Stage 2: Tonopah to Williams
I have Microsoft MapPoint's schedule cranked down to the lowest speed it will allow. A bit of experimentation showed me that on freeways, the slowest average speed MapPoint will use is 60 MPH. I've had to also tell it to stop for 20 minutes every 60 minutes in order to further dampen the program's desire to schedule me like a rocket sled. Experience shows me that the best average speed I can make on trips like this (including stops, of which I make many) is about 45 MPH.
South of Tonopah, Lisa determined that she needed something out of the back of the van, so we pulled off and stopped in Goldfield. As we started to leave, Lisa caught sight of an oddity, and had us circle round the block to see it. I got out the camera because I wouldn't have believed it myself otherwise.
I have no idea why someone hauled a couple of subway station entrances clear out to Goldfield, Nevada. It's an amazingly eccentric sort of thing to do.
Highway 95 is a very fast drive, but it's a long way to Las Vegas. Some of the scenery is impressive. There's a whole lot of geology going on here. In some places, Joshua Trees dot the landscape, giving things a sort of alien-world look to them. I observed that this was very interesting to see from an air-conditioned van going at highway speed on good roads, but I shudder at what it was like for the people who hoofed it through this desolate landscape.
It turns out that Lisa needs to make a side trip up to Santa Fe on Monday morning to do some business related to her late father's estate. Since we're in the area, it's much better if we go there rather than wait for papers to go back and forth. But that means redoing the schedule. South of a brief stop we made at Indian Springs, Lisa reassessed our progress and asked if we could make today's leg longer and also rebook the next night so that we spend Sunday night in Albuquerque instead of Grants. I got on the phone and talked to IHG reservations while Lisa drove. We'd originally planned to stay at the Holiday Inn Express in Kingman AZ, and Lisa suggested Flagstaff. Unfortunately, Flagstaff was full tonight. The agent said the nearest from that was Williams, and we took it. I didn't listen as carefully as I should have done, to my surprise later.
After traversing the Nevada waste, we got a surprising thunderstorm dumped on it as we approached Las Vegas. As we will be staying there for two nights on the way back, we decided to merely get gas and food passing through Henderson and to otherwise skip Vegas. We stopped at an In-N-Out and got burgers to go. Walking back to the van, I said, "It's humid! It's never humid in Vegas!" Two of the last three times Lisa and I have been here, it has rained. (The third was Westercon, when instead it was blast-furnace hot.) I drove the next leg while Lisa ate her lunch. She finished as we approached Railroad Pass on US-93, and I looked for a place to pull over so we could switch places and I could have my lunch.
Then I spotted a passenger train. At the 93/95 split, I got off the highway and parked on a rise overlooking the railroad. I somehow managed to get the camera out fast enough to take photos.
It was an excursion train of the Nevada Southern Railway, returning from an trip to Railroad Pass from Boulder City. Alas, the NSRY is cut off from the rest of the national network, as the grade crossing on US-93/95 has been paved over. Also alas, we didn't have time to go ride it, as we had to make time south. We swapped drivers and continued toward Hoover Dam over the new bridge. This was the first trip over the bridge for either of us, and we discovered that the view while driving is awful. You can't see anything interesting.
South of the bridge, there's a scenic overlook where we stopped and swapped drivers again. I took a few photos.
My camera really does not do justice to the breathtaking view of the Colorado River canyon downstream from Hoover Dam. There are other photos on Flickr that try to show you what the panorama looked like.
Crossing into Arizona meant entering the Mountain time zone, but because Arizona doesn't observe Daylight Savings Time, we didn't have to change our watches yet.
At Kingman we swung down Andy Devine Blvd (old 66), past the hotel where we were originally going to stay tonight, and made a stop at a grocery store for some lunchmeat. We later realized that we'd left the mustard that we'd bought yesterday but never opened in the refrigerator in Tonopah. Phooey. A little later in the afternoon, we stopped and had sandwiches in a pull-out off a little-used rural exit from I-40.
We got to Williams and, before going to the hotel, decided to check out the Grand Canyon Railway. It turns out that the day's return trip from the Canyon had arrived shortly after we did and disembarked its passengers, but was still moving about the yard.
This is the train slowly backing into its storage track before discharging its crew for the day. After taking this photo, we crossed the street to the depot.
Engine 29 is parked near the depot. It shows sign of having been used not too long ago.
travelswithkuma rides the running boards.
Note the "pusher pockets" on the nose of the train, used to perform a dangerous and now-banned manuver where a pole is used to move equipment on an adjacent track.
The Williams Depot has been restored by the GCRY and has an extensive and well-stocked gift shop. Asking one of the staff, we learned that although Amtrak's Southwest Chief did start serving Williams, it doesn't stop at the GCRY's depot, but some distance away at a plain concrete pad. If, as we someday hope to do, we decide to take a trip here by Amtrak, then take the GCRY to the Canyon, we'll need to arrange with our hotel in Williams to meet us at the Amtrak stop and collect us.
After dawdling at Williams Depot, we headed for the hotel. To our annoyance, we realized that instead of a Holiday Inn Express, Williams has an ordinary Holiday Inn. This means, in effect, that we get to pay $20/night more for less service. For instance, breakfast is not included, and there's no elevator at this two-story property, so once again I had a lot of luggage to hump up the stairs. But it was the best we could do; I checked later and there weren't any other HI properties past Flagstaff that we could have comfortably reached. And the internet works, after a fashion. I was able to cancel our reservation at Grants and book a new reservation in Albuquerque. The extra distance we did today (150 miles more than originally planned) means we should be able to get our errand in Santa Fe done on Monday and still make it to Roswell at our originally schedule time.