Perspective shot of where the El Tovar sits ne...

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My current houseguests have had a whirlwind tour of central and northern Arizona since arriving August 2. They have two full days left before heading home for another year of teaching.  Their visit would not have been complete without a visit to the Grand Canyon, which should be on everyone’s bucket list.  Instead of the 2 1/2 hour drive, we chose the 1 1/2 hour drive to Williams to board the Grand Canyon Railway for a leisurely (?) trip directly to the south rim a few steps from El Tovar Hotel.

I am not going to praise the train.  It was pure touristy, great for kids, but not for seniors. We shared a South-Shore like car with mostly young couples with small children. One family was from Paris; another, London. The tickets were a pricey $70 per person for coach class. The older adults who knew better booked their reservations in first class. The kids were relatively quiet on the way up, but on the way back to Williams, the decibel level raised to an irritating pitch. The crying baby did not help.

Before boarding, we watched a shootout between some bumbling cowboys. The kids loved that. Those same cowboys would later ride their horses beside the train, guns ablaze, and board to “rob” the passengers. Our coach concierge primed the youngsters ahead of time to practice screaming as the robbers entered our coach. When that wasn’t happening, we had musicians stroll through the coach to serenade for about fifteen minutes. A pair of young men–one on guitar and the other on mandolin–had outstanding voices and gave a great performance.

The main star of the journey was the Grand Canyon, of course. We arrived around mid-day, which is not the best time for pictures, anyway. We had three hours on our own before having to board the return train. It took us a half hour to get our bearings and make it up the hill to the magnificent El Tovar, an historic lodge overlooking the spectacular view. We moseyed around, gawking and admiring the canyon, then headed to one of the nearby restaurants for lunch. The prices were not too bad, and the food was not too good, but our seats by the window made up for the worst of it. The canyon rim was only twenty five feet away.  After that, we made our way to the porch of the El Tovar to just chill and wait until boarding time. We could not venture far because Chris had re-injured his knee and we had to walk slowly.

We returned to Williams about 5:30 pm and were exhausted from an hour’s worth of noisyness. I would suggest first class seats next time, if you have the extra cash for it. The views from the train were not that great. Take the Verde Canyon RR in Clarkdale for a beautiful train ride. C & J are doing just that tomorrow.

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