talking very loudly in his sleep. Both Gustav and I giggled in the dark as he shouted out, "it's a big hole in the ground!"