Friday, July 26, 2013

Home to Jacob Lake in 27 Hours...

Jacob Lake is about 45 miles north of Grand Canyon. And hey, Kanab is nearby!
Okay, I've put it off long enough. Here is our recent car drama along with some beautiful sites from our Kaibab Plateau/Jacob Lake/North Rim trip. 

I say "recent" regarding the car drama, but it's still ongoing. As I type, our car is still in Flagstaff.

On Thursday July 11th we set off for Jacob's Lake, Arizona for a family reunion including Chris's Dad and his wife, Grandma Georgia.

 It's in far-northern Arizona and quite a drive from down here in the desert, since there's a big hole in the way that we have to drive around  (The Grand Canyon).  However, it's about a 7 hour drive, not 27. 

Well, it took us 27. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I was looking forward to the trip because it involved going to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. I've been to the South Rim twice and Havasu Canyon (a part of the Grand Canyon) also twice. But I always wanted to go to the North Rim. It just isn't easy to reach - especially from Phoenix. And it's less populated than the South Rim. Only about 10% of Grand Canyon visitors make it to the North Rim. It's also 1000 feet higher than the South Rim.

Anyway, so we had only made it up I-17 and approached Cordes Junction when an "AT" light went on in the car and the car wouldn't automatically go up to 4th gear. It wasn't doing very well in 2nd gear either. It's an Automatic. We prefer Manual Transmissions, but when it came time to upgrade the size of our car when Alexander came into our lives, we weren't able to get what we needed in a Manual.
"B" is the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
So we managed to get the car to Flagstaff, albeit in slow "third gear" speeds and with the hazards lights on the whole time. We were hoping for a Mazda Dealership in Flagstaff to take it to, but the only one there was no longer in business.  However, Flagstaff was still welcoming. It was evening when we arrived and the hot summer air of the desert was well behind us. In fact, when we got out of the car, Christian exclaimed, "Whoah!!!! This is NICE!!!" 

I would love to live where there are four seasons, and a summer that can involve being outside. :sigh:

Anyway, by then it was too late in the evening to do much else for the car, so we had dinner and got a motel in Flagstaff.  Friday morning we would hope to take the car in. 

The motel room experience itself was a challenge. And I use that term lightly considering I try to keep my blog at a PG rating. 

I don't want to throw my kids under the bus, but when one kid is upset that the switches on the little AC Cooling unit by the window aren't doing what they should (the unit worked - just not the way that particular child thought it should), and another kid is insistent on playing with the aforementioned AC unit to the frustration of the kid that is frustrated with the AC's working modus operandi, and the third kid is upset and complaining about the experience as a whole (the drive, the car, the waiting, the camping to come later, etc), your patience is tried before there is a KNOCK on the door because there is too much noise coming from our room. 

Seriously, if we can't even deal with a motel room for the night in Flagstaff (and it's not the first time we've been in a motel room together...but you'd think these children were never taken out of their natural habitat before), how can we camp with other humans at Jacob Lake AND visit the Grand Canyon without it becoming an International Incident? Other people can take their kids on road trips that involve beautiful sights, camping, motel rooms, visiting with other family members and long hours on the road. Why can't we? 

There is a reason I haven't written about this yet. It's still very raw to me.
Our now crippled Mazda 5 - pictured June 2013

The next morning Chris took the car to a local shop that only deals with transmissions. At the time, I should have checked online reviews about this particular shop. Turns out, there is a better one in Flagstaff.  Hindsight and regret like this are running high as our Mazda is STILL up in Flagstaff.

The diagnosis on the car wasn't good. Let's just say we soon got a rental - a large Toyota Sequoia because of all our camping equipment. We considered just getting the rental and heading back home.  However, if the car was going to be stuck in Flagstaff and they wouldn't even be able to do anything until after the weekend, we might as well stay in the nice cool temperatures and go to Jacob Lake like we planned. We were going to go back home through Flagstaff the following Monday anyway - whether this situation happened or not.

Therefore, on Friday July 12th we continued up towards Page, but turning off at Bitter Springs towards Jacob Lake. Right now people that want to go to Page can't take 89 up there anyway. Some months ago there was a huge landslide/sinkhole thing that, for lack of better words, killed that road. It's been closed ever since and there is serious time involved before that is fixed. There is currently no ETA on when the road will be repaired and re-opened. The detour that drivers have to take to Page is crazy. 

This has nothing to do with our route to Jacob Lake, but seeing the detour that those en route to Page have to take, I know this situation could've been much worse!
The Page Detour in Green is over 150 miles.

Road Damage on  US-89, South of Page

Anyway, so we turned off at Bitter Springs (those headed to Utah would also use this route to bypass the closure) and stopped briefly in Marble Canyon, which is an offshoot of the Grand Canyon. After Marble Canyon, you can see the Kaibab Plateau in the distance and begin the climb up the Plateau in about 10 miles.
Lone Plane Chilling in Marble Canyon

Close-Up of Marble Canyon Plane
I don't know what it is about the Chevron in Marble Canyon, but I had fun both times we stopped there (on the way there and the way back the following Monday). They have only Pepsi products in the fountain and all kinds of fun trinkets. This sounds strange, but I can see doing gift shopping in there! It has an array of some funky things. If I had some disposable cash laying around, I would have had a ball in there! But after our dire transmission diagnosis, we were lucky to be continuing on this trip at all.

Sometimes the elevation climb and changes of flora and fauna is gradual (such as the road from Phoenix to Flagstaff, for example). But not the road to Jacob Lake from Marble Canyon. The Kaibab Plateau is abrupt and the elevation change is immediate. 
Kaibab Plateau in the Distance
Jacob Lake Inn near our Campsite. I liked how close everything was to our campground. I like camping with civilization evident.
Jacob Lake Highways  89A and 67 Fork. 67 goes to the North Rim
A deer  that ran across the road just moments before. The mini-van in front of us were the ones who had the close call!
A Kaibab Squrrel near our campsite! (and an overexposed flash! Grrrrrrr)
Alexander at the Visitor Center...also near our campsite!

My next posting includes our time visiting the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and then our drive back to 'visit' our car in Flagstaff.

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