Having Fun in the Desert Sun (L)

After waking up to America’s Best Value breakfast (hardboiled eggs and raisin bran), we plopped back into our room for some medicinal vegging out. Leo’s chess + Sarah’s social media = dumb but necessary relaxation. A relaxing prelude for quite possibly the coolest rock formations we’ve seen on this whole trip, Antelope Canyon.

Natives used to call this place Animal Canyon because of the animals you can see inside the rocks. It is private land that a family used to showcase as a roadside attraction. It was not until it was featured on National Geographic in 1998 that the place blew up. Since then, it’s definitely on the tourist circuit. So much so that some asshole Chinese company buys up half the tickets to resell them at a 75% markup to unsuspecting tourists like us. Instead of the money going to remedy abysmal Navajo living conditions, it goes to some opportunistic profiteers too cheap to pay for a copyeditor for the instructions they provide. They even had the gall to appropriate some of the guide’s tip! (end Leo’s rant). Regardless, the views were so worth the marked up prices. Thanks, Nancy and Dallas for the recommendation!

A quick drive up the road took us to the famous Horseshoe Bend, spectacular in its own way. Not much to say here besides that the place is gorgeous!

Afterwards, we continued south to Grand Canyon where Sarah found us a neat campsite at a nearby national forest. After setting up camp, we roamed back into the park to try to catch the sunset. Alas! It was too cloudy to see anything pretty. But we did go to see Ranger Kim’s awesome bat talk that night! It dispelled several annoying myths about bats: (1) they do not carry rabies at a higher rate than the average mammal – you’re much more likely to contract rabies from a skunk, raccoon, or dog; (2) they do not suck your blood – vampire bats do exist but they are tiny and victimize cows much like mosquitoes do us; (3) they do not fly into your hair – their senses are so keen that they can detect a single human hair through sonar, surely they wouldn’t bump into millions of them (hundreds in my case). We also learned some cool facts like 1/5th of all mammal species are bats and bats in the Philippines can grow to a 10-foot wingspan and that the largest colony in the world (in Texas) comprises over 20 million members. It consumes multiple TONS of insects a night! No pictures but really cool talk anyway.

The next morning we saw Ranger Kim again, this time leading our 8AM guided rim walk. This pleasant stroll around the South rim of the Grand Canyon taught us about geology, history, and wildlife, all while affording spectacular views (all Grand Canyon pics below). Afterwards, we had fun riding bikes for a couple hours.

The two of us went our separate ways for a few hours. Sarah scoped out the Geology Museum and walked the rim trail again to learn about the Park’s history over the 1+ billion years it has been around (sorry creationists…). Leo, meanwhile, ran (not walked) three miles into the canyon and hiked back. In 2 hours flat, I managed the round trip trek billed at 4-6 hours round trip and even had 15 minutes at the bottom (Skeleton’s point) for rest and periodic stops on the hike back up. I was pretty proud of myself. Here are a couple views from the hike along with a few more around the grand canyon.

But the main attraction was still awaiting us. After some miscommunication, I found myself at a bar in the Village at one end of the Canyon waiting for Sarah to pick me up. Before she got there I chatted up a few Chicagoans rooting for the Blues!!! (out of hatred for Boston). When she picked me up, we drove down to the nearby town to watch the rest of the game. As we walked into the restaurant, two friendly faces garbed in Blues gear greeted us. The couple hailed from Creve Coeur and Fenton and we chatted nonstop for the next 2.5 hours. So much so that we didn’t actually watch much of the game (that’s okay, I rewatched highlights a couple times the next day). As the beer flowed, we discussed everything from traveling to careers to marriage. Adam and Ann exemplified the friendliness and politeness you’d expect to find in Blues fans. But the bottom line is, Carl Gunnerson got the game winner in OT and we headed back to the campsite happy… until we got to the campsite. Some idiot (Leo) forgot to put the rain-fly on the tent and it rained. Sooooo… we slept in the car that night.

A few hours South lied our palace of luxury! Sarah’s grandparents reserved us a room at a timeshare property they are a part of. It was soooo comfortable, featuring two Jacuzzi tubs and a gorgeous sunset view. After getting settled in, we set out to lunch at a pizza place that Nancy, Sarah’s sister, recommended, Pisa Lisa. Then we snooped around the shops in town for a bit before returning to our condo to enjoy the sunset, finish the other half of the pizza, and of course watch Family Feud.

The next morning, I woke up early and walked to the place we would eventually eat breakfast while Sarah slept in a bit to catch up with me. The place was recommended by both Dallas and Sarah’s grandparents and featured 101 omelets on the menu (alas, I only feature one belly). Next, we stopped by the monumental Church of the Holy Cross. A towering chapel plopped atop a small mesa near Sedona, this was the brainchild of Frank Lloyd Wright’s student, 25 years in the making. It was truly an awe-inspiring sight and a soothing experience with good views of Sedona.

Locals believe it sits atop one of Sedona’s several vortexes. Oh and on that note, the town is infested with new-agey crystal shops, psychics, and other pseudo-scientific nonsense. You don’t have to believe it to enjoy Sedona, though. The evening featured a sunset stroll through the Wetlands Preserve at which we ogled at dozens of bird species.

Back home we gorged on a long-awaited gourmet home-cooked meal: mango-apricot-habanero shrimp atop a savory shallot-garlic quinoa. We also fixed our next batch of granola bars since we were almost out of the batch Sarah made in Norman.

The next morning began with a pretty sunrise hike which featured several hot air balloons taking off. Sarah kept eating them…

Sarah went back to sleep afterwards while I went in for round two of birding and by 11AM we were on the road to Phoenix. The road featured a detour at a ‘Ghost Town’ Sarah found, Jerome. The once-booming mining town fraught with debauchery featured a jail which slid down a hill 225 feet and continued to be operational. But in reality, Jerome is a tourist town, not a ghost town. It features 5 wineries, dozens of art galleries, and other little local shops along its two main streets. Still, one can’t escape the town’s historical vibe as dilapidated buildings punctuate the populous storefronts.

We got into Phoenix in time to borrow our friend’s art museum passes and explore the local art for an hour. There was a really cool exhibit called Desert Transcendentalism by Agnes Pelton, an American artist inspired by Russian and Eastern Mysticism. The style borrowed heavy symbolic themes from surrealism but applied a much more soothing and less busy style. Here are a few examples:

But the museum is most famous for an interactive, psychedelic piece by Japanese artistic maverick, Yayoi Kusama (who just celebrated her 90th birthday), “You who are getting obliterated in the dancing swarm of fireflies”. It’s a pitch black infinity room (room with mirrors lining all walls) with strings of holiday lights hanging down from the ceiling. This video doesn’t really do the experience justice.

Finally, we met back up with our friend Ben to return his passes to him and to get dinner and drinks. We ended the night trying to go to a famous bat cave in Phoenix but showing up about a half hour after all the bats set out for the night. It was still a fun adventure. Sarah put us up for the night in some posh swanky boutique hotel that charged $30 for missing shampoo bottles :)!

2 thoughts on “Having Fun in the Desert Sun (L)

  1. Wow! I’m so enjoying the stunning pics and hearing about the adventures of Sarah and Leo — and so cool that you found fellow Blues fans in the desert out west.


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