Wednesday, February 27, 2013

I'm NOT a Jeep!

“I’m NOT a jeep,” said, Red.  “Get me out of here!”  I guess to understand this statement we have to go back a bit.  Back to our decision to visit an ancient Indian cliff dwelling called Palatki.  We had heard that this was a cool place to visit and only 12 miles out of town.  You have to have reservations to visit so we called and were told that it took 45 minutes to get there.  Huh?  12 miles…45 minutes?

Following directions we drove 5 miles west on 89A and turned north on FR525.  Turns out FR means Fire Road…and it’s barely passable in a car…as shown on the sign.  However, we had Red so we figured we could handle the 7 miles of FR525.  Well, we did….but it was so rough we could barely drive 10 miles an hour.  We were SO relieved to finally get to the site!
Animal Paintings
Once there, we went up a path to where there were lots of ancient cave paintings, dating back to the Archaic Age.  Amazing!  Animals, families, sun markings used to track the seasons…just amazing!
Then we visited the cliff dwellings.  Tucked up high into an alcove in the mountain, they were impossible to see unless you knew they were there…and tough even then.  There were one story and two story homes built into the side of the mountain using stone, mud and sticks.  There are hundreds, if not thousands, of these in the Verde Valley, but this one is one of the easiest to visit.

Palatki Ruins
We came back down the steep mountain path and learned that there was a sister site, Honanki, only four miles away.  We hopped into Red and headed west.  Wonderful scenery at every turn, but unfortunately, the road kept getting worse and worse.  5 mph was the maximum we could do and we were really pushing our luck.  Finally, about three miles in, Red cried out, “I’m not a Jeep!”  We had to agree and did a three point turn to head back.  Even so, it took an hour to get back to a hard road.  Just glad we did with all parts still on Red!

We celebrated Red’s survival with dinner at a restaurant in a nearby square, Tlaquepaque.  (Try saying that three times!)  We then headed back to our resort to watch the Academy Awards.  Yay, for Jennifer Lawrence and Daniel Day Lewis….and Argo!

Next day was Mona’s birthday.  This year she opted for simply a birthday, not a birthweek, nor a birthmonth.  Much easier to work with! 

Mona gets her xylophone on!
All over uptown Sedona they have big xylophones for anyone to play.  That means you're always hearing these ethereal tones as you walk around town.  Very cool!

We visited a museum that highlighted all the movies that had been made here.  Mona is a movie-geek so this was a big deal for her!  We then had lunch at a place where we got to watch a pair of golden eagles soar on thermals around the Snoopy rock formation.  Very cool!  (Snoopy is a rock formation that looks like Snoopy lying on his back on his doghouse.)

Next up was a visit to the Sedona International Film Festival.  We just stumbled into this one.  People from all over the world are here to attend this festival.  Our showing tonight was “The Announcement” which is about Magic Johnson’s AIDS story and how he’s helped lead the charge in fighting AIDS. 

Watching a film festival film is a little different from watching a movie at a local Cineplex.  First off, when you enter the theater there is a two piece ensemble playing music.  Yep, a guitar playing singer and an accompanying harpist.  Then a gentleman comes on stage to give an overview of the film and introduce the “film introducer”.  Turns out he’s the US delegate to the UN in charge of leading the war against AIDS.  He gives another overview and it’s time for the film. Just a bit different from the Avon at Decatur.

“The Annoucement” is amazing….very informative and very moving.  Huge applause when it finishes.  Then, they bring bar stools onto the stage and the panel assembles.  The panel includes AIDS activists from all over the world, including Nelson Mandella’s grandson.  They discuss the film, the AIDS crisis and the real-life impact of the disease.  We don’t do this at the Carmike in Decatur, either! 
Yes, we're going up there!

We’ve already bought tickets for another film.  Can’t wait!

Finished off Mona’s birthday at a French restaurant at Tlaquepaque….Rene’s.  Great service, great ambiance, great food and a wonderful way to celebrate a birthday!

Mountain Woman
On Wednesday, we tackled another trail, this time going up to the base of the Coffee Pot Rock.  This trail had lots of switchbacks and opportunities to slip and fall a long long way.  Luckily, no falls and we celebrated by enjoying the vistas of the Verde Valley before turning back and working our way back down.
We finished off our day with a Jeep tour.  We shared the open air Jeep with two other couples and went for a wild ride in the back country.  We actually ended up at the Honanki ruins, where we had tried to take Red just a few days before.  The return trip to town was during sunset, so we got treated to views of the rock formations “glowing” in the setting sun.

Note to diary:  Day 5 of Mona dealing with poor cell reception, E coverage if any, and extremely poor WiFi (Even Starbucks doesn’t have WiFi!)  The situation is tense at best.  I’m beginning to fear for my electronics’ safety.  I’m afraid she’s going to cannibalize them to build a huge receiving antenna.  Someone....anyone, P L E A S E send 4G!

Sunday, February 24, 2013


Flowers & Snow
We drove down Oak Creek Canyon Road from Flagstaff to Sedona.  It’s a beautiful drive anytime, but even more so after the snow.  Made it a little more harrowing because of snow falling from the mountainside and overhanging branches, but still an incredible drive.

Staying at the Sedona Summit Resort.  Great views of the surrounding red rocks everywhere you look.  Loving this place!

Our first foray was to the Chamber of Commerce to learn about the trails and conditions.  Mona, as usual, made a friend…Tom.  He gave us some great tips on trails and suggestions on places to eat.  Then we walked/shopped though Sedona.  Lots of opportunities to spend money and have fun.  Resisted them…at least most of them…and headed back to our resort to rest up and prepare for our first hike.

Buddha Stack in Oak Creek
Road to Trailhead
Our first hike was the Baldwin Trail to the Cathedral Trail so we’d get a great view of Cathedral Rock.  About two miles in we came to our first vortex.  A vortex is where there is a concentration of energy; some say magnetic, some say electric, some say a concentration of sub-atomic strings of particles that exist in ten dimensions.  Whatever…these are revered spots throughout the area that people visit to meditate, perform yoga, visit aliens, or commune with their gods. 

This particular vortex is below Cathedral Rock on Oak Creek.  Here many build Buddha stacks to help them connect to the energy source.  These little cairns of rocks are everywhere.  We love this spot so we built our own little stack and stayed here for some time…eating our lunch and just enjoying the sounds and energy.  What an incredible place!!!!

We continued our trek…seeing great views of the rocks and the flora.  These trails take you through some very tough terrain, but incredibly you keep meeting up with people bicycling on the trails.  Can’t imagine doing that!!!  There are deep canyons on either side of the trail and lots and lots of cactus everywhere.  Not much room for error!

Cathedral Rock
We finished up our hike to Red Rock Crossing…where you get an iconic view of Cathedral Rock…one of the most photographed sites in the Southwest and seen in many Western Movies. 

Finished our day with antipasti in Cucina Rustica with its starlight dining room ceiling.  Awesome place!

Time for bed to re-energize for tomorrow.  May need another vortex fix!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Headed West

Last Wednesday we packed our bags, loaded up Red and headed west again.  This time our primary goal is Sedona, Arizona.  We only got a taste of it the last time and we decided we needed to spend some quality time there.

But of course, part of the destination is the journey.  Our journey began early with hopes of reaching Oklahoma City prior to the winter storm” Q”.  About four hours outside of OKC we started getting a little freezing precipitation, but not bad.  Luckily, we hit town about 3:30 and we even got to visit the Cattlemen’s Steakhouse for a late late breakfast before the storm hit.

Next morning we woke up to the sound of strong winds and ice pellets crashing against our window.  We had breakfast downstairs and debated as to what route to take and when to take it.  Ultimately we stayed with our original plans…I40 to Albuquerque; however, we delayed our start time by an hour until 8:00.
We hit the roads and almost immediately began to doubt our decision.  Lots of cars off the roads.  We were counting them, but quickly lost track as we wanted to expend most of our concentration on the icy road.  Ice, snow, rain, sleet….all kept coming at us.  Sometimes we could drive 60. Other times 30 seemed way too fast!

About 30 miles east of Amarillo, Texas we saw several state trooper vehicles flagging down traffic.  They rerouted us to a little road alongside the highway.  We soon saw miles and miles of stopped vehicles.  Ahead of them was a huge accident…we counted twelve semis that were jackknifed or crashed and there were cars all over.  So glad we had decided on our delay!  (No serious injuries were reported from this accident!)
Once we hit Amarillo we were in the clear.  Cranked Red up to 75 and soared!  Soon we started seeing mesas and the beautiful scenery of New Mexico.

Bronzed T Rex
Last year I wanted to stop at one of the many dinosaur museums that are scattered through the west.  This trip we decided to stop…at Mesalands Community College's Dinosaur Museum.  Mesaland’s Community College specializes in two things: paleontology and bronze works.  They’ve combined those two skillsets to create the largest collection of bronzed dinosaur bones and skeletons in the world.  Truly amazing….and so much more!  They have artifacts from all over the world and they do a great job of giving the history of the dinosaurs while at the same time, letting you have fun.  You even get to touch some of the bones.  Where else have you done that!!??
Finally hit our destination for the night:  Albuquerque.  Mona was driving and I was navigating…a perfect combination to fulfill a life-long dream.  “Turn left,” I said.  Mona obliged.  “Damn, “ I said, “We should have turned right.”  “Do you know what we just did?....we made a wrong turn in Albuquerque!”  I was thrilled…..Mona was….well, not.

Stayed in a little hotel just a few blocks from Old Town.  Walked there, did a little geocaching, had a New Mexican dinner and we were ready to call it a night!  Time to rest up for tomorrow!