Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Cedar City October 5th
It rained heavily all night. So much so, that I decided to do Bryce Canyon, a 160 mile round trip, rather than the 300 mile round trip to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. I left windy but dry conditions in Cedar City. I drove a few miles into the mountains. The river in the canyon, which the road to Bryce follows, was flowing quickly, a brick red colour, full of fine sandy sediment washed into it from the slopes above. As I started to climb, the rain turned from a fine drizzle to something more persistent. The road was OK, provided great care was taken to avoid rocks which had been washed on to it by the deluge. Sandstone, for the uninitiated, absorbs so much water but then simply splits apart. At a couple of points, I felt distinctly nervous driving under sheer rock faces. It did open out, eventually, having reached the top of the river’s course, when I assume I had made the plateau above. I say ‘assume’ because the cloud cover was such that it was difficult to see more than a few hundred metres. When the rain began to turn to sleet and I knew I had more height to attain, discretion took over and I turned back. Mountain country is no place to be in a small saloon car when conditions deteriorate. I guess it is why the vehicle of choice here is a big pick-up truck or a 4WD.
So I resigned myself to having one of those days, so familiar to anyone who has been on a cricket tour in England, when the best laid plans have to be abandoned and other activity takes its place. The problem is that Cedar City is not full of options for other activity. I eked out a coffee in Starbucks and a Caesar salad lunch in a deli. I came back to the motel and read some of a book. I went to watch a film. Case 39. Big mistake. It starred Rene Zellweger, Ian McShane and Adrian Lester, which looked promising, given the roles they have played so far. If I had chosen to watch any film, this would have been the last one. It turned out to be a cross between The Omen and Don’t Look Now, without the location, music, Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie.
I am not even going to try Bryce tomorrow. It is still raining and I glimpsed some snow on the mountains earlier this afternoon between showers. I am 95% certain I won’t get to the Grand Canyon either. The roads leading to it are very like the one to Bryce Canyon and I am not going to risk breaking down somewhere remote. The forecast is for it to keep raining tonight and tomorrow with a slow clear-up starting on Thursday. Friday looks reasonable and Saturday and Sunday look fine. There are, in short, more important things.
So I am stuck here until Thursday a.m. Bored and feeling quite a long way from anything I could call familiar. One of the things I wanted to achieve during the sabbatical was to exist for a time out of my comfort zone. I did not think it would come to pass in this particular location, in what is supposed to be a semi-arid climatic region. I guess I’ve just got here for the semi bit.
I will drive to Monticello on Thursday and take my time about it. I am going to attempt to get to Mesa Verde, which has the old Pueblo Indian settlements cut into the rock faces, on Friday, do the circular tour of Monument Valley, which has the landscape of tall columns ( buttes, I think ) and flat topped mesas, such as those familiar with Road Runner cartoons would recognise, on Saturday and Arches on Sunday before getting back towards Denver on Monday. I have organised to stay with some friends of friends from church on Tuesday night in Boulder, which is just north of Denver.
All long trips have highs and lows. This spell is just one of the latter. I can’t complain because it has been much more high than low so far. The trick has to be to take it on the chin, appreciate that family and friends are infinitely more valuable than anything else in life and to make as many jokes about it as possible.
I did get talking to the bloke who runs the place where I am staying. He is an Indian. The sort who comes from Ahmedabad, I should stress, not of indigenous American descent. Just in case you are worried, I did not go near that sort of gag in conversation. He has been here for 22 years yet still sends back some of his monthly income to his wider family in India. His children, who play outside between the rainstorms, sound just like any other American children. When I asked him how he felt about that, he said it was the main reason he came over here. He did so in a way that said ‘that’s enough personal revelation for now’. The conversation would have ended there had I not mentioned that India had beaten Australia in a very close Test Match. That prolonged it for a good 5 more minutes, even though I got the feeling there were pressing family matters to attend to, judging by the urgency of his wife’s repeated summons from behind the connecting door to his office.
You can’t help but admire that sort of bottle, commitment to what businesses like to call ‘core values’ and, of course, an appreciation of the finest of all games.
If I was not expecting to be holed up for three days by bad weather, I much less expected to be talking cricket in Southern Utah
This trip continues to throw up the most unusual surprises.

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