April 9th, 2019


You cannot delay a pregnant woman

But you can delay most anything else.
Catching up on Monday

Checked out of the Dragon Gate hotel at 11, cab arrived in 10 minutes. He spent the whole trip speaking with a Middle Eastern accent at a customer service rep who had a thick Asian accent, trying to validate a credit card. He must have spelled his name 6 times, she never got it right, and he should have hung up and called back when he wasn't driving, and escalated the case. I should have yelled at him.

What should have been a $5 trip became almost $7.

Baggage storage was supposed to be open at 10:30, but had a be back at 11:15 sign. 11:30 someone showed up. Two people behind me kept trying to open the keypadded door. Idiots.

Checked my two bags, after taking out my camera and 50mm lens.

Tried the Metrolink ticket machine, but it was the wrong service. I wanted Metro. Found that machine and bought a day pass.

After two trips in this very NYC subway-like system to where I thought Google maps said the dash bus to Griffith was, but wasn't, I told myself fogettaboutit and took myself to Hollywood & Vine. Chatted with some interesting people, the only tour being solicited looked shady, and I didn't think I had enough time (turns out I had more than enough, if I bothered to look up the nice looking buses.

Took lots of walk of fame star photos, but there were thousands. Up & down Hollywood, up and down Vine, and at least one more street. Did not find the Chinese theater but the metro comes out right in front of the historic Pantages. On one corner is a Starbucks,and as it was 85 degrees and 90% humidity, I parked myself in there with an iced mocha and watched lots of eye candy both in and out. My seat was by the window looking at the Vine crosswalk across Hollywood. It's one of those all-way X crosswalks.

A transit map showed me where Thai Town is, so back to Metro for one stop. There was a sign for a farmer's market which had Thai and Native American symbols on it, but all the vendors were Mexican.

Three blocks down Hollywood there was Silom supermarket and maybe three blocks of Thai places. Got photos of lots of Thai signs. Sadly, too early for dinner, not hungry enough for lunch.

Back to Metro, and to Union Station to claim my bags, but it was a LONG walk, the working escalator went to the opposite side of the station from where I boarded.

Claimed my bags, took them to the baggage check, but there is no personnel at Williams AZ and it would have been too short a time in Flagstaff to claim them. But she said to come back at 4:30 to get a seat assignment.

I waited it out in the luxurious Amtrak waiting area.

They called for us to get seat assignments at 4. The guy gave me notorious seat 5 - I went back and had him change it to 9, a true window seat not a solid panel between windows.

5:30, got a ride with the golf cart to the train, checked in, got into seat 9, but then a ticket jerk moved me back one car to seat 69, same kind of seat but further from the lounge/snack car. He claimed that he wanted all the Flagstaff people in one car.

That worked till the next stop where lots of people going to the end of the line in Chicago were seated on the aisle by Flagstaff window people. Stooopid, because Flagstaff was at 4 am.

At Fullerton, we were stalled for almost an hour. First they had delays getting passengers to the train, so we stayed in the station as BNFS freight cars went by forever. Then as I was heading for the snack bar, I had to wait as several conductors escorted a woman off the train.

And that takes us to a sleepless night and will continue to Monday.
Plans for Monday:

Arrive in Flagstaff
Bus to Williams
Check in for the buffet breakfast, wild west show, grand canyon train, south rim bus tour and room at the Maswick Lodge

More Delays, finally see the canyon

One delay leads to another in Amtrak land, so we were more than an hour late getting to Flagstaff. I did not see the thruway bus to Williams, so I waited in the station till someone opened up the info desk. He said it was a shuttle, and they had been out there since 4, waiting. I had seen the shuttle but it said Phoenix on it. Walked out to it and he knew my name. Yes, going to Williams.

We're about to leave with me as the only passenger when a guy asks if he can buy a ticket. Driver says no, this is a private Amtrak Vacations run, he needs to wait till Amtrak buses arrive at 7:30. Then a family straggles up, they have tickets but they are for yesterday. Amtrak let them on the train anyway. I was in that shuttle for 45 minutes while driver & Amtrak worked it out. He took all 6 of us.

We get to Williams, the receptionist trades my many vouchers for many tickets. Breakfast buffet in another building, looked great but was too bland to eat except for the bacon and tall glass of OJ. The guy who needed the ride from Flagstaff is busing tables.

7:30 am and I'm pissed off because I had not gotten any sleep on the train, and that delay with the shuttle was nothing to worry about because we didn't actually have to be there till 9.

Put the 28-300 lens on the camera.

9:30 wild west show free with the canyon train ride, totally juvenile. Two old ragged horses were never ridden, actors' mikes only 2 of 4 worked well enough to hear. Lots of dust from wind gusts.

Finally it was over and we boarded the train. I barely fit up the stairs to the dome car. My side of the car was the sunny/dusty side.

63 miles at 30 mph, all barren desert except for being dotted with burned and starving Ponderosa pine shrubs. Nothing to take pictures of. No view of the canyon at all.

There was a guide who never shut up except when the marshal from the wild west show paid a visit, and then a guitar playing singer serenaded us with country songs. He kept changing the tune from the original, and when he did he usually sang off key and mumbled. He had a habit of ending sentences with "nnnnnn".  There was a small self-serve buffet, sodas on ice, OJ, ice water, trail mix, scones. The dome car is "luxury seating".

Off the train, boarded a tour bus and in about 5 minutes got to a canyon viewpoint.

My first impression is it is not as impressive as Yosemite because it's so far away. Yosemite you're right inside the gigantic rock structures, Grand Canyon it goes out for miles. Also, it was overcast, so not a lot of color or contrast. I'll probably be able to tweak that in Photoshop.

We walked around one viewpoint for 15 minutes and the next one for half an hour. I found a nice picnic table facing the canyon and watched the clouds move, changing the sun effects. The rails are not high enough or safe enough for me. Two people fell to their deaths last week.

We're at the Maswick Lodge by about 1:30. Check-in is 3 on my vacations docs but 4 on the hotel's. The receptionist says my bag is in the room, but it's upstairs, walk-up.  I ask for a ground floor room, it takes 10 minutes to arrange that, including moving my bag, and the new room is not ready yet. Check back in an hour.

There's a food court, I get some apple juice and a piece of chocolate cake, put the tray down to get some ice cream, tray falls on the floor, big mess. Refill the apple juice, pay for the spilled one too, grab a lot of napkins because the tray is flooded.

It's uncomfortably warm in the dining area, so when I'm done I wait outside. Nice day, 60's, when the wind isn't gusting it's warm, but gusts up to 40 mph chill the air. Lots of interesting people, tourists and employees.

2:30, room not ready. 3:00 same. 3:30 finally. Got a key and a map, but go off in the wrong direction. Awkward because not having taken any immodium, and the lack of sleep combine to make my bottom want to leak.

Finally find the room, spend a lot of quality time on the throne.

Get undressed, set an alarm for 7 pm, sleep for an hour, more throne time, then up at 6:59. More throne time.

Outside next door is a credit card Coke machine and ice machine. Got ice and a Coke Zero and a diet Coke to bring upstairs. Take my meds from last night and this morning, and steal an extra immodium from Friday's stash.

Fire up the laptop, wi-fi connection keeps dropping and is lame when it is on. Phone connects better. Tried to stream, but no go. Tried to tether to the phone, but somehow I'm down 3GB of data.

Checked email. A couple of possible jobs, but I gave quick "I don't have access" messages.

Back to the food court, hoping to get beef stroganoff,  which was on the lunch menu, but instead it is turkey breast, No thanks. Grabbed a chef's salad, cola chocolate cake & ice cream but had to cut it short and find the restroom.

Brought the cake back to the lodge room, but it seems to be part of the problem. More - but this time minor - throne time, threw away the cake, stole another immodium from Thursday = (they didn't sell them at the hotel shop) and settled down to journal.

Two diet Cokes and a Coke Zero seem to help. My dad used to give us cola syrup for tummy problems.

Put the 50mm back on the Nikon.

About the lodge. It's a rustic set of out buildings, each one has a name (mine's Aspen), two floors, 4 rooms left and 4 right per floor. They gave me 2 queen beds, work table & chairs, major power strip by it, on the night table is a clock with 2 USB outlets and 2 3-prong AC outlets, so I can charge the tablet and the phone. Basic tub/shower with liquid soap/etc dispensers. Lots of hot water. Lots of towels, heavy comforters on the beds. Dresser, TV, mirror, overhead fan. Back sliding door leads to a community set of wooden lounge chairs with a view of the parking lot. I am extremely disappointed because the travel agent said this was near the canyon rim, but it isn't. The rim is out of sight half a mile away. No view.

Plans for tomorrow:
Do some free bus riding, Find a store which sells immodium and lactaid. The rest depends on the weather. It looked threatening.
Call Amtrak, try to upgrade to a sleeper for the return to LA. Return to San Jose is not a problem since it's all daylight.
One more night in the lodge.