After that little trip to Walnut Canyon, I settled into a RV spot in Flagstaff at Black Bart’s RV Park & Restaurant. It’s a great location, not right in town but close enough to everything that it’s convenient. When I’d stayed here back a couple weeks before, there weren’t too many campers so the WiFi was…acceptable. This time, it was awful. So, with their permission, I moved around and tried several different spots to see if I could get a better signal. It wasn’t signal strength that was the problem, it was too many people trying to get on-line and download videos and such. I did find a place just 40′ from the only outside antenna they had and I’d get 5 bars of signal, but it hardly ever got above 1MBPS. Very annoying. When the conditions were just right, I could get 11MBPS from the hotel across the freeway! In fact I spend most of my on-line time on that hotels free WiFi.
It might not look it, but it was a bear getting the RV level. The spot had a big slope to the left in this picture. It was quite a step from my steps to the ground. Had to be careful.
Another thing to like about BB’s is the musical review they do almost every night. I’d slip into the bar, have a couple drinks, have a nice dinner, and listen to the waiters and waitresses sing and perform. There was a drink pick-up hole between the bar and restaurant so I could see the stage. These were mostly kids from the performance art program at the University. Lot’s of talent. Many of the acts were choirs singing show tunes. But I never saw anyone who’d I’d say had ‘it’ as far as performing. Still, I enjoyed the show several nights in a row. This place is on the local tourist ‘must visit’ list so it seemed to be crowded nearly every night.
I was still a little gun shy of driving after having my engine blow up twice so I spent some time trying to find places to visit that would get me a few miles out of town, but not to far. I had a warranty on the work and didn’t want to get hundreds of miles away. Anyway, I spent a week here a BB’s just hanging out, and like I said, enjoying the entertainment at night, but finally it was time to take a chance and head up the road a few miles. So I planned a trip to Grand Canyon Caverns. The caverns are around 100 miles from Flagstaff, without much gain or loss of elevation, so it should be an easy drive. On the way there, I got off the freeway (US40) onto historic Rte 66 at Seligman. And stopped for lunch at the Roadkill restaurant next to this ghost town. None of the really old buildings are open though.
After enjoying a nice lunch, off I go headed NW on Rte 66. Weather was perfect.
Kind of lonely out here in the desert SW. But, it’s only 35 miles from the Caverns so…
Place looked a little deserted but I’m kind of use to that since the crash of ’08 many RV parks and tourist attractions look deserted.
So I checked out the place, paid for 2-3 nights, and bought my tour ticket for the next mornings tour of the cavern.
This spot is like 1.5 miles from Rte66. How they found this place is a story in and of itself. I can’t do the story justice so I’ll give you a link instead: History of the Caverns
It’s a pretty cool story, isn’t it?
That evening, as darkness fell, I rode my bike a bit around the property and visited the horses in the corral. Poor things. Looks like they are NOT getting the kind of care you’d expect of a public place. Then that night, with no WiFi or TV at all, I spent several hours after dinner just reading. Oh, and at least an hour gazing at the brilliant star field I could see. Very little light pollution out here.
My tour ticket was for 8am and I wandered over there at 7:30 so I could use my laptop with their WiFi. Very slow. But, kind of expected that out here in the boonies. When it was time, I went over and joined my tour guide…and I was the only one on the tour. I asked if she wanted me to wait for the next tour but she graciously said, no, she preferred just one or two in the group anyway.
So we climb in the elevator that was installed in 1962 and plunge 21 stories (210′) into the earth. When you get to the bottom, the door opens onto a tunnel, and you walk 20′ or so to actually get to the caverns.
It was eerie down here, 210′ below the surface. A power outage would have not been welcomed as the only way out was the electric elevator. My guide did mention that they can lift the elevator manually but it takes a couple hours to get it all the way to the top. No biggie, I thought.
After having been a cave for 6 million years, you’d think there would be a McDonald’s down here by now, but I didn’t have to suffer with that.
This place has been pretty much dry for 11,000 years so what few formations there are haven’t grown much since that time, if at all.
As we walked along the path, pausing at interesting formations or artifacts, I considered how odd it was that someone stumbled onto the one entrance at the surface, and that the only way to visit then was to drop on a rope 150′ down. The two Indian skeletons they passed had only been dropped 50′ down to a partially plugging rock. And only 2-3 animals had stumbled and fell into that hole. Not like some other caves I’ve visited where they found 10′s to 100′s of animal skeletons. Unique here.
These of course are just the ‘marketing’ gimmicks from the early years. Even the Indian skeletons were placed in the entrance (now sealed out of respect) by their comrades when, in 1917, the weather was too bad to carry them home or to bury them in frozen ground.
The pic above didn’t turn out very well, but there are tons of supplies there. Put there in ’62 during the Cuban Missile crisis in the event of nuclear war. The army put them down here but never bothered to take them up again.
When you’re standing here, you can feel cool air coming out of that hole. Scientists have no idea where it comes from, they just know it’s a long ways away, maybe right in the Grand Canyon. They also know that it drops a couple hundred feet deeper then this cavern on it’s route and may lead to an even larger cavern. The air is cool, not cold, smells dry and lacks any odor of flora or fauna. My guide tells me that there have been a couple of explorations down that hole but it’s partially blocked. But the amount of air that comes rushing out says to a geologist that there is something big down there. Or so she told me.
The guide tells me that they rent this room for honeymoons all the time. And to people who like an adventurous night with their loved one. The temp down here is a constant 68°F and when you turn out the lights, it is both pitch black and totally silent. There are no insects down here either.
A little more wandering around (wasn’t any climbing to do, the path is paved and not very strenuous) and we’re done with the tour. I don’t have the camera equipment to give you a sense of how large this cave is. Take my word for it, it’s huge.
And with that, we head back to the surface and I enjoy the rest of the day hanging around, riding my bike, visiting the horses. Finally, in the late afternoon, I rode my bike down to the bar at the motel on the highway, about 2 miles away, and enjoy the company of a few bar flies. Came back in the dark, and I mean really dark, along an unfamiliar poorly paved road. On my bike, and toasted. White knuckle time. But, I made it safe and sound. I’ll remember my bike head lamp the next time I’m going to be late coming home.
The next day, I spend all day just enjoying the area on my bike, riding here and there. Late in the afternoon, I head back to the bar and they aren’t open yet. So I sit at a table to wait. Soon, about 25 bikers show up and begin filling the area I’m in with my computer. Eventually, one of the leather coated guys with a heavy black beard comes over to my table and asks, nicely, that since they were having a meeting if I would mind moving to a table outside the area they were crowding into. So, seeing the odds were 25 to 1, I acquiesced. Discretion is the better part of valor, so they say. An hour later, 2-3 of them stopped to thank me for moving. When the bar finally opened, I moved in there and enjoyed a few libations and some conversation with the locals. This time, I left well before dark. Didn’t want to do that ride at night again, even though I’d brought my headlamp.
The next day, I head back to Flagstaff, and Black Bart’s.