It’s no fun setting up a tent and cooking dinner in the dark. Another hard lesson in camping for Sandy and Ed.
To recap our last post of August 26, we flew home from Las Vegas the next day, leaving our van with daughter Kathleen, who’s studying nursing there. We cut short our original plan to spend five or six weeks driving across the country, seeing the Pacific coast, the Rockies, and of course, Sturgis, S.D.
We flew back to Vegas on Thursday, September 13th, a bit humbled when we recalled the somewhat extravagant vision with which we had started nearly a month ago. We tried to put the stress of a bunch of doctor’s appointments behind us. We junked the original plan; the road home would be, if not straight-line direct, more businesslike and hurried than our first meandering lark on the highways of America.
Kathleen picked us up at the sun-scorched MCarren airport and reported how she had completely reorganized our stuff in the van. It was a professional packing job, but would take us a couple of days to find everything. We had a nice dinner with her and her boyfriend, Steve, and got a good night’s sleep.
Kathleen and Steve are the elite campers/ mountaineers we couldn’t dream to be. They had just returned from a seven-day trek across California mountain trails and were heading, that weekend, for three days of hiking in the Moab and Canyonlands national parks in Utah. They showed us their arsenal of high-tech gear—a lightweight butane-fueled stove that “burns much hotter,” Steve said, than our clunky propane version; dehydrated and freeze-dried meals and snacks (we lugged groceries), lightweight all-weather gear, compact cooking kits. We’ll never get there.
Friday morning I splashed in the pool at their apartment complex, anxious to hit the road. We said our goodbyes and got the required photo beneath the “Leaving Las Vegas” sign at the southern end of the Strip. We then picked up some groceries at Walmart in Henderson, just south of Vegas, gasping in the Nevada heat. We then jumped on I-215 to U.S. 93, which takes you out into the desert (what else?) south of Vegas, past Lake Mead, and eventually to Kingman, Ariz. to pick I-40, which you can take all the way to Wilmington N.C. We weren’t that uptight, but no U.S. 66 on this trip.
We were headed to a KOA campsite in Williams, which I had booked online, a mistake I won’t repeat. Williams was a stop on our sweep along U.S. 66 in our first barrage of “On the Road” posts. A tourist stop on 66, the town calls itself the “gateway to the Grand Canyon.” Our plan was to see the Canyon—that is, see it and get going again.
U.S. 93 gets to be a grind, bordered by monotonous miles of empty, rolling sand scrub. We were worn out by the time we got to Kingman, with 100 miles still to go. We stopped for a shake at McDonald’s, then pressed on, noting how much faster darkness overtook us in mid-September than one month ago. Maybe it just seems that way when you have to set up a tent, unroll sleeping bags, light the grill, cook, etc., etc. I pushed us to upwards of 90 mph, dodging 18-wheelers, but then ran into construction lane closures 20 miles short of Williams.
We made it to the KOA about 8:00 pm. The campsite was basically a spot of dirt next to a road butted up to other sites on both sides. We wearily hauled our gear out, shocked that here, 50 miles from the Canyon, the temperature was at least 30 degrees cooler than in Vegas. We then discovered that our thumbs didn’t work very well trying to thread tentpoles into tiny loops and setting up the grill. Sandy took charge of the cooking and I struggled with the tent, suddenly needing two t-shirts, sweatpants, sweatshirt, gloves, and a winter jacket. We finished off the dinner and turned in, tense and tired, but encouraged that we were on the way home.