Thursday, July 24, 2008

Scattered to the Four Winds

Well, Becky is in San Francisco, Mom & Judy are in Calgary, Jennifer is in South Phoenix, and Jeff is in Queen Creek. It been a while since our family has been separated by such distances. My routine has been pretty simple: come home from work, browse the cupboards and freezer and make plans for dinner (tonight was sloppy joes), take a nice couch nap, get the mail, eat dinner, and above all police my own kitchen messes. Caitlin and Ben came over for Sunday dinner (Kraft Spaghetti/Salad) and then Monday night we went to see "Dark Knight." Maybe not the most mild choice for Family Home Evening, but we were together.

So, Becky gets home tommorrow, and Mom & Judy are home on Sunday. It's been kinda nice having a stretch of quiet time at the house. But, of course it will be nice to have them home again.

Take it away, Beaker.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

4th of July at The Grand Canyon

We'd been wondering what to do for the Fourth in the week or two leading up to it. Our extended clan were all going off to Colorado for a family reunion. So, whatever events took place would only involve our household (sans Beck, who was doing freelance nanny-work in North Dakota) and perhaps Jennifer.

Early that week Judy came up with the idea of driving up to Williams, AZ (about 30 miles west of Flagstaff) and taking the train up to the Grand Canyon. I thought it was a great idea and cast an affirmative vote since I'd never been. I was then reminded that yes, I had - when I was six months old. I still wanted to go, even though I'd just been.

We hit the road the afternoon of the third, picking up Jennifer at her office. I think we arrived at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel at around 8:30pm. We were bent on getting there in time for the dinner buffet since the meal vouchers had already been paid for. We made it just in time to Max and Thelma's, the restaurant at which the hotel guests are compelled to eat. Judy wondered later if anyone would choose to eat there who didn't have a pre-paid voucher. The food wasn't too inspiring. Judy coined a phrase describing the contents of a mostly empty steam tray - Rice Scrapings. But, we were filled.

The next morning we got up for the breakfast buffet. It was much better than dinner. Breakfast is hard to botch. As long as there's eggs, bacon, fruit, pancakes etc, you can't go wrong.

We then walked over to the depot, browsed the gift shop, then walked down to the end of the depot where there was a kind of wild west shootout show being put on by some ex-policemen in old west garb. It ate up about fifteen minutes.

And, we got to sit down for awhile. Finally it was time to board. Our car was really nice: comfy chairs, air conditioning, and we were even able to spread out across the aisle since the car was only about half full. There was complimentary fruit, juice, pastries, and sodas.

It took about two hours to actually get to the Canyon. We got out at the Village and were promptly herded onto the tour bus which would take us along the canyon rim, making several stops for viewing and photo ops. First though, they took us to the lodge where we were having lunch - another buffet. It was called the Migwip Lodge or something like that.

We finally got back on the bus and started on our way along the rim. The first lookout point really summed it all up for me. If one has never been to the Grand Canyon, no description will ever suffice. I was astounded at how dizzyingly far down the floor of the Canyon is. Amazing, amazing. At one point the bus driver pulled the bus right up to the edge so that I only had to lean my head a little to the right and I was looking down about five thousand feet. Judy and Mom were on the other side of the bus and neither came over to look down. I think Jennifer did, though.

We made about five stops total and I was able to get some really nice pics. While waiting for the train back to Williams we saw a California Condor gliding overhead. I waited with my camera for it to fly by again, which it did. I don't recall ever seeing it flap it's wings - it just glided.

So, we boarded the return train - it had actually started raining by then, which added a nice element to the scenery and the ride home. On the return trip they offered complimentary veggies and dip, cheese and crackers, lemonade, and sodas. Judy and Jennifer played cards with a deck they'd gottem at the GC gift shop.

About thirty minutes out from Williams, those same guys from the "shootout" staged a "train robbery." The "bandits" entered our car, did the whole "reach for the sky" bit, and essentially were asking for tips. It was cheesy, but there were two married couples from England who were enjoying themselves and whooping it up. When the "sheriff" passed through our car in pursuit of the robbers, one of the English wives blurted out,"They went thatta way! Oh, I've always wanted to say that!"

Back at Williams we rested a bit in our rooms. We were gearing ourselves for the hurdle of the last evening meal at M & T's. We faced it and endured. "Ok, we thought, then we just have breakfast tommorrow and we're outta here." I get the feeling that if we ever do this again we're gonna stay largely out of the Grand Canyon Railroad network, ie. stay somewhere else, eat somewhere else, and just use them for the train ride. I wonder if that'll get us blacklisted?

Anyway, it was a great way to pass the 4th of July Holiday. We had a fun time, and I'm glad I can now appreciate what an amazing natural wonder the Grand Canyon is.

"Honey, don't you want to see the Grand Canyon?" from Zachary Taylor on Vimeo.