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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Dogs and Pistols (Welcome to Arizona)

I've been writing bits and pieces on Twitter (Pain_N_The_Cass) about what I've been seeing between Las Vegas, NV and where I am tonight, Memphis, TN. To make sure we're all on the same page, here are bits of what I've posted:
Small Chapel Outside a Gas Station in AZ

MAY 21st: "Seeing a man with a not-so-concealed weapon at the Arizona gas station didn't shock me; reminded me to actually have my stun gun on me."

I had pulled off to get a top off of gas and stop at one of the few places I could to get something to eat since I have Tater, our Australian Shepherd/Labrador mix, with me. I parked in the shade of the gas station awning and went inside, snatching up rice crackers and sesame sticks and loads of Mountain Dew. The line was out the door, but there was only one cashier. I take that back. There was a second cashier, but she was inside the office, typing away on her cell phone. Likely, she thought she couldn't be seen on our side because of the tinted glass, however, we could see perfectly.

The gentleman in front of me was hunched over, wearing long shorts and even longer tube socks with his sneakers. He fumbled with his purchases, and then his pocket change. That was when I noticed his holstered-but-not-strapped-in pistol on his right hip. As I stared at it, I thought, "Gee, how easy would it be for me to just reach over and grab it from him." In fact, a whole scenario played out in my head in the two seconds it took for him to finish his transaction, where I swiped the gun, brandished it about, and made my way out with my $4.67 worth of goods, cackling like they did in the old westerns. Then a reminding twinge went through my two fingers, tamping my Miranda Lambert spirit down. The reality is that had I reached for it, Grandpa there would have probably have startled a bit, and then giggled when I couldn't quite close my arthritic hand around the gun. He probably would have pushed me a little like a kid on a playground, just enough for me to take a sidestep, and then paid for my purchases just to keep the humiliation going strong.

"Well," I thought, "at least I have my stun gun to protect me and Tater." I reached into my left pocket, only to find it empty.

NOTE TO SELF: Stun guns only work if you actually have them on you.

Yeah...what she said.

House In Chloride, AZ (So, how are they getting down once they open the 2nd floor sliding doors?)

May 22nd: "At the El Tovar veranda alone w/Tater. Asked to be served out here. I can't come in & I can't leave her in the car. "No," they say 3 times."

Yikers, what a morning. I barely slept, having been on the road for more than 7 hours, having to stop to let Tater out and to let me out. My body is not used to sitting sedentary for hours on end. I've spent the last few weeks packing, rebuilding the gardens, going through papers, arranging repair people, and generally pulling out hair I spent a good long time growing back. The Red Feather Lodge allows animals (as I found out through - a great site that will not only tell you where pet-friendly hotels are in a particular city, it will also allow you to map out your route and then see all the hotels along the way that allow pets, along with their most recent pet policy {it doesn't show availability. You have to click on the links to find what's open. SIDE NOTE: La Quinta has an open pet policy that allows you to keep a pet in your room WITHOUT a pet charge or an extra deposit. Since some places charge up to $150 in a [oxymoron alert!] non-refundable deposit on top of a pet fee, this can be refreshing. But, double back and check out the hotels on before committing - that's just my opinion.})

The Red Feather Lodge and I go back to when Olivia and I stayed there when she was barely 18 months old. Even though I had travelled all night and had barely slept, I had been told to try to catch the sunrise in the Grand Canyon. So, dutifully, I got up, loaded said child into vehicle, and tootled down the road. I was so early, there was no guard at the Grand Canyon gate, so I got in for free (a savings of $20 at the time, now $25.)

After only a mile or so, the car in front of me stopped. I was too groggy to tell what was going on until I was much closer. It was then I saw a gigantic elk with an even more gigantic rack (save your giggles) standing next to the stopped car. The fog was still creeping in around us, light mist rolling in off the field, out onto the asphalt, pooling around the elk's feet. He backed up a bit, and cocked his head like a puppy. He stared for a good long, long minute, then backed up a little more. It looked as if he might back away entirely, back into the meadow from where he emerged. But just as suddenly, he leapt, up and over, completely clearing the whole of the car - not just the engine hood, the roof and width of the car.

He came down deftly, first on his front hooves, then quietly on his back ones, walking away as if that's what he had been doing all along. Casually, he sauntered to the field on the other side, joining his mate and their baby, and nudging his love's neck, then eating with them. It seems the car had gotten in the way of him crossing the street to meet his family and rather than beat his head against the obstacle, he simply leapt over it and continued with what he was doing.

Later, I was lucky enough to be on the greens in front of the El Tovar Hotel when the sun began to rise. A doe and her fawn came on the lawn, picking at the grass and some leaves. In a singular moment, both the doe and her baby raised up on their hind legs and both ate from the same dangling leaves, the sun bursting through the breaks in the trees. I managed to get one picture, which I will post if I find it again.

El Tovar Hotel and Restaurant, Grand Canyon, AZ

So, obviously, I advocate for those who are capable - get up early and see what lurks about in the early mornings in the Grand Canyon when all the tourists are asleep.

On this trip, I did see some things I hadn't before. For one, I accidentally flip flopped through and found a radio station that told more details about the area and buildings. One interesting tidbit is that for the longest time, there really were no photos of the Grand Canyon because the public didn't know about it and there was no real access. The photos that do exist came from the government projects, documenting what was there and what progress was being made.

The Kolb brothers took on the personal project of documenting and archiving not just the clinical side of the canyon, but also the beauty. They went so far as to take the building materials from a demolished Williams, AZ, store, truck the remnants all the way out (some 60 miles when at the time there was almost no access and certainly no consistent way to bring the materials up.), and built a three-story building into the side of the canyon. More information on the Kolb brothers and the building of this phenomenal house, check out:

From my tweet, it's obvious something went on while I was there. Since I had left Las Vegas, NV, I had found only one restaurant that was accommodating of my situation - travelling alone with a dog. Cracker Barrel allowed me to come in, guilt free, order my food, pay for it, then I could get Tater and sit with her on their front porch while both of us enjoyed a meal together (and it didn't hurt Tater's feelings to be loved up on by so many kids, either.) However, once in the canyon, things became more difficult. Going into a store or cafe, meant leaving Tater in the car (illegal in many states) and generally unwise (even though it was incredibly early and therefore very cool, especially with the high winds, it just isn't a terribly great idea.)

After our walk at Mather Point and then around the South Rim near the hotel, both of us were pooped and wanted to eat. I asked the hostess at the El Tovar's restaurant if I could order something to go, but she said that they didn't do that. That seemed curious since surely the hotel guests ordered room service or box lunches for day trips. Well, okay, I'll try to find an outdoor cafe then. But there weren't any tat would allow me to come in with her to order.

On our way back to the car, we came across a long, narrow porch on the El Tovar that overlooked the canyon. I took Tate up there and we sat for a bit. I looked around and saw a caddy full of silverware, dishes, and napkins. Obviously, I was at some extension of the restaurant. So, I looked up the number and called the restaurant inside to a) let them know I was sitting out on the porch, alone and with my dog and b) to ask them if they would be willing to serve me since no one else was there and I wasn't allowed to come in. The person on the phone said, "No."

At this point, I sort of gave up and resigned myself to my day-old rice crackers and flat Mountain Dew. However, just as I was thinking of getting up, a young lady emerged from the restaurant. She proceeded to tell me that, even though there was no one even near the porch but me and Tater was laying on the floor, that we couldn't stay up there. I asked her about being served out there since no one was near and we couldn't go inside anywhere. She also said, "No."

Maybe it was hunger or the situation or a combination of the both, but I was becoming livid at this point. I know taking my dog into a restaurant isn't possible, but what int he world could possibly be wrong with serving me on a completely empty porch? I gather Tater and my things and starting walking down the stairs to the grass. The young lady called out to me and said she could serve me if I left Tater tied up somewhere on the grass.

Now, Tater was likely just as hungry and worn out as I was. Her gray snout gives her age away much as my uncolored-gray hairs do. The thought of tying her up to watch me eat while she was still hungry and thirsty just seemed cruel. So, I turned to the young lady and said, "No, I've heard you all quite clearly. You don't want to serve us. This is the third time I've heard this today. I get it. Your message is received." It just infuriated me that the restaurant sat almost completely empty, the porch WAS completely empty, and yet they would not serve us or let me get anything to go unless I tied Tater up .

I'm not a radical animal lover. I love my animals, yes, but I am a common sense lover. I know when things are reasonable and when they are not. I've been known to say, I didn't have to fight lions for my dinner, I didn't have to haul water, and the roof over my head keeps out the rain - I'm all good. Every day above ground is a pretty good one.
Cave on Path Near El Tovar and Kolb Studio

(VIDEO) Grand Canyon video

(VIDEO) Mather Point

(VIDEO) Mather Point (2nd view)

Grand Canyon

Little Colorado Overlook

I'll continue on in a little bit.

copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I mean it. I have horribly mean cats; don't make me use them.

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