Saturday, after a refreshing sleep the night before, was slated to be my day to discover Northern Arizona and the Sedona area. I had mapped out a route that I intended to follow using Forest Service roads the entire way between Williams and Sedona, so I set out early. I checked out, scarfed down some bread and fruit, and then took off.
Less than 2 miles from the hotel, the road turned to gravel. It was a very weird gravel, dark red in color, not at all like the grey limestone that is used in our neck of the woods. It seemed to track very well, not liking the normal ball bearing feel I'm used to. I REALLY wish I had my motorcycle today! I made it about 18 miles down the road before started to get very rutted and rocky. I was forced to turn around before I ripped the oil pan out from under the rental car. I'm not sure if I was on Forest Service land or BLM land, but it was a different setup than I am used to. Near where we live, the FS lands (the BLM has no/little East Coast presence) are all seperate lands that were gathered up with old roads, usually on a geologically segregated piece of land. Here, there were actually houses, pastures, farm land, tree farms, etc, that used the FS roads as driveway connectors. There were houses that I passed that were probably 10 miles from pavement. To my eastern seaboard mind, that is a LOT. It's really quite neat, I think it would be great to own some property like that, off the grid.
So, after I turned back, I wound my back North toward Flagstaff and ended up jumping on the interstate. I was a bit bumped by this, but I was not in an area I knew, still don't quite trust my GPS software on my phone, and didn't want to run into any problems. I jumped off the interstate just South of Flagstaff, heading down AZ-89 toward Sedona. This was an AWESOME road, reminding me of the twisty mountain roads in the Smokies, but with more elevation change. It was here that I began to spy the Red Rocks.
I stopped a few times on the way into Sedona to snap some more pictures, and then parked to check out the "strip" in town. The touristy area reminded me very much of a smaller, hotter Gatlinburg. It was all the usual touristy stuff. I think I went into one shop that was selling minerals, left unimpressed, and then walked back up the street. Not much for me here. I had been advised that taking a tour around Sedona was the best way to experience all that it had to offer. I was interested in an ATV tour, but they were a little more pricey than I hoped. There were also several Jeep tours available, but then I saw it. Helicopter tours! It took some deciding before I settled on it for sure, but I've owned a Jeep in the past, never a helicopter. I drove up to the airport and signed up.
It was GREAT! So many very cool pictures, a really great experience, I can't wait to take another helicopter ride. I loved it! The company also does bi-plane tours, I would love to do that with Karen some day. Very cool stuff! The pilot was quite knowledgeable about the area, pointing out tons of cool rock formations, telling stories, etc. Completely worth every dime.
After my helicopter flight, I wound my way down from the Mesa and found myself at ChocolaTree Organic Eatery for lunch. The place had my kind of vibe to it, and it was nice and relaxing inside. I had the soft tacos, they were quite tasty and very filling! I got an order of vegan banana bread to go, and ate it on my drive south later.
I took an indirect route back to the Interstate, but eventually was forced to decide between getting on the interstate, or driving 70 miles further to avoid it. I wanted to avoid it, but I didn't want to drive for nearly 2 more hours to do so. I jumped onto I-17 and worked my way toward Carefree for the night. I was staying at the Carefree Resort after booking a great rate on Hotwire.com. I got there in the late afternoon and decided to take a nap before heading out for the night. I watched some TV (finally watching enough of a James Bond movie to think that I might like it), and then feel asleep.
For dinner, I drove back South to Scottsdale, and found myself at Fresh Mint. I had the WONDERFUL vegetable citrus spare rib. It was great, one of the best meals I've had for a while. So good, makes me drool thinking about it! After dinner, I started back toward my hotel. It seemed a little lame to be going back at 8:00pm on a Saturday night, but in a quick search for something fun to do, I did not turn up much that looked great to me. In the desert, it almost seems like everyone just crawls home as the sun goes down. I often felt like no one was out, even during the busy part of the day. So strange.
When I got back to the hotel, a pool party was in full swing, but I didn't bring swim trunks, so I went up to my room. The music from the party was quite loud, but at around 9, they turned it down finally. I was able to get a great sleep in the huge comfortable bed.
More pictures from today can be found here.