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October 10, 2005

Roadtrip '05 - Day One - Phoenix

The trip to Arizona began inauspiciously enough. Trina and I awoke on time, got out of my apartment on time, but then we hit every. single. traffic light. on the way to Tampa International Airport. We parked in the remote economy lot ($42 a week!) and then caught the shuttle bus to the terminal.

Frontier Airlines ticket counter - mostly deserted. There was a family in front of us - dad, toddler, mom with a baby strapped to her chest like some sort of maternal terrorist bomber, and a yellow labrador retriever in a gigantic crate - lugging a huge cart full of suitcases to Denver.

A very strange older women wearing too little in the way of clothing - tank tops are not for 60 year olds - approached Trina and asked if she (the woman) was "standing in the right line." Trina's response was something along the lines of "how should I know?" It was before 8 a.m., the woman was odd - crankiness can be excused.

We got our boarding passes, trudged out to the gate, and flew from Tampa to Denver, Colorado. I had the window seat; Trina lucked out (heh) and sat in the middle seat beside a kindly old grandmother that would not leave her alone. This is why I feign sleep on flights - so I don't have to make conversation if I don't want to.

The grandmother liked Trina so much that she gave her a hug when we deplaned in Denver.

After a 45-minute layover (during which time I bought a Colorado magnet), we were on our way to Phoenix. That leg of the journey was nondescript. We landed, grabbed our bags, then hoofed it over to the Dollar Rent-a-Car desk to pick up our sweet little convertible.

*screeching car brake noises*

Except Dollar didn't have our convertible. The unhelpful counter boy offered to give us a PT Cruiser convertible. I glared at him, knowing there's no way we'd be able to fit both bags in the trunk of a PT Cruiser convertible. I wanted my Chrysler Sebring convertible, dammit! Sadly, the unsightly counter boy had given it to the last customer, despite our having a reservation for it.

Much glaring ensued. In response to the glaring, the unholy counter boy ran over to the Avis counter to ask if they had any convertibles available (they did) and would they match the quoted price we had from Dollar (they would).

So Avis hooked us up with (what we thought was) a sweet li'l Chrysler Sebring convertible. The Avis shuttle bus picked up outside the terminal, so we hauled ass outside to wait.

Now, let's talk about heat. People always say that Phoenix is a "dry heat," as if the temperature being in the triple digits is an afterthought. Dry heat doesn't feel as hot, they say.


It was mothrafocking HOT in Phoenix. I wanted to drop to the ground and make sizzling noises, that's how hot it was. And it felt every bit the 101 degrees that it was. The only difference between Phoenix heat and Florida heat is that in Florida, you steam. In Phoenix, you roast.

Two different cooking methods, but they're both still damn hot.

We got out to the Avis lot and picked up the car. It was a two-door Sebring in a charcoal gray color. Very pretty. And it would have been a very nice car except for the fact that we thought we were getting a FOUR door. The trunk of the two door? Not big enough to hold both suitcases.

I shoved my bag in the practically nonexistent back seat. Within minutes we had figured out how to lower the top on the Sebring (despite having no owner's manual to consult - Trina and I are just that smart), but it was TOO FREAKING HOT to actually leave it down.

So then, we're off! To drive through beautiful downtown Phoenix. I think we were on the 202 loop. Or maybe it was the 101 loop. Regardless, we were heading towards Scottsdale, because we had a 4 p.m. tour to catch at Frank Lloyd Wright's winter home, Taliesin West.

But it was only 2 p.m., and we were starving (we had not had lunch), so we whipped open the AAA Tour Book and picked a restaurant near Taliesin West called NoRTH. It was billed as "contemporary Italian" and we found it in an upscale little shopping center (the name of which I cannot remember). We sat, and were served by Dan. Dan is now my best friend (you'll see why in a minute).

We both had sandwiches. Trina ordered the grilled flank steak, and I choose the flattened chicken with smoked provalone and sauteed spinach. They were huge, and amazingly good. But the best part of lunch was this side salad that came with the order - it was a cold salad made of couscous, golden raisins, a spicy-sweet vinaigrette, and some other ingredient that neither Trina nor I could place. We asked Dan what it was - turns out it was figs.

FIGS. I ate figs, and liked it. I also ate golden raisins - I hate raisins - and liked them, too. This side dish was that good. There was also a side of cold roasted veggies tossed in another vinaigrette, which was a shade less outstanding than the couscous dish, but still excellent.

I cleaned my plate. As I said - starving. Then I asked Dan if he knew where the nearest Target was located. I explained that we were on a roadtrip and needed some supplies (bottled water, snacks, candy). Dan said "one minute" and ran off. I assumed he was going to go ask one of the girl waitresses where the Target was - we girls always know exactly where the nearest Target is. Instead, Dan came back with a piece of paper and a pen and proceeded to draw me a map that showed how to get to Target.

I love you, Dan!

We settled the check, Dan invited us to stop in and see him on our way out of the state (which we didn't do), and then we were off. Well, first we went across the street to a two-story Barnes and Noble to pick up some reading material (a book on Watergate for Trina, some magazines for me), and THEN it was off to Taliesin West.

I'm not an architecture geek or anything, but Taliesin West was REALLY interesting. We had a great tour guide (Greg) who made the 90-minute walk through the grounds very engaging. These are the best of the photos I took:

Looking into the back - which is actually the front - of Taliesin WestThe front of Taliesin West There were about 20 wild rabbits grazing on the grass outside the house as we walked up.
The side of the main house, looking back towards the studio/office.Frank Lloyd Wright's bedroom at Taliesin WestMy favorite of the sculptures outside the theater room.
Frank Lloyd Wright was fond of Asian art and had many of this kind of sculpture scattered around the grounds at Taliesin West.Another close up shot of Asian art.This dragon sculpture has a pipeline of natural gas underneath it; at night the staff sets it aflame so it appears to be breathing fire.
Mouseover the photo for a description; click for full version

Taliesin West is also where we first saw the saguaro cactuses. I wanted to run up and hug one, but Trina advised against it. We bought magnets at the gift shop, then departed. As we drove out, we passed a neighborhood of houses, which elicited the response from me that "it looks like God vomitted upon the hillside."

Yeah, we didn't really like Phoenix for whatever reason. At least the parts we saw. I did catch a glimpse of an In-and-Out Burger and made a mental note to go to it when we were back in town in a week, but never ended up making it there.

In fact, I think the best part of Phoenix for me was seeing a sign on the interstate for Los Angeles. That just seemed really amusing to me (since, being from Florida, Los Angeles seems like it's hell and gone).

At Target we bought supplies - bottled water, peanut butter crackers, Dove cookies, Twizzlers, SweeTarts (yes, we bought crap) and Honey Nut Cherrios. I also picked up some socks and a jaunty little newsboy cap (in dark brown suede) to wear in the car when we had the top down (to keep my hair from whipping around all willy-nilly).

Fun fact - I look like a total dork in hats. I have a ginormous head (well, not really) and hats never fit right, so they never look right, and I end up looking like the idiot girl who rides the short bus wearing a helmet and spontaneously licking the windows. Consequently, there are no photos of me wearing said newsboy cap, so don't even ask.

We got out of Target around 8 and it was finally cool(ish) enough to put the top down for our drive to Sedona. We planned on staying there overnight so we could get an early start on seeing the red rocks the next morning. We took I-17 north, and about 30 miles outside of Phoenix it got a lot cooler. That night drive was a lot of fun - I was riding shotgun, and I'd look up and see not only the stars, but the stardust surrounding them. You never see that in this area of Florida; there's just too much ambient light.

It was beautiful, and it made me smile every time I looked up.

Another fun fact - the speed limit on I-17 is 75 mph. However, the state of Arizona is nice enough to warn you that there are certain curves on the interstate where you need to slow down in order to negotiate the curve safely. Signs like this one, only in Arizona the speed with which you should take the curve is posted underneath the black arrow. On I-17, you need to slow down to ... 70 mph.

Speed limit? 75. Speed limit on the curve? 70. SEVENTY MILES AN HOUR, Jimmy! And not one mile per hour over, or else you're taking your life into your own hands.

So we made it to Sedona that night. Or so we thought. We saw signs for Oak Creek Village and that seemed like it was part of Sedona, so we parked in the lot at the La Quinta and made calls trying to find a room for the night. The La Quinta parking lot was not full, but when we called the Sedona La Quinta they said they had no vacancies. The other reasonably-priced accomodations we called in Sedona were full, too.

I began to suspect we might not be in the right place. We were on SR 89 at this point, and I was trying to find where this road intersected with 179. So we drove north a little ways, but the road kept getting steeper and turning wildly, and it was pitch black at this point and the driving was scary.

We turned back, went back to the La Quinta parking lot (stupidly didn't go in), and called hotels in the city we had passed on the way to Sedona (Cottonwood). We booked a room at the Budget Inn and Suites, then backtracked a good 20 miles to get back to Cottonwood. By this time we were both ready to drop. I think we got into the room and were both in bed and asleep less than 30 minutes later.

Not going far enough would be a theme repeated later on in the roadtrip.

Posted by Highwaygirl on October 10, 2005 10:17 PM to the category Travel

Awesome! I'm so jealous. I have to go there sometime.

Posted by: Eric at October 11, 2005 12:43 AM

Julie -

Gotta love the saguaros. My favorite story about them is about the guy who loaded up his cooler with beer and sat in a lawn chair with a shotgun, taking occassional potshots at the saguaro.

After an afternoon of drinking, and enough shots at the cactus, the thing finally fell over on him and killed him.

I nominated him for a Darwin, but I don't know if he ever got it or not.

Posted by: Mike at October 11, 2005 12:08 PM

LA might be hell & gone, but I'M here. Helloo, it's only like 6 hours away from Phoenix? *sigh*

Posted by: Dinah at October 11, 2005 12:56 PM

"It was a two-door Sebring in a charcoal gray color...And it would have been a very nice car except for the fact that we thought we were getting a FOUR door."

Um, Julie? Chrysler doesn't offer the Sebring in a 4-door convertible.

> :D

Posted by: Eric at October 11, 2005 04:23 PM
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