If you’ve been following along the with the Adventures of Bob and Ellen for very long, you know we don’t make reservations — we didn’t even make them on our trip to Alaska. So what in the world would make us change our minds this year?
Two words: National parks.
The increased popularity of our national parks is a mixed blessing: we’re glad to see so many people out in them — that kind of support helps assure funding so we can come back to them. At the same time, it means crowds. And that means limited RV parking fills up fast.
So late this winter, Bob made reservations for the south rim of the Grand Canyon. The good news? We got a space — one of the few remaining spots. The bad news? The only dates open were in mid-May, a dicey time of the year to be in this part of Arizona, but we hadn’t hiked Bright Angel Trail in a few years and we were ready for a return trip.
The drive up to the canyon reminded us we were back in the land of crazy tourists. In this case, impatient with the line of traffic, one driver cut it so close passing I thought we were all doomed. You can just make out the car coming from the other direction immediately in front of the car in the left lane. Too much drama for a drive in the country!
Hiking relieves stress from incidents like that, but the next morning we were greeted with this:
Hail! Heavy hail. Ticking all over our roof, against our windows. That also meant it was cold: 48 degrees at 10:30 a.m. Ikes! No hiking for the moment.
A thunderstorm with a huge lightning strike somewhere the night before had knocked out the cable, and without Internet access in the rig, that meant our small RV soon felt cramped.
Time for Plan B: venture down the road to take in Desert View, the Tusayan Ruins, and stop at some of the pullouts along the way. We’ve driven this stretch of Route 64 several times but always in the RV, so this gave us a chance to pull into spots we were never sure if we’d fit into. As we drove, the skies cleared:
First stop, the Tusayan Ruin, where we followed a sandy trail, stopping to read the interpretive signs and imagine what it was like to live out here all those years ago:
Since we’ve been on the road, I’ve come to appreciate the signs that help us identify the various trees, plants, and flowers we often see but aren’t familiar with. Of course, just when I’m getting good at pointing out something like sagebrush, I find out it could be any of several KINDS of sagebrush! Here’s Big Sagebrush:
After buying a book at the museum store (some women buy shoes; I buy books), we hopped back in the Jeep and drove up to Desert View, location of the often photographed Watchtower.
What a lot of people don’t know is there was a terrible airplane crash just across the rim from here back in 1956 when a TWA plane and a United Airlines plane crashed into each other at 21,000 feet, killing everyone. It was the worst American air disaster ever at that point, and it spurred Congress to create the Federal Aviation Administration. The site has been designated a National Historic Landmark, a place worthy of our quiet remembrance of those lost that terrible day in June.
The weather across the canyon gave us some amazing views of far-away rain while the clouds scattered light and shadow over the canyon walls:
The next day? Even colder! Here’s a photo of our indoor-outdoor weather monitor. In the middle, on the right side, you’ll see the temperature at 7:33 that morning: 38 degrees!!
Peeked out the window and — snow! Not very hard, not easy to see in the photo, but unmistakeably SNOW:
What do RVers do on a day like this? Laundry. Of course, on a cold, wet day — everybody has the same idea. We have our own washer and dryer in our fifth wheel, but we don’t in our Winnie, so we hunt down good places to take care of this chore. What’s sad is that the washers and dryers are so poorly taken care of in most places that I end up with more stains on my clothes than I started with…. Maybe I should leave them dirty?!? (Okay…. maybe not….!)
Through it all, we did have a few constants, like the elk. Nearly every day of our eleven-day stay in Trailer Village, we saw elk somewhere. Usually, they were grazing along a walking trail…
…but sometimes they were just resting, trying to ignore us:
The best way to see them is when they decide to pay your RV a visit and you can snap away from inside your warm rig…
…all while feeling up close and personal:
Of course we had to see if the Arizona Room was as good as we remembered it. I always wonder if I’m doing the right thing by saying how great a restaurant is — why add to the number of people already eating there? Why add to our wait time? But… in the interest of humanity… we like sharing the news. In this case, the Arizona Room was at least as good — if not better — than ever. Maybe that’s because we discovered their special dish, their Oven Roasted Native Squash. Now before you say, “Eww! Squash!” take a look:
“Zucchini with Grain and Heirloom Bean Stuffing, Fire Roasted Corn Salsa & Chipotle Crema” is how the menu described it — I’d call it “delicious!” We had this every time we went back and it was always excellent. As a side, we ordered the Wild Rice and Grain Pilaf, but it was dry. Here’s a hint: mix it with the Black Bean Soup, and you’ve got a warm, tasty, healthy combo!
Prefer something lighter? Their spinach salad was one of the best we’ve found. Maybe it was the spiced pistachios, or maybe the dried cranberries… could have been the slivers of jicama… or the raspberry vinaigrette dressing. Most likely — the combination of these ingredients, all over a bed of fresh spinach. Ah!
And if you can snag one of the choice window seats, you have a front row seat for what I started calling the people parade. The restaurant sits along the Rim Trail smack in the midst of the lodges and gift shops and the spot where everyone it seemed stopped to get ice cream, so even in the chilly, rainy weather the flow of people never stopped: