Spoiler Alert: We never actually got on a train.
One of the main problems about visiting the Grand Canyon is that it’s out in the middle of freaking nowhere. You can’t just fly there, because there are no major airports within about a million miles.
To get there from Washington, we had the choice between flying to Las Vegas, renting a car, and driving hundreds of miles to the east. Alternatively, we could fly to Phoenix, rent a car, and drive hundreds of miles north. We chose option three, which involved flying to Phoenix, waiting through a layover, flying to Flagstaff, renting a car, and driving a couple of hundred miles north, but not as many as we would have had to drive from Phoenix.
As it turned out, we missed the layover because our flight into Phoenix ended up getting there so late we had to sprint through the airport to catch the flight into Flagstaff. On one hand, we didn’t have to wait around for an hour or two. On the other hand, there was barely time to use the restroom, let alone eat, and it was already hours after lunchtime. We scrambled onboard, only to discover that no food or beverages would be served because the flight was considered to be too short.
Then, once everybody was loaded up, the plane sat stewing on the tarmac for a good 45 minutes. More than enough time to run out for a hamburger, or at least have a leisurely trip to the bathroom, you’d think, but they weren’t having any of that. They also wanted you to keep the window shutters closed, because this plane was small and the air conditioning would only work properly once the plane got in the air and up to speed. (Phoenix was just then entering what would turn out to be a record-breaking heat wave, even for Arizona!) Passengers were to remain in the dark, in their seats, seatbelts fastened, and heaven help you if the dragon-lady stewardess caught you with your purses or laptops not properly stowed under the seat despite the fact that the plane hadn’t budged an inch.
The general cussedness of air travel was somewhat made up for by the magnificent views. I will never tire of watching the land below change from forests to mountains to deserts and back again. I like trying to guess where we are and what geological processes formed what I am seeing. I run my guesses by Monty, who replies that a) we aren’t going anywhere near that state and b) I should know the geology by now, seeing as how we’ve been watching geology videos nonstop.
One feature I did recognize on the flight to Phoenix was–wait for it–the Grand Canyon itself! It’s pretty amazing when seen from the air, but it also made me question why we were continuing on south to Phoenix, then north to Flagstaff, and then driving hundreds of miles further north to get to the Grand Canyon when it’s right there, for Pete’s sake! Couldn’t we just get out there? Apparently not.
One of the other things that keeps me entertained during air travel is turbulence, which nobody but me ever seems to enjoy. There was a respectable amount of turbulence on the larger plane to Phoenix, but I held even higher hopes for the flight to Flagstaff. Small planes typically bounce around more than the big ones, and this one did not disappoint. While everybody else was white-knuckling it and Monty was turning green (It might be just as well that we didn’t eat beforehand) I was in my seat going “Wheeee!”
At last, we arrived in Flagstaff and were allowed off the plane. I headed for a Starbuck’s to get food for myself and a drink for Monty (who didn’t seem to be hungry at the moment.) We went to the car rental kiosk, where we were offered a free upgrade from whatever car they were going to give us to whatever was a grade up from that car. We said yes. It was a mistake.
Stay tuned for the next exciting episode: What To Do When Your Rental Car Is Possessed.