The Redcoats, the Germans, and the Japanese are coming — to the Grand Canyon, that is. The weak dollar has paved the way for foreigners to flood into the western parks of the U.S., especially the Grand Canyon. A particularly strong Euro means we'll be seeing a lot more cigarettes, loafers without socks, and obnoxious fashion-forward clothing from the old country around the South Rim this summer.
"This is adventure. This is cruising," (Steve Meissner of Berlin) said recently as he shopped at a roadside stand on the popular south rim of the Grand Canyon. "Driving west with a '56 Cadillac — that's a dream."
Like an increasing number of foreign travelers to the U.S., Meissner couldn't resist taking advantage of the weak U.S. dollar and gas prices here.
"Our euro is so up, and gas is dirt cheap," said the 45-year-old wedding photographer, who shipped the car to Germany after his adventure. "We pay $8 a gallon in Germany, so we enjoy pumping gas at three bucks a gallon."
Germans — they would enjoy pumping gas. Grand Canyon officials don't track visitors by nationality, but rangers say they've seen a marked increase in foreign visitors, which they estimate could make up as much 40 percent of all visitors to the canyon.
"Every other group is speaking a different language," Grand Canyon Superintendent Steve Martin said. "You have Brits, people from Australia and New Zealand and India and a number of Asian countries and Hispanics. It's just incredible."
I suppose it's only fair, since we've spent the last few decades crowding their duomos and piazzas with our fannypacked selves. Just do us a favor and stub out your Dunhill before you get on the trail, Gunter. — Ted Alvarez