US of Awesome – Part A

On Thursday 4thJuly we said goodbye to a dark and rainy Sydney, and excitedly flew to Denver, Colorado via a short layover in LAX. 

After a long flight with not much sleep and having to ask a fellow passenger to swap seats with me so Roger and I could sit together, we arrived only a few hours later the same day. We contacted Justin who was the owner of the campervan we had rented for our trip and easily found the bus to locate ‘Wolfgang’, the Mercedes Sprinter who would be our home for the next few weeks.

We headed for the Boulder Running Company, which was our favorite running store  in the USA, however I accidently set google maps to the store located in Denver and not Boulder (oops). It was cool to check out the store anyway and Roger bought some gels and supplies for the run he was doing next week. The store was like nothing we have back home, runner’s heaven. It’s probably a good thing I had a bump and most clothes would not fit me, or I may have bought a lot! 

Roger found a great place called Ted’s Montana Bar & Grill for us to have late lunch/early dinner, and we both chose Bison steaks from the menu. It was delicious. As we scoffed down our delicious meals, we decided to drive to Grand Junction (approx. 4 hours) where we would find a cheap hotel to have showers and a good night’s sleep, as we both felt like fried up, sweaty garbage after the flights. And despite the noisiest air conditioner I’ve ever heard we managed a good sleep at the Days Inn by Westin.

On Friday, after a much needed sleep-in, we packed our bags and headed downstairs at the Hotel to have what they called a ‘Continental breakfast’, however it was false advertising if you ask me. Everything was sugar loaded. I opted for fruit loops, honey on toast, Orange Juice and a takeaway muffin. The fire brigade turned up just as we were leaving the hotel too, and their trucks were so clean and shiny they looked like they had never been used. 

We drove to the Colorado National Monument, a National Park close to Grand Junction and visited the Information Centre for some maps and ideas of short hikes in the area. The lovely lady at the counter gave us a map and told us about 3 short hikes so we headed back to Wolfgang to get our water, food and hiking shoes on. The first short trail we walked was the Canyon Rim Trail. It was just over a mile long and had some pretty views to the other side of the canyon. 

The second trail was only a short drive away called Otto’s trail, which was shorter again but had great views back to the canyon rim that we had just walked. 

Our last trail of the day was the Devil’s Kitchen Trail and this was my favorite. It was a little dustier and involved a little more climbing than the other 2 trails, but it had such impressive rock formations at the end of the trail. 

We also ran into a couple from Denver and she was 31 weeks pregnant too, how funny. We chatted to them for a bit and ended up hiking back to the carpark with them too. By now it was after 1pm so we headed out of the Park and made a quick stop at the Cattlemen’s Bar & Grill for lunch. I had a delicious burrito and Roger had a burger which smelled amazing too. 

Roger jumped back in the driver’s seat and we hit the road towards Moab, Utah which was just over 4 hours away. We arrived just before dark and hit the grocery store for some supplies to fill up Wolfgang. We had dinner at the Spitfire Smokehouse, a tiny little caravan with some amazing reviews on Trip Finder. We had a variety of Tacos and some ribs too. 

While eating dinner we found the Splitrock RV Park which was about a 5min drive from our location, and we drove there and parked for the night. They at least had toilets we could use instead of the small portable one in our campervan which I saw as an ‘emergency use only. It was hot and we had both got sunburnt out on our little hikes earlier that day, and after figuring out how to get the ceiling fan in the camper to work we managed to sleep quite well.

On Saturday we woke to another scorching day (just the way I like it) and we headed to the Arches National Park. Both of us were really looking forward to this stop since we ran out of time to see it last year during our visit. And it did not disappoint. We saw so many beautiful rock formations including the Pipe Organ, 3 Gossips, Balanced Rock, Double Arches, Elephants and the Delicate Arch from afar. There was also Wolfe Ranch, an old small ranch in the middle of nowhere, it had 2 building structures and there were also some petroglyphs just a 3-minute walk from the ranch too. 

After a glorious day in the park hiking and taking many photos (which don’t do it justice), we hit the road and headed for the Grand Canyon, Arizona. The drive was so flat and at times felt like we were in the middle of Australia. I had a snooze for a long while in the car while Roger drove and we stopped a couple of times for the toilet and to stretch our legs. 

We arrived at the Grand Canyon National Park just before 9pm and despite the dodgy local maps we located the Maswik Lodge which happened to have a pizza bar still open, so we raced in there and got dinner. Funnily enough they had run out of pizza so we opted for a variety of wings. With our full bellies we headed to find the campsite and see if we could luck a spot but the reception was closed. Roger found a cleaner who suggested we try asking about available sites at the Yavapai Lodge just around the corner. Thankfully we had a helpful reception man let us know that a few spaces were available at the Trailer Park, and that we should just drive into one of those spaces if it was available and then pay at the reception in the morning when they re-opened. Thankfully there was 1 space still available and we parked and crashed into bed for the night. 

After our late arrival on Saturday night, we decided to have a sleep-in on Sunday. After some van breakfast we headed to the reception desk to pay for the night before and see if we could book another 2 nights. Roger chatted to Dale at reception who ended up giving us the first night free, plus the next 2 night’s at half price, as well as some free tokens to use the showers, what a legend. Roger tipped him well and we were on our way to shower then go and explore the Grand Canyon. How exciting!

Our first stop was the Information Centre to scope out all the things we wanted to see and do during our stay here, and we decided the free shuttle buses were the go. We had some lunch in the van and then boarded the Orange bus which took us to South Kaibab Trailhead, a gorgeous spot where we were both blown away by the views, and we even was saw a large groups of Mules (and their owners) walking up out of the Canyon.

We took a lot of photos and then jumped on the next Orange bus to Yaki Point for more breathtaking views of the Canyon. As we were about to leave we also spotted some eagles circling near us and I managed to get a few good shots, they’re so fast!

We jumped back on the next Orange bus again and went all the way back to the Info Centre, where we then boarded the Express Blue bus to Bright Angel Trailhead, then queued and boarded the Red Bus which took us to Powell Point where we saw a large Monument. After another thousand photos (ha ha) we walked about 10mins to Hopi point which had more breathtaking views of the Canyon.

Our final stop with the Orange Bus was Hermits rest, a large structure built at the end of the South Rim. We had some ice cream sandwiches and watched the squirrels try to scoop up any crumbs that tourists happened to drop, of which there were not many. We went for a walk around the Canyon Rim and then headed back to the express bus for a quick trip all the way back to the Info Centre. 

Before heading to our Campervan site we stopped at the Grocery store to use their Wi-Fi, however it didn’t seem to be working. I was quite enjoying the fact that I had no phone reception or internet here, that’s what holidays should be. 

Roger and I had dinner at the Bright Angle Lodge Café where I had steak with vegetables and he had Tacos. The food was great, however when I read ‘Seasoned Vegetables’ on the menu I had expected it to be more than just a plate of snow pea. I had been craving vegetables and some healthier food, just to making sure our bump gets everything it needs. 

Monday was another sleep-in, although as a Trainer everyday that I get to sleep past 6am is a sleep-in (ha ha), then showers, quick Wi-Fi stop at the Market and a post office stop for me to get a Grand Canyon Trains book to my Dad for his birthday (I hope it arrives in time). It was midday by the time we got all our mornings chores done so we decided to drive out to Devil’s End and see the Desert Watchtower. They also had a gas station we could use to make sure had enough fuel for the next few days. The tower was very impressive and we climbed all the way to the top. There was some amazing artwork inside the tower too, I took another thousand photos. 

After getting fuel we headed back down the road towards Tusayan, a town just south of the Grand Canyon, where we enjoyed dinner at AJ’s Steakhouse. The restaurant had a large screen playing aerial footage from over the Grand Canyon and Colorado River sections, it was fantastic to watch while having dinner. We drove back to the Trailer village for an early night and watched Ep6-7 of Stranger Things. Roger had managed to download it before the trip and so every night we had watched an episode (or 2) before bed. 

Tuesday was a planned rest day for me, as Roger and some friends had organised to run the Rim2Rim2Rim, a trail run from South Rim to North Rim and back again. We had breakfast in the van, showered, laundered clothes and headed to the Market place for some last-minute supplies. We relaxed in the van and watched he final episode on Stranger Things S3, then checked into the Yavapai hotel for the night. I even spotted deer/elk from our window.

Roger wanted to get a good afternoon nap in as they were starting the run about 10pm tonight, and they would be running well into the next half of the day (maybe more). I was looking forward to an un-timed shower so I could wash my hair and shave my legs without the water cutting out after 5 minutes. I ended up having a lovely afternoon nap too. 

Tiffany and Nathanial arrived at our hotel about 9.10pm and they got themselves ready for the run. We all loaded into Tiffany’s car and headed to the South Kaibab Trailhead where I would drop them off and drive back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep. I was a little nervous and worried about them out on the trail during the night and into the heat of the next day, but I know Roger is very experienced and he always makes smart decisions, even when tired and delirious during his past ultras. Plus I knew they had a back-up plan, if they didn’t think they would make it back from the North Rim they could always get the bus and play it safe. After a few photos they were on their way at about 10.10pm…

After a restless night thinking about the runners I eventually got myself up at 6.30am and had some cereal for breakfast (from the Camper), as I didn’t feel like heading to the restaurant for the typical American breakfast. Then I sat down at my computer to get on top of some of my client work. But after waiting 45min to get one web page to load I gave up.

I had not heard from the runners but wasn’t feeling too nervous as I had no phone reception here at the hotel, or in the Grand Canyon at all for that matter, so the only way they could contact me was via Wi-Fi, and that’s if they could even get a signal. They were going to try and send a message when they got to the North Rim but nothing had come through.

I stayed in our hotel room reading and napping until the late checkout time of midday, then drove Tiffany’s car down to the Market place to park and get some lunch at the Yavahai Hotel Tavern. They had WiFi so I could check Messenger, but still no word from the runners. I decided to walk back and pick up the van from the hotel carpark and park it next to the car, that way it would be easy to get once we had everyone back, and that way I could sit in the campervan and read or have a nap if needed, plus I had the esky (Cooler box, ha ha) if I needed anymore food/drink. 

At about 4.30pm a message came through to say that Nathanial was probably at the top of Bright Angel Trail now and Tiffany and Roger were about an hour behind him. So I jumped in the car and drove to the Trailhead but couldn’t find Nathanial anywhere. I walked to the Hotel which was close-by, as I thought maybe he had gone there for food but could not spot him. I walked back to the Trailhead and there he was (yay), it wouldn’t be long till they were all back now. 

We walked down the trail a little way and waited for Tiffany and Roger, and we didn’t have to wait long as there they were in the distance hiking up the last climb. I could tell by the way they were moving it had been a very long, hot day and I hoped they were feeling ok. By the time they got to our location they were all smiles and happy to have finished. They celebrated with some beers in the carpark and refuelled with some snacks and water. Roger was not feeling too good and he had a lay down in the back of the car. 

Soon we were all headed off to Tousayan for some pizza and pasta for dinner, and Tiffany had also recommended a cheap hotel we could stay at nearby. I had a delicious lasagne and Roger had pizza, his favourite food after an ultra. After dinner we followed Tiffany’s car and we checked into the Grand Canyon Inn, the room smelt damp and musty but it was clean and cheap. We scoffed down some ice cream cake Roger had ordered from reception and then he had a much-needed shower. Poor Roger did not sleep very well as he had cramps throughout the night.

On Thursday we headed to breakfast and had eggs and bacon on bread with a gravy. The gravy was a little strange and had not been mentioned on the menu, but we ate it and it didn’t taste too bad. We packed up our things, loaded the van and headed back to the Grand Canyon. Roger wanted to get a Rim2Rim2Rim shirt and possibly some gifts for family and friends. After this we took turns driving towards Silverton, our home for the next week or so. We couldn’t wait to catch up with some running mates from last year who would also be in town and do some more exploring of the area. After a stop for gas and a stop for dinner at Gustavo’s Mexican in Cortez, we eventually arrived in Silverton at nightfall. 

We attempted to drive up to Cunningham Gulch where we had parked the campervan last year, but some sections of the road were surrounded by snow and we didn’t want to risk getting stuck out there in the van without snow chains, so we headed back into town and got a spot at one of the local RV campsite grounds. It was a pretty spot right by the river and facing Kendall mountain, perfect. 

Stay tuned for ‘Part B’ which covers our wonderful time spent in Silverton…

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