I pick up Route 66 in Kingman and ride it all the way until it curves around Seligman and runs back into I-40. The road is empty and smooth, with little traffic and even less along the roadside. As I travel this route, riding into the rising sun, Iím thinking to myself how adventurous it must have been for people to drive cross-country back in those days. I pass two Harley riders, out enjoying this quiet morning like myself, on this mother of all roads. This road will never die. It will live forever in the collective hearts and minds of America.
Itís cold as I head east this morning, and Iím wishing I had put on the heated vest. But I donít want to stop and it will be warm soon enough. I hit the road early today so I could get to the Grand Canyon by late morning, spend a few hours there, and then head south again to collect three more stamps. Thatís my plan anyway.
The Grand Canyon National Park gets five million visitors per year, almost like a Mecca for Americans. I mean, you have to come here at least once in your lifetime. And because of the parkís popularity the entrance station looks like a tollbooth. Thereís an express lane for pass holders, like the Golden Eagle pass thatís saved me a fortune on this trip. The admission charge here is $20 per vehicle if you donít hold a pass. There are so many visitors to the park that by the end of next year vehicular travel to the Grand Canyon Village and the West Rim Drive will be eliminated. Youíll park back near the entrance and a shuttle bus or light rail system will take you to the rim. The traffic is light on this crisp fall day, but during the summer months the place looks like Madison Avenue during rush hour.
I reach the first overlook, Mather Point, and get off the bike. The view is like nothing else Iíve every experienced. The sheer size of the landscape is startling. Iíve seen the Grand Canyon from the air a few times, but being here along the canyon rim is another experience all together. For millions of years the Colorado River has been carving through billion year old rock. The result is the greatest example of erosion anywhere in the world. In places the canyon is one mile deep and 18 miles across. The 1.7 billion-year-old rock lining the canyon walls is layered in every possible color of stone, from pink and brown sandstone to gray and green granite.
The Rim Drive takes me along southern the edge of the canyon with many overlooks along the way. I stop at Hopi Point and then Pima Point, a little further on. You could just sit here all day and enjoy the view, especially today when the visibility is more than 100 miles. I head east towards Desert View, where an ancient Watchtower guards the southeast corner of the canyon. Most of the overlooks are well designed with railings and viewing platforms, providing a safe means to stand right on the edge. But, believe it or not, every year people actually fall into the canyon. Last year, a fairly typical year, six people fell over the edge. Two lived to tell about it.
At 1:30 PM, I leave the Grand Canyon behind and head east and then south towards the Coconino National Forest and the Wupatki National Monument. This monument preserves the ruins of red sandstone pueblos built around 1065 by farming Sinagua and Anasazi people. Archeologists are certain of the date because it coincides with a volcanic eruption in the area, at Sunset Crater Volcano, just to the south. In the winter of 1064, molten rock sprayed high into the air out of a crack in the ground, and periodic eruptions over the next 200 years formed a 1,000-foot high cinder cone. Lava flows around the volcano have created a hash, barren landscape of pumice and black rock. The Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument protects the area.
Some of the early scenes in Easy Rider were filmed here. Captain America (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper) are riding on what is now the Loop Road when they pick up the Stranger (Luke Askew). They camp out on the ruins of the Wupatki National Monument. "Where ya from man?" ask Billy. "It's hard to say," replies the Stranger. "Where ya from man?" Billy asks again. "It's hard to say, because it's a very long word, ya know?" answers the Stranger.
A little further on south, just outside Flagstaff, is the Walnut Canyon National Monument. I arrive just before they close for the evening and get my fourth and final stamp of the day. Cliff dwellings used by Pueblo Indians between 1100 and 1250 are preservered here. Using existing limestone alcoves in the canyon, the Indians built shelters by adding walls into the shallow caves. Their departure around 1250 is a mystery, but scientists today believe the Hopi Indians are descendants of the Sinagua people who lived here.
The 100 DAYS 48 STATES web site has just undergone its first major redesign. And itís only been up for two days! So check out my hard work at www.danielcohen.org. You can see photos, maps, and plenty of pages that arenít finished yet. Enjoy!
But the beginning and end of everyday is made up of things I do over and over again, my daily grind so to speak. Thereís a whole load of things I just have to do to be able to keep going. Itís sort of like your daily commute. So hereís a list of the things I do everyday, the monotony that breaks up the marvel:
Clean the bugs and dust
off the motorcycle.
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