We pulled into the Grand Canyon Thursday night. We were going to be camping for three nights, giving us two days to take our time exploring one of Earth’s most famous wonders. I’d worked extra hours earlier in the week so that I could unplug and enjoy four total days of driving and playing tourist.
About five minutes after checking into our campground, I got an email on my iPhone announcing a bit of a work emergency, something that demanded my attention within the next 12 hours.
My cell phone service promptly vanished as soon as I finished reading the email.
We unhooked the travel trailer from the back of our SUV, made sure no dishes had been broken in the transfer, and put the TV back in its place. Then I went hunting for wifi.I’d been told there was internet service available at a lodge near our campground, so I headed there first, optimistically carrying my laptop. There may, in fact, have been internet service there - but the lodge (and most other businesses in the Grand Canyon National Park) closed at 5:00pm. Defeated, I hauled my laptop back to our campsite and set my alarm for 7:30 am.
The next morning, while my family was still trying to figure out whose socks were whose, I packed my laptop and myself back into the SUV and went hunting for the Park Headquarters; the park welcome brochure had indicated HQ offered wifi access during the day. After a minimal number of wrong turns, I found a low, stone building tucked into the woods. (By the way, did you know there were woods around the Grand Canyon? I didn’t!)
The rangers at the front desk let me know that wifi was barely accessible in their lobby, but that I was free to use a room in their research library at the back of the building. My laptop bag and I hiked through the courtyard and found our way to a small collection of tiny, fluorescent-lit rooms that were labeled “Research Library.” I was pointed to a back room that seemed to serve as storage for coffee makers and paper shredders, where wooden table in the middle of the room would serve as my desk for the morning.
The Internet speed was fantastic.
As I sat there handling my work crisis in borrowed space, I was struck by how, well, how weird the whole scenario was. Here I was, huddled in a storage space in some remote library in the Grand Canyon, scavenging Internet service. I wondered what the rangers and office workers thought of me, if they imagined some tech-addicted mom who couldn’t break free from the Matrix for long enough to enjoy a weekend with her family in the Grand Canyon. I realized it didn’t matter; I was just grateful to have found this pocket of connectivity.
This is my life, I thought, my strange, off the beaten path, beyond the norm life. I have to hunt for wifi here because no one else here has to worry about wifi, but I’m getting to take my kids to the Grand Canyon on a Friday in February, just because. After about 45 minutes on the web, I would unplug for three days before regaining a signal on the road to Vegas.
On Monday I took my kids to watch acrobats in a casino. Today I’ll do my work perched atop a washing machine, because the best wifi connection in this RV park is in the rec and laundry rooms. On Friday we’ll go snowboarding.
Yes, I’m constantly plugged in - or looking for the best signal if I’m not. But it’s a worthy tradeoff for the other abnormal perks.