Story by Anthony Mathenia Photos by Rebekah Mathenia
Syncopated: Displace the beats or accents in so that strong beats become weak and vice versa
The Grand Canyon is not so grand. We’re here because it is another lifetime must-see. Sure it’s massive; but perhaps too big for comfort. The natural wonder is not very approachable. Like a large mural painting, I have to step back to take in the view. Even then I’m only getting half the picture. Can something be so overwhelming that it is underwhelming? We stay long enough to take a few photographs to mark the visit and move on.
Williams, Arizona is our stopover. There we find accommodations at the Canyon Motel and RV park. It’s inexpensive, but a bit on the shabby side — hobo shabby, not shabby chic. Worse, the cable is out and the Wi-Fi signal is inaccessible. We see what the town has to offer by way of entertainment. Due to its proximity to the Grand Canyon, Williams is a thriving cluster of motels and tourist dives. Upon our visit, the main thoroughfare is blocked off to allow for an exuberant western show to be reenacted in the middle of the street.
We bypass the enthralled crowd and duck into Twisters, a kitschy diner with wall-to-wall Coca-Cola memorabilia. The food selection is limited mainly to burgers and fries, but the old-fashioned soda counter offers a bevvy of carbonated concoctions. The Cherry Phosphate is a delicious blend of bubbly soda water, thick cherry syrup, and maraschino cherries. The teenage guys working the diner, offer some impromptu entertainment as I eavesdrop on their conversation. One claims with conviction that blacks are better at sports because they have extra bone in their legs. His coworkers nod with belief. The conversation turns to playing the video game, Grand Theft Auto and I turn to my lunch.
The next morning we continue our trek home across the American southwest. We leave hot and dusty Arizona behind for hot and dusty New Mexico.
The Monterey Non-Smokers Motel in Albuquerque offers us comfortable accommodations for the night. The grounds of the motel are well kept with a keen attention to detail. Attractive flower beds of colorful geraniums border the walks and the quaint sparkling blue patio pool.
The motel is located near historic old town, allowing for a nice breakfast at the Church Street Cafe before our Rio Grande experience. This area is interesting with rustic New Mexican adobe architecture. We enjoy spicy adovada y huevos and coffee in a charming outside patio. It would be a great place to linger for a relaxed morning, but we must quickly dash to nearby Bernalillo for our appointment with Quiet Waters Paddling Adventures.
At the Quiet Waters shop we sign multiple waivers in the event that we drown, watch a safety video of people drowning, and get outfitted with life jackets so we don’t drown. I begin to fear for the worst until I actually lay eyes on the river.
The Rio Grande is not so grand. It’s a small stream compared to the rushing, muddy Mississippi back home. On the plus side, it allows for canoeing and kayaking, something that we’d be fools to try on the mighty Mississippi!
We carefully climb into a wobbly canoe and push off down stream. Despite being near an urban area, I feel isolated on the river. For long stretches the only other occupants to be seen are waterfowl, lighting on and off the gently rippling water. Along the way, a small team of firefighters wave from the shore where they are keeping vigilant watch on the surrounding cottonwoods threatened by recent fires.
The change of pace serves us well as we drift slowly by a picturesque backdrop of the surrounding bosque and distant mountain range. In our mad attempt to get back home the the leisurely trip down the Rio Grande is a much needed intermission. It’s a grand time.