This is the third episode of my latest travel blog, documenting our recent Road Trip with our electric Tesla (carrying our electric bikes) to Utah and Arizona. PART 2 left off as I was riding my bike around the town of Williams, AZ, on Saturday, April 30 – just to ensure that lugging it all the way out there had not been a complete waste of Tesla energy. This episode describes the remainder of the trip.
May 1 – 2 (Sunday-Monday): The reason we were in Williams was that we had booked a package deal with the Grand Canyon Railway, including a night’s stay at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel, a 63-mile train trip to the Grand Canyon, a bus tour along the south rim, a night’s stay at the Maswik Lodge within the National Park, return trip by rail to Williams, and another night’s stay at the Railway Hotel. We’d already visited the Grand Canyon twice, once about 20 years ago with our sons, Nick and Brian, and once during our Excellent Adventure in 2019. However, we had never stayed overnight within the Park itself and thus had never seen a sunset there, and we also both enjoy rail travel.
The two hour and 40 minute rail trip on Sunday was very interesting, especially during the final 10 miles or so as the train wound its way through the pine forest into the National Park. During the return trip on Monday, train robbers on horseback boarded the train and robbed those passengers willing to play along by “hiding” a buck or two in some obvious place. A U.S. Marshall then captured them in the rear car where Pat and I were riding, but I didn’t get my money back. (The Marshall said I needed a receipt for that.) Though a bit cheesy, it was great fun. The operation was also very efficient. We left our luggage in the Railway Hotel lobby and it magically appeared in our room at the Maswik Lodge. Then, on Monday we just left it in our room and it was waiting for us in our new room in Williams when we got back.
The Sunday afternoon bus tour at the Grand Canyon covered the major viewing sites along the rim to the west of Grand Canyon Village, including Hopi Point, Mohave Point, Monument Creek Vista, and Pima Point. As I said, we had been to all of these sites before, but they were still just as spectacular and awe-inspiring as the first time. I doubt we could ever get bored with the scenery or fail to revel in the sheer majesty of this national treasure no matter how often we might see it, unlike Chevy Chase in the movie “Vacation.” After dinner, I went back on another bus tour to watch the sunset at Mohave point. That alone was worth the entire trip to the Grand Canyon. On Monday before our return to Williams, we walked along the rim trail from Yavapai Point, east of the Village, to the luxurious El Tovar Hotel where we had lunch, then along the rim trail again to a spot just west of the Bright Angel Trailhead. By the time we walked back to the Train Depot for our return to Williams, I had logged more than 12,000 steps and felt very sore, very tired, and very, very old, even though the rim trail is quite smooth and level. As we gazed down at the Bright Angel trail I recalled hiking down to the Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse and back up again – back in the day with Pat and the boys – and knew I couldn’t do that anymore. Oh, the joy of aging!
But getting back to the majesty of the Grand Canyon, rather than writing a few thousand words to try and describe it, I’ll just leave you with these pictures.
May 3 (Tuesday): The Grand Canyon Railway package was the last thing we had pre-booked before leaving Minneapolis. As of April 25, we had no specific plan for our return home. Sister-in-law LeAnne had told us about an interesting place called Antelope Canyon, near Page, AZ, so Pat decided to book a tour there for 12:00 PM on May 3. We drove off from Williams at 7:10 AM, stopped to charge the car in Flagstaff, and headed north through Navajo Nation toward Page. When we were about 20 miles away, we noticed that the Tesla clock was reading 12:10 PM. What? How could we already be late for the tour? We couldn’t possibly have been traveling for five hours. Pat checked her iPhone, which also read 12:10. Had we entered the Twilight Zone? No, we were just in Navajo Nation, which, unlike the rest of Arizona, observes Daylight Savings Time. So, we had only been travelling for four hours, and when we got to Page, we were back on Arizona Time and it was actually only 11:30. Oddly, both the car and Pat’s phone were still an hour off, whereas my Samsung phone showed the correct time. Those ornery Arizonans sure know how to confuse people.
Antelope Canyon is located about 20 minutes outside of Page and our tour was run by a Navajo company. We had an excellent guide who explained the origins and the dynamics of the canyon and even took some great photos for us with Pat’s phone. Antelope Canyon was formed and is maintained not by any river but by flash flooding from heavy rains that typically occur in late summer, on average once every two years. However, due to the warming climate and severe drought, the most recent flooding occurred nearly 10 years ago, and the canyon floor has risen some four feet as sand has blown in and not yet been washed away. It was also interesting to learn that the antelope for whom the canyon is named have not been present in the area since completion of the nearby Glen Canyon Dam in 1963 and the subsequent formation of Lake Powell. The canyon is very narrow and irregularly shaped, with walls furrowed by wind and water erosion and the open top lets in sand and light, leading to spectacular and unexpected views and perspectives. OK, once again: no more words, just pictures.
After our Antelope Canyon tour, we drove to Kanab, UT, where we had booked a room at the La Quinta Inn and Suites before leaving St. George. It was a nice hotel with the added bonus of a Tesla Destination Charger on site. We also had a nice meal at a Chinese restaurant right next door to the hotel. Talk about convenience. After dinner, we discussed how far we should travel on Wednesday and where we should stay.
“You know,” I said, “we’re going to be driving almost right past Bryce Canyon National Park no matter which way we decide to go from here. It would be a real shame not to stop there for a visit.”
So, after some web searching, we booked a room at a place called Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn in Bryce Canyon City. There is a stop for the shuttle bus into the National Park right in front of this hotel and, as a bonus, it also has a Testa Destination Charger. Two free charges in two days. What a deal!
May 4 (Wednesday): We left Kanab at 8:30 AM and arrived at Ruby’s Inn at 10:00. We were able to check in right away, even though it was quite early, and our room was literally 10 yards from the Tesla charger. There were two charging stations, and there was another Tesla being charged at one of them. So, we parked the car nearby, not wanting to tie up the only remaining station while we toured Bryce Canyon. Then we hopped on the shuttle bus, and I was standing in line to buy a tee shirt at the Visitor’s Center by 10:15. There were three people in line ahead of me, one of whom was a tall, slim, thirty-something woman buying a sweatshirt. Suddenly, she decided to try on the sweatshirt for size. She proceeded to take off her jacket, slip on the shirt, and model it for a friend. After some discussion, the friend went off the get a larger size, and the buyer pulled off the first shirt and slipped on the second one. Then the two had to discuss which one was best, totally oblivious of the growing line behind them and the exasperated expression on the face of the checkout clerk. Couldn’t she have tried the shirts before getting in line? I finally got to the register and bought my own shirt, then went outside with Pat to wait for the next shuttle bus.
“The world would be a wonderful place if it weren’t for all these @#$%^ people in it,” I muttered. Luckily, Bryce Canyon is truly a wonderful place, which served to salve my frustration over the idiotic incident in the Visitors Center. We spent about four and a half hours riding the shuttle buses and walking among the major scenic highlights – Bryce Point, Inspiration Point, Sunset Point, and Sunrise Point – sandwiched around a nice buffet lunch at the Bryce Lodge. That was nowhere near enough time to see everything; to properly tour the Park one needs to drive to the places the shuttle route does not reach. But it was an excellent introduction that left us wanting to come back again. Unfortunately, the hiking left me feeling even more decrepit than the day before. The uphill climbs left me gasping in the thin, 8,300-ft altitude and the downhill parts were like torture for my feet and knees. But all I had to do was stop and look in any direction, and take pictures of the hoodoos, the steep cliffs, the multicolored rocks, the trees … Just point and click, and the sheer beauty of it all revived my spirit.
When we got back to Ruby’s Inn, that same Tesla was still plugged into the charger. As I was backing into the one open space, yet another Tesla pulled up, but I had beaten him to the punch. After plugging in, I spoke with him and said that the other car had been plugged in for at least five hours, so must be almost done. Shortly thereafter, the owner of the plugged-in car arrived and spoke to the new arrival. As I was walking away, I caught snippets of the conversation.
“Are you staying here? So, you can maybe charge overnight after we leave …” I heard the charger hog say. Apparently that woman was not even staying at the hotel, even though Destination Chargers are only supposed to be for paying hotel guests. What did I say about all those #%^*^&* people in the world?
May 5-10 (Thursday – Wednesday): Bryce Canyon was the last place we actually visited on the road trip. The remainder of the time we were just going back home again. By this time, our Covid anxiety had faded away, and we felt comfortable enough with staying at hotels and eating at restaurants where virtually no one was wearing masks. We were pretty tired of driving by then, so we laid out a return trip with the ABRP app, stretched it out over six days so we never drove for more than a few hours each day, and booking hotels that were very close to the Tesla Superchargers for convenience – in Green River, UT, Idaho Springs, CO, Ogallala and Grand Island, NE, and Sioux City, IA.
As we drove through Utah and Colorado, the scenery along the road was spectacular, with snow covered peaks, steep, winding valleys, and tunnels bored through the mountains. We passed over the Continental Divide and through the Eisenhower Tunnel on Interstate Highway 70, near Dillon, CO, at an elevation of 11,150 feet. But by the time we reached Denver, we had descended 6,000 feet and the drive got quite boring – flat, brown, and monotonous – and so it remained all the way home. Even the lovely drive along the Minnesota River from Mankato to Minneapolis, with its welcome greenery, seemed dull by comparison to what we had seen in the mountain states. In retrospect, I therefore dubbed Denver as the dividing line between spectacular and boring.
We made it back to our condo at 3:30 PM on May 10, spent an hour unpacking the car, getting the bikes off, washing the car (which made all those hail dents really stand out), and starting the laundry before I collapsed into my favorite Barcalounger. All in all, it was a great trip, despite the rocky start.
That’s it for now, but stay tuned for one more blog post in which I will present a map of the trip, discuss what we learned about taking an electric road trip, and pontificate about the state of the world and some small things we can do to help. (Or maybe not that last part – I’ll have to see if I can come up with anything actually worth saying.)