In the movie National Lampoon’s Vacation* the Griswold Family is on a mission to take a family road trip to drive to Wally World (a made up amusement park located outside of Los Angeles). Along the way they stop at the Grand Canyon. They get out of the car and look out at the majesty that is the Grand Canyon. They stand there for a few seconds and then load up in the car and get back on the road.
One summer we set out to drive around the entire U.S. (in a K car, which was the 80’s version of a station wagon). Our family road trip was not quite as crazy as the one in the National Lampoon’s Vacation but it was close. One part of the road trip that was really important to my Dad was that we see the sunrise over the Grand Canyon.
We had already covered about 2,000 miles and we were getting a little road weary. We checked into a small motel near the entrance to the national park around 11 pm. The plan was to wake up early and get up to a viewing area somewhere in the park so that we could watch the sunrise over the Grand Canyon.
The alarm went off and we popped up, loaded up the car in the pitch black and Mom handed me the key to return to the desk clerk. When I handed him the key (the same clerk who had checked us in) I noticed that he was giving me kind of a funny look. So I told him we wanted to see the sunrise over the Grand Canyon. He kind of smiled and said, “I think you’ll make it.” I went back out to the car where everyone else was ready to go. My mom turned on the car and the clock lit up. It was 2 am.
We were already awake, in the car and checked out of the motel, so we set out anyway. We drove on up the winding road in the pitch black and basically had no idea where we were going. If there was an observation area we didn’t see it. Finally, we saw a park bench so we decided to just pull over and have a seat and wait until it got a little bit lighter to determine where we were exactly.
At some point the sun did begin to rise. Somehow we just happened to be facing due east and even funnier we were about ten feet from the edge of the Grand Canyon. It was everything and more than we had expected. It was like watching an amazing polaroid picture develop in front of our very eyes. It was completely worth the effort. And then the sun was up and we were back on the road. We were in LA that afternoon.
* The movie, National Lampoon’s Vacation, includes a lot of college type humor and is not recommended for all ages.