Looking at the Grand Canyon brought tears to Angel’s eyes and a quick catch to her voice. “It’s… beautiful is too tame a word.” She ripped her gaze away from the majesty; ripped was the perfect word choice because she had to use force.
Her husband Jack sensed her eyes on him. He turned, her awe-inspired expression mirrored in him. Without words they communicated the transformative experience they shared. The canyons were a ripple of cascading rocks painted from the richest palette of: browns, oranges, reds, and whites. Off in the distance they appeared royal purple, though they weren’t.
Angel tried to immortalize the moment. Though no photo could portray the staggering depth of the terrain or hope to compare to the exhaustive beauty of the landscape.
Overwhelming joy race through her, kicking her heart into action and raising the fine hairs of her body. We’re finally here.
She almost couldn’t believe it. The exhilarating sensation of hanging from a tree so close to the edge she could easily topple over; falling thousands of feet. Was this real?
Angel couldn’t bear the thought of it being a dream. That right now she was really in bed, in REM sleep, her muscles paralyzed so as not to act out the wonders she experienced.
“Ang. Not so close.” Her husband’s reassuring grip clutched her shoulder and pulled her away from the edge.
“I just want to do everything, and I don’t want to miss anything. No regrets. I don’t want to find myself questioning my cowardice when we leave; frustrated with myself because I held back.”
“No regrets,” Jack echoed.
What was possibly more impressive than the sight before them was the work behind them. The years they had spent toiling away in frustrating jobs, setting aside every extra penny. For this excursion, and the many others that would follow.
Angel couldn’t control it anymore. Salty tears slipped down her cheeks landing on the red earth below her. The water created a pattern of drops in the dirt that appeared darker than everything else. “I wasn’t prepared,” she wept.
Jack enveloped her in a warm hug. He simply held her, while she whimpered; her body shuddering from the onslaught of tears. Jack held her through every wake, every jerk of her skeleton.
“Yes.” He soothed her by stroking her soft ringlets. He passed his hand over her head, massaging the base of her neck, until she quieted down.
“I don’t want to leave. I wish there was an RV hookup right here.”
Jack laughed and pulled back. He stared into his wife’s face, happier than he’d ever been, and he’d been so happy. “Me too. The park isn’t too far away. We can visit whenever we want.”
“Yeah, I suppose. I never want to leave. My feet feel rooted down. It’s as if I was meant to be here. Right here.”
Jack stroked the sides of his wife’s arms and stepped back under the shadow of a towering tree. “I know you don’t want to leave, but we must. How could we possibly see the other stunning sights? Like Yellowstone, Old Faithful, or the redwoods in California?”
Angel nodded less dejected and turned to face rigid rocks. If the Grand Canyon could talk, what stories would it tell?
Would its stories span the 10,000 years of human interaction and population? Is it possible the stories would extend farther, the five or six million years the Grand Canyon had been around? Would she… Angel likened the lovely canyon to a lady. Would she tell the cultural history of the eleven contemporary tribes Angel had learned about at the little history shop? Would their stories line up concerning the creation of the great chasm? Angel tended to believe the Grand Canyon’s interpretation of its creation.
Starting in the sixteenth century and continuing tribes were guides of the Canyon, helping instruct the Spanish and Euro-American explorers. Angel imagined the Grand Canyon had few kind stories involving that time. Though, perhaps she had humorous ones, stories of drama or intrigue.
Would she cry out from the pain of being hacked at with rough, metal pickaxes? Screaming the injustice of early entrepreneurs that dug at her hoping to find jewels or precious gold. Perhaps she was an optimist and only told of the good times.
Images gathered together in Angel’s head; like and old-fashioned movie reel. Simplistic images that described the creation of the Grand Canyon in a serious of cave paintings. Blinding light, cool rain, the first sprig of green. Billions of years of ancient rock growing up and out. A story told by a fascinating narrator whose medium was finger painting.
Maybe she would talk of old friends; characters of bygone eras that were fundamental in bringing the civilized world to the Grand Canyon. The times that changed the unforgiving terrain into one of America’s greatest tourist destinations.
Angel pictured Captain John Hance, the rugged outdoorsman and entrepreneur. Long hair paired with a shabby goatee that jutted out like a Billy goat. Dressed in cream with a narrow-brimmed hat. Guiding the likes of Teddy Roosevelt through trails Hanson himself constructed. Telling embellished tales of his horse galloping over frogs and traveling rim to rim. Scamming willing tourists into believing he had dug the Grand Canyon. All in good fun, they were in on the scam.
“Ang, let’s go find a trail.” Her husband’s arm tugged at her own. “I know you could stand here all day, but we’ll miss other parts of the canyon if you do.”
Angel was snagged out of her daydream, like a child plucked a petal off a flower. “He loves me, he loves me not.”
Jack turned around and looked at his wife with confusion, “Did you say something?”
“Not a thing.” She laughed and roped her arm through her husband’s. “Let’s go find us some trails, partner.”
Their iconic 1976 Toyota Corona Station Wagon was a trooper. The red beast towed behind their RV beautifully and reliable transported them to-and-fro on their many adventures. It shined brightly in the midday sun, parked alongside the shoulder of the road. The fire hydrant red had faded to soft lipstick.
When Angel had first spotted the gem for sale by an old tire shop, she had turned to Jack, large eyes glittering and wobbly smile in tow.
“No,” he had answered, “absolutely not.”
“But.” Angel had interjected.
“Let me stop you there. We need something newer. We’re going to be on the road a lot, and far away from family and friends who could lend a hand if our antique car takes a crap.”
“But babe, just hear me out.”
“Listen, I know you have this idea in your head that our adventure will be like stepping back in time. As far as our vehicles go, I would appreciate it if we stepped forward, or at least stayed in the same decade.”
“Think of the Instagram appeal! This car is hot.” Angel had supplied, hoping to convince him with her words.
“Ang, a 1969 Corvette Stingray is hot. This is a station wagon your begging me to take a chance on. A glorified soccer mom hot rod.”
“It’s vintage. We’re trying to earn income by being RV life influencers, correct?”
Jack nodded slowly.
“Well, think of this baby following our RV. I see influencing in our near future.” When Angel had noticed the crack in Jack’s armor, she had gone in for the kill. “If by any chance we come across an antique car you like better. We’ll trade it. I promise.”
In the next two years their station wagon had dependably transported them around the various towns they had travelled to across America. Jack had begrudgingly admitted that he was mistaken about the station wagon. In many ways it proved itself more reliable than their old car which was thirty years its junior.
The car door opened with a satisfying click. Jack who was miserly at giving directions opted for the driver’s seat. Angel unfolded their map and placed it across the hood of the car. She found the trails she had circled earlier and traced them back to their current location.
“The GPS is quicker!” Jack shouted from inside the car.
Angel ignored him and wrote the directions down on her notepad. She refolded the map and stowed it in her purse. Getting into the car she turned to her husband, “do you trust me?”
His eyebrow quirked and his head cocked in way the suggested she had completely taken him by surprise. “Yeah, course I do.”
She smiled and put her hand out. “Then give me the cellphone.”
“Come on Ang, I have no problem with you giving directions but let me keep the GPS on just in case.”
“That sounds like a lot of distrust,” Angel said with a smirk. “Either you trust me, or you don’t.”
Jack smacked the cellphone into Angel’s hand. She grinned and popped it into the glove compartment. “Buckle up.”
Jack pulled his seatbelt across his body and turned to face his courageous wife. “Alright where to, Navigator?”
Angel pointed down the road to the iconic Route 64 sign. “Let’s get back on Route 64, and we’ll take that for seven miles. That’s all the instruction I have for you now.”
“You expect me to not look at the GPS for seven miles. You are evil. Pure evil. Isn’t there a closer trail?”
Angel slipped her toes onto the dash board. “There is, but the trail I’m taking us to is the one the ranger suggested.”
Jack brushed his hair back from his face and used his sleeve to wipe the sweat off his brow. “Oh yeah, the one by the river.”
Jack was silent for a moment but was compelled to breath out a question that confounded him, “Why do you want to read the maps instead of using the GPS?”
Angel looked over at her husband. His eyes were alight with genuine curiosity. She supposed they’d had so many other conversations, this was one they hadn’t ventured yet. How many tiny details had she learned about her husband in the last five years?
So many. How he hated sharing water bottles, or any bottle for that matter. That he never, absolutely never sang along to the radio, though he loved music. He was so quiet unless you spoke of something he was secretly interested in, then he passionately talked of the subject as if he were its personal campaigner.
“There are so many reasons,” Angel answered.
“I want to know them all.” Jack stated his gaze fixated on the road.
“There is a lot of knowledge lost in listening to GPS directions.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, when I look at the map, I memorize the directions; every turn, every street name. When we drive, I look for the landmarks like lakes, signs, trails that the map had. I notice these subtleties because I must, if we are to find our way. When we use the GPS, I miss out on all that. I barely even pay attention to what’s going on around me, my eyes are glued to the phone.” Angel looked out her window and viewed the cliffside. The thick red dirt clouded around them obscuring the Grand Canyon.
“Why is that so important?” Jack asked, he looked at his gauge. 101236 miles. I’ll have to keep an eye on that.
“Because it’s a part of the memory. A little piece of the puzzle that we either remember or we don’t. So much is lost in today’s microwave society. Street names are just the beginning. Let’s not forget the ability to navigate without a GPS. I like using the maps simply for that.”
Jack looked over at his wife. Her chestnut curls were darker with sweat. A bit of orange clay dusted the cheek that was visible to him. Sweat beaded under her lip and slid to the crevice of her chin.
Sweaty and exhausted she was still so beautiful. Her lovely spirit that was often bold and courageous. This woman who went toe-to-toe with him and just as easily cried when faced with the haunting beauty of the Grand Canyon.
“Either we are a part of the story or we aren’t. It’s a simple as that. I want to exist in this moment not bypass it entirely on my pursuit to somewhere else.”
It was usually her strength that amazed him, but today it was her wisdom. Thousands of years of experience rolled up into thirty-four years. “Okay.”
Angel looked over at Jack. “Okay?”
“Okay, I trust you.”
The drive was mostly one stretch down Route 64. At one point, Angel looked up and said we should be turning left soon. We’re looking for East Rim Drive.”
Jack turned and slowed down for Angel’s next instruction.
“Follow it to South Entrance Road.”
“Okay,” Jack stated as he turned on that road.
“Turn there!” Angel shouted as an afterthought. “We want to park at the Yavapai Lodge.”
Jack turned onto Yavapai East. They followed the road for a few short minutes until they came upon the lodge.
“Let’s park there.” Angel pointed to a shady spot under a tree. “The trailhead is close by, and we can use the restrooms before we head out.”
“Good thinking,” Jack suggested, only just remembering he could really use the facilities.
Returning to the car, Angel grabbed a couple of bottles of waters and just gazed out at landscape that was inescapable in this corner of the world. “Look at that sky. Have you ever seen its’ likeness?”
Jack shook his head before remembering Angel looked out at the western sky. “No, I haven’t.”
Jack laughed a little even before his response. “Yellowstone might.”
“Jack, are you with me?” She turned and poked his cheek. “Where are you right now? Are you eight hundred miles away, in Yellowstone? Or are you here with me?”
Jack laughed and tossed his arm over Angel’s shoulder. “I’m here with you. Unless bilocation is possible.”
“Bilocation?” Angel asked.
“Being in two places at once.”
“Oh gotcha. If anyone could do it, it would be you. Well, be here with me then. Enjoy the sun and how it’s bleeding so many colors right now.”
Jack looked over at his wife and stated, “Let me be, woman.”
She closed her lips and looked out at the sky. Angel shielded her eyes from the brilliant sun. The sky was an Ombre of pink, purple, and pale blue. She desperately wanted her husband to soak up every second of it. She suspected he was by the way his eyes never left their unforgettable terrain. “What is the most beautiful thing to you?”
“What do you mean?” Jack asked.
“In our line of sight, right now, what do you see as the most beautiful?”
“Is it too cheesy to say you?” Jack sheepishly asked.
“It is,” Angel answered with a laugh. “It’s entirely too cheesy. Go for something a bit more original.”
Jack laughed, “You’re no fun.” He looked at their surroundings. The ever-growing canyons with their brilliant hues. The gorgeous sky and its softness that looked more like a child’s treat than the atmosphere. He looked out at the river that rushed its way through the canyon. He poked his wife in the womb, and she turned to him in surprise. “This little person is the most beautiful.”
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