Not the computer versus human Turing Test, but the test of how well a guided tour goes. And one always takes a chance! For a trip such as the one we did yesterday to the Grand Canyon, you’re at the mercy of how good your guide is when you’re in a van with a driver for five hours of travel time round trip (pit stops included). A driver or your fellow passengers can make or break the experience.
So let’s get the negative out of the way quickly, and emphasize the positive. The company that we used, Great West Tours, recommended by the concierge at our Resort, needs a serious upgrade on their vehicles. The van was old with uncomfortable seats and a finicky heat/AC system that matched the poor quality and placement of the overhead video screen. But our driver/tour guide, David Davis (“Uncle Dave”) more than compensated for this with his knowledge and demeanor.
Uncle Dave navigated the tourist traps on the way to the Canyon nicely with timely stops while pointing out interesting tidbits including the kicks we got from traveling on Route 66.
The Grand Canyon viewing experience, about which I blogged yesterday, is majestic. History shows that in January 1908, President Teddy Roosevelt exercised his right to make more than 800,000 acres of the Grand Canyon area into a national monument. “Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is,” he declared. “You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is keep it for your children, your children’s children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.”
Uncle Dave gave accolades to Uncle Teddy as many times during the tour, and I couldn’t agree more. Each year more than 5 million people visit the Grand Canyon, with its floor accessible by foot, mule, or boat, but we were among those who choose to conserve our energies and simply indulged in the breathtaking views with short walks around the Canyon’s South Rim at 7,000 feet above sea level. Our home base was the historic El Tovar Hotel.
And I must say that as responsible as many of the tourists are, it still mystifies me that there are those who tempt their safety on the cliffs. The gusts of wind are much safer for the foliage that knows how to bend than it is for thrill-seeking humans.
But that is exactly the point for those who tempt fate, I suppose.
Personally I’ve become more of a fan of pensive poses and well-planned repose.
Although we prize the feeling of the earth beneath our feet, the flight of the condor over Grand Canyon is a perfect symbol of the majestic views on the South Rim. The condors disappeared from the Canyon in the 1920s and were on the verge of extinction in the 1970s. But biologists restored condors to the region in 1996, tagging them after making sure they remain free from lead poisoning. They are the Canyon’s natural hang-gliders.
If the condor represents the upper limit of nature, and the rock carved by nature is its container, the majesty of its floor is formed by the Colorado River. One cannot imagine the power of its rapids from our viewpoint on the South Rim at a height of 3.8 miles, but there is online video showing what its like to navigate.