Yesterday morning when I awoke, I must admit that I expected to see two bikes and not four outside the tent. I had fallen asleep around 10:30 and Johnny and Matt had not yet arrived. I honestly expected that they had resolved to stay in Milford for one more night. But there they were. Johnny in his sleeping bag sans tent, shoes still clipped into his pedals. Matt in his paper thin tent villa. The four of us gathered our bikes and things and headed about a block away to the car rental company to pick up our piece of the American Dream: a gratuitously enormous but luxurious Dodge Ram, with enough room in the truck bed for four fully loaded touring bikes. Chris and I would have never entertained the idea of renting a car because it would have been cost prohibitive, but with four of us it was exceptionally reasonable.
We headed out for our weekend expedition, but not before loading the cabin up to our eyeballs in groceries. While the boys shopped, I was determined to fly into a thrift store, jump out and be back in the car before they knew I was gone. I have nearly NO nonspandex clothing and was desperate to avoid looking like a jazzercize instructor for one day. I exploded into a store in my silly getup, the sign for which simply said, "WOMEN'S CLOTHING". All four of the women working in the store turned to me in unison. I scoped the joint in a brief scan, deduced that this place was perhaps... not so much my style. Ankle length denim skirts, crocheted doily vests, it took a minute, but I figured it out. It's a Mormon missionary outfitters store. Zoiks. I quickly took my leave. Although, I'm regretting it now after Matty mentioned what a fantastic joke it would have been if i had returned donning a sensible high-waisted denim frock.
I ran into a Puma store and got myself some cheerleader warm ups, (believe me, I am self aware enough to know this is equally preposterous) and we headed for the Grand Canyon. We opted for the scenic route via Zion National Park. Once we entered the park, we took it inch by inch, dead slow. Attempting to take it all in, we became giddy. To climb 2,000 feet with no exertion whatsoever, we had a hard time getting over the novelty of being in a car. For Johnny, it was a matter of being saturated in the American Experience. With "Ramblin' Man" on the XM radio, a 5.7 liter engine pulling him and a natural wonder of the world as a destination, what could be more quintessentially American than this?
If only I could evoke the spirit of Thoreau or Walden to properly examine the beauty of nature. Alas, all I have is, "Woah" and "Holy shit, look at that". Matt pulled himself out the side window of the truck to perch and take pictures. I followed suit and pulled myself half out of the car. A magical view of trees that defy nature by growing directly out of rocks with no soil. Matt reaches one arm out to gesture at the everything and yells, "We're the richest people in the world!" My heart explodes. This is the most earnest and true thing I have heard in a long time. Matt seems to be filled to the brim with earnest and true.
We went to a gift shop to plug our phones in. We asked a fellow who worked there where was the best place to camp, being that the South Rim is booked six months out. He tells us to go to the Kaibab National Forest near the North Rim. He explained that about 90% of people travel to the South Rim and only 10% ever make it out to see the North. I asked, "Where in Kaibab are we allowed to camp?"
"It's Bureau of Land Management land. Camp anywhere you want, man. It's your land".
Feeling empowered and 75% charged, we set out for the Canyon. The North Rim is lush and green and nothing at all like any pictures I have ever seen. Everything looks like it is suspended in time in 1955. Malt shops, cookie shops, diners, log cabins; nothing has been changed. Everything looks like the inside of Rustic's in Rocky River. We wandered up to Angel Point. Matt climbed the highest rock to get a better look. Johnny sat close enough to the edge in a strong wind to fall off the dang thing and nearly peed his Romanian pants.
The things you hear family members say to one another when they are close to the edge of a 4,000 foot cliff are spectacular and morbid. A 10 year old with hipster-tight jeans and a Justin Beiber hair cut sat texting while his dad climbed up to the highest peak. Without looking up, he shouts, "Can I have your mountain bike when you die?"
A group of tubby Asian-American teens played near the edge, all wearing matching sparkly NYC shirts. The eldest shouted out to one inching toward the edge, "No one will miss you when you're gone". Friends and family members inevitably fake push one another, pose for almostfallingofftheedge photos. I am afraid of heights and won't tolerate any of these shenanigans. I stand ten feet from the edge and shake my head, smile and wave as they all coax, "Come get a better look, Lauren". Hell, no.
After we had our fill, we headed back again to Kaibab in search of "our land... man." We drove four miles down a sand and gravel road, following trail signs marked EAST VIEW. We got out and surveyed the land, only to find that we could camp right at the edge of the canyon. What an incredible vista. We made a fire, cooked some ho-boy (hobo/cowboy) food. We ate and laughed and drank Guinness by the Grand Canyon. My life gets better every day.
In light of recent and vast destruction of the forest due to wild fires, we did our best to put ours out before retiring for the evening. I attempted to snuggle into my sleeping bag, waiting for what we have come to refer to as "elbow hour" to end. (Ours is a two man mountaineering tent. You can't sit up in it, let alone put your jim-jams on without clobbering your mate in the eyeball.) I laid in silence, listening to the big deep blown-jug sound of the canyon. I waited for the shallow breathing of my camping comrades to turn to the labored breath of sleep. But it never did. The crackle of the fire re-lighting itself scared us all awake over and over all night. Seeing the blaze of a rainbow colored sunrise over a fog covered canyon was worth losing the sleep. We packed up everything and headed out again to see the opposite side of the canyon.
We spent the majority of the day in the car, which was no trouble considering the beautiful view and the good conversation. Finding Johnny and Matt has been a god send. Admittedly, being on vacation with total strangers is a unique experience, but it has worked out to our benefit.
After two nights and the Grand Canyon, we have returned to Cedar City for a day of champion pizza eating and bike mechanics. Tomorrow we embark on a 20 mile ascent into the mountains. Pray for me.