North to Williams, AZ and the FCU Labor Day Rally...


to The grand Canyon

by train

It was an early, dewy morning to get ready to catch the Train!h
“Does Not Include Gratuities”
The Grand Canyon is truly “grand” ...but it’s tricky getting pictures of that that do’t all look the same!
Though we thoroughly enjoyed our day at the Grand Canyon, four hours was plenty of time to do what we wanted to do. We were bushed!

Temps got down to the mid 40s Wednesday night, so it was nice and cool... but humid. When we got up Thursday, there was heavy dew rolling down the outside of the Bambi and everything was covered in dew.

The Train was scheduled to board at 10:15 AM…and they said we should be there by at least 9:30, so for us it was an early morning… 

We got up, walked and fed the Girls and set them up for the day.

We would be gone all day, so we turned on the Fantastic fan to

bring in the cool air and set the AC to about 85 degrees or so in

the event it ever got that warm inside the Bambi. We left the

TV on and the curtains closed so the Girls wouldn’t have any

outside stimulus. This would be the longest we’d left them

alone in the Bambi, but they have been at home alone for longer periods, so they were OK with it. We knew they’d just lie down, go to sleep and wait for us to come home, like they always do!

The Grand Canyon Railway trip up to the Grand Canyon was 2 hours… pretty much straight north of Williams 65 miles. The scenery changes from pine forested hills to a plateau of scrub brush and then into forest again just before getting to Grand Canyon Village. We had booked the least expensive fare in the Budd Coach Class, and were in the first car behind the steam engine (backed up by a diesel engine) and water tank car… Each car has a “host” who sees to everyone’s needs and gives a rundown of the Train and route over the PA system. Free soft drinks and water are available, and there’s a Cafe Car a few cars to the rear if you get hungry. Shortly after leaving the Depot, a western guitar player/singer came into our car and introduced himself… he was actually quite entertaining with his guitar, western songs, very tall tales, kibitzing and chatting up the crowd… asking where everyone was from, etc., etc. 

Be warned… on the ticket it says “Does Not Include Gratuities”…Hmm. We wondered what that meant until we realized that virtually all the

                        personnel will gladly accept tips and “gratuities,” and most

                          of them rather expect it. Our hostess, Edie, did the most

                          for us, yet was the least demanding of any of the various

                          hands that were out... but no one really made demands.

                           One annoying thing was the gal who came around and took unsolicited pictures of couples or groups and asked if we’d be on the return train ride home that day. She never indicated that the pictures would be offered

back to us for a “mere” $22 per and that she accepted cash, check or

VISA… but preferred cash. Nothin’ shy about her. It would have been nice if she said that up front instead of springing it on us on the return

trip. Silly us. On the return trip, she shows up again, hands out pictures to

everyone, then hangs out waiting for you to pay for them. It’s a technique

to make you feel cheap if you don’t buy them…but don’t be shy if you

don’t want them... just give the pictues back and say, “No, thank you.”

But don’t expect any further conversation from her once you’ve said


Finally we arrived at the Depot at Grand Canyon Village just below the El Tovar Hotel on the South Rim…it was about 12:30 PM.  We had four hours to do whatever we wanted. Some folks had booked tours, and some simply availed themselves of the free shuttles that go up and down the South Rim to various view points, etc.  We had both been to the Grand Canyon before (but, oddly, never together in our 27 years). Terry went to school in Flagstaff and he and his buddies used to drive up to the Canyon on weekends to have coffee and hang out on the Rim. Because we saw this as a “refresher” trip to the Canyon and a photo op for us, we didn’t book a tour and were happy to just walk along the Rim in both directions from the El Tovar and take in the sights and the people (half the fun). You realize how truly international the place is as you begin to hear foreign languages being spoken at the Grand Canyon…amid the constant (albeit justifiable) clicking of cameras. The Canyon has a huge tourism draw, being one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. If you don’t get asked to take a picture of a group or individual in front of the Canyon as a favor, you are probably totally unapproachable! One sweet Asian girl quietly and very politely asked us to take her picture as she sat on the wall at the Rim. Of course, we were happy to oblige her.

Having been there several times, it was not a shock to us to see, but it really is a “grand” sight, as trite as that sounds. We can remember our

first time and as such, it is quite breath taking and somewhat

overwhelming. It’s easy to understand why people are so

drawn to it time and time again. We have learned that

photos of the Grand Canyon can easily all look the same,

not giving the whole (or hole) experience justice. The

trick is to get a bit of a tree or wall or person in the shot

to give it perspective… otherwise, the depth and drama

of the Canyon can easily be lost. Its vastness and immensity is really unfathomable… beyond description in normal terms, and very difficult to adequately describe. With a little practice and patience, however, it’s possible to get lucky and capture images that don’t all look the same.

The condors, which can have a 6-foot wing span have increased their numbers in recent years. At one time they were on the verge of extinction, but with careful conservation efforts, the population has increased.  And they seem very willing to give the tourists a show... yet remain strangely aloft and aloof. They could effortlessly soar anywhere in the Canyon they wanted to, yet a good number of them hang out along the South Rim to give the good show. They never get very close, but their presence is always noted with great enthusiasm, lots of pointing and more camera shutters clicking away.

The squirrels, chipmunks and crows (or are they ravens?) are a different story… talk about bold. The squirrels will come right up to you and beg. 

                        We were told that some of the more demanding ones will

                            actually rummage through your bag or climb up your

                              leg if they think it will mean a morsel. The crows

                               never let you get very close to them, but they are

                               uncommonly bold in search of a bite. Of course, there

                              are warning signs not to feed the animals, and not to

                               encourage them. They are probably some of the best

                                 fed little critters on the planet if the truth be known. Why should they go out and forage for nuts and berries when they can be cute and take advantage of the humans for a handout?

The Canyon is a beautiful place, to be sure, but you should be aware that everything there is very expensive… We had a snack of a couple of pretzels with salt and a shared medium soda …for a tidy sum of nearly$10. Lord knows what it would have cost to actually have a meal! We did go through a couple of the curio shops, most of which are typcial tourist traps filled with typical tourist stuff… There are some exceptions, however, like the Hopi House (across the way from the El Tovar Hotel), and shops in the Hotel itself, which feature some very nice Native American art, pottery, textiles and books… but be prepared for it to be pricey. If you want to purchase Native American jewelry and other Native American artists’ works, don’t buy it at the Grand Canyon unless that is your only opportunity!

We had plenty of time in the four hours we were at the Rim to do everything we wanted to do… we headed back to the Depot for the 4:30 PM departure back to Williams. They warned us (strongly) as we debarked the Train that they leave promptly at 4:30 and they

will wait for no one! (We should mention that there are

packages that include both the Train trip and a night’s stay

at one of the Canyon hotels, if you are so inclined.) We were

quite ready to get back to our Bambi… it was a warm day…

probably in the mid-to-high 80s, and we were worn out. We

weren’t the only ones…most folks were back at the Depot

45 minutes to an hour before the departure time, ready to go

home. When we boarded for the return trip, we noted that the crowd was far less giddy and jovial than it was on the way up. (We saw the same people, as seats are assigned.) The 2nd entertainer/singer for the trip home had a far less enthusiastic crowd, the poor guy… Perhaps this is why we were not so receptive to buying the unsolicited pictures of us on the trip home.

Along with the photo girl and the guitar player/singer— who was quick to mention that he had CDs for sale in the Café Car— there was a staged train robbery just as we were heading into the last stretch before Williams… Two gun-slinging “desperados” on horseback, complete with bandanas and the whole nine yards, rode up along the train and boarded. They demanded our jewelry, cash and valuables as they swaggered down the isles. Of course, no one gave them a thing, save for a “gratuity” here and there, so they kept on movin’… Then the “Sheriff” who had been on the Train on the way up, and seemed like a “white hat” cowboy came in… turns out he’s a “black hat” bad cowboy and ends up helping the banditos rob the Train! That was the funniest part of the whole thing. They worked their way back through the other cars and we never saw them again…and soon we were pulling around the end into Williams. Hmmm. Wonder what they did with their horses...

Overall it was a fun day, if a long one. Our take on it was that if you’ve been to the Grand Canyon and want to have a “refresher” trip with a twist, this is a good way to do it. It’s contained in a day’s time and you don’t have to drive and fight traffic. On the other hand, if you’ve not been to the Grand Canyon, you might be better off to go ahead and make the drive up, take your time and really see the place... maybe do a short hike and so on… especially if it is going to be a while before you return. The kids will love the Train ride…they seemed to get a big kick out of the desperados and the singers and the whole Train thing… If expense is no object, book a more “luxurious” fare just for the shear comfort of it. If you are RVing and don’t want to stay in a local RV park, there is an

                            RV park on the grounds of the Grand Canyon

                                  Railway. It’s basically a paved parking lot with

                                      hookups, but not badly done for what it is. There

                                       is also a “Pet Resort” if you don’t want to leave

                                       your pets in the RV all day. (Pets have to have

                                       proof of vaccinations— including bordatella for

                                       kennel cough— to stay at in the pet resorts,

                                      so be prepared for that.) Along with the train

                                         depot, hotel, RV park and pet resort, there is also a restaurant on the grounds and gift shops in the hotel, restaurant and depot… Opportunties to separate you from your money are not lacking, for sure.

The Depot is a short walk from downtown Williams, which is a charming little town filled with interesting looking restaurants, motels and shops. We had planned to get back into town to take a closer look, but we never made it. Guess that will have to wait till our next time through. As the gal at the RV park said, “Williams isn’t a big town, so don’t blink when you drive through!” We suspect that the town would be even smaller if it weren’t for the Train. Oh… the town cop is very visible, driving the squad car around the loop constantly. There is one of those speed monitoring signs showing you your speed as you enter town and the speed limit goes from 35 mph from just outside of town to 25 mph just before town to 15 mph in town. Makes us think another major form of revenue for the town coffers is speeding tickets. So drive slowly!

After debarking the train our main objective was getting back to the Girls who we knew would have their legs tightly crossed by this time. Sure enough they were more than ready to take a quick walk and pee for several minutes… but they were no worse for wear… they didn’t make a sound as we approached the Bambi and unlocked the door so we know they were just snoozing away the afernoon waiting for their dads to get home. But— as all good dogs do— when they realized we’d returned they couldn’t contain themselves, being ever-so glad to see us again. It’s nice to be loved.

By the time we got back from the Grand Canyon about 7 PM Thursday, Julianne had arrived down the way from us with her 2003 22’ International CCD… Mike and Sheri were there, up the hill a couple of spaces from us in their 2006 22’ Safari, and Mike and Rosemary were in the next row in their 2006 25’ Safari SE. We went down to Julianne’s and introduced ourselves to her and her three dogs, Rex, Shane (shepherd mixes (we think) and the mini pony Great Dane, Hannah… We grabbed Julianne and went up to say hello to Mike and Sherri and their yellow lab Cooper… Mike and Rosemary and their poodle-pup, Marley, were already in for the night, so we didn’t bang on their door that evening. It was exciting to meet our first co-ralliers! Later that evening, Louis and Sergio pulled in with their pooches, Riley and Audrey in their 1962 28’ Ambassador. What a day! The gathering of aluminum was happening!

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There’s a pet resort at the Grand Canyon Trailway Hotel complex in case you don’t want to leave your pet alone all day. Proof of vaccinations required.
The rangers tell us not to feed the wildlife, but the wildlife has a different point of view!
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