If you are a train aficionado, then Williams, Arizona is the place for you. As mentioned in my last post, we decided to take the Grand Canyon Railway instead of riding the Harley to the Grand Canyon. The weather was too unpredictable and taking the train felt right. Back in 2002, my Father and I took the train to the Grand Canyon, it was a great experience and I thought Elaine would enjoy it as well. Moreover, the train ride is very reasonably priced at $56 per ticket and includes entertainment.
After purchasing our tickets, we rode to the Route 66 Diner and enjoyed an excellent breakfast in a nostalgic environment. Yes, I know, I’m a sucker for classic diners and nostalgia and the Mother Road is full of them. After breakfast, we had some time to kill at the train station, so we took photos of the railway’s machines.
On certain days in the summer, the railroad uses an old steam locomotive, unfortunately, Aug 23 was not such a day. Our train was pulled by a refurbished 1950’s diesel electric locomotive that was originally used by CP Rail. The passenger cars are also refurbished, the oldest being a 1923 Pullman coach and the others were constructed in the 1950’s and 1960’s. We opted for the 1923 Pullman, not only because it was the least expensive, it was the one we wanted to experience. It is actually quite comfortable and spacious, much more so than a modern passenger train. The restoration job was immaculate and it almost seemed new.
The ride to Canyon is quite scenic and it winds through cattle ranches and ponderosa pine forests. Along the way, we were entertained by a singing cowboy. His repertoire included plenty of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and old western sing alongs.
The train arrived at the Grand Canyon just before lunch. After we disembarked, Elaine made a shocking discovery – she lost a very expensive ring. She had taken it off the night before and in all likelihood, it was left back at the motel in Williams. Naturally, this really upset her and she feared the ring may have been pilfered by new guests, the staff or worse…sucked up into a vacuum cleaner. I called the motel and they claimed not to have seen it. I was confident the ring was still on the dressing table and we would retrieve it by the end of the day. Understandably, this damped our spirits for the day. Despite this setback, the incredible views offered by the Grand Canyon did its magic and restored our spirits.
These are the same shots taken by hundreds of thousands of tourists over the years. Yet, how can one resist with a camera in hand? One of these days I will have to take these photos from a different vantage point when the golden light comes at sunrise or sunset. Mid-day sun is just so clinical.
The train ride back to Williams amused us with a fake train robbery complete with a gang of thieves attacking on horseback, firearms loaded with blanks and a fake sheriff to save the day. Granted, this is not an experience we would have had riding the Harley up to the canyon.
Upon returning to Williams, we went back to our motel to look for Elaine’s ring. It took some convincing to get the motel clerk to grant us access to the room which was rented out to new guests. Since the guests were not in the room, he did not want us to enter, I said we won’t touch anything and the ring is very expensive and it means a lot to her. Moreover, if he refused, I was going to notify the police. All it took was 20 seconds to find her ring which was left on top the the dresser. Elaine was elated and relieved and so was I.
With the ring back on Elaine’s finger, it was time to ride out to Flagstaff, eat dinner, visit a country and western club and sleep in budget motel all on Route 66. As it turns out, the town was exceptionally busy that night since students were moving in for their semester at Northern Arizona University.
I am quite familiar with Flagstaff and have visited it well over a dozen times, but who’s counting? It was my summer retreat to escape the heat when I lived in Phoenix, since Flagstaff is over 8000 feet above sea level and is generally 20 degrees cooler. As I know this town so well, it was great to reconnect with it. I suggested we eat at Granny’s Closet Restaurant whose fare is mainly “down home” country cooking and comfort food.
After dinner, I was itching to go to The Museum Club, a historic country and western bar, where Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Patsy Cline were regular performers back in the day. I strongly urge anyone visiting Flagstaff to sink a drink or two at the Museum Club, even if you are not a country and western fan, the hunting themed decor and history alone justifies it. That night, a good country band was playing, Crown Royal shots were half price and Elaine even convinced me to dance with her, despite my two left feet and my white boy sense of rhythm. A perfect ending to a day at the Grand Canyon.