Once-in-a-lifetime trip ruined by government shutdown, couple says

Once-in-a-lifetime trip ruined by government shutdown, couple says »Play Video
After six years of planning and saving for their once-in-a-lifetime road trip, Jack and Ellie Derrick arrived at the Grand Canyon to find it was closed due to the government shutdown.

OREGON CITY, Ore. – The governor of Arizona decided Friday to have her state pay to keep the Grand Canyon open for at least seven days. While that may be a huge relief for anyone planning a trip to there, it doesn’t help much if your trip already happened.

Jack and Ellie Derrick planned their vacation to the Grand Canyon for six years and saved up for it for almost as long.

When they packed up the car and pulled out of Oregon City, the government and the national parks were still open. But when they got there, the government had shut down and the park was closed.

The retired couple planned to visit five or six national parks.

"It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing," said Jack. "Probably never do it again."

They set off Sept. 26.

Jack had bought a camera just for the trip and the couple took 700 photos, capturing the glory of Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks. But they were turned away at the real jewel – the Grand Canyon.

"I cried," said Ellie. "There was a big flashing sign. We were 44 miles from it, and there was a big flashing sign. It said, 'Closed.' The road was closed."

It took millions of years for the Grand Canyon to form but a few seconds to close the only road to the north rim – and it happened right smack in the middle of the Derricks' road trip.

"The national parks are bought and paid for by us, the people," said Jack. "These congressmen, whoever they are, who shut down the government and shut down the parks – I have a lot of things I'd like to say to them, and a lot of things I'd like to do to them. I can't say it in front of you or my wife."

When the couple returned to Oregon, they wrote an email to U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader. They told him they want to be reimbursed for the money spent on gasoline and motels for their trip.

"I sent our representative a bill for 1,056 bucks," Jack said.

KATU contacted Schrader's office Friday but has not heard back yet.

We learned about Jack and Ellie's story when they emailed us. If you have a story you'd like to tell us about, email us at newstips@katu.com.