On the Road, Part 4: The Grand Canyon
by Kiko Matsing
I have always resisted planning too much for a trip; the most I would concede to is nailing down where I generally want to go–Northern Luzon or Eastern Visayas in the Philippines, Southern Spain and France–and then hurl myself into the unknown. I hardly even read or research about the places I want to see; I would like to engage them with the freshness of a frontiersman’s eyes, untainted by vapid descriptions in travel guides. Also, I dare myself to be surprised, to be caught off guard by the actuality of experience.
Such was the surprise we got on this impromptu trip to the American Southwest, when, desperately looking for lodging late in the night, we came across the lodge at the Cameron Trading Post just south of the Grand Canyon. We were delighted at the spacious rooms decorated gorgeously in the Southwestern style–the ochre varnish of their handcrafted furnishings perfectly balanced by the warm turquoise and pinks of the beddings and the tiles. This was such opulence from the merely serviceable motels we’ve been staying at, and at rates that were not much more at that. The breakfast–not included in the room–was better and more reasonably priced than what you get at Denny’s or Ihop.
The trading post was established shortly after the suspension bridge that spanned the gorge was erected in 1911. It is still owned by the people who work in it, which explains the great attention that is apparently invested in running the place.
This ‘unexpected’ turn was certainly one of the highlights of the trip.
What is there left to say about the Grand Canyon, except that it is truly grand. Majestic, awe-inspiring, mind-blowing. There are no proper words to hem it; the pictures speak for themselves. Kant calls the sublime “that which is absolutely great… it brings with it the idea of infinity”. Such are satellite images of hurricanes engulfing the Gulf of Mexico, photos of ashes billowing from Mount Pinatubo, and the breathtaking precipice-view of the Grand Canyon.
The sublime must surely be what the explorers had in mind who first surveyed the Grand Canyon, as evinced from the lofty names they used to christen the high points, gathered from the pantheon of world mythology: Confucius Temple, Temple of Ra, Tower of Set, Temple of Osiris, Dragon Head, Shiva Temple, Isis Temple, Cheops Pyramid, Buddha Temple, Zoroaster Temple, Brahma Temple, Angels Gate, Thor Temple, Wotans Throne, Walhalla Plateau, Krishna Shrine, Vishnu Temple, Freya Castle, Rama Shrine, Sheba Temple, Solomon Temple, Jupiter Temple, Venus Temple, Apollo Temple.
To the ancients, the temple is the place where mortals may encounter the absolute sublime. It is not unfitting that we populate the Grand Canyon with a multiplicity of them.
Route 66, Redux
I have not seen the historic Route 66 more celebrated on this trip than in Williams, AZ. While the fabled highway barely prevails from being utterly run-down in Albuquerque, in Williams, the townsfolk have managed to spin it into a central point of interest that attracts tourist dollars. This is where I coughed it up to get my token coffee mug and faux highway marker. It certainly helps that Williams is known as the last town whose segment of Route 66 was bypassed; the townsfolk managed to arm-wrestle the Federal government for three exits into the town from the new I-40 (source: Wikipedia). The rail service to the Grand Canyon also starts at Williams, making it a key jump-off point to visit the national park. Pine Country Restaurant served hearty home-style dinner to these travel-weary folk–just what was called for after a day’s worth of walking around the Canyon’s Southern Rim.