During that downtime, I reflected on my previous trip here. It was a stop on my trip to California, where I would board a cargo ship bound for New Zealand. I was with two of my best friends and my wife. Interestingly, the hotel I stayed at in 2009 is right next door to the one I'm in now, so it was really easy to put myself back there. I've changed a lot since then. I've been single for nearly three years now, my father and all of my grandparents are gone, and I work in a job that's similar to the one I left back then, vowing never to return to. But the changes are not all losses; I've gained friends, a greater sense of self, a wonderful appreciation for my home town, and my skill as a photographer has increased. My previous two-week road trip to California has less than 120 pictures to catalogue that journey; not counting today, my one-week trip now has over 540.
I've also learned to let more things go and enjoy the journey, rather than the destination. On our way to the Ramada last night, we missed a turn onto I-40 here in Flagstaff. By this fortuitous error, I found myself driving on Route 66, which cuts right through the heart of Flagstaff. That happy accident lead to my plans for the day before going out to the canyon; seeing Flagstaff's contribution to old Route 66 culture. DeeDee and I walked through the old downtown district and drove up and down the Mother Road, seeing old motels and diners along the way. Once we left town for the canyon, I was met with ANOTHER wonderful surprise: Route 66 continued on to Williams, AZ and they REALLY held onto their roadside heritage. Considering how important Route 66 is to Tulsa, it was wonderful to see another town that made 66 into a big deal. I wish I'd have been hungry so I could've eaten at one of their many retro diners.
Even though I'd seen the Grand Canyon before, it was no less awesome. The human mind cannot comprehend the depth of the canyon at first glance; it looks like a painting or a trick of the light. But it isn't; with time and attention, you begin to truly see the layers of rock, the distance between the rise and fall of the chasm, and you cannot help but be amazed. Like last time, I felt panicky when I or anyone near me got close to the ledge...and EVERYONE seems to think it's a GREAT idea to hop the little stone barrier (or go to one of the many places where there is no barrier or guard rail) and get close to the drop-off for pictures. I can't even think about it now without my stomach clenching. I just have to walk away and not think about it. Even so, I was able to get closer to the edge this time without going bananas. At one point, a nice couple asked if I could take their picture. Of course, I said yes and made sure their photo was to their liking. "Where are you from?" I asked. "We are from Rome, Italy." I excitedly told them how much I enjoyed their city, and they asked where I was from. When I said Oklahoma, they remarked, "Ah, a local!" Even though I don't consider fifteen hours away 'local' I suppose it's all a matter of perspective.
We headed back to Flagstaff by taking the scenic route through the San Francisco Peaks. It was a lovely drive through the Coconino National Forest and we didn't run into much other traffic. The clouds in the distance remained menacing, though, and once we made it back to town they unloaded once more, bringing localized street flooding, lightning, and more high winds. It was the first day that any kind of rough weather showed up, and I am thankful that in spite of that the day went well. Tomorrow brings a long road day, driving from Flagstaff to Amarillo, and Sunday brings me back to Tulsa. Although I don't expect anything nearly as exciting on the last few days, I do have a few stops that I'm eager to experience and share.