Arizona 2018:
Day 5 - Grand Canyon West


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Arizona 2018: [Day 1 - Mesa] [Day 2 - Mesa] [Day 3 - Mesa] [Day 4 - Tucson] [Day 5 - Grand Canyon West] [Day 6 - Grand Canyon] [Day 7 - Prescott]

Thursday, December 27, 2018: We left Kingman before 7:00 AM, while it was still dark out and the neon signs were still blazing. This sign is for Mr. D'z Route 66 Diner.
Here are some train-based Christmas lights.
We were in the land of Carl's Jr., but we are from Hardee's land, so stopping here counted as eating local food.
We were just happy to see any place with a breakfast menu.
There were two Teslas charging in the spooky darkness at the back of the parking lot.
We were headed to Grand Canyon West today and would be seeing this exact spot in 2 1/2 hours.
The sky was starting to lighten when we neared our turn. This blurry billboard shows the Skywalk.
This equally blurry photo shows that we were turning onto Pearce Ferry Road that took us through Dolan Springs.
We saw lots of these signs throughout the day. We also saw lots of cattle.
What a pretty sunrise!
Debbie took a photo of this place on the left side of the road (Wishing Well) because it reminded her of the store we had visited at the end of our 2006 Colorado River trip. We learned when we got home that we had just passed that store (Dolan Station) on the right about 1000 yards earlier.
This sign is at the turn to Diamond Bar Road. It welcomes you to Grand Canyon West but warns you that you still have another 45 minutes of driving before you get there. By the way, Pearce Ferry Road and Diamond Bar Road both refer to Colorado River landmarks that we've visited in the past. This is river-runnin' territory.
It was a pretty drive toward the hills, ...
... with hazy glimpses of Lake Mead off to the left.
The drive got more and more windy as we cut through the hills.
We encountered almost no other cars, which was a good sign. The motorcoaches and tourists hadn't yet started to arrive from Las Vegas.
We stopped for a minute to enjoy a herd of pronghorn antelope crossing the road.
It was almost 8:30 by the time we passed the Hualapai Police Station on our way in.
The Grand Canyon West airport is right across the street.
Here's the main center where you park and buy tickets. There were only three cars in the visitor parking lot when we pulled in next to a Jucy RV minivan.
In just a few minutes, we had purchased our tickets, stopped by the rest room, headed out to the shuttle bus pickup area, ...
... and boarded the bus. We were joined by a half-dozen other people.
When we arrived at Eagle Point, it was obvious that we were the first arrivals, ...
... because the staff was just starting to take the protective covers off of the glass Skywalk.
Eagle Point is named for the rock formation visible in the upper right of this corner because it looks like an eagle with outstretched wings.
There are no fences along the rim to block the view, but there are safety features, such as these small bridges to keep you from falling into this crevice in the rocks.
Let's check out the view from right to left. First, we're looking toward the south, where we came from, ...
... out to the east over the view of the eagle formation, ...
... toward the north, ...
... and down at the river below.
Debbie is always happiest when she can see her favorite river.
The Skywalk blends in nicely with the canyon rim.
We swapped photography duties with another couple to prove that we were there.
Here's a cool dramatic view down to the river.
Planes and helicopters flew overhead regularly, giving aerial tours of the canyon. We've seen it by air before, so we weren't tempted.
Shortly before 9:00, we headed to the Skywalk building.
Look at that beautiful photo of the river! And what's this in the upper right corner?
It's a photo of beautiful Elves' Chasm, a place Debbie had visited on her 1978 and 1980 river trips.
To enter the Skywalk, we had to put our belongings (including phones and cameras) in a locker, put shoe covers over our shoes, then go through a metal detector. So you can't take any photos of your experience. Any photos will be taken by staff photographers who follow you around and get you to do various poses. The only other people on the Skywalk at that time were a family with a photographer. We had decided in advance not to pay the photo fees, so it worked out well that we weren't approached by a photographer during our brief visit. Instead, here are some photos found online that match our experience.
Besides the other family, we had the place to ourselves, so this photo in particular matches what we saw. That's a side canyon down there and the river is off to the left out of sight. At this point, we were very cautious with our steps, because it is very strange to walk on glass, especially when there are 1/2 inch gaps between plates.
Here's what the foot covers looked like. We should have kept a pair as a souvenir but we didn't.
Here's how it looks peering through the glass walls to the rock cliff underneath.
By the time we got to where the family had been posing, another half-dozen people had joined us but we still had lots of space to ourselves.
After a 10 minute visit, we declared the Skywalk to be well worth the extra cost, and went inside. We made a quick phone call to the motel to tell them that we had left the key in our room, using Wi-Fi to make the call because there is no AT&T phone signal at all out here.
We walked to the shuttle stop and saw that there were more people arriving now.
A few minutes later, we were leaving on the shuttle.
The main complex was visible in the distance.
We were headed to Guano Point next, and we could see it through the window of the shuttle bus.
There was one family on the shuttle with us and we were determined to get to the point first, because we were pretty certain that we were the first people to arrive.
We bolted through the outdoor eating area next to the snack bar.
Our destination was on the other side of that point ahead. We needn't have worried, because the other family never ventured much further than these rocks so we had the whole place to ourselves for the next half hour.
We stopped to admire the beautiful river view for just a minute. See our shadows?
And we're walking, ...
... and walking some more, ...
... and stopping at the narrow part connecting the point, ...
... to take another picture of the river. Other people might describe this as taking a picture of the canyon but for Debbie, it is always the river.
We made it down hill and around the rock to Guano Point, ...
... home to an abandoned mining operation.
This building is the high point of a tramway system that used to span the river from the 1930s until it was abandoned in the late 1950s.
Debbie was giddy to be here.
From here, if you look really closely, ...
... you can see the bat cave that contained the guano to be mined.
Here is the view of the cave from the river. We took this photo on our 2006 river trip.
Here's a better view of the tramway structure.
A raven was comfortable on the upper right beam.
This spot is Mile 266 on the Colorado River, which means it is approximately 11 more miles to Lake Mead at Mile 277.
At the edge of the upper point, you can see the second tramway tower on the point below.
Here's a closer look.
So, yeah, back to that view. The bat cave is on the far right and we're starting to look downstream to the left, ...
... and even more downstream.
Here's Debbie blocking the view.
Our hearts were full and we had much more distance to cover, so we had to start back. That's the cafe and outdoor seating waaaay off in the distance up there. It was a fun, easy, pleasant walk though.
Time for a selfie!
And maybe just one or two more photos of the river.
There's the wide shot, ...
... and there's the closeup.
We waited a few minutes for the next shuttle, ...
... and headed back. The shuttles run in a loop, so you have to ride the entire loop if you want to go back to the previous stop.
Likewise, we couldn't stop at the main complex until we had ridden ...
... all the way ...
... out to Hualapai Ranch.
There's a zipline here and horse riding and other stuff, but we didn't get off and it still looked pretty sleepy.
So the shuttle continued ...
... and we passed some helicopters on our way back.
Back at the main complex, we did some souvenir shopping.
Debbie really, really wanted this framed wooden map of the Grand Canyon, ...
... but we settled for a personalized keychain for our daughter, Claire.
It's uncommon to find her name in the US, so we always snap one up when we do. They work great as zipper pulls for her coats.
Plus, this one spins! Very entertaining.
The place was filled with people when we left, ...
... and there were lots of cars and motorcoaches in the parking lot, so we clearly arrived at the perfect time.
We passed a random oil pump in the desert.
On Diamond Bar Road, we passed a mountain that we had photographed on our 2006 trip just before turning left ...
... on Pearce Ferry Road toward Lake Mead City. Those beautiful trees are Joshua trees.
We snacked on beef jerky, candy, and crackers throughout the day. We got these adorable plane-shaped Ritz crackers on our Southwest flight earlier in the week.
As we drove through the aptly-named town of Meadview, we found a scenic overlook and stopped. The information signs discussed the gold found nearby during the Gold Rush days.
But we were here for the view.
Let's take a closer look at Lake Mead. Those mountains in the distance on the right are on the far side of Las Vegas from us, so we were able to see for a long way.
We continued down Pearce Ferry Road.
Debbie had wanted to take the dirt road down to Pearce Ferry on the river, but since we were in a borrowed minivan and since Tom hates to drive on dirt roads, we were going to head to Pearce Ferry Airport for the view instead. However, it turns out that Pearce Ferry Airport is also on a dirt road, so here's the closest we got.
So we got back on Pearce Ferry Road, ...
... and instead of continuing past this sign ...
... for seven dusty, bumpy miles, ...
... we turned left and took the paved road to South Cove.
There it is in the distance. Can you see it on the water on the right side of this photo?
No? How about now? It's that barely visible ramp leading into the water on the left.
Here we are. We parked near the top of the ramp, ...
... then walked down to the water.
We were here!
Even though it was Lake Mead and wasn't technically the river, this water had previously been in the river just around the corner so it was good enough. Debbie had to touch it.
Tom drew the line on letting Debbie wade out to the boat dock because it was cold out. He's so mean.
We had been here once before, when our 2006 river trip ended here. At the time, we were in a hurry to unload the boat and carry our belongings to the motorcoach waiting for us, so we took no photos. Instead of this being completely deserted, picture a couple of boats being unloaded, passengers and bags everywhere, and a huge bus further up the ramp instead of our minivan.
Debbie could picture it.
Then we backtracked down Pearce Ferry Road.
Shortly before passing Diamond Bar Road again, we more accurately duplicated the mountain photo we took on our 2006 trip, complete with blurry Joshua trees in the foreground.
A sign reminded us that we were still in cow country, ...
... and two minutes later, we passed one. He was minding his own business when suddenly, he decided he was angry and started to buck. Sorry, dude, we're just passing through.
Residential land out here is laid out with perfectly straight roads on perfect right angles, regardless of the terrain.
Yep, got it.
Hmmm, there's some sort of crop out here. No idea what, sorry.
You know those cattle we've been warned about? Here they are.
Aren't they good-looking cows?
To our left was a vast open plain.
Every mile or two, we'd cross a dip in the road with a sign next to it that said, "Do not enter when flooded." No problem, because we didn't see water anywhere.
More cows.
We saw a road runner run across the road, but it was much too fast for us to get a photo of it, so instead, we offer you this photo of us trying to make lower case Rs with our hands so we would remember that it happened.
We were happily listening to a murder podcast about someone poisoning people with arsenic. While listening, we had constant reminders to be on the lookout for cattle.

FOR

WATCH

<cow figure>

CATTLE

This mama and her baby were one of the reasons we needed to watch out.
Mama and baby watched us drive past.
After over an hour of driving, civilization appeared on the horizon.
It was Kingman again, and it had Baskin-Robbins!
Oh, yeah. German Chocolate on top of Rocky Road for Debbie, and Chocolate Peanut Butter on top of Pistachio for Tom.
We were now back on Historic Route 66 and we passed the Kingman Airport & Industrial Park, which is also a boneyard for commercial planes.
We drove past Antares Park Ranchero but had to turn around and come back to get a look at ...
... Giganticus Headicus.
Did we mention that we were on Historic US 66?
We were, and it featured numerous buildings that had seen more prosperous times.
The scenery was pretty.
Even the run-down buildings had their own charm.
We returned to the Hualapai Indian Reservation ...
... and we were getting closer to Peach Springs.
Off in the distance, we could see snow showers over the Grand Canyon.
There's probably nothing of importance to see here. But maybe if you look more closely, you might see ...
... Maersk! Debbie won this round. This was on the grounds of the Hualapai 4-H Youth and Agriculture Facility.
Peach Springs is a very small town, ...
... but it is home to the Walapai Market, ...
... the Hualapai Lodge, ...
... and the storage facilities for Hualapai boat trips in the lower Grand Canyon. This is where boat trips originate during boating season, which unfortunately, was not in late December.
Outside of Peach Springs, we had a great view of the North Rim.
Snow showers were still happening off to the west, over the area where we had been earlier in the day.
We left the reservation when we were about ten minutes out of town, ...
... and passed the Grand Canyon Caverns Airport a minute or two later. Debbie's family had flown in a small plane out of this airport in 1978.
We were here to visit Grand Canyon Caverns ...
... and Grand Canyon Caverns Inn. Debbie and her family stayed here overnight after their 1978 river trip but she has almost no memory about it, so she had to see it again.
This photo is oddly cropped so that it matches a photo taken in front of this motel back in 1978.
It's a short drive from the main area back to the caverns building. Flags line the road along the way.
Here's a horse statue on one side, ...
... and a dinosaur statue on the other. We'll get a closer look at it on the way back.
We had 4:00 tour reservations but we arrived right before 3:00, so we were able to get tickets for that tour instead.
The gift shop stocked Route 66 craft soda, of course.
Tom was a good sport about posing in the World's Largest Dinosaur Saddle. It may also be the World's Smallest Dinosaur Saddle, because we've never seen any others.
A large sign advertised the opportunity to spend the night in the Cave Room, which we'd be seeing. We'd already looked into it, but at nearly $1000/night, it would have been the most expensive hotel room we've ever stayed in, so we couldn't justify it.
This display contained a wide variety of things that have been found in the caverns. Note to self: hold on to belongings tightly.
At 3:00 sharp, we entered the elevator near the center of this photo and descended into the caverns.
Cool!
Here's a pretty rock.
We passed through the Crystal Room, ...
... and up some stairs, ...
... into a very large cavern.
There was a small dining balcony overlooking the cave.
Our guide, Dino, pointed out cool rocks.
Here's some more cool rocks.
There's the Cathedral Dome, 90 feet above the trail.
Here's our first look at the underground hotel room, with Rocky the dog figure standing guard. We'd see more of it later.
On the other side of the hotel room is a small concert area with stage and seating. More on that later too.
Dino pointed out dried bouquets from weddings held in the caverns.
Up, up, up we go ...
... into this large cavern that is used to store emergency shelter supplies, ...
... like food, water, and such.
This beautiful white ceiling is called Snowball Palace.
Here's a closer look at the rock formations in it.
We climbed further up in this room, ...
... then passed the Mystery Room, complete with two skeletons for decoration.
Here's a mummified bob cat. Obviously.
Here's the view looking back toward the supply cavern.
We saw the entrance they used to use to get tourists in here before the elevator shaft was built.
Here's a giant ground sloth. Its skeleton and claw marks were found inside the cavern.
It was great fun going up and down the ramps and the stairwells.
We returned to the concert hall area ...
... and got a closer look at the stage ...
... and the seating. Unfortunately, since there's only one exit, this can't be used as a public performance space.
We got to take an up close look at the hotel room.
We couldn't go in it, but with only short walls, we were able to see all of it except inside the bathroom.
We walked up to the restaurant terrace. Time didn't permit us to stay for dinner, but it sure looked like a cool thing to do.
Sure enough, it's a fully stocked dining room.
We left via the same tunnel under the restaurant.
Here's the elevator descending to come pick us up.
We were back above ground by 4:00, which gave us an hour head start on our evening. This turned out to be a very good thing, as we'll learn later. (This is foreshadowing...) Here's the play area for the kids, and a petrified log to marvel at.
Debbie and her family had been here back in 1978, but other than a vague memory of a cave tour, none of this was familiar at all.
Anyway, back to that dinosaur statue we saw earlier.
Here it is.
And here's a shot of one of the really big dinosaurs near the entrance.
We said farewell to Grand Canyon Caverns and returned to Route 66.

This was the first sign of five in a row that read:
"Thirty Days
Hath September
April, June
And the Speed Offender"

The fifth sign read "Burma Shave." Wait! Aren't they out of business? These signs are reproductions meant to add some nostalgia to Arizona State Highway 66, AKA Route 66.
This set read:
"Slow Down Sparky
Sakes Alive
Ma Missed Signs
Four and Five"
Just before Seligman was this set:
"Don't lose your head
To save a minute
You need your head
Your brains are in it ...
... Burma Shave."
The Santa Fe railroad was following along Route 66 as well. It would be nice to cover this part of the country by train someday.
We arrived in Seligman ...
... and had numerous options for dinner, including Roadkill Cafe.
If this was our evening destination, we had lots of motel options too.
We arrived at the Roadrunner Cafe at 4:30.
It turned out to be counter service at the back of a souvenir shop. When Tom tried to order French fries with our dinners, he learned that they were no longer serving fries and would be closing at 5:00.
So we waited for our food, stressed about having to gulp down our dinner instead of having a leisurely meal like we had planned.
That's why there are no photos of our food or any other part of the experience other than a look around the store. We were on our way out the door 22 minutes after we entered. This, too, turned out to be a good thing though. (More foreshadowing...)
So, we're back on Route 66 once again.
Isn't the sunset lovely? And such nice weather! Surely it will last all evening, right?
False. That's a snowstorm up ahead, being attractively backlit by the sunset.
Twenty minutes later, we were in it. By now, we were on I-40.
Five minutes after that, we were driving on packed snow.
We saw yet another variation on a deer crossing sign.
We had only been driving through snow for fifteen minutes when we got to the Williams exit.
While we waited for the Grand Canyon Railway train to return to Williams, the snow came down even harder.
With the roads becoming increasingly slippery and difficult, we couldn't justify stopping at Grand Canyon Brewery.
But just before arriving at our motel (the building straight ahead of us), ...
... we decided to stop at Safeway to pick up some groceries in case we ended up stranded the next day.
We picked up some Lunchables, some Hostess treats, and some Diet Coke.
Seriously? We look everywhere in Georgia for Georgia Peach-flavored Coca-Cola and we find it here? Here, when we can't just lug it home to Indiana in our own van? Heartbreaking. We had to leave it here.
Tom dropped off Debbie to check into our room while he filled up the car.
Here's our room at the Highlander Motel. It was reasonably priced for the area with the world's best heater and squeakiest bed. But hey, heat is more important in a snowstorm. We were in town 90 minutes earlier than we planned, which was a good thing because our friends from Chino Valley were on their way to have dinner with us. We were expecting them the following night but there was a mixup on the dates.
So we prettied ourselves up and drove a few blocks to downtown Williams.
It's a very cute town with an active night life and Christmas lights everywhere. By now, we had learned that our friends were stuck on the highway. There was an overturned truck blocking the road, and they were unlucky enough to be in the traffic stopped behind it. If we had arrived much later, we would have been stuck too.
We headed to the Red Raven Restaurant anyway.
At this point, we still had hope that they'd make it, so we moved back our 7:00 reservation a half hour and had a drink at the bar in the back of the room, just barely visible in this photo.
By 7:45, we realized they weren't going to make it, so we headed back to our hotel with promises to work out a new plan the next day.
The snow had ended by now, so it was quite pretty out.

Beautiful.

Day 6 >


Arizona 2018: [Day 1 - Mesa] [Day 2 - Mesa] [Day 3 - Mesa] [Day 4 - Tucson] [Day 5 - Grand Canyon West] [Day 6 - Grand Canyon] [Day 7 - Prescott]

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