The Unexpected Journey

The final 3 hours of our dusty climb back to the South Rim was in the dark. We didn’t know it at the time 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 on the floor of the Canyon, at Phantom Ranch. Reservations for two nights are so difficult to get, no one ever gives them up. Forfeiting our prepaid second night at Phantom Ranch was unexpected and the first wise decision Jeff & I made. 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 Aslyum, the hotel’s appropriately-named bar 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. We couldn’t pass it up. There were 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.

diesel fried chicken
The drive-by view of Van Horn most people take away
front door
The El Capitan was designed in 1930 by architect Henry Trost who designed several hotels in West Texas
leather chairs in lobby
Comfort, mood, and Mexican tile – a great hotel and the food is good as well

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. After a great meal we quickly lost interest in the game and wandered off in different directions to explore the hotel, and our rooms. I suppose we just couldn’t stop wandering around.

Yonder

Jeff and I left Van Horn the next morning in a reflective mood. Our strange adventure was coming to an end. 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 those bovines in 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

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