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Friday, August 10, 2012


When last you left our intrepid band of travelers we were in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  We left Albuquerque for an easy day of 360 miles through the mesas of the Land of Enchantment and entered Arizona's eastern desert climbing up to 7000 feet and the pine country in the Flagstaff region arriving in Williams late in the afternoon.

Williams is an interesting town.  Labeled the "Gateway to the Grand Canyon" and on the original Route 66, Williams is a tourist town taking advantage of its two big draws: the Grand Canyon and Route 66 nostalgia.  Williams was the last town on the original 66 that was by-passed by I-40, that happened in 1984. We had a mediocre meal, but great pie, at one of the local diners then spent the evening walking Route 66 and popping into souvenir shops--it was a beautiful evening for strolling, mid-70's.

This morning we were up and at the Williams train depot by 9:00 to first catch a kitchy-perfectly over acted "western" show and then board the Grand Canyon Railroad for our 2:15 trip to the south rim of the Canyon. The train ride is a lot of fun, beautiful scenery as you climb about 1500 feet and wind through first the scrub brush high desert and then the pines and forests.  The railroad was established in 1919 and after being closed in the late 1960's a couple from Scottsdale purchased and revived the railroad in 1989.  Every car has a tour guide of sorts who goes through the history of the area, facts on the Grand Canyon during the ride.  Jenna and I played War as everyone watched the scenery through the windows.

At 11:45 we arrived at the depot at the Grand Canyon, walked up to the rim and were just speechless.  Leslie took a lot of pictures with her new Canon she purchased just before the trip, and after all most everyone said, "it doesn't do it justice...."  And it is true, no matter how good the photographer or the picture, until you are standing on the edge of the canyon, looking down one mile and across ten to fifteen and  just as far or further in either direction, you cannot comprehend the scope and beauty of the Grand Canyon.

As a bonus to our trip we saw three California Condors soaring over us, a magnificent bird in flight that is quite ugly when you get a close look (which we did when one perched on a rock outcropping about fifty feet away from the stone barrier on the rim), watching the birds with their enormous wingspan (up to twelve feet) soaring for miles without flapping their wings is mesmerizing.

Every ten feet down the path along the rim would open up a bit of a different view of the canyon.  Standing on the edge, even with a stone barrier and a gradual slope before the drop off, one feels somewhat acrophobic.  Looking through the binoculars at the floor and far canyons I felt eerily pulled towards the canyon--not a comfortable feeling for me.

After a break for lunch and walking around for three and a half hours in the 85 degree heat and high altitude we were a bit bushed and eagerly boarded the train at 3:15 for the ride back to Williams.  The guide had some jokes, there was a fake train robbery and Jenna and I finished our card game of War (victory to Dad) and relaxed to the steady rhythm and clickety-clack of the train.  At one point I reflected I did not have to make the hour drive down the hill but could sit back and relax on the train.

I highly recommend two things. First, if you have never visited the Grand Canyon, or if your kids have not, then do so.  It is a one day drive from Southern California--445 miles and 7 hours between Williams and Long Beach.  Second, take the train trip from Williams, it is fun, no hassle with driving, parking, etc.

Last evening as we were strolling, I looked at Leslie and said, "one more day... I am looking forward to home but really want to continue the journey."

So it is with bittersweet emotions that we go to bed on the penultimate night of our Great American road trip.  Leslie and I had a great week driving to Minnesota and spending all that time together without the kids.  Leslie and I then have had a great week driving back from Minnesota with Blaire and Jenna and spending all this time together with the kids.

Even with crummy Blackberry camera you can take a great photo of the Grand Canyon

Condor soaring above us and the canyon
Blaire has a new motto---hard to argue!

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