Life is the sum of the moments that takes your breath away

Shoot-out in Williams, ArizonaImmediately after breakfast on the Third of July 2006 we walked to the Williams depot. Although it was just behind our B&B in Williams, we had to walk quite a distance to crosse the railway tracks. Dorte was rather sleepy this otherwise fine morning. She had been awoken several times during the night, because of the closenes of the station. About once an hour some very long freight trains passed through town, and when they passed the station, for some reason unknown to us they blew their whistle. As the trains took their time to pass, a whistle blow might last a good while. And every time it happened, Dorte wokew up. I however, slept through the night, and only heard the trains morning and evening, when I was awake anyway.

The reason for our walk to the train depot, was a decision we had made the day before. In stead of driving to Grand Canyon, we would go by train, experiencing the Grand Canyon Railway. Six years earlier, on our first trip to USA, we would never had done that. At that time, we were shocked by having to pay $ 8 for each of us, to use a cable car, but this time we paid $ 120 each for a return ticket to Grand Canyon. A first class ticket, so it could have been cheaper, but we had changed, and so had our financial situation. Included in the price were complimentary (if you can call it that for $ 120) coffee, tea, soft drinks, cookies, candy, fresh fruit, champagne on the returntrip and a dedicated train hostess. Well the actually the train hostess was not really included, as we hads to leave her on the train, when we got back to Williams.

When we got to the station we had to go into the station building and collect and pay for the ticket, which we had booked the day before, with help from our landlord at the bed and breakfast we stayed in. When we had gotten our tickets, we walked to the far end of the station building. Here we attended a "shoot out" between some villains and the sheriff and his deputies. After various amusing show elements, involving members of the audience, but luckily not us, the good guys won and the show was over. We would meet both villains and good guys later on though.

When the show was over, we located our seat on the train and where greeted by our hostess, who told us, that her name was Terese. When all passengers in that car was seated, Terese told us about the trip. It would go to Grand Canyon Village and it would take about 2 hours and fifteen minutes, to go the 65 miles, so there would time to enjoy the landscape, and the drinks that she would provide - for a small sum - as soon as the train took off. That she did. As it was rather early, 8.30 or something, she sold the drinks with the comment, that the more we drank, the more animals we would probably see along the way. If some thought it was to early, she reminded us, that the time was 5 PM somewhere in the world, and it would be all right with an afternoon drink. Dorte and I a Bloody Mary, and it proved to be really good. Later we had coffee and soft drinks, but no more alcohol.

Train hostess TereseWhen Terese had finished serving drinks a navajo indian entered the compartment and entertained us with singing and guitar playing. He started with some navajo songs, which none of us, of course, understood much of, but they were beautiful. Later he continued with songs in English, German, French and Japanese, but he admitted that he only spoke and understood English and Navajo, and the other texts he had "just" memorized. When he were done singing, we spent the rest of the journey enjoying the scenery that we passed through. As Terese had mentioned earlier, the landscape was changing a lot. At the beginning and end of the trip spruce, pine and aspen dominate. In the lower sections of the journey, we also saw juniper and pinyon, various species of mugwort and a lot of bush-like growths, that we didn't know, and a lot of grass of a species that apparently have no Danish name, but is called Grama. We didn't see any animals except for cows, although the brochure had promised us the opportunity to see both mountain lions, deer, squirrels and skunks, as well as birds such as the bald eagle, horned owls, ravens and California condor. They still owe us that :-).

Shortly before we arrived at Grand Canyon Village, Terese returned and handed out water bottles. She also gave instructions to those who had ordered a bus tour of the Grand Canyon in the extension of the train, and for the rest of us, she just told us when to back at the train. She then told us, that in bhuddism, some believes that you life is meassured in the number of breaths you take. In her opinion though what really made life worth living was all the breathtaking moments that you experienced. And breathtaking moments would be plentiful  during our stay at Grand Canyon.

Before leaving the train we asked Terese how far she thought we could go, and still be back on the train before departure, and she gave us some ideas. So when we got off the train, we located a busstop of the free buses that drive around the area. This route (blue) led around the village itself, and it intersected the red route that ran west along the canyon. When we got off the blue route, we could see a long, long line of people waiting to get on the red. There was a bus at the busstop, and the driver told me that she thought that with line like this, we would probably have to wait at least an hour to get on the bus. While we swere discussing what to do a girl came over to us. She turned out to be Danish, and she had overheard our conversation. She suggested that we walk out to the next stop. It was approx. 1,000 yards along the rim, and according to her, so many left the bus here, that you coulld easily board the first bus around. We thanked her and walked away with backpack, camera and water bottles. We had a nice walk along the rim by the way.

Grand Canyon ViewAt the next stop, we indeed managed to get the first bus that arrived, but we only stayed on board for one stop. Here we got off to enjoy the sight of the canyon for a while. When the next bus arrived, we took this out to Mojave Point, which our train hostess had recommended. Here we once again left the bus and enjoyed the view of the canyon, which was quite different here compared to the first stop. Afterwards we walked along a very narrow path, which in some places was only a few inches from the edge (no, there was no railing), the approx. 1 mile to Hopi Point. It was a very exciting experience walk around 1 foot from a 1 mile almost vertical cliff. And despite the fact that the Grand Canyon is America's most visited national park, we actually met  surprisingly few people on our walk.

To give a fair description of the Grand Canyon is simply impossible, and even pictures don't do it, especially the ones we took, because the air was shimmering from the heat and moist. The best way to descibe is to quote a colleague of mine, when he said "it is a damned impressive hole, they have dug there." The canyon, which cuts down into the Colorado Plateau is 275 miles long and more than 5,000 feet deep in some places.

When we got to the bus stop at Hopi Point, there were many people waiting to get on the bus back to the village even more arrived, while we were enjoying the views of the canyon - there was especially a good view of the river more than a mile down the gorge. We managed to get on the third bus that arrived, even though we were the very last, there was room for. Back at the blue line we discovered, that if we once again had to wait for a bus, we would be late for the train, we decided to walk back to the station, which we reached approx. half an hour before boarding time for the ordinary passengers. We "first class passengers" had another 15 minutes:-) As we were out of water and quite thirsty, so we decided to walk up the hill to El Tovar hotel, located just above the railway station. When we got there the line was to long though, so instead we visited The Hopi House. We bought a couple of T-shirts and of course some water. When we left the building, some Navajo Indians were performing outside with music and traditionel dances. Unfortunately we didn't have time to see all of the show as we had to catch our train. We therefore returned to the railway staion.

Our return tickets were for the same car and compartment that we had been in on the way out, even if it was different seats. Once again Terese, was the hostess. On the return journey we were again entertained with song, but this time it was a white country singer. He sang well enough, but it was not quite as exciting the Navajo singer. Terese was offering new drinks (again for a fee) and this time we had a Canyon Sunset, which was based on coconut rhum and pineapple juice which tasted quite excellent. Later we had coffee, cheese, crackers, fruit and champagne. While we ate and drank, we once again enjoyed the scenery on the way back to Williams.

Attacked by trainrobbers.As we approached the city, the train was stopped by train robbers on horseback. They had scarves covering their the faces, but despite this they were easily recognizable as the bad guys that was "killed" by the sheriff earlier on. The sheriff was replaced though, but maybe he had to go to work or babysit or something. I have long forgotten what the gang was called, but on the other side of the tracks a horse carriage was ready to take the horses back to town when the robbers had boarded the train. That detail is rarely seen in western movies :-). Before the robbers got to our car, Terese practiced with us, so that we would look suitably frightened when the robbers got to our compartment, and after three or four attempts, she was happy. As they had entered the first carriage, and we were in the last, they had to rob themselves through eight cars before it was our turn. Terese calmed us though by claiming: "Have patience - you will all be robbed ". She also said that the robbers kept whatever they robbed and they didn't give change, so Dorte hurried to provide a one dollar bill, which they could rob!

After some waiting the robbers got to our car. Two of them. One of them continued to the "rich" on the first floor (it was a dome car), so there was only one robber to rob us all (there were approx. 15 people in the compartment), but he succeeded, although he was a little surprised when the passenger seated in front of us turned out to be a catholic nun from Taiwan. The robber didn't know quite what to do, but the nun insisted on being robbed just as anybody else - so he robbed her as well. When the passengeres in all cars had been robbed, the robbers were caught and arrested by the new sheriff, with help from the children who quickly identified the robbers hideout. Apparently they were released rather expediant, because when we left the train in Williams both sheriff and robbers were waiting outside to shake hands with everybody.

When the robbery was over Teresa admitted, that as she was robbed four times a week at the same time and place every day some of the surprise and enthuiasm wore off. Just before we arrived at the station Terese told us goodbye, and she went around and shook hands with all the passengers, and ended by saying that if we would praise her to the company her name was Terese G (the G was important because there were more by the name of Terese). If we wanted to complain, her name was May!

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