Square State Tour

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Day 13
Walking over the Grand Canyon

Fri, Oct 12, 2007

8:15 am
2,829 miles from home

Kingman, Arizona

Well, at least this cheap room has a microwave so we can heat up some water and make coffee in the room (we've brought along our French Press). But we still don't have an internet connection, so once again we're war driving through Kingman.

Our usual reliable tactic of heading for the local Best Western doesn't pay off this morning, as their network doesn't seem to be working. But the Days Inn has a nice strong signal, so we park out back and ship off the Day 12 trip report.

8:50 am

We're leaving Kingman, and we are finally no longer on Route 66, which is a relief to us, as we were getting very tired of all the nostalgia.

Once again the geology has changed, and we're now looking at hills that seem to be made of piles of rubble. It's probably just the surface that's eroded.

Laura comments that on this trip we have probably seen at least one of every type of southwestern terrain there is.

9:40 am
2,872 miles

We're heading northbound on Stockton Hill Road. Our plan is to try to find the Sky Walk, which is rumored to be at Grand Canyon West on the Hualapai Reservation. We say "rumored" because even after visiting the websites for the Sky Walk and Grand Canyon West, it's unclear that the Sky Walk is actually there.

Outside we see strange plants looking like Dr. Seuss designed them. Laura says that they are Joshua Trees and as we climb higher, there are more and more of them.

We pass a sign that directs us to "Gregg's Hideout," which Laura (Gregg) finds very cool. Robert was wondering where she went to hide out, and now he knows.

9:50 am

At this point, Stockton Hill Road connects up with Diamond Bar Road, which is the only road on this side that leads to Grand Canyon West. Diamond Bar Road turns out to be a dirt road.

Important Travel Tip
If you love your car, do not drive on Diamond Bar Road. Park your car at the beginning of Diamond Bar Road and pay to take one of the tour buses parked there. Your shocks will thank you.

We, of course, being crazy (and stupid) don't follow our important travel tip and instead start cheerfully down Diamond Bar Road.

10:15 am

We've been driving over winding twisting dirt road, which is mostly washboard, so we get a nice chattering roar and vibration throughout the entire car. Every mile or so we hit a smooth patch for about 10 seconds and it's wonderful. Then the chattering starts again.

We're doing about 20 mph most of the way, often behind other cars. This makes it even more fun because they make great clouds of dust that slowly coat the windshield and the rest of the car.

Our teeth are coming loose.

10:28 am
2,897 miles

We have gone 14 miles on dirt roads and have finally reached the reservation boundary. At this point, the lousy dirt road suddenly becomes a much nicer paved road with a 45 mph speed limit.

Which means that the crappy dirt road we've been driving on has been courtesy of our tax dollars. Just one more way for the Federal Government to screw over the Indians.

Hey—at least we have a consistent policy towards them!

Laura says she's beginning to think this might be the reason most people never see the western rim of the Grand Canyon.

10:45 am

Grand Canyon West

Okay, we're here to give you the straight scoop, which took quite a few conversations with ticket agents to construct. (In our humble opinion, the Hualapai could use a good Technical Writer.)

At Grand Canyon West is a terminal, where you have to park your car (or turn around and go back). You can't drive to the Sky Walk. You can't drive anywhere except back out.

If you want to see the Sky Walk, you have to buy a ticket for a tour package. There are a number of tour packages that include various activities. The cheapest tour package is $50 per person (which includes lunch and a wagon ride).

If you want to actually WALK on the Sky Walk, it will cost you an extra $25 per person (payable once you get to the Sky Walk).

In other words: it will cost you at least $75 per person to go on the Sky Walk.

After going to all this trouble to get here, we decide to shell out the bucks and pay for the tour. After all, the money goes to the Indians.

11:15 am

Eagle Point

We're at the Sky Walk. A few more things that somehow didn't get mentioned until we actually got there:

  • You can't take any cameras or cell phones or water bottles on the Sky Walk. (The story is that early on, visitors were tossing trash over the rails so they have reluctantly banned these items.)

  • But what if you want a picture of you on the Sky Walk? By a curious coincidence, they have a photographer there who will take a picture of you on the Sky Walk, which you can view back in the gift shop and purchase for $25. You can also purchase another picture of you from underneath the Sky Walk (they have a woman down there with a camera shooting pictures from below).

  • They'll rent you a locker for one dollar where you can stash your stuff while you're on the Sky Walk.

  • You need to put on little booties before you can go on the Sky Walk to keep from scuffing it up. By some oversight, the booties are free.

11:30 am

4,000 feet over the Grand Canyon

So, you ask, what's it like walking on a glass bridge suspended 4,000 feet over the base of the Grand Canyon?

Very cool!

The bridge really is glass—it's divided into three-foot-wide segments, with each segment made of stacked five half-inch sheets of tempered glass. There's no bending or give or any sense that the bridge is shaky. It's as rock solid as walking on the ground.

There's a two-foot-wide opaque section along the outer and inner rim, so you can huddle there if you're starting to get freaked out about standing on nothing.

The bridge is U-shaped and projects out over the Grand Canyon. At the tip of the U, the bridge is 4,000 feet above the floor of the Grand Canyon. The floor walls of the bridge come up about five feet and are made of plexi-glass (since they don't have to support any weight).

Robert has a moderate to severe fear of heights and although he got a few butterflies, he dealt with the whole thing pretty well. You have a restricted view straight down, so you don't feel like you're standing 4000 feet up on nothing. And if you do get too nervous, there're plenty of places to look that don't make you feel suspended from the ground.

Laura likes that this whole set-up is more "homey." She's never been to the other parts of the Grand Canyon, but she imagines they're more crowded and commercial. Robert has been and he says that this whole area would fit into one small corner of the parking lot at the more commonly visited parts.

11:40 am

On the way out, Robert chats up one of the construction workers. The place is obviously unfinished (the Sky Walk only opened in March of this year). The plan is to add some pueblo-style buildings behind the Sky Walk.

There's another seven years worth of construction before it's actually finished. On the side of the tour buses, we see some pictures of how it will look and it's pretty darn cool.

12:10 pm

Guano Point

The way the tour buses work is that they run along a path between the terminal, Eagle Point (where the Sky Walk is) and Guano Point. So we jump back on a tour bus and get off at Guano Point.

It's called Guano Point because, well, there used to be a whole bunch of bat guano here and it used to be mined for all its various uses (fertilizer, explosives, make-up, and so forth).

Guano Point is now where you get lunch (yum!) which is served cafeteria-style. The seating is at tables outside, so you can continue to look at the Grand Canyon (although we found it made more sense to look at our food so we didn't try to shovel cole slaw into our ears). The view here is even more spectacular than the one at Eagle Point.

It's a balmy 80 degrees outside, so it's pleasant sitting at the tables. We imagine it would be less so during the summer.

Robert points out that we're now at the other end of the Colorado River from where we were back on Day 5 ("Hell's Revenge"). We might even be looking at some of the same water.

12:30 pm

We get on the bus to head back to the terminal. Our tour package includes Hualapai Ranch, featuring a gunfight, cowboy cookout, and wagon rides. Since we saw pretty much this same thing back in Moab (also on Day 5), we don't feel compelled to go.

Furthermore, we're looking at how far we are from home (more than 1,000 miles), how soon we have to be home (day after tomorrow), and how bad some of those roads are (very) and we're getting concerned about time.

1:10 pm

So we bid a fond farewell to the Hualapai folks, happy that at least our money went to the Indians.

If we had the time (and money), we would spring for a helicopter tour of the canyon (also available at the terminal) because that looks exciting. We see the choppers flying down inside the canyon (they look very tiny down there). You can also buy a boat tour on the Colorado.

1:20 pm

We're back on the really bad federally maintained dirt road headed out. Robert is now driving, and he's discovered that if you go about 40 mph, you tend to skate over the top of the washboards, giving a marginally smoother ride.

Of course, you also throw away most of your traction, so he's drifting through turns and occasionally slamming on the brakes to slide into a curve. Laura is clutching the side of the car and turning white.

1:30 pm

Remember those vintage 40s cars we kept passing on Route 66 yesterday? Well, they're back. All three of them are parked alongside the dirt road and the occupants are standing around looking dismayed. We stop to see if they need any help.

What they need is information. How much farther on this terrible road? What happens when we get there? (Information that you, our faithful blog reader, now know!)

Robert, who's been keeping an eye on the odometer tells them that they have five more miles of this crummy road before it clears up. They don't look too thrilled about taking their carefully restored cars on more of this road (we don't imagine their ride is any too smooth).

We leave them looking downcast but determined after Laura tells them it's worth the trip.

2:10 pm
2,947 miles

Dolan Springs, AZ

We're off the dirt road and finished backtracking and stopped at the one and only gas station in Dolan Springs. Although our car is pretty dusty, we notice that all that bouncing has knocked all the Canyon De Chelly mud off our wheel wells.

We can now point our car homeward.

2:43 pm
2,986 miles

Hoover Dam, AZ

There's a police check at Hoover Dam to make sure that terrorists can't get through. The road runs right over the top of the dam, so a clever terrorist could load up their car with explosives and not only knock out the dam, but also really screw up traffic.

We reap the benefit of being middle-aged white people in a PT Cruiser; the cops don't even look twice and wave us through. We rock!

Traffic is slow around the dam, for no reason other than people gawking. It takes about half an hour to get through it, but once we do, we're in Nevada!

Although we're in a different time zone, we don't have to change our clocks (because now we observe Daylight Savings Time). This should be the last time zone we go through and our clocks breath a sigh of relief.

5:05 pm
3,116 miles

Amargosa Valley, NV

The gas station has a sign that says: "Last Service before Area 51."

Cool! We're going right past Area 51! Roswell AND Area 51 in one trip! How cool is that?

5:29 pm
3,144 miles

Beatty, NV

Not very, as it turns out. The map says it's a government test area, but you can't see anything. There's a ridge between the road and all the cool stuff (and it turns out that they don't offer tours of Area 51—they could use the money to fix up a certain dirt road we know of!).

We haven't seen any strange lights or alien bodies or even a tank.

6:00 pm

Cottontail Ranch

Okay, one important point to mention when you're traveling in Nevada and looking for a place to stop for the night.

Read the signs carefully.

We were approaching a place called "Cottontail Ranch" and were beginning to slow down, thinking, "Hey, maybe they'll have some campgrounds we can use!"

The fine print on the sign identified the Cottontail Ranch as a brothel (legal in Nevada). Whoops! Moving right along...

6:45 pm
3,238 miles

Toponah, NV

It's pretty dark and the last town (Goldfield) had NO motels, so we've pushed on to this one. The first motel sign we see proclaims "Free Internet" AND "In-room Coffee"! We think we've died and gone to heaven and slam on the brakes so fast that our car sheds another small mud clod.

On top of all these conveniences (a bottle of shampoo!) the room is only $35 per night. Woohoo!

Whew! We're beat, but at least we're not spending the night in a brothel.

Tomorrow: How far can we drive in one day?

Robert & Laura
Square State Tour

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