A few years back, my best friend Connie and I agreed we would do something special to celebrate our 60th birthdays. We're only one month apart. We felt turning 60 was a pretty major milestone. Especially since we both had no clue how we got to be that old so soon!
We've been friends since ... well, forever! We were baptized in the same church, went to Sunday School together, became next door neighbors and boarded the bus together on our first day of school. We've been there for each other through every milestone in our lives since. So it seemed only right that we would want to celebrate officially becoming "Old Broads" together.
A trip to the Grand Canyon was our targeted goal.
Alas, we did not make it to the Grand Canyon in our 60th year.
But, we did in our 61st!
Sept. 23, Connie, her husband George, Harry and I boarded a bus in Scottsdale, Arizona for an eight-day tour of a dream come true. (Yes. We included the husbands. We'll just say they were given no choice in the matter and let it go at that.)
This was our first bus trip. I would recommend it to everyone. Our wonderful tour guide, Brandon, pointed out things along the way, explaining what we were seeing.
I would just like to preface all of this with these thoughts:
1. Nothing I read or saw in books or movies prepared me for the actual sights I saw on this trip.
2. I have never heard the words "Wow!" or "Oh my gosh!" used so many times.
3. I will never ever be able to put into words what I actually felt when viewing these amazing places.
Like the giant Saguaro cactus plants in the desert. We learned that they live up to 200 years. If they are just one straight cactus, they're under 70 years. They only grow "arms" after they are 70 years old.
We marveled at the mountains and the homes that were built right into the cliffs.
Brandon told us about Arizona's five C's-known for its climate, copper, citrus, cattle and cotton. We drove by samples of each, all while experiencing Arizona's "dry heat" which people kept telling us before we went that we wouldn't mind. Balderdash! I don't care what people say. When it's 105 degrees, it's HOT and SWEATY and I minded it!
Our first stop was Montezuma Castle. This is where the Sinaguas lived in cliff dwellings back in the 12th and 13th centuries and then mysteriously abandoned.
We stopped for lunch in Sedona in the middle of Red Rock Country. We sat on an outdoor veranda facing a beautiful huge red rock cliff as a very fine mist of water sprayed over us to keep us cool.
We finally arrived at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon at 5 p.m. Our rooms for the next two nights were in the Thunderbird Lodge, just feet away from the Canyon. We parked in back of the Lodge and still had not had our first glimpse of the Canyon.
Harry, who is a much faster walker than I am, took off.
"Get back here!" I yelled. "You do not get to see it first. You didn't even really want to come on this trip. Connie and I get to see it first."
Well, I actually relented and all four of us walked around the Lodge together and then ... there it was.
I'm telling you, there is nothing that can prepare you for that sight.
Magnificent. Huge. Amazing. Breathtaking. Spectacular.
We had little time to explore as it was growing dark. I couldn't wait until the morning. We all agreed we'd get up in time to see the sunrise.
At 6:15 a.m. we were shivering in the pre-dawn air, standing on the edge of one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. At 6:35 a.m. the sun began to crest the Canyon, lighting first one cliff after another, in an incredible picture show.
This is what I wrote in my journal as I sat alone on the stone wall overlooking the Grand Canyon:
"Sunrise. This canyon has seen two billion years of sunrises. It is beyond mind-boggling. It has taken that long to make what I see today. No words can express it. Spectacular. Awesome. Beautiful. All inadequate. There are only feelings. And none can be put to words. One feels so infinitesimal standing on this ridge. We're told it's about 11 miles across at this point, 7,000 feet deep. As my gaze tries to take in the colors, the immenseness, the grandeur, I can only think of the words to the hymn ...'O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder, Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made ... Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to thee, How great thou art, How great thou art.' And I scarce can take it in. Harry has the need to trek down into the Canyon. (Another story.) Connie has the need to walk and take it in at all angles. George jokes and says he's going to go stare at a giant hole in the ground. Me? I'm content to sit and absorb, praying these two measly days will be enough to burn these images into my brain, to last a lifetime.
"One visitor said as he stood next to me, 'We take pictures but they'll never be able to capture the real thing.' He's so right.
"How fortunate I am. How lucky. I ask myself, could life get any better? And I know, at this moment in time, nothing could be better. Nothing."