Sunday, March 15, 2009

March 13: Flagstaff, AZ to Phoenix, AZ via Grand Canyon and Sedona

We left Flagstaff at around 8:20 AM, following US 89 north towards Grand Canyon National Park.  

Here are some brief highlights from the day:

As one approaches the Grand Canyon, a number of scenic pulloffs begin to serve a dual role; Native Americans of the area (presumably Navajo or Hopi) set up stands to display and sell jewelry and other items.  After passing the first one of these a sign read: "Friendly Indians Behind You!"  

Inside the park, we spotted a coyote and were treated to the sight of a some elk crossing the road in front of  my car.

After viewing the Grand Canyon from over 15 different locations, we left the park to head towards the interstate (I-40) and Williams, AZ.  From here, we were on to Sedona, AZ, whose backstory can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sedona.

In general, Sedona seemed to thrive on the confusion of its scenic parks and scenic parking locations.  As you drive into the town, following the increasingly narrow US 89A, one becomes aware of many scenic locations to pull off and take pictures.  Unfortunately, you need a pass ($5/day) of some sort to park at these locations - though, according to one of the park administrators, if you don't park your car, you don't need to pay.  Either way, this is all very confusing when combined with an additional $8 pass to visit some of the locations.  So, the impression that is given on the drive to Sedona, as in the town itself is one of a particularly monetary fascination.  You'd like to see scenery?  Pay us.  You'd like to see more in depth scenery?  Pay us more.  You'd like to peruse the works of local artisans and perhaps purchase something?  You'll be paying with a second mortgage.  In all, Sedona has the makings of a place that could be really great, but unfortunately it seems the town lacks a cohesive vision of what that greatness could be.  

Following this, we drove to Phoenix, descending from over 6000 ft above sea level to just over 1000 ft above sea level.  During this drive, the temperature changed from 40 degrees in Williams, AZ to 75 degrees in Phoenix.  The interstate for this section, I-17, is actually quite scenic as you move through the mountains and, around 80 miles from Phoenix, start to see the impressive Saguaro Cactus as it begins to fill the mountainscape.  

We arrived at my friend Alan's apartment at around 5:30, went to eat at an In-And-Out Burger (and, of course, for fans of The Big Lebowski, listened to Santana's Oye Como Va on the way back to the apartment).  Other than some mountain outcrops in the city, Phoenix is impressingly flat and, even in 75 degress, the sun equally impresses its will upon the traveler.  After arriving back at Alan's we actually decided to sit around and relax for a while - and it had been a while since we'd been able to do that.   


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