After a long day of driving we again pulled in to set up camp at dusk. Our location, The Grand Canyon Caverns RV Park, was directly off Historic Route 66 West of The Grand Canyon South Rim. Our first impression of the campground is that it was very authentic Route 66. You may think that "authentic" is another word for old, in this case, you are correct. Our second observation was that we had absolutely no cell phone reception at the campground itself. This poses a problem because we are working remotely as we travel and although we have a WIFI booster you can not, it turns out, boost zero connectivity.
After some additional exploring we discovered that even though the park infrastructure was old it was clean and the bathrooms themselves were newer and serviceable. we also found that we did have very limited cell connectivity a mile down the hill at the motel courtyard. We were able to turn 1 bar of unusable 3G connection into 4 bars of 4G using our Weboost cellular booster.
When morning broke we further took in our location and decided that we appreciated the kitsch factor. We also really appreciated the privacy of the campground itself. There were only a few other RVs and several tent campers. A few REI tour vans were in the parking lot which accounted for our tent camping neighbors.
Our first day excursion was to the Grand Canyon South Rim which was a good hour and a half away. The park was far more crowded then anticipated on the rim trails but the views were unbelievable. We were told by fellow travelers to take a trail that descends into the canyon as it offers entirely different vantage points. After enjoying an ice cream treat from a cafe on the rim we took the Bright Angel Trail into the canyon. We only went 3/4 of a mile down but it did afford us some spectacular views. The trail was very manageable but if you take the hike keep in mind it takes twice as long to climb back up as it does to descend!
After the canyon, in search of a grocery store, we ended up in Williams, AZ. This Route 66 town is fairly close to the park itself and offers a historic downtown with boutique shopping and a number of quaint local restaurants. We stopped at Station 66 Italian Bistro for wood-fired pizza. I also tried a cucumber basil IPA beer only to discover the brewery responsible for this surprisingly good flavor combination, The Historic Brewing Company, was located right next door. Before we left Williams I stopped in the brewery for a growler to go.
Our second day spent at the Grand Canyon Caverns was a work day for the grown ups. Dave strung his coaxial cable and weboost across the outdoor motel courtyard quite early. Throughout the course of the day, upon discovering the excellent signal, fellow travelers began to drift into the courtyard with phones in hand. For a short while we became a small oasis of connectivity in the middle of the high dessert.
While work was done the children slept in, rode bikes and played put-put. Early in the evening we went on a tour of the caverns. The tour took us in a very "authentic" elevator down 200 feet underground. we explored for about 3/4 of a mile with a guide who explained the geological significance of the caverns. We also saw a replica of Berty, a prehistoric cave sloth whose remains were found in the cave. The tour lived up to our kitsch expectations.
That final night at the Grand Canyon Caverns we drove down Route 66 to Delgadillo's Snow Cap Burger stand in Saligman, AZ. The burgers and cones were very good but the people were even better! The owners offered comedy along with the side of fries and had us all laughing, that is until I insisted the children pose for a few pictures. They were not in the mood!
The next morning our final Arizona Route 66 stop was just down the road at the Keepers of the Wild exotic animal rescue park in Valentine, AZ. It was a little hot and I felt more then a little sorry for the Siberian tiger and lynx who would have much preferred the cold. But, it was a nice diversion to see so many different animals in such an intimate setting. A particularly friendly bear was the high-light of the stop!
With our time in Arizona thus concluded we head out next to California. We learned a few things at this stop, including the fact that just because a campground promises wireless and internet connectivity it does not necessarily mean that said connectivity will be consistent, adequate or even existent. We also feel far more secure in our ability to boost connectivity. Most of all, however, we experienced the awe-inspiring beauty of the Grand Canyon! That one will be hard to top!