“Yep, That Would Be A Giant Canyon. Now What?”

May 22nd, 2013

I awoke slightly twitchy with the excitement of our adventure we had planned for the day. Especially since our last off-road awesomeness had gone so well, my skin was plumb ready to Irish jig right off my skin.

We hit dirt fast. Immediately a huge cloud of red dust began billowing behind us, our shimmering cape of glory, if you will. The van charged West, her shiny bust embracing the wandering desert bugs of the beyond. We conquered bridges,

VanLife Bridge Crossing

stream crossings,

VanLife Stream Crossing

map decoding (aka, determining that we are not on the map we have),


ranch trail traversing,

Ranch Trail VanLife

gate crossing,

Ranch Trail VanLife

and EPIC 10 thousand pound van rock crawling…

(visualize photo here)

Imagine Hot Man and I’s first ‘marshaling’ (directing) experience over incredibly difficult rocky terrain, where any miss information could lead to very bad news. Where, when the trail was chosen, there was no way to turn around, or to go around the scary, trip ending boulders. This was the day I realized how big of a deal it is to have your house, your transportation, your livelihood, balance on rocks that you have placed and hope don’t give way, or crumble under the weight. The rock road was, re-rolled, wedged, and overall ‘hulked’ into place, so that we could navigate over other larger rocks, over gaping dips, and around hair pin turns lined with even scarier rock walls. If it wasn’t rocks I was battling, I was staying at the ready to pull away heavy leering branches, promising the sure removal of the roof rack, if left unnoticed. There was also the crazy graceful dance of tire placement on deep sand-like wash outs. And of course, in case you haven’t already guessed it, no gps, no service, and no maps were available to direct us, not that we were on any trail that was marked anyway (besides maybe in a farmers almanac).

Zooming out on the GPS, away from the question mark that was our current location, we could see the highway. That purple line, seductively curving NW above us. We were so close, if we could just…. fly over a canyon. Yep, the road ended here:

Giant Canyon

Or according to google maps after we got internet connection (we were the green arrow):

Google Map Giant Canyon

If you take a look at the caving black darkness in the photo, that would be the Mini Grand Canyon that we found. Apparently all the spidery roads that google maps had shown us the day before that ended abruptly, did so for a reason (we also weren’t looking in ‘satellite’ view). We looked far to the left, and far to the right, then back to the van hoping that within the last few seconds she had magically decided to sprout any sort of flying attributes. To our dismay, five tons of wheeled house, doesn’t just, believe it can fly, despite R. Kelly’s life inspiring lyrics. No, she sits there, with her once lustrous cape, settling around her hub caps, waiting.

I found myself having flashbacks to my fourth grade class, taught by Mr. Love, and one of my self-picked, vocabulary words, ‘discombobulated’. In that moment, it had defined itself more perfectly than any real life experience before it. Discombobulated by the ability to feel all emotions simultaneously. Fear, of breaking our house on these treacherous roads. Happiness, of being the only souls in an amazingly gorgeous desert and doing exactly what I want with my life. Anger, of not being better at reading the road, and that I hadn’t come in contact with some magical radioactive substance that would make me, or what ever I touched, levitate. Sadness, of the van’s new boo boos. Surprise, of where the road will take you when you let it just go. Disgust, that I would ever think about trading in life’s own magic for anything else.

With one last sweeping look out into Arizona’s deep dark rocky vein, we turned around, and headed back down the desolate ranch path. We met each obstacle in our path a bit faster this time, knowing that we had gone this way before, and that we could do it again.

Spiteful Cow

Not wanting to retrace our steps completely, we found a few more dead ends along the way.

Dead End

Eventually, we managed to find our way out of these tangled lines and locked roads, to end up just seven miles away from where we began our exploration outside of Prescott.

Begin Again

From about 9:30am to 7:00pm, we were adventuring off-road in the Arizona desert. We still had about 4 more highway hours ahead of us to get to our reserved condo in Vegas.

After fuel, groceries, and Dominos Pizza, I volunteered to take the first leg of driving. So far my van driving had consisted of city driving in Grand Junction. Not highway, not at night, not with 60mph wind gusts. Pulling the seat up almost all the way to reach the pedals, and to see over the dash, I psyched myself up with positive self talk, and a few fist pumps. I was ready to guide the SheVan into the starry night. I consider myself to be a pretty proficient driver. I can drive stick, big and small vehicles, and parallel park a trailer like a boss. Apparently, however, I am shit out of luck when it comes to this charging, floaty van. As I crossed over the 45mph mark, I stopped breathing. Every nerve ending stood at attention to take in the feedback from the steering wheel. No matter how straight I held the wheel, the SheVan just sort of… traveled. Add the wind, and I am amazed I didn’t pass out. Not wanting to be defeated, I called on every trucker instinct that might be hiding deep inside my cells. Hot Man knew something was amiss when I stopped responding to his conversation (me wandering on the road had little to do with it). Into the darkness, with some jerk-store tailing my ass, refusing to pass me, I tried. I tried to initiate my instruction, I tried to will my abilities to rise to the occasion, I tried to not fail.

As embarrassing as it is for me to admit, my trucker senses never came to the rescue, and I gave up. I could not transform my fear into ability, and could not bear putting Hot Man in danger, trying to figure it out. Something that I have always prided myself in being good at, was no longer real. “Well, at least I can help drive this thing,” I told myself as I got started on this adventure. Each moment that oozed by in sheer, slow motion panic, told me no. That this, I cannot do. As simple as it sounds, being too scared to drive the van, in a way, broke my heart. Along with it, my ego was pulverized into primordial nothingness.

I pulled over before we got onto the main highway, we switched seats, and I made a mental note to turn in my Man Card at the next available shaming station. Hot Man was very supportive, and tried to reiterate the positive self talk and fist pumps that had started my drive. “Maybe another time I’ll solve this van mystery,” I thought to myself. He reminded me of the stressful day we had, and my ego slightly pooled back into itself, in a depressed and pathetic puddle mind you, but it had some shape. I’ll take shape.

My sorry ass, and Hot Man’s cute one, traveled on toward showers, a soft bed and an end to the day. All of our senses blurry.

Blurry Vegas

The lights pulled us, and tucked us in. “Vegas”, I would turn my brain back on in the morning and figure out what exactly that would mean…




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