April 19, 2011: I brought along two CDs to act as the musical accompaniment for this trip. The first one that I want to talk about is the one that I listened to during the early hours in the hotel room. It is called "Tales from Topographic Oceans" by Yes; a double album featuring four songs (each about 20 minutes in length) dealing with the concepts of Truth, Knowledge, Culture, and Freedom. It is a very challenging and spiritual album and surely not intended for casual listening. I thought it to be a great way to pass time in the mornings. As a result of the three hour time difference from NY, I was wide awake and ready to start every day at 1:00AM. With nothing else to do, I opted to lay in bed with my headphones on, relax as best I could, and listen to what is perhaps Yes' most intense album. It was perfect. If you should ever get to listen to this album, check out Steve Howe's acoustic guitar work on the third track "The Ancient/Giants Under the Sun." Utterly amazing!
At around 5:00, I would hear the nearby Grand Canyon Railroad blow its whistle and I knew that the day was dawning and life would soon be stirring. Conveniently, most of the area attractions open at 8:00am and with many hour-long drives to get to these sights, I made a point of being out of the hotel early each morning. Which brings me to the second album that I took along for the trip; the one that made its home in the CD player of the rental car: Michael Buble's "Crazy Love - Hollywood Edition." It is a fun album and the bubbly songs and silky vocals provided a great soundtrack for travel on the empty roads of Arizona. Standout tracks for me are the hit singles "Hollywood" and "Haven't Met You Yet," as well as a live cover version of the Eagles' "Heartache Tonight."
So, with Buble on the radio and a few bottles of water tucked into the car's cup holders, I headed up Hwy 64 to spend the day at the most recognizable of all Arizona landmarks: The Grand Canyon. After parking the car in an already half-full lot, I walked over the the Visitor Center to talk to one of the park rangers and get my bearings on the lay of the land. Then, it was only a 5-minute hike to the canyon rim. I was very excited when I saw the metal hand-rails come into view at the end of the path. With my heart thundering in my chest, I stepped up the edge and looked out...
There are moments in life when words will simply fail to capture the magnificence of a place and this is clearly one of those times. When my eyes were finally able to grasp the scope of the Grand Canyon, my mouth dropped open and all I could do was stare in awe. In front of me stretched out a magical landscape--rock layers representing every color of the spectrum, immense cliff faces creating the most bizarre shapes, plant life, animal life, stunning vistas of geological formations and erosion. I looked down and the canyon reached 7,000 feet below me with the Colorado River appearing as a tiny teal line at the floor. I looked into the distance and the scenery spanned as far as I could see before vanishing into the hazy horizon. In every direction, my eyes found another amazing postcard view. It was completely overwhelming to the senses. I chuckled when a nearby child asked his mother, "Is that a painting?" Indeed, this is a work of art that only God could create. Another man who had stepped up to the rim at the same time as me summed it up with one simple phrase: "This will be an impossible act to follow."
For the rest of the morning, I followed the road that took me along the edge of the South Rim, stopping often at the many overlook points. The road ends at a place called Desert View which boasts a familiar sight called the Watchtower. Built in 1932, this observation station rises 70 feet above the ground and features a spiral staircase and many windows that face all points of the horizon. The interior is adorned with many Hopi pictographs and artifacts. It also has a gift shop that sells local pottery and art. It was a really cool place for me to take my last views of the canyon.
After leaving the Grand Canyon National Park and having a light lunch, I set off again on Hwy 64 to visit the Planes of Fame Air Museum. It is a place that offers a glimpse into aviation history showcasing many vintage and rare aircraft that have been carefully restored and preserved. The amazing thing is that most of these machines are still air-worthy and flown on a regular basis.
The last place that I visited on Day 2 of my trip was a wildlife park called Bearizona. The park offers a drive through 160 acres of ponderosa pine forest where patrons will come up close and personal with a variety of North American animals: Big Horn Sheep, Black Bears, White Bison, American Burro, Wolves, and many more. At the time of my visit, the animals were very active and readily seen. It proved to be a wonderful way to end my second day of Arizona adventures. The best part was that I got to enjoy it all from the comfort and safety of the car. :)