cliff atop Cathedral Rock

Taking on Cathedral Rock, Sedona

Remember how a few posts ago (before my computer crapped out on me and had to be sent away for repairs, leaving me unable to edit photos) I mentioned that I was remaking the rounds of almost every destination in Arizona I had made with my parents a few years ago, now once again with Matt in tow? One can not miss destination on that list was Sedona.  Having first visited this town four years ago while my brother and parents, I couldn’t let Matt miss out on it’s displays of red rocks and beauty.

Because my dad was still working most of the days during our visit, we needed to wait for the weekend to come before we had a full day to drive out.  Getting an early start on the day, I was happy to still have my body in sync with the Eastern Time Zone, so when it was time to wake up at 7:00 am, by body was thinking it was 10 and was ok with rolling out of bed that time.

Sedona, Arizona

Sedona, Arizona

A  few hours later we pulled into a gray and wet Sedona, and after having taken in the traditional breakfast stop of The Teapot, a restaurant with over 101 omelets on their menu, we were perusing some guide books in the lobby on how to spend the rest of our afternoon there.  Of course I had originally found Devil’s Bridge on Instagram and I wanted one of those apparent death defying photos to add to my own account, although once we had the chance to read up on it, it turns out our vehicle was not suited for the short cut and it would be a 1.3 mile walk each way.  I don’t think anyone other than myself was up for such a hike, just to get that perfect shot for social media (although I’m sure it’s beautiful to see without a camera in front of your face as well), but it was not going to be in the cards and we needed to make another decision.

Flipping through a few more pages I focused on the ‘easy hikes’ section and came across Cathedral Rock. A nice description and a hike that would amount in less than a mile round trip.  Pulling out my tablet and searching for directions, we were back on the road and ready to take in some sights.  Since nowadays everyone and their mother, including mine, is quick to pull out their phone or tablet to research anything and everything under the sun that catches their interest, it was her that let us know, while enroute, that  this ‘easy’ hike may not be as easy as we were led to believe.  From what she had found online, it was in fact a very short distance, its just that most of it happened to be vertical.

“No, that can’t be right”, I responded.  “It didn’t mention anything about it in the guidebook.”

“I’m just telling you what I’m reading here.  It says that the hike is 600 feet of vertical trails, and it says its a strenuous walk.”

“But….the guidebook was on hiking.  All the hiking trails in Sedona.  This was listed as easy.”

“We’ll have to see when we get there, but I don’t think its a flat trail.”

As I’ve learned over my last 33 years of existing, my mother, as usual, was right.  As soon as we found the road leading to Cathedral Rock, the tall red stone jutting out of the earth made it very apparent that it would indeed be a steep climb.  One my parents were probably not willing to make.

road to Cathedral Rock

Cathedral Rock, Sedona, ArizonaHaving come on a Sunday, we found that we were not the only ones in search of a little beauty and adventure on this particular weekend, and the lack of available parking spots had us taking a few unscheduled detours past private homes perched on hills, before circling back down and snagging a spot in the front row.  Since we had made the drive all the way out there, we couldn’t just stand at the base and stare up at it without attempting to scale it.  At least for Matt and I.  Like a kid looking to leave a candy store with a fist full of goodies, I looked up at my parents, my eyes asking for permission to leave them behind while the two of us did a little exploring.

They of course let us go, and we promised them we should be back in less than an hour.  30 minutes up and 30 minutes back right?  And so Matt and I quickly ran away while we left my parents behind in the car. Don’t worry, we left the windows cracked for them.

base of Cathedral Rock, Sedona

overlooking Sedona, Arizona

Sedona ArizonaAlthough we had been experiencing some blustery conditions at breakfast and I had been very happy to have on my jeans and fleece, they were quickly becoming unnecessary as we just as quickly began passing people at the base of the rock.  Because I somewhat expected this I had left my fleece behind, having traded it for a cardigan, but even that was tucked away in a little bag and my jeans were already starting to glue themselves to my leg.

Passing people left and right, we scampered up the red rocks, trying to keep to our timelines so my parents wouldn’t worry and call the rangers on us once our 60 minutes were up.  Or least, that was my excuse for rushing.  Matt just likes running up mountains.  We did stop every now and then to take in the views as well as a few photos.

Although the climb didn’t seem hard, it was becoming never ending.  What I thought was the top of the trail only led to more trail heads off to the side and more climbing.  Just when I was sure that we’d already been up there for nearly an hour and would have to run back down now, a few couples passed us on their decent and not only let us know that we were so close to getting to the top, but the views were absolutely worth the effort to keep going.  Luckily they were telling the truth that it really was only a few more minutes of climbing, and also, the views were definitely worth the effort.

At the top we were greeted with a cliff that had a small walkway wedged out over a fairly sheer drop, and views of the valley from the opposite side of the rock we had come up. The popular thing to do was have your photo taken at the edge of the cliff, and because that’s what everyone seemed to be coming up for, we had to wait in line a few minutes before I was able to make my way over for my own photo shoot.

top of Cathedral RockTop of Cathedral Rock

cliff atop Cathedral Rock

Taking in a few more side trails before we made our way back down, we were once again a little bummed that we didn’t have a full afternoon to devote to our climb here.  I really should do my research better.  Given my parents a free pass to go out and enjoy a winery without me, and pick Matt and I up a few hours later, instead of making them sit at the base and wait for us.

Grudgingly making our way down, we were also making up for lost time by basically skipping and jumping the entire way.  Most people will tell you that the most difficult part of a climb is the descent (and we found that to be true at Machu Picchu), but in this case it was incredibly easy.  Even grace-challenged moi was able to jump and leap without any fear of tumbling down the face of a mountain.  Although there were one or two areas I was forced to do a butt crawl because of the steep angles of the rock and improper footing.

What seemed like 10 minutes later we were back and the bottom and taking the trail to the parking lot, searching for my parents and hoping they weren’t worried like crazy.  Turns out they were just fine without us.  They had taken a nice little walking trail at the bottom for 45 minutes or so, and then went back the car to enjoy a few drinks while using their binnocculars to watch us and others make their way up and down.  They had no worries about us at all.

top of Cathedral Rock trail

balancing  rock, Sedona

coming down Cathedral Rock


And although we never made it to Devil’s Bridge where it would have looked like I was teetering on top of the earth, I think I ended up with my Instagram worthy photo anyway.

Rim of Payson, AZ

Pure, Simple Beauty; In Mountains & Wood Watches

Its no surprise that part of the draw of visiting  Arizona is for it’s mountainous landscape.  It’s rare you’ll find a flat piece of land here, and even if you happen to be in one of it’s few valleys, you’re never far from a spectacular view of peaks in the distance.  Vacationing over from one of the flattest states in the US, these sights were a welcome change from the horizontal grounds we’ve been living in for the past year.

One of the exceptional things about all the ridges and sierras we’ve seen so far is not only how beautiful they are, but how simple they are in their beauty.  There’s nothing flashy or flamboyant about them, yet they are so mesmerizing you can’t take your gaze away.  One of nature’s best canvases unfolded in front of our eyes.  No bells and whistles needed, just pure, simple beauty.

Not only have we noticed this trait about the vistas around us, but also from our new JORD watches.  This is a company we’ve worked with before, who offer unique timepieces made from wood.  Directed at those who lead an experiential lifestyle, this company is all about individuality and a touch of natural elegance and practicality in their products. It’s hard not to find yourself getting lost in the wide series of time keepers offered through their site.

When they contacted us to work with them again, we jumped at the chance.  There’s already been so many compliments to our first set of watches that I couldn’t wait to grow our collection.  This time around, Matt picked the Fieldcrest  in Dark Sandalwood, a choice that he almost went with last year.  Since I’ve recently fallen in love with maple after we’ve begun using it for the counters and floors in the new boat, I selected the Ely Series in Maple.

If both of our watches have one thing in common, along with these astounding mountain views, is they are also pure and simple in their beauty but uncommon enough to make you turn your head with a second glance which turns into a long gaze as you try to pinpoint what it is about it’s simplicity that makes it so fascinating.  The oiled woods themselves are gorgeous and the faces bring your eye in with their intricate markings.

I’ve already begun pairing mine with as many outfits as I can, and whenever Matt slides his up his wrist I can’t help but blurt out, “That looks so good on you”.  I’m sure we’ll receive just as many compliments on our new set of watches, and who knows, maybe we’ll keep our collection going!

Back to our original subject though….  Although it would be almost impossible for me to write posts on all the marvelous sights we took in and stops we’ve made with our time in Arizona, I thought I could at least put together something on our favorite landscapes during our time here, and also sneak in a few photos of our impressive new watches.  Included will be a few tidbits about each stop, although you’ve already read about our first one to Payson.

Rim of Payson, AZ

JORD Fieldcrest & Ely

Another great stop on our visit to Arizona was Sedona.  Famous for it’s notable red sandstone formations, this area is a must see for anyone passing through the state. Taking a run over to Cathedral Rock, one of the most photographed sites in Arizona, we were able to get a wide assortment of amazing photos as Matt and I scaled the steep rock.

I’m saving this destination for a full post, but here’s a few snippets of the day.

Cathedral Rock Sedona

JORD Ely in Sedona

Cathedral Rock Sedona AZ

Cathedral Rock, Sedona

In the middle of the week we took off from the house to view some of the best ‘close to home’ sights.  Things that weren’t more than a 30 minute drive away.  A place I had visited before but wanted to see again was Fountain Hills, just outside of Scottsdale.  Every hour on the hour, there is a  large fountain in the center of a pond that will shoot up 560 feet in the air, the fourth tallest fountain in the world!

Filled with playgrounds for kids and shaded picnic tables for the adults, its a great place to pack a snack and a few drinks to sit and relax before or after the big show.  Or if you stay long enough, you get the chance to see it over and over again.

Fountain Hills, AZ

Fountain Hills, Arizona

On this busy local day of ours, we also made a stop at Saguaro Lake.  Just 20 miles outside of Mesa, this is a reservoir on Salt River that becomes a very popular spot for locals once the temperatures start going up.  We’ve heard that if you try to get in here on a weekend during the summer, there can be a wait of an hour just to find a spot in the parking lot.

Getting a close up look at this lake, we could see why it’s such a popular haunt for anyone looking for time on the water in the middle of this desert.  The water was extremely clear, and dipping a toe into it, was refreshingly cool.  With the impressive mountains that drape as a backdrop, it’s the best of both worlds as you cool off from the heat and take in the bouldered landscape.

Saguaro Lake, AZ

JORD Fieldcrest

Saguaro Lake

The drive home took us back to the outlook we visited our first day here, overlooking the Superstition Mountains.  Because the sun had been in our eyes and blinding us a little during our first visit, we thought we might get  better views by stopping once more in the afternoon.  By this time the sun was resting behind us and highlighting the mountains much better.  We could clearly see Salt River winding in front of us, and fly fishers wading through.

We’d heard that tubing season on the river just opened, and although it was the middle of the week, you could see the stray person here or there floating through the water.  Another great spot to cool oneself in this climate while enjoying breathtaking views. In the distance we could just make out Four Peaks, another recognizable landmark for it’s 4 peaks, which also grace the state’s license plate.

Superstition Mountains, AZ

Four Peaks, AZ

 The last extra local sight we took in was one I had been begging my dad to bring me around to after I’d seen an amazing photo of it online, and that was Red Rock.  Originally he’d told me that there were no good roads leading up to it and the closest you’d actually see it was from the expressway.  Luckily for me, as we were taking a county road home one evening we found a park that offered xx views from just across a small river.

Pulling into the parking lot, we wandered up to the waters edge and caught a few glimpses just as the sun was starting to go down.  This is still one of my favorite sights of the trip, and coming upon this park was a complete act of Serendipity.

Red Rock, AZ

Red Rock, AZ

A special note from JORD, right now they are offering a special $25 e-gift card toward any purchase!  Sign up for yours with just your name and email address here and have yours sent over.  You’d better hurry though, supplies are limited, and once they’re gone, they’re gone!

JORD Ely Maple

airplane over ICW

A Landlubber Vacation

It has been 20 weeks since our last real vacation from boat work, and to say that we were ready for it was the understatement of the century.  Sure, there’s been the random day off here or there. What’s come to be known as ‘Bloody Mary Sunday’ where we spent a day at the marina drinking way too many bloody marys with friends in the work yard and were in bed by 3 pm; the 2 days we took off to head to Miami for our Vineyard Vines photo shoot; and one morning where I put my foot down and told Matt I couldn’t go on anymore without a break, so we watched a marathon of Mad Men in bed instead; but other than that, each day has consisted of some form of work.

Luckily there have been the occasional BBQs at the patio in the evening or different sets of friends stopping by to give us a little nightly entertainment, but otherwise our nose has been to the grindstone as we’ve spent way many more months working on the exterior of Daze Off than we ever thought it would take. WE obtained all of our equipment on to keep safe outdoors and have fun. So when my parents had offered in their last visit to see us in December to host us at their place in Arizona anytime we wanted, we knew it was time to take them up on that offer.

Our flight out of Palm Beach gave us great views of the ICW and coastline out the window, and even a shot at Lake Worth below us where our friends Johannes and Cati were sitting at anchor.  Although we missed our connecting flight to Phoenix and arrived two hours later than we originally anticipated, it was still nice to be able to travel where I could hand over the reigns of getting there, and all I had to do was show up. I still laugh at the people who complain how hard it is to fly somewhere because of connections or having to stand in any number of random lines.  Seriously, try sailing there.  You still have it easier while you’re sitting in a waiting area playing around on your wifi.

airplane over ICW

flying over  Lake Worth

Because of our 1 am arrival to my parents house, we thought our first day would be full of lounging in front of the tv with air conditioning blowing on us, and maybe taking a dip in the pool after drinking a cold beer or two in the afternoon.  Little did we know that my dad had taken a half day off work so he could take us sightseeing.  After hearing a few comments from Matt in the past of “I could never live in a desert, I need something green around me”, I think my parents took the hint on what he might want to see with his time there.

Piling into car, we did make a quick pit stop before our destination de jour to an overlook of the Superstition Mountains that run on the outskirts of where my parents live in Mesa, and the river that winds around them.  We were told about some hiking trails just up the road, and I was determined that at least one day during our stay, Matt and I would get around to seeing them.

Superstition Mountains Mesa AZ

blooming cactus

Superstition Mountains overlook

Superstition Mountains AZ

For the next 90 minutes or so we rode through a mix of expressways and county roads, our elevation changing, and the scenery along with it.  Fields of dust gave way to groups of cacti, which turned into low shrubs, and eventually pine trees. The area we were eventually trying to end up that day was the Mogollon Rim that runs through Payson.  Located at an elevation of 5,000 ft, it’s a popular place for people in the valley to escape the heat and take in some spectacular views while they’re at it.

As soon as we jumped out of the car we noticed the sharp temperature drop, having gone from 80’s back in Mesa to barely hitting 60 degrees here.  As we walked out toward the edge off the rim, turbulent winds came out of hiding and made you second guess every step you took closer to the edge.  The views below were well worth any lack of stability though, and it felt like we were transported to a scene that was more appropriate for South Carolina, but definitely not the Arizona we had been expecting.  My parents definitely hit the mark when they decided to take us here.

Taking a few different trails down to different areas of the rim, I took in every view I could while teetering on top of the large rocks that separated me from the bottom.  At the end of one trail we saw a memorial sign for a pet and I really hoped that someone wasn’t playing an ill located game of fetch with their dog, until my dad mentioned that it may have been the dog’s favorite place to go and not how he died.  It did turn into the running joke of the day though, pretending to throw a ball and then making woofing sounds that slowly died out.

Matt  & Jessica in Payson

Mom & Dad in Payson

Rim of Payson AZ

Taking shelter from the winds we drove further into the park where a small lake was situated.  Strolling the banks of it  for a few minutes, we also decided it was a good time for a small picnic of cheese and wine by the water.  Since it was the middle of the week and also the beginning of camping season, things were rather slow and we had the whole place to ourselves.

lake in Payson park

Matt counting tree rings

Our last stop of the day was an unintended one, but a pleasant surprise to all of us.  My dad had seen something  on TV recently about Tonto Natural Bridge Park, and since we were so close we decided, why not?  Unfortunately we did end up there about an hour before closing, but it still gave us enough time to do a little walking and take in some great sights.

The Tonto Natural Bridge is believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world.  It stands at 400 ft long, 150 ft wide, and 183 ft high.  The first path we took to view it brought us out to the back side of it where you could start to see that a cave was forming, but mostly took in the large amounts of reddish limestone in front of you.  If we thought that was a great view, we had no idea what was waiting for us on the other side.

Retracing our steps back through the parking lot and to the next viewing area, we had no idea that we were in fact walking on the natural bridge until an open grate in the cement showed us the view to the rocks and stream 183 ft below us.  Getting off the bridge and turning a corner onto another path, we were able to look back to where we had just come from.  A lone tree sitting on a lump of soil was hanging precariously over an edge that led to a sheer drop surrounded by jagged limestone on each side.

Tonto Natural Bridge, back side

grate looking to bottom

Tonto Natural Bridge

Tonto Natural Bridge

All for of us stood in awe for a few moments since this had been such an unexpected surprise, and I don’t think any of us knew what to predict from our visit here.  From our perch on the walkway we could see another path at the bottom of the bridge which led right up to the cave, but unfortunately we didn’t have enough time before the park closed to be able to check it out.

Instead, with our remaining time, we decided to quickly check out the waterfall trail right next to where we had parked the car.  It didn’t look like much from the trail head, but as we got deeper into it we quickly began descending steep steps in the dirt that led to lush greenery.  The walk wasn’t very long, and soon we were straightening out and could see a small waterfall in the rocks ahead of us. Again the change in scenery was sudden and unforeseen. Who knew such a diverse geography could be held in such a small area?

Spending just a few minutes taking in the sights, we knew we needed to be out of the park before it closed.  Plus those large couches, air conditioning, and a large dinner from Five Guys was calling our name.  Settling back in the car for the two hour drive home I finally let the toll of the last days travel set in as I fell into the cracks of the cushions and my little travel pillow.  For our first day in, we’d taken in more remarkable sights than I’d been expecting to see during our entire stay.  And since this was only day one, who knew what else awaited us.

dad at the waterfalls

waterfall Tonto Sate Park

Didn’t We Just do This 15 Years Ago?

Monday April 9, 2012

If you caught it in the last post, I had been to Arizona before and on my trip back this year we were going places I’ve never been as well as visiting a few again that I have.  My first time in Arizona was back in 1997 when my family took a vacation here while road tripping through Arizona and California.  While we were in AZ we spent a few days in Tucson doing things like visiting mountains and getting our picture taken in an old time photo shop.  Coming back in 2012 my parents thought it would be fun to recreate those days by going back to Tuscon and doing all those things again.  So only a half a day after we had gotten back from Sedona we piled back into the truck with coolers and snacks loaded up to set off on another two hour ride in the opposite direction from where we had been the day before.

Our first stop of the day once we reached Tucson was Sebino Canyon which has trails to walk and a tram to drive you around when you were tired.  My brother Joe and I did specifically remember this place as it had large rocks over water we had dangled off before,  scaring the hell out of my mom I’m sure.  Changing pace from the cool February weather we had experienced our first time around, this day we were faced with 90 degree heat.  Unloading from the truck we all slathered on sunscreen and had personal water bottles to tote around with us.  We purchased tickets to take the tram to the top where we would then begin our descent on foot, and while waiting for the next tour to leave we took seats under the shade of an arbor while watching little chimpmunk like creatures pop their heads out of little holes and run across the ground almost too quick for you to see them.  By the time our tram rolled up it filled so quickly that we were left with the rows in the second cart, not protected by the sun.  It was already scorching hot and you could tell it by the people who were coming back on foot wearing as little clothing as possible, already drenched in sweat.  Once the tram starting moving though, there was a nice breeze and the friendly tour guide began with an explaination of all the stops along the way where we could get off and get back on with our trusty blue ticket stub and also went into detail about the canyon itself and the flora and fauna around us.  No one in our tour group felt the need  to get off on the way up and we continuted to climb up to the very last stop.  We had passed the infamous rocks along the way and figured we’d ride the tram back down and get off there.

Once we were dropped off at that stop, surprisingly the only ones in the tour group, we filled our water bottles back up at the rest area and made our way down the sandy path to where the rocks met a little pool of water.  After taking the obligatory few photos of the scenery Joe and I started climing the rocks to get back to the same spot for some ‘now and then’ photos.  The first few rocks were small and easy to jump over, but then we came up to one where a minerature stream of water ran between the two rocks to the shallow pool below.  Joe backed up a few steps and took a running leap over to the other side with minimal effort.  I was about to do the same thing when I realized that even tough it was only an 18″ gap, the rock on the other side had a higher elevation than the one I was currently on and I could see myself losing balance and falling 15 feet into 10 inches of water.  So I figured the smartest thing to do would be to take off my Sketchers and wade across the water to step on a slightly level part of the rock on the other side.  Sounded good in theory.  The new issue became, and I realized this as soon as i was in the water, that the water itself made the rocks incredibly slippery and my foot could not get traction while trying to climb up the other side.  Joe, who probably trusts my ‘climbing’ abilities about as much as Matt, instantly thought I was in peril and grabbed my arm to start yanking me up.  I should have just let him pull me all the way up while I dangled limply below and have the ordeal over with, but knowing that I only needed assistance instead of a rescue I started pulling back on my end.  I had only wanted him to steady me while I did get good footing, but each time I would start to slip and then he’d start to yank while I yanked back.  I think at one point I fully twisted around and had to try and twist myself back.  Standing back on the shore my dad knew this wasn’t a serious case of my getting hurt and was just happily snapping pictures of us from the sand, eager to share my embarrassing moment with me which I was probably just as eager to see.  Finally after getting turned back around I told Joe to wait while I put my foot up on a small indent in the rock and then he could yank me up.  This worked and just a few seconds later I was safe and sound again.  To make things worse though, a woman who was on our side of the rock came over to me to show where there was a simple place to hop over on the back side.  Of course there was.

Now that I had made all the effort to get to this particular rock I was ready to sit there in the sun for awhile and relax but everyone else was ready to get moving again.  On the tram ride up we had spotted a nice little sandy beach area next to a bridge we had wanted to see and with all the things on our list to do again, we couldn’t spend too much time in one spot.  Taking the much easier way across the rocks this time I picked up my shoes and we made our way back out to the road and began to make our way down it.  At this point the sky became hazy again which was nice for the heat but terrible for the photos I was trying to take.  Instead of getting beautiful brown and red mountains popping against a blue sky the scenery wasn’t translating through the camera and my pictures were coming out a little dull and uninteresting.  After awhile I gave up and just enjoyed the walk and the chance to be with family.  We were still surrounded by beautiful sights and the memories of when we had done this together 15 years ago.

When we made our way down to the stop that housed the beach it was overcrowed and still overcast.  The little dip in the water we had been looking forward to was no longer needed as much.  We still stopped to rest for a few minutes and made the decision to continue on our way and out of the canyon so we could squeeze in a visit to University of Arizona while we were in the area.  Since we had seen the tram pass us on it’s way up just 10 minutes before and we knew it wouldn’t be back down to pick us up for at least 20 minutes we kept walking down the foothills to meet it at a location closer to the entrance.  When we got to stop 3 we thought we’d stay and wait for the tram since it does not pick up hitchhikers along the road and they are very specific about only picking up and dropping people off at assigned stops.  While waiting to be picked up my mom pointed out where other people who I’m guessing were bored like me started piling up little rocks one on top of the other almost like a marker or memorial.  I figured I had a few minutes to kill and I would make my own art too.  Looking around the area for one of the larger rocks to place on the bottom I found one off to the side and picked it up to move to a flat location.  As soon as I stuck my hand under it a very large brown spider ran out just below my fingertips.  I turned to my dad to asked if there were brown recluse spiders in the area and he replied there were.  No more playing with rocks for me, I did not feel like losing a finger or an arm on this trip.  I was just going to sit my butt on the seat and wait for the tram to pick me up since my scraped up knees already showed that I had enough adventure for the day.

When we got back to the truck Joe took over the GPS and punched in University of Arizona for us to swing by and bascially only visit the bookstore to buy a shirt before leaving.  The monotone voice began directing us out of the park and back on the main road to town.  After traveling a few miles we hit a large traffic jam due to construction and were at a complete standstill.  We could see on the map we’d be taking a left turn a mile up the road so as soon as we got to the next light a few hundred yards ahead we decided to take the turn early.  This did not please GPS lady and she angrily told us she was recalculating.  Taking our new roundabout recalculated way there were plenty of twists and turns as we tried to follow the new directions.  Once it seemed like we were getting into a populated area again the GPS told us to take a right onto a road, and then another right which led us into a housing development.  We were all a little confused wondering if this was campus housing and we were being taken in the back way.  After following the street for a few hundred feet we could tell this definitley wasn’t right but there was no good place to turn around so we kept following the dirctions on the GPS hoping it would lead us back out.  After a few more ‘turn left in 500 feet, turn right in 300 feet’ we were dropped onto a dead end street.  Making our way to the end of the culdesac to turn ourselvles around since we knew it was all wrong the GPS proudly announced to us ‘You have now reached the University of Arizona’.  Apparently classes are now being held at Catalina Foothills Estates 7 in Tucson.  Lesson learned.  Never upset the GPS, it will get back at you.  Choosing a new U of A location on University Drive we made our way to what actually looked like a campus this time.

Finding a 20 minute parking spot by the quad we all hopped out with no real idea of where to go.  Visiting college campuses together before (ASU, Uof NC, and Duke) we knew the bookstore was usually in the center of campus.  We just kept walking to where all the crowds of people seemed to be but still ended up having to ask students for directions.  Walking into the bookstore there were crowds of people seated infront of a large screen with a potium.  It was obvious there was going to be a speaker of some kind but I was too interested in finding who and made my way to the t-shirts to find a new one for Matt.  After browsing the racks and deciding that red was not his color I opted for a dark gray shirt with the wildcat logo.  Forgoing a shirt for myself since the girls collection was pretty dismal I met my parents back at the front where we cashed out and made our way back to the truck before our 20 mintues was up.  All that work just for a shirt.  I was still happy with it though.

The next thing on the agenda for us was to go to Tucson Mountain Park.  This was another place we had visited on our trip out in ’97.  It was filled with steep mountains covered in saguaro cacti with a winding road running through it.  We arrived there in late afternoon and while we didn’t have time to take in a sunset like when we were last here we drove up to a trail head and sat on one of the benches to enjoy the scenery.  This time we were smart and packed beer for the trip so we each pulled out a can while letting the low lying sun wash over us.  (No, alchohol is not permitted in the park, but we’re big time rebels)  When the bottoms of the cans were dry we got back in the truck for our last stop of the day; old time photos and dinner at a steakhouse.  Both were housed together in Trail Dust Town, a cheesey tourist Old Western area.  I personally was excited to play dress up in one of the frilly gowns at watch my dad and Joe get old time mustaches painted on their faces.  Going to reach for the handle on the door we saw a sign with the schedule ‘Closed Mondays’.  I was a little disappointed to say the least and while the four of us were standing there wondering what to do next a couple and their dog came walking up the dirt road to tell us they’re open.  It was the owners and I guess they happened to be out walking their dog at the same time we arrived.  They opened shop and brought all of us inside.

After going through the story that we had been here before and wanted to re-create a memory my mom and I were ushered behind a curtain with all the women’s costume’s while my dad and Joe stayed out in the main area to be fitted for coats and hats – see more at the page.  Behind the curtain were many frilly and lacy dresses, some conservative but also many for ladies of the evening.  This was the route we were taking.  After being shown many options we each picked one out and started changing into our costumes while rolling on fishnet stockings and lacing up black boots.  We were each given a garter, choker necklace and some fancy head gear.  When we stepped out into the shop again we could see the guys were almost fully dressed as well but needed a little extra facial hair drawn on by burning the end of a cork and using the black tip like chalk.  Once we were deemed outlaws and hussies we were let to the set for positioning.  None of us could remember how we were positioned the last time even though we had just looked at the last photo before leaving that morning, so we let the experts put us in a place they thought we’d look best.  They even threw the dog into the mix free of charge.  One of the great things that did change from the last time we were here is they’ve gone digital.  Last time there was only one shot at the photo and if you had your eyes closed or were making a funny face it was too bad for you.  This time they would snap a few pictures, bring us over to the computer where we could see them and then go back to fix things that didn’t look right.  After about eight photos we decided on a winner and went back to change into our 21st century clothes while they boys wiped off their mustaches with baby wipes.

By the time we were presentable to the modern day again they had already printed off our photos and were placing them in cardboard frames for us to take home.  We thanked them for their time and told them hopefully we’d be back in 15 more years, maybe with some little kids in the mix.  The last thing on the agenda for the night was a dinner at a steakhouse right across the dusty trail from the photo studio.  It also had an Old West theme to it and as we were seated at our table I could tell there also must be a theme against wearing a neck tie to the joint because there were cut of ties nailed to all the walls.  Most you could tell were worn by people who knew they would not be leaving the restaurant with it because the ones by our table were some of the tackiest ties I’ve ever seen.  The one by me that took the prize was from the 80’s in an electric blue with hot pink and yellow accents and covered in computers and floppy discs.  Totally radical.  The menu was smaller than I thought it would be, but sticking with the Western theme I ordered a fillet mignon with beans and a glass of red wine.  Ok, the whine should have been whiskey but I didn’t think I could shoot that back.  The food was delicious with a juicy and tender steak and the beans were reminiscent of chili which was even better than the baked beans I was imagining them to be.  It was a great end to a busy day and after spending the last 48 hours of traveling all over the state and taking in so many things I was ready for a more slow paced relaxing day tomorrow.

Sedona….It Used to be Apple Orchards, You Know

Sunday April 8, 2012

It’s a good thing my body was on Michigan time or I would never have been able to force myself out of bed at 6:30 to attend 8:00 Easter mass with my family.  It was supposed to be a really warm day in Mesa, over 90, and by the time we got in the truck at twenty to eight it was already closing in on 70.  Which felt 10 degrees warmer to me and I was immediately loving it there.  The church my parents attend is very large and can get quite crowded between the months of October through April when all the snow birds are in town.  We were put into an overflow chapel and somehow snagged the last four seats together in the back.  I was relieved to see the overflow chapel did not have pews and I wouldn’t have to spend half the service kneeling.  In the seats directly in front of us was a family with an adorable baby girl that had some of the best bedhead I’ve ever seen.  Throughout the service she’d look back at us and giggle and coo.  Just in front of her was a baby boy that was trying to out-cute her, and a battle of the cuteness ensued for about 20 minutes before bedhead girl won with a few sneezes.

When service was let out we all rushed home to change into more comfortable clothes and get ready for a day trip to Sedona.  Packing coolers with pop and water we got back in the truck for the two hour drive north.  My parents had used their timeshare up there the year before and told us there were too many beautiful sights to miss out on while we were so close.  Even though I’d been to Arizona before I’d never been to that area so weeks before I even left I’d Google images and look at the large red rocks that seemed to glow in the sun.  As we were making the drive I kept waiting for us to come up on these large mountainous rocks but all I could see out my window were dirt hills covered with with bushes and a few cacti.  Even without the awe inspiring views out the window we were still enjoying the drive with my dad’s GPS, watching the elevation climb higher and higher until we were in the 4,000 ft range.  I was getting worried as we were taking expressway signs into Sedona and I was still not seeing the red rocks out my window but my dad who seemed to be reading my mind mentioned that you didn’t come upon them until you were just a mile or two away.  Sure enough we turned a corner and all you could see were the giant red rocks I had been waiting for against a blue sky, looking just like a scene from a Western movie.

Our first stop of the day was a hiking trail my parents had found when they were visiting before.  I changed from my comfy Toms into sneakers and put on a hat to protect myself from the desert sun.  Although Sedona is usually 10-15 degrees cooler than Mesa due to the elevation, the 75 degrees that was reading as the outside temperature felt like it was 90 once we stepped out into it.  There was not a breath of wind around.  I had a feeling we wouldn’t be walking around for too long with all the other plans we had for the day and didn’t bother to take a bottle of water with me even though I could tell I would be getting thirsty before too long.  As the four of us crossed the uneven dirt road that brought us here onto the burnt red path of soil and sand beneath us there were instantly rocks and hills to start climbing up and around.  Nothing strenuous but enough to keep a klutz like me eyeing every step of the path ahead.  There were little trail markers of rocks filled inside chicken wire and I could see why because it was not always obvious where the trail was going.  We ventured off it a little bit to climb a large flat rock and get some good pictures of the scenery.  I would have loved to have the whole day to spend on these trails alone walking around and discovering new things.  One of my favorite things to do at home with Matt is just hike through woods and trails for hours with no destination in mind.  Back on the trails in Sedona, with the heat of the day coming upon us now and so many other things to see  we turned back around after making it a half mile into the trail, seeing the gorgeous sights that surrounded us and getting all of our pretty pictures.

Getting back out to civilization there were a few other sights to see before we got into the heart of Sedona.  First we stopped at Bell Rock but just got out in the parking lot to take a few pictures instead of doing any hiking in that area.  When we were driving past the other side though you could see the little white t-shirts of people who were making the climb.  Again I was a little jealous of these people who were able to make the climb up the immense rock,  but I know I have a ton of that coming up in my future in many exotic locations so I can’t complain.  Our last stop before lunch was a Frank Llyod Wright structure called Chapel of the Holy Cross and it’s built right into the rock on a Sedona hill.  As we came up on it from the road I was surprised to see how small it was.  I guess I was expecting some large wandering cathedral, but what I saw was just a small simple structure. As we drove up the winding road through the crowds we found a parking spot near the top and walked the rest of the way up.  I don’t know if it was always busy here or if it was because it was Easter, but most of the crowds were on the outside walkway and we were able to sneak inside to sit on the pews and look around.  The chapel itself, from what I could see, had pews lined against each wall on the inside and then 6-8 rows through the middle with an aisle in between.  At the front was where the priest would stand to give service, and right behind there were the large floor to ceiling windows overlooking the rocks in the background.  Going back outside we squeezed our way into an open spot for some photos of the family and the views surrounding us.  Just below the chapel on the main road to get in was Nicholas Cage’s Sedona home (one of the ones that didn’t foreclose, I think) sticking out like a sore thumb.  It was large and gaudy and didn’t fit into the landscape at all.  Plus there would be absolutely no privacy there at all.  From where we were standing you could see his whole yard plus the pool and decks.  If I had that kind of money it wouldn’t be my first choice of homes, but I guess when you have so many you can give up little luxuries like privacy at one of them.

Getting back in the truck the four of us were starving and ready to get lunch.  Acting as tour guides my parents brought us to a restaurant which I’m assuming is pretty famous in the area, The Coffee Pot.  It’s located near a rock formation shaped like a percolator and has 101 omelettes on their menu.  We walked in about five minutes to two, happy to see it wasn’t overflowing with an Easter brunch crowd.  Sitting down my dad asked the hostess what time they closed and she replied, “2:00.  So don’t worry, you just made it”.  All of us felt terrible for walking in just before close and making a poor server stay about 45 minutes later because of us, but we were all so hungry and the food sounded so good that we couldn’t bring ourselves to leave.  Looking at the menu I knew I couldn’t visit a place like this and not choose one of their 101 omelettes so I started scanning the list as quick as possible so we could get our food order in right away.  There were many appetizing options and part of me was craving just a good old Western or Veggie omelette but at the same time I wanted to choose some crazy combination that I knew they didn’t serve back at home.  With a few really good options narrowed down with choices of crab, avocado, and zucchini among them (not all together), when the server stopped by to take our order I went with number 64, the cream cheese, sliced ham and asparagus omelette.  Since we were practically the only people in the restaurant our food came up within minutes and I started scarfing it down like there was no tomorrow.  In addition to the omelette itself I also had a side of cottage cheese and a biscuit so I didn’t get too far and there were some to-go boxes being passed out at the end of the meal.  While having lunch there I’d totally forgotten that I told my friend back home I’d send her pictures of the mountain views and before I could forget I made sure to snap this photo for her.

I’m such a smart ass

So many omelettes!!

After our delicious lunch we began to head back to town as the next thing on our agenda was to take a Jeep tour through areas not well accessible in regular vehicles.  We had a flyer printed out for Pink Jeep tours and went to look for a parking spot near their shop on the main strip.  It was a popular day to be out there and all the street spots were taken.  Trying the public parking lots there we also had no luck and were forced to park on the street a few blocks away.  Walking back to the main strip we were weaving through little shops trying to find our way to Pink Jeep.  Once spit out on the main street we were directly across from Red Rock Jeep Tours, the people my parents had used when they were here before.  They hadn’t wanted to take the same tour as they did last year which is why we were headed to Pink Jeep, but we decided to walk in and see what else they offered.  While my parents had gone on a very bumpy off road 4×4 kind of trail before we found another one that would bring us through Dry Creek Basin and to and old cabin used to make moonshine in the 1800s.  That tour was leaving within 10 minutes so we all stuck by the door until our guide came to get us.  His name was Larry and he was very friendly and outgoing.  He led us back to their parking lot along with another couple from Pittsburgh.  We climbed in the back and buckled ourselves in as Larry had us all introduce ourselves and he began to describe the areas we were about to see.  Pulling out onto the strip he made his way up some side streets to a residential area and began the tour with a history of the area.  He explained that what was around us were not actually mountains and asked if anyone knew what they were.  I replied ‘rock formations’ which was correct.  Gold star for me!  Then he started speaking about flat topped rock formations called mesas and asked if anyone knew how they got their name.  I answered that mesa was the Spanish word for table.  Right again!  (Thank you, Spanish Behind the Wheel)  Just as I was feeling like I was on a game show where I might win a prize he continued on pointing out different rock formations and how they got their names, usually because of the shapes they formed.  There was ‘Coffee Pot, Elephant, Snoopy’, and many more that I can’t remember.  Larry then began to tell us the history of Sedona, how it was named after the founder’s wife’s middle name and how all this area around us used to be apple orchards.  Leaving the residential area he had brought us to see these rocks formations we drove down the strip to another road and began to go up it while Larry told us he was taking us to an airport on top of a Mesa.  We stayed up there in the Jeep for a minute before heading down again and then going to another street that housed the library so he could show us a statue of Mrs. Sedona Schnebly.

At this point I was beginning to wonder why we had just dropped so much money to travel roads that were open to the public and we’d have no problem getting to when Larry turned to us and said that we were his last tour of the day before his weekend and he was giving us an additional tour on top of what everyone else got to see.  It was at this time we pulled into an area with rocky roads leading back to more rock formations through 4×4 trails.  Finally.  We bumped along the roads and made our way further from civilization.  The sun had ducked behind some clouds which made for  comfortable temperatures but was also hiding some of the brilliant colors of the red rocks.  We came up to an area called Devil’s Bridge which was a little walk from the main trail and sounded very interesting, but we kept plugging along after getting a little narrative on it.  We headed deeper and deeper into the creek, aiming for Van Derin Cabin.  We were told this is a place where moonshine used to be made until the moonshiner was gunned down.  Then it became the residence of the Van Derin’s who expanded to make two rooms under one roof with a breezeway, and raised their five kids.  Even though it is surrounded by private land (and a golf course in the middle of nowhere that I believe went bankrupt), the cabin is now property of the State Forest.  It was used to make a few Western movies, including ‘Blood on the Moon’ back in 1948.  Getting up to the cabin from the trail we did get good use out of the Jeep as it was literally climbing up rocks and not a trail.  Once there we got out to do a little walking around and tour the two room cabin.  It was interesting to see how people used to survive normally back then.   The cabin was two rooms around 10×15 ft and had dirt floors.  That was it.   I’m sure it would have looked slightly different back when it was being lived in, but to me it didn’t look like much of a step up from living in a cave.  Ahhhh, frontier days.  Ignorantly blissful for those who didn’t know any better.

Loading everyone into the Jeep again we began to take the trail back to the main road.  When we were getting to the spot where the knotted and gnarly pine trees were sitting and Larry had described many people believed it was due to a mystical vortex in the area, I received a sudden and sharp shock on my collar bone.  No bug that had pelted me through the lack of windows and nothing touching the area except my shirt.  Guess I was touched by the vortex.  When we were back on pavement Larry took us by the Beverly Hills area of Sedona and showed us the gated communities while rattling off all the celebrities who had homes there and which ones you might find wandering around town.  We were dropped back off in the parking lot around 5:30, making for a two and a half hour tour when it was only supposed to be two.  It wasn’t quite the thrill ride of off roading that my parents experienced on their first tour without us, but that’s not what this one was meant for and I really enjoyed the steady pace through the trails and the history of what was surrounding us.  Not that I would have turned down a few minutes of climbing up more rocks at 60 degree angles or gunning it and flying down 10 foot cliffs though.  I don’t think the tours actually do that second part….but they do have Jeeps to rent out!

With our last hour of sunlight the four of us made our way across the street to sit in an outdoor patio area to enjoy a drink and relax.  While my mom and brother enjoyed beers, my dad and I got a glass of red wine which I didn’t know why I did since we weren’t staying for dinner because I’ve been known to take two hours to drink one glass at home.  Red that is, white and blush go down much quicker.  We reflected on the day and talked a little bit about our plans for the next day, a trip down to Tucson.  This is another place my parents had spent a day or two at visiting in the past few years but more importantly it was a place the four of us had visited back in 1997 on a road trip through the southwest.  We were going to recreate our trip there by visiting Sebino Canyon, Tucson Mountain Park, and even getting our picture taken in an Old West photo shop.  Once our drinks were done (and yes, I did have to chug the last half of my glass) we piled in the truck for the ride home and just like when I was ten years old I layed my head on a pillow while sprawled out in the backseat bundled under a jacket and slept the car ride home.  Some things never change.

Mama I’m Coming Home

Saturday April 7, 2012

Since the only time I get to see my parents is the one time a year they fly into Michigan to visit family and friends, I didn’t want to leave on a four year journey without squeezing in a little quality time with them.  My brother and I made plans to fly out and visit while Matt unfortunately stayed behind to work.  My brother had flown out from Detroit the night before me and I was supposed to arrive the next afternoon around 3:30 with plenty of time in the day to still lounge by the pool with a drink in my hand.

Getting dropped off at the airport by Chris and Jack I was checked in at the counter within 15 minutes and still had over an hour to occupy my time before the flight left.  Knowing I didn’t want to quarantine myself to the terminal just yet I visited the Pizza Hut counter to get a fountain drink and sat among the large array of tables to get some writing done.  30 minutes later I grabbed my purse and carry-on to make my way through security as I spent a few extra dollars on my ticket for an assigned seat and they made sure to tell you that if you’re not to your gate 45 minutes before departure you could forfeit that assigned seat.  As I walked to the end of the terminal I could see our gate was quite crowded and my chances of not having anyone sit next to me were getting slimmer.  Still having those 45 minutes before our plane was supposed to depart I plopped down in an empty seat and pulled out my e-reader to keep myself busy.  Scrolling through all the new books Matt and downloaded I was hoping Tina Fey’s ‘Bossy Pants’ was on there, but it hadn’t made it so I settled on a blog-type book from Jeremy Clarkson (Top Gear) and began reading stories about how he dropped a bomb (literally) on North Carolina and how British women don’t fit into the fashion or social scene of the Caribbean.

Before I knew it they were boarding the plane and I took my window seat while wondering what kind of over-talkative cat lady they were going to sit next to me.  When the open seating began I was thankful when a family of four came to my row where the wife and two daughters took the seats across the aisle and the husband took the empty seat next to me where I knew he’d be too preoccupied with his family to talk my ear off the whole flight.  There was however a six year old ginger kid that took a seat in front of me and was so excited to go see his grandma that he couldn’t stop talking about it.  I remember what it’s like to be that young and that excited about something but after the week I’d just had at work I didn’t want to slap on a smile and talk to anyone unless I personally knew them.  I was waiting for the point where we were high enough in the air that electronics were allowed and I could pop in my earbuds and drown out the world for the next four hours.  Just as I thought we were about to start moving since the doors were closed and everyone was seated there was and announcement that came on overhead.  “Ladies and Gentleman, this is your Captain speaking.  We appear to have an issue where our fuel tanks were overfilled and extra fuel has spilled on the tarmac.  We need to have this cleaned before we can start moving, and my previous experience with this has seen it take an hour or two so we’re going to offload you from the plane so you can be more comfortable while we take care of this”.  The attendants instructed us to collect all our belongings, that we couldn’t leave anything behind, and that we also could not go past the security point without having to buy another ticket to get back on the plane.  Everyone deboarded pretty quickly and after checking with an attendant that there would be an overhead announcement when they were reboarding so I wouldn’t have to be glued to our gate I grabbed my bags and started heading down the terminal.  Treating myself to Starbucks was out since that was past the security point but I was able to buy a 20 oz Pepsi for $2.79 and take a seat at an empty gate and start reading more stories from And Another Thing: The World According to Clarkson.

There were a few people I recognized from my flight sitting at this less crowded gate so I wasn’t worried it would leave without me.  One by one they left and went back to the gate our flight was leaving from but there had still not been an overhead announcement.  When they finally did call it over the speakers there was only me and one guy left and as we made our way to the gate we found the area was already empty.  Apparently they had already reloaded everyone that was standing around before calling it on the speakers.  I was glad I would not have to wait in a line again while boarding but was worried people would not have stuck to their original seats and mine would be gone.  Hurrying to the back of the plane where I had originally been sitting I found my seat open and the same family of four sitting next to me.  Phew.  Everything went much quicker this time as they were able to close the doors just after I had gotten on and everyone else was already seated.  I overheard a conversation the man next to me was having with his wife about how scared she is of flying and had her hold her hand out to see how steady it was.  Of course it was not at all steady but he assured her that everything would be fine.  I thought about chirping in with the ‘You’re more likely to get into an accident on the way to the airport’ comment but decided to keep it to myself.  We started rolling backward on the tarmac and ever excited ginger kid started talking non-stop.  “Are we moving yet?  When are we going to take off?  How fast will we be going?  When are we going to get there?”  The poor kid was also only making matters worse for the anxiety ridden woman next to me once we got off the ground by turning to his dad and saying “Are we falling?  It feels like we’re falling.  It feels like the plane is going down”.  We were definitely not going down, but that did not make her feel any better.

We landed at the Phoenix-Mesa airport two hours behind schedule where my family was waiting to pick me up.  There were hugs all around as I hadn’t seen my parents since on the boat Labor Day.  Muscling through the crowds my brother grabbed my bag from the carousel and we were quickly loaded in the truck for the short drive to my parent’s place.  It was a nice sunny evening in the low 80’s, and as soon as I dropped my bags off in my room we all made our way out to the patio to catch up over wine and beer.  I love that with my family we can pick up like it was just yesterday we last saw each other.  We stayed out until the sun started going down about an hour later and my dad realized he needed to get the steaks on the grill before it was too dark to see.  a little later we sat down to a family dinner with just the four of us, which probably hasn’t happened in almost 10 years since if I were there then Matt was always there too.  By the time dinner ended I was already getting a little tired and with the three hour time difference I was still on Michigan time where it was close to 11:00.

We weren’t ready to call it a night yet as my mom had bought an old VHS copy of Captain Ron for all of us to watch together.  After getting into comfy pajama clothes I took a seat next to my brother on the couch.  We laughed at all the classic and hilarious lines from the movie and I took note to try and find out where their starting location of ‘Saint Potato’ was.  When the movie had finished I was more than ready for bed.  I had only been up for 17 hours at this point, but after all the traveling and delays and excited talkative kids it felt like 30.