Grand Canyon (English Version)

Since the WordPress app on my IPad was so kind to delete the complete translation of my last entry, it took me a little longer to overcome my grudge against the program. But here we go again, second try…

After the official part of my trip ended in San Diego, I still had a thing or two on my To Do list. My plans to visit the Grand Canyon were long made. When I planned the trip though, I would have never dreamed of what I would experience when heading for adventure without a bike or a car in the U.S. I was so naive …

P1000922But I will get to that later. When I arrived in San Diego, I met with a good friend of Astrid, Carol and her roommate Steve, they had agreed to accommodate Frank in their garage. Upon my arrival there, I emptied my panniers and the most important items went into the backpack that I borrowed from Mary. It was a strange feeling having to haul my luggage on my back, fortunately the backpack was pretty good and I could carry my load reasonably comfortable. Unfortunately, the buckle of the hip belt broke right as I headed out the door, as any experienced hiker knows, a disaster. Luckily the whole thing happened before I started, so I had a little time to find a replacement.

Since I had booked my $ 2 Greyhound trip from LA to Las Vegas, about a month before my arrival in San Diego from San Francisco, my timing was a little off. So I had 4-5 days in San Diego. I was allowed to stay with my Warmshowers host for two days and afterwards at the Ocean Beach Hostel for three more days, just a block away from the beach. This gave me a little time to recover before my tour went to full throttle again. Sun, beach, sea, Mexico and downtown San Diego helped me to enjoy my time there.

On February 27th I went to the Greyhound terminal in San Diego to head out to Los Angeles. After about 30 minutes travel time the bus suddenly pulled into a rest stop. That’s strange, a break already? Nope, Border Patrol checkpoint. Hmmm, where was my passport again? Since I had it in the backpack down in the luggage compartment, I just tried my German drivers license, since it has the same format and looks similar to a U.S. passport. (This has actually worked once before, when part of my route ran through a U.S. Army base. Just waved it quickly past the guards and continued riding, works :-)) Now, unfortunately the U.S. Border Patrol has a little bit more of an eye for this. Of course I’m happy to step outside for a little chat, officer. Thankfully, this time we could make do without one hand on the gun. I dug out my passport and had, as always, a lively conversation about my bike and my previous tour afterwards.

Disney Concert Hall, LAWhen I arrived in LA, I decided to cancel my couchsurfing host, since he seemed to live on the other side of LA. A night at the Greyhound station can not be that bad. Unfortunately, I could not leave my backpack at the station, so I had to carry it with me all day through LA. As it turned out later, if you happen to speak the unofficial official language Spanish, your luggage of course can be stored. Thank you for nothing! :-/ My day in LA was in stark contrast to the first time I visited, this time I did all the touristy attractions. See Hollywood Boulevard, Walk of Fame, the Hollywood Sign, and the Disney Concert Hall. All very nice to see, but LA is still not a particularly attractive city to me, sorry. Back at the Greyhound station, I found a place on one of the benches and even slept a little. The bus trip to Las Vegas was unspectacular, sadly I could not sleep because the bus was packed full. Well only cost me $ 1 so I’m not complaining. In Vegas, I checked into my hostel room, showered and slept for about one hour, lets say I tried.

Vegas, Baby!Then I made my way through Las Vegas to the airport and explored „The Strip“ on foot. Now, Las Vegas is also not going to be one of my favorite cities. Aside from that everything seems artificial and surreal there, I had one thing that annoyed me immensely and almost made me aggressive towards the end. At each intersection there are people who fling a business card or flyers for Strip Clubs in your face. This is incredibly stressful, because they are very pushy and disrespectful doing it. At the airport I picked up Astrid and together we went to the car rental counter. We were asked if we wanted to upgrade to an SUV, since this would be just the right thing if we want to explore the Grand Canyon. Yes, but I was planning on taking the highway to get there. To my knowledge you can not drive around below the rim in the canyon either, this time, the park ranger would shoot me for sure I guess. 😉

The next day we got up early and started our way to the GC (Grand Cayon). After we first headed into the wrong direction for a little while, the onboard navigation changed her…ehh its mind and worked flawless. We arrived without complications in the GC. On the way there though I was suddenly overcome by a cold shiver … What’s this? White, cold, wet, ugh snow I did not want to see you for at least another half a year fellow. I was glad that there were only a few patches, it was an effective warning about the temperatures during the night. But we were prepared. In the Backcountry Office, we got our permit for camping in the canyon. Along with a warning to beware of raccoons and mice that would eat into our food, we should hang our supplies from a tree. Thanks for the tip.

P1000938The descent into the canyon was then harder than expected and we arrived just after nightfall at the campground. The first night starting by having to pitch a tent in the dark, not cool! The whole setting up then proceeded unexpectedly smooth and we crawled exhausted into the tent. The next morning we were treated with the full range of the beautiful GC panorama. The images here can hardly revive the true beauty of this astonishing masterpiece of nature. I packed my Primus OmniLite TI for this trip. It had always been really reliable and been working flawless. Blinded by this fact I had forgotten to service it before this trip. The pump leather was dried out, so I could not build up any pressure in the fuel bottle. After a little pondering my eyes locked onto the Chapstick in my backpack, problem solved. I have to say I’m so glad that I purchased a full maintenance kit and left it in San Diego!

Do-it yourself Baum We reached our next campground without further problems. While I was there I used the coolest toilet ever (I’ll leave the solution to this one for Standout Media) Right there the words of the park ranger came back to my mind … hang your supplies from a tree … Ehhhmmm tree? We were glad that there was dirt, grass and a few cacti around here. Without having been robbed by raccoons, (They do not get my Oakleys again) we headed out to make our way to the next campsites the following morning. The breathtaking scenery let the day fly by and we reached our final campsite without any complications. At this last campground we met a couple of awesome ultralight hikers that I could copycat a few tricks from. The next day we started to head back out of the canyon, this meant climbing all day. From Hermans rest we took a shuttle bus back to our starting point, it took us along the edge of the GC and carried us within 45 minutes along a stretch that took us four days to conquer. P1010017Throughout the whole trip I had repeatedly felt the desire to have Frank with me. I imagined how much fun it would be to do all these trails with a mountain bike, even if the cacti along the way and the steep climbs certainly would have quickly discouraged me. The return trip to Vegas once again proceeded without any incident and we arrived exhausted at our motel. Eat (Secret-pizza, Oh Yeah!) Shower, Sleep!

P1000926At around 4:00 am I brought Astrid back to the airport. Back at the motel I went right back to bed. Sleep? Negative! Second breakfast and HBO. The rest of the day I spent in a Outletmall. Aside from that, I knew nothing further to do with myself in Vegas. Since I still did not want to go to any strip clubs and my account was in the reds even without me gambling I then decided to leave Vegas the next day. My Greyhound reservation was for three days later, but I thought I wasn’t gonna make it in this city that long. So I put on my backpack and walked to the highway, I just hitchhike back to Los Angeles, can’t be that hard.

WRONG! From this point on, everything went down the drain. At the first onramp to the highway I stood for about 2 hours. Finally, I was then picked up by a friendly medical assistant wearing scrubs, he took me about 2-3 miles through the city. Well, I was still in Vegas. After another unsuccessful four hours I finally made it to the outskirts of the city, mainly on foot though. The last onramp in Vegas before I get into the desert and it just began to get dark. I had already started to scout the area for suitable campsites, when finally a nice fellow felt pity for me and took me along. Fortunately for me, his ultimate destination was just east of LA so I thought the rest could be travelled by public transport. WRONG! As I found out when I got there, I was still 60 miles away from LA (1″ on the map :-)) it was already after 11 pm and I had no internet to research a connection. When I turned on my Garmin, I saw, to my great joy, that I was only two blocks away from a Greyhound station. So I hurried down there and took the next bus to LA! 55 minutes and $ 17 later I was back in the Greyhound station from which I had originally departed from LA.

During the entire time I had been in contact with Mary, who was so generous to allow me to once again spend a night on her couch. In addition I had of course to bring her back her backpack. I arrived at 12:55 am at the LA Greyhound station why do I know this so specific? Because the bus was 10 minutes late, and I therefore had 10 minutes less to reach the metro. 1.5 miles, 30lbs backpack, 12min, 70° F and rain, no problem. WRONG! 13 minutes. Try running trough downtown LA just after midnight, with a backpack on, people look at you like you are nuts.

So, I missed the metro, could be worse I take the bus then, takes a little longer but who cares. So I asked the friendly driver of my trust if the bus line that I need is operated during nighttime hours. Of course, LA is the largest city on the West Coast … After I waited over 2 hours at the bus stop I just thought … WRONG! I then asked somebody that walked by with a smartphone when the next bus will arrive, 4:45 am was the crushing reply. So I thought I’d sit down in a McDonalds to pass some time until the bus arrives. At least I’ll get out of the rain. Correct? WRO … McDonalds and Co. are closed from 1:00 to 5:00 am. Again, it is the largest city on the West Coast! Believe it or not I eventually arrived at 5:30 at Mary’s place. Fortunately she had laid out the key for me. I just wanted to sleep!

Well, well, now I had only to get back from LA to San Diego. Since I’m pretty much learning resistant, I thought, lets try hitchhiking. This time I even made myself a nice sign that said San Diego. Unfortunately, I had to leave the backpack behind which left me with all my belongings in two plastic bags and my Exped bag. After 5 hours of unsuccessful roadside ‚fun‘ (I was at least offered water and food by a nice pedestrian) I got picked up by a nice girl. In the U.S. a lot of highways have an extra lane for car sharing and it is mostly free. That is the reason why I was picked up, does not bother me, it’s all about progress. 30min and a delightful chat later, I was back on the side of the road. It just started to get dark and I didn’t even bother trying to get picked up in the dark. So I gave Steve (My Bike-sitter) a call to tell him that I would arrive a day later. He suggested that I could take the train. This seemed like a good idea, since I had no desire to further play the hitchhike game.

So I took the next bus to the Amtrak station. Change busses once and you are there … Unless you really blow it this time. While I was waiting for the next bus on, what I though to be the right side, I saw a bus marked ‚Amtrak station‘ arriving on the other side of the street. So I thought: ‚Oh no, I’m on the wrong side‘. Sprinting across the street I reached the bus just in time. Lucky me! As I arrived at the train station I got the feeling something was wrong with this picture. I took the WRONG bus! I have not arrived at the Amtrak Station, but at the Amtrak Metrolink Station. Ok, I can do this, I still have 45 minutes. Not wasting any time I head to the street and start jogging back. What could be better than to jog at night with a plastic bag over your shoulder along the Pacific Coast? As long as the bags do not tear open and spill your entire belongings including IPad onto the tarmac, its actually a great thing.

I still denied to admit defeat, it takes more than that! So I crammed everything back into the bag shreds held on to the remains somehow and went on. While doing this I’m still trying to wave cars over to the side in order to ask them if they can help me. Shortly before midnight, on a dark, deserted country road, with shredded plastic bags in my hand and a desperate look on my face! Brilliant idea! The mass murderer with the Walmart bags 🙂 I would not have picked me up myself. When I started to randomly loose different items from my bags every 30-50 feet I finally gave up, exhausted and depressed. To my misfortune it had just started to rain cats and dogs. I was downright miserable! I then decided to call Steve and ask him to pick me up. Never before have I had such a bad conscience, to call someone, someone I have known for a few hours, shortly after midnight, to ask him to pick me up, at a train station, in the middle of nowhere. But I was just absolutely done, depleted. Physically I’ve already explored my limits on this tour before, but this was the first time that I was emotionally pushed to my limits! Steve agreed without hesitation to come to my rescue and pick me up and he could not be persuaded to take any further compensation except petrol money and Milka chocolate! He was my personal hero of that very night.

This is the end of my 48 Hour Tour of Horror. Not dramatic, not dangerous but incredibly emotional for me! From San Diego, my next goal clearly in sight, everything should become better … I want to see the desert. In the desert, everything is going to change … The newspaper article has already given part of it away.
The story though goes way beyond what is written there, even beyond this whole trip … Just know: It’s all good! 🙂


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