Grand Canyon skywalk

Grand Canyon West's famous glass Skywalk extends over the canyon.

Years ago, my mother had a navy-blue Crown Victoria — that car was like a large tank. I believe my parents must have installed an early model navigation system in the car because I’m pretty sure the car was too old to have one built in. That navigation system would talk to you in the most Jetsons-computer-sounding voice ever. If you missed a turn or took a turn that the navigation system hadn’t suggested, it would say, “Recalculating,” with an emphasis on the “Re.”

Then, it would promptly give a new route.

I’ve thought about my parents’ old navigation system a lot during the past two weeks. After six months of hard-core quarantining, my husband and I left on a cross-country road trip, heading for California and Oregon. Shortly after we left Louisiana, I asked my husband what we should name our trip.

Without skipping a beat, he said, “Betty.”

So, Betty it has been.

Betty has taken twists and turns we never saw coming.

Few people enjoy planning a trip more than I do. I had studied the maps to figure out the best stops along the way to the condo we had rented on the Oregon coast.

The best laid plans.

By the time we got to our planned stop in Lake Havasu City, Arizona (right at the California state line), the wildfires in California were so bad and scary that going any farther west would have been foolish. We thought an extra night in Lake Havasu City might give us the cushion we needed to continue figuring out the best route for our planned destination.

It did not, but we still loved our time there in a hotel room right beside the London Bridge.

In case you’re unaware, Lake Havasu City was created in the mid-1960s. A few years into building a city in the middle of the desert, city planners thought, “We need a draw.” It just so happened that London was getting a new bridge and tearing down the old London Bridge. So, in 1968, the Lake Havasu City folks thought, “That’ll work,” and they bought the London Bridge for $2.45 million. It took nearly four more years and another $4.5 million dollars to move the bridge, stone by stone across the sea and rebuild the bridge in its new desert locale.

My husband went to Lake Havasu City reluctantly because he didn’t believe he would be a fan. He was wrong. It was so lovely that he was the one who suggested the extra night there.

Recalculating for us did not come as automatically or as instantaneously as it did for my parent’s old navigation system. We had our destination in our scopes and were, at first, determined to reach it. We considered heading straight to the coast and climbing northward close to the sea, but the extra day in Lake Havasu City did not help with the wildfires. If anything, they got worse.

So, in the spirit of my parents’ navigation system, we eventually did recalculate our route and destinations — which amounted to me looking at a map and figuring out what was nearby and north, instead of west. Neither of us had ever been to Grand Canyon West and its famous glass Skywalk that extends over the canyon. Grand Canyon West is not a part of the national park system. It is owned by the Hualapai Indian tribe. The reservation encompasses about one million acres along 108 miles of the Grand Canyon and Colorado River. For reference, the entire Grand Canyon is about 277 miles long.

Grand Canyon West is way off the beaten path, but we loved it. The drive was breathtaking and barren. The Skywalk was awe-inspiring.

From there, we headed to Saint George, Utah, and Zion National Park — another incredible place neither of us had visited before. And then on to Salt Lake City, followed by an incredible little town called Lava Hot Springs, Idaho, and its amazing natural hot springs. Again, this little town (population 407) was off the beaten path. About 2.5 million gallons of water flow from the natural hot springs at 112 degrees Fahrenheit every day. The town has built a series of beautiful pools with varying degrees of water. Constantly flowing, the water changes from the pools every hour, requiring no additional chemicals. The water has no sulfur in it — so it’s not stinky. It was, in fact, delightful.

And now, we are in Idaho Falls, on our way to a cabin near Glacier National Park in Montana. Being outside so much has been good for our hearts, minds and souls.

While there is some degree of risk involved in everything, we are taking all the precautions we know to take — and all the places we’ve visited are also taking extraordinary precautions, which is what has enabled them to stay open during these strange times.

Betty carries on.

Recalculating has turned out to be rather wonderful.

Email Jan Risher at janrisher@gmail.com.