On The Road With Dad

<B>Steve Hartman</B> Takes His Dad To The Grand Canyon

This week's commentary is by 60 Minutes II Columnist Steve Hartman. It was first broadcast on June 16, 2004.
I'm coming to you tonight from the greatest natural wonder in the world, the Grand Canyon.

I chose this particular assignment boondoggle, partly because I've wanted to come here my whole life.

But mostly because of somebody else who's wanted to come here for all of his – my dad, George Hartman.

He never had a chance to do much sightseeing, raising my brothers and me on an autoworker's salary. "That's why I worked several years, 52 weeks a year," says the elder Hartman.

Which is why I always wanted to bring him to the Grand Canyon, so he can enjoy his three greatest passions in life: being with family, being outdoors and complaining about gas prices.

For a guy like my dad, it just doesn't get any better than this. "Two dollars and fifty-nine cents! I never paid so much money for gas in all my life," says dad. "Good gosh."

Our first look at the canyon was at sunset. We both had pretty much the same reaction: "Jiminy Crickets."

It's 10 miles across. A mile deep. No wonder four million people visit every year. A fraction of those will hike all the way to the bottom. My dad and I briefly considered it until we read the warnings about heat stroke and dehydration.

Headache, nausea and vomiting. It would be nice if we could do one that just has headache and nausea. Fortunately, there's more to a good family vacation than becoming violently ill. You can take in a show. View wildlife you'll only see here, or in your backyard.

You can spend money in the gift shop, or make it on the overlooks.

We had some good laughs. But the best part of my trip was rediscovering what I really love about my dad. At 78, he's still so fascinated with everything. He's also comfortable striking up conversations with total strangers -- often about the history of gas prices.

"How much was gas in 1955?," asked dad. "Did you hear that? Ten cents a gallon in Kansas in a gas war."

My Dad. Talking gasoline, standing on top of the world, son by his side. The perfect vacation.

Is it worth the trip? "Oh God, yeah," says the elder Hartman.

Dad thinks we should stay here, but not because of the stunning beauty or the father/son moments. But because he insists that at $2.59 a gallon, getting home is just too darned expensive.