When I reserved our Grand Canyon adventure some months ago, I wasn’t able to get a room in one of the hotels right on the rim. But the travel company that manages all Grand Canyon properties (Xanterra) suggested that I stay at the Grand Canyon Railway Inn, from whom I could also reserve a package to ride into the canyon by rail, the old-fashioned way.
On paper this sounded really great: you get to see a gun fight, followed by a luxurious two-hour trip by rail up to the canyon rim, where you and your family can spend four hours doing whatever you like. After that, the train brings you back down to the hotel, during which you will be the victims of a mock train robbery.
The morning began with promise: it’d rained overnight, but the sky was clear and blue at 7 AM when we awoke. The breakfast bar was outstanding. Like good tourists, we showed up promptly at 8:30 for the mock gun battle.
Once, while doing my daughter’s hair, I shot a hairband at my wife off my forefinger. That was a more realistic gunfight than the one I viewed. It was supposed to be funny, but if you were over six it was really more boring.
I know this because the boy laughed, but the girl yawned and asked if she could go play in front of the train. Imagine four fat cowboys going through their lines without a hint of emotion, kind of like the hall of presidents with poorly-aimed cap guns. This was almost that exciting.
After that we boarded the train. When I’d bought the tickets, I wanted the dome car, but the boy wasn’t old enough to ride up there. Knowing that this would lead to (at best) homicide, I opted for first class.
It did not disappoint. Free munchies, good service, and a roving cowboy musician made the entire experience worthwhile. Comfy seats were also highly appreciated. I glanced into coach and saw that they had people strapped down a la Clockwork Orange while train personnel rummaged through their belongings for loose change.
So if you take the train, I advise you to spring for first class or ride with empty pockets.
Now for the highlight of the trip: the Grand Canyon.
Have I mentioned that Wifey is both afraid of heights and the official trip photographer?
The Canyon itself is spectacular, not at all diminished by the lamentable Steve Martin/Danny Glover movie of the mid-90’s. Beautiful, scenic, awe-inspiring; these are inevitably words that come up when you talk about the canyon.
My children were fascinated, however, by the tailless lizard in the parking lot and had to be drug to actually view the Canyon. After ten seconds, they were off, walking on the rock wall beside the pathway and complaining that it was too hot, too dry, and too outside.
Meanwhile, Wifey decided that the paths were only a suggestion and proceeded to place herself right at the edge of the rim to shoot pictures. Several times I saw rocks crumble beneath her feet to fall the 4,241 feet to the canyon bottom.
I alternated between being annoyed at the children and terrified that I was going to have to start dating again to find a new wife. I don’t even remember how I seduced the one I have now!
About halfway up, we were attacked by Godzilla and his family.
They came from the parking lot, and the Canyon trembled beneath their feet. It was the fattest family I have ever seen in my entire life. Dad easily tipped the scales at 400 pounds, mom a svelte 350, and the daughters went two hundred a piece. Add in fat little junior (85 pounds at four years old), and the two fatties in between, and you’ve got about a ton of family now trundling along next to us, shaking the rim and causing seismic disturbance as they pass.
Meanwhile, Wifey’s swaying precariously on the edge, trying to get “just one last shot.” The children are slipping and sliding, their footing now made precarious by the heaving earth.
I quickly realized the gravity of the situation when Wifey asked me “Did you hear that thunder?”
“It’s just a stick,” the girl said.
“No it’s not, it’s one ton of human excess rushing down atop us!” I cried. “Run for your lives!”
“Just one more photo!” Wifey said.
“Just one more lizard!” the girl said.
“I’m hungry and hot and it’s too outside and I want to be inside and I’m hungry,” the boy said.
“JUST RUN!” I insisted.
Call me alarmist, but I care about my family.
We fled to the shuttle bus, only barely making it, and caught the free shuttle back to the El Tovar hotel. There, weary but alive, we stopped to take lunch.
You want to hear something strange? Every single waiter in El Tovar is Chinese, like from Shanghai or Beijing. It’s like the Olympics came to the Grand Canyon. Should we investigate? Are the Chinese taking over the National Parks Service?
Lunch was okay, not at all worth the price. Then we boarded the train back for the hotel, tired but ultimately satisfied with our Grand Canyon experience. After all, it’s not every day that you survive a Godzilla attack!
On the way back we had two great surprises in store for us: engine trouble and the aforementioned train robbery.
The engine trouble was not expected by us, but judging from the reaction of the employees this is not a rare occurrence. That cost us about forty-five minutes, during which we sat completely still and did nothing.
It is almost as fun as it sounds.
Then, the train robbers came. And if I thought they were robotic and unentertaining before, it was only because I hadn’t seen them yet rob a train.
You know how when sometimes your lover has sex with you solely out of duty, and then halfway through realizes that it’s not very good for you when she sits there and does her nails, so she makes this totally unconvincing moan that ends up in a yawn? Those guys rob trains just like that every day.
I think they must be soulless by now, or a reasonable facsimile thereof.
Once we were back at the hotel, we decided that it must be time for dinner. After all, the breakfast buffet had been spectacular, so we had great hopes for the dinner buffet.
Here’s the menu, as best I remember: grilled crap, fried crap, crap on a stick, crap on crap, crap sauce, and a side helping of vegetable crap. And asparagus, which I like but gives me the wind something terrible.
Which I know from prior experience is not conducive to intimacy.
Once we’d eaten, we decided to go swimming. You’ll notice that this is a familiar theme in our vacation: eat, then go swimming. Personally, I think Wifey is hoping that swimmer’s cramp will help her cash in on my million dollar life insurance. The joke’s on her, though: I sent the girl to lifesaving classes and told her that the future of the family depends on her.
I like pressuring them young.
Anyways, there were two problems with the pool at the Grand Canyon Railway Inn: it was freakishly cold, and full of members of the underclass.
The girl dove right in and enjoyed herself. The boy decided he wanted to go to the hot tub. Wifey joined him, since there’s a real risk that he’ll drown in two feet of heated water with floaties on his arm. Plus, he loves her more and would rather have her company than mine.
So I ended up swimming in the Arctic pool with the girl. After I’d frozen my ‘nads off getting in, I discovered the second problem.
You know the people who allow their children to cannonball right next to you, pelting you with ice bits and water? And the children that kick you as they swim by, gouging your flesh with their yellowed nails, never once muttering so much as a “sorry”? Those people would have thought that the people in this pool were rude.
And yet, if I drowned them, I’d be the criminal. There is no justice in the world.
Absolutely as soon as I could, I drove the family out of the pool. Wifey informed me that, if anything, the people in the hot tub were even fouler. When I mentioned that there were no people in the hot tub when I got there, she mumbled something about the boy peeing and didn’t say anything else.
Damn, why didn’t I think of that? Just shout “jeez, I gotta pee. Ahh, that’s better!” That always buys space in a pool!
Once we were back in the room, we taught the children how to play “Pass the Pigs.” If you’ve never played it’s a delightful game where you score points based on how the two dice (shaped like pigs) land. First one to 100 wins.
I scored a 0. The boy won.
Once they were in bed, I snuggled up close to Wifey. I said, “How about that boy winning the first time he plays Pass the Pigs, huh? He sure is lucky.”
“Too bad it doesn’t run in the family.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” I asked.
“You had asparagus. You stink. Good night.”
I will only say that I got revenge, but because this is a family blog, I will not explain how.
Okay, it’s possible that I farted and pulled the covers over her head. But that makes me sound like a member of the underclass, so let’s pretend I never told you that.
At any rate, we drifted off to sleep, our visit to the Grand Canyon a complete success and everyone glad that they came.
Tomorrow: Oh my God how far away is Carlsbad Caverns, anyways?