A few weeks back Renga asked me my plans for the July 4th long weekend. Pratibha and the kids, being in India, my plans were to sleep, eat, sleep, eat and to catch a few more winks wherever else I could. It was a good plan but he offered me something even better. A road trip to Utah. My vision of a road trip is curling up in the back of a car with loads of healthy snacks like chips and soda and only stirring when it's time to use the restroom. At the end of the trip I'll reluctantly get out to take in what is usually spectacular views, pose for a few pictures, and reclaim my rightful place among the snack boxes. So I jumped at the offer and, that friday, I took off early from work to join Ranga, his wife Vijaya, Ram, Karthik, Raju and Satya in a 7 seater on an eventful trip that took us through three state lines.
The first sign of trouble was when I realised that the car was bone dry. Not even a diet coke or a carrot stick. I knew then that these fellows had no idea of what a road trip should be. So I asked Ranga to fill me in on schedule. "We should reach George Town close to midnight. But we'll have to wake up early tommorrow. If we start at 6 we can reach Zion by 7 and get started with the Narrows by 8. I plan to do atleast 8 miles in the water. That should take the whole day. After that we'll drive to bryce canyon. Assuming we reach there by 10, we should have adequete time to have dinner and sleep. There are some good hikes in Bryce too. We'll ask the information centre and after that we'll settle on a couple. The next day we'll be back in Zion to do the "Angel's Landing" hike. And the back to San Diego" . My jaw dropped, I was feeling giddy and I'm not talking about giddy with joy. This was a hiking trip in road trip clothing. What was I going to do. On the road, however, I soon forgot my worries. The group was especially cheerful and the banter was entertaining. We talked about marriage (where, at 5 years and two kids, I was the grandfather and absolute authority), music (that I knew nothing about), food (that I knew everything about),badminton (oh! the poor fools, they little knew what they were getting into when they brought that up) and so much more. I was particularly proud of my performance when we discussed music. The argument was about which Tamil music director was better, Rehman or Ilayaraja. I picked Rehman and argued his case strongly and convincingly never letting on that I knew as little about Rehman's music as I knew about Ilayaraja's.
We reached Georgetown close to midnight but we had to modify our plans. The Soccer world up quarter finals was in the morning and everyone wanted to catch atleast the first half of one particular game. I dont think I've ever loved Germany and Argentina more than I did then. So, the next morning, at 11, I found myself at the trail head of another hot summer hike wondering what I did wrong in my previous life to end up repeatedly going through this torture. The first mile was like any other hike I had done before. Thin narrow winding path behind, thin narrow winding path ahead. Very beautiful views all around. I plodded on behind the group at my snail pace taking in the views and drinking copious amounts of water. After the first mile, however, things took a dramatic change for the better.
The "Zion Narrows" refers to the slot canyon forge by 'virgin river' in Zion national park. After the first mile, the entire hike is in the water as the river extends to both walls of the canyon. It's a unique experience that even a whiner like me couldnt help but enjoy it. The water is usually upto to the knees, often upto the waist and sometimes chest high. The water was cold. The day was hot. The group was fun. I had a blast. We must have done a total of 6 miles in the water and it must have taken us about 7 hours. There was no Parag or Nachiket or Pavan with me to pick up the pace. All of us were snails. I love snails.