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Finally arrived in Flagstaff, Arizona. We stayed at the Moenkopi River house. Several in our crew were flying in to Vegas or Phoenix and catching a shuttle to Flagstaff. Flights were cancelled and delayed because of weather, but all were eventually gathered at the river house. Some went shopping for groceries while others began packing food in the ammo boxes for each day on the river. Most of us went out to a nice dinner. Bridget and Susan volunteered to stay and finish the food packing.

We all enjoyed our last night of hot showers and sleeping in real beds. We awoke the next morning to 6 inches of snow.

Texas and New Mexico

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Traveled across Texas with a stop in Amarillo to see the Cadillac Ranch. Sadly, the old cars have pretty much rusted away to nothing. All that remains is a thick shell of paint where folks have sprayed over them. The area was littered with paint cans Final destination for the day was Tucumcari, New Mexico. Saw a bit of the historic route 66 and enjoyed dinner at the Kix on 66.

On the road again

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Our first stop was her first stop was in Buffalo, Tennessee. The trip was uneventful except that the trailer brakes were grabbing a bit. We stayed at a KOA Campground and dined at Rochelle’s BBQ. Food was great. There were lots of funny signs inside.

The next day the rest of the gang went to a pearl farm in Camden, Tennessee while I took the trailer to an RV place in Jackson to get the brakes fixed.It turns out that I had a blown bearing seal on the left side, which caused grease to leak out all over the brake drum. Also there was a broken wire on the electric brake on the right hand side. Got it all fixed in about an hour and the rest of our group arrived just as they were finishing up. Back on the road and back on schedule, we headed for Sallisaw, Oklahoma.

We stayed at a KOA there and had an awesome dinner at Shad’s Catfish Hole. it poured the rain all that night. The next morning, much of the campground was flooded where a nearby creeks overflowed its banks. Glad we were not staying in tents.

Setbacks and last minute preparations

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Loading the trailer (Photo by Bridget Tincher)

Less than two weeks before our launch date, three of our crew had to cancel due to medical issues. Now we were down to 13. Those included:

Robert, Chris and Aaron Anderson, Bridget Tincher, Tom Connelly, Heath Henson, Susan Sharp, Nancy Ward, Adam Wood, Jess Parks, Pete Boyd, Tom Ziola and Rob Fredericks.

Many in the group would be leaving from West Virginia on March 7th. Others would be flying in to meet us in Flagstaff on the 12th.

A week before the trip, the transmission went out in Tom’s truck. Fortunately, Heath had a truck that could pull the trailer. We loaded up the trailer on the 6th. It looked a bit overloaded to me. The next morning they decided that the suspension was broken and had to transfer all the gear to another trailer. (Thanks again Heath.)

Finally we were ready to go, mid morning on the 7th. Chris and I had decided to pull our A-frame popup camper.

Grand Canyon 2019

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It was the last day and the last half-hour before the Grand Canyon river permit lottery closed. I had never applied before, but thought I would give it a shot. Odds are about 1 in 100.  I put in for a permit in the middle of March for a trip of 16 people. Soon I received an email that my application was successful. I had scored a permit for March 14th 2019.

I have rafted several of the large rivers out west but never the Colorado through the Grand Canyon. I have never been the trip leader and certainly never organized anything this big. I had not really discussed this with my wife, Chris before applying. I was both excited and a little overwhelmed. Fortunately I have good friends who have rafted the Grand before and have organized these trips. When I told them the news, they said “Don’t worry we’ve got this.” We had a full year to get it done.

Over the next few months we met several times and begin planning the trip. We contacted all of our friends and family who might want to go with us and eventually filled up all 16 available slots. We decided that we would bring two large catarafts and rent four more rafts from Moenkopi Riverworks in Flagstaff. We planned to do a full 24 day trip from Lees Ferry to Pearce Ferry and to provide all of our own food. Several in the group volunteered to provide food and divided up the number of meals between them. They began collecting and dehydrating the food.

We set up a Facebook page to share ideas and help plan for the trip. Since we were going in March, it would likely be cold overnight and many of us needed new gear for cold-weather camping and rafting. Water temperature was expected to be 48 degrees so drysuits would be needed in case of a swim. Puff jackets and pants were recommended for camp. Chris and I got zero degree sleeping bags as nighttime temperatures were forecast to be in the 20’s.