Leaving the heat of Southern Arizona behind we headed back to Sedona. This time, to show Will the Red Rocks. We had a picnic in Red Rocks state park, drove up the airport Mesa to see the view, and sampled the ice cream in town. Then it was time for the Jeep Ride we had booked with Safari Tours. There is a Jeep tour company in Sedona called Pink Jeeps. They are everywhere.
We just couldn’t see ourselves riding around in a Pink Jeep. Safari Tours fit the bill. Our driver Mike, who we have decided to refer to as Cowboy Mike, entertained us with Cowboy Stories during the ride out of town and while returning. Mike said that a Cowboy story as three elements: 1) some of it is true, 2) the outcome is good and 3) it always ends with – “and that’s a true story”.
The scenery was fantastic – especially since we had elected to take the sunset tour. This meant that the setting sun was at just the right angle to make the Red Rocks glow. There was also a sufficient amount of backcountry driving along rough roads and some places where there were not any roads.
Today was a horrible, no good, very bad day. I have to start telling this tale by saying that in some ways it was also a very lucky day.
We are fine, we had a car accident, the passenger side of the car is damaged especially the van door. The side curtain air bags deployed and saved us from being banged up. The young woman in the car that hit us was also unhurt. Her car had some front-end damage. The Phoenix police took their time showing up but were nice and efficient after they did. A lovely woman who was a receptionist in a nearby office building invited us into her blessedly air-conditioned waiting room and distributed water bottles all around. After a 10 minute visit to a nearby repair shop where they applied well chosen brute force methods including making excellent use of a large hammer to knock the wheel well fender back into shape and a sharp utility knife to get rid of the used air bags we were back on the road a bit shaken but good to go.
We regrouped over lunch and then Harry and Will took a tour of the University of Phoenix Stadium home of Arizona Cardinals (Football). The outside of the stadium is impressive architectural statement. The inside looks like any other NFL stadium with the exception that because it’s a domed stadium and they want to have a natural grass surface they have the entire field planted on a tray that moves on tracks into the stadium from the sun drenched outdoors.
Then we took Will to the Arizona Biltmore for a snack on the back patio so that he could check out of scene.
The Apache Trail is a 190-mile loop road that takes you into the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix. The trail was constructed in the 1930s prior to the building of the Roosevelt Dam. The drive is picturesque and challenging. Especially the unpaved 22 miles of Scenic Byway that winds up and down the mountain passes.
The views run the gamut from canyons, to lakes and desert. We saw whole hillsides of blooming Saguaro cactus as well as bright yellow Agave’s. Although this is not the worst stretch of road we have ever traversed it does qualify as treacherous.
It took us all day to drive the loop with stops along the way. We checked out the old gold mining town of Goldfield. Stopped at the scenic vista overlooking Canyon Lake. Checked out the teeny town of Tortilla Flat. Held our breathe around every turn of the unpaved section of road. Had a picnic lunch by the very windy Apache Lake. Marveled at Roosevelt Dam. And enjoyed the passing scene through the old Copper Mining Towns of Globe and Superior.
Photos from The Apache Trail (placeholder)
Today we had a full day of sightseeing. Since Will was still on East Coast time we took advantage and got out early to visit the Desert Botanical Garden. When the temperature regularly hits 100 degrees by midday it’s always a good idea to do outside activities in the early morning. We had completed our walk around the gardens by 9am. We were amazed at the variety of the desert plants and how many of them were blooming. It was also wonderful to watch the birds helping themselves to breakfast at the top of the Saquaro cacti.
Next up was Will’s pick of a stadium tour at Chase Field home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Going on stadium tours at ballparks around the country is one of Will’s favorite activities when travelling, which means that we have been to quite a few. Second on his list is taking photographs of him standing in front of stadiums and arenas. We did it all today. The relatively new Chase Field seemed to me to be more an entertainment venue than a ballpark. There are 700 television screens in the park, the retractable roof opens or closes in 4 ½ minutes, there is a section with picnic tables, a section designated as an “All you can eat” zone, a swimming pool in right field that can be reserved for you and your 25 closest friends for $3500 per game. Interestingly with all this and seat prices that were reminiscent of Fenway Park in the 50’still made us long for Fenway Park where we go to just watch baseball.
For the final activity of the day Will and I headed to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West. Harry had been there before and had a conference call he needed to make. I loved it. Will wasn’t convinced although I think it will grow on him. For all his faults as a human being I love visiting Wright’s buildings and hearing the stories of his eccentricities. It’s terrific to think about Wright leading his auto caravan of students to the Arizona desert and camping out while they planned and built the buildings over the next 20 years.
Back at the hotel – a swim in the pool and a soak in the hot tub and we are in for the night watching the NBA finals.
After spending the day running errands and such we picked Will up at the Phoenix’ Sky Harbor airport.
His flight out of Boston was delayed and he successfully negotiated switching to another flight. We are very proud of how confident a traveler he has become.
Dinner last night at Dan Majerles (of Phoenix Suns) Sports Bar in Scottsdale while watching the Bruins slaughter Vancouver in game three of the Stanley Cup finals.
It is June in Phoenix Arizona -- one of the three months where the average daily high temperature -- average daily high temperature -- is above 100°. I guess you get used to it, just as we get used to January through March in Boston when the average daily low temperature is in the 20's.
In the morning while it was still cool, we explored around the hotel looking for cool Frank Lloyd Wright influences. At noon we checked out and spent the rest of the day at several of the pools.
Photos of Arizona Biltmore Hotel (placeholder)
To maximize our stay at the Arizona Biltmore we arrived mid-morning -- and plan to stick around tomorrow. Our room was ready and so we had all afternoon to enjoy the grounds and sit by or swim in the pool.
There are actually five pools. We chose one a bit off the beaten path and hence quiet.
Our room is in one of the original “cottages”. Frank Lloyd Wright design evident in the patterned block construction and the corner casement windows. The color of the buildings is the same as the color of the surrounding hills. It’s all very restful.
We had our Anniversary Dinner here tonight - one day early. The staff is impeccably trained and very friendly and helpful. So much so that the waiter addressed us by our first names etc. It’s all very restful.
Too bad that this is all way above our usual budget accommodations. It is, however, a nice splurge and we are enjoying it immensely. We will check out of our room midday tomorrow and then will enjoy the grounds, pool and spa for the rest of the day. Then it’s back to Choice Hotels -- stay two different locations, get the next night free...
Photos of Arizona Biltmore (placeholder)
A bit of a late start this morning as we hung around our room trying to get a handle on plans and reservations for the next week. Will is arriving in Phoenix on Monday and we have planned out 10 exciting days for him.
This afternoon we drove back to Jerome and stopped ever so briefly at the Flatiron Café for some of their delicious coffee to go and then headed up over the Mingus mountain pass to Prescott. A challenging drive but Harry was up for it.
Prescott is the Yavapai County Seat and the impressive stone courthouse sits in a tree-shaded park in the center of town.
Prescott was a rough and tumble cowboy kind of place in the early 1900’s and still retains many buildings and some of the atmosphere of that time. We walked around a bit and had lunch in the old Palace Bar, which looks much as it did in the old photos hanging on the walls. It’s a pleasant town for strolling about. We felt a bit out of place as practically everyone was walking their dog(s).
Then it was off to the Sharlot Hall Museum, which is really not much to write home about so I won’t waste much time doing that here. They did have a nice exhibit of Yavapai baskets and we did learn the interesting tidbit that Fiorello LaGuardia’s father was a musician and Fiorello and his siblings all played in the band that travelled to the army posts in the west.
Tomorrow we are off to Scottsdale and will be staying at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel to celebrate our 34th Anniversary one day early. It will be our Frank Lloyd Wright themed anniversary as we will be staying at a hotel he designed and touring Taliesin West.
Many of the Red Rock formations have been assigned names. One that we can see from the balcony of our room is called “Coffee Pot “. It does look amazingly similar to a giant version of one of those aluminum coffee percolators that used to be in the Maxwell House commercials. Indeed, one of the streets in the neighborhood closest to the trailhead is Maxwell House Drive.
We hiked in that area first thing this morning and then fittingly had lunch at the Coffee Pot Restaurant. The décor of which is heavily influenced by images of the Coffee Pot formation. It’s a busy family breakfast kind of place with 100 different omelets on the menu.
On our previous trip to Jerome we hadn’t had enough time to visit the Jerome State Historic Park. So we drove the 30 very scenic miles to Jerome. The Museum is housed in the recently rehabbed home of the owner of the Little Daisy Copper Mine. Our favorite exhibit here was the model of Jerome. It included the topography and buildings on the surface but also included a subterranean model of the tunnels and ore deposits.
The headframe of the mining shaft next to the museum affords the opportunity to stand on the glass platform above the 1900 foot shaft. This is the largest wooden headframe that still stands in the whole country. I couldn’t bring myself to stand on that platform and look down but Harry did. There was also a rescue capsule that although rusted look eerily similar to the device that recently rescued the miners in Chile.
Then it was back into the town of Jerome to browse among the shops and galleries and talk with the shop owners. Nice town with terrific people.
Although it is small the Museum of Northern Arizona outside of Flagstaff packs a wallop.
The first room is devoted to explaining the Geology of the Colorado Plateau. There are rock specimens, and fossils as well as exhibits on the ever-popular dinosaurs and reptiles.
Then it is on to the Anthropology room, which includes examples of both pre-historic and historic Native American artifacts.
The remainder of the Museum uses the rest of it’s galleries to mount changing exhibits related to the Native Tribes of Arizona.
Then we drove across town to the Riordan Mansion. In 1902 in the small town of Flagstaff the Riordan Brothers home was a mansion. In today’s terms there are most homes here in Sedona that far exceed its size and opulence. Nonetheless, it is an interesting story and a fine example of a frontier craftsmen architecture and there is lots of original Stickley furniture to enjoy. The Riordan Brothers operated the sawmill in Flagstaff that employed over ½ of the population. They traveled the world and the town of Flagstaff benefited from their willingness to contribute to the town in a variety of ways. The brothers built their houses next to each other and connected them with a joint common room. It was all designed by Charles Whittlesey the architect of the El Tovar Hotel at the Grand Canyon.