Route 66 travelogue #8
Chinle Arizona toThe Grand Canyon
Or “Where did you get that hat!”
Another big drive today and the same plan as yesterday, 3 drivers, change every 2 hours, brunch after the first shift. First stop was the gift shop, quality Navajo tat! Mike had spotted some arrowhead necklaces the previous night and I had my eye on a rather fetching black leather Stetson so in we went.
After a wander around we had stocked up on tat, my soon to be Stetson sat upturned on the counter, a makeshift container for postcards, an arrowhead necklace and some gifts for folks back home. Halfway across the car park the irony of buying a cowboy hat from an indian reservation finally hit me. What an insensitive prick i am, buying the symbol of an oppressive and invading force from the victims of the invasion, right on their own doorstep. I might as well have tried buying a swastika arm band in Poland! Upon further inspection however, it turns out my new authentic new all American headwear, a symbol of freedom, justice, the open road and the American dream, was in fact made in… Pakistan! Feeling slightly less insensitive having fallen prey to their shiny ambush of attractive trinkets and having been parted from my money as quickly as fools often are, we hit the road, canyon bound.
An hour in and we were trucking, the GPS was reading 100 miles of road before the next turning and leg 1 was thoroughly underway. The first thing we tend to do is fuel up but there had been nowhere in Chinle so we figured we’d get some fuel on the road. On a normal commute in manchester we would have passed a dozen petrol stations in the first hour but we’d seen nothing and the needle was creeping towards ‘E’! We passed visitors centres, scenic view stops, Native American art gallery’s and joked that if the car ran on pottery we’d have made it all the way to LA.
On seeing a Texaco sign we gave a sigh of relief and pulled in. What we at first took to be a line of cars queuing for fuel turned out be a car graveyard. This place hadn’t been a working gas station for many a year, an old truck carcass was hunkered under a tree, a rusty axle leaning against an out building. We’d all seen enough films that start this way, it never ends well for the pasty tourists in the SUV so quickly but with fuel efficiency in mind we rejoined the highway and drove out of the opening credits of the potential slasher flick.
Mikes inner pilot kicked in and keeping to optimum fuel efficiency speed of 55 mph we pressed on, scanning the horizon for a fuel stop. At the beginning of the trip we very sensibly bought a crate of water bottles and stashed them in the trunk in case we should be stuck in the dessert. Lulled into a false sense of security by the overly available amenities of the trip so far, we’d been chipping away at the water for some time and our crate had turned into half a bottle, between 3 of us, running out of fuel, in the desert.. Awesome! Mike pulled off a blinding bit of driving, sticking the big SUV in neutral on the undulating hills and coasting whenever he could get away with it, laying off the brakes as much as possible and saving every drop of fuel he could. Eventually after 81 miles and not one gas station we finally arrived at Tuba City, pulled into the gas station running on fumes and all breathed a collective sigh of relief. That experience was a little too mad max for our liking and as Mike filled her up I headed to get some water and supplies.
It was past time for a driver change and well past time for lunch so we headed to a local eatery called Hogans. All the staff were Native American, the restaurant was quite large, the menu held many local delicacies, Mike & Mick both had a Navaho Roast Beef sandwich in fry bread served with chilli beans while I went with the Garden Burger (homemade veggie burger). Mike gave his a 7, Mick an 8 and my veggie burger was a solid 7.
Mick took the helm for leg 2 with Mike riding shotgun on navigating duties and me in the back, documenting. The landscape for the next couple of hours was some of the strangest variations on the theme of rock and hills we’ve seen so far.
At one point the red dust of the desert on either side of the road could have been a Martian landscape, a mysterious red hue filling up the horizon, then, shortly after, it was all greys. Huge, hilly rocks sitting on the shallow canyon floor with grey and brown muddy looking patches like the dry and cracked skin of a giant sleeping elephant, soaking up some rays before it headed back over the hill through the Martian tundra. It wasn’t long before the greenery began to return as we neared the Grand Canyon park. Entry to the park is $25 per vehicle, which includes a tour bus service around the rim of the canyon.
We stopped at a viewpoint called the Watchtower and caught some amazing views of the Grand Canyon. The Canyon sort of sneaks up on you and when you do finally see it your mind can’t quite comprehend it properly, you can see it but the scale is bemusing and you hardly know which view to look at! The watchtower is open to the public with a gift shop on the ground floor and a staircase that winds up 3 storeys to offer breathtaking views out across the Canyon. If you had a spare $1000 you could buy a genuine Navajo rug. I settled for a couple of postcards and we headed for our lodge. The room was perfectly functional but with no aircon. A ceiling fan was the only temperature control on offer which was worrying.
After unpacking essentials we booked a canyon flight for the morning so we’d have the rest of the following day to explore, then headed over to the market plaza to eat which was a lot like a large school canteen and about the same quality but with beer and singed pizza. Fed and watered we headed back to the lodge ready for an early night in anticipation of a big day of adventures.
J W ‘Biggles’ Doyle