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New Year lessons

NEW VIEW: The north wall of the Grand Canyon appears briefly through the snow and mist on New Year’s Day.
A bunch of things went wrong as we tried to ring in the new year in Arizona.

My wife and I had a crazy two days in Arizona to end 2016 and begin 2017. We were visiting our son in Phoenix, and a bunch of small things went wrong on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

We were supposed to leave Phoenix at 10 a.m. for Flagstaff to celebrate New Year's Eve. But our rental car was towed. I had left it out on the street in front of my son’s house Friday night. His housing development authority doesn't allow parking overnight on the street. So it took a couple of hours and $105 to get the car out of the city’s impound lot.

We got a late start, but made it to Flagstaff OK. When we went to check into our rooms at the hotel, the clerk didn't have a reservation for us. Our son had booked the rooms through an online service, and nothing got sent to the hotel. And the hotel had no vacancies. So we were in trendy Flagstaff on New Year's Eve without a hotel reservation. Panic city! Eventually, after calling about a dozen places, we found two rooms at an old motel on Route 66 on the edge of town.

After checking in and counting our blessings — the rooms were cinder block, the beds were hard, the TVs were blurry and water was lukewarm at best, but there were no bed bugs! — we headed downtown for supper. It was 8 p.m. or so, and the historic district was packed with people. Many of the restaurants said they were booked through the night with reservations. Did we have reservations? No, you don't need reservations in North Dakota. But Flagstaff isn't Fargo, as I learned. So we divided up and went looking for a place to eat. My wife and my son’s girlfriend found a fancy, sit-down Chinese restaurant. We were hoping for steaks and potatoes, but the Mongolian beef and rice was great. At 10 p.m., my wife and I called it a night and went back to the hotel, and my son and his girlfriend stayed downtown still the ball dropped and fireworks went off. They said it was quite a show.

On New Year’s Day, we started out for the Grand Canyon. It had snowed overnight, and it was cloudy with snow showers in the higher elevations. We decided to take the scenic route to the Grand Canyon, but after about 30 minutes of driving through a national forest, we ran into a traffic jam. The line of cars was moving so slowly that passengers were getting out and walking beside their cars and playing in the snow. We never did find out what the problem was. Google Traffic showed the traffic backed up for 9 to 10 miles. After about 30 minutes of crawling along, we turned around and went back to Flagstaff and headed out to the Grand Canyon via another, longer route.

We got to Grand Canyon a few hours later than we had planned. When we arrived at the national park’s gate, there was a sign that said there was limited visibility in the canyon that day and that there would be no refunds on the $30 entrance fee. We went in anyway, and the sign was right. The fog and snow were sometimes so thick and brilliantly white that you couldn't see more than a couple hundred feet in front of you. There was no way we were ever going to be able to see to the bottom of the mile-deep canyon. We stuck with it, though, and walked around the south rim near the Visitor's Center and Geology Museum. After a couple of hours, the sun peeked out, and we caught glimpses of the canyon. The mix of snow, clouds and the red canyon wall was super-intense. It was beautiful and almost magical how the walls suddenly appeared and disappeared in clouds. A couple of times we were looking down into rainbows in the canyon.

So at the start of the new year, I learned some things that will be good to remember throughout 2017: Hang in there when things go wrong, be flexible when your best-laid plans don’t work out and enjoy whatever comes your way. You might find rainbows where you least expect them.

Happy New Year!

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