Friday, 8 October 2010

Blanding Utah October 7th
I didn’t quite mean to get this far on the road. It just worked out that way. I must have driven the best part of 400 miles, way more than I really wanted to.
I got up early and went straight to the Grand Canyon. The forecast was good for the morning and deteriorating as the day went on. I am very glad I did. The sun shone, although the air was distinctly autumnal. I wonder what the adjective derived from ‘fall’ is? It can’t be ‘fallal’. ‘Fallish’? I have just asked the people on the next door table in the restaurant where I am going to treat myself to a steak and they don’t have much of an idea. Actually they don’t seem to have much idea of anything, given that the three of them have not exchanged a word for the 20 minutes I have been here.
I have felt underprepared on many occasions in my life. It sort of comes with the teaching territory. There are fewer occasions when I have felt that what I have been expecting has been way short of reality. Like in 1985, when Andrew Wingfield-Digby asked me to do an assembly at a girls school in Bangalore. ‘How many will there be?’ I asked. ‘About 2-300’, said Andrew in his usual insouciant way. So I turn up with an idea, but not much more, hoping to wing it by getting them to ask questions. On arrival there is a playground, with a small stage and a microphone and an ocean of expectant faces, all dark, all female. About 2-3000 of them. From 5 schools, all given time off to listen to my talk, at that point just a vague idea in the mind. Thanks mate. Anyhow, I have heard much of what people say about the Grand Canyon. I have seen loads of pictures. But nothing, absolutely nothing, zilch, zero, zip, nix, nihil could prepare anyone for the first look across the chasm. It is unbelievable that anything could exist on that scale and no picture, film or description could ever do it justice. I’m not even going to try. Just get there before you die and if you want to do it the most stylish way, stay at the Grand Canyon Lodge on the North Rim. The North Rim is not the commercialised bit. No tat shops, no flyovers, not much in the way of catering and not many people, as a result. If you want that go to the South Rim. With a fat walletful.

I went to 3 look out points. Fortunately all were fenced off but there are many places which are not. I an ideal world it should be two or three days with walking gear but I haven’t got that long, so I gave it three hours. A colleague of mine described her experience at the Canyon as ‘spiritual’. I wouldn’t quite go that far but it was certainly awe-inspiring.
The next door people have just asked me what I have done today. Having told them, I was interested to discover that they have been at Grand Canyon Lodge for three days. Apparently the weather was every bit as foul as it has been in Cedar City. It got so bad on Tuesday, the day of my aborted trip to Bryce, that the power went out at 5.15 and was not restored until last night. I am glad I did not go there on spec yesterday.
I had intended to stay at Kayenta, at the SW end of Monument Valley. However, all the hotels were of the $150/night variety, so I drove through the valley, with some stops. It was the right thing to do because once the road has passed a great line of ridiculously shaped blocks and pillars, that is about it. I am probably guilty of becoming blasé about sandstone, semi-arid landscapes, having said that. There was some fantastic stuff to look at all day long and the drive was anything but boring.  
So now I have ended up back in Utah, in barless Blanding. It is going to be well-nigh impossible to meet any locals but I am not that fussed. I’ll watch some more baseball and dip out.
It is just so good to be away from Cedar City. The best I can say about it rhymes nicely.

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