Where eagles dare II – the sequel

Sunday 1st April

Today we were on our way again, turning Bree back towards Vegas as G&V will soon be flying home. Much has been made of a new way to view the Grand Canyon.

We made it to our campsite in Kingman (straddling route 66) in time to go and slate Gill’s thirst for “Historic Downtowns”. Most towns seem to have their Historic District’s and when you think about it the word historic for American towns is rather different in timescale to our history. We have come realise that the HD could be a fantastic find of interesting buildings/museums and artefacts, or, more the case, just a building with a plaque stating what it used to be 75 years ago (maybe a bit older if you’re lucky). “Old Kingman” is the other side of the hill – on route 66 J we called into the visitor centre (an old power plant) to find out about the HD and (the real reason) to get the lowdown on the Grand Canyon West Skywalk. Well we drove around the HD using the map of historic buildings slightly quicker than the time it took Vic and I to check out the huge steam locomotive parked across from the VC. I think Gill now understands why we didn’t get too excited about the Historic District.

However the next day was something to get excited about, we planned to check out the much publicised glass walkway 4000’ over the Grand Canyon West. The lady in the VC had warned us not to wash the car before going as the last 21 miles is over “rough road” and that 15-20mph for that section is the only way to survive without having to replace shock absorbers/tyres or even axles L

We set off and soon found ourselves on that road, the first 500yards are not too bad and I think I must have clocked up a good 25 or even 30mph (nice smile on face checking out the plume of dust flying out behind us). However the warning was soon heeded as I began to wish I wasn’t driving my own car – all wheel drive or not. I would have swapped good old Skooby (doo – Subaru) for any of the many huge pick ups or SUV’s that shot past with their own “eat my dust” trails. However I did manage to pass a couple of slower saloon cars and even a Corvette – I didn’t blame them going so slow, not the place for a ‘Vette – don’t do it Ross.

Hey, we made it, along with hundreds of others. It was a hot dusty day and it seemed we spent hours in line (queues to us Brits) out in the sun waiting for shuttle busses to take us to the attractions on this “Hualapai” Indian reservation land that is the Grand Canyon West. The Canyon itself is not so colourful at this end, though just as deep and spectacular in its own way. We saw the mining remains at Guano Point (yes that is what they mined), we found out about how they lived in the Indian village section we even wandered around the mock cowboy town but the main reason for coming here is the Skywalk… The reason it’s so busy has to be this new attraction, a cantilevered horseshoe walkway over the edge of the canyon. Basically two rsj’s forming a semi circular walkway with glass in between them – you can walk from start to finish just on the glass section looking down through it as you “hover” 4000’ over the canyon. The glass covers the top of the steelwork too so, if you like, it’s possible not to “hover” but to retain the security of something beneath your feet and the grasp of a handrail to ease your walk out over the dreaded drop. As we put on the lovely protective over slippers to protect the glass before stepping on I made up my mind to walk all the way just on the central glass portion. I say I had made my mind up but sometimes your mind has a mind of its own. My mind decided to play its own games, with my body, and told my legs not to be in too much of a hurry as I started out in the centre of that glass section. It wasn’t so bad to start with as you look down onto the ground about 10’ below however a couple of steps later the ground got further away and for some reason my stride turned into a rather stiff four inch struggle as it seemed my foot had reached an invisible wall in front. OK – put the foot down, try the other foot – funny, that leg is rather stiff too and four inches later it too reaches an invisible wall?? This seemed to be the way to walk out on glass 4000’ above the ground. I looked around, not only at the canyon in front (and did I mention also 4000’ below?) but at the other 120 people allowed on the walkway at a time – reassured by the many who seemed to be afflicted with the same short step walking technique as myself – even more reassured by those that couldn’t let go of the handrail J but not such a good feeling about those that seemed to be dancing out on the rather narrow ballroom – the young kids who seemed to have taken up tap dancing too. I was sure the whole thing was shaking – a quick look back to check that it was all still attached to the top of the canyon. Hey, ok if they can do it so can I, four inch steps turned into five then six then – what was that big bloke doing in front? – for goodness sake if you’re over 300lbs leave the tap dancing and jumping up and down to the kids!!! By now I was halfway round – as far out over the edge as you can get. I did take a couple of trips to the handrail to check out over the edge – strangely enough I did loose the stiff leg affliction, tried the tap dancing and even shared one section of glass with the big bloke, criky this thing is so over engineered it could easily take the both of us J. I did get down and check out the thickness of glass – it looked sufficient, it is laid in sections over the steelwork with about a 10mm gap between each. You know I couldn’t feel any movement between the sections even with the tap dancers!

OK – the Skywalk was done – I got round just walking the mid section I even became comfortable with it all – you may now call me Luke…

Well, quite a day – they are still building – it’s VERY dusty, very hot – give it a couple of years I am sure it will be organised by then. In the mean time by all means go, you may never pass this way again!

The journey back was also rather tension filled as I had reasoned on the fuel in the car being enough for the round trip but hadn’t bargained for being in second or third gear so much over the dirt road. We all crossed fingers travelling the final 30/40 miles with the gauge going from empty to about two sections below empty before finally finding that gas station (petrol to us Brits). As we eventually pulled into Kingman we ended the day with a trip to the car wash – heed the advice of the lady in the VC.

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