The Grand Canyon (Travels with a Biro)
I didn’t even try to sketch the Grand Canyon. This is partly because it was cold, partly because I didn’t have my sketch pad, but mostly because I felt my mediocre little sketches would only insult it.
There is already a huge amount written about the Grand Canyon, so I won’t go in to that. We drove up from Las Vegas (Las Vegas is so awful, so dreadful, so utterly UTTERLY GHASTLY, that everybody should go if only to see how horrid it is) across the Nevada desert from Los Angeles. Little dust tornadoes rose up around in the flat yellow landscape around us. What on the map looked like a quick hop over the desert turned out to be an all-day drive. We stopped for petrol (they call it gas) and bought a couple of country-and-western CDs which we played over and again, and pretended to be country-and-western singers, which would explain why most of the plant life around us was dead.
Las Vegas rose up off the horizon like a huge glittery dame. The word vegas means meadows in English, but there is nothing meadow about the place. It is mile upon mile of dust and desert with a noisy, bright, shining and all-American town plonked in the middle of it.
It is, however, a must-see, and we spent some five days there and then set off for the Grand Canyon.
Being a pair of twits, we didn’t have a good map. The hotel had given us a little leaflet-thing with a map on it, showing just the one road there and back. We drove steadily for a few hours, and the Nevada desert fell away from us as the road climbed, and woodlands appeared, and trees – wonderful, wonderful trees. It was autumn, November, and the colours were extraordinary – yellows and golds and red, great sways of heart-wrenching colour splattered up there against the blue blue sky.
The road wound on and on, very quiet, almost nobody about. At last a few signs – Grand Canyon straight on. Well, there was only the one road. We were getting tired and looking forward to the hotel, booked while we were in France, with its views out over the Canyon and a good restaurant awaiting.
When we finally arrived, however, the hotel was closed.
What d’you mean closed ?! It is closed all winter, assured a local man walking his dog. Opens again in the spring. Exhausted, and feeling totally fed-up, we showed the man our reservation. Ah no, he said , the hotel you want it that one over there – and he pointed in to the distance where we could just make out what might be a building – on the other side of the canyon. About five hours’ drive.
So, all we could do was turn around and go to a hotel we had spotted about half an hour’s drive back. I have to say it was one of the most lovely places I have ever been. It was very simple, just log cabins furnished with a few very basic bits, and little paths through the trees to the main building which housed a small bar and a restaurant. Huge log fires burned at either end of the room and, as we sat down with our drinks, snow started to fall, white flecks of chill against the rapidly-darkening panes. It was so lovely.
We sat at our table and ordered food. Three or four other tables were occupied. People complain that the Americans eat junk food, but this has never been our experience and we have always eaten well – if too copiously. After a while I heard vehicles pulling up outside. Glancing out of the window behind me I saw five or six 4-wheel drives pull in, and out hopped some twelve or so big American men.
Each man was the epitome of the all-American American. I know, because I looked. Tall, good-looking, strong, jeans, cowboy hats, long confident strides from the vehicle to the bar.
They sat down around the bar, clearly familiar with the place, and clearly having just finished work. Pictures of horses and cattle ranchers flit through my mind. Images of sweaty muscle and hard jaw-lines and spurs and lassoes. Thoughts of long-legged swaggers, saloons, hard-hitting unshaven tough guys. Pictures of cowboy movies and glasses of whisky being slid along the bar ….
“What’re y’all drinking?” asked the bar man.
And do you know what ? They all drank milk.
Catherine Broughton is a novelist, a poet and an artist. Her books are available on Amazon and Kindle or can be ordered from most leading book stores and libraries. More about Catherine Broughton on http://www.turquoisemoon.co.uk
Click below for “Saying Nothing”, a novel set in Spain:-