July 15, 2015: A distant thunderstorm with torrential rain passes to the south.
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Approximate route of Day 4, 385 miles, about 19 hours
Wednesday, Aug. 16th, 1967, before dawn at Imperial Point, North (East) Rim, Grand Canyon.
With flashlights, Tom and I drowsily but carefully walked down a path to near the edge of the canyon and would witness the indescribable vista brightening before us. Outcroppings, gorges and trees stretched thousands of feet below, with views out over the distant Colorado River and eastern plateaus. Perched on separate ledges, with virtually no sounds except an occasional hawk, we leisurely watched the changing colors as the warming sun began to rise.
Sunrise from Imperial Point Lookout, Grand Canyon
The two or three hours we would spend there was a re-generation of our spirits and energy, and a long contemplative break from the nearly non-stop driving of the past few days. In the ensuing reflective down time, Tom and I would write to our girlfriends and families back home.
The MGB started at 2015 miles into the trip. Time would allow a few more sights in the park, including Angel’s Window with it’s awesome views across the canyon to the south, and those at the iconic North Rim Lodge.
Angel’s Window (note people on top,) with Humphries Peak near Flagstaff, about 56 miles south.
The South Rim is about 12 miles distant in this photo. (Historical note: There were fewer people and fewer handrails then, allowing considerably more access; like myself here, onto the outcroppings.)
By 1:00 PM, we filled the tank with $3.00 of gas, (more expensive here than elsewhere, so far,) and headed north on Arizona Rt. 67, back to Jacob Lake and US 89 Alt. towards Utah. The clear, cool fresh air of the 8000 ft. elevation was giving way to the intense heat of the lower desert terrain, spawning some impressive thunderstorms, but offering only brief relief.
On US 89 Alt., northern Arizona, the 10 minute downpour would not give much relief from the heat, especially after we put the top up
Kanab, Utah, about three miles north of the Arizona state line, would be the first town of any respectable size we’d seen since Flagstaff, over 200 road miles back – and where we would have a good lunch at a cowboy/family-style restaurant called “Trails End.” We were now headed towards Zion National Park, initially fascinated by “Checkerboard Mesa,” a massive geological scouring just inside the eastern entrance. Exploring along Utah’s Rt. 9 in the park would capture the attention of our cameras for miles, winding past colorful buttes, monoliths, mesas, canyons and arches; and the awe inspiring Zion – Mt. Carmel Tunnel, bored right through the side of a towering mountain cliff. Over a mile in length, we paused midway at one of it’s large open rock “windows” for a view and pictures of Pine Creek Canyon below. Regrettably, our schedule did not afford much time for more than a perfunctory glance at this intensly beautiful region, vowing only to come back again some day.
The western entrance to Zion – Mt. Carmel Tunnel, a masterpiece of 1920’s engineering.
The switchbacks into Pine Creek Canyon, as seen from one of several cliff-side windows
At about 5:30 PM MDT, Tom took the wheel for the first time today just after leaving Zion. As we drove along Rt. 9 towards the neat town of Hurricane, Utah, the mountains behind provided a world-class scenic experience, particularly for me as I had reversed the seat-back again, now relaxing contently with an open air, rear-view panorama. (Historical note: The population of Hurricane was under 1400 at this time, but estimated at 14,000 by 2011!)
Along Rt. 9 in Utah, SW of Zion National Park – a quick jaunt off the side of the road for this first image; and as seen from my reversed passenger-seat perspective
Just after St. George, we got on Interstate 15, passing back into NW Arizona back in the desert, and then into Nevada at about sunset. The anticipation was heightened as we drew ever closer to Las Vegas with the top still down and hearing radio temperature reports of 105 F (40.6C) and now seeing lightning ahead reflecting surreally off the mountain ridges around us. There are no speed limits out here, but we maintained an “easy” 70 mph as we first started seeing the tiny glow of the city far ahead.
The legendary, hot night-time town of Las Vegas with it’s energy and excitement, bright lights, entertainment, casinos and fun soaked reveler’s frolicking contrasted diametrically with the surrounding desolation of the silent night desert. It was hard to hold the enthusiasm at bay while approaching. But we did – by checking into a small roadside motel for $8 a few miles outside the center city, giving us the opportunity to clean-up, and even do some wash….and finally drive on to busy Fremont Street, enthralled in the festive; and in one case enduring the playful antics of several young women in a passing car, one tossing a milk shake in our direction before they laughingly sped off.
Fremont Street, Las Vegas – about 11:00 PM
The “Strip” and Sands marquee with Dean Martin headlining
Sahara with The Smothers Brothers, Vicki Carr, Pat Paulsen
For a few short hours, I would be feeling the magical allure of the clubs, the draw of the casinos, the magnetism of the “singing” slots – feeling joy at the ringing bells and falling coins, which in the US was legal only here in Nevada. My first experience at casino gambling was good, up $20.00 before giving it all back; but Tom may have been a little less excited than I, as his luck was akin to his gambling legality – NIL, he being a few critical months younger than I and subject to an occasional escort back to the street. Regardless, by the early morning hours, we were ready for a long night of rest, actually in a motel, ending the day 385 miles further, and, 3300 miles into our trip.
It was….a memorable day!
Day 5: http://wp.me/p37YEI-Jp