GOING TO THE GRAND CANYON
Well folks the old man is home, and damned pooped. We took the girls, the cats , to the Vet.’s for boarding on the Saturday before we were to leave for boarding. The pitiful looks they gave us us as we left was heart breaking. They are used to the free roam of the house and a little recess time outside with me each day. Those cages are so small and they feel abandoned. But it is for their own good and comfort, as neither of them travel well , and we would be on the move for six days straight. Still it is hard to leave them. I am not one who treats them as a human child, but I do accept the responsibility for them and am used to having the company all the time. nuff about this for now.
Well up at a reasonable hour Monday morning , having loaded the car Sunday night in the garage it was a quick simple task to load the last few things and hit the road. We stopped for breakfast at one of our favorite restaurants which was on the way. A quick check of the TV news revealed that all the freeways were open, which had been a concern as the fires had raged all weekend in the direction were to go. While it may seem to be callous to journey on a vacation trip when so many have encountered such tragic losses, our trip had been planned and paid for for more than a month in advance. One of the waitress with whom we have formed a good relationship with over the years was on duty that morning. Shell learned of our destination which included two nights in Williams, Az., was exciter for us and told us that Williams was her favorite town and the lace she had spent many vacations in when she worked in bullhead City, AZ..
After finishing our breakfast, we hit the road in earnest. Our first destination was Laughing, NV. Where we would spend Monday night. East on the 91 fwy to north 57, then east again on the 60 to north 215 got us to our first pit stop at the McDonald’s on the Cahone pass. Thank God for the wounder full McDonald’s all across the country for their clean restrooms and good iced tea. Then back on the road to Barstow, and east on I-40. Gassing up at a Arco in Barstow then on to the first rest stop past Ludlow, better stop here as we are both diabetics and the next is 72 mile down the road. My wife is doing all the driving since my stroke in April, and she is not in the best of shape herself.
Rather than going all the way to Needles, we take the newer 95 junction to163 into Laughlin, thereby saving us 20 miles of whoopee-to -do’s of gut wrenching humps. we arrived at Don Laughlin’s Riverside Resort Casino at about 2:30 and our reserved room had not been cleaned or at yet released. So it had been almost seven hours since we had eaten, We like to eat at a Mexican restaurant over on the Az. side of the Colorado River down in Fort Mojave and it is quite a little drive over there. Don Laughlin has had a covered walkway built as a extension to his casino over the main drag in town, this is a six lane road with center dividers. On the other side he has a covered parking structure and on the second floor is a new extension and now houses a sister restaurant to Casa Serino the place we like so well. So we walked over and sampled their fare, which we enjoyed along with excellent service. So all in all it was a mildly pleasant surprise for us. After we got back to the Casino our room was ready and we got our bags and retired to the room. And I do mean retired, once we got to the room I undressed and fell into bed and was immediately asleep. My wife said my head hardly hit the pillow and I was snoring. I think I awoke around 10:00 and took my blood sugar and went back to bed.
Next morning we got ready and went down to the advertised best buffet i town, they should be sued for false advertising. after eating we returned to the room cleaned our teeth took our insulin and loaded up our bags, checked out and hit the road. Our travel Tuesday took us across the river onto highway 68 on to Kingman, AZ., stopping for gas once again just outside of Bullhead City. Then onto I-40 onceagain east on toward Williams, We always make a pit stop at Selgman, Az. this is a small old town(?) on old Hwy 66 (more about these little spots in the road later). Here we did our necessary business and gota A&W Root Bear float, then back on the road again just like Willie Nelson. The next leg was unbroken until Williams. This was a slow climb from 5,250 feet to 6,750 over close to 50 miles. There are area of flat pasture land broken by area of immense boulders a rust brown color. it is beautiful sparce country with no apparent habitation. 15 miles before Williams is a small hamlet of Ash Fork, Where the Car attendant on our train trip back from the canyon lives, more about him later.
We rolled into Williams around 3:00 and we quickly registered into our room. The Grand Canyon Hotel is a lavish structure with a triple story lounge/sitting area across from the check in desk. There is a large fire place and many comfortable sitting arraignments. to one side there is a computer access area located on a second floor balcony all in rich wood grains. Above the service desk is the obligatory tri-mural of the Grand Canyon in oil, and around the walls are various oils of western life and Indian subjects. in various glass cases are displayed Indian Crafts. The rooms were pleasant , and good value for the rates, which we found to be very reasonable. Of course this was all part of the three day package arraigned through the Automobile Club of Southern Calif.
On check-in we were instructed to walk over to the train depot, to receive our travel and meal vouchers for the rest of the trip. Once the luggage was gotup to the rooms we took the short walk to the depot. The young lady ( it is hard for me not to say girl, they all look so young to me.),gavee us our package and explained all the tickets to us. The first two was for our free buffet that evening, thee second two for breakfast the next morning, There was to be a gunfight after the breakfast for our enjoyment, the tickets to board the luxury car on the train at 9:45. We were given stickers to board the tour bus after the train arrived at The Grand Canyon which also allowed us a free buffet on the tour., Then there were tickets for the train to return from the Canyon and tickets for dinner and breakfast buffet at Williams. And of course the luggage tags for our bags which had to be in the lobby the morning of the train ride by 9:00am. Somewhat confused and overwhelmed we returned to our rooms for some much needed rest before eating.
Around five we strolled, limped is a better term, over to Max and Thelma’s gift shop and diner. The gift shop is large and features a large assortment of gift items and shirts, jackets and hats related to the Grand Canyon. The dinning-room was large and had a blazing fire-place of cut stone located in the center, art work adorned the walls and large windows gave a view of the rail-yard and a large steam locomotive. The evening buffet was Good, not great but satisfying, featuring a fairly good selection of vegetables , salads and meats and a person carving a turkey roast. . After eating we browsed the gift shop, and the gift shop in the Depot located next door. Then back to the room where I again crashed for the night.
We were up early the next morning to prepare for the day. Once the bags were packed I transferred them to the cart in the lobby as instructed. We the took in the breakfast, Buffeet Bk-ft.s are by nature poor fare as a general rule and here was no exception. my wife did not want to walk down to the gunfight and back, and as I have participated in so many of these in the past and viewed so many more, chose to remain with her. We waited at the station for the train to back in. At 9:15 it slowly backed into place, there was a diesel engine and five cars. Our car the luxury Chief was last in line with a observation car next in line to it. We had chosen the extra charge for the luxury car as we thought there would be a little more personal space and no children under 13 we were allowed on board. Now mind you we both like children, but we find that today most parents do not require their children to behave, like we raised ours to do and we have raised our children and spent our time with the grand children and no lounge feel the need to put up with other peoples problems.
At 9:45 the boarding call was given and we climbed onto the observation platform at the rear of the car and entered the carriage all the seats were assigned and our were D24 & D26 which placed us on opposites sides of a small platform table facing each other, along the side of the car next to a window. All the seats in the car were taken. The center of the car consisted of the bathroom and the attendants bar. Our attendant was a tall slender blond young lady by the name a Katie, she had the bubbly personality that a job like this requires. Like a airline hostess she made the pre -departure announcements required, and served mixed drinks for those who wished them, about $8 a pop. I,m glad neither my wife or I drink. There were Coke drinks on ice and water served free for those who wanted them. Eight people were allowed on the back observation platform at a time. Neither my wife or I were steady enough on our feet to avail ourselves to the experience. At about three points there was a long enough curve where you could see the engine pulling us down the rails. The car we rode in had a history that included service on the east coast the mid west and a number of years in Mexico as a luxury car. It was a 68 mile trip to the canyon at about 30+ miles a hour, the trip was 2 hr 20 min in duration.
Along the way Katie told us of points of interest and facts of the railroad and obligatory cow jokes as the we the most observed wild life on the trip. Elk, Antelope, coyote and deer is often seen but not this time. We did see a small band of deer right out of Williams, A buck and three doe. But yes we did see cows right almost on the track. Katie said they were “Summer Cows” ready? some-r red, some-r white, some-r black, get the idea? how bout this one , what do you call a cow that just had a calf? De-cafenated! OK I agree enough is a enough.
Eventually we were visited by a strolling cowboy troupadore, he came and sang some mangled cowboy songs and told a bunch of jokes and talked to each of us and had some comment on where we were from. Then some of the cowboys from that mornings gunfight came in and talked with us. We were visited by the one who had got shot that morning and had fell in the horse manure. guess what? he had not had time to go home and change before the train left! But all in all it was a enjoyable ride, I was just so tired and this was the third day of traveling for us, but at least the wife was not having to drive this day.
Disembarking at the station it was time for us to make a pit stop before anything else. We neither one were able to attain our feet and make it to the bathroom while the train was in motion. The Station at the Grand Canyon is a old log structure, the women’s rest rooms were in side but the men’swere out side and around in back of the building and proved to be a hike of some distance to reach. As I was passing some trees I drew some chuckles when I complained “this is like going in t the wood to shit with the bears.” Rejoining my wife we proceeded to the tour bus we were to and boarded. We were taken to our first stop which proved to be the “hot Lunch’ that was included in the tour. I must say this proved to be a disappointing experience, the food was not up to standard of school cafeteria grade, and was a rushed affair. Boarding the bus out tour began in earnest, out driver and guide was named Howard, and He was I must admit very knowledgeable and provided a overload of information. He knew all the geological strata’s of the depth of the canyon. Animal life and Flora and fana and history of the canyon and the peoples of the past and present were related with fascinating detail, I was simply to exhausted to really care or enjoy the experience. Ample opportunities were presented to take pictures and enjoy the view. I somehow managed to take a dozen or so photos of the Trip with my new camera. At least this time I got photos on the digital memory card. Nine years ago when in better condition we made the trip by auto, and I took numerous pictures with my 35 mm camera only to learn on the return home there was no film in the damn thing.
Finally we were returned to our lodge. which turned out to be the same place we had our lunch. After being assigned our rooms we found they were out side and some distance from the lobby down hill and around a twisting road my poor wife could barley make it to the building we were assigned after many stops for a breather. We had not taken into account the elevation,8,000 feet. her COPD was threatening to kick in. Reaching our room we then encountered trouble with the air conditioning. She has thyroid problems and she is hot all the time. After a visit from maintenance and a little rest then it was time to hike back up the damn hill for more of the same bad buffet, and the same with breakfast the next morning. Now people if you are in decent shape it may notbe a ordeal for you, but I cannot seriously recommend the Maswik Lodge to anyone. The rooms are decent but there are much better at the park.
We had the bags packed and were checked out of the room the next day , Thursday by 11 as required and had four hours to kill until time to board the train. It was obvious to everyone around that my wife was in distress so I inquired at the travel desk as how we were to get transportation to the train as the Maswik is in the boondocks, with no comfort station in the lobby. The lady listened to my inquiries and had observed my wife’s discomfort. First she started to explain which shuttle we needed to take, then told me to wait and she made a phone call to the transportation station in the park. She made arraignments for a taxi, she called a car, to come and pick us up and take us to the Bright Angle Lodge closer to the station at no charge. A nice young man showed up in a mini-van with large sliding doors on each side and helped my wife in and secured her seat-belt for her. He then took us to the Bright Angel which was a good ten minute drive , and entertained us with facts and stories of the things we passed. We learned that he was a life long resident of the park, having only left for two years for college and could not take the big city life and returned. He declined the tip I offered, but my wife insisted he take it anyway.
We walked into the lobby of The Bright Angel and discovered it was one of the original structures of the Park. It was all massive log construction and had a huge fireplace made of large boulders, it could handle a six fool log with ease. adjacent to the lobby was the gift shop. We walked in and as my wife started to look around I glanced at the back wall and saw what at first I took to be mural, until I saw people moving around and realised I was looking out a large window and seeing the Grand Canyon itself. The lodge was built right on the edge of the big ditch. Every thing was within walking g distance and on a gentle slope rise. Imagine our disappointment when we found the rates were the same as the lodge we had been booked into. It had a ice cream parlor and a walk in sit down restaurant where you ordered off a menu and freindly servers and good God real brewed Ice Tea worth drinking. We spent a pleasant three hours waiting there, and as time neared to return to the train we merly went to the desk as advised and requested transportation to the train station. A special bus came and picked us and two other disabled couples and got us to the station in plenty of time.
The train backed into the station and we boarded for the return trip to Williams. Our host for the return trip was a fellow named Mack, he was a short fellow with a head of long curly hair and a gracho Marx moustache. he had a humorous personality perfectly suited to the job. he kept us entertained with a constant line of patter for the whole trip. The return trip was much the same as the trip up, with a visit from a strolling minstrel, and a robbery by some cowboys again. On the trip as the train slowed down they raced alongside firing their guns on horse back. the train stopped to allow them to board. One of the women on board inquired what happens to their horses? Mack pointed out to a truck parked close by the track as a third man was loading the horses and said that they would beat the train home.
As we neared Williams Mack told us to be prepared for a infusion of children in pajamas at the station. This was the first night of the Polar Express. The polar Express is a seasonal night run 17 miles up the track pulled by a steam locomotive. Children and their parents arrive dressed in their pajamas and are served cookies and milk on the way up. At the end of the run they pass a large lighted Chris mas Tree and Santa waving to them. When the train stops to begin the return trip Santa boards the train and passes through all the cars and greets the kids and gives them each a silver bell on a ribbon to hang on their tree. It is a big event and every run is sold out. Mack told us that it is a exhausting run to work, which they all have to make during the season. I believe him.
When we reached the station it was swarming with pajama clad kids and their parents, as was the hotel lobby. We feared the hotel would be noisy when the train returned, but except for some minor running in the halls it was a quite evening.
The next morning was check out time and went smoothly. We did not want to eat at the free buffet again so we headed into town which is the main old town is only two one way streets two blocks long. We entered what we thought would be a small restaurant but turned out to be good sized inside the food was very good after the last two days of buffets and such. There was a good sized gift sop within with much local crafts and good selection. We bought several small gifts for the return home. After eating we walked the rest of the town most of the shops ere vacant and others were of no interest. But our son had alerted us to The Red Garter which as at one time a local bordello. It is now a gift shop and they have a small bakery within. We picked up several shirts for the son and I bought four books on women of the west hoping to find material for other sections of the Blog. ONE BOOK ON PROSTITUTES, had a lot of material in it but sadly I have already covered most of the women already.
After this short break we began our long trip back home. Stopping in Laughlin for the night again. But on the way I did get to quickly observe a group of four cowboys on horse back pushing a small heard of cattle toward a corral. There is nothing of further interest to convey on the return trip just tiring driving for us both. On Sunday we made arraignments to pick up the cats from the vets. As my wife went up stairs to help retrieve them I could hear the oldest one start bitching as soon as she heard my wife’s voice. Cheyenne continued to complain about her treatment and abandonment all the five teen miles home. Needless to say the girls were glad to get back into their familiar surroundings. We have had occasion to take both back to the vet for checkups and nail trimmings and both are hard to catch for these trips some how they sense where we are going and they run and hide with much inventiveness. But we are all home and I for one am glad the trip is over. Somehow the fun it used to be has gone and it is just hard work.
Well if you have suffered through this exhausting narrative you have more Patience than I it has takes me since early January to complete this thing.
Thanks for hanging in there with me.
think I have earned my name on this one