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October 12, 2005

Roadtrip '05 - Day Two - Sedona

So we awaken in the sleepy little town of Cottonwood, Arizona. I slept like a rock, go figure.

Our first order of business was breakfast, and the goal was to go to the Coffee Pot Restaurant, home of 101 omelettes. We took off and headed north to Sedona.

On the way there, we saw a sign for Crescent Moon Ranch and saw the famous Cathedral Rock in the distance, so we turned off of 179 and drove down a steep, winding road towards the rock. But it was still hazy that morning (it was about 8:30 a.m.) and I knew that wouldn't be good for photography. So we stopped midway down the road and turned around, resuming the drive towards Sedona proper.

The scenery was breathtaking. I had expected on this trip to be blown away by the Grand Canyon, but I didn't expect to stand there, awestruck, looking at the red rocks scattered in and around Sedona. The colors were just gorgeous. Every time we'd get out of the car, we'd turn around and the skyline would be filled with a sight such as this:

Everywhere we went in Sedona, that's the kind of thing we saw.

But I digress. Breakfast - or rather, mass quantities of food - was on our mind. We found the Coffee Pot Restaurant, but it was packed, so we drove another few blocks to the Sedona Visitors Center. It was closed until 9 a.m. (we were 15 minutes off), so we went back to the Coffee Pot and waited.

They get people in and out quickly, so our wait was only about 10 minutes. And we were lucky enough to get seated out on the garden patio, which was very nice. It wasn't cool - the temperature was probably in the low 70s - but it was comfortable.

The restaurant does, in fact, offer 101 different omelettes. Trina ordered one with spinach, mushrooms and a side of salsa. Mine had spicy ground beef, cheese, salsa and onions. I also got the grits (yum!), hashbrowns, and toast. Hello, starches! Trina got the hashbrowns and biscuit. I tried four different types of jam/jelly (boysenberry, blackberry, strawberry, and grape) on the toast, and only ate half of the grits (tasty, but filling), but ate every last morsel of the omelette.

And then Trina and I rolled ourselves out of the restaurant and collapsed into the car.

We headed back to the Vistors Center, where I picked up about 20 different brochures. My packrat tendencies follow me everywhere, as does my love of FREE STUFF. Inside the center I talked to a kindly, old (and apparently drunk) woman who mapped out a "scenic driving tour" of Sedona on a printed map. She started drawing what I thought were boobs - two circles with dots in the middle - but then she added eyebrows and a smiley mouth and I breathed a sigh of relief.

But I still maintain that she was three sheets to the wind at 10 a.m.

Driving map in tow, I skipped back out to the car and we decided, what the hell, let's drive up Oak Creek Canyon right now. This was one of the expected highlights of the trip - Oak Creek Canyon has been named the most scenic drive in the U.S., and I had heard a lot about the switchbacks and how you gain several thousand feet in elevation over only a few miles. So I was totally jazzed to go on this drive.

There are several scenic outlooks along the way. Our first stop was Midgely Bridge (or as the defaced sign read, "Midgely Bridgely"), an old trestle bridge.

We stopped at a few other scenic outlooks, but it was the switchbacks that held all of our attention and required total concentration. This road, Oak Creek Canyon, basically winds around on itself up a mountain. So what happens is that you start making U-turns on the road as it swerves back and forth, gaining elevation. The posted warning signs recommended taking these curves at 15 mph, but even that seemed like it was too fast to handle the sharpness of the turns.

At one point we were looking north and I saw what looked like cars driving halfway up the mountain ahead. I remember saying to Trina, "I wonder how they got up there."

The switchbacks is how they got up there. We were about to drive up the side of that mountain ourselves.

It took about 15 minutes, but we finally reached the top - the Oak Creek Vista.

The view towards Midgely Bridge Midgely Bridge, at the beginning of Oak Creek Canyon In this photo you can see three stretches of the Oak Creek Canyon road winding up the mountain
Mouseover the photo for a description; click for full version

Then it was my turn to drive down the canyon, and it was a blast. Kind of nerve wracking, but fun nonetheless. I can't imagine driving it in the dark, though. Trina and I decided we wanted to avoid that at all costs, and planned to get to Flagstaff that night by driving south out of Sedona and then picking up I-17 heading north. It was about 20 miles out of the way, but it felt a lot safer to go that route rather than try to manuever through those switchbacks in the blackest black of night.

But for now, we were going back to Sedona to continue our Drunk Grandma's Scenic Driving Tour. On the way down we pulled off to the side of the road so I could take a photo of the outside of Slide Rock State Park. It was funny - I'd get all excited by these views of huge red rocks and mountains, and want to take photos of them, and then a half hour later I'd see something even better and prettier. I had 10-20 photos taken from the road of mountains in the distance - I ended up deleting them all because, well, I ended up getting right next to those mountains and taking much more impressive photos of them.

After Slide Rock State Park, we got back into the city and headed west towards Coffee Pot Rock. It was a gorgeous day - clear blue skies, scattered clouds, temperatures in the high 70s. Perfect convertible weather. Both Trina and I were amazed for some reason by the fact that there were houses practically across the street from these huge, historic red rocks. I don't know why that threw us off, really. I guess we both expected these landmarks to be in state parks or something.

We drove just about to the base of Coffee Pot Rock.

We continued our scenic drive to Boynton Canyon, but didn't see much. Mainly because we had not purchased a Red Rocks Pass that would have allowed us to park at various places. Granted, eventually we illegally parked in some of these places anyway, but at this point we were still being good children.

We headed east towards the Chapel of the Holy Cross. To illustrate my cluelessness - I didn't realize it was a Catholic church until we got into the chapel itself and I saw people crossing themselves and anointing themselves with holy water.

Anyway, we sat for a few minutes in the chapel in quiet reflection, but skipped the gift shop downstairs. I think both of us were more interested in the views surrounding the chapel. We went back outside and just milled around with all the other tourists (I heard Japanese, French, Spanish, German and what sounded like Croatian being spoken). I took the photos that make up the panorama that is in the beginning of this entry, as well as about 60-70 others. Here are the best (and a little panoramic video):

The view from Chapel of the Holy Cross, looking towards the northwestA yard monkey who is unable to follow the posted instructionsThe front of the chapel as seen from the road below
Mouseover the photo for a description; click for full version
Panoramic view surrounding the Chapel of the Holy Cross (AVI, 11 MB)

It was now midafternoon, and we weren't super hungry but wanted something to eat. So we found an ice cream shop in the Sedona Center shopping area. Trina opted for mint chocolate chip, and I choose a refreshing raspberry sorbet. I called my mom to check in on my cats while meandering through a gift shop looking for a souvenir for my nephew, Alex. I didn't find anything good, so we left and headed south again for our second try at viewing Cathedral Rock.

This time we drove all the way to the end of the road, which led us to Crescent Moon Ranch. We debated spending the $7 entrance fee, then decided to go for it. We parked and then headed in the direction of Cathedral Rock, which we could clearly see in the distance.

The paved trail let to a wooded area, and we ran into a few families who were swimming in Oak Creek. We kept going on the now unpaved trail and found ourselves walking over a rocky landscape as the Cathedral loomed in the distance (this is where I met an adorable little girl named Andi). We went as far as we could towards the rock, but Oak Creek stopped us.

We kicked off our shoes and sat dangling our feet in the creek for 15-20 minutes, just enjoying the scenery. Which, again, was breathtaking. We debated wading into the creek but decided it was too deep. So then we headed back, but we got a little adventurous by breaking off the trail and hiking into the Coconino Forest a little bit. We still had our shoes off, and between the sticks on the ground and the rocks in the creek itself, we both killed the bottom of our feet.

We made it back out to the park restrooms (which, strangely, didn't have sinks). There was a spigot outside that we had planned to use to wash off our muddied feet, but it didn't work. I brushed off the red clay as best as I could, but now I have a pair of red clay-stained socks.

You can see people walking along the paved path that leads into the forest around Oak Creek, with Cathedral Rock in the distanceThis is a shot of the sandstone rocks that we walked over to get to the point where the creek stops you from getting closer to the rockThe closest I was able to get to Cathedral Rock, this was taken while I was cooling my heels - literally - in Oak Creek
Mouseover the photo for a description; click for full version

We left the Crescent Moon area and headed out, stopping along the way to take some more photos of Cathedral Rock (this was when I took the shots that make up my Cathedral Rock panorama). It was getting close to sunset, so we drove to the Sedona Airport, since I had read - and Drunk Grandma confirmed - that the Airport Mesa is the place to be to watch the sun go down.

We got there about an hour before sunset and the place was already filling up. Trina and I parked our butts in a place with a good westernly view, and from then on we were treated to the melodious conversation - overheard because it was SO FREAKING LOUD - being led by Mark from Pittsburgh.

Mark from Pittsburgh had a mullet. I could probably stop with my description right there, but no, I will go on. Mark from Pittsburgh was a staunch Republican who haaaaaaated the Clintons, yet had many, many close friends who actually worked for the Clintons when Bill was the governor of Arkansas. Mark from Pittsburgh (I need a macro) invited Bill and Hil to his birthday party one year, but they declined.

I was trying to tune Mark from Pittsburgh out, but it was impossible. He was regaling anyone who had the misfortune to be near him with stories of his success at calling into radio shows. IN FACT, Mark from Pittsburgh has been on a radio show NINE TIMES in his life. NINE TIMES, my friends. Stop clutching your pearls.

I could have sworn I heard Mark from Pittsburgh say, "I do heroin," but when I checked with Trina she said that it was actually "I do hair." Mark from Pittsburgh - Republican gadfly and all around pompous ass - was a hairdresser.

And then he proceeded to wax poetic about the various ways to make hair stay in one place. My eyes glazed over. Trina asked me if I thought offering him $20 to STFU would work. I was pretty sure it wouldn't, but I dared her to go through with it anyway. And then ...

... we just sat there and mocked him behind his back. Cowards, one and all!

The sunset was rather meh. I got more entertainment out of the hot pink socks (and boxer shorts) being worn by a fellow tourist:

Oh look, it's a sunset *yawn*Hot pink socks make the manI'm pretty sure this is a photo of Bell Rock, but at this point all the rocks are running together
Mouseover the photo for a description; click for full version

We had dinner at a Mexican restaurant recommended by Mike called Oaxaca, where we sat on the rooftop cantina and enjoyed the view while scarfing down two bowls of chips and salsa. I had the pollo fundido and Trina had the posole.

Then it was time to hit the road again, so we headed south away from the scary, scary Oak Creek Canyon road and picked up I-17 heading north to Flagstaff. We arrived in Flagstaff late and checked into the Days Inn 66 (on Route! 66, of course). Trina was in bed and asleep within 15 minutes of stepping into the room. I took a shower, so I was asleep within 25 minutes.

Posted by Highwaygirl on October 12, 2005 10:27 AM to the category Travel

Julie -

Driving the switchbacks at night is actually much easier than you'd think, because you can see the headlights of oncoming cars and be prepared. You get none of that come around a blind corner and you're suddenly face-to-face with an oncoming RV excitement. Of course, you get none of the spectacular scenery either.

I was actually down through there on Saturday morning between 9:30 to 10:30. Probably passed ya somewheres along the way.

The only time most of us consciously avoid the switchbacks is when it snows, although I've driven it during the snow a few dozen times. I tend to get this attitude of "Snow? Ice? Steep cliffs? Bad idea." It can be fun, in a needlessly risk your life kind of way, but I'm a little older & wiser now, so I don't try to push as hard as I did when I was a young whippersnapper.

And it's nice to know that the Midgely Bridgely sign is still intact. Sometimes I forget to check.

Posted by: Mike at October 12, 2005 11:48 AM

So the "Midgely Bridgely" sign isn't a new thing? I'm really regretting that I didn't take a photo of it, because that's how we referred to the bridge afterwards.

Posted by: Highwaygirl at October 12, 2005 02:23 PM

No, it's been there for several years; at least 7 or 8 or so. I think the Forest Service has replaced it once or twice, but it keeps getting vandalized to say "Midgely Bridgely", so I'm guessing they just gave up.

If'n I get a chance, and I'm in Sedona with a camera, I'll snap a pic for ya.

FYI, I had said b-e-t-t-i-n-g instead of guessing in the first paragraph and my post was rejected.

Posted by: Mike at October 12, 2005 02:44 PM

Heh, yes, B-E-T-T-I-N-G is a banned word due to the proliferation of comment spammers who use that word (and variations thereof) in messages and URLs. I figured all the really smart people would find a way around using it.

Posted by: Highwaygirl at October 12, 2005 03:56 PM
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