In this episode of people-who-don’t-drive-themselves-anywhere, we travel ten hours by bus through the desert and back to visit the Grand Canyon. Warning: this story may or may not contain poop.
At something like 6:30am, we were picked up from the still smoky, still bright and dinging casino lobby of our Vegas hotel and driven out to a parking lot to meet our boisterous coach driver, Walter. As we boarded, he offered us a package of snacks: sandwiches, cookies, other carb-loaded American goods. We chose seats and settled, and I proceeded to use the restroom at the back of the bus just as Walter came over the PA asking us to please not use the restroom at the back of the bus. That’s when I knew it was going to be a very smooth trip. We left Vegas, driving through the purple morning light I’d become obsessed with, and set off toward the Hoover Dam.
Walter lives in Vegas, and knows lots of interesting facts about gambling strategies and Vegas real-estate. Also about Lake Mead’s water crisis, and the declining Colorado river. He also does a good job at generating a sense of thrill over criss-crossing state lines. And for a girl from Canada, there’s practically no second of this five hour bus ride through the mesmeric Mojave, Springsteen in my earbuds and 1985 national park video on the shitty bus TV screen, that I’m not enjoying.
We stop in Seligman, AZ off route 66 where some other coach busses are also unloading and join the herds lined up to use the toilets in an historic sundries shops. Then sit at a picnic table and eat the food provided to us earlier that day.
Not long after Seligman, we finally reach the South Rim. I am so giddy. I’d been dreaming of the Grand Canyon for a long, long time, and so today was a real big deal. We were given the option to de-board and walk the trail independently, meeting up with the group later, or sticking together and getting driven from point to point. Obviously, we had just spent five hours with Walter, so we got off the bus. In a dream scenario we would have stayed many days at the canyon, hiked many trails, seen many purple sunrises. At least we could enjoy a few hours taking in the canyon on our own.
And then. You know when you’re really, really anticipating a moment you know is going to be one of those moments, when you’re about to see something so awesome it makes you lose all words, all perspective, and shrinks you back down into the single subatomic particle floating through the universe that you truly are? And then you have to use the toilet? Like, immediately?
Unfortunately, my first trip to the Grand Canyon was pre-discovery of my super annoying, super dumb gluten allergy, and in this specific moment, all those Vegas breads were hitting all the wrong spots of my small intestine. At the time, I was quite used to the gross and painful interruption of very important moments, but still. Cutting this one short to use the outhouse and then struggling to keep it together for the rest of our time walking the South Rim trail will forever remain part of the special memory that is set as my desktop background to this day. But, withal, all that subatomic particle stuff. It definitely made up for my weak gut.
So now, this is the part of the story where I get to tell you that the South Rim trail is more straightforward than most city streets. It goes one way, around a big hole. If you’re walking in one direction to a point further down (which we were), you should not get lost on this trail. That being said, if you see signs pointing you in contradictory directions, don’t panic. Follow the sensible sense of direction that I’m telling you now, is all you need. Especially if you are supposed to be meeting back up with your bus at a specific time, and were warned many times before de-boarding said bus that Walter would not be waiting for stragglers when it came to making the five hour return trip back to Vegas. And, especially especially, not when every lodge is sold out half a year in advance, and the only other option is a $700.00 helicopter ride. Basically, don’t mess up what a toddler couldn’t even mess up.
But if you do mess up, and you do find you’ve been backtracking, and your bus is leaving in less than twenty minutes, run straight through the woods and start looking for the nearest Park Rangers Headquarters. And still, try not to panic, because stress isn’t going to help your bowel situation. When you find the park rangers, they will use their landline to contact Walter (because your cellphone has no bars, of course), on the cell number he provided you (even though he said not to use it, and that no one had ever needed to in all his years being the Grand Canyon tour bus driver) and direct him to your current location (which as it turned out, was just down the road).
Everyone clapped for us as we climbed the steps, boarded the bus, and walked the aisle to our seats. I couldn’t look Walter in the eye. I think I said something about taking the girl out of the city, but it doesn’t matter. We settled back in for the long drive to Vegas, and that’s the story we get. Rather than die of embarrassment, I closed my eyes and tried to focus on the Canyon, and the sheer insignificance of our tiny, molecular lives.