Train Time – Day 31

Day 31 – May 1, 2003 – Thursday

Train Time

We extended our stay in Williams, Arizona so we could ride the Grand Canyon Railroad from Williams to the Grand Canyon and back.  The railroad kept the town of Williams alive after Interstate 40 took the cars away from Route 66, so it was very important to us to support the railroad.


Williams is at an elevation of 6,800 feet, and the temperature was a nippy 46 degrees at 8 pm last night, so we dressed much warmer than usual.  Today is the first day in 31 days that I have worn long pants.


We met Fred and Barbara from Wisconsin in the parking lot of the Grand Canyon Railway.  Inside, ticket agents, Jessica and Ivonne, took good care of us.  Jessica recommended the Pine Country Restaurant for great pie and good home cooking, so we planned to take her advice and go there for dinner.


The Grand Canyon Railway does an excellent job of making the day a memorable experience.  The customer service was top-notch, and the day was filled with entertainment and extras.  This began with a very well presented gunfight show before we boarded the train.  The skit was clever and funny, and the actors did a very nice job.  They pulled a man from the audience to be part of the show.  I started to take off my beads as they scanned the crowd for a likely suspect, but I didn’t, and I wasn’t picked on.  I noticed that none of the gunfighters even made eye contact with me throughout the day.  Not into beads.


After the gunfight show, we boarded the train.  It was a nice touch when every employee of the Railway and the restaurant in the Railway Station came out and waved goodbye as the train left the depot.


Each car has its own Customer Service Agent, and Nan was great.  She has a wonderful personality, and she entertained us with information and humor throughout the trip up and back.  There was also entertainment on the train.  We enjoyed an excellent western fiddle player on the two-and-a-half-hour trip up to the Grand Canyon and a Navajo singer / guitarist on the return trip.  There was also a bank robbery on the return trip.  Everyone had their hand out for tips, but other than that, the entertainment was very good and unexpected.


A big tall man sat down in the seat in front of us.  We met Harry Turner from Cottonwood, Arizona.  Harry was a real treat.  He knows Arizona like the back of his hand, and it was like having our own personal tour guide for the day.  We learned so much about the area, the Grand Canyon, the mountains, trees, Indians, cows, you name it!  It was interesting to learn that Harry was born in a POW Camp during World War II.  There just can’t be many Americans like Harry!

The only problem with the train is that you have only three hours at the Grand Canyon.  It was a real race to hit several of the viewing points as we rode a shuttle bus from the depot to the last overlook and back.  It was overcast, so we didn’t get to see it at its best, but the Grand Canyon is truly one of the wonders of the world and an amazing sight.  I had only seen the Grand Canyon from a high-flying airplane, so it was a treat for me to see it up close and personal.


We couldn’t believe the edge is just right there almost everywhere you go.  It’s easy to see how a number of people fall in and die each year.  The Grand Canyon is not the place to bring children!

I wonder if I would have been as impressed as I was with Big Bend if I had seen the Grand Canyon first.  I’ll never know.  Everyone needs to see the Grand Canyon as it is such an amazing work of nature, but I really think Big Bend should become much better known and much better attended as it is awe-inspiring in its beauty and diversity.


A watercolor artist was sitting quietly painting just a few feet from the rim at one point.  We waited for her to notice us, and we introduced ourselves to Judy Van Heist.  She was working on a beautiful watercolor.  When she heard about our trip and book, I thought she had one of the best questions/comments about what the book should be about.  Judy simply asked: “What has surprised you?”


Taking pictures for folks when you sense they’d like a photo with their designated photographer in the shot as well is always a great way to meet nice people.  That’s how we met Scott, Amy, Beverly, and Clarence.


We also met Chuck, the engineer on the train, and Bernie, the conductor.


The two-and-a-half-hour trip back to Williams would have been long, but our new friend Harry Turner was there in the seat in front of us.


We walked around Williams and took a number of photos.  Williams has a number of Route 66-oriented businesses.  The town still has most of its old buildings in use, and there are a number of old motels and great signs.


We made our way to the Pine Tree Restaurant for dinner.  We were starved as the time constraint at the Grand Canyon made us decide to skip lunch and grab a cookie and candy bar at a snack shop.  A great selection of pies caught my eye as soon as we walked in.  We had chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, and green beans.  The Pine Tree was great – a place where they still bring a basket of Saltine crackers when they serve your green salad.  We thoroughly enjoyed our meal.


Our waitress, Jessica, couldn’t believe what she was hearing when we ordered four pieces of pie!  With 38 pies on the menu, there were just too many that I felt we should try.  We enjoyed Coconut Cream, Blueberry Apple Peach, Elvis Pie (peanut butter, chocolate, and banana), and Chocolate Dipped Cherry.  All were very good.  Boz really liked the Coconut Cream, and I thoroughly enjoyed the Blueberry Apple Peach.  The folks seated next to us couldn’t believe their eyes when the four big pieces of pie were delivered, and we met Pat and Bill.  We also met the cashier, Karen, and her son Cody and his girlfriend, Kelly.  Lots of other folks were looking our way in disbelief.  We had not managed to eat any pie for several days, so I figured this was a good way to get back on track with our pie sampling.  Needless to say, we only took a few bites of each slice.


We visited the Route 66 Roadside Store after dinner to shop for a Route 66 Christmas ornament, and we found one.  Jenny is the owner, and we really liked her.  She suggested that we see the old mining town of Jerome when we visit the Sedona area tomorrow.  We met Larry and Barbara while in Jenny’s store; they spend their vacations visiting national parks.


There was no Internet service in Williams, so we are falling behind on our Daily Journal.  I continue to write and process the photos each night, so we hope to get caught up when we get to a city with Internet service.


As to our lesson for the day:  We can learn a lot from the people we meet.  Today would not have been nearly as much fun or as informative if we had not been lucky enough to be assigned the seats behind Harry Turner.




36183 57 degrees and 9:00am as we leave the Fairfield Inn where we will stay for 2 nights. We’re headed to the Grand Canyon.

We met Brett and Barbara Curr from Wisconsin on the way in, and Jessica and Ivonne, our ticket agents, at the train.

Our ticket agent was really sweet. She recommended we go to Poncho Magilicutty’s or Roses Cantina but then she mentioned Pine Country which she says has great pies and great home cooking.

We met Harry Turner on the train.

You should try to see the west fork of Oak Creek Canyon. We stopped at the state park and walked.

Dawn Hole’s Cabins is ¾ of a mile too far.

San Francisco Peeks 12,630 feet—highest peek in Arizona; it’s a very sacred mountain to the Indians.

We met Nancy at the Laundromat if I didn’t record that before.

150 acres/cow but Harry tells us that they ruin the land and that’s a terrible way to try and be growing meat.

The altitude at Williams is 6800 feet.

Harry was born in a POW camp.

There are some squatters that have been on the land since 1916.

We took a picture of the Hopi house and then the El Tovar Hotel. It opened in 1905 and cost $250,000 to build.

Artist, Judy van Heist

Scott, Beverly, Amy, and Clarence and they said to go on the Airport Road in Sedona.

Bernie, the conductor and Chuck, the engineer

We just returned from the train ride; it was a long train ride. It was fun to be on a train. We’re out of money. A lot of folks with their hands out, but that’s okay.

The train saved Williams and that’s nice because it means it keeps a lot of stuff alive here. It was the last city to hold out; started in 1881 at 6762 elevation.