Across the desert

Aug 23, 2006

Today was the day I’d been dreading, having to drive 480 miles from the Grand Canyon to Anaheim for the start of this year’s Worldcon. This was not the original plan, but somewhere after making reservations for the lodge back in January, I realized the Worldcon was not its traditional Thursday to Monday dates, but rather Wednesday to Sunday, as it’s not on Labor Day weekend there’s no reason to extend the con to Monday. So where I thought we’d be checking out of the GC on Wednesday with the con starting the following day, it turned out I’d miscounted. So as a result we got here to Anaheim and checked in by about 6pm, just as the con was ending for the day. It hadn’t really gotten going until 2:30, so I’d missed at most 3 panels, and since this is my 6th Worldcon, I wasn’t going to get too hung up about it.

It took a while to get rolling this morning, everyone needed showers, we decided to have a real breakfast back at the restaurant at Bright Angel Lodge, had to check out, take a few last pictures, one last trip around the gift shop, such that is was 9:30 by the time we drove out of the park. The kids watched movies non-stop in the backseat, Beth read for a while, dozed for a while, read some more. I looked at the Arizona and California deserts for 8 hours straight. We got some cheap gas just before crossing over into California, stopped in Needles for lunch at a Jack in the Box, got gas again somewhere before getting off of I-15, but otherwise didn’t diverge from the road the entire day. The temperature was a temperate 75 or so when we left the canyon, but it was about 106 through Barstow.

Last time we stayed across the street at the Hilton, I opted for the Marriott this time as it is not the main hotel and thereby doesn’t host any parties, so the odds of having a quiet floor that is actually quiet are increased (they try to limit parties to pre-designated “party floors” in the main hotel, but people don’t always get the memo. This was a bit of a problem last time). The area around the convention center looks pretty much the same as I remember it, but the area around Disney has spruced up quite a bit, we walked from the hotel to Downtown Disney, which didn’t even exist 10 years ago, and went to Tortilla Joe’s for dinner. A mariachi band serenaded us at our table, and a guy came around later and made balloon animals for the kids. After dinner we walked over to the World of Disney store so I could get the kids the Disney dollars they earned for the picture matching exercise. The Grand Canyon pictures were pretty much a bust, even though there were 9 or 10 of them, the vidcaps were indistinct enough to make the backgrounds blend together, and we didn’t cover every scenic outlook along the rim, so even a few that should’ve been more easily identifiable were never matched up. There is also a section of the ’68 film from somewhere between the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam, which we covered on Monday going the other direction, that looks like it was taken at a rest stop with some scenery in the background. There was a “scenic outlook” on the southbound side of US-93 that may have been it, although it was only a few miles past the dam, but it appears that there’s a river in the background, which was the point of the scenic outlook, so that may have been it, but since we’d just gotten in the car and had 200+ miles to go I didn’t stop. The kids had pretty much lost interest by then anyway, and by the time the GC came along so had I, or at least I had better things to do. Coming back west today we covered the same stretch of I-40 as on Monday at least as far as Kingman, then continuing all the way to its western terminus at I-15 in Barstow. Charles Kurault reputedly said after I-40’s eastern end in North Carolina was completed back in the ‘80’s that “it is now possible to drive across the entire country without seeing anything”. The western most 400 miles would certainly bear that out, not that the desert landscape isn’t unique or beautiful in its own terms, but 400 miles of it is a bit much.

After finishing the Disney store, we walked back to the hotel from the other direction, as Downtown Disney isn’t as easy to get to as it looks on the map, and that seemed to be more direct, maybe a mile total, everyone was tired, although Beth was the only one really complaining.

Tomorrow my convention starts in earnest and this travelog will shift focus accordingly. Beth has plans to take the kids to Disneyland one day, Legoland another day, but everything else is up for grabs. There are lots of things in LA that I haven’t seen, hopefully I’ll have the time to do a couple of them. And tomorrow night we get to witness the sagging Red Sox try to eke out a decent performance now that the Yankees have crushed both their spirit and their hopes of reaching the playoffs even with 5 weeks left in the season.

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