Wednesday, September 1, 2021 (continued)
We all met for breakfast in front of the hotel coffeeshop at 6:45. It opened promptly at 7:00. Everyone seemed desperate for coffee. I know we were. What kind of resort hotel doesn’t offer coffee in your room? Even a Comfort Inn will offer coffee.
The coffeeshop had a separate area set up for our group – mostly with tables of four. We ended up sitting with a couple from California. Nice people. Al wanted to leave by 8:00 so we didn’t linger at breakfast. Had to get back to the room to get our backpacks and then get to the bus. The bellmen had already picked up our big luggage to take to the bus.
This first day we were told just to pick our seats on the bus. The rest of the trip, Al will rotate the seating so that by the end of the trip everyone will be in the front, middle, and back on each side of the bus at least one time. The seats are kind of cramped. Not as nice as the bus we took in Alaska from Fairbanks to Denali. I had to really shove the backpacks into the overhead bins. We kept out our airplane neck pillows and water bottles. Each seat has an electric plug for charging cellphones, laptops, etc. The driver told us the WIFI was the bus number – no password. I am not a fan of open WIFI so I will activate my VPN anytime I use the WIFI. I will probably just use my data plan since it is unlimited, and I won’t be fighting 37 other people for WIFI.
We did pretty good on leaving time. Al took everyone’s temperature and gave us a squirt of hand sanitizer before we boarded. By the time everyone got on and situated, we pulled out of the parking lot at 8:05. If everyone is this prompt all the time, it will be a good group.
Al immediately started talking and describing some of the sights that we were seeing on the way out of Vegas. I appreciated everyone being quiet as he talked because with his mask, his voice is a little muffled. The sound system is working well in the middle of the bus. Hope it works as well when we end up in the back. He did say that this bus is not the normal one. Wade’s usual bus is in the shop and will meet up with us in the next few days. It will have a little more leg room. But, for now, the bus is not bad. The seats recline some, the middle arm rest pushes back, and the neck pillows are good for resting our head or placing behind our backs for more support.
I will never be able to keep up with all the information Al is giving us at the rate he is talking. I managed to jot down a few of the interesting facts –We see a lot of dark clouds but so far, no rain but Al says it is raining – “virga” – rain that dissipates before hitting ground. Zero-scaping – landscape with no grass – only rocks and low maintenance plants. You can ski at Sunrise Mountain near Vegas in January for about 3 to 4 weeks. If you miss that window of opportunity, you must drive 3 to 4 hours away. Hoover Dam was built for flood mitigation because the Colorado River was flooding crops and orchards. Today, Lake Mead at Hoover Dam is way down due to the drought. Don’t be fooled by the dry riverbeds. When it rains hard, the ground can’t soak it up so those riverbeds will flash flood. People who hike using the riverbeds better be aware of any weather advisories because they won’t hear the flash flood until it is too late. They won’t die of drowning but will die of blunt force trauma from being swept into tree trunks and rocks. If we hike any trails at Grand Canyon remember for every minute going down, give yourself 2 minutes to come up. There are no guard rails. High altitudes will acerbate dehydration. Red dirt signifies iron, black – magnesium. Vegetation will change at the different elevations. And, oh, by the way, the Rio has the best buffet in Vegas. Whew – all this before the rest stop at 10:00.
So, I just kind of assumed that rest stops (bathroom breaks) would be at travel truck stops (think Flying J or Pilot Travel Centers). Not this one. We stopped in a big parking lot in front of a Walmart Supercenter in Kingman, Arizona. And we weren’t the only tour bus. I guess this sight is common for this Walmart because the people whom I assume were locals (dressed the same as the locals at our Walmart), seemed unphased at 40+ people descending on the bathrooms with one of the Walmart assistant managers (I guess drew the short stick) directing some people to the back of the store to those bathrooms. As usual, the men breezed in and out while the women stayed in line and fidgeted. Everyone in the group kept their masks on, but there was no social distancing as we were anxious to get in the bathroom, and we wanted no cuts. The lucky first in line (or the men) got to shop for anything they may have forgotten or snacks, etc. before re-boarding the bus.
Why didn’t we just use the bathroom on the bus? Al and Wade made it abundantly clear that every day we would be stopping, usually about every 90 minutes or so, and that the bus bathroom was for extreme emergencies (think stand up and you may pee your pants emergencies). Okay.
Wow! People really stocked up on the snacks. Geez. Are we not going to get 3 meals a day? They bought bags full of stuff like we are going to be left on the side of the road. What am I missing? I know most of these people are experienced Globus travelers, so I am worried they know something I don’t. We didn’t buy anything.
As we head down the road, Al announces “pronghorn antelopes on the right.” Didn’t see them. Not a good start to my wildlife spotting.
About 90 minutes later, we stopped for lunch in Williams, AZ situated on the famous Route 66. Cute town with a lot of old-fashioned brick buildings. Al calls this a “scatter lunch.” We will stop in a designated area. He will give us some information on the restaurants around there if he has eaten at them before, and then we “scatter” to find a place to eat. Or, we don’t have to eat at all and can shop, walk around, sit on a bench, etc. We have a time to reboard the bus. They will wait 15 minutes after that time and then they will have to leave. Set your watches – Go!
Al is confident that we will have the town to ourselves as he knows of no other tour company scheduled for this time, in this town, on this particular day. He was SO wrong. We round the corner to the bus parking area and see some school buses that are starting to discharge their – OMG – eating machines. I mean, discharging teenagers. Three full busses of teenagers. Why aren’t they in school? They are swarming all the restaurants on this little block, and they are moving way faster than our busload of Boomers can.
Chuck and I put our aerobic exercises to the test and head straight for the Pine Country Diner – known (according to Al) for their outstanding desserts. Teenagers are no match for my love of desserts. I hurdle right past them as they stand around saying “do you want to eat here, I dunno, do you want to eat here? – I know I want to eat here so I’m now at the front of the line), and we get a nice booth big enough for 4 people. The California couple from breakfast see us in the diner and ask to join us as there are no more tables left. Glad to share. Chuck and I split a chicken-fried steak sandwich, but I want my own piece of carrot cake. As their menu states, they always bring dessert first. Respecting their tradition, I eat my huge slice of carrot cake right away. When they bring the sandwich, I’m fine with Chuck getting three-fourths of it.
We have time to walk around before the all-aboard time so I can take some pictures. Crap, it is starting to sprinkle. No worries, we will just put on our rain jackets. Nope – they are in our backpacks – on the bus – which is locked – because the driver is eating lunch at one of the restaurants. Duh. We stand under an awning until it begins to rain a little harder. To escape the now deluge, we will just go across the street to the Visitor Center and look around until time to board. I know the rain will let up by then as the skies look a little clearer in the distance. It’s a nice center with clean bathrooms. I take a picture with Chuck and Smokey. Read the plaques. Notice people are making their way back to the bus. It is raining harder – flash flood harder. We will have to make a run for it.
I have my DSLR camera around my neck. It is fairly new. I don’t want it ruined by the rain. I would put the rain cover on it that I bought especially for a situation like this one. But it is with my rain jacket – on the dang bus. I take the camera off from around my neck and stick it up under my shirt and hold it tight against me. My stomach is showing, and I am hunched over like Quasimodo to protect this camera. Time to make the quick mad dash across the street to the bus.
Wait. Where did all this traffic come from all of a sudden? They are not stopping to let us cross the stupid street. Car after car. Nobody will stop. Then, Chuck, who is more daring, makes it across first. By the time I get to the bus my hair is wet. My mask is wet. My shoes are wet. The bottom and backside of my jeans are wet. The back of my shirt is wet. But my camera is dry, so yay! Wade grins at me but wisely says nothing about the state that I am in since I have a “I’m not happy” look on my face.
I plop down in my seat which will now be wet because of my wet jeans. I just want to get to the Grand Canyon. It better be as good as I remember.