When we got back to Williams, home base for the Grand Canyon expedition, I got off the freeway one exit too soon, which took us through the main part of town instead of right to our hotel on the outskirts. And what did we pass but a zipline. Daredevil that she is, Tess wanted us to do it. Coward that I am, I refused to do it with her, but didn’t let my squeamishness stand in her way. It looked horrifying, but I’ve seen her ride worse, so I knew she’d be fine.
Fine doesn’t begin to capture it. She loved it. It was better than the Grand Canyon. We ended up going back twice more before the day was over. But first, more swimming. And candy, because a mother of four turns into Auntie Mame when she gets to indulge an only child on holiday.
After a second trip to the zipline, we took a walk through the historic part of Williams, which is all about the Route 66 retro theme. There are 50s style diners and restored gas stations and classic cars everywhere. There is even Elvis.
We visited an art gallery where we met Cuban-born painter George Dorado Blanco, one of whose paintings of the Grand Canyon I would have bought if art was in the road trip budget. He and Tessie talked about art, and he and I talked about Cuba since she’s the artist in the family, not I. I’m just the grammar nazi who knows that “not I” is right even though “not me” sounds like it is. After not buying the painting of Duck Rock which George and Tessie and I all agreed looks nothing like a duck, we set out in search of dinner.
The Pine Country Restaurant lured us away from the diners and steakhouses with the promise of homemade pie. We stepped in for a look at all those pies, row after row of them on shelves behind glass – peach and berry and apple and pecan and chocolate and banana and all manner of less traditional varieties. Road trip food! Better yet, road trip food à la mode. What was that I was saying about carbs the other day?
She liked my dinner better than hers, so I let her eat it. She liked my pie better than hers, too, so I let her eat that. That’s what moms do. Plus, my pie was pecan, and I’d never been able to get any of the girls to try it. Now it’s her new favorite.
As she finished my pie, a wagon pulled by the biggest horse I’d ever seen appeared outside the restaurant. The driver parked it right in the middle of the street, so traffic was blocked. When we went outside – drawn by Tessie’s interest not in the horse but in the dog that sat in the front seat of the wagon – we saw that the street was being blocked for a mock shoot-out performed by people in old west attire using very loud cap guns.
The wagon driver, whose name was Bubba, gave tours of the town. Tessie wanted to take the tour if she could sit next to the dog, whose name was Bandit. Bubba said Bandit always rode shotgun so she’d have to sit up front. I sat in the row behind them as Mike the horse pulled us through town. Mike was a Shire horse, which breed is the largest there is, Bubba said, and the reason the Budweiser Clydesdales are so big is that they were bred with Shire horses. I was going to Google and see if this is so, but I liked Bubba and his stories wanted just to take it on faith the way we used to do before the internet.
Bubba pointed out where the jail used to be and the whorehouse and all the other interesting spots of local color, calling me ma’am about 800 times and letting Tessie take the reins and guide 2,700 pounds of Mike through the car traffic of Williams.
Then sun had set by the time we said good-bye to Bubba and Bandit and Mike, but the zipline was still open, and more crowded than ever. We talked in line with a young couple also on their way to LA, also going to stay in Pasadena, as we are. Small world. She was from LA but living in France; he was French. I hadn’t spoken French in ages, and never imagined I’d have an opportunity to do so in Williams, AZ.
That tiny speck of light near the center of the picture is Tessie at the top of the line, ready to zip down for the third time, having more fun than seeing what the Colorado River had dug out of the ground over the past couple billion years. Driving Mike the Shire horse also beat the Grand Canyon in her calculus of road trip fun, eclipsed only by the zipline. Incroyable.