We didnt waste any time getting out of Amarillo. I felt like maybe I didn’t give Texas a chance. Of course, our time constraints to get to California so we could really begin the fun of our trip played a major factor in everything. With so many hours logged on the road, we were both insanely exhausted and the energy just wasn’t there to do anything off-itinerary. Coffee played a huge role in us even being able to continue. Caroline dabbled with other caffeine intakes, like Monster Energy, but if I did that I would be a wired, cold sweating mess.

We pushed on to Arizona. New Mexico’s east side was nothing to write home about from a car-passenger’s point of view. Lots of sage brush ecosystems, lots of the same sights. You can get those views anywhere. 3 hours in, we made a pit stop at The Blue Hole- an infamous quarry in the middle of New Mexico home to diving and fun. I was a bit nervous getting there- back in 2007, my friends and I were jumping into a quarry in my hometown and I watched my friend drown. I never really recovered from it; I gained absolutely hateful spirit towards water in all forms. Rarely, if ever (maybe once a year), I will jump in the ocean. I shower on irregular schedules. I lived 3 miles from the beach in San Diego California for two years and still somehow never once went to the beach. I have no memories of the last time I was in a pool.

In 2007, my friends and I had returned to town after a 100 mile bike ride in the beginning of summer. We stopped at a lesser-known quarry and the only one to jump in was my buddy Brian- he was slightly older than the rest of us, about to get his license, and he took opportunities to be tougher than us. This was the biggest cliff jump in town. He showed no fear. Once we all realized he was going to be the only one to jump in, we left for some lunch, then moved on to the next quarry, a much more popular one behind a condominium community.

There was groups of people hanging out. All of the town’s population was represented at this entirely illegal hang out spot. There were the Guatemalan people, the older high schoolers, the druggies, the girls, and the townies. It always felt like differences were set aside when we communed at the quarries. Fast forwarding, I had never jumped into a quarry before. I was scared, for whatever reason. To ease my fears, Brian was the first to jump in, which was followed with applause from all the groups. I was still unsure.

Brian said he would do it again to show me it was okay to do it. One of the other kids tossed Brian a beer and said, “I’ll give you another one if you jump out of the tree.” Brian wasnt going to turn down a challenge. He set his opened beer aside, and began climbing up the tree.

Now, Brian was a bigger guy, much larger than any of us were. It took him a while to climb the tree. In his lengthy climb up, the others lost interest and went over to the makeshift grill they had and began roasting hot dogs. I was still at the jumping spot, unsure if I would go in. I guessed that if Brian did this jump, I would have to do mine.

He never made the jump. Still soaking wet from his last descent into the murky water, he lost his footing out on the branch, his hands slid off from any grasp like butter, and down he went. With a harrowing “thud,” against the rocks on the way down, Brian dropped like a bag of bricks into the water. Completely unaware of what just happened, and being the only person who just witnessed it, I waited for him to come up laughing.

He didn’t. The Guatemalan guys searched for him, my friends searched for him, and I stood there at the top of the rock directing where I saw him fall. I was too afraid to jump in- I never really got over the fact that my friend died that day because I was too much of a scaredy cat to go in after him. To this day I have never jumped in that quarry.

So, The Blue Hole dredged up those memories as we got closer. Ironically, diving crews were dredging up rocks from the hole to keep the location pristine for the upcoming season. A sigh of relief swept over me as I realized I wouldn’t have to go out of my comfort zone to jump into the water. We asked the visitor center for some info, and after waiting for them to finish up with an elderly couple that seemingly didn’t know how to stop talking, we were told we could watch them. I enjoyed watching from afar. Seeing the diving crews reminded me of when they pulled Brian from the water- a whole two hours later. The scene was gruesome. We never learned if it was the impact that killed him or the drowning, but conjecture says it was a mix of both.

Out of The Blue Hole in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, we continued west into the Native American territories. So many trading posts and gift shops lined the highway, as well as their billboards to advertise them. One string of billboards particularly irked me. One said, “GUY STUFF: We sell gun replicas!” and another right after said, “GIRL STUFF: We sell rose opal jewelry!” Everything about the area seemed lost in time. The Native Americans still were referred to as Indians, and they even called themselves that. The sights of ecosystem changed from plain desert to a reddish clay desert with fun-to-look-at rock formations and little canyons to traverse. I was in and out of sleep when we picked an “Indian Trading Post” to stop at, where I bought a few post cards and debated getting some earrings. The Natives loved selling jewelry. I wondered how much they even were able to sell. From there I began driving, but only lasted 2 hours before I began falling asleep.

Caroline took over, bringing us through Arizona to the area of the Grand Canyon, just beyond Flaggstaff. There was light snow lining the grass, which surprised me considering it was 65 degrees in the middle of winter. Neither of us were entirely tired, but we had driven quite far enough and wanted to set up camp for the night. We had reserved an AirBnB camping location 30 minutes outside of the Grand Canyon.

Getting to the campsite was a hassle. The roads were unpaved and the hosts were unreachable. We tried emailing them, texting, and calling to no avail. This was our second bad experience with AirBnB over the course of this trip. The first was in Amarillo, when a host booked us and at the last minute decided to inform us that he accidentally double booked- it was a real pain to try and get a refund. Luckily the hotel we stayed in was a similar price.

We were unwilling to risk putting the car through the unpaved roads of Arizona. We had no idea if we were going the right way and there were no guarantees that we could get out even if we did get in. We decided to cut our losses. Just outside of the road we were on was a Flintstones themed campground. The price was reasonable and it seemed fun!

It was rundown as all hell. The paint had faded on everything, the doors were heavy and unwelcoming, directions were unclear, and we couldnt for the life of us figure out how to get into the office to pay our fee so we could set up camp. Eventually we figured it out, to the chagrin of the camp host, a larger fellow with a smirking, snooty face trying to make coy jokes we didn’t pick up on.

We were the only tent campers at the campground, but we didn’t mind. After setup, we poured some Bacardi my mom left at our apartment into our cups, mixed it with Diet Coke, and got silly together. Just the two of us, under the stars, enjoying our resolution after a confusing end to our day.

We didn’t need anyone else. As a team, we fared well. A few kids who were hidden in the dark heckled us as we went into the toilets, acting as if “Hey you” was a good way to get people to want to meet you. We laughed in their faces. It was just us and the whole world. My hand was comfortable in hers. Excitement filled us as we laid down to sleep: we were going to cross The Grand Canyon off of our bucket lists.