Monday, September 20, 2010
The drive to the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas is not very scenic; long stretches of rocky desert, dotted with a few gas stations which are few and far between. Not the type of place you'd want to break down. We only made a quick stop at a Starbucks to use their free Wi-Fi and load up on coffee (Deb needed to follow up on some hotel reservations and I posted a prewritten blog entry). Other than that we drove and drove, and drove some more, trying to get to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon in time to see the sunset. We passed some interesting rock formations around Kingman, AZ and there was the occasional scenic expanse, but it's a dull, flat drive east.
The Hoover Dam drained an hour from our day as the security line crept ever so slowly toward the famed dam. The inspection was a visual one and I totally understand the need for a security presence, but it stole our daylight and we didn't have time to see the dam thing. The new bridge that they are building is quite spectacular and quite impressed both of us. It's a new engineering marvel built to carry the traffic flow once they stop allowing traffic to cross over the old one.
By the time we took the left turn, heading north to the rim, the sun was threatening low in the sky. We weren't the only travelers trying to make the sunset over the canyon and the drivers starting becoming reckless. One particular asshole in a white Mustang put everyone's lives at risk by passing on double yellows and following way too close. As a New Yorker, the only time I drive is when we rent a car during a trip. I've forgotten what it's like to drive on a daily basis; the commuting, the gridlock, the inconsideration of other drivers, and the dangers they represent. When I drive I fall back on what my severe Driver's Ed teacher taught me twenty years ago, among them: how to parallel park, not turning your wheels while waiting to make a left turn, and, most importantly, leaving one car length between you and the vehicle in front of you for every 10 miles an hour. So when I'm going 70 mph and I can't see the license plate of the car right behind me I tend to get nervous and then I get angry.
Luckily, we survived the other drivers, but unluckily the sun slipped behind the horizon just as we paid the $25 entrance fee. By the time we parked, the twilight was fading fast and then we got trapped behind a maze of chain link construction fences. We missed the golden glow we'd been hoping for but we sat near the edge and took in the awesome expanse as the canyon faded from hazy grey to hazier dark grey. We knew we'd see it again on the way back but it was disappointing to drive for six hours and miss it by mere minutes. When we started back toward the car it had gotten quite dark and the sliver of a moon provided little illuminative guidance. We wandered in circles and even mistakenly tried to break into a Kia that looked a lot like our car in the gathering darkness.
We left the park and went to a nearby steakhouse: The Yippee-Ei-O Steakhouse. It was filled with European tourists and us. We ordered a steak to split and added an appetizer that helped fulfill our "foods of the region" goal: rattlesnake. The thin strips of snakemeat were wrapped in a doughy breading and fried. I've heard all my life that rattlesnake tastes a lot like chicken but I found it more like wiry, overcooked calamari. It was fun to try but it's not going to replace mozzarella sticks or jalapeno poppers on the T.G.I.F. apps menu anytime soon. The rest of the food was surprisingly tasty, especially the biscuits with prickly pear jelly (another local tasty treat). The steak was well done—we eat ours medium rare, so I mean that in the pejorative sense. But it suffered slightly in comparison to the beefy perfection we'd experienced at L.A.'s Musso & Frank's a few nights prior. We paid our bill and departed, driving into the long night ahead. With no clue how long the night was going to be...