Route 66 – Irina’s Journal

3 Oct 2010 – Day 4 of the journey

Travelling from Peach Springs to the South Grand Canyon.

First of all, if you ever stay at Hualapai reservation, most particularly in Hualapai Lodge (and to tell you the truth – you don’t have much of a choice in this area) you have to know a couple of things – Firstly about the lodge, the food in the restaurant is most probably one of the best in the state and there are trains passing by. Trains passing by Colorado Desert are not the same as passing by Brussels. First of all, there are a lot of them. Secondly, they are long. Very long! But the most important – they are horning. Three to four times! Very enthusiastically! The whole night! Just in front of the hotel! You do get free ear plugs though, but they do not help a lot. However, I have to admit, I was so tired that fell asleep almost immediately the moment my head hit the pillow, or rather 4 pillows, from which I somehow managed to build a real nest by the morning, and woke up around 6am, so I am not really complaining.

Secondly, there is one of the “roads less followed” starting just at the hotel and going straight to the Grand Canyon West. Stone road, nothing fancy, 19 miles. Worth every meter! You can drive it at 25 miles/h max… If you have 4×4. We could drive 20, max! And it already felt adventurous for the poor car. First you see just sand and some small green stuff, mostly cactuses along the road. And of course, the canyon! All around you! Left, right, in front and in the rear mirror! Brown, red, black, hot from the sun, shady, plateaus, anything I could imagine. The great thing of driving slow is that you can finally switch the Air-co off and open the windows. Feels great to feel the wind, even if I know it will cost me some pain to comb my hair after…

Then you arrive to the point with a nice plate telling you need a permit to drive further. Well, it’s one mile from the river, so you park the car, put on the boots and start walking. Very fast you realize that you couldn’t get through with a little car anyway – river is crossing it in many places along the way. Little, two cm long, frogs crossing the road here and there, trees and bushes start appearing everywhere, very small pre-frogs swim in springs crossing the road – everything looks like a peaceful piece of paradise. First time a have seen pre-frogs btw, don’t really know how you are supposed to call them.

Suddenly, a bus comes from up the road, rafters coming back. Friendly folks, you wave to them and say HI, get 30 waving hands and HI’s in return. Walking a bit further, a jeep comes up. Where do they all come from, you wonder? In all 19 miles down you met two cars and you know for a fact that this is the ONLY road in the area. Car slows down. You prepare to great the old Indian guy driving when you read on the jeep – “park sheriff”. So, you say hi more carefully. He smiles to you and says –

“hi folks, where are you heading to?”
Now, there is an interesting question, how many options are there? So you say –
“the river. Is it still far?”
“No, 400 feet. Have you got a permit?”
“Eh, no. Do you need one to walk? That is why we left the car at the picnic side”
“Aha, you need a permit to enter the road. 20 miles up”

At this moment you get bit nervous, such as you clearly remember reading at the last panel “500 dollar fine”… And try to remember what did the first panel, all the way up the road say, because yes, you have seen it but didn’t take it too serious. And certainly didn’t plan to run into a sheriff.

The old guy looks at you again and says –

“Where do you come from?”
“Well, I am supposed to sell you a permit. It looks like that” big form to fill in “Ehhh… Pffff… Uhhmm…” still the sheriff. You see him calculating the time it will take to fill in the whole form and the time left till the lunch.
“Go ahead guys, enjoy yourself. Be aware of the snakes”
“Sna – what????”
“well, with the rain coming, they will get out”

At this moment you remember the state of the road and the fancy city car you are driving. You start getting the idea it will not make it up the hill in mud.

“So, we should hurry!”
“No, don’t worry. If it rains, roads don’t get flooded… Very fast.”
Yeah, very reassuring….
“Ok, folks, do you have water with you?”
“Yeah!” (Shaking you backpack, so happy you took it!)
“Have a nice day! I will be patrolling in case something happens”
“Thanks! You too! And if you see little black car up the road – it’s ours”

You walk further and get to the river. It’s worth seeing it- very wide and calm on the right, completely orange red from the mud, wild and water falling on the left. No idea why. And… The canyon. Magnificent and calm. Makes you feel very small.

I was driving back. Nothing spectacular to tell about it. Except that I always drive a bit ruff. I never drove 4×4 in my life, but I manage to drive any car like if it is one :-)

Haven’t seen the sheriff again, I suppose it’s lunch time or the rain. When an old Indian tells you “rain is coming soon” you believe him…

Stopped for the lunch in the same hotel. Agreed before to take only the pie! Not to feel as bad as yesterday when you could hardly breathe after the lunch. Had a good look at the pies, they had everything! Apple pie, cherry pie, berry pie, chocolate pie, chocolate cream pie… and they all looked delicious!

I look local tribe specialty – tacos with beef :-)
Couldn’t breathe again! Didn’t get to the pie!
Driving again. We left the reservation. Got GSM connection! And rain :-)
Almost lost control of the car – heavy rain, very slippery, saw another car off the road with mud and stones from braking.
Stopped for gas. Got a cool leather hat! :-)

Break for the night in a nice little town Williams. Little motel “Highlander”. Nice cozy place with Wi-Fi. Worth staying here even if only because the woman running it and her kid look like if they can really use the money. Everything is kind of abandoned along this part of the route after the interstate 40 was build and only real route 66 travellers are taking the historical route.

Going for a beer now :-)

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