October 6th, 2017. The Grand Canyon, AZ.
The Girl and I jerked awake simultaneously when the world started caving in. The entire building shook. It sounded like someone was trying to smash their way into the bathroom with a sledgehammer.
“The fuck?” I articulated.
“It sounded like it came from the bathroom,” the Girl said.
Well, I was headed there anyway, so I checked it out. As far as I could tell, the walls were intact. Good enough for me. I laid down and tried to sleep until the next time the earth rattled around me. We hypothesized that housekeeping travelled from room to room through the air vents, and also that the Budget Host Inn employed only Terminators who were missing half their skin.
As it happened, a crane was demolishing the building 40 feet from our bed. I can’t imagine that the demolition crew didn’t realize the Budget Host Inn was a hotel full of human beings sleeping at 7:30, but the Girl and I were still running on east coast jetlag time, so it was functionally 10:30 for us and we didn’t mind too terribly.
I showered. I’ve never been too sure if motel soap is that much of an improvement over general stank, but I pride myself on how light I travel and my abysmal foresight forbids me from buying journey-specific soaps.
“All yours,” I told the Girl.
“You might want to watch that window,” she said. “I was walking around in my underwear and that Indian dude from the office came up to our window and looked, like, right in at me. I waved to him but he didn’t wave back.”
We checked out, or rather, our peeping friend informed me three times at gradually increasing velocity that I just have to drop the keys in the mailbox and leave. We ate a greasy breakfast of chicken fried steak and chicken fried potatoes and chicken fried toast at a Happy Days themed diner, then barged it straight up the Route 66 to the Grand Canyon.
Apparently, the Grand Canyon has an offseason that spans the majority of the year, and when it’s in effect the shuttles don’t run. We learned this from an exasperated young woman working the merchandise desk at National Geographic, right before she answered the phone to explain the same thing to someone else. That meant paying the $30 vehicle fee and then trying to find parking.
There is no parking at the Grand Canyon. They’re obviously not going to start turning people away because Arizona has no other means of revenue (they’re sure as hell not coming for the golf or orthodontistry). They can’t very well say, “Sorry, the Grand Canyon is closed. No room.” The Grand Canyon is nothing but room. At root, it’s just negative space on a massive scale. Instead, they take your money and set you loose in one of their wildlife-themed parking lots. We wound up parking illegally next to an SUV and an entire gang of biker dads, all of whom also parked illegally.
The canyon itself was beautiful. Easily the biggest hole I’ve ever seen. The colors were magnificent and it brought with it that sense of enormity that renders we little pilots of the thinking meat so small and irrelevant. The Grand Canyon is so huge and ancient and utterly unconcerned with humanity that we have no choice but to feel insignificant. It’s like looking at the stars on a cloudless night.
Do you know what people do when they feel insignificant? They make noise. The surest way to prove your existence is by screaming into the void, and that is literally what the throngs of tourists were doing. I don’t mean to come off as too terribly pretentious here (although, admittedly, I never do and it rarely makes a difference), but the Grand Canyon seemed like it should be sacred. It’s a marvel of nature, an ancient geological fluke unequalled anywhere on the planet, like nothing I’d see again in my lifetime. It felt like something that should be approached with awe and reverence. It was instead approached with shrieking Asian teenagers having their friends take pictures of them doing the Gangam Style pose on a rock outcropping. I saw a man propose to his girlfriend, which made sense until I saw that they brought a selfie stick to their own proposal.
I’m a laissez faire type of guy, and I understand full well that not everyone is like me, and thank God for that. I’m not trying to tell anyone what they should think or how they should live; everyone has different values, that’s what makes these attempts at civilization so very colorful. I’ve always been interested in people, but sometimes, they make it really hard to like them.
The Girl and I shimmied out onto a gryke far enough removed from the huddled masses yearning to be free that we wouldn’t need to hear them screech that they were Pickle Rick into the canyon, and watched the rocks doing what rocks do until hunger and dehydration got the better of us. We contemplated going for a hike, but when we went back to the car for water we found even more people circling the parking lots like vultures, looking for any spot, no matter how illegal.
Too many humans, we agreed, and bailed.