We realized our mistake as we neared Flagstaff.
A few weeks before we had been making plans for our vacation -- figuring out where we wanted to go and could go, making reservations, contacting friends and family along our route, etc. We early on decided to stay the second night near the Grand Canyon. When I first checked, all the rooms actually in the park that were less than $250 were already booked. I began looking in the town of Tusayan, just outside the park. My idea was we could stay as late as we wanted at the canyon and then catch the views early in the morning right before heading out on the long drive to Turlock.
I was using various websites to hunt and sent Michael some options of various hotels. He looked as well and sent one that we both agreed looked really fun, so we booked it.
Only as we were approaching Flagstaff and entering the hotel's address in Michael's GPS did we realize that we had booked a hotel in Williams, AZ, which is one hour south of the Canyon. This meant we would not be able to have the morning at the canyon which we were hoping for.
Frustrated at ourselves for this mistake, Michael spent the next hour hunting down other hotels and looking for a room, but nothing was available except a $450 suite at El Tovar in the Park. Needless to say, we didn't take it and resigned ourselves to staying an hour away and not getting our morning at the Canyon.
So we called the hotel and told them we'd be coming in late and decided to stay and have dinner at the Canyon, which we ended up doing at El Tovar. It was the best dining experience of the trip (I plan on posting a list of our favourite meals!).
It was dark when we left the Park, Michael driving Highway 64 south. As he drove, I was intently watching the side of the road, ready to warn him if a deer or elk should leap out.
Two small lights appeared on the side of the road. The reflection of light in the eyes of an animal, I surmised. In a flash our lights barely silhouetted an image, haunting and beautiful. A buck, standing just at the tree line. His large rack faintly visible.
We arrived in downtown Williams as a little bit of night life was still playing. As we entered the Grand Canyon Hotel, the owner/manager, Amie, exclaimed, "They made it!"
The Grand Canyon is the oldest hotel in Arizona. It is recently remodelled, but with all the charm and warmth of an old hotel. The floors are old plank boards. Not all the rooms have a private bath (ours thankfully did). There are no tvs in the rooms. Downstairs in the public spaces guests hang out together talking, using the computer, eating meals. I never saw anyone turn on the one tv in the place.
We loved the hotel and thanked serendipity for our mistake.
In the lounge the next morning were a handful of French tourists. We exchanged pleasantries. I was warming up water for tea and looking around the place when I heard a commotion. The French were trying to get my attention becaues the tea was boiling over. Later they lamented the rain that was falling, because they had reservations for a helicopter ride over the Canyon.
I carried my tea outside in what was then a sprinkle and walked up and down the street looking in shop windows. One quickly realizes that this is a great little town make the most of its location on Rte. 66 and near the Canyon; a train goes from here to the Park. The paper's headline made me laugh though, and I took a picture.
We chatted with Amie and her daughter who helps run the place. Michael asked for the best breakfast, and Amie recommended the Pine Country Restaurant across the street, which I had already spotted. The crowds (including a group of bikers) entering when I was out walking was sign of a good place.
We were not disappointed.
We marveled at the selection of homemade pies in the restaurant, but didn't figure that was the best way to start the day off. So we decided to return to Williams for dinner on our way home.
Which we did.
That day we had driven from Vegas where the temperatures topped out at 115. Here in Williams, as another rain storm was moving in, it was 59.
We returned on a Friday night and the town was hopping. It was clear that not only were there tourists, but the locals in the region clearly come into town on Friday for a good time. There were many cowboys and families. All the restaurants were full with lines waiting. Most of the shops were still open, after sunset, and carrying on a brisk business. There was even a street show in progress, complete with marching band! And there didn't seem to be anything special other than it being Friday.
Well, we headed on into the Pine Country after finding a parking place in the crowd. We enjoyed our dinner; Michael really liking his fried chicken. But we had come for the pie.
Michael got peanut butter, I got peanut butter, chocolate, and banana pie.
Simply put, it was the best pie either of us have ever had in our lives. Sunday at church I used a little hyperbole and said that I had found the surest evidence for the existence of God.