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Field Day in the Grand Canyon

Field day in the Grand Canyon! So my daughter decided she wanted to be married at the Grand Canyon, Field Day weekend. (This date was the government’s choice not hers. She had to reserve this spot a year in advance). A wedding is a proud moment for the parents but there isn’t much room for error. My daughter did a great job of organizing 97 percent of the event…but that last 3% was our part and it was critical - get fresh flowers to the 110 degree wedding site and transport 75 people from the hotel to the wedding location, which is not on a main road and only accessible via a dirt road. Simple right!?

Well I took my responsibility seriously. I built a production book, similar to what I often use in my business: contact names, schedules, contingency plans, work schedules, maps, etc. I had to coordinate 3 vans, a 60 passenger bus and two personal vehicles to arrive all at the right time, with the right people.

One issue that quickly emerged as a potential problem was communication. Turns out cell phones don’t work flawlessly at Shoshone Point, the spot where we would be holding the ceremony and about 8 miles from the main El Tovar Lodge. Sound familiar? Enter ham radio! Turns out there is a ham repeater at the rim someplace. The question was would it work where we would be driving and eventually landing?

The other issue was that I was the only ham on site! My sister-in-law would be at the other end of the radio, so I quickly trained her in ham talk and said it would be available only if we needed emergency communications (I had two family elders, both in their late 80’s, who made the event…and we weren’t sure how well they would hold up to the torturous heat.) Nonetheless, she did not have a ham license so I deputized her as K9RST slash A. We used the radios to establish communications. We proved the concept. They worked great, but we ended up relying on simple logistic missions. Every driver had a defined purpose and plan. We had to just hope all went well enough. We used ham radio simply to confirm that everyone was in position and moving around in a timely manner.

I did talk to a few hams on the rim with that repeater…and a few who must have been in the canyon because we could not out what they were saying. The canyon is a tough place for phones or radios….the drop off the rim is easily a 1000 foot cliff and radio signals don’t bend up so well!

Anyway…everything worked great…I drove the 15 passenger van for the bride and her entourage. My brother took the groomsmen the in his rental van. The 60 passenger bus got the folks to the site on time. My brother-in-law drove everyone from the bus drop, down the rough dirt road to the wedding site. One of the great unknowns was traffic. Yes, there can be enormous traffic jams even at the Grand Canyon and we ran right into one. As I was driving bridal party to the point, there was a huge traffic jam. Cars were parked along the side of the road. Some just stopped in the middle of the road. What the heck was going on? An accident perhaps? People were jumping of their cars and were running towards something…with cameras in tow…hmmm…an animal someplace? Eventually we saw the huge male elk with his enormous rack that was causing all of the commotion. He was quietly grazing almost unaware of the craziness that was all around him. Meanwhile, the clock was ticking and I had the bride in the car and 70 guests waiting. Fortunately I had planned for such a delay and we arrived right on time.

The flowers were another story. My brother-in- law was going to bring all of the flowers from Flagstaff…about an hour and half away. At 8 am he called and said his two cars were towed. He could not make the delivery. So the good Dad jumped into the van and drove to Flagstaff….got the flowers and drove back…four hours round trip. Mission accomplished…now all I had to do was shower up and get dressed…let’s just say, I ended up taking a sponge bath and barely had enough time to suit up!

I understand there is a canyon at the Grand Canyon!! Well, the wedding site made up for the craziness. The actual wedding spot was truly a sacred space and afforded an amazing view of the canyon.

I can’t say my daughter’s wedding day was relaxing…and I certainly didn’t get to explore the canyon as I had hoped, but I did get some hiking quality time in the very early Saturday morning, for which I am grateful.

So while I missed our Field Day, I think you will agree that I could not miss my daughter’s wedding…and believe me, after facing all of the stress of handling all of those wedding logistics, Field Day looks like a most welcome breeze.

73 Rob K9RST