“You lazy bastard!”
In which the mooses set out upon the Bright Angel trail, and discover more pleasures
and treasures than the majority of Canyon hikers probably ever do, even though they
only make it to the 3-Mile Resthouse.
Perhaps our memories were quite short and forgiving , or had been wiped clean from the heat and optimism of our trip the day before beneath the Rim. In any case, for some reason we made the same breakfast choice as the day before: the Maswik Cafeteria. I must have had some recollection of the previous day’s meal, however, as I consciously decided ahead of time to stick with prewrapped (either by nature or by General Mills) fare. The bananas and apples were unappealing, however, and a container of Yoplait was about $2.00, so I ended up with an apple danish, which was actually quite good. Not too much cinnamon. I don’t like an overabundance of cinnamon. Rich, having a shorter or more forgiving memory than I, ended up with a modified version of the Mule Rider’s Breakfast, which came to be known as Mule Poop Tenders for some reason I either can’t recall or am not willing to divulge. It consisted simply of scrambled eggs, whole wheat toast, and bacon fried crisp. I believe we drank apple juice and coffee again.
The day’s first order of business was to obtain a vortex hat — the sun is just too relentless on these open trails to hike without one! I had noticed some in the Bright Angel gift shop the night before, and by morning I had decided that they were appropriate enough. On our way to Bright Angel Trail we stopped again at the gift shop, picked out the perfect size, and turned to the counter to pay. After a few solid minutes, a young-middle-aged Navajo woman sauntered out from a back room to our left. She made her way to the counter, which was U-shaped, with one register in front of us and one on the section of the counter opposite. She approached us, took the hat, and turned around. I watched her diddling about while removing the tag, and then nothing happened. She may have announced the price at some point. Rich waved his credit card, which he’d had ready all the while, and the woman ignored us. Finally, she ordered us to come all the way around to the other side of the counter, when all she had to do was turn to use the register right before us! Rich commented on this, and her only response was a drawled, indignant “You’re a lot younger than I am!” Well, hardly, and that’s not the point anyway. Sighing, we both eventually walked all the way around to the other register, and Rich, fuming now, tossed his card at her with a loud-enough “You lazy bastard!!!” She laughed. “I’m serious,” he warned. “Ever since Xanterra took over, these places SUCK! Bring back Fred Harvey.” She just laughed and laughed. I was laughing at her, and at Rich’s reaction (bare, honest, priceless) and at the experience as a whole. But he’s right; bring back Fred Harvey and his philosophy and his high standards. Service is pathetic anywhere anymore. You can stand in the store waving your money in your hand and you’ll still wait till they’re good and ready to “help” you.
This most awesome, most colorful day culminated, as it must have, in dinner at El Tovar. It may be worth mentioning that the inner workings of the reservation system here are still a mystery to us. The night before I had called to reserve our place. Asked for a name, I followed the modern convention of giving just a first name. This also helps to avoid the problems associated with either of our last names, which always must be spelled out. “Rich,” I told the girl. “And a first initial?” UGH! “Well, just use J,” I told her, not wanting to backtrack and explain why I’d given a first name the first time. So now we were under the name of “J. Rich,” some fictional traveler whose name, I was sure to remind Rich over and over, was the one we’d quote when we showed up at El Tovar.
Today the gatekeeper was a cheerful young girl with no yellow eyeglasses anywhere in sight. Stepping up to the hostess’s podium, Rich confidently announced that we had a reservation for 7:15 for J. Rich. “Hmm …” the girl pored over the list, pen in hand. Fortunately, I could see the list too, and nearly panicked when I saw no J. Rich in our timeslot. But, wait, there was an “R. Galas” there! We explained that was us, and were taken immediately to our table. To this day I haven’t figured out how they determined the right name and initial to use (or why they even bothered). I knew there was something spooky about that place. Or maybe it has to do with the special powers of the yellow eyeglasses.
It was another night for BEAST. There’s nothing like protein and saturated fat to replenish after a long hike! Carbs, too, of course, but they came from the Fat Tire Ale, which we ordered for the second night in a row. We began by sharing black bean soup and shrimp cocktail, a lovely arrangement of six huge sea critters around the rim of a goblet filled with avocado and tri-color corn chips. Our waitress was a bit too eager and far too perky (though knowledgeable, I have to allow that), but I was mostly able to ignore her and the noise of the other diners, and focus on Rich and my own musings. There’s a lot of history here within these dark paneled and tapestried walls, and probably many ghosts, of a sort. The trophy heads of moose, deer and elk would have witnessed many generations’ passions, could they see.
There are no trophy cattle heads on the walls that I know of, but their flanks were on our plates. I ordered the strip steak, which came with a pepper jack cheese gratin. Rich chose the beef filet with liver pate and rosemary red potatoes, but we cut in halves and shared, as always. Everything was delicious, the beef cooked to a perfect medium-rare. The waitress’s enthusiastic descriptions didn’t change the fact that we were just too stuffed for dessert. Beer is usually the best dessert, anyway!
Plenty tired, and now too stuffed to walk, we were very glad we had decided to drive to dinner. We attempted an early-to-bed night, anticipating the long day’s drive ahead of us … and the many adventures it would inevitably involve!