Weeks 23-25: Canyons, Trains and Family

Our second week in Needles was rather uneventful. The weather was super hot for this time of year so we stayed home, either in the AC or in the pool. Finally on Saturday the 15th we made the drive to Williams, AZ — a quaint little town on Historic Route 66. We all agreed that the main drag reminded us all of Radiator Springs, from the Disney movie Cars. We got the trailer all set up and had dinner at a great place that had just opened called Historic Brewing Company. Then, during dinner, the unthinkable happened…. it started to snow! Before we got home for the night, two inches of snow-covered the ground. The kids were excited, but I was less than thrilled.

The next morning we headed to Flagstaff to check out the city and to get Charlie a new pair of glasses. I must have packed hers in the storage unit without thinking. Since she was getting headaches again, we figured she needed a new pair. She walked in and immediately picked the brightest blue glasses she could find. At first I was hesitant, but I am glad she ended up getting them. She totally rocks them!

That night my parents and Katie came into town! It was so nice to catch up and see them again. We had a late dinner at Jack in the Box then headed to the hotel. The Grand Canyon Railroad and Hotel has a nice hotel as well as the RV park where we stayed. It is very new and the amenities are really nice. The kids spent the night with my parents so Scott and I got to have a date the next day! I had researched online and found two things that I really wanted to see — Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon — both in northern Arizona near the Utah border.

We set out early Sunday morning and got to the Lower Antelope Canyon around 11am. The tours are led by the Navajo people, but our guide, Kendrick, was less than stellar. He was actually kind of a jerk. Before we made the descent into the canyon on the 5 flights of steep stairs, he told us all that if we wandered we would die, and if we didn’t pay attention to him he would escort us out. Nice. Good thing the canyon was breathtaking and we didn’t have to see him too much. The colors were amazing and the way that the sunlight reflected on the walls made for some pretty amazing pictures. At one point, Kenny, we’ll call him, whipped out his “flute” and began to serenade us with an old Native American song. Or maybe it was something he made up — not sure. I had a really hard time not laughing. I guess he was trying to show his sensitive side. Then at another point, I was getting ready to take a picture and Kenny filled his Crocs shoe with sand and threw it in the air to “make my picture awesome”. Yeah, next time remember to tell someone first. There is wind in the canyon and I don’t relish sand in my lip gloss. Or in my contacts. The wind blew all of the sand directly into my face. Nice. Finally at the end of the tour, we literally climbed out of a crack in the earth. It was so funny to watch the people climbing out like ants.

After the canyon we had lunch and headed to Horseshoe Bend, which was just a few miles away. There was a small parking lot directly off of the highway and there were tons of people walking on a path up a hill. We followed suit until, all of sudden, the ground gave way to the most beautiful canyon you have ever seen. It is a sheer drop off to the clear blue Colorado River below. We sat in awe for a long time, just soaking in the moment. It was such a lovely day. We were so thankful that my parents took the kids so that we could have that experience.

The next day Scott went to work at a local coffee shop, Cafe 326 on Route 66, and the rest of the group headed to Bearizona just east of Williams. If you are ever in the area, go see this park. You drive in your own car through the first part of the park where there are all kinds of sheep, deer, bears, wolves and bison. Most of them are rescues and are not afraid of people so they will come right up to your car. Then we took a free tour on an open air school bus. Since the tour driver fed the animals along the way, they all came running as soon at the sound of the bus. Last, there is a small bird show and an area of animal enclosures, including the parks newest bear cubs. They were only 3 months old when we were there and were absolutely adorable! A definite must see if you are in the area.

That night we made the 30-minute drive to Flagstaff for dinner, then headed to the Lowell Observatory. We found a great deal on Groupon so it was a relatively inexpensive field trip. A cool fact that we did not know is that Pluto was discovered at Lowell! (We still consider Pluto a planet!) It just so happened that about 30 minutes after we arrived, there was a fly over of the International Space Station. It was so clear and easy to see. It stayed moving across the sky for 6-8 minutes! Really cool to think that there were 6 people on the “star” looking back down at Earth! The kids really enjoyed seeing the moon and Jupiter again, and my parents and Katie really enjoyed the experience too! This one was another hit as far as we were concerned.

The highlight of my parents visit, though, was definitely the train ride to the Grand Canyon. The train leaves from our campground/hotel, and there is an old west gunfight show outside the train depot every morning. Scott was the only audience member pulled into the show, something that seems to happen to him regularly. We boarded the train after the show and had a few minutes to get settled. My parents generously upgraded us all to first class. We had a beautiful breakfast spread in our cabin then afternoon snacks on the way home. There were also strolling musicians working their way through the train cars. They were quite funny and sang well, too! It was fun to hear my dad belt out the old classics with such a smile on his face! The seats in the cabin were plush and the windows large so the entire 2 1/2 hours was full of gorgeous views and animals. We had to stop twice on the way to let cows cross the tracks and we saw elk on the way into and out of the station at the canyon. The train drops you at Grand Canyon Village where there is a path that runs along the rim of the canyon. Everyone loved the views and we had a nice lunch in the sunshine. In order to catch the return train that afternoon, we only had about 3 hours to see the views. Still, everyone was beat by the time we got home so it was a pretty low-key evening.

The next day Scott went back to Cafe 326 for work, and the rest of us spent the day wandering around Williams. There were tons of little shops and things to look at. Both kids talked Grandma into new cap guns, their new obsession. That night we spent a few hours in the lobby of the hotel talking and laughing while the kids played. It was so nice.

On Friday, Brytan was a little tired so he stayed with Scott at his “office” while the rest of us went to explore Sedona. It was beautiful and there were so many quaint shopping areas and things to see. Charlie found this shop where they were making and carving candles so we hung out there for a while watching. The people working there were so nice and told her all about the process. She is such an artsy girl! After a long day of walking we drove to see the Church in the Rock before we headed home. It was so beautiful! When we got home we picked up Scott and Brytan then introduced my family to the Historic Brewing Company. I, being the foodie that I am, encouraged everyone to try something new so we ordered their Pickled Platter. It was a huge cutting board full of all kinds of vegetables that they pickle there in the restaurant. Well, there were a few things that were OK, a few things that nearly burned everyone’s tongues off and a mushroom that made my dad make faces that brought us all to tears laughing. We all laughed and enjoyed our dinner so much. We are so thankful that my family got to come out and visit us again!

After my parents left, we still had a week to stay in Williams. Unfortunately, most of the days were extremely cold and some were snowy again. Yuck! On one of the nicer days that week, we returned to Sedona so that Scott and Brytan could see it. We did a little offroading and the kids screamed and laughed at how much they bounced around, even with their seatbelts on! We didn’t get quite as far as we had hoped simply because there were a few rocks that threatened to take off the lower part of Stella’s bumper. We parked and walked the rest of the way. It was a great hike and Scott was happy to get his fill of nature for the time being. Later in the week we also returned to the Grand Canyon again to find some views we couldn’t see on our short visit the week before. We took Sophie on both excursions and she did great! What a champ! I think she was just so happy to be on an adventure with us.

On Saturday, April 30th, we left Williams and headed to Las Vegas, Nevada! I will admit I was a little nervous for the drive because it was my first real descent in the mountains with the trailer. I do have a great driving coach in our friend Mike Meyer and reviewed all of the advice he has given me in my head before we left. After our traditional family prayer before a drive, we set out in the rain. I have to say, the drive was rather uneventful! I took my time and stayed at a reasonable speed and Stella performed marvelously. Through the entire descent, I barely had to touch my brakes at all! As soon as I would tap my brakes to start to slow down, the truck would downshift immediately to control its speed. I am so thankful to have such a reliable and safe vehicle, and we would recommend it to anyone considering buying a truck and trailer.

When we arrived at Arizona Charlie’s Boulder RV Park in Vegas it was raining a little bit so we decided to go to a nearby casino called Sam’s Town. It’s an older place but I had read online that it was kid friendly. We had the buffet, which the kids loved. Scott and I thought it was just OK. Then we wandered and watched the water and light show in the large atrium at the center of the hotel. It was a really fun and relaxing night.

Here’s to a great time in Vegas! We’ve found a lot of cool things we want to see while we’re here.

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