Teachable Moments in Grand Canyon

Inner Gorge, River Mile Marker 187

A couple of years ago I was giving a Hummer tour in the Grand Canyon with a bunch of Back Easterners. It was mid-July and about 110 degrees Fahrenheit, outside. We pulled off the rocky road road to take a short break and stretch. The road winds it’s way down into the inner gorge of the canyon via Whitemore Wash to river mile marker 187 on the Colorado River. It is one of only two access points that can get you that close to the river in a 4×4. During the break we walked over to a cluster of Barrel Cactus and I began some interpretation on the flora of Grand Canyon when all a sudden we heard the doors lock automatically on the Hummer. Silence fell over the group. It didn’t take long to realize that the keys were still in the ignition and all the windows were rolled up.

For the next 45 minutes we debated and conspired in the shade of the Hummer, trying to figure out what to do? We were 6 miles from the lodge which would require hiking all the way up out of Whitmore Wash and out of the canyon. Nobody had water. That wasn’t even a choice for various reasons. Finally we grabbed a sharp basketball sized piece of basalt and proceeded to knock out the back window of the vehicle, then continued the tour. That was a teachable moment. What did I learn? I learned to always keep the windows cracked on a vehicle that has automatic locks!

The other teachable moment hit me later up at the lodge. My boss had me fill out an incident report and he called in for a price quote on a window replacement. I was surprised to learn the repair would cost around 800 dollars. Had I knocked out the windshield, it would have been around 200 dollars. The the next six months I was the butt of quite a few jokes.

All of this was on my mind today. Little moments like these educate you. The mistakes you make are teachable moments. They are experiences that create an impact that are still recalled years down the road.

by Nathan Cowlishaw

4 thoughts on “Teachable Moments in Grand Canyon”

  1. Automatic locks on a fancy modern vehicle, in the desert, that is quite a story. May I say, I admire the bravery represented of (1) smashing out the window to regain access to your company’s vehicle and save the health of everyone there, and (2) continuing the tour after the fact.

    I could like to ask if you’ve ever brought along a video camera, on such a tour. Remembering how rewarding was the on-site studies course I was in, in Fresno — the instructor had us prepare reports about particular features of where we were going to stay a weekend, then we camped out for the weekend, stayed just outside the east gate of Yosemite, and once right by Mono Lake — well, it was a rewarding experience. Presently, the experience leads me to believe than yourself perhaps giving a video tour of the desert could be rewarding, as well, if you would be interested.

    I mean, while I really wish that I could offer production support to such a work, and given as I would propose the suggestion — maybe sometime, I could, honestly, even if not right today — but I’d bet it would be a good experience for the viewer. Supposing that even the proposal would be considered, I would hope it could be enjoyable to produce — and I don’t suppose it would really be worth it, if it wasn’t enjoyable to produce. I bet it would lead to the company you mention getting more coverage and presence online, too.

    I know it’s out of the blue, for someone to say so — about which, I would offer apology if it would seem obnoxious, to anyone.

    I just thought I’d lay that particular card to the table, so to speak. I mean, if there was interest, I wonder how much fun it would be.

    The logistics of it, I’d think, shouldn’t be much more than to research, propose, and iterate about it until it works out well enough to be a “go” — to the effect of a plan, then — then to procure or just borrow what simple items would be necessary so as to simply film it and put it online. I’d bet it can be pretty easy, really. (I think I see why movie stars don’t tend to self-produce their works, considering)

    I’ll put in my xanga blog’s URL, if in case you’d be looking for someone to run any research about it, and to follow through on this impromptu idea.

    I realize that something of this magnitude could require a little more carefulness before mentioning it. I’m afraid it would’ve fallen between the cracks, if I’d not said it here and now though. So, I hope this chance I took doesn’t tweak anyone’s noses, out there. I mean this with every due respect that my thick noggin’ has into it already.

    Aloha and suchforth, sir

    — Sean, longtime reader, first-time caller

  2. Good story, good lesson. I had one myself once in the Mojave Desert outside of Las Vegas. I pulled down this dirt road out in the middle of nowhere for a break in the great vast silence and in my haste and mindlessness I ended up locking the keys in the trunk. I went into a deep panic, and then began tearing out the back seat to see if I could then reach in and grope around and find the keys. I couldn’t displace the seats, but I did bend them outward just enough to squeeze my arm through and wriggle around groping with my hand where I thought the keys would be laying…sure enough, I managed to grab them and pull them through, along with my mangled arm, the equally mangled back car seat (of the rental!) I whooped and hollered and just hoped the rental company would not notice how distorted the seat was after I tried kicking it back in place. Later on, rolling down the road, feeling confident and superior in my ability to extricate myself from the crazy situation, it dawned on my how utterly stupid I had been – how utterly blind I had been in my haste and panic to resolve the problem….for all I had to do was gently lift up the trunk lever beneath the driver’s seat. Think. Think. Think. Before acting rashly and stupidly!

  3. I remember you telling me about this. I was unaware that you broke the back window though… I bet those tourists all have a good “survival” story to tell to future generations because of you!


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