Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Shorts, you think? Ha! Not in May!

I left Flagstaff this morning at about 8:30am, having made the foolish decision to wear shorts. Subsequent events will cause me to rue that recklessness. Arrived back up at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon later in the morning. There are gray clouds all around. Real windy too.

I began to lament my decision about the shorts as soon as I got out of my car near the lodge.

I suppose I could have scrounged up a restroom somewhere where I could have changed back into jeans, but nooooooo. I am Betsy Backwoods and a toughie. I commit, brazenly, and go to find the shuttle stop. (Most of the rim west of here is under re-construction and is closed to all except shuttle buses.) But I have second thoughts when a big gust of wind and rain hit me while waiting for the shuttle. I estimated the wind chill at that moment to be somewhere in the thirties. Thank goodness for my hoody fleece and the rain jacket on top of it. My legs, however, were out there a-hangin’. Yee-ouch. Too late now. I get on the shuttle. We’re off. (Gad, this shuttle is nice and warm!)

So we get to the first overlook and it’s still windy and drizzly and natch – no one gets off the shuttle. Yeah, we all say to ourselves, glancing around at each other, it’s grand and all but, umm, I’ll wait just a bit on this particular view. I’ll come back! (Oh yeah, right.)

Second overlook is Maricopa Point and now the sun is shining, the wind is gone, so I got out and sketched for a quite a bit of time. Next stop is Hopi Point, the last stop, and the wind is kicking up again and here come some more gray clouds. But this is the westernmost viewpoint that is currently accessible, so I get off the shuttle. I had to!

My remorse about the shorts reaches a new high when the wind comes back and it starts to rain again. I shelter under a small piñon pine tree and am pretty snug and kind of change my mind. I am actually enjoying it, in an irrational way probably induced by the lightheadedness that accompanies hyperthermia. That is, I like it until I hear thunder. Uh oh. Ummm, thunder is possibly not a good sign when you are sheltering under a tree on the very rim of a massive chasm. I make a note about the rain and thunder in my sketchbook, but then look up and notice that the rain has turned into little white balls. By god -- it’s frigging hailing! Sheesh! But … WAY COOL!!!! I shout to the person across the walkway ‘Hey, look! It’s hailing!’ My icicle legs are forgotten. This is fun!

Alas! The hail lasts only a few more moments, turns very briefly to sleet, and then is gone. Blown away. In about five minutes here comes the sun and I stick around at that Hopi Point viewpoint for quite some time after that, to do more sketches. The ink lines on the one drawing that I had open when I was under the tree is all mottled with water drops. Extremely nifty and I have enjoyed it all quite a bit. Despite the fact that I can no longer feel my legs. (That coffee after lunch sure tasted good!)

My palace of a room in El Tovar is finally ready at about 3:30 but when I get into it is smells odd. Like cleaning products from 1920. I have opened the windows but they tell me it’s going to go to 22 degrees tonight. So close them I’ll have to. Later on. I may leave here tomorrow smelling like a flapper. Albeit a clean one!

The dining room here at El Tovar is listed as one of the best 50 restaurants in all of Arizona. I confess that I am a doubter. This is a federal operation (at bottom -- despite being a “concession”) and I have my doubts about a federal operation spawning an outstanding restaurant. That concept conflicts with good reason. Anyway, we’ll see!

Later: Unfortunately, I was right about both the food and the service. Especially the service. Blah.

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