Vajentic Family Western Odyssey: Week 1, Day 5 (Wednesday, July 17)

Wednesday morning, we found ourselves back at the Grand Canyon Buffet for breakfast.  After breakfast, we headed for the far end of the depot, where we had heard there was going to be a shootout.  Dominic and Ben found front row seats.  It was a good show....not too cheesy and not too long.  After the shootout, we boarded our dome car on the Grand Canyon Express!  The boys loved the dome car.  The trip from Williams to the Grand Canyon was comfortable, and I really enjoyed the views from the dome car.  The landscape is not quite what I expected leading into the Grand Canyon.  We were entertained on our trip by Clyde playing his banjo, who did a rendition of "I've Been Everywhere", along with some other standards.  Ben enjoyed walking up to the cafe car, where we were able to walk from car to car while the train was moving. He also enjoyed spending time in the bathroom.  The boys behaved really well on the trip, probably because they could get free snacks and pop whenever they wanted!

Once we arrived at the Grand Canyon, we immediately boarded a tour bus.  Our driver, Dan, looked like a mountain man, but gave a good tour.  We stopped at a few overlooks.  Ben was a little bit too adventurous along the rim for Sharon's taste.  I think poor Ben probably felt like we were angry with him because we kept telling him sternly to stay away from the edge.  Better safe than sorry, especially after browsing through the book 'Death at the Grand Canyon' earlier in the day.  Anyway, Dominic really enjoyed the tour stops and had fun taking pictures.  A nice man on our bus gave Ben an Indian Head nickel.  At one of our stops, there were some scientific folk there measuring movements of California condors.

Once the tour bus returned us to our lodge, I went to check into our room.  Unfortunately, our room was not 'guaranteed ready' until 4 PM, and it was only around 2 PM.  To kill some time, we went to eat some pizza at the Pizza Pub at Maswick Lodge.  After lunch, we browsed through the gift shop, where Dominic surprised Ben by buying him a gold coin.  We went outside for awhile.  Eric and Ben took a small walk up the street, and we waited some more.  I kept going back in to check if our room was ready, but it never became available until 4 PM.  I was not too happy with this arrangement.  However, we finally got checked in, and headed down to our room in the Mesquite Lodge.  Once we got into our room and made sure our luggage had been transferred, we plopped down to take a short nap.  Ben and Dominic got recharged with some cartoons, and after awhile we were ready for more adventure.  Ben and I walked down to the train tracks behind our lodge, trying to get our bearings.

A little before sunset, we meandered our way down to the south rim of the Grand Canyon, which was really only a couple hundred yards from our room.  The views were breathtaking in the early evening light.  We decided to get adventurous and took a hike down the Bright Angel trail, just as the sun was setting.

We made it down the trail about a quarter-mile, before turning back so we didn't get trapped in the dark.  The views from inside the canyon were just unbelievable, and I can't imagine what it looks like from the canyon floor.  Ben and I made a pact to go back someday and hike all the way to the bottom.  On our way back up, we had the good fortune to see a small mule deer along the trail.

Ben wanted to ride one of the shuttle buses, so once we got back to the rim, we hopped on a bus without really knowing our destination.  We ended up riding for about 15 minutes, before deciding that it was probably a good idea to hop off before we got too far away.  We found ourselves on the opposite side of Grand Canyon village, which really isn't that far away, but it was pitch dark, and we were tired, so it made for an unwelcome hike back.  I was trying to take some pictures of a huge raccoon, when all of the sudden we noticed a gigantic elk standing about 10 feet away from us.  I was fumbling, trying to get the camera ready, when Ben decided to creep a little bit closer to Mr. Elk.  He snorted to convey his displeasure with this development.  Thank goodness Ben was able to retreat without further incident!  I never did get the flash on the camera to work.

We made our way to the Blue Angel Lodge in Grand Canyon Village, and looked for a place to eat.  Fortunately, there was not a long wait to eat at the Arizona Room.  We waited for about 10 minutes, while Ben almost fell asleep.  I had a portabella mushroom sandwich here, which was excellent.  I believe Dominic had about his 50th piece of cheesecake on the trip.  After dinner, we stopped in the gift shop (surprise!), where we picked up a few more odds and ends.  We closed the gift shop down, and headed back to the Maswick Lodge.  Me-sore foot; Ben-tired; Dominic-crabby; Sharon-tired of dealing with the rest of us.  10:00 PM.  Ready for bed, right?  Well, not exactly.  I inserted the key card into the lock slot.  Nothing.  Tried again.  Nothing.  I looked at the card, sure that it was the right one, because it had the Grand Canyon picture right on it.  Oops!  The Grand Canyon Railway hotel, which was an hour south in Williams, AZ, and was our previous night's lodging, also puts a picture of the Grand Canyon on their key cards.  Brilliant!  Well, I must have accidentally grabbed the wrong key card off the table, because this one did not work!  After getting yelled at by the rest of my family, I ran over the the main lodge (on a sore ankle).  I told the lady what happened, and she said not to worry, that it happens all the time.  Take that, family!  And, not only did she print off a new key card for me, she also noticed my Pirates hat, and asked if I was from Pittsburgh.  Turns out, she is a student at Duquesne, and was working a summer job at the Grand Canyon.  How cool.  When I was in college, my summer job was at a grocery store.  Anyway, I made my way back to the Mesquite building with my freshly minted key, found the rest of the family hanging outside, and let everyone into the room.  Ben watched some cartoons to alleviate some electronic-withdraw symptoms, and the rest of us went to sleep!


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