The Grandest Of Canyons: An Impromptu Road Trip With Strangers

This past week I hosted some couchsurfers, for the first time in a long while. They were lovely people, and it reminded me of why I LOVE couchsurfing. It also reminded me of this old adventure from 2011 when I met some CS'ers in Vegas and we rented a car...

 

A lot can happen in Vegas. A lot can happy in Vegas when you're there for seven days.

After winning enough cash (playing poker) to pay for my trip, and after sweltering by the pool in 45C heat I decided that it was about time to do something else. When the cement gets so blisteringly hot that it hurts to walk to the pool you know it's time for a change. I was in Vegas for a wedding – not mine, of course, but a relatives'. I had a few days to kill after the wedding so I messaged some couch surfers who were also visiting Vegas. We met up late one night down on Fremont Street at some seedy bar that managed, against all odds, to stay dim amongst the glow of the bright city. Between the four of us we had four continents represented: it was a true couch surfer gathering. We agreed that the Grand Canyon was something we all wanted to see, and being the adventurous types we didn't want to wait...so we left immediately. It was midnight.

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We flagged a cab to a car rental place, rented a car, and were on our way by 1am. We stopped for snacks (I don't go anywhere without snacks) and headed out into the pitch of the desert. Our destination was the South Rim, which was about five hours away. The plan was to drive in pairs so that half of us could sleep, but I ended up just driving most of the way.

We stopped in the middle of the night so I could empty my bladder of the several energy drinks I had downed, and I was immediately amazed by the canvas above. It was incredible just how bright the sky was from the stars alone; a black and blue ceiling cascaded above us with more stars than I ever thought existed. Standing there, alone in the dark with what seemed like the entire universe above me...it was an awe-inspiring sight. I felt both so alone and so connected to everything all at the same time.

I caught my breath and hit the road again, arriving at the canyon when the sun was peaking over the Arizona horizon. It was a perfect way to end our drive and a beautiful way to start our trek. It was going to be another sweltering day, so we started down into the canyon as early as we could. We lost our Russian companion somewhere along the way as she went off into the brush to blaze her own trail. Our goal was the two mile point, where we stopped for water, shade, and the scenery. After a short break, and drenched in sweat, we marched back up again, catching up with our wayward Russian companion near the summit. She had a handful of cuts and bruises for her trouble, but was pleased with her off-the-beaten-path exploring.

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The hike is something you really should experience, and I am hoping to hike to the bottom for my next visit. It's truly an epic sight to behold, beyond all description. And it's one hell of a workout under a blazing desert sun.

Back at the ridge, we spent the afternoon napping in the grass. Having lost our respective body weights in sweat and sleeping only a couple of hours, we were exhausted. A cat nap did us wonders.

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After a couple hours, we were back on the road home with plans to stop at the Hoover Dam before returning to Vegas...but as the saying goes, “When you make plans, God laughs.”

We stopped at a small, rundown diner in a non-existent town somewhere in Arizona. It was the kind of place that was very horror story-esque, for it was sparse, rusted, and marked by a permeable, awkward nothingness. Post apocalyptic, almost. Everyone just stared at us while we ate, which was both unsettling and amusing. Suffice it to say, we didn't stay long. Intent on leaving the uncomfortable pit-stop behind us, we even joked about how we wouldn't want to get stuck there, that our tires might even have been intentionally slashed to prevent our escape, as had happened in countless cliched horror films.

Well, the truth wasn't so far off.

As soon as we got back on the highway our tire popped. An unsettling, eerie quiet hovered over us. Maybe we were actually going to be the victims of that creepy little one-horse town...

But nope. The heat, being what it was, had simply caused the asphalt on the roads to warm to such a ridiculous degree that our tire burst as soon as we got back on the highway. Murphy's Law, I suppose. We had a spare, fortunately, and got that on as best we could without getting murdered.

I'm helping!

I'm helping!

For the rest of the drive we had to drive half the posted speed limit since the spare tire couldn't handle full speed on the highway. Thus, our five hour car ride became an eight hour car ride and our chance at seeing Hoover Dam burst with the tire. Nevertheless, we made it back safe and sound. After saying our farewells we each went our own way, ending our fellowship and our adventure to the grandest of canyons.

 

Lessons Learned?

Being able to change a tire (and other car-related activities like driving manual) are things that should be learned BEFORE you travel.

Renting a car? Get insurance. If something can go wrong, it probably will. Be prepared. Just be aware insurance companies aren't exactly your bff's.

Take some risks. Maybe getting into a car with 3 strangers isn't your cup of tea, but traveling is about broadening your horizons – we learn the most about ourselves when we go beyond our comfort level...so dive in!

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