Size Matters. Within the bounds of your immediate family, you are probably a major player. A big fish. Any move that you make can have a material impact. Without you, the unit is destroyed or significantly diminished. At work, or at your place of worship, or in your circle of friends, you are probably not as impactful. Important, but the group probably survives without you. In your town, you may not be important or even known to very many. And so on, and so forth. Scale is important. Perspective is important.
At the dealership, I was treated like a valued customer. They processed the rental with ease, asked if I needed gear, went over the BMW F800GS as if I had never ridden one before, and generally offered VIP levels of attention. Multiple people came over to ask where I was heading, to point out the coffee station, to offer tips, and to say what a great time of year this was to ride in the region. I am sure it would have been different if I had been there during prime time, but I was still impressed. I suited up and headed back to the hotel. It was good to be on two wheels. The wind, the power, the maneuverability, the looks of envy from four-wheeled travelers. The motorcyclist is indeed someone special, whether that is because of perceived risk, freedom, individualism, or just being in a minority on the road…
Dawn is always my favorite time to be on the road. The relative quiet, the infinite possibilities of a day yet to fully begin, the awakening, the rapidly changing sky and landscape. It is magical, and the miles pass blissfully…..After you leave the town of Williams, the road becomes two lane highway. It was not heavily trafficked, so you could travel at 70+ mph. There were ample places to pass the few motorhomes, cars and minivans heading north. The F800GS easily accelerated around them. On either side of the road were open light brown plains full of scrub brush that stretched for miles toward the distant hills. Cattle or horses grazed in a few spots, and the occasional cluster of aging mobile homes broke the monotony. In many ways, a typical desert southwest landscape. An hour later, you reach the park gates. Still nothing unusual. You park and shed your gear. Nothing yet. You follow the paved path and see glimpses of an unusual sky. Then you round a corner and…..wow !!
The Grand Canyon is beyond impressive. Even the second or third time you visit. It is an inverted mountain range where nature has used the full palette of textures and colors, blended with time. And the amount of time is hard to comprehend. A visiting son asked his father if it was older than grandpa. Oh yes, his father replied, more like the dinosaurs. The child nodded the nod of someone who acknowledges, but cannot possibly comprehend. The size is also hard to comprehend. It instantly reduces you to a speck. You are a mere pixel on nature’s high resolution Jumbotron. Your life, less than a measurable unit of time. You are anything but a VIP.
Geology, chemistry, and other sciences have solid explanations for everything you can see, but the whole is more than science. It is like looking out at the ocean or up at the stars. The concepts of time and scale are intellectually understood, but they seem insufficient. Perhaps we are missing the point. Native peoples have simply held this place as sacred for thousands of years, and still do.
Vultures circle on currents of air that suddenly dip and rise like a roller coaster. Hawks emerge from the perfect camouflage of the cliffs to swoop down toward an imperceptible speck of movement. The sun paints the scene in the muted tones of shadows or the bright reflections of the vibrant varied surfaces. I sit looking out across the canyon until more people start to arrive. Most stare slack-jawed at the first sight. You can see them shrink in size and importance as they take it all in. I mount up and head out along the south rim. There is no other form of motorized conveyance besides a motorcycle that would be adequate for this. You need to be exposed to the elements, to get closer to the edge, to hear what the wind is saying. There are less crowded vistas here that are no less spectacular. A few have no one around….
It is at these points that I begin to understand. There are many lessons that this place delivers to the receptive, but one stands out. The biggest canyon to be crossed is the reconciliation of your own desire to be significant in some way, with the reality of your insignificance.