16 June 2011

Arizona and the Grand Canyon

Location: ARIZONA (Kingman, Williams, The Grand Canyon NP, and Page)

Where we ate: 
  • In Kingman: at Mr. D'z Route 66 Diner.  Stopped here for a hot dog basket and homemade root beer.  Move over, IBC.  Mr. D'z has perfected this recipe!  Nothing compares to the food and atmosphere of a classic American diner.
  • In Williams: at the Grand Canyon Railway's Grand Depot Cafe.  It was a buffet-style breakfast, which I have purposefully steered clear of for years now.  But it's all about self-control, right?  The offerings on the buffet were surprisingly tasty and generally healthy.  They even served mini-waffles with fresh fruit and real whipped cream.
  • At the Grand Canyon: El Tovar Hotel. This was a recommendation from one of Michael's co-workers, and I'm glad we listened.  Only Michael was able to drink the local brew, but both of our meals were top-notch.  Lunch here gave us sufficient energy to hike around different hot spots on the South Rim for the rest of the afternoon.
  • In Page: at the Canyon King Pizzeria.  Doesn't sound like a fancy place, but the restaurant was incredibly unique.  It was built around a river boat--the Canyon King--that was launched in 1972 and ran up the Colorado River, across Lake Tahoe, and finally settled on Lake Powell.  The story behind the place was neat, and the food was stellar.  Michael and I split the Classic King pie and didn't leave a crumb behind.
  • In Williams: at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel.  We may have arrived here very late in the day, but it had grown cold and there was a roaring fire in the lobby's large fireplace.  Very cozy.  The rooms were a little dated, but they were spacious and met our every need.  The Depot Cafe was walking distance, which is where we had breakfast before checking out.  If you stay here, you can purchase a train-riding package to the Grand Canyon and back.  Most travelers were buzzing about their day on the train.  Very family friendly.
  • In Page: at the Days Inn.  It was a room with a bed, a TV, and a bathroom.  Much too cold to swim in the hotel's pool.  The shower, though, was strange.  It was an open shower (so no tub to hold water) with poor drainage, which, when Michael started his shower, the bathroom's floor flooded.  He found a way to angle the shower head in such a way to reduce flooding, but it meant having to stand right against the wall to rinse the shampoo out of your hair.
Memorable sights and experiences:
  • All those trains!  When you're from the Southeast, you just aren't aware of the significance and history of the railroads.  Every town we drove through or stopped in while in AZ had several depots, train displays in the town parks, museums and hotels dedicated to trains, and train packages for rides through the desert.  Maybe one day, we'll bring the little one back with us and take a rail tour across the Southwest.
  • The vastness of the desert.  We kept picturing Forest Gump running the roads of the desert, and then we would sing "Running on Empty".  When you realize you've driven 50 miles and you've still haven't passed the open, sandy fields of sagebrush, you start to wonder what you would do if your car broke down.  And the poor hitch-hikers!  We weren't about to pick one up, but if you are worried about your car breaking down, what's going through those hitch-hikers' minds?  Never take a rest stop or gas station for granted out there.
  • The Grand Canyon.  I'm not exaggerating when I say there's nothing like it.  Photographs don't do it justice on just how immense it really is.  With it being one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World, there was no question when a) making sure we stopped here while on the road and b) getting our Nerd in Utero poster pic with it.  They have beautiful accommodations all throughout the park, innumerable trails to hike on the rim and inside the canyon, a fabulous learning centers for visitors, and fountains that pump spring water for you to fill your water bottle.  This is a destination I'd very much like to visit again.
  • Time…you always need more of it.
  • Cellular service.  It's patchy--at best--all across the desert and inside the park.
Traveling while pregnant tip I learned from here: If you have an opinion on a matter, make it heard!  Between the hubs and me, Michael is much more of the "go with the flow" type and I like having a plan.  And with me being pregnant, plans revolved around meals and bathroom breaks.  When we reached the Grand Canyon, I figured a gift shop would have snacks and bottled water so we could get to hiking.  Sadly, there was no such gift shop at the main visitors' center, so I asked the hubs to help decide on a game plan: either find a place where we could load up on snacks and go for a hike OR find a restaurant for lunch and hike a little later.  It was 11:30 by then, so I'm thinking lunch is the clear answer.  Without discussion, Michael drove us to a general store to purchase snacks.  I admit, I got upset because the decision had been made for me.  We had a brief argument in the car in the parking lot over communication strategies.  He asked me what it was I really wanted, and practically in tears from hunger and hormones, I muttered, "Lunch."  He couldn't help but laugh.  "Well, that's all you had to say!  Lunch it is."  So all you pregnant ladies out there whose opinions are led by their stomachs and bladders, let your husbands know what you want or even need.  Don't be grouchy or a total witch about it.  Just tell him, and he'll listen.

Found our first train in Kingman, AZ.  Michael took this one to show the scale of this engine's size in comparison to my stature.

Michael with the caboose.  He wanted to climb all over the train, but the signs told him, "NO!"

I see my name on something, and I have to get a picture with it.  This was on the side of the train depot in Kingman.
All American travelers want to see this historic route!  Not even 2 years ago, we saw where it ends in CA.  Here, we're in the middle of it.

The most amazing hot dog you could ever ask for at Mr. D'z Route 66 Diner.  You have to try their homemade root beer, too.

OK, so this will take a little explaining.  I listen to Jimmy Buffett.  Buffett has a song called "Pencil Thin Mustache" with a line that goes /and an autographed picture of Andy Divine/.  I like to travel to places Buffett sings about.  Turns out, Mr. Divine was from Kingman, AZ, and Mr. D'z Diner was right on Andy Divine Ave.

This western set-up was outside the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel where we stayed the night in Williams.  There were several cowboys saddling up for a morning show.  We couldn't stay to watch since we had a long day ahead of us, but I did stop for a couple of snaps.

One of the cowboys posing with a member of the audience.

Memorial Day and we're at the Grand Canyon!  A married couple who had driven all the way from NC were taking picture of each other and offered to take ours.  They were laughing their butts off and obviously were full of spunk.  This led to the husband instructing us to, "Pose silly for this one!"  

First glimpse of the canyon.  Whoa.

Our first picture together with the canyon.  Happy Memorial Day!

The El Tovar Hotel where we ate lunch before walking around the park.  Several famous guests from our history have stayed here, like Teddy Roosevelt, William Taft, and Albert Einstein.

Isn't she cute?  Cars were stopped to take a pic of this grazing elk.

There's life inside the canyon!  We wish we knew which structure this was so I could tag it.

Grand Canyon squirrels are quite friendly.  I love this one's mottled fur.  A woman tried to feed it, and her father screamed at her, "Don't you know the rules?  You can't feed the animals!"

Can't get over the views.  Every one of them was breathtaking.

Michael standing at the edge of this natural wonder.  The sheer size of this canyon wowed us at every turn.

Coming up on one of our favorite vistas.  See that ledge jutting out to the left?  Michael wanted me to get a picture of him on it from where I'm currently standing with my telephoto lens.

And here's the result!  It has to be one of my favorite pictures from the entire trip.  I love how it looks as if he is standing at the edge of the world, the only man on a lonely planet.

Another structure inside the canyon.  Just how to you get all those building materials down there?

One of our hikes at Grand View Point took us down the side of the canyon a little ways.  If it hadn't been so late in the day, and if I hadn't gotten so short-winded, we could have gone deeper into the canyon.  It sure was worth the short jaunt we made down the path.  Very pretty views.

A view from Moran Point, which is where we took the picture for Week 18 for the Nerd in Utero Project.  There was a lot more green to be seen here.

It was difficult to get a wide-open view of the Colorado from any viewpoint, but we still were in awe when we caught a little glimpse like this one.

Michael at Moran Point.  The shadows were getting longer and the canyon started looking redder.

The stairs inside the Watchtower on the South Rim.  This building was designed by an architect named Mary Colter as a  gift shop and a place for visitors to see the canyon from a higher viewpoint.

Looking up at the ceiling inside the Watchtower.

Michael in front of the Watchtower.

As the sun was getting lower in the sky, the haziness made the canyon appear grey and foggy.

On our drive toward Page, AZ, we drove through Navajo country.  This is how most of the living establishments looked across the reservation.  The octagonal building (according to our research while cruising) is called a hogan.  Every establishment had one.  They are used for Navajo healing ceremonies.

Our rental car in the high desert.

As always, we're having a blast traveling together.

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