No, not baseball!!! What are you thinking? We are talking about the Graham Crackers here. We are geeks, maybe even borderline nerdy… We are talking about trains in this post. Steam trains to be exact…
I don’t know if you are aware of this or not, just over a 100 years ago on August 26, 1916 the United States National Parks were established to help preserve our nation’s natural and cultural treasures. As part of the centennial celebration of the National Park system the folks at the Grand Canyon Railway (GCR) decided to roll out one of their recently restored steam engines and for the week of the 26th, they hooked both their steam engines together and ran what they call a double header, where both engines are used to pull the train. A pair of steam engines forming a double header is a pretty rare event these days and it was the first time it has ever happened on the Grand Canyon Railway. It was a pretty awesome experience.
I can’t find a lot of history of these engines, just when the GCR pulled them from service and put them back in. But here are a few facts that I could find. After having spent several years on static display engine 4960 went through overhaul and was put back into service in 1996. It cost $1.5 million to restore the engine and took 80,000 man hours to complete the overhaul. In 2004, engine 29 was restored at a cost of $1 million and 26,000 man hours. Both engines were then retired in 2008 and the GCR switched to all diesel engines. However, the GCR soon learned that people ride that train for the nostalgia and in 2009 #4960 was put back into service to run on the weekends during the summer and for other special events. #29 was just recently put back into service and as I said above, for the first time ever they made a run together up to the Canyon and we got to be a part of it.
Now on with the story…
Mama and I woke up early Friday morning and got the last minute essentials packed into the camper. It had rained during the night so it was cool and quiet outside and there were still clouds hanging out as the sun began to peek up over the horizon. The children rose on their own and were excited to get going. Which meant we were able to pull out around 6 am.
Traffic it wasn’t bad as we wound our way through the city to head north. Light rain showers crossed our path here and there. Mama and I both commented on how much the valley has grown. We both remember when Greenway and Union Hills were pretty much the northern limits of Phoenix. Now there are houses pretty much all the way to Black Canyon. It is amazing how much things have changed. Our drive north to Flagstaff was largely quite and uneventful. We pulled over at the rest stop at Sunset point to make use of the facilities and let the children checkout the views, then it was back on the road. It took us about 3 1/2 hours to make it to Flagstaff.
We headed west out of Flag on I-40 and pulled over at a Pilot truck stop to get some fuel and to feed the boy, he was hungry, road trips seem to make him hungry, he eats constantly the whole time he is in the car. While fueling I happened to notice that this truck stop had weight scales and I really wanted to know just how close we are to the max. gross vehicle weight. So, as Marshmallow was scarfing his Subway sandwich we made our way over to the scales. Trying to reach the call button was rather entertaining, apparently not to many people other than semi-trucks ever use the scales. Turns out, we have about 500 lbs of margin when we are fully loaded with fuel, water, supplies, and people.
From there is was a short 2o minute drive over to Williams and our first stop, Bearizona. Can I just say now, Bearizona is pretty cool, definitely a must see if you are ever passing through the area. To be honest I wasn’t too sure about this place going in. Especially when I saw the Jumbo-Tron billboard on the side of the highway, it scream over priced, rip-off city. But after having been there, they changed my mind it is definitely worth the time and money.
Mama had called ahead to make sure they would let us drive through with our camper. As we pulled up to the entrance to pay a kind lady came out and checked our camper to make sure we didn’t have any bikes hanging off the back or anything else that might entice an overly inquisitive wolf or bear. She gave us the thumbs up, we got the spiel on the rules, paid, and were on our way. We took a mini pit-stop before hitting the drive through encounter so that we could grab the cameras from the back, double check that the child safety locks were engaged, the doors were locked, and the rear windows controls were locked out so the little ones couldn’t accidentally let any of them there friendly critters in to say, “Hi”.
One of the cool things about Bearizona is that they have a 3 mile encounter, where you drive through in your car and get to see the animals out in their habitat. We started out with some Rocky Mountain Goats and some Dall Sheep. I would have never thunk it, but white sheep in a pine forest can be amazingly hard to find. We weren’t able to find any of the sheep on our first pass through the loop. The sheep were followed by the elk and mule deer, thanks to the Bearizona tour bus handing out treats in front of us, the elk and deer were a little easier to find. By this point Hershey and Marshmallow had their seat belts undone. Hershey was in back snapping pictures, screaming hold on Dad and Marshmallow had moved up front and was bouncing between my lap and Mama’s like he had ants in his pants. They were rather excited… Some of the elk were came over to the truck and walked beside us as we drove through their exhibit. The American Burros were eating their breakfast and paid us no never mind.
Then we were on to our first predator exhibit, some Alaskan Tundra Wolves, these guys and their cousins the Arctic wolves were mostly just relaxing watching the the food laden vehicles roll by. Fortunately, these guys seemed well fed and just laid in the tall grass looking like big puppy dogs. The bears on the other hand reminded me more of Yoggie Bear and seemed to have other plans.
We saw the junior bears first. These guys are about 1 to 3 years old. They were pretty active and we lumbering about and watching the humans in their mobile enclosures. They seemed to enjoy watching and studying us. It was clear that they were a lot smarted than they let on. I saw their noses twitching and trading knowing looks between each other as we rolled through their exhibit. Fortunately a friendly ranger sat on top of the hill in her jeep watching to make sure that we silly humans did get into trouble. Every few minutes she would zoom off in her little jeep, to encourage someone who was slowing down to much or had stop, to get their car moving again before a young cub could come over and alleviate them of a car door and some snacks that they had inside their car. I am sure if the ranger wasn’t watching closely, they would easily grab some food from us humans and have themselves a nice picnic.
Bearizona features animals from all over the United States, not just the bears. So we were very excited as we left the junior bears and made our way over to the Bison area. Because the bison are not predators they are able to share their exhibit with another little critter. Marshmallow was the first to spot this quick and elusive creature and he veritably jumped through the roof of the truck! He quickly grabbed the camera and was able to capture a shot of before the animal darted back into hiding. He of course had captured a picture of the the extremely rare and endangered American House Fly! She had set down on our mirror for a fleeting second before flying back off.
We did eventually make it to the White Bison. I am curious about these beasts. There was no information on them, but when I researched White Bison it says they only occur in about 1 every 10 million births naturally. Yet these guys have a whole heard, so either they bread them that way or they have been mixed with cattle, which is the other way you can end up with a White Bison. Either way they were very pretty. The bull was big and brown and very clearly in charge. He stood on the road and kept a very close eye on us. When we made our second pass through, the heard had moved from the field off into the woods to lie down and that bull was still standing out front keeping watch over things.
Next up were some American Bison and some Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep. Man those sheep! I don’t think I could hang from some of rock faces they stand on with ease.
The last stop on our trail was the black bear exhibit. These guys were bigger and lazier. They were mostly just slumped over a stump or a rock watching us or snoozing. We could see a few guys moving off in the distance. Black bears aren’t always black, their fur can be brown as well and we got to see a good mix of colors. We even saw one guy sitting on his bottom like a person would rubbing his belly. I wonder what or who he just ate? Maybe it was a ranger, we didn’t see any rangers in this habitat. 🙂
As we were driving through the loop some rain showers had moved in and it was drizzling on and off. We decided to brave the rain walk through the walk through portion of Bearizona. We just missed the start of the birds of prey show. Because the birds fly through the crowd we were not allowed in after the show started, but we were able to see pretty good from out on the walkway. We saw an owl named George who was running for president, as well as a really tiny kestrel falcon. We got to see a cute pair of cubs rolling around and wrestling in the grass. A whole bunch of adolescent bears, as one of the rangers said, these guys are just learning how to get along with other bears and make their beds, and take care of themselves. We also saw some ring tails, some fox and badgers, bob cat, and porcupines. Far and away the biggest hit with the children were the river otters. We got to their enclosure at feeding time and the children got to help throw fish over the wall to the otters who were anxiously waiting.
About the time we were finishing up with the otters, the skies decided to open up and dump on us. So we made a run for the gift shop and hung out there while it rained. They have a very large gift ship with a cool model railroad layout based on northern Arizona. Once the rain showers let up, we went and saw the black jaguar playing with his big blue yoga ball. We then decided it was time to have lunch so we headed back out to the camper and made sandwiches for lunch. Can I just say I really like that feature of our camper, we take our kitchen with us where ever we go. When you have to hyper-picky little people, it really just takes the stress out of life to know that we don’t have to go searching for a place to eat. We can eat what we want, when we want, where we want.
We made one pass through the drive through encounter before heading out. Apparently the junior bears, remembered us and had a plan for us this time around. We Graham Crackers aren’t the only ones in the world who appreciate have a their very own kitchen on wheels. I am not sure that Mama, or the children noticed, but the bears tried to ambush us just as we were getting ready to leave their exhibit. I must say, they were really very sly about the whole thing. As we approached the end of their exhibit, 4 bears were walking along the left side of the road in a line. As they were walking they slowly drifted into the road. I knew something was up when I saw out of the corner of the mirror the last bear peel off and head to the back of the camper. Right about that time, the lead bear also cut to the right, just in front of the truck. If you remember, I said that they had been slowly drifting to the center of the road, so they had already pushed us up against the left side of the road. Fortunately for us, we were at the gate and the road widen just a bit here it appeared that Bearizona had recently cleared some trees or shrubs near the gate. So we went off road a little and squeezed around the lead bear. I looked in the mirror once again, as we made it through the gate and were driving away and I could see the bears staring at us and wondering how their lunch got away.
I had insisted that there were no cameras out on our second pass through the loop. I wanted to make sure everybody was enjoying things with their eyeballs and not fussing with cameras. So unfortunately, we didn’t get any pictures of the event. Perhaps, the bears had planned that as well? No evidence… Who knows? We had fun… It was getting to be mid-afternoon and it was time to go find our campground and get our tickets for our train ride up north.
Grand Canyon Motel and RV Park
Now some time ago, long before we got our camper, Mama and Marshmallow were dreaming about taking a train ride up in Williams. While Mama was researching she found this little campground called the Grand Canyon Motel and RV Park. The cool thing about this campground is that they have some train cars on their property that you can stay in. Specifically, Mama was eyeballing an old Santa Fe caboose that had been remodeled as a hotel room. So despite having our new camper, we decided that we would spend a night in the caboose, because we thought it would be really cool.
Williams is a pretty small town and it only took us about 10 minutes to make it over to the campground. It was cool, breezy, and the rain was still threatening to let loose again, so we hurriedly checked-in and unloaded the things that we would need for the night. I ended up having to park our truck out by the main guest parking lot because the grade was to steep by the caboose to level off our camper (the fridge has to be kept level). While the weather was still clear the children and I played. We pretended our caboose was a pirate ship and I was trying to sneak aboard and take over their ship. The children eventually tired of that and took to pretending they were the Boxcar Children (a book series they had read). Mama and I took that time to enjoy sitting out on the patio. After a bit we decided it was time to go to town and get our train tickets and find a bite to eat.
Before we pulled out though we took a minute to grab a few pictures. I have to say, between a picture I took of Hershey sitting on the coupler and another that I would take the next day up at the Grand Canyon, I noticed that my little girl isn’t so little any more. She is turning into a young lady. Where does the time go???
We made it over to the Williams Train Depot in just a hop skip and a jump. Honestly we could have probably walked just as fast, except the children might have froze. The children are Arizona desert natives and aren’t use to anything below 70°F; there is a good possibility that they could have froze on the walk. The Depot was quiet, so Mama and I decided to take advantage of this and let the children do their gift shopping. Since our train ride the next morning was a historical one we figured the store would be packed tomorrow. They both got Grand Canyon railway pins to go on their engineer’s caps and they got some books. I got Marshmallow his first pocket knife. It is a swiss-army style knife with wood handles. A picture of the railway and his name are etched into the side. Hershey and Mama really wanted some fresh fudge, but we were not able to locate any (note: we were blind, more on that later). But, I thought that I remembered a fudge shop located in the basement of the Bright Angel Lodge, so we decided we would wait until tomorrow and that it would be a nice snack for on our ride back to Williams.
We checked out the menus for both of the restaurants on site and decided that while they looked good, they were a little upscale for our little ones and it wasn’t likely they would eat anything on the menu. So we hopped back in the camper and found ourselves a Jack-In-The-Box. High end dining right there I tell-ya. When we arrived the only other people there was a Russian family. They left, and as we finished up and were getting ready to leave a French family came in. I am not sure why I included that detail, but there it is…Cannot wait till we are in our camping spot tomorrow and can enjoy our little kitchen.
We made it back to our caboose just in time, as the skies once again opened up. It rained throughout the night, with the occasional set of thunder boomers rolling through. I wish they would have left the pot-belly stove in the caboose, then it would have been the most perfect evening. But as it was, we had a great night. In the back of the caboose where the cupola is, there is a queen-sized bunk bed. We climbed up to the top bunk and looked through the book the owners had put together on the history of their train cars and just relaxed for a while. Then it was time for bed. Marshmallow and I took the bottom bunk and Mama and Hershey took the bed out in the main room. The children fell asleep quickly. The thunder and police lights kept Mama and I up. Early in the night there was a traffic stop out on the main road and the lights shown in through our windows. Later in the evening the police lights were back again, lots of lights this time and people moving around over by the office. We kept an eye on things, but decided it was best to just stay inside. We found out in the morning, that a driver under the influence missed the turn and hit the old antique fire-truck that was parked out in front of the campground. It in turn rolled down the hill through the parking lot where our camper was parked. Fortunately nobody’s vehicle got damaged. It sound like the driver of the car that was in the accident walked away pretty much in one shape as well.
We got up early the next morning and moved our stuff back into the camper, then headed off to the train depot. We arrived early, and surprisingly the parking lot was pretty empty. I knew things were going to fill up though so I looked around for a spot where our rig would be out of the way and would be relatively easy for us to pull out from. At 25 feet long, we take up a parking stop and a half, so finding a pull through spot is always ideal. We ended up parking by the old west town where they do a western show before the train leaves. The cowboys were on the scene about the same time we were and they peered out the windows like I was wondering if the rain was going to let up, as it was still raining lightly. The children bounced around in the back seat with excitement while we waited. Eventually the rain did take a break and we decided it was time to get out and explore things. We walked along the depot and talked with some other train fans that were starting to show up. As it got time we headed back towards the old west town to find ourselves a seat.
Wild West Show
We had to grab some paper towels to dry our seats. While we were waiting for the show to start one of the cowboys came over and chatted with us. He was a really nice guy for an outlaw.
Sidebar: So this cowboy was sizing me up. No, really he was… So let me explain. I am a geek, on a good day I have no fashion sense to speak of. But at this moment, I am on vacation. I am originally from a cold place, so unlike my family and most of the other people at the show, I think the weather, despite being wet, is rather nice. I am wearing shorts; I have on one of my favorite Star-Wars Millennium Falcon t-shirts on; I have a rain jacket on with my wide brimmed floppy bush hat (I wear glasses and I hate water running down my back, and I hate hoods, so this hat handily solves all my water redirection problems); I have my camera bag on, AND I have a backpack to carry all of the families stuff… So sitting there, I am straight up geek. I know what he is up to. And I don’t like it one bit…
Shortly there after the show got started. Set in an old west town of course. We open with some brothers and their father looking for Mama. Turns out she was working the saloon last night and got locked up. So they decide they need to raise some money for bail, but more urgently they were hungry and had no cook with mama in jail so they wanted to head to McDonald’s (who knew they had McDonald’s in the old days). As they were discussing this plan to get their Mama out of jail, they end up shooting one of the brothers on the account that he was being a little annoying.
Now, since they are short on cash and don’t want to heist the bank (I don’t remember why), they decide to play some cards. They survey the crowd looking for somebody they can swindle. Guess who they pick? Yep, Me… That fella who was sizing me up earlier, he comes over and asks if I would be willing to play some cards. Tells me to take my man purse with me. Mama is laughing her bottom off about this point, not sure how she stayed on the bench seat. They make sure to pose with me and left Mama take one last picture before I get pulled into the game.
Since it doesn’t look like I have played cards much, they assign one of the brothers to teach me. We are playing poker. They deal out some cards and I take a look, the brother that is with me isn’t happy so he pulls out another hand from his hat.
So I am looking at this hand and thinking my partner might not be the best cheater in the world. I have a pair and five aces! Now I don’t play poker often, but I am thinking I have a problem here and my “good buddy” is about to get me plugged.
We of course beat the other cowboy holding 3 aces! Things start to get a little heated at this point but fortunately the sheriff shows up about that time to investigate the shootin.
One of the cowboys who is friendly with the sheriff, starts splain’ the whole thing. Suddenly, I was the one who shot the one cowboy dead and I was cheatin’ at cards! I tried to say something, but the sheriff told me to be quiet and he would get the whole thing cleared up. I am feeling like this whole thing is a setup and the sheriff is on the wrong side of the law… The cowboy who is friendly with the sheriff is still pacing back and forth. SPLAIN’ the whole situation. He asked me to help him with the math to help figure out who is cheatin’….”we had 5 aces, and he had 2 aces and he looks to me and says…how many was that…” 8 aces I reply. That draws a laugh because 5+2 should be 7 aces and he goes “no wonder why we lost you ain’t so good on math”. BUT I was like wait a minute, there were 8 aces– Last time I checked 5 + 3 = 8. It’s not my fault that he can’t count cards.
Once the splain’ was over with, the sheriff said that he could hardly believe a word of that cowboy, on account of the fact of the way I was dressed. Where exactly was I hiding that sawed off shotgun that the cowboy had mentioned? In my man purse? Besides, according to the sheriff, it was obvious I didn’t even know how to use a gun. “His pants are too short and his shoes don’t go with his purse” and with that the sheriff ended up releasing me back to my seat. From there on things only got more contentious between the cowboys in the sheriff. One of the cowboys tried to make a move on the sheriff and the sheriff shot him right there on the spot. Some lady in the back row missed the “shot” with her camera. But the dead cowboy was mighty kind. He stood back up and got shot again just for her. But this time he went down face first into some fresh road apples (horse poop). …Shudder… Things broke out in to a full on shootout at that point. The sheriff was a crack shot and he took down the remaining cowboys with ease. About this time we heard a train sneaking into the station behind us. We had just enough time to grab a few pictures with the cowboys before we had to go find our car and get boarded.
Double Header to the Grand Canyon
We got boarded quickly. Mama and I elected for the cheap seats, not because they were cheap, but because they were more authentic. We elected to sit in the old Pullman car. We were able to flip one of our seats around so that we could face each other. It was a little cramped, but we all fit in and before you knew it we were pulling out of the station.
Now did mention, or rather, after 4700 words, do you remember? This train is a special train. It is the first time the Grand Canyon Railway has featured a double header, two steam engines, no diesel engines! This train ride also marks the centennial of the US National Park system. That being said, our train is pretty much packed with train enthusiasts and as we will see later in our journey, the railway itself is lined with enthusiasts all the way to the Grand Canyon and back. There was a mother and son that sat behind us, that much like our son, simply loves trains and was very excited to be going on this trip. Just about the time we start pulling out, the skies opened up one last time with a light shower. Before we knew it we heard the whistle blowing and the bell ringing and with a gentle tug we started pulling out of the station.
I must say, I have been on all kinds of trains, all over the place. Passenger, commuter, and subway; diesel, electric, and steam; a 1/4 mile track to across a country; 200 mph to 0. Of all those trains, steam is my favorite. Steam engines are nice, steady, and quiet. Never in a hurry they allow you to take in the country side as it goes by and all you hear is the steady chuff, chuff of the engine and the clickety-clack of the wheels rolling down the rails.
Mama and I had brought some activities with us, because we figured the littles would get bored on a two hour train ride. We were wrong, time passed quickly and before we knew it we were rolling into the Grand Canyon Depot. Our conductor was great, she told us about the history of the railroad, had jokes to for the children. We had an amateur history buff on board, who the conductor invited to share some of the lore about the area that he knew. We had a singing cowboy come through. He sang a silly song or two. You should have seen the look on Hershey and Marshmallows’ faces when he started sings the story of Rindercella (kind of a Pig Latin-ish version of Cinderella). Their faces kind of alternated between, not sure if he was singing in English, cracking a slight smile, and then back to wondering if their ears were failing them. After about an hour or so we headed over to the galley car. Surprisingly it was pretty much empty, so we grabbed some snacks and a table and played a round or two of cards. About this time we hit the switch-backs that mark the start of the climb up to the canyon, so we decided it was time to head back to our seat as this was prime train watching time because we would get really good views of the rest of the train as we made our way around the tight switch-backs.
Hershey, Marshmallow, Mama, and I took turns sticking our head out the window and looking at the train. At one point though I had to pull them in, there was a rock face on our side of the train, and it started getting a bit to close for comfort. As I said, before you knew we were at the Grand Canyon. Our train is a bit longer than what they normally take, so they had to split the train in half a do a y-turn to get us all turned around for the trip home. Once they got us turned around it was time to get off the train. We had three hours. That may seem like a long time to some, but if you have ever been to the Grand Canyon, so will know that is not nearly enough time to even see the main village. We got off the train and went and checked out those cool steam engines. We kind of broke up at this point. Hershey was with me, and Marshmallow was with Mama. As I looked at our pictures after the trip I found it amazing how much my boy and I are interested in the same things sometimes. He took almost exactly the same pictures I did. Same points of interest, same framing… In fact I had to go and look at the meta-data on several of them to see if it was his camera or mine.
It was lunch time so Mama and I decided we would haul our bottoms over to Maswik Lodge and get food in every-bodies’ belly straight off, then we could be free to just explore at our leisure until was time to get back on the train. Because Marshmallow is our boy, we all had pizza for lunch. He didn’t eat the pizza, just the breadsticks! I don’t know about him sometimes…
After lunch we headed over to the rim. We just took in the views for a while. Hershey had been to the Canyon once when she was smaller but this was Marshmallows first time. He thought it was pretty amazing. We started as the west end of the village and worked our way east back towards the train depot. Marshmallow and I went down the about the first four switch-backs along the Bright Angle Trail. He was funny he kept pulling me in towards the wall, because he was so nervous about the drop-off. We stopped and took a short break then headed back-up. Mama and Hershey explored near by, up at the trail head. We then headed over to the Kolb Studio where we purchased some books and looked around the museum. I had already had this happen a couple of times, but as we came out of Kolb Studio several people told me that I did a great job at the Western Show back in Williams. Yeah! Not! I am surrounded by rocks and I can’t seem to find one big enough to hide under.
Now we got to Bright Angle Lodge and I discovered that my memory failed me. There is no fudge shop. Epic disappointment. Hershey and Mama are not happy with me, they wanted their fudge. But we continue along. Once again we split up for a little bit. Hershey really wants to find a Hopi doll to take home with her and Marshmallow is enjoying the views. So Mama and Hershey speed along to the Hopi House, while Marshmallow and I meander along the rim. It was a little cool and breezy, but overall it turned out to be a really nice day up at the Canyon. Marshmallow and I eventually caught up with the girls.
Much like the train ride up, before we knew it our time was up and we need to head back to the train. We made one last pit-stop and then found our Pullman and climbed back aboard for our ride home. At 3:30 we pulled out of the station and started our journey back to Williams. Much as the trip up time passed quickly. We mostly just sat back and enjoyed the scenery. Our conductor asked us to pick on word to describe the Grand Canyon, we chose supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. We picked that word because it is indescribably wonderful, which is exactly what the Grand Canyon is. As we got closer to Williams the skies cleared and turned a bright blue. About a half hour outside of town, the train came to a stop. I was beginning to wonder what was going on, if maybe we were having engine troubles, but all of a sudden my questions were answered. A bunch of masked gunmen came riding up along side of the train, firing their pistols into the air! They made a couple of passes then board up by the engine! We were quickly moving again! I guess it is easier to rob people if they can’t get away.
Before very long we got a report that the gunmen were working their way back along the train. Soon enough those scoundrels showed up in our car and started demanding money. I think Marshmallow was going to try and set Mama up but it backfired on him and he ended up loosing a dollar to one of the gunmen. Marshmallow says next ride he is bringing his handcuffs and cuff them to a seat for the sheriff. Hershey was a little nervous about all these guns being brandished about, even the gunman noticed and commented, “She’s a jumpy lil’ thing, ain’t she”. Hershey was packing little Trouble (her lalaloopsy toddler sheriff and sister to Prairie) and she was certain she was destined for kidnappin’. She certainly can be a jumpy lil’thing, but much to her relief the sheriff showed up and the gunmen kept a runnin’ to the rear.
Just as this excitement was calming down, we received a text we were expecting and had just enough time to poke our heads out the window and wave. One of very own train enthusiast friends was setup with his camera along the side of the road. We gave him a big wave and a hoot and a holler. Then we started gathering our things because we were pulling into the train station in Williams.
We got off and tried to hurry along as that we wanted to meet up with our friend who was waiting by the train yard for the engines to get put away for the night. But first we need to make a pit stop. So into the depot we went. While I waited for the family, but what should my wondering eyes spy? A fudge counter. Fresh fudge, all kinds. It was directly behinds us when we were looking at the little packaged fudge display the day before. We must have been blind. So we got some fudge, plain chocolate, vanilla, oreo cookie, m&m… A pound and a quarter later, we thought we might be set for the evening.
Fudge in hand, we scurried off to our camper and headed over to the train yard to meet up with our friend. Conveniently, he was parked right at a train crossing on just a little bit from our RV park. We waited with him for the train and before we knew it the two engines were puffing their way towards us. We got a few more shots as they went by and they brought out the diesels for the dinner train that night. We shared our experience with our friend and his friend for a little bit and then invited them over for dinner. They wanted to get back to the valley and they were going to drive home that evening, so we let them get going and headed back to our RV park ourselves. We stayed in the same RV park, but this evening we got an RV spot stayed in our camper. We quickly set things up and settled in for the night. Fired up the water heater and the furnace for the first time and that went without issue. It was a little chilly that evening so we needed the heat. I learned that we need to seek an alternate means of heating the camper. I only kept the water heater on long enough to do dishes, but left the heater on through the night. It blew through an entire bottle of gas in a night. That seems like a huge amount, especially since I only remember the heater coming on a few times. This was only a four day trip. We have since been on a ten day trip, where we did not turn on the heater and we barely sipped about 1/3 of a tank. I have been reading about catalytic LP heaters. I think I might need to look into that a little more.
Anyway, we enjoyed our evening. We ate some fudge and played some cards, then watch a movie as we settled into for the night. The next morning Mama and Hershey were of course up first. It was a little chilly, but wonderful morning. We could hear the freight trains and see them out our back window. We just had a lazy morning and slowly got things packed up and ready to go.
Deer Farm and Home
We pulled out around 9 o’clock I think. We wanted to make one more stop before heading home. Mama wanted to stop at the Deer Farm. It is a place that she had been to as a child and has lots of memories of, so we swung through there. The Deer Farm is a petting farm where you can walk through and get up close with the deer.
We pulled into the parking lot and since it was starting to be off season they were not very busy. We went into the shop and paid for admission, each person receives a cup of deer feed. Then out the door and into deer country we went. It was a little funny to watch our children. They are use to feeding horses and such so having the deer nibble out of their hands was not a big deal. The funny part was the deer know people come with food! We hardly stepped out into the yard and we were surrounded by a mob of deer. We were able to slowly work our way along the path and eventually make it to see Gracie the dromedary. It was feeding time for Gracie, and one of the farm hands let the children give her some carrots. We then saw some senior deer who have been retired from the petting area and now hang out in back of the farm in their own area where they enjoy a slightly quieter life.
At this point we left the main deer enclosure to walk along the path and see some other animals. We saw some llamas, wallabies and reindeer. We got back around to the deer enclosure, where Hershey met a cute little 6 week old fawn who had just given up milk that morning. One of the farm hands was impressed that little one was willing to take some feed from Marshmallow’s hand. The deer and the owners of the farm know you run out of feed at about this point. So there are a series of coin operated gumball machines filled with feed spread every so often from about this point to the exit. The deer mob you at each station. When the children ran out of food, they would hold their hands high up in the air and open so that the deer would leave them alone. Marshmallow made the mistake of trying to get some feed from a machine and had to battle a deer to get the feed into his cup rather than directly into the deer’s mouth.
On our way out we met a parrot named Mozart. He is a funny little guy who likes to bounce and squawk. He likes to say hello, and of course will ask if “Polly wants a cracker”. Seems he was not paying attention in animal sounds class however, because if you ask him to bark like a dog, he meows at you. The deer farm was the last official stop on our trip and it was a great way to close things out.
We hopped in the camper and started the trek home. We decided to get off of I-17 at Schnebly Hill Road a little south of Flagstaff. Schnebly Hill road is a dirt road that will take you down into Sedona. It is supposed to be a great jeep (and truck camper) trail. However we were not going to Sedona this day. We just pulled over for lunch. There are plenty of spots to pull off into the pines, just a little bit off the interstate and that is just what we did. We made ourselves lunch and took in the pines a little bit. Then packed back up and headed south again. I suspect we will be back in this area again in the future, it was a really nice spot.
The ride home was uneventful. We got blasted by the heat as we came back down into the valley so we decided we need to make one last stop before getting home. We stopped off at a Cold Stone Creamery and had ourselves some nice cool ice cream. From there it was a few short minutes home.
It was a great trip and we can’t wait for the next adventure.