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Route 66...Hiking The Trail...Grand Canyon Train

Good morning from Williams, Arizona and historical Route 66.  I'm getting ready to jump on the Grand Canyon train here in a couple of hours for what should be the start of an incredible memory making week here in beautiful Northern Arizona.  More on that at the end of today's blog.







I've gotta say...it's good to wake up and turn on the Weather Channel and hear them saying "it could have been a lot worse".  Really good to hear.  Still some wind and water and cleanup ahead for days and days...but so far considering the dire reports we had been hearing...this is really good news. 



And certainly we want to take a minute today and remember the historical significance of this day.  May we never forget.  I know I won't ever forgret watching that second plane crash into one of the Twin Towers and then watch both come crashing down "live" on a TV screen while I was on air at WSM-FM in Nashville.  It turned into one very long broadcast day trying to make sense of it all while also trying to keep our listeners up on the latest news as the day just kept unfolding one horror after another.  I've always thought of it as my "best-worst" broadcast day in my career.  God Bless our boys and girls in uniform who are fighting to make sure this never happens again.



The rest of today's blog...and the blogs the rest of the week will mostly be travel blogs about my Arizona trip.  So here we go.



It's always fun.  I'm flying standby as a parent because my daughter flies for American.  I learned that with kids back in school this is a great time to be flying for good ole Dad as there were lots of empty seats.  I left Nashville Saturday morning on a 5 AM flight...Chicago to Phoenix as a final destination.  It was a small plane in Nashville and the overheads would not be big enough to hold my guitar.  Fortunately they had lots of empty seats so the kind gate attendant let me strap my guitar in an empty seat next to me.  Thank you.  And Chicago to Phoenix was completely uneventful until I got a note from American yesterday letting me know I had left my iPad on the plane!  Sigh.  It's being shipped back to the house right now.




In Phoenix...I grabbed a rental car and soon I was immersed in the water color painting that is much of Arizona.  Beautiful state.  I had a two hour drive to Cottonwood where I overnighted and saw my long time friend Roger Naylor who has become a very noted writer for all things Arizona.  He's written four books and writes tons of articles for newspapers, magazines and tourism pieces all about his favorite state.  Roger wrote comedy scripts and characters for my first major morning radio show when I was in Cincinnati...and I learned a lot about comedy writing peering over his shoulder daily as he made magic happen on a yellow legal pad with a number two pencil.  Such a pleasure to get to see him and his wife Michele who has made herself a known artist in Arizona.  She makes dolls, paint, creates amazing things and a lot of her work is sold up at a Gallery in Jerome which overlooks the Verde Valley. 


I picked them up Saturday afternoon and that's exactly where we went...Jerome to grab lunch at the Haunted Hamburger...a place where Edgar Alan Poe's nephew once worked.  One of Roger's books is "Boots and Burgers" which is all about hiking trails that ends with him finding the nearest burger place to eat after working up an appetite.  The "Haunted Hamburger" is one of his faves...and one of mine two...my second time there eating on a deck with an incredible view.




Jerome is a ghost kind of town with a famous haunted Hotel that really comes to life at Halloween.  There was copper mining there back in the day...and that brought brothels and saloons.  These days those historical buildings have been turned into art galleries and places to eat and shop but the history is everywhere.  Very very cool town to visit.



Finished with lunch we wound back down the steep hills of Jerome (a car went over a cliff there yesterday) and returned to Roger & Michele's great home with a view and four cats...and I grabbed my guitar and played them some new songs.  Some of these I will sing on the Grand Canyon train today.  Roger gave me his books....I gave him songs and Michele showed me her studio just outside the house and some of the artwork she's working on right now.  Call it a creative swap if you will.  FYI...Roger's books have been printed, and reprinted...they sell out.  Especially his new one which is about the Kolb Brothers...the early explorers of the Grand Canyon.  Thursday night Roger will be at a book store in Flagstaff and will have a packed house of folks who will buy the book and hear Roger talk.  I'll be one of those folks making a bee line to Flagstaff the minute I de-board from the train.  That book alone is in it's sixth printing I'm told.  Wow.  And all of his wonderful books...including the great one on Route 66 is available at his WEBSITE or Amazon. 



Got a good nights sleep in Cottonwood...packed up my rental jeep and then picked up Roger who was taking me on a trail hike.  Roger logs 1,000 miles of hiking per year out west...an expert.  All I had to do was keep up.  We drove up into Sedona and took the Slim Shady and Shady Rest loop that went up...and back down.  A little 4 mile hike.  I managed to blow up my Timberlake boots.  The sole just came up as I was climbing up a red rock ascent.  I sat down and ripped it off my boot and walked sole-less the last two miles.  Roger said that was an absolute first for him.  He'd never seen anyone do that.  Happy to make another great trail memory for him.




It's great to be able to follow a pro hiker on a trail like this.  At one point thunder rolled in...lightning showed up...and Roger knew enough that we'd be okay although he gave me the option of hunkering down in a safe place.  Hey...he's a pro...I'm with him.  We hiked on. 






This four mile trail was full of Bell Rock and other famous red rock formations you can't miss when you're out here.  Just incredible incredible scenery.  We talked quite a bit as we went up and down ole "Shady" but there were lots of moments where you just heard me panting and doing my best not to slow his gait down.  And then the rain came.  And did it ever feel good.  I had pretty much sweated through my Cincinnati Reds Spring Training baseball cap I was wearing...and it made the desert walk even sweeter.


Truly just one beautiful view after another over the 4 miles we traversed together.  Two old pals...lots of water...lots of stories...and with Roger I get a lot of history about the vegetation, the trail itself, and the general history of Arizona.  I've packed another great memory in my backpack that I'm taking home with me.



And then we attacked lunch like two Javelina hogs at the little Mexican restaurant named Javelina Hog The food tastes better...the beer is colder after you've hiked 4 miles...and the conversation is priceless.  What a great Sunday.







Roger drove me back to my jeep we parked in Sedona...I GPS'd my way to Williams from there.  That route took me up through Flagstaff and the pine trees, past Sliding Rock...onto some gravel roads (construction...always construction) to 40 West which took me straight to the Wild West Junction where I'm bedded down in the "Chinese" themed room.  Uh huh.  This is like an old west town with themed rooms and a steak house...an old jail house and more...like the old wild west.  Mayor John Moore runs the place and he's the one who booked me to work on the train all this week.


Come to find out...and this truly shows you how small the world is...John who I met for the first time last night over beers out in the courtyard graduated a Central Missouri State University Mule...just like me!  He's from Columbia, Missouri originally...got his degree in law enforcement and somehow wound up sheriff out here for several years before becoming Mayor of historical Williams sitting right her on Route 66.  Amazing.  He knows a lot of the singers and folks I knew back in Missouri so we had a great conversation last night.



And then I walked uptown where my friend John Carpino was singing.  John plays 7 to 9 gigs a week out here...plays the train every Monday and Tuesday and has done so for years.  I got to know John a bit when I saw him play in Payson...where he's from after we did a "Hits and Grins" show in Payson one night.  It was John who thought I'd be a great fit for the Grand Canyon Train and he teed this whole experience up for me.  So thank you John.  And you sounded great last night playing at a place called "Cruisers" right on the main drag here in Williams.  Fun.






So...I'm up early...got my cowboy outfit on the bed...guitar is tuned...and I'm ready for the first of 5 train rides to the Canyon and back singing for the tourists who are from all over the world who want to ride the same rail I do.  Looking very forward to it.


Have yourself a great Monday!


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