When Nate and I got married, my brother Tino gave us a fantastic wedding gift: an offer to put us up in the hotel of our choice in Las Vegas the next time we came out to visit.
And because life kept getting in the way, manifesting itself in the form of two kids, mortgages, bills, renovations, car issues, health scares and all other kinds of mayhem, it only took nine years before we took him up on his offer. This past February, I bit the bullet and allowed Nate to drag me, kicking and screaming and begging for sedation, onto a plane and off to Vegas we flew. Much to my surprise, we were not hijacked, we did not crash and there were no ebola spores wafting through the recirculated air during our flight. We disembarked in Vegas with all of our limbs attached, disease and injury free, except for Nate’s hands which needed a few skin grafts because of the flesh I scraped off them while gripping on for dear life.
We chose to stay at the Venetian and really, our room wasn’t much different than our house. Oh wait, did I say room? I meant closet. The closet was just like the closet we had at home. Everything else wasn’t. As in … IT WAS THE MOST LUXURIOUS HOTEL I HAVE EVER STAYED IN AND I WOULD SERIOUSLY CONSIDER OFFERING UP MY REPRODUCTIVE SYSTEM TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER TO LIVE THERE. So, if anybody wants a slightly used uterus and all attachments, check out eBay.
Nate and I had done Vegas once years ago, prior to my medical condition known as “I Would Rather Eat My Eyeballs With Hot Sauce and Cilantro Than Fly” so other than throwing money at slot machines as we walked through the new hotels and visiting with my brother, we didn’t intend to spend all of our time in Vegas. Instead, we made plans to visit nearby sights and one of those was the Grand Canyon. I wanted to see the Grand Canyon before I died and seeing as how we only had four more days to live before we faced certain death on our flight back home, time was quickly running out.
I consider us to be the most anal-retentive, obsessive-compulsive travelers in the world. Nate, because of his predisposition to schedule every single second of breathing while on vacation and me because of my compulsion to pack for any possible scenario while on vacation, including an alien abduction in which case we would need a housewarming gift because odds are, the alien didn’t call his wife and she knows nothing about it and will be completely shocked when we show up at her pod for dinner and it’s tacky enough to show up unexpected but to be empty handed as well is just inexcusable. I learned that from Miss Manners.
So you would think that we would have been prepared to visit the Grand Canyon, that we would have checked the weather conditions, that we would have dressed accordingly, that we would have mapped out our route, blah blah blah, right?
And you would be wrong.
We started our trip around 9:00 am. As for maps? We don’t need no stinkin’ maps! We had a GPS! We had never used one before, had no idea how to use this one, but who cares? A GPS practically runs itself, right? You would think you could find your way anywhere with a GPS, right?
And you would be wrong.
Nate instructed me to program the GPS and map out our route. And I said “Have we met?” Because I do not program or map out anything. That’s his job and he’s good at it. My job is to point out every turn we miss about 1/2 hour after we miss it and I rock at that. We don’t switch jobs. It messes with the universe and causes worlds to collide.
But Nate was feeling rebellious that day and didn’t care if worlds collided and changed the course of history and mankind as we know it and he insisted that I program the GPS because I was his right hand man, his first mate, his navigator and he knew I was up to the job.
*coughcoughcough blowsunshineupmyass coughcoughcough**
So after a half an hour, I managed to figure out how to plug it in and then I began to navigate which entailed me shaking the GPS, cussing it out, unplugging it, plugging it back in and crying. Did you know that you can’t just type in Grand Canyon as a destination? Apparently, it’s a pretty vague description and the GPS kept demanding that I give it more information by flashing YOU ARE A LOSER, GIVE ME AN ADDRESS on its LCD screen. I had no more information to give it and that little piece of shit just refused to cut me some slack.
And Nate was no help either because he was busy getting lost and had no time for my histrionics and besides, the navigator’s job was to navigate, not bother the driver by asking what state we’re in or can we stop to pee because good navigators know exactly where they are and have bladders that cooperate.
So after several minutes of frustration, I finally rolled down the window, screamed SCREW YOU to the satellite up in space, flung the GPS into the back seat and pouted. And when Nate calmly asked “well, how do you expect us to get there if you don’t navigate?” I yelled that for crying out loud, how hard can it be to find a canyon that’s three hundred miles long and ten miles wide? If worst comes to worst, we’ll know we’ve found it when our car drives off the edge of it and we plunge to our death and it will be all his fault because, like every single man on the face of the planet, he refused to stop and ask for directions because he would rather chew off his own head before admitting defeat.
We didn’t speak very much after that.
Somehow we wound up on Route 66. I have since googled the route from Vegas to Grand Canyon and Route 66 doesn’t appear in any of the three billion results that come up. But we didn’t have access to Google in our rental car and Nate saw Route 66 and decided to take the scenic route through WE ARE FREAKING LOST, USA. Nate is all about scenic routes and takes them, no matter where we go. When we drive down to North Carolina, he insists on taking all sorts of long and winding roads and shouts “Look! Vista view!” every couple of minutes to the girls who are asleep in the back seat.
The portion of Route 66 that we were on cut through Nowhere, USA with stops at Does Anyone Actually Live Here and We’re Going To Die and No One Will Ever Find Our Bodies. We didn’t see one other car. Once again, I insisted he stop and ask for directions and this time Nate did not ignore my request but that’s only because he didn’t have to as there were no other human beings around to ask. We did pass by a place called Grand Canyon Resort which sounded hopeful but turned out to be utterly deserted and reminded me of every single horror movie I had ever seen. I half expected some bimbo to come running out into the parking lot with a chain saw wrapped around her neck.
We had no food or water with us. Visions of our dead and decaying bodies on the side of the road flashed through my mind, with a sign that said Here lie Nate and Andy. Please cremate and spread their ashes over the Grand Canyon as that is the only way they will ever see it. GPS system for sale: $5.
Eventually, we did make it to the Grand Canyon. I was so relieved for having not died en route that I didn’t even remember to kill Nate when we stopped the car and got out. Then our noses fell off because it was approximately a hundred degrees below zero. We picked up our noses and jumped back in the car.
I would have asked Nate how it was possible to drive from Vegas to Alaska in under four hours but I couldn’t get my teeth to stop chattering and my mouth to defrost enough to formulate words other than HOLY SHIT.
The light jackets that we were wearing were pretty much useless. I ask you, who goes to the Grand Canyon in February, dressed for the tropics? I mean, other than Nate and me? Nobody because everyone visiting that day was dressed as if they were going to be skiing down the canyon. Show offs.
We found a gift shop and paid outlandish prices for two sweatshirts and went on our way, determined to enjoy our day before frostbite set in.
It was breathtaking. Absolutely awesome in every sense of the word. Magnificent. Mind blowing. Insert your own highly descriptive adjective here. Totally worth all those hours of getting lost.
We didn’t get to see the canyon that you see on all the postcards – you know, the one where it looks like it’s taking a bath in sunlight? On this particular day, it was frigid and dark and stormy and the canyon actually looked menacing and desolate and beautiful at the same time. Kind of like me in the morning, except for the beautiful part.
See what I mean? Desolate and menacing and beautiful. And utterly huge.
Oh my God, I am the Grand Canyon.
Except for the beautiful part.
The sky was a mixture of various shades of dark blue and deep purple, like it was covered with bruises, much like me after exercising. And we kept hearing thunder which would BOOM and echo throughout the canyon. It was simply stunning. It actually left me speechless and that is just about impossible to do without surgery. Ask anyone.
Once in awhile, the sun would peek out and highlight a sheet of rock and keep the others in darkness. See the snow? Did I mention it was cold? I wish I could say that I froze my ass off but unfortunately, my ass is still attached to me. Every inch of it.
This shaft of sunlight lasted about thirty seconds and then it was dark and gloomy again.
Dark and gloomy and desolate. Oh wait. That’s Nate and me. We’re not dark or gloomy or desolate. Just frozen. I took my hood off for this shot because otherwise, you couldn’t tell it was me and we’d look back at these pictures years from now and we’d wonder who Nate went to the Grand Canyon with.
This is my favorite shot. It also happened to be my last. See that cloud in the upper left? That is a massive, whopping snowstorm coming at us like a freight train. I had just enough time to take this shot and then we ran to the car. And when I say we ran, I mean we hauled ass like our lives depended on it. I have not run like that since Tino chased me with a snake when we were eight.
No sooner had we slammed our car doors when the blizzard hit. And all I could think of was Thank God we saw the canyon before it hit. Because otherwise, I believe I would have been a wee bit pissed that we spent the entire day getting lost and fighting with satellites and freezing our extremities off only to wind up seeing what we could have seen for free from the comfort of our living room in our heated home: snow and sleet and ice, as far as the eye could see, which at this point was all of two feet in front of us.
Nate and I were born and bred in Upstate New York. We are not snow wussies. We are used to feet, not inches, of snow. We’ve weathered our fair share of nor’easters and ice storms over the years so we’re not ones to be crying and blubbering and wailing about driving in the snow. And when I say “we” I mean Nate. I cry and blubber and wail a lot in the snow but I do it silently as I don’t like to call attention to myself.
We did make it back to Vegas and other than a vague recollection of me hyperventilating and praying, I’ve pretty much blocked that ride from my memory. I love it when I do that. It makes life so much easier, don’t you think?
I’m grateful that Nate and I saw a Grand Canyon that not too many people get to see and I’m also grateful that I got to experience such a wonder with my soul mate. I’m not a particularly religious person but on that day, I really felt the incredible power of God at work.
I’d love to go back with the kids one day and maybe trek down into the canyon. Provided it’s 70° and I can trek by helicopter. I don’t think Nate will mind another skin graft or two.