Posts Tagged With: Grand Canyon Railway

Our Grand Adventure, Part III

Part I

Part II


Monday’s hike was my favorite part of the whole trip: we travelled west from the Village along the Rim Trail to a spot called Hermit’s Rest about 7 miles away. Some of the group opted to take the shuttle, which ran on a separate road not far from the trail and stopped at eight big overlook points along the rim before stopping at Hermit’s Rest and looping back to the Village. There were ten of us that chose to walk, and it was a fun group. The trail was pretty and the views were amazing; it was just a great hike.

We ended up taking a shuttle the last three miles or so to Hermit’s rest, where we found an old (built in 1904) structure that had been converted into a gift shop and snack bar. Underneath all the modern clutter the primitive design was wonderful.

And now it was afternoon, and the one thing no one wanted to do was risk missing the train back to Williams, so we caught a shuttle back to the Village. The kids and I collected our carry-on stuff from the Lodge and then walked along the Rim Trail back toward the depot. We’d given ourselves plenty of time, so we stopped for ice cream along the way.

Luke had been wanting to look inside the Hopi House (like Hermit’s Rest it was built in 1904, designed by Mary Colter and eventually converted into a gift shop) ever since we’d arrived in the Village, so we stopped there next and had a look around. It was two stories high and crammed full of shiny merchandise, but the structure itself looked like a house I could see myself living in. It reminded me of my grandfather’s simple and beautiful hand-built shack, but with more fireplaces.

And then it was time to head down to the train depot…

…and settle in for the ride back to Williams.

We saw deer and elk from the train, but I wasn’t quick enough with my camera to catch them.

At one point we were overtaken and boarded by armed bandits.

They did a bit of comedy schtick that was pretty funny even to a cantankerous old fart like myself. The three of them came down the aisle demanding “money, jewels and prized possessions” from random passengers, mostly focusing on kids. When the first guy got to me and Luke, my boy dramatically turned his pockets inside-out to demonstrate his possessionless condition. While I was still laughing at that, the big gunman moved to the seats behind us, and I heard him suddenly exclaim in genuine surprise and bafflement, “She hissed at me!” I looked back and saw Elizabeth clutching her beloved picture of Espio to her chest and looking like the first robber that tried to lay a hand on her “prized possession” might lose it at the wrist. The bandit moved on without another word, and I didn’t blame him.

Sometime after the train robbers had left the car, Fiddle Guy returned. He told all the same jokes and played all the same bits of music as he had on Sunday, and they were still lame.

We rolled into the Williams Depot around 5:45pm, bought an obligatory Grand Canyon Railway Christmas ornament and a tee-shirt, and loaded up the Saturn for the long drive home.

I made one big mistake on this outing, and that was not printing out the driving instructions in BOTH directions. I didn’t think about it until we were already in Arizona, and then I figured it wouldn’t really matter because I could just follow my printed instructions except in reverse. The trouble was that without actual exit names and numbers, it wasn’t as simple as it seemed. Specifically, it turns out that there is more than one way to get from I-40W to US-95S, and I managed to take the wrong one. By the time I’d realized my mistake I figured I might as well just keep going, since I knew I had to be on the 95 eventually anyway. The worrisome thing was, there was no sign of civilization for miles and miles and the AZ/CA border did not appear to be anywhere near where we’d left it on our way to Williams. I confess, I was beginning to quietly freak out a little. But Luke and Elizabeth responded to the situation with a combination of stoic acceptance and cheerful sense of adventure, and pretty soon we were making jokes about finally making it across the Arizona border only to find ourselves in New Mexico. If I have to be lost in the middle of nowhere, my kids are the people I want to be lost with.

Eventually we reached a town, and I stopped at a gas station to fill up and find out where the hell we were in relation to the border. So that’s when I found out that my poor choice of exits had brought us to Lake Havasu, well north of where we should have been, but that staying on the 95 was still our best bet. We eventually crossed the border in Parker and got back to Anza without any further incidents. The next day I google-mapped our detour and learned that I’d inadvertently added about 150 miles to our journey home. The baffling part was that it didn’t really take us that much longer at all. We left Williams at about 6:30 Monday afternoon and were home by 1am Tuesday morning, so about 6.5 hours. According to Google it should have taken over nine hours to travel home the way we did. Not that I’m complaining, mind you.

[EDIT: And now that I’ve had more sleep and checked the route again, ACCURATELY this time, I see that my improvised route only added about 15 miles to the trip. That would explain why it didn’t take us much longer. Whew.]

We slept like dead people, but surprisingly had no trouble getting up the next morning and getting the kids off to school. As eventful and sleepless as our outing had been, it left us more energized than exhausted.

I’ll say it again: the Grand Canyon is amazing. It really is one of the great wonders of the natural world, something everyone should see at least once. The kids haven’t stopped talking about it since we got back.

Still…it’s good to be home.

Categories: Family, Friends, Humor, kids, Life, Love, Road trip, Travel | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Our Grand Adventure, Part I

This week the kids and I got to cross two more items off our bucket list: traveling somewhere by train…

…and seeing the Grand Canyon.

When we first started talking about this trip, we’d planned to do it sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The kids would be out of school, the garden would be in low-maintenance mode, and it wouldn’t be too hot to hike the Rim. I mentioned the idea to another mom in my hiking group, and she must have mentioned it to others, because pretty soon it had become an official group outing. This was awesome, for several reasons. One, I’m realistic about the risks of a single mom and two kids traveling by themselves, and a group feels safer. Two, it’s more fun to hike with other people. And the biggest reason, the lady who organized the trip did such an amazing job of planning and finding discounts, that we ended up doing WAY more fun stuff than the kids and I had originally planned, for hundreds of dollars less than our basic plan would have cost! It was unbelievable how inexpensive and FUN this trip was. The only downside was that the trip was scheduled for October rather than December, which actually turned out to be an upside, as we realized later.

We left Anza on Saturday morning. Most of the group were carpooling from the Temecula or Hemet areas, or taking Amtrak from Riverside CA to Williams AZ, but it made more sense for the kids and I to drive straight from Anza to Williams via Palm Springs, rather than detouring in the opposite direction to follow the others.

The weather was autumn-brisk, and this was our holiday trip after all, so we blasted Christmas music the whole way there. Trans-Siberian Orchestra makes the miles fly past, and the drive felt shorter than the six or so hours it took. We arrived at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel around 4pm, checked into our room, met our roommate (sharing rooms was part of the package) and then explored the grounds. We found a heated indoor swimming pool and a jacuzzi, and wished we’d brought our swimsuits. Then we found a gym, stocked with a dozen different kinds of workout and weightlifting equipment. We had it mostly to ourselves, so the kids had to try every single step-trainer, spinner, cross-trainer, weight press and treadmill in the place.

At 6:00 we met with the rest of the group for dinner. One of the really cool things about this outing was that nearly everything was covered by the incredibly low package price that we’d already paid, including dinner Saturday night and breakfast Sunday morning at the Railway Hotel Restaurant. It was buffet style, so no shortage of food. After dinner the whole group relaxed in front of the fire in the beautiful lobby, and discussed hiking plans for Sunday and Monday.

Brief tangent: the furniture in the hotel lobby was enormous. When I sat on one of the sofas there I felt like a child. Luke and Elizabeth looked like toddlers.

That fireplace in the photo is HUGE, but it looks normal-sized next to that giant furniture.

Anyway, so we planned our itineraries. Some of us really wanted to get out there and hike the trails, others preferred to make use of the shuttle tours, and some were looking forward to just relaxing and socializing in the Village. There were something like 23 of us altogether, so a bit of organizing was needed to make sure everyone had the experience they wanted.

Once all of that was settled, most of the group went out to enjoy the Williams nightlife. The kids and I headed back to our room, relaxed for a while and were asleep by ten, because we are party animals that way.

Alas, our roommate stumbled in very late (or early, really), puttered around noisily for what seemed like forever, and then finally went to sleep — and began snoring at such an impressive volume that all our hopes of sleep were shattered. Well, Elizabeth managed to doze off, but Luke and I buried our heads under pillows and blankets to no avail. I think I finally managed a fitful sleep sometime after four, because when the alarm went off at six it did wake me up. Luke apparently had the same thought, because he sat up and said in a surprised voice, “Wow, I DID fall asleep!”

One thing about Luke: if he feels that someone is in need of chastising, he ain’t shy. Until we’d gotten dressed and left the room I had to constantly shush him, because he fully intended to give our roommate a lengthy piece of his mind. Once we’d checked our luggage and were heading to breakfast, I was able to explain to him that some people stay up later than others, and some people snore, and it’s just the luck of the draw when it comes to matching up roommates, and she wasn’t trying to keep us awake on purpose, and under no circumstances was he allowed to scold her. He accepted that, though not particularly gracefully, and then we went to the restaurant and comforted ourselves with orange juice and eggs and sausage and fajitas and biscuits and gravy and muffins and pastries and yogurt and frittatas and toast.

After breakfast we gathered up our carry-on belongings and headed over to the train depot. Once there we were treated to the obligatory goofy Western shootout show.

Luke thought it was hilarious. Elizabeth thought it was amusing. I am a cantankerous old fart and was glad when it was over.

Then we boarded the train, and we were off to the Canyon! It took about two hours and 15 minutes to get there, and the scenery was wonderful.

We saw a herd of antelope in a meadow; there was wildlife everywhere. Near the end of the ride a guy came to our car with a fiddle and entertained us with corny jokes.

Being a cantankerous old fart, I enjoyed that about as much as I’d enjoyed the Old West show. Sorry Fiddle Guy, but your jokes are lame. Make funny jokes and I will like you.

Once we arrived at the Grand Canyon Depot on the South Rim, we caught a shuttle to Maswik Lodge, where we would be spending Sunday night. It was too early to check into our room, but our checked luggage had already arrived there and we were able to drop off some of our carry-on stuff for safekeeping. Then the kids and I walked up to the Rim to get our first look at the main attraction.

Technically, it wasn’t the first time I’d seen the Grand Canyon. My parents had taken me there a few times as a kid, so I had a vague memory of it. And to be honest, I was a little concerned that Luke and Elizabeth would be too jaded by the wonders of modern technology to be impressed by a canyon, however grand.

So we walked up to the Rim, and there it was, stark and colorful and impossibly vast.

It’s so big that you can only can only see parts of it at a time. As long as it took us to drive from Anza CA to Williams AZ, that’s how long it would take if you were to drive from the South Rim around to the North Rim.

I said, “Wow.”

The kids didn’t say anything for a long time.

We walked along the rim trail for a while, killing time until it was time to rejoin the group. I could see that the kids were not unimpressed — quite the opposite — but they seemed to be having trouble finding the right words to describe the sheer enormity of the thing.

Elizabeth finally found a comfortable context in technology. “It looks fake,” she decided. “Like a painted backdrop.”

“CGI maybe,” I nodded. “It’s gotta be special effects.”


Luke took longer to put his reaction into words. I think it was a couple of hours later; he’d been unusually quiet since his first glimpse into the abyss. “There is NO WAY,” he suddenly burst out, “that Paul Bunyon could have made that by dragging his axe along the ground. I don’t care HOW big he was.”


Read Part II Here.

Categories: Christmas, Family, Friends, Humor, kids, Life, Love, Road trip, Travel, Wildlife | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Blog at