The Sunrise Tour

Sunrise in Monument Valley

Sunrise in Monument Valley

I am up and awake at 5.50 am for the Sunrise Tour of Monument Valley. I thought it might be chilly at that time and enquired of reception last night. They suggested at least a sweater. Opening the bedroom door at 6.30 am in darkness, I can feel it’s cold. So I get my jacket from the car as well.

I eat half my breakfast to keep me going during the tour. At 6.50 am I leave the room to go and find the tour bus. It is waiting at reception. As we drive towards wherever we will view the sunrise, there is a magical glow behind the mountains as the Sun starts its journey up into the sky. There are four of us on the tour: me, a guy from Australia and a Spanish-speaking young couple.

We arrive at The View, another hotel in Monument Valley, from where we will witness the sunrise. The sunrise is not perfect, there are some low lying clouds, but it is spectacular nevertheless looking out over the West & East Buttes plus Merrick Butte.

Sunrise at the Buttes #1Sunrise at the Buttes #2Sunrise at the Buttes #3Sunrise at the Buttes #4Sunrise at the Buttes #5Sunrise at the Buttes #6Sunrise at the Buttes #7Sunrise at the Buttes #8Sunrise at the Buttes #9Sunrise at the Buttes #10

Back on the bus, we then take a tour around the Valley floor. At the start of our journey there is no-one else about, we have Monument Valley all to ourselves and it’s great!

Spectacular does not even being to describe Monument Valley. Stunning. Gobsmacking. Amazing. You get the drift. The tour lasts 2½ hours and we travel over some very bumpy dirt tracks in places to see all sorts of wonderful rock structures and formations created over millennia. As the sun continues to rise in the sky, different shadows are cast, and shapes appear, colours change and evolve. ‘Monuments’ that 10 minutes ago looked like “this” are transformed into something else later on.

Monument Valley #1Monument Valley #2Monument Valley #3Monument Valley #4Monument Valley #5Monument Valley #6Monument Valley #7Monument Valley #8Monument Valley #9Monument Valley #10

Tourist cars and buses start to appear with increasing frequency from about 8.45 am, which makes our previously quiet progress post-sunrise all the more wonderful. The local Indians also appear and open up their stalls selling jewellery and other trinkets.

It really is a spectacular excursion. How you could not be blown away by the sights in Monument Valley? Well, if you aren’t, you probably haven’t got a pulse. Go and see it before you die. It is definitely worth the trek to get there.

Monument Valley #11Monument Valley #12Monument Valley #13Monument Valley #14Monument Valley #15Monument Valley #16Monument Valley #17Monument Valley #18Monument Valley #19West and East Mitten Buttes and Merrick Butte

Grand Canyon South Rim

Gouldings Lodge

Goodbye to Gouldings Lodge

We are back at the Lodge at 9.30 am. I finish off my breakfast, pack, and depart at 10.45 am. The downside to my routing is that I have to retrace my steps back down Highways 163, 160 and 89. Monument Valley was therefore rather a large ‘up-and-down’ detour but I can definitely say it IS worth it. At Hwy 89’s junction with AZ-64 W at Cameron, I turn right and start the drive towards the Grand Canyon South Rim.

Grand Canyon Pocket Map

Grand Canyon Pocket Map

It’s actually 50 or so miles before I reach the Park entrance gate. $35!!! I can use my ticket for the next 7 days, but that’s no use to me…

I stop first at Desert View Watchtower. It’s my second ‘stunning’ view of the day. I’ve been to the South Rim before, many years ago but I didn’t come to this viewpoint. There are lots of vista points between here and Grand Canyon Village. Last night I chose, at random, 3 or 4 to stop at. I figured the view can’t change that much at every point given the vastness of what’s on view.

Desert View panorama west to east

Desert View panorama west to east

I take loads of photos but as I do so, I think to myself that the sheer scale and depth will not come across in a 2-D photo. We’ll see. There really is no substitute for standing on the edge of the Rim and looking across the Grand Canyon.

Desert View, Grand CanyonDesert View WatchtowerMather Point westMather Point north westMather Point northMather Point north eastMather Point eastYavapi Point looking westYavapi Point looking east

I think the best view on the South Rim was at Mather Point. I’m pretty sure this is the place where I came to before, many years ago. Today, it was just incredible. There are a lot of people about, so I just have to take my time and wait for a place at the edge barriers to become free. Pure beauty. It’s all stunning of course, just some bits more than others!

Mather Point panorama west to east

Mather Point panorama west to east

Williams and the Red Garter Inn

Having seen enough natural beauty for one day, I go back to the car and head south down AZ-64 towards Williams. The drive from Monument Valley to the South Rim was average. It was fast, mainly straight and with a bit more nice scenery as I neared the Grand Canyon. AZ-64 S also hasn’t got much to offer either, sadly. It’s not bad, just not a lot to see.

Red Garter Inn Postcard

Red Garter Inn postcard

I get to Williams just before 4.30 pm. There are two main streets in the town, both one way. My hotel, the Red Garter Inn, is on the quieter street heading west, the one I use to enter the town. I drive past the Inn to go and find options for gas and breakfast, plus to get a sense of the town.

The gas prices in town vary dramatically: there is a 90c difference between the highest and lowest! There’s a Safeway on the western side of town and as I drive back up the ‘eastern’ main street, I discover this is where most of the shops and bars are. I decide to walk this street later after getting my supplies.

The Inn is not ‘occupied’ in respect that there is not a landlord or receptionist on site. I got a text earlier with the access code to the front door, plus advising which my room was. Having done a circuit of the town, I come back round to the Red Garter and park on the street outside the front door. Once inside I discover a most charming, well-renovated period house that has been turned into a 4 room Inn.

Red Garter Inn #1Red Garter Inn #2Red Garter Inn #3

It has old-style 1920s-ish charm that wins me over: I love it. Real character but with modern comforts. Brilliant place. And I’m on my own tonight. I have to call the manager with a query and she tells me I’m the only guest tonight. You can read about the Red Garter’s history in the attachments below.

Red Garter Inn History #1

Red Garter Inn History #1

Red Garter Inn History #2

Red Garter Inn History #2

Supplies and a Walk

Once settled in the room I drive back to Safeway and buy breakfast, then get some gas. When I’ve put breakfast in the communal fridge once back at the Inn, I venture out to take photos, browse the shops and find somewhere for dinner. The major issue is that it is now very cold plus it’s starting to get dark. There is a bitter wind blowing as well, which only increases the chill factor. In fact I had to wear my jacket and it’s only 6 pm.

I wonder about walking too far for dinner later in this cold. There is a bar on the corner of the Inn’s block, literally yards from its front door. The menu looks OK, I can see a selection of beers on offer and I won’t get frozen. Decision made.

Williams has done a lot to leverage its Rt 66 heritage and history. Good on it. I think it’s how it (partly?) survives today as an apparently bustling town. A consequence of being overrun with Japanese and Chinese tourists even at this late hour of the day means that on closer inspection a lot of the shops on the eastbound main street are tat shops. But hey, it’s business.

Williams, AZ #1Williams, AZ #2Williams, AZ #3Williams, AZ #4Williams, AZ #5Williams, AZ #6Williams, AZ #7Williams, AZ #8Williams, AZ #9Williams, AZ #10Williams, AZ #11Williams, AZ #12

I do however in one of said tat shops finally find a Route 66 t-shirt that I like, and purchase. I’d looked at lots of them so far but didn’t like any of them. This one is not perfect but it’s pretty good and reasonable value. Back at the hotel I sort my stuff out for tomorrow, write some diary and leave for my very long trip two doors down to the Historic Brewing Barrel+Bottle House.

“Bitch, bitch, the bitch is back” *

It’s not a good start when I’m left sitting at the bar for 5 minutes whilst staff whizz about everywhere but completely ignore me. When a lady finally turns up she’s a small sour faced bitch with an attitude. She would clearly like to be anywhere else at this moment in time than behind a bar about to serve me. Did I say she was a bitch? Oh, I did. And that is an understatement.

There are loads of servers in this establishment but very few customers yet none of them are interacting with any of said customers. At one point, three of them are standing at the end of the bar I’m sitting at. There’s no-one else in the cavernous bar room, and they are loudly chatting to each other whilst my beer glass was on the bar, in full view, empty. They ignored me, however the sour-faced bitch then came back and deigned to give me a refill before disappearing again.

I order ribs and fries to eat. The fries are only lukewarm, the coleslaw is good but the ribs have not been rendered down enough so there is still fat visible. I pick off what lean meat I can. The sour-faced bitch comes back when I’ve finished eating – the fact she’s vertically-challenged clearly fuelling her anger against the world – and tries to foist the check on me. Her attitude is appalling. There’s no enquiry of “How was the food?”, “Would you like dessert?”, she just wants to get rid of me. So I decide to stay and annoy her. I tell her I want another beer.

I’d been told earlier when I popped in to look at the menu that they close at 10 pm. The sour-faced bitch then calls last orders at 9.25 pm. A guy walks in off the street at 9.30 pm, comes up to the bar, and stands there for 5 minutes without anyone coming over. I turn to him and tell him to go elsewhere because the service is crap. At which point the sour-faced bitch comes back and without hesitation bluntly tells the guy she’s called last orders – and to go away! What a cunt.

10 minutes later she comes back. I ask her why she wouldn’t serve the guy, implying that I’m still here, so why not? She replies, “I’ve closed my bar. I don’t serve after that.” What a bitch. She told a potential paying customer to go away! Unbelievable.

So I decide to stay at the bar until 10 pm and finish my beer to further piss her off. At which time I have to shout to the three servers chatting away at the end of the bar – they are still there, not having moved for about an hour – that I want my check.

I deliberately do not leave any tip or service on the check. As I get up to walk out, one of the (many other) servers that I recognise from earlier comes through the front door.

I give him both barrels: “Your manager needs firing. I have never experienced such an awful customer experience before.” He claims he’s off-duty now but it’s obvious he’s scared of sour-face. As I walk past the window outside, I can see him talking to her, and I hope he told her what I said. That sour-faced bitch was the worst bar or restaurant employee I have ever experienced in over 30 years of visiting the USA.

It was a sad end to an otherwise great day: Monument Valley, the Grand Canyon and a f****** twat of a woman. Varied doesn’t begin to describe it.

* The Bitch Is Back by Elton John

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