I got up Saturday morning and went downstairs, where Matt’s parents informed me they weren’t going to the Grand Canyon after all. His dad had come down with a cold, and really didn’t feel like making a long roadtrip.
I figured we had no chance of getting a refund from the hotel for the reservation within 24 hours, but I gave it a try anyway. The hotel said I had to call Hotels.com. The lady at Hotels.com was super-friendly, and said since I was a high-level member, she would give me a refund for one of the rooms. That made me an even bigger fan of their service.
Matt and I packed and got on the road around 10:30 and headed north. The second we got on I-17, Google started warning me that there was an accident ahead. I did some research, and discovered that we didn’t really have any options. There’s one big interstate through the desert mountains, and that’s it.
We reached the traffic jam about 20 miles ahead, and sat. Then we sat some more. I spent my time laughing at and imitating every single saguaro I saw. Seriously, look at them. They’re awesome.
There’s not much to look at besides the cactus until you get up into the mountains. An hour later, we’d made it about 10 miles and the accident had cleared. There was rest area near the peak, so we pulled off to use the restroom. So did everyone else who’d been stuck on the highway for an hour, so we ended up waiting in line at the bathrooms, too. The parking lot also contained the smashed remains of the car that was the cause of the slowdown, piled on top of a tow truck.
Finally we were on our way at normal speed. We exited shortly afterward at Hwy 69, heading toward Prescott. I hadn’t really known much about it until we arrived in Arizona and read all the tourist magazines, but what we learned is that it was an old west town where Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday used to hang out, and therefore Matt had to see it.
Also, there’s a street called Whiskey Row.
Prescott was an adorable little town centered around the old courthouse plaza. Whiskey Row had a line of awesome oldtimey saloons and touristy shops. Before we visited those, though, we needed some lunch.
We walked a couple blocks up the hill to Prescott Station, which had an extensive menu and good beer list. My chile relleno came with soba noodles for some strange reason, but it was delicious.
After lunch, we walked down to Prescott Brewing Company, which faced courthouse square. The place was packed at midday, but we found a couple spots at the bar. We didn’t have much time to hang out, but there was enough time for a sampler.
Then it was time to visit Whiskey Row. We’d researched the bars there, and picked one that was particularly history. Matt had to get his picture outside his namesake bar first, though.
Then we headed into The Palace, which still had the swinging doors that Wyatt Earp used to walk through.
The place was mostly empty, but all the seats at the bar except one were full. The three stools next to that were occupied by some Confederate soldiers in full uniform, drinking Coors. No, really. Union soldiers. And one of them got up and offered me his chair.
See, here’s surreptitious proof of the soldiers. The staff were dressed in period costumes, too. It was great. We ordered beers, and hung out in the Old West for a while.
Then it was time to head out. We’d tried to time it so that we’d make it to our hotel near the Grand Canyon before dark, but we’d have to hurry to get there.
We headed back north on Highway 69, and saw a lot of the middle of nowhere in the desert. We reached I-40 (back on Route 66 again!) and headed east. We stopped to pay a million dollars for gas in Williams, and then exited I-40 to go north toward the Grand Canyon. The sun was starting to set.
Our hotel was in Tusayan, a little town a mile south of the entrance to Grand Canyon National Park. As far as we could tell, it existed solely for that reason, since it was all hotels and restaurants. Since the park passes are good for a week, we decided to drive up to the ranger station and buy a pass so we didn’t have to deal with it in the morning. Then we made a u-turn and went back to Tusayan.
We found the Canyon Plaza Resort right away because it was gigantic. I was nervous because it was one of those old motel-style buildings, but our room was actually very clean and the bathroom had been recently redone. In addition to the outside door, we had another door facing in on the atrium, which led directly to this magical place: the Wintergarten.
(No, I have no idea why there’s a bar called The Wintergarten at a hotel by the Grand Canyon.)
We had a beer in the room, and then went over to the Wintergarten for another one. I asked our server how late they’d be open that night – it was a little after 7:00 and strangely quiet for a Saturday – and he said, “Oh, pretty late, depending on how long people are here. Probably 8:30 or so.” That kind of set the tone for the evening.
I noticed even walking around our room that I was kind of off-balance, and realized that it was due to the altitude. The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is at about 7,000 feet, which did not cooperate well with my inner-ear-related vertigo. It wasn’t too bad, just strange.
While it had been very pleasantly in the 70s during the day in Scottsdale (and a slightly-chilly 50s at night), such was not the case at the Grand Canyon. It was in the 30s, but we were prepared with winter coats and mittens. We walked a couple blocks over to a place called Sophie’s Mexican Kitchen, because it had the word “vegetarian” on the sign.
There were a few people in there, and a couple that came in directly behind us, but it was definitely quiet. We had prickly pear margaritas (delicious) and dinner (acceptable), and by the time we were ready for our check, they were flipping chairs up onto tables. It wasn’t even 9pm yet.
So then it became a contest to see if we could find another place open for a drink in Tusayan. As we walked down the street, three guys came out of the steakhouse nearby and set off, obviously on the same mission. They crossed the street to another mexican restaurant, but we decided to head for the fancy resort (The Grand Hotel) at the end of the “strip” (it’s about three blocks long). We figured they had to have a cocktail bar there, or at least something at the restaurant. I was semi-teetering along the way, not due to drunkenness but altitude-based vertigo. What a strange sensation.
They did indeed have a bar. It was western-themed. I sat on a saddle.
The bartender was really funny, and had moved from Portland. We had a drink there and hung out talking, and were glad there were still other people sitting at the bar. The massive restaurant closed, and a few people came in for very complicated nightcaps (there was a lot of Baileys involved). Matt ordered another drink, and then suddenly it was last call. Their last call was no joke, either… around 9:45 the register basically shut off and wouldn’t let our bartender enter orders or do anything but print checks. It was kind of amazing.
We headed back to the hotel for a beer in bed, where we discovered the many Japanese channels on our hotel TV. We ended up watching Cat TV, which was an entire show following house cats around a farm in France, narrated in Japanese. Amazing.