The Mustang engine roared to life as I turned the key at 3:15 a.m. Only fifteen minutes earlier I had awoken to the hotel alarm clock, not sure if I would get the chance to take any photographs of the Grand Canyon during the golden light of a sunrise or sunset. Now I was confident that I would get the chance. Even if the car wouldn't start back up after shooting the sunrise, I didn't think it would be a problem getting a jump start.
I made good time as I drove down Highway 67 towards the North Rim. There were few cars on the road. As I passed the unmanned park entrance, I couldn't help but reflect on the irony that the one time that I didn't actually get to take any photographs was the one time I had to pay the entrance fee. Not that I begrudged the twenty-five dollar entrance fee which was valid for a week.
I arrived at the Grand Canyon Lodge around 4:30 a.m. Not sure if I would again need a jump start, I backed into a parking spot. I decided to see if the car would start again, and unlike the previous day, it did.
My plan was to shoot sunrise at Bright Angel Point. There is a trail behind the Grand Canyon Lodge that leads to Bright Angel Point. After consulting some hotel employees for directions, I made my way towards the trail. The beginning part of the trail was lit by the lights from the lodge, but soon I found myself on a very dark trail. The trail was a few feet wide and fairly smooth. On my right side, however, was a significant drop off if I mistepped a bit. In the daylight this would not be an issue, but as I progressed on the trail, it became very difficult to see. Unfortunately, I had not brought a flashlight with me. I did, however, have a cell phone, which provided a faint light that was just enough to light up the trail and keep me from taking a tumble down a dark mountain side. My progress was very slow, as even with the phone I could not see well.
When I finally arrived at Bright Angel Point, I found myself alone for almost forty-five minutes. As the sun started to come up, some people started joining me. I had originally set up by the rail, as it was dark when I arrived and I hadn't realized that I could climb up on some of the rocks for a better vantage point. All in all there were probably ten people who were taking photographs of that sunrise from Bright Angel Point. Only one other used a tripod. A few were hand holding their slr's, while the rest were shooting with point and shoot cameras.
I continued to shoot until the sun had been up almost an hour. After that, I made my way back to the lodge. It took me longer to return to the lodge than my snail paced journey from it, largely because I stopped five or six times to take photographs. When I finally made my way back to my car, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the engine started again.
I drove back to Jacob's Lake Inn, packed my belongings and checked out. After I filled up the gas tank, a different young mechanic checked my battery. At first he told me it was fine, but then had some trouble with a test and told me it had gone bad. The car started back up again, but I decided that I would go to Kanab, Utah to get the battery replaced. I didnt' want to go the rest of the trip worrying whether the car would start.
As I made my way towards Kanab, I tried to call the rental car company to explain the situation. After twenty minutes on hold, I lost the signal. After about forty-five minutes, I approached a small town, and the first building I saw was named Judd Auto Services. I thought I was in Kanab, but would find out later that I was actually in Fredonia, Arizona. I soon explained my situation to Mike, and told him how I was looking for the cheapest battery possible. He had one for seventy dollars that he thought would work. While I wasn't thrilled about buying a battery for a rental car, I decided that I'd rather fork over the money than risk losing more time. Mike tried to install the battery, but it was too tall, preventing the hood from closing. He had another battery available, but it would cost over one hundred dollars. Mike told me that some other places further up the road might sell less expensive batteries. I asked him if he could charge the current battery. I had assumed that the other two evaluations were correct and it needed replacement, but as the price was higher than I wanted to pay, I started to explore other options.
Mike ran a few tests and pronounced that the battery was fine. Perhaps it didn't start after the first jump because I had run the AC and hadn't driven enough to charge it back up he offered. In any case, there was no reason to replace the battery. I paid Mike's very reasonable fee of twenty dollars and was off to my next destination, the red rocks Sedona.
As I drove towards Sedona, I remembered that a friend from grade school, Linda Borcher, lived in Kanab. We had recently friended each other on Facebook, and I was going to try to stop by while I was in the area. The battery problems made me forget all about it, and by the time I remembered, Kanab was hours in my rear view mirror.
To be continued....