Days 46 – 49 • April 16 – 19, 2012 • Blythe to Grand Canyon, AZ • 281 miles
Taking a cue from the Muppets, we decided to travel by map. When we pressed the button, our friend Paul appeared in his RV. It wasn’t amphibious but barring any unplanned detours into the Colorado that wouldn’t be a problem. So we loaded up the trikes and set off down the same path we were planning to ride, averaging 50 MPH instead of our usual 10-ish.
Cheating? No, that’s the beauty of a trip like this—we get to make up the rules. We were a bit behind schedule so we reckoned we could straighten out our meandering route a bit and get back a week or so which might help avoid rushing through the latter parts of the trip. We’d been planning to meet Paul and family, Heather and Pepper, in the Canyon anyway and they offered to pick us up anywhere and shuttle us there which made logistics easier and more predictable.
Heather and Pepper met us at Mather Campground in the canyon where we stayed the next couple of nights. They have RV camping figured out pretty well so we got home cooked meals and even a big tent with a big, plush air mattress. Luxury! Zoe had been looking forward to playing with Pepper for weeks and they had a good time reading stories, playing tag, and generally goofing around. Paul helped me inspect the trike and set the tow a little more accurately than I was able to on my own. We had a great time catching up and poking around the south rim.
After Paul and Heather and Pepper left, Zoe and I did a short hike down the Bright Angel trail and listened to an excellent talk on California condors. Here are some interesting condor facts courtesy of Zoe:
- They got down to 22 in the world because of lead poisoning
- There are now more than 300 in the wild
- They’re the second biggest soaring bird on earth, after the Andean condor, biggest in North America
- They have white under their wings
- You can tell them apart from a turkey vulture because condors don’t tip from side to side when they fly, they fly flat as a board. And they’re bigger than turkey vultures.
- They have about a 9 foot wingspan
Later that day Cap’n Rob showed up with his recumbent stuffed into the ol’ green Geo Metro. He’s Captain of the tall ship we sailed back in San Pedro. He was off duty for a while and wanted to do some bike touring so we decided to ride together a bit.
The next day we biked around the south rim, exploring the view points as Rob readied his ‘bent for duty. Cycling is a great way to see the rim of the canyon. Bikes are allowed on any paved road, including shuttle-only roads, which made the ride out to Yaki Point very nice. There are also dedicated bike trails connecting portions of the park. Bikes aren’t allowed on the rim trail except at the eastern and western portions where they do allow bikes. This seems to be a fairly recent change as the current maps contradict some of the older kiosk maps which still show these portions pedestrian-only. It looks like they are slowly moving toward making the rim car-free but if they want bikes to be part of that solution they have one big flaw: no place to park and lock your bike. We rode / walked all around the Bright Angel area, asked rangers, and no one could come up with a bike rack. We eventually found one tucked away near the Bright Angel trail head but by then we’d already (no doubt illegally) locked to a fence.
At Yaki Point we hoped to see some condors; during the condor talk the night before the ranger mentioned they had been spotted here. We had given up hope and were preparing to leave when Zoe began shouting “condor! condor! “. We looked up as three mature California Condors glided overhead. Awesome! We couldn’t read their tags but they were definitely condors, a satisfying payoff from the condor talk. Maybe the thirty or so other people standing there when Zoe began shouting didn’t understand English or maybe they had their 9-year-old-kid filters on, but only Zoe, Rob and I bothered to look up to see the condors. We saw the same three again later that day further west, near Bright Angel, and two more the next day. I’ve always been fascinated with condors because they soar so efficiently and beautifully and I finally got to see some in the wild. Way to go Peregrine Fund and compliant hunters who switched from lead to copper shot for bringing these majestic birds back from the brink.
All along the south rim of the canyon we noticed dramatically more interest in and tolerance of our recumbents, including Rob’s short wheel base ‘bent. Wherever we stopped we’d get a barrage of questions, usually from people who’d never seen contraptions like these, but sometimes from ‘bent or trike riders. If we weren’t near our trikes we’d find people taking pictures and theorizing about what they are and how they work. Some French tourists wanted pictures of themselves on my trike and Rob’s ‘bent. That seemed like an odd request to me but we obliged. On the roads other motorists were courteous to an almost absurd level– at one point we were tailed about 25 yards back by a motorist with flashers going. He could have safely passed many times and when he eventually did pass us he drove all the way into the left shoulder. At Desert View Zoe and I were given a standing ovation by a group of Japanese tourists. I wasn’t quite sure how to react to that—uh, thanks? We’ll be playing here all week? We just smiled. Who knows why the interest and courtesy were so amplified at the canyon. My theory is that these people want to be here and aren’t so stressed out about getting somewhere else.
Here is Zoe’s wildlife count at the south rim:
- 1 coyote
- 6 condors
- 2 deer
- Lots of ravens
- Lots of elk