Sun. Oct. 6, 2013:
I woke up freezing cold, apparently in the night I had kicked off the bottom layer blanket without disturbing the top layer. Brent pointed out that the alleged corkscrew (I finally remembered the name of it) was also a bottle-opener; oops, my bad. It was cold outside; there was frost on the car.
All the smaller gas stations around were closed, so we had to drive a bit further down the road. Driving east is no picnic when the desert sun is rising, it was impossible to see and I could feel my retinas slowly frying. There was no one else around, two giant ravens had taken over a stretch of road, just sitting there waiting for some nearby pigeons to get roadkilled.
We stopped at McDonald’s for breakfast, alas they don’t have muffins. Breakfast ended up being just a cup of coffee, a bright orange pumpkin spice latte. It’s too bad we were there so early, as I saw that on the menu they serve green chile cheeseburgers! I was tempted by the pralines & cream McFlurry, but I was way too cold to be eating ice cream. As we drove to the gas station I could not find the GPS, panic quickly set in. Did I drop it in the McParking Lot?! As Brent filled the car, I started a frantic desperate search which abruptly ended as soon as I got out of my seat. I had been sitting on the GPS.
Coconut cream fudge-covered Oreos for breakfast might seem like a brilliant idea, but they are not very filling. Thanks to the government shut-down, our plans had to be changed. Instead of going to Canyon De Chelley we were going to Sedona, Arizona for hiking and making fun of all the new age stuff. The trouble with crossing over from New Mexico to Arizona is time. No, not that it takes a long time. Arizona does not follow daylight savings time. So there are times of the year when they are an hour different from the surrounding states. My mind got short-circuited as I used my iPod and logic to try and figure out the time in Arizona. It was after all only 8am (sorry, 7am), it was just us and truckers on the road which delighted me as I kept shouting about convoys. We drove by a train that was over 100 cars long, I almost went cross-eyed trying to count it, as it was going in the opposite direction. Thankfully every few cars or so the pattern changed (from boxcar to tanker etc) so I did not lose track: it really was over 100 cars long.
The first thing we saw after entering Arizona was (apparently) the world’s largest teepee. In fact it was so large we did not have to pull off the exit, we could see it from the highway. At this point I realized that I had not seen water since the beginning of our trip when we passed over the Rio Grande River. We had also not seen any cops at all, a stark contrast to New York, wherein every few miles we saw a state trooper. We did drive over Crazy Creek but it only lived up to half its name: crazy, it was all curvy and zig-zaggy. As for it being a creek? Not so much, it was more of a creek bed.
Apparently bikes are allowed on some parts of the I-40, so long as they keep to the shoulder. This sounded terrifying to me, it is bad enough to bike around cars, but when they are driving that fast, 75 miles per hour to be exact?! Not surprisingly, we did not see any bikers. Up ahead there was a river that actually lived up to its name: Dead River, it was all dried up but that got me thinking if it should even be called a river now? We passed an exit to the Petrified Forest; alas it too was closed thanks to the government shut-down. It would appear that the government shut-down had put a damper on roadtrips.
The car said it was only 37F outside which just made me cringe. Why was it so cold so far south?! A daring jackrabbit (or “bunny” as Brent cutely called it) ran across the road in front of us. There was a port-a-potty on the highway median which is weird as there were no construction sites or signs of former constructions sites for miles to see. There were fake dinosaurs dotting the hills by the highway, signs about petrified wood and a sign for a gold nugget shop. What the signs failed to explain was why there were (fake) dinosaurs all over the place? A Burger King billboard advertised that they had “clean restrooms”, having finally given up on trying to sell their “food”.
We passed by maybe the greatest series of billboards (up there with the likes of 1-800-POOPY-CREDIT) for Knife City. The billboards touted: self defense, kitchen knives, high capacity clips and best of all: first aid kits. We ended up in a truck convoy with 2 in front of us and 2 beside us, keeping us snug and cozy. We stopped at the Geronimo gift shop to gawk at the largest piece of petrified wood (it was not impressive at all). I browsed the souvenirs but nothing really caught my eye.
There were signs for Route 66; alas we did not have time to take it as there was more driving now that our plans had been changed. We could see Flagtstaff off in the distance; the giant mountain gave it away, standing in stark contrast against the otherwise flat landscape. We stopped at Meteor Crater, partly to stretch our legs but mostly my curiosity was intensely piqued. As we drove to it, we passed some rather unique road signs: cars 50mi/hr, meteors 26,000mi/hr. There was a $16 admission price which I balked at. I was expecting a small dent in the ground and a shack selling crappy souvenirs nearby. Before we even got to the crater we went through a museum, I was starting to think that this was more than just a small dent. My suspicions were confirmed when I saw a picture of some astronauts training for moon expeditions at the crater. I caught a glimpse of it through a window, surprise ruined, but my God it was enormous. (They should really get rid of that window though).
Once outside, I could not stop staring at the crater. It was more than just a dent, it was a giant hole ripped into the earth. You could see the strength of the impact where the rock had been displaced, it was unimaginable. We wondered about the size of the actual meteor that did this, alas it still has not been found. We passed by some Polish people there too. There was one rock resting on the rim of the crater that was said to be the size of a house, but you could only tell that by looking through the provided telescope. It only made the dent seem that much bigger. At this point it was actually warm enough for me to be outside in just a t-shirt and sweater, I liked this day so far. Meteor Crater easily ranks as one of the top roadtrip stops we have ever had.
Driving down to Sedona we passed through the Cococino National Forest. It was odd how the landscape had changed from flat empty desert to cliffs, canyons and lots of trees. Once we got out of the forest we were in “red rock country” and it was gorgeous and a nice surprise. It was so warm out that we actually had the windows down. We drove through downtown Sedona; the gorgeous views are a dead giveaway as to why it is such a tourist hotspot. We also drove by an odd McDonald’s that had a green arch; new age jokes about vortexes and crystals ensued.
We had wanted to hike the Boynton Canyon trail but there was no parking. We drove further to the Enchantment Resort to see if they had any trails and to possibly grab lunch. There was a sign for Deer Trail, we parked nearby and wandered around but there was no sign for the actual trailhead. We ended up going to the lobby to ask for a trail map. As it turned out, we had been on (the stupidly named) Deer Trail, it was the walkway between the cabins. Furthermore, we found out that a mother bear and her cubs had been spotted near the Boynton Trail and that the ranger services were advising people not to hike there.
It was too early for lunch so we went on the Fay Canyon Trail instead. There were nice views of the rock formations from down below. Brent climbed up a giant rock at the end of the trail to get a better view, but I was not up for it, my shoes were not meant for it. As it turns out, it actually does get warm in the desert: I ended up in a tank top with my pants rolled up, sweating up a storm not to mention panting (damn altitude). There wasn’t a lot of wildlife; in fact we only saw a bright blue and black bird. We did see a smooth triangle rock, which I declared to be the pizza vortex (we had read that people claim there are energy vortexes in Sedona). It was a nice easy hike, not very rocky alas very sandy. My shoes were full of red sand by the time we returned to the car. Given that it was an easy hike, we decided to do another, this time to Devil’s Bridge. Thankfully we had to drive to the trailhead, which meant 10 minutes of rest.
In the parking lot a guy told us to go across the road and walk down the off-road route, saying it was a shorter hike to start at that trailhead rather than the one near the paved parking lot. Other people were also heading that way so we thought why not. It was a hike just to get down there. We kept having to stand off in the ditch while off-road vehicles passed by, it seemed dangerous yet no one else cared. Along this route there were no trees, we had nowhere to hide from the sun, I kept making Sun Beats Down jokes (from the game Forbidden Desert). We finally got to the trailhead, turns out the trail was shorter than the distance we had walked to get to it.
The hike to Devil’s Bridge was mildly hellish; a lot of rock-stair climbing meant a lot of panting thanks to the combination of high altitude and hot midday sun. I refused to walk out on the bridge itself, those people were crazy, it looked like it was only a few inches wide and it was not flat, you had to still clamber over small rocks. I was perfectly fine on solid land just looking at it. The views from there were well worth the effort, you could see down into the canyon 180 degrees of gorgeous rock formations and trees. The walk back down was just as exhausting, I was so tired by then. All I could think of was the end of the trail… oh wait, then there was still the hike up the off-road route. Brent stopped, touched my arm and asked me if I had heard the growling. He was sure he had just heard a bear, I listened carefully… it was an overhead airplane. Maybe the nearby energy vortexes warped the sound. That had to be it.
I had never been so happy in my life to see a paved road. All in all we had not seen any wildlife, just odd couples. The first couple was a geek/jock (athletic shirt tucked into high-waisted shorts) with a grunge girl. The second couple was dressed in matching outfits. We had a few questions at the end of our hike though: why does everyone on trails always greet passersby? why would you bring your toddlers on a moderate difficulty hike? This last one we had seen multiple times over our years of hiking and it still bewilders us.
Tired, covered in red sand (the backs of Brent’s legs were covered) and sick of the sun, we went to the weird McDonald’s for a really late lunch. There wasn’t anything too wacky on the menu and no sign of green chiles. I had a bite of Brent’s bacon habanero ranch quarter pounder- and then had to go back to eating my plain quarter pounder which now didn’t seem as good. We did not stay in the McDonald’s for very long, eating as fast we could just to get away from the world’s worst complainer. She apparently kept ordering her coffee in a demanding voice, convinced the server did not hear her. Then she got to her table (conveniently nearby us) and complained that the coffee was not made right. She then told a story about how she ate at Olive Garden one horrible time: she had to send her salad back and the (free!) breadsticks twice. It was unbearable.
We passed by a hippy outdoor art fair, but it was not close enough to downtown for us to check it out. Downtown Sedona was just plain weird. We were afraid to go into any of the crystal stores, for fear of delusional sales people trying to read our auras. We laughed at them from the sidewalk. One shop sold maps to vortex locations. A few offered aura photography. And most of them sold crystals of some sort (energy, healing etc..). We joked about getting our chakras aligned, indulging in some reiki healing. We found a nice overlook spot, the only saving grace of downtown Sedona. There was one shop that claimed to make souvenir wet collodion plate images which made no sense to me, it had to be a lie: no way was someone spending that much money on a business that clearly seldom saw customers, let alone customers willing to sit still for a few minutes as the process necessitates. As we were walking back to the car we passed by a tourist info centre, the guy asked if we were happy to be in Sedona and Brent snapped “no”, the guy was dismayed. Clearly he had not gained psychic powers from a vortex.
Back in the car, the fudge-covered coconut Oreos had seen better days, they were a sticky gross mess, so much for having a snack as we back-tracked through the scenic forest drive. We tried to stop at a scenic overlook, but apparently it closed at 4pm. We passed a sign for Sunset Crater Volcano, alas we did not have time to stop and it was closed anyways (thanks government shut-down!). Out of the forest and on the main (boring) stretch of the interstate, there was actually a cyclist riding on the shoulder, I was absolutely bewildered. Slowly we crept back up in elevation to 7276 feet above sea level (just for context: Toronto is at 249 feet in elevation).
The views were all so pretty, but my memory card was already 1/3 full, I was starting to get worried it would not last me the whole trip. There was a shitty handmade sign by the side of the road: dinosaur tracks turn left ahead. I was very intrigued, alas we missed the turn. Looking down the road all I saw was a run-down shack, we may have dodged a bullet in the end. There was one lonely shot-gun house (narrow front) amongst other houses that were the opposite (wide but shallow). There was a billboard for a “WWII Navajo Code Breakers” exhibit… at Burger King. I was suspicious but also curious, was this a joke?
The sunset was a gorgeous shade of pink… at 6pm, way too early. And too soon, as we were not at the hotel yet and there were no streetlights on our stretch of highway. It was getting dark fast and we were not even close yet. It went from pink to pitch black quite fast. We passed through Cow Springs, but saw no cows. That is false advertising. At this point it was so dark; I could not see my notebook to write.
Once in the hotel and able to see again, I noticed that my face was rather sunburnt, damn desert sun! Our hotel happened to be wedged between Sonic and Burger King. The brochure in-room, mentioned that one of the attractions in town was to see the Navajo exhibit at the Burger King- it wasn’t a joke! Our dinner plans were set: Sonic for the main course, Burger King for dessert. We drove to the Sonic next door; it is after all a drive-in place. We pulled into what we thought was a drive-thru, only to find there was no order box. We pulled around and into one of the parking spots. We had looked up the menu beforehand, to avoid any more confusion. It was a bit of a wait, but worth it as it smelled so incredibly good. The soft-serve at Burger King wasn’t working, so I had to “settle” (wink) for a mini-Cinnabon instead of ice cream. Brent had the Hershey’s sundae pie (which inexplicably had no need for soft-serve ice cream).
The Navajo exhibit was actually quite interesting, even if it was crammed into a Burger King. They had on display uniforms, radios and stuff taken from Japanese soldiers. It was a bit awkward to be looking at the exhibit while people nearby were just trying to eat their dinner.
We watched Family Guy as we ate dinner. The Sonic hot dog was good, but not Chicago-good, but for fast-food it was up there. I, being on vacation and gluttonous, ordered mozzarella sticks instead of fries. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and it was- until about the 3rd or 4th mozzarella stick. Then it was a bit much. The cherry limeade was the true winner and that is what will keep bringing me back to Sonic more than anything else: it was fizzy and topped with a cherry. I had a bite of Brent’s toast cheeseburger (so good, I wish I had gotten it), jalapeno poppers (so gross) and Hershey sundae pie (good, but I prefer Cinnabon).