Sandy had her usual breakfast while I had brown toast, something I was supposed to avoid.
Today was the planned trip to the Grand Canyon on the Grand Canyon Railway. We had reserved seats in coach and linked our reservations so we would be seated together. Sherm and Pat checked out of the hotel and took their car because they would be heading back to Kingman tonight.
We arrived at the Williams Train Station at 8:15 and found parking spots. I prowled the platform and took a few photos before we worked our way down to the area for the Wild West Show at 9:00.
The shootout was corny but the crowd enjoyed it. There was a lot of good-natured banter and one spectator got drawn into the action. I'm surprised that the gun control crowd has not taken exception to the simulated firearms activity.
After the show, we walked along the train looking for Coach A. We passed the fancy cars and found ours located fourth behind the engine. A lady took our tickets and we boarded looking for our assigned seats.
The train pulled out at 9:30 sharp. Our attendant/guide was Amber Rose, named after a yellow rose her mother got when she was born. She had been working the trains for fourteen years and estimated that she had interacted with over 300,000 passengers in that time. Amber Rose was an excellent hostess with stories, facts and jokes about Arizona, the railway, the Grand Canyon and almost everything else under the sun. She was funny enough that I would not be surprised to see her on Just For Laughs.
Our coach was a converted Budd car. It was originally a self-propelled rail diesel car (RDC) like the ones CP still uses out of Sudbury.
There had been a few issues with those who booked late. Butch and Teresa were going to the canyon in our coach but were supposed to be in a different one on the way back. Bucky couldn't even get on our coach on the way up. This car had extra seats due to the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) provisions, but we didn't need them so Amber Rose kept our group together on the way up and the way back.
Jake also entertained us for a while on the guitar. He played and sang well in a key that encouraged many of us to try to sing along.
The train left Williams at over 6,000 feet of elevation, descended 1,500 feet and then climbed 1,500 feet to the South Rim of the canyon. We started with the distinctive ponderosa pines, which only grew at that elevation, descended through piñon pine and juniper to open desert and then climbed back up until we were in the ponderosas again. Those trees make me think of certain western movies.
We arrived at the South Rim at 11:45 AM. Following Amber Rose's advice, we hot-footed it up the stairs to the dining room at the El Tovar Hotel. Walking briskly up stairs at 6,900 feet above sea level can cause you to see stars due to oxygen deprivation.
After lunch, we visited the Hopi House gift shop and gallery. They also had dance and native flute presentations outside.
After the gift shop, we walked west to the Kolb Studio. Sherm really wanted to visit this tribute to early canyon pioneers Emery and Ellsworth Kolb. Along the way, I took photographs of the canyon, occasionally standing right on the edge and photographing straight down. Strangely, my fear of heights never kicked in once. The photographs do not do the splendour of the canyon justice.
Amber Rose had told us that the train boarded at 3:15 and departed at 3:30 sharp. The difference between a train passenger and a hitchhiker was 3:31. With that in mind, we worked our way back to the train station.
True to form, I pointed to my watch at 3:30 and the train started to roll several seconds later. On the two hours and fifteen minute trip back, Amber Rose entertained us again. We also had Jessie playing a four string banjo clawhammer style. Layla, our two-year-old passenger, loved the banjo. She clapped and danced along and cried when he finished. After that was over, we were held up by train robbers (a regular occurrence on this line).
We arrived back in Williams at 5:45. We said goodbye to Sherm and Pat,, although we would be seeing him on Sunday for our trek to Topaz. After stopping at the Safeway for water, we got back to the hotel at 6:15 to find that Gone Mad Mike and Lisa from Alberta had arrived in their Mustang. Nice Chevy!!
Jim, Laurie, Mal, Yvette, Sandy and I went walking in search of food. The Pine Country Restaurant was highly rated, so we gave it a try. I found the chicken fried steak to be quite good but Sandy did not like her Teriyaki chicken bowl. She said the chicken was tough and the teriyaki was excessive. We did share a cherry cream pie that was excellent. I mentioned Sandy's thoughts about her meal when I paid the bill and they gave her a huge cookie to go.
Things were quiet back at the hotel, so we retired to the room about 9:00 PM. I worked on sorting a huge number of photos before turning in.