10.12.2009

The Trip of the Damned, part 2

To recap: I'm in Arizona, hunched over like an old woman and periodically yelping, and the overpriced Geo Metro has just been rinsed clean of caked on manure.

The next stop was the Grand Canyon. The overpriced food and gas in the town outside the park were expected and don't really qualify as part of the special misery of the trip. What wasn't expected was the man who rammed his car door into the poor Metro at the gas station and left a 2 inch dent. Of course, he drove off without giving our car a second look. Nice.

The weather that day was cloudy and brisk, but there was no sign in the forecast of the trouble to come. As we entered the park and drove to the rim, we were shocked to see that while the air at ground level was clear, grey clouds had settled in the canyon. They were dark and thick and allowed not even the slightest glimpse of the beauty below, giving me the special distinction of having visited the Grand Canyon but never actually seen it.

We headed to the east exit hoping the clouds would thin, so we could see something other than murk before leaving. It was a weekday, so the park was largely deserted. Or maybe everyone else knew that the view disappeared on cloudy days? It's hard to say. As we stopped at yet another viewing point and were greeted with yet more fog, we noticed that the front tire seemed a bit low. At the next stop, it seemed even lower still. The map indicated that the nearest town was at least 45 minutes away, and a check of the trunk showed that our dear little Metro did not come equipped with a jack or spare tire. Wonderful. We decided to forgo the rest of the stops and make for town as fast as possible. This was years ago, and neither of us had a cell phone. If we had to stop, we would be stuck until someone happened to come by to help. Not a good prospect.

As we headed out of the park, the temperature dropped and the sky became dark. Lightning flashed in the distance, and we could hear the distant rumble of thunder. That's when things got Biblical. Within minutes, ice started falling from the sky. That's right, ice. Not hail, not rain, but hard little slivers of ice. I've never seen such a thing before or since. It reminded me of the plagues of Egypt, and by that point I would not have been at all surprised to see swarms of locusts coming our way.

We made it to a gas station in town to fill the tire, but it was apparent that it was losing air rapidly and we'd need to head back to Flagstaff (and quickly!) to have it fixed. The ice had turned into snow, and the ground was soon covered. To say that I hadn't packed for a fall snowstorm is an understatement. I layered on long sleeve t-shirts and a fleece vest, and every time I stepped outside I felt chilled to the bone by the wind.

It was around that time, with the tire losing air, a frigid wind blowing and not even a jacket to keep warm, constant fear of being stranded alongside the road in the desert, back hurting, and generally frustrated at the non-stop trouble the trip had been that I lost it. A hysterical woman was the last thing the situation needed, but I couldn't take any more. It was also around that time that our luck started to change. We passed a tire shop (dumb luck!) that was still open (dumber luck still!) and that would patch the tire for free (Hallelujah!). When we walked in the door for dinner later that evening, the first thing the waitress said on seeing our shivering selves was, "We have hot chocolate." Sweeter words have never been spoken.

While there was one more lapse - the road to the west entrance of the Grand Canyon is unpaved and not Geo Metro-friendly; we learned this the hard way - things returned to normal from then on. By the return flight home, I could stand without wincing, and my "I'll just put a nickel in to say I did it" gamble in Las Vegas ended with flashing lights and the machine spitting 200 nickels my way. Still, I've never been so happy to get home.

3 comments:

Craig Miyamoto said...

Entertaining piece. I enjoyed reading it. Thanks!

mheidelberger said...

I used to lament the fact that I contracted the flu a few years ago when going to a conference in Washington DC, resulting in me being confined to my hotel room for five days in bed...After reading this, I will never complain about it again :)

Rebecca said...

It's (almost) funny now, but not so much at the time. I wondered if someone had a voodoo doll of me and was tormenting it.