The Grandest Canyon

If seeing the Grand Canyon isn’t on your bucket list, it should be. This World Heritage Site is up to 29 km (18 miles) wide, over 1.8km (around a mile) deep, and carving through it is the magnificent Colorado River that is said to have established its path there around five to six million years ago.

Riley and I travelled to the South Rim of the canyon, which is open all year round, while the North Rim is closed during winter months, and a vehicle pass for the park is $35 (it’s even valid for seven days if you want to go more than once).


We hired a car in Las Vegas, Nevada and set out on the four hour journey to the Grand Canyon Visitor Centre located in Arizona. The journey itself was a bit of an adventure (it always seems to be with us), as about half an hour away from our destination, Riley noticed the tire pressure begin to drop. We had a bit of a hard time actually getting a car that morning, due to unhelpful staff and extortionate hidden fees at some of the rental places, so when we finally did get set up with a vehicle, we opted out of paying extra for roadside assistance and insurance. Riley was covered under his own travel insurance anyway for certain things regarding car hire, so confident we wouldn’t need it and would rather take the chance, we opted out. Possibly a big mistake.

On arriving at the Grand Canyon, it began to rain and the tire pressure had dropped so dramatically, we decided something must be seriously wrong. “Seriously wrong” turned out to be a four-inch nail sticking out of the tire. We both looked at the puncture wound to our poor vehicle, and wondered how on Earth we’d managed to run over such an inconvenience.


Here we were, at one of the greatest places on Earth, in the pouring rain, late in the day, with a punctured tire, and another four hour drive ahead of us to reach our accomodation for the night.

Luckily, Riley knew how to change the tire, so it was a quick change onto the donut tire while we stowed the ruined one in the boot to be forgotten about for the time being. We weren’t going to let this spoil the day’s adventure! The rain cleared up then and the sun blasted through the clouds, chasing the bad weather away. Gratefully, we headed to the Grand Canyon Village for a wander round and to see the views over the South Rim.


While travelling this past year I’ve experienced a fair bit and seen many beautiful places, but walking out onto the viewing platform and seeing the canyon for the first time literally took my breath away. A rainbow had settled over the red rock that rose and fell in a wonderfully dramatic fashion as far as the eye could see. The sheer size of the place was staggering, it has such a presence that you can feel it before it’s come into view. Truly, if you can get to see it just once in your life, do.


The photographs I took hardly do the place justice. Who knew a product of erosion could be so intensely magnificent! The trail has rails and platforms in places deemed precarious, but in others its just open rock that you can sit on or walk onto for some beautiful snaps. I felt powerfully moved by the astounding vastness of the place, and thinking what a privilege it was to be able to go and see it for myself.

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We headed back to our maimed car, sad to leave but grateful to have seen such an incredible place. The reality of our situation now was to find a garage in nearby Flagstaff to replace the tire so we could continue on our way safely. For those of you that don’t know much about cars, a donut tire has little to no tread, so it isn’t the safest thing to be driving on. Apart from looking utterly ridiculous and puny compared to the other tires, you’re supposed to travel at no more than 50 mph (80kph) and for no longer than 70 miles (112km) on this donut tire. The only garage left open in Flagstaff was 80 miles (128km) away. It closed at 7pm, and if we wanted to get there in time, we had absolutely no time to spare.

I messaged the gentleman who we were staying with in Litchfield, AZ, who was very helpful and reassuring, saying it didn’t matter what time we arrived as long as we got there safely – so the pressure was off in that regard. Every pot hole or minor bump on the road felt like a death sentence. Riley and I were both painfully aware of the fragility of the tiny donut tire but also our limited window of time to rectify the issue.

The little donut tire that got us to Flagstaff.

Against the odds however and an hour and a half later, we pulled into Sam’s Club Tire and Battery just as they were about to close. I must say, neither Riley nor I have been more impressed than we were with the staff and mechanics at Sam’s Club. They stayed open way past closing to fix us with a new tire after seeing that the punctured one was irreparable and didn’t charge us an arm and a leg for it either (which we were half expecting). The staff remained super friendly throughout and we spoke to the manager on leaving so they knew how grateful we were.

So with the new tire sorted, donut back in the boot – relieved of its duty – and some snacks for the next leg of our journey, we continued on towards Phoenix. After a peaceful moonlit drive, we finally arrived safely at our destination – Litchfield, a suburb on the outskirts of Phoenix.

Some might have let the tire situation or the weather dampen the day, but I’ve learned this year that there’s no adventure without incident. Where’s the fun in things just going right all the time? More importantly, where’s the story?

The Grand Canyon from the plane window, flying out of Nevada, en route home.

So the Grand Canyon is truly the Grandest Canyon of them all in my eyes. It’s somewhere I’d go back to again and again and never get tired of. But if I never do make it back there, I’m so glad I got to see it once. It was one of the most exciting days of our trip; I won’t be likely to forget it.

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