The following day, in the middle of the afternoon, a Douglas DC-3 landed in Central Airport in Phoenix, Arizona. Zach and Charlie exited the airplane with the other passengers and crossed the tarmac to their gate. They immediately noticed a difference in temperature. It was in the low 90s, and though it was a dry heat, it was unlike the oppressive weather in Mississippi with its dense humidity.
The Phoenix Metropolitan Area looked flat like a lake around mountains that stuck up over it like islands. It was surrounded by many mountain ranges where Mexican gold was said to be buried in the Estrellas range, known as Montezuma’s treasure. The legend of Mexican gold was largely started by John D. Mitchell, a western treasure hunter and author. In his story of Don Joaquin’s lost treasure, Mitchell describes an extensive mine and a stone house in the heart of the Estrellas.
To give some credit to the story, a stone house did exist along with signs of mining. It was not well known or travelled, but several treasure hunters had visited the site. Zach thought the stories of lost gold treasures were all terribly fascinating.
From the airport, Zach and Charlie took a taxi to the Arizona Biltmore hotel. It was the only existing hotel in the world with a Frank Lloyd Wright-influenced design. The Arizona Biltmore had been an Arizona landmark since its opening in 1929, when it was crowned The Jewel of the Desert.
When they entered the hotel, they noticed that main lobby had a high gold leaf ceiling. It also had patterns from the early 1920s woven into the carpets. All the fabrics and murals were selected by decorators with the integrity of the architecture in mind.
After they checked in, they went to their room and found it was an oversized suite with two separate bedrooms; it was much larger than they expected. It was beautifully decorated in mission-style furnishings; plush fabrics wrapped in desert palettes of beige, sand, and ivory reflected the surrounding mountain vistas.
They were both exhausted from their trip and decided to take a nap before dinner. Zach kicked his shoes off and stretched out on the sofa. “Don’t bother unpacking, Charlie. We’re leaving for the Grand Canyon tomorrow morning.”
“What time’s the bus leaving?”
“Nine,” Zach said. “We got just enough time to eat breakfast before we go.”
Charlie crossed the room to the window. He glanced out the window at the mountains in the distance. “Is it me, or does the sky look really blue here?”
“I was thinking the same thing,” Zach said. He got off the couch, removed his camera from his overnight bag, and joined Charlie at the window. He aimed his camera at the mountains and began snapping photos. “Maybe the red in the mountains bring out the blue in the sky? Beautiful here, huh?”
“Sure is,” Charlie said. “I never saw so many colors of dirt before.”
“Wait until tomorrow,” Zach said carefully cleaning his camera lens. “From what I was reading on the airplane, this ain’t nothing compared to the Grand Canyon.”
“I can hardly wait to see it.”
“Me too,” Zack said. “It’s gonna be wonderful.
Zach and Charlie’s dusty Greyhound arrived in Grand Canyon Village at three o’clock in the afternoon the following day. When the bus stopped the passengers scattered like ants. Some of them went directly to the Information Center while others rushed to the gift shops. The trip was long, approximately 288 miles from Phoenix, and it took a little over six hours to get there. Charlie couldn’t wait to stretch his legs and use the men’s room. When he arrived at the restroom, Zach was already standing in line waiting.
The temperature there was much cooler than Phoenix because of the altitude. The sky was clear and brilliant blue, except to the north where a thunderstorm was brewing.
After they visited the men’s room Zach and Charlie walked to the lookout point. From where they stood, they could see the Colorado River below in the distance. The view was breathtaking. For over 15 million years, the river has steadily cut through the gorge causing striations in the canyon. Its beautiful layers of colors were easily visible.
Suddenly clouds began to roll in from the storm that caused the scenery to change. The colors of the canyon varied from red to pink, to hints of green, and deeper browns. Shadows began to transform the vast eroded walls right before their eyes.
A bolt of lightening ripped through the sky in the distance above the North Rim. It provided a spectacular show for the tourists snapping photographs—Zach of course being one of them. After a few minutes, the thunderstorm passed causing the vivid colors of the canyon to transform yet again. It was a theatrical exhibition of nature and its beauty.
Zach and Charlie thought it was so peaceful, almost spiritual. The only noise that could be heard was the wind blowing and a hoarse, screaming kee-eeeee-arr sound of a hawk that soared high above them. There were no words that could describe what they were experiencing. They felt as though it were heaven on earth and absorbed its entire marvel in complete silence.
Two days later, Zach and Charlie arrived in Boulder City. Zach wanted to see Boulder Dam. At 726 feet high, twice the height of the Statue of Liberty, and 1,244 feet long, Boulder Dam was one of the largest man-made structures in the world at the time of its construction, and one of the world’s largest producers of hydroelectric power.
Their tour guide informed them a total of 21,000 men worked on building the dam over the course of its five year construction and the region’s growing population turned Las Vegas from a sleepy town to a bustling city. He also stated that a little over a year ago Boulder Dam was completed. Some 12,000 people attended the ceremony on September 30, 1935, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated Boulder Dam. Later, in 1947, the dam’s name was changed to Hoover Dam.
Zach and Charlie couldn’t get over the magnitude of the dam. The sophistication and engineering required to build it was simply unheard of at the time. They thought it was phenomenal, and had an incredible time touring the dam. They were astounded with how large the country actually was, and all of its history. It seemed as though the country was boundless with fascinating tales and things to see. They wanted to see more, so they thought about where they wanted to go next.
“I know,” Charlie said. “How ’bout we go see where movies are made.”
“That’s a great idea,” Zach said.