Then In 1976, after dropping off Lori and Dori in Phoenix, we made our way to Tucson, where we spent most of the week. I showed Steve around town, seeing where I used to live, the two houses, the two high schools I attended, and seeing some of the tourist places around town, such as The Arizona Sonora Desert Museum and Old Tucson. The Desert Museum is more like a zoo than a museum, with a collection of everything from the desert that lives, both animals and flora.
Old Tucson is an active Hollywood-type set that looks like an old west town where western movies and television shows are filmed. Even today shows, sit-coms, and movies are filmed there, even non-western, because there is a large soundstage there.
During the few days we were there, we made a trek to the Mexican border at Nogales. We walked over into Mexico and did a little shopping, giving Steve a little flavor of how things are in the shops south of the border.
We also spent two nights at the Greyhound track. After spending about two hours each afternoon at a Denny's drinking coffee and pouring over the racing form, we managed to clear each around $200 each night, which was a lot of money back then, enough to pay for our entire trip.
After filling the remaining space of our trunk with Coor's beer, forbidden in the state of Missouri, we headed north to Phoenix to get the girls and to see the Grand Canyon. Having lived in Arizona for three years, I had seen the Canyon several times. Steve had seen it the one and only time he had been to Arizona and the girls had never seen it.
Our plan was simple. We were limited on time. We were to spend one night at the Canyon, then Steve and I were going to get up before sunrise. I was to give the keys to the car to the girls so they could explore and shop at their leisure, while Steve and I would hike the Bright Angel Trail from the south rim, all the way to the famous Phantom Ranch, at the bottom of the Canyon, a 9.2 mile hike, and then hike back out in the same day. The 18 and a half mile trek is highly discouraged today as dangerous, but back in our day nothing was said.
We left very early in the morning, with hardly any light, dressed in blue jeans, a light shirt, a light jacket, me in tennis shoes and socks, and Steve in socks and hiking boots. We both carried a canteen of water and I carried a camera. That's it. No snacks. No extra water. We knew along the way there were places we could refill our canteens with fresh water.
Off we went. The views were spectacular, especially when the sun began to rise. I snapped off picture after picture. These were the days when cameras were filled with something called film. I had I think three rolls on me that day and I used them all on that walk. As I recall, we made it down in about three hours time, not surprising, since it was all downhill. Remember, it was March, the elevation at the top was over 7,000 feet, so it was cool. As we walked, it became warmer. When we reached the bottom, the temp became 75 and it was only mid-morning.
We had no time to waste. We had to get moving back up. It was the same 9.2 miles back up but it was all uphill and over half of it would be dreaded switch-backs. Brutal walking. We refilled our canteens and had a Coors beer and a bag of M&M's. That's it. Hey, we were 20.
After thirty minutes at the bottom, off we went again. We crossed back over the pedestrian bridge, perched over the Colorado River. We walked along its edge, on the Bright Angel Trail, before it made its turn up and away from the river. Before we left the river, I did one, last stupid thing that would cost me dearly. I was curious as to how cold the water was so I walked over and then walked in the water. Yep, I did it. I walked around in the river up to my ankles. Both feet. Both tennis shoes and socks were soaked. Steve didn't see me do it.
Off we went. Long story short, it takes two to three times as long to go up as it does to go down. As the day went on, a weather system moved in and it was snowing at the top. As we went up, it got colder and colder. Hypothermia set in, starting with my feet. I started to get very tired. The further we went, the more I needed to stop. Steve couldn't figure out what was wrong with me. I became incoherent. He kept pushing me, but I kept needing to stop. With about a half mile to go, he made the decision to leave me and go after help. He got the girls, some food, the car, and tried to find a Ranger. When they got to the trailhead, I was walking out.
They got me in the back of the car and off we went. They got food in me and I feel asleep as Steve drove. I ended up with frostbite on two toes on my left foot. I also was to be an usher for my cousin's wedding in Illinois. I made it, but never made the rehearsal. The people I escorted down the aisle actually escorted me. What a trip!
Now We spent just a day and a half in Tucson this trip. We made a trip to the Desert Museum, but spent most of our times just relaxing and driving around and watching sunsets. If you like Mexican food, there is no where better than in Tucson and we had some fantastic meals while there.
The next destination for us...The Grand Canyon. I had taken Lana there before, but we had been there briefly, basically walking up to the edge and looking over and going, "oh and ah". This trip was to be different. Steve had reservations for two cabins at the Park and we would be there for two full days.
We went to the far eastern edge of the Park to see the famous Watchtower. We went to a local grocery store so we could have a picnic lunch near the edge of the Canyon. We sampled the fine restaurants the Park has to offer. We also got up to see the sun rise, which is one of my favorite things to ever witness in my life. This was the first time Lana had ever seen the sunrise at the Canyon. The only thing we did not do was take that hike again on the Bright Angel Trail. What we did do was to take our spouses down the trail a couple hundred yards to give them a feel for how it was. Lana has knee problems, so she wanted no more than that distance.
Once we wrapped up our time there, we meandered toward Steve and Janet's house in Phoenix by driving through the beautiful town of Sedona and visiting three wineries. Yes, Arizona has grapes.
We wrapped up our great trip by eating cookies at their house, relaxing by their pool, before flying back to St. Louis and our waiting car. We would like to thank Steve and Janet sincerely for this fantastic road trip. There are not too many people you can make a trip like this with for this much time without taking a crowbar to someone's head, but I have known these two people for over forty years. I trust them with my heart and life. We had a blast and we love them. Thanks guys.
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