The Unexpected Journey
The final hours of our dusty climb was in the dark. We didn’t know it but we were being pursued by a massive ice-storm. The next morning, we woke in the shocking comfort of a hotel on the South Rim to find a layer of ice blanketing the Canyon. Had we not made it back the night before, we’d still be in The Canyon today. The original plan was to stay two nights at Phantom Ranch on the Canyon floor. Reservations for two nights are so difficult to get, no one ever gives them up. Forfeiting our prepaid second night at Phantom Ranch was the first wise decision Jeff & I made since our bizarre journey began. Luckily, it would not be the last.
The Road Home – Jerome, The Asylum, and El Capitan
Leaving Grand Canyon National Park the next morning, we skirted the west side of the ice-storm for a couple hours. On a lark we ducked into the remote cliff-side town of Jerome and checked-in to The Grand Hotel for a few days – our second wise decision. The hotel bar named The Aslyum became our sanctum sanctorum. Three days later we caught-up with the ice-storm again in West Texas where we made our third wise decision.
Every town’s got something special that’s not apparent at first glance. Van Horn’s special is really not Diesel Fried Chicken in spite of its iconic old fillin’ station. Van Horn’s special is the El Capitan Hotel. And it had two rooms and two reservations for dinner at the restaurant bar with our names on them. The El Capitan is a Depression-era hotel restored recently by a couple from Fort Davis for love and two and half million dollars. It’ll never be profitable but who cares? It’s the finest old hotel on I-10 from Jacksonville to Santa Monica.
The El Capitan was the surprise-ending of our journey to Phantom Ranch. We got to the hotel and its restaurant bar just in time for the Super Bowl coin-toss. When our meal arrived we lost interest in the game. At half-time, we wandered off in different directions to explore the hotel, and our rooms. With our Grand Canyon experience still so fresh, I guess we just couldn’t stop wandering around.
Jeff and I left Van Horn the next morning in a reflective mood. Our strange adventure was coming to an end in a strange town. We headed back to Austin and for a while things were quiet. But soon enough the truck was filled with the familiar claptrap of bogus insights on politics, life, and love, our mouths watering for Hill Country brisket, Shiner Bock, old flames, Asleep At The Wheel, and even the bovine noise of the State Legislature. There’s something about Texas that always brings me home. And there’s something about Grand Canyon that will always take me yonder.
Somewhere in West Texas, sometime in February 2014