Driving and Flying Around Kanab, Utah

May 9-11

Dear Family, Friends, and Diary,

May 9, Arrive in Kanab.

We left the dramatic scenery of Zion and entered the high desert views that seem familiar from many other parts of the Western states, plus distant views of rock formations. Our first order of business was to get some juice for Carla. We had not charged since St. George, four days ago, but, despite my anxiety, that electricity lasted our whole Zion stay.

John waitM eatingIn Kanab, we had chosen the La Quinta hotel specifically because they have charging facilities. We got there about 9am and got permission to connect up. Whew. Then we asked about breakfast and discovered that, on Sunday, only McDonald's and Wendy's were open. At the golden arches, we found that only the drive through was open, so I drove-walked through the ordering station, the pay station, and the pick-up station. Since it was windy and cool, we retreated to the La Quinta lobby for our first fast-food meal in ages.

movie markertour officeWe needed at least two or three hours of charging before we could drive anywhere, so we walked up to the Kanab Tour Office to see what might be recommended when we got our chariot back. On the walk, we saw markers reminding visitors of the Kanab glory days as a Western film center, apparently a competitor to Lone Pine where we visited before Death Valley. The agent behind the desk and plexiglass screen was friendly and helpful and recommended two driving paths, one short and one longer. Thanks.

We started with the shorter trip: Johnson Canyon Road, starting 9.5 miles east of Kanab. The 16.2 mile drive showed us lots of rocks, of course, but also the tumble-down ruins of one of the sets for "Gunsmoke!", not far from a modern, pink home that fit in perfectly. Four of the shots are cliff close ups to illustrate the variety in just the gray cliffs, not to mention reds and browns. Really, it seemed like every rock, cliff, butte, and canyon were different, distinct, and worth pictures.

hole pink house tree
Gunsmoke! table Escalante
checkerboard hoops shardsmixed up

Wild ThymeAfter our drive, we were getting hungry and there was some concern that places would be full on Mother's Day. Fortunately, the first place we scouted out, called Wild Thyme Cafe, was promising and we only had about a 20-minute wait. The menu was imaginative and prices quite reasonable, a distinct change from Springdale at the entrance to Zion. This is a clear recommendation.

officeAfter dinner, I settled down at my hotel-desk-with-a-view (of a trailer park) to try to keep up with these diaries. I enjoy the ritual of busy tourist days and then evenings with time for reflection on what we have seen. Marianne too keeps a diary and is overdue on sketching, drawing, and general art. We have yet to turn on a television in our eight days of traveling nor the car radio. Internet provides what little sense of the outside world we seem to need.

Today's drive:


Monday, May 10, More than a flight

A morning flight in a biplane was planned and the rest of a very long day just happened.

I had booked a half-hour ride with Pioneer Aviation's Waco biplane, piloted by owner James Riordan. About fifty years ago I qualified for a private pilots license at a flying school in South Florida that was owned by a famous biplane flyer, Mary Gaffaney, and this flight in Kanab gave me a chance to remember that past.

WACOJames runs the biplane-ride business for fun as much as for a little cash to supplement his fireman retirement. He is a charming guy, full of stories about flying the WACO biplane and life in remote Kanab generally. The plane is relatively new, having been built in 1986 from a mid-1930s design, complete with cloth "skin", albeit modern material and not the cotton of the original. The engine is an original seven-cylinder, 300 hp Jacobs engine. Apparently there are still such engines sitting in boxes, covered in preservative grease.

preparationphotographerJames did the preparations, showed me how to squeeze into the roomy front cockpit, gave me a leather flying "helmet", and cautioned me not to push on the rudder petals. Covid masks were required of all passengers.

Marianne acted as flight photographer and swears she was not worried.

takeoff Takeoff was smooth and the climb to our flight altitude of not-so-many feet above the field was quick. Then we proceeded to cover the valley around Kanab, generally not much higher than the red cliffs.chart

Every few seconds I would take a picture (the red circles on the chart), but I will show only some of them here. In between photos, I was just enjoying the whole experience. We followed the highway north and then passed over canyons and pink sand dunes, followed by cliffs passes. At one point, we had a view of Zion off in the distance.

highway canyon pink dunes
white lumps
cliffs Zion

Toward the end of my ride, James asked if it was OK if he did "some maneuvers, not acrobatics". I mumbled agreement and he put the plane on edge, zoomed up, dropped down, and generally tried to push my stomach past its limits. Despite his efforts, I was disappointed when we turned final, landed, and posed for victory pictures. My flight was over too soon.

turn final land
thumbs up pose

Our day was far from over. We still had the Marble Canyon Loop to complete and we had little understanding of what that would entale, other than almost 200 miles of driving, mostly up to Marianne because I had not recovered my ground legs!

staricasefireWe headed south, toward the Grand Canyon, passing by more rock cliffs and then into pine forests that reminded us of California. We stopped at the LaFevre Overlook to learn more about the geology around us. We keep hearing the term "Grand Staircase", but the explanatory drawings don't seem to explain what it is we are seeing. Maybe after more immersion. We also saw the effects of a fire that had run though the area. As Californians, we understood this all too well.Inncookies

The road to the north rim of the Grand Canyon would have run south from our loop at Jacob Lake, but it is still closed for winter. We used the stop to sample the cookies that the Jacob Lake Inn is reportedly famous for. This solved our problem of calories for the day.

From Jacob Lake we drove east, stopping at the Vermilion Cliffs Overlook for yet more pictures of rocks. Will we ever have enough?

Apparently not, because our cameras continued to collect rock pictures. It didn't help that there were nice white clouds today, set against the brightest blue sky imaginable. But, so many rocks.

rocks photographer table more

After 70 miles of driving, we reached the Colorado River at Lee's Ferry, the put-in site for river trips down the Grand Canyon. Two groups were assembling their gear for final checks on the landing before pushing off into the river. Their excitement was palpable and who could blame them?

put inassembleboatstart

two bridges riverJust around the corner from Lee's Ferry were the Navajo Bridges. The older one, finished in 1929, opened up a large section of Arizona and Utah for modern transportation as it was the first bridge across the Colorado river for hundreds of miles. Now, a 1995 replacement carries vehicles while its older partner remains for walking and pictures.

toadstoolThe loop turned south, around the end of a long expanse of hills and then turned north to Page, Arizona. We continued to take pictures of rocks, but will limit the diary to just this one "toadstool". Cute.telemedicine

In Page, we had several requirements. First, we had to stop at the Supercharger to get enough power on board to get back to Kanab with plenty of reserve. Marianne also had a telemedicine appointment with the Kaiser Sleep Lab to work out problems with her CPAP machine. I had bought an inverter to power the machine from the car, so we did double duty: fed Carla and fixed the CPAP. (We also needed feeding and stopped at a Japanese-Korean restaurant that was darn good.)

Lake PowellPowellAfter that, it was over an hour of almost straight road back to Kanab. The final part was along Lake Powell and the dramatic lake cliffs, but the rest was dull desert driving. It was my turn by now, and I let the Tesla's Autopilot take some of the stress so we made it back in one-piece and not-too-tired.

Tuesday, May 11, Another Driving Day

doorgoodiesStarting our 11th day of the BWRT, we headed to Forsher's German Bakery, just north of Kanab. We ordered a "German Breakfast" of rolls, butter, cheese, ham, pastrami, and a pickle. It was all as authentic as we would have found in our village bakery in Pomersfelden. After almost eight years in America, we finally found where to go for bakery goods.

Kanab tuned out to be more than a half-hour plane ride, but now it was time for more national parks and assorted attractions.

Stay tuned,

John and Marianne