As you know, your grandparents took a 6,300-mile drive, round-trip, to the north rim of the Grand Canyon and back.
Click on the photo to move to the next one.
It began early 5 May when they headed for Tennessee and ended 30 days later when they returned home late in the afternoon on 4 June. Along the way they visited many beautiful and interesting sites, went to a couple shows, and tried not to overeat.
Their sightseeing actually began after a trip west of Nashville, Tennessee, where they visited your Great Aunt Debby, Grandpa Roy’s sister. They returned to Nashville after that visit and the following day took two guided tours of the city: One was aboard a trolley that showed them many sights they may not have known were there otherwise and the other was a walking tour.
The walking tour was led by a man who was a Willy Nelson impersonator at different Nashville clubs in the evenings.
He led the very small group to several spots and then took them to the famous Ryman Theater, also known as the “Mother Church of Country Music” because originally it had been a church. At the Ryman he led them backstage, showing them among other things Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash’s original dressing room that remains unchanged to this day.
The following day your grandparents visited a couple more sights and that evening they actually attended a live performance of Country Classics at the Ryman. Larry Gatlin of the Gatlin Brothers was the host and Eddie Stubbs was the announcer, as the show was being broadcast live over WSM Radio. The show lasted exactly 2 hours.
The following day they drove to Memphis, Tennessee, home of Elvis Presley’s Graceland mansion. There was a lot to see at Graceland in addition to the mansion, so your grandparents were there for a number of hours.
In Memphis your grandparents visited Mud Island, a park that is reached by monorail and which features a scale model nearly a mile long of the full length of the Mississippi River, called Riverwalk, as well as an interesting museum devoted to the river.
The following day they left for Hot Springs, Arkansas, so named because the water that comes out of the ground naturally is quite hot. In Hot Springs they took a ride on a World War II vintage DUC (duck), then toured the town and found some supper.
From Hot Springs they drove to Dallas where they visited Pioneer Plaza. It was hard to get a good GPS signal driving along the streets that were lined with skyscrapers.
By late afternoon they visited their first aviation museum, Frontiers of Flight at Love Field. Your grandfather was trying to visit as many as possible during the trip.
Continuing westward, they had a steak in Odessa, Texas, a town named by Russian railroad workers who helped lay the tracks through that part of Texas. The following day they stopped at the Commemorative Air Force Museum in Midland, Texas.
Then they continued on toward Roswell, New Mexico, famous for the supposed “flying saucer” crash in the late 1940s. But along the route, Grandpa noticed they were very close to Carlsbad Caverns, which was not even on their itinerary. Grandma Bert felt the caverns were just about the top highlight of the whole trip. The caverns would be the first of several unplanned stops your grandparents made to see places not on their itinerary.
After leaving Roswell a couple days later, they drove through White Sands National Monument. The sand is so white and so deep that it looks like snow. It is even plowed every so often because the wind causes it to drift across the road just like snow does.
Finally they arrived at Benson, Arizona, a midway point for their visits to your Great Aunt Mary and her dog kennels in Huachuca, a couple air museums and Tombstone, Arizona, site of the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Grandma was most impressed with the Boothill cemetery in Tombstone.
After 3 nights in Benson, they headed north toward Phoenix, Flagstaff and, ultimately, the north rim of the Grand Canyon. After passing through Phoenix, where they had visited the museum for the Arizona Wing of the Commemorative Air Force, the GPS announced that Interstate 17 north to Flagstaff was closed. It plotted an alternative route that would take them all the way back to Phoenix, something the did not wish to do.
After stopping at a visitor center in a small town, where a number of people were trying to find routes to different locations because of the fire that had closed the highway to points north, your grandparents drove back south a few miles, then took the recommended highway to a very interesting town called Wickenburg in central Arizona, where they ate in a historic restaurant, heard some interesting ghost stories and walked around the picturesque town.
The next morning there was yet another fire to avoid which was quite large and, as it happened, took several weeks to put out. The so-called Slide fire burned over 27,000 acres and was not extinguished until 6 June 2014. When your grandparents arrived in Flagstaff on 21 May some hours later to find a room, the city was covered in smoke from the fire and, though not hot, ash was falling onto the city. People were warned to stay indoors, especially if they had breathing problems.
Your grandparents reached Kanab, Utah, 80 miles north of the Grand Canyon’s north rim the following afternoon, 22 May. Along the way they made several stops to see different national monuments, such as Montezuma’s Castle.
The next morning’s drive to the north rim proved to be somewhat dangerous, as it was SNOWING, sleeting and raining along the route. But when they got to the Canyon, the clouds cleared and they spent an amazing 3 hours there.
However, lightning had struck not too far from the north rim and a fire had started. Your grandfather took photos of a helicopter that was trying to put out the fire.
After lunch at the North Rim lodge, they headed back to Kanab, where they had a very expensive, but good meal at the Spurs Grill restaurant, known for its steaks.
Since they had seen enough of the Grand Canyon, they made another unplanned side trip the following day, this time to Bryce Canyon, one of the most interesting canyons in the whole country because of its many formations called hoodoos. These formations are constantly being eroded and new ones formed because the stone is so soft in the canyon. Your grandfather likes Bryce Canyon as well as the Grand Canyon.
Their trip now was taking them back toward home. Along the way they visited Meteor Crater, the largest best preserved meteor crater in the world, which was another unplanned stop.
After spending the night in Holbrook, Arizona, they visited the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert.
In Albuquerque, New Mexico, Grandma convinced Grandpa to take the world’s longest aerial tramway to the top of Sandia Peak, where they hiked and had refreshments at the High Finance restaurant.
During a tour of the old town in Albuquerque later in the day, Grandpa Roy bought some delicious chocolates and Grandma picked up a unique Christmas tree ornament at a Christmas Shop.
The following morning they visited Petroglyph National Monument, where they photographed a large number of very interesting rock paintings made hundreds of years ago.
While visiting with your Great Aunt Mary in Arizona, she had told your grandmother about a large cross that is visible along the highway somewhere in Texas. As your grandparents headed for Oklahoma City, they finally saw what she was talking about, a huge cross extended some 190 feet into the air just outside Groom, Texas. This location was another unplanned and interesting stop in your grandparents’ travels.
On reaching Oklahoma, they ate at Lucille’s Road House, a restaurant on the famous Route 66 (or what is left of it). Then they drove a couple miles down the road to visit the Stafford Air and Space Museum, named for one of America’s early astronauts.
There was so much to do and see once our grandparents reached Oklahoma City that they simply couldn’t do it all. First they toured the 45th Infantry Division museum, where a man 89 years old who had fought in World War II gave them a fantastic, unplanned guided tour of the museum. He knew about everything in the museum and your grandmother, in particular, found his knowledge amazing.
Later they visited the world’s only Museum of Osteology, a museum of bones. It was a fantastic and very interesting museum. In addition they visited the botanical gardens in the city itself.
In Little Rock, Arkansas, your grandmother attended church and the following morning they went to a reserve military base where Grandpa Roy was able to photograph a few aircraft that were on display.
Then they headed for Memphis, where they took a 1½ hour sail on a sternwheeler. The guide pointed out all the interesting things one could see in Memphis during their short cruise along the Mississippi River.
Yet another unplanned stop was at the home of Casey Jones, a famous young railroad engineer who saved the lives of all his passengers, though he died. His daring deed was celebrated in song and the song still can be heard today.
Nearing the end of their month-long trip, your grandparents spent two nights in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, in the foothills of the Smokey Mountains. Grandma spent time at some outlets while Grandpa visited yet another air museum.
The final night they went to Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede. The best part of the whole show, for them, was the pre-show in the “saloon.” The stampede itself was not exactly what they had expected and the fact there was plenty of food meant they were eating when, perhaps, they should have been looking at the show. Sadly, no photography was allowed at the Stampede itself.
The last morning of their visit, your grandparents crossed the Smokey Mountains and then drove some distance along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
From there, it was back onto the highway and home, stopping only for lunch at Shell’s Barbecue in Hickory, North Carolina. It had been a wonderful trip and they had seen and learned a lot. Grandpa Roy had driven just over 6,300 miles. It took him 5 days to recover.