This is the story of Day Two of the Grand Road Trip. Today’s itinerary included seeing the London Bridge, taking a detour along Route 66, and arriving in the town of Williams by nightfall. After yesterday, by far the longest leg of the journey, we were pretty sure it would be smooth sailing.
The first stop of the day was to the breakfast buffet. It was a little disappointing after the the downhomey stick-to-your-ribsiness of yesterday’s breakfast. Why, I even forgot to stop for lunch yesterday. But, the buffet was complimentary, so I can’t argue much.
After that, we ventured out into the unrelenting desert sun for a glimpse of the London Bridge.
I found it to be an interesting sight, though my usual accomplice seemed a bit disappointed. It seemed that he remembered the English-themed tourist trap surrounding the bridge as being a bit more grand. It was true, a number of the village’s shops appeared to be vacant. One even bore a note that it would be closed for the summer. I suppose that’s just the economy at work.
After driving across the bridge once or twice, we set out on the day’s journey. We would travel north to the city of Kingman, but rather than taking Highway 40 directly to Williams from there, we would instead detour along a section of old Route 66. I was soon glad that we did. Not necessarily from any sense of history, but mainly for the fact that this road was fairly empty. I did not have to worry (often) about some impatient jerk getting upset with my (completely reasonable) speed of travel. As the road climbed in altitude, the terrain became less of a desert and more of a grassland. As the shadows of the handful of clouds in the sky passed over the plains, I began to realize the attraction that this land could have for people.
Unfortunately, there weren’t an awful lot of places to stop along this stretch of the highway. We did stop, briefly, in Peach Springs. This gave one of us the opportunity to misplace his sunglasses somewhere along the way. After an unsuccessful bit of searching, we drove off in a sulky huff. Fortunately, the funk didn’t last too long. We spotted a sign at the side of the road for the Grand Canyon Caverns. Could this truly be an opportunity to go spelunking? There was only one way to find out.
At the end of a long gravel road lay what looked like a diner guarded by a plaster dinosaur. The hostess, also, was a mannequin, and so couldn’t answer any questions. We did spot a few people milling around in the gift shop, and that was where we discovered that there was indeed an underground cavern system, and that we could take a guided tour in fifteen minutes. After riding an elevator two hundred feet into the ground, we entered into a huge chamber, crusted in places with fine white crystals.
The structure in the center of the chamber is a hotel suite for the exceptionally adventurous. But I don’t think it’s quite right for someone like me. Yes, the tour guide assured us that nothing lived, or for that matter, could live in the caverns (for long,) due to the incredibly low humidity. He also told us that the caverns were utterly dark and silent after the lights go out. It sounds perfectly safe and relaxing, right? Well, I can assure you that some part of my brain would insist to the other parts that something else was creeping around down in the deep unexplored tunnels. “Well, I suppose it’s possible,” the other parts of the brain would murmur. “We’ll be eaten by a nameless horror from below!” the first part of the brain would cry. And the night would end with my fleeing the elevator building in my underpants, only to be eaten by a pack of wolves. Or crocodiles. Or something.
Anyway, the cavern was a magnificent unplanned diversion and just the sort of thing we’d hoped to run across. We continued on, and finally arrived in the legendary town of Williams. (Well, it seemed legendary by that point.) Because of the altitude, the surrounding hills were covered with pine trees, and the weather was cool and pleasant. With the sun sinking into the mountains, it reminded me a bit of Tahoe. We were pleased to discover that tonight’s hotel was a bit nicer than the previous one, and that the hotel’s restaurant was quite a bit nicer than the previous one. I ordered a simple chicken-fried-chicken, expecting no more than a processed patty topped with gravy from powder. However, it was a true chicken fillet, breaded and fried.
Did we learn anything today? Yes, as trite as it sounds, sometimes you should go off the beaten path to smell the roses.