Cliff Driving

I should start this story by saying I’m terrified of heights.  That said, after our mini-adventure at the Grand Canyon, we decided to take the scenic route back to Scottsdale via the Apache Trail.  This is a scenic drive, not a hike.  I use the term “drive” loosely.  Crawl might be more appropriate.

Somehow, in my meticulous planning of our trip and research on the Apache Trail, I failed to understand that a good portion is a 1 1/2 lane wide, two-way dirt road hung on the side of a cliff so steep and high that I couldn’t manage to look down it.  RVs apparently travel this road from time to time.  I’m convinced had I managed to gather the courage to look over the edge, I would have discovered where those RVs end up.

Since I had rented the car with my frequent traveler points and we hadn’t added Pat as a driver (they charge a lot for that), I had the great pleasure of driving in the outside lane with the cliff on the right.  This was OK since I could mostly drive on the left side of the road, leaving a 1/2 car-width gap between us and the edge of the cliff.  However, panic ensued when a car came the other direction.

This required finding a wide spot in the road, pulling as close to the guard-railless edge and stopping while I gripped the steering wheel so tightly my skin melded with the vinyl covering on the steering wheel.  I can’t claim I was the most pleasant person on this drive.

When the second car approached, it didn’t slow down.  It just came barreling at us like we were on some four-lane highway in the desert.  I got as close to the edge as I dared, stopped, and braced for impact.  The car slipped by so close that had our rearview mirrors been at the same height, they would have hit.  I suspect this was a local who takes great pleasure in terrorizing tourists.

At this point, I didn’t care what the rental car policy said.  I got out of the car and informed Pat I was not driving one more inch.

Unfortunately, sitting in the passenger seat next to the cliff where I couldn’t see the edge of the road was not exactly comforting.  It says a lot about my husband that he didn’t drop me off at the Phoenix airport instead of continuing straight to our hotel by the time we got off that road that was never meant to be a road.

The net of this “scenic” drive was that we didn’t get to enjoy the scenery except when we stopped to stretch at the periodic pullouts.  It also took about the same time to drive the dirt stretch as if we were riding mountain bikes.

My advice: follow the lead of the Apache and walk the darn thing!

Like life, it’s beautiful, but best enjoyed as a destination rather than a route.