Thursday, July 2, 2009

Day 3: June 21, 2009

“The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from or where it is going; as is everyone who is born of the spirit…” John 3:8 (one of my new favorite bible verses thanks to Jenna Leppert)

A day of racing against the clock. So we are up and at em around 7:30 am and there is a lot to do and see today. The car ride thus far has been absolutely incredible, but I think we are starting to get the LA itch. We were going to stretch out the road trip over a 4 day period, but we’ve just decided to make it to Hermosa by tonight. We are on the road again and traveling about an hour to the Grand Canyon. We breeze through the entrance (thanks National Park Weekend!) and make our way toward our first stop, Yaki Point. If you’ve never been to the Canyon, you drive about 3 miles into the park on a 2 lane road surrounded by trees at about 30 miles an hour. Then, you turn a corner and suddenly the most incredible view of the canyon hits you smack in the face. They should really put up caution signs because I about ran off the road staring at it. We pulled over at a viewing area, snapped some pics and took it all in. Kristen and I were both speechless. We stood there for what seemed like several minutes in complete silence (probably the longest amount of elapsed time that we had gone without saying something to one another since leaving Memphis.) The only words spoken after that were pretty much OH…MY…GA…, SERIOUSLY?, or DO YOU SEE THAT? Absolutely magnificent. Describing what we saw is even harder than The Painted Desert description. I would say the pictures say it all, but they don’t. So you have to go see it for yourself, then we can talk about it.

After walking a little over a mile down a road that we thought was accessed only by a tour bus (we thought we were being so sneaky), we made it to Yaki Point. Kristen almost got attacked by a hawk with the wing span of literally 8 ft. She screamed. I laughed. We then learned from one of the tour bus drivers that anyone is allowed down the path, so decided to follow the rules and get on the tour bus. From there, we decided to hike Bright Angel Trail, the steepest trail in the park. So you know how yesterday I blogged about not planning anything and just going with the flow on all of our plans… well use that advice on all travel except when hiking the Grand Canyon. For anyone who plans to do this, bring sunscreen, more than one bottle of water, and some form of food for the trip. Also, commit several hours to leisurely walk the extremely rigorous hills. Oh yeah, and remember: getting down is always easier than getting back up. Make it easy on yourself and learn from our mistakes. We thought we were making a smart decision by only hiking 3 of the 9 miles to the bottom of the Canyon. As we slowly made our way down the trail, we saw some pretty interesting things: A 70 year old Chinese woman hiking in long sleeves, a cane, and white gloves, a man carrying a 32 liter jug of water down the trail in camo pants, and an off-duty park ranger similar to Emile Hirsch in “Into the Wild” who informed us that we had only traveled ¾ of a mile in a one hour time period. As we chatted with the ranger, we watched someone below us get airlifted by helicopter because of a heat stroke. This image did not sit well with Kristen or me. We convinced ourselves that we both had the early symptoms of a heat stroke and panicked. After walking a little further and realizing we only had half of a bottle of water left, we thought it would be a mature decision to make our way back to the top. We felt that we had gone far enough on the trail to not have to feel guilty if we told someone “we hiked the Grand Canyon.” And that’s what we did… just not the entire thing. My sister Lyndsey and a friend of hers hiked the entire trail down and then back up again in one day (16 miles). There is definitely a sign that warns you not to do that at the very beginning of the trail. She is a machine. Still, the parts of the trails that we did see were pretty incredible. A must before you die.

(Part of the trail we hiked)

“So remove grief and anger from your heart and put away pain from your body, because childhood and the prime of life are fleeting…” Ecclesiastes 11:10

From there we attempted to bike a trail but to a higher point in the canyon for some more photos, but Kristen had a flat tire. So things weren’t going our way as much today. We absorbed the views a little longer and got back on the road. Our next plan of action was Kristen’s goal: to make it in 4 hours to see the Joshua Trees and windmills along I-10 before sunset. We hit the road around 1:30 pm. We were on track to make it happen and before we knew it, crossing into CALIFORNIA!!!! It crept up on us pretty quick and suddenly we were crossing the Colorado River. (See video above. We are such losers. We know. Excuse our singing.)

Although there was desert all around us, this drive was pretty in awesome. I never pictured a desert to be so beautiful and mountainous. Up until this point, we were only seeing the landscape at a distance, but now we were weaving in, out and around all of these crazy rocky mountains. Playlist of the hour: Kings of Leon, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bruce Springsteen, My Morning Jacket, MGMT, and Jonas Brothers (duh.) There wasn’t a dull moment, until we a slight bump in the road in the middle of the Mojave Desert. We were about 50 miles outside of Joshua Tree, California, on a 2 lane highway and we got stuck behind a truck hauling some huge construction piece. It was moving at less than 20 miles an hour and was taking up 2 lanes. Because police were helping with the tow process, there was no way around it. The sun was definitely setting at a faster pace than our car was moving. Kristen attempted to blow past the law and risk it all to make it in time before sunset, but I was there to bring her brain back down to earth. We even tried to find an alternate route on the Garmin, but her only solution was an “unpaved road” that was literally a dirt road that shot out into the middle of the desert with no end in sight. No thank you. We had some good laughs sitting through this one, but eventually the road block pulled over. I don’t think I have seen a car pulling as much weight as mine move that fast before. We had to be quick to make it to Joshua Tree in time for at least one picture.

(the truck we got stuck behind)

(Colorado River)

For some reason, the Joshua Tree experience was something that had been built up the entire trip and I was so excited to actually see one. (Probably because I had absolutely not even the slightest idea what a Joshua Tree looked like.) But once again, we reigned supreme and made it happen. The mountains in the distance were making it a little more difficult to get sunlight, but there was just enough to snap some photos of the tiny little town infested with these awkward looking trees.

Next stop was about 45 minutes down the interstate where giant windmills covered acres and acres of land. (I know I keep repeating myself when I say “It was one of the most incredible things I have ever seen,” but it seriously is. And I think that’s because I’m realizing how little I have actually seen in my life.) It was so windy along this part of I-10 I thought for sure our car was going to tump over. But there were all different kinds of windmills, all strategically places in perfect rows all over the land around us. Pretty cool stuff. We could have turned around and driven back through it and we still probably wouldn’t have been able to see every one of them. By the end of the windmill adventure, night was creeping in and we were getting closer to Hermosa Beach.

The rumors are true. Traffic sucks in Los Angeles. There is no exaggerating the fact that it is always rush hour. We hit bumper to bumper traffic at about 10:30 on a Sunday night. Pretty humorous. Kristen’s blood pressure was a little higher than normal due to the fact that she couldn’t see out of any of the back windows, had 2 bikes on the back of the car, and passing cars were flying by us on a 6 lane interstate at no less than 75 miles an hour. Luckily, we survived the interstate and drove immediately down to the Hermosa Pier. We jumped out of the car, realized that a piece of chocolate from our Special K cereal had melted on my seat at some point during our desert drive, said screw it, and ran down the beach to the ocean. We had made it.

(melted Special K)

We then went to Willie’s, who was waiting up for our arrival. He even put a little flashlight out on the address number on the side of his house so we wouldn’t miss it:) He gave us a quick tour of the house, all designed by his former love, Sally. Her own paintings and trinkets from all of their travels from around the world fill the rustic, somewhat native themed home. Kristen and a slept in twin beds in the guest room just for the night. Then we will move out to the guest house. Can’t keep my eyes open… Welcome to our new home.

(Edward's booty vs. the woman in front of us in the Grand Canyon bus line.)

Day 3: Complete.

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