WTF? This rutted off-ramp isn’t on the map, or the GPS either. And actually, there is no choice: the huge reflective barrier informs me that the highway ahead is closed. ROAD ENDS. This grubby detour is my only way out of here. Sure enough, there’s Dr. P wearing a Highway Patrol outfit directing traffic [me], making sure I get off the Interstate, now.
Kind of a pain in the ass because I’d been making good time up on the 4-lane across the high country. The driving has been easy….spectacular at times…Wide open country, mesas, buttes, purple mountain majesty. All that stuff. The road signs out here tell you the altitude when you enter the next town, and I’ve been enjoying how I’ve been effortlessly climbing up and up without any perceptible strain on the vehicle. Nice.
But now this Detour. WTF, indeed. I mean, planning my trip, I knew that Alzheimer’s Canyon was in the area, but I just wasn’t all that interested. It’s an old-person destination, right? And whatever else I am, I sure don’t see myself as elderly.
But, again, there is no choice. I know Dr. P isn’t going to let me camp here on the Interstate exit. He’s got to keep the traffic flowing. Dr. P gives me a friendly, but authoritative, wave as I pass by.
It’s only as I’m gaining speed on the narrow, bumpy pathetic excuse for an off-ramp that I notice the other highway signs: ONE WAY, NO U-TURNS.
I checked and this road I’m on isn’t on my fold-up map. The Canyon itself is on the map, though, and if I read it right, the thing is phenomenally huge especially compared to the skinny track I’m on to get in there. This approach road is pleasant enough if a little lonesome. Good thing it’s posted one way traffic because there really isn’t room for anyone getting out this way.
Finally, a huge billboard lets me know that the AC Visitors Center is just ahead. Also parking lots 1- 275.
“Good afternoon, how can we help today?” asks the smiling AmeriCorps worker behind the counter.
“Well, I guess I could use a map or a guide or something," I respond.
“Of course! We have these guides to the Canyon itself. Also accommodations…or will you be camping in your RV?”
“Ughh, I don’t have an RV, just my own little car. I only got here because of a detour on the Interstate.”
“Yes, well, we have options here for you. For instance you could try the homeless encampment in Area B past the dumpsters. They may have room for you under a piece of plastic. They’re always getting new sheets in over there. Or, if you prefer, the hotel may have a spot. It’s $12,000 a month, or maybe a waiting list? I don’t really know..?”
“Actually, I was trying to work some of the interactive exhibits over there and I think they might be broken…or maybe I’m not running them right…?”
“Oh, you’re fine. They don’t do anything unless you’re a caregiver,” the attendant grins. “And, unless you’ve got grandma out there in your RV, I don’t guess you’re a caregiver. So, since you aren’t, I guess you’re maybe a sufferer, and we really don’t have anything for sufferers.”
“But, I don’t have an RV…”
“If you’re in the market, we have quite a good selection of gently-used motorhomes right now in Area E.”
“Can I just look at the Canyon while I’m here?”
“Of course! That’s what this guide is all about!”
“Oh, yeah,” I answer. “I saw that one and I couldn’t make ANY sense out of it. The only English words on it said, Start Here.”
“EXACTLY! It tells you Everything you need to know!”
“Sure, sir. “
“Right where you ARE!”
“But, ….wait, how do I find the overlook, the vista, whatever?”
“Don’t worry, you already found us. You’re all set now.”
She’s grinning again, but I’m getting irritated with this whole Alice-in-Wonderland routine. “Look, have you even got a guide in English?”
“Sir, of course it’s in English. You read it yourself.”
“No, no, no!! You’ve got a big pile of typos here, young lady. See, it just says Start Here and the the rest of the map is BLANK! No trails, no landmarks. Nothing!! I can’t even use my compass. It’s totally useless!!!”
“Sir, if you’re anxious, I can get you a prescription. In the meantime you may want to get started.”
“Started doing fucking what!?!?” Man, I’m ready to be out of this place.
“Well, sir, everyone’s path is different. We can’t predict what yours will be like……except that it’s all downhill from here… ”