October 04, 2007 GMT
Ain't that Grand?

From my dismal experience of Tuba City it was a pleasure to get away, heading further west on the 160 for another ten miles. Route 89 provided a link to route 64, which followed the Grand Canyon east along the southern rim, then on down to Williams. And there the real manic, non-stop slog started! I rode hours along Interstate 40, halfway across Arizona and then the width of California. Every two hundred miles or so I'd stop, refuel the bike, have a drink, some food and a cigarette myself, then off again for another two hour jaunt. Mile crunching, only way to get them covered when you really want to. After the Grand Canyon I just wanted to get to Alasdair and Lauren's house, to be able to flop down, knowing tomorrow I won't repack the bike, neither will I even unpack tonight. Knowing where I'll be, that I won't be going anywhere tomorrow, that I can sleep as long as I like. Sounds like luxury to me! However bad the LA driving is, it was not going to detract from the pleasure of getting back to Ojai. And it was bad, as it always is, mental drivers with no thought for anyone else on the road. Thank god, I only skirted around the edges of the city, taking alternatives than using all the interstate connections. It only took me about 10 hrs riding to get back from Grand Canyon, I think its about 700-750 miles.

On the way to the Grand Canyon winds the Little Colorado River Gorge. LITTLE, pretty damned deep, if you ask me. Couldn't get close enough to see the bottom, the sides were prime, climb time. Not that anyone's allowed to indulge in such wanton pursuits, its protected reservation land. There could well be an arguement here for opening up more land, for the pursuit of happiness. So the climbing fraternity aren't deprived of further feats of prowess. I mean, isn't it about time there were new awesome endeavours to conquer, more rock to smear with chalk, amidst accusatons of degrading the rock by doing so. We need more places that are beyond the reach of reasonable medical aidwhere only the strong and foolhardy go, where rock gods can strut their stuff, expectant of a hero's welcome. There's always some lesser mortal, easliy impressed, to bow down, and lick their arses! But I digress!

The top picture is of the "Little" gorge, and yes, compared with it's big brother, its ain't so big. I wouldn't like to try jumping it mind you! It shows itself for miles, on and off, snaking along the desert floor. All the time I followed its course I was above it, never being privileged to enter the gorge and marvel at the multi-layered, sheer walls. So tempting; all the tracks wound alongside, but never got closer than a mile or so. Foolish I may be, but lazy with it; I was not about to walk a couple of miles, not in scorching desert sun, and bike gear!

Before getting my first glimpse of the king of Canyons the crowds put me off, but I didn't allow it to detract form the phenomenon. Not even the large number of Germans, thrashing Harleys up and down the car park for photos, were going to put me off. Once viewing over the rim I realised nothing could overcome the amazement, the sheer mind blowing immensity of it. Still I doubted this gargantua of nature, expecting it to be same, same, all along. No way! Each time I travelled along a bit and stopped my mouth was agape, A short walk round the rim continued to expose features not apparent, until that second, where do you even start to try and capture this by photography? And no, clicking furiously would do you no good what so ever. Surprisingly I was frugal with my snapping, me and the camera were way outclassed. A brave attempt was made to highlight the tiniest fraction of its awe, some longer views and some individual formations.

Going back to Tuba City! The ride in and the time there felt very strange to me. The Navajo have a widespread area for a reservaion, its an amazing jumble of exceptionally beautiful desert views. But "desert" is the operative word, no good to graze, no worthwhile agriculture; the only money coming in seems to be from tourism, and government handouts. There is a big cultural difference, as with many native americans, I felt it smacked of ingnorance, from a white man's point of view of course! My first stop was Kayenta, at a fuel station. I thought there must be something wrong with me, kept acknowledging people, only for them to ignore it. Actually made a point of saying hi to a few people, no response at all. I must admit, there isn't much reason for native americans to acknowledge a white interloper to their reservation. Its not as if, as a race, we've done them any favours.I found it a real shame though, so when a "local" did stop to talk I was delighted. We passed flippant, pointless, questions and answers between us , it wasn't in danger of becoming the most profound of conversations, then he asked if I could give him some money. Oh, dear! What a let down, so I do only represent a dollar sign. After all the miles, thousands of people and scenes I've passed and felt in touch with, it comes down to, "hey bud, spare some change". Is that really all there is to link older, more lasting cultures, to ours? Can I only ever be a money symbol to so many people? The women I meet working in service industries, like cafes and hotels, were friendly and efficient, those on the street and other customers made not attempt to exchange words, smiles or friendship. It made me feel like a worthless piece of shite! Someone I spoke to suggested verbal communication is not so important in the Navajo culture; the return of a family member, absent for some time, isn't likey to be greeted back into the house with a verbal dietribe, few words would be spoken until family members had got used to the "feel" of each other again.

Along the road, to and from the GC, can be seen many signs advertising Indian crafts, its common to see signs declaring, "friendly Indians". Obviously these are the ones who realise, to practice common aspects of our culture can be beneficial for them, even if it is only to get some money from the rich white man. I prefer putting it down to cultural differences, It allows me a more constructive world view, and stops me feeling a worthless shit. The truth rings true in both views, and won't the world be a better place to if we all hold the more enlightened view?

Posted by Leslie Kay at October 04, 2007 03:28 AM GMT

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