By: Rebecca Witherspoon
All photos (except where indicated) copyrighted and taken by the author (or set up for someone else to simply press the button).
First a timid forward motion, then a building of speed as the wheels catch on the pavement, the sudden sensation of your stomach sinking to your feet while the inside of your head simultaneously experiences a sensation of upward motion. The sound in your ears changes as the pressure begins to rapidly increase—one moment sounds of sharp mechanical rushing, the next muffled like the sound is coming through cotton, then you shift your jaw and it’s back to sharp—and then a leveling sensation, almost as though you could drift up and out of your seat but for the strap holding you down, then … your weight returns to your body and you once again settle back into your seat for the duration of your trip. As the vehicle passes through pockets of turbulence, you feel a momentary rollercoaster sensation. All this is the normal and ultimately very safe mode of travel called flight. Thus begins our adventure to Arizona!
Arrived in Phoenix today to true and beloved HEAT! After a long, brutal, and cold winter, HEAT is very welcome. Loving our WorldMark resort in Scottsdale—I think this is number 16 that we’ve been to now over the course of our ownership!
That’s my husband Rick enjoying some time in the relaxing pool.
That’s me about to hop in after my husband.
Dinner was in Old Town Scottsdale at a place called Old Town Gringos. It’s this dive looking place that we randomly chose from a map of the area because we were in the mood for Mexican food. While it was not exactly what we had expected (more of a very rustic bar that caters to a younger crowd), we were very warmly welcomed by staff. A very laid back atmosphere. We took the recommendations of our server Jenna and all I can say is I’m so glad we did!
Oh my god, heaven in my mouth!!! Had blackened shrimp taco and pulled pork tacos that were TO DIE FOR!!! My mouth is singing with the incredible depth of flavor a simple taco can bring. The pulled pork was melt-in-your mouth succulent and oozing flavor! The ambiance of the bar and restaurant was upbeat without being over the top obnoxious—just right! Music was a great mix of older and newer music which just made me happy!
Thank you Jenna (our server) for such a wonderful experience.
After dinner, we did some walking around the historic Old Town Scottsdale area. Lots of western style stores, and saw an intriguingly green-barked tree that I’d never seen before. Beautiful! I’ve since learned it’s the state tree—Palo Verde.
Our first full day in Arizona. Up at the crack of dawn because our bodies are still on Central Daylight Time—no alarm clock needed here! But, that’s okay because I don’t want to miss a moment in this amazing state.
Today, we are off to the north-central parts of the state to stay a couple days with family in Prescott (pronounced press-kit, like a biscuit)!
Took a road trip with our cousins acting as chauffeur and tour guide. They wanted us to see areas they have grown to love. Stopped for lunch in Jerome on our way to Sedona. Jerome is this little old copper mining town that’s literally cut into the side of the mountain. The road is barely wide enough for two vehicles to pass each other going both directions, as the houses and buildings come nearly to the edge of the road with very narrow sidewalks. Although there is only one main road through town, there are multiple switchbacks, so one has a sense of a town with multiple streets when in fact it’s really only one. To get from one part of the street to the next requires traversing steep, narrow concrete stairs that were probably put there more than one hundred years ago. But if you’re up to it, the exercise is worth it because Jerome is full of many surprises that you would otherwise completely miss if you just stayed in your car.
While waiting for our table at the Haunted Hamburger, we explored a few highlights of the town. One such highlight was the wishing toilets! So funny and so unique. Rick contributed to the fund raising effort—for what I’m not sure, but contribute we did.
The next highlight was the kaleidoscope store where I captured a Picasso-style pic of Rick through a kaleidoscope made to be used with your phone’s camera. The store offers anything from the simple child’s kaleidoscope costing a few dollars to elaborate and intricately made treasures beautiful enough to be housed in a museum costing many thousands of dollars. You definitely don’t want to miss this experience.
Once at the Haunted Hamburger we were seated in their top room with breathtaking views overlooking not only the town but the surrounding valley (oh, and the food was scrumptious too). One of my favorite experiences occurred throughout the entirety of our time eating. Just outside the window was a delightful park nestled in one of the alcove areas between the street levels (one of those things you’d miss if you didn’t get out of your car). It included slides and swings and a fully protected area where kids could run free. In that park were several very tall old trees and in those trees beautiful birds with yellow breasts were playing hide and seek. One moment they would be hidden from view among the branches and the next they’d be crashing out and chasing one another to soar for a few minutes and then start all over again.
After Jerome’s delights it was once again on the road to continue our trek to Sedona. The scenery as we drove along was somewhat surreal with a paint-by-numbers impression. Majestic rock formations showing detailed layers upon layers formed through the many millennia. Burnt oranges, dark rust reds, sandstone tans, volcanic blacks, periodic reliefs of yellows—the vibrancy of the colors seemed almost painted by an artist’s hand. But the mountains themselves seemed almost unreal despite the fact I was looking straight at them. In most mountain ranges there are foothills for miles leading up to the mountain. The effect in Arizona is one of flat rolling hills with sudden explosions of rock formations jutting through the ground to tower thousands of feet above you. Like I said majestically surreal!
As we drove into Sedona, it’s much like many tourist traps. Shop after shop, restaurant after restaurant. Rick described it as the Wisconsin Dells of the South West, and he was absolutely right. But our objective today was not shopping or even eating, it was Arizona itself.
Yes, there’s even green in Arizona. Lots of it in fact. Not what I expected—what a pleasant surprise.
The Chapel of the Rocks can be seen from miles away. Created as a place for contemplative meditation and worship, it now is visited annually by more than a million people.
Is it rabbit ears (as it’s named) or is it someone holding up a peace sign with their fingers? You decide!
Yes, I really was there! This picture was taken between the Sedona “airport”, located on a high flat plateau above the town, and what is known as the Vortex, an outcropping of rocks that people regularly climb for spiritual experiences.
Ended the day back at our cousins’ place in Prescott.
We climbed up into the rocks on our cousins’ property and wow, just wow! The view was amazing. In fact they situated their house such that they have a ton of privacy from their neighbors and many areas around the property where you get a different perspective of the area. We learned there are times of the year though when you have to be extra careful because the rattle snakes can be out. So far though they have never actually seen any on their property, although they have seen brown recluse, tarantulas, and scorpions. Yikes! I told our cousins if they heard a blood curdling scream it was me meeting one of the local spiders!
What an incredibly fulfilling day!!
Next? The Grand Canyon!
Off to the West Rim of the Grand Canyon to zipline and view the scenery. The drive there was less than spectacular—kind of reminded Rick and I of the Laramie/Cheyenne, Wyoming area.
As we were getting close to the West Rim, we had an unexpected and pleasant surprise. We drove through a section of Joshua Tree National Park. I had never even seen pictures if the tree prior to this trip, so seeing them was very exciting. Of course, I just had to stop and capture the moment!
OH MY GOD! A M A Z I N G!!! My first glimpse at the Grand Canyon was utter utter awe! I’d been given mixed reviews about what to expect … everything from boring and not worth the trip to one of the seven wonders of the world and the best experience of a lifetime. Being the skeptic that I usually am, I expected big but mostly unimpressive. What I experienced was jaw-dropping, breath stopping, heart-pounding mesmerization! It’s hard to describe the beauty of the Grand Canyon. In one sense, it’s “just” a canyon carved through the millenia with a bunch of rocks. LOTS of different browns! I guess I had never realized how many shades of brown exist in nature. If you don’t like browns then you won’t like the Grand Canyon … or maybe you will be as mesmerized as I was if you’re willing to get past the many shades of dessert browns.
This is my year for overcoming fear. When doing research for our trip to Arizona, I discovered that there was a new activity at the West Rim of the Grand Canyon. I’m so blessed to be married to someone who supports me wholeheartedly. Rick was a trooper! I am horrifically afraid of heights. Several years ago it was almost impossible for me to climb a ladder, don’t even talk to me about getting in a ferris wheel or ski slope chair lift, and I was the one laying in the floor board of the mountainside gondolas. When I heard about ziplining at the Grand Canyon during my research for our trip, an insatiable urge overcame me and I announced to the world via a Facebook live that I would be ziplining for the first time at the Grand Canyon. My husband agreed to do it with me!
What an INCREDIBLE and freeing experience ziplining at the Grand Canyon was! It ALMOST didn’t happen. When we initially arrived, we learned to our dismay that the winds were strong enough to shut it down. Huge disappointment. So we ended up doing the Sky Walk, which we hadn’t planned, and just before we were headed to our car we heard the zipline had been opened again! Such an adrenaline rush!!
So happy I did this.
This was me getting ready to zipline. The anxiety was setting in. But I was determined!
Fear’s be damned! I’m rockin’ it!!
I didn’t think anything could top our day at the West Rim, but I hadn’t been to the South Rim yet! Wowzer!! It was a cloudy day and the colors were somewhat muted but still intense nevertheless! What a spectacular day!
Met Shayan (most likely misspelled) on an outcropping that we climbed down to. He’s from Boston. He used to rock climb regularly but in the past couple years suddenly developed an aversion to heights, but like me was determined to overcome his fear to experience the grandness of the Canyon!
There’s something to be said about how much you love your kids (or don’t). At a place where the drop offs are sudden and thousands of feet down, with no barrier between you and possible death from one misstep, I was amazed and shocked at how many parents were seemingly oblivious to the near-death experiences their young children were being allowed to face. Parents, please, please, please keep your children away from the Rim of the Canyon unsupervised. Parents with their backs to their children of anywhere from 6 to about 10 standing at the rim looking out while their child is practically climbing or jumping off the side of the rim. Unacceptable! I had to turn away from the utter fear and anger that welled inside me.
Tuesday, 5/1/18 – Thursday, 5/3/18
We ended the day driving through Flagstaff to meet up with my husband’s fellow Officer Candidate School graduates for the 50th anniversary of their commissioning, the primary reason for our trip.
So here’s a picture of the entire group taken by one of its members who is a fellow photography enthusiast, Alfred (aka Pete) J. Bender (he’s the fellow front and center right next to me).
Very grateful for these incredible guys and their amazing wives!
Once the reunion celebrations ended, we resumed our explorations closer to “home” in the Scottsdale/Phoenix area. We first visited Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesen West home, which is situated in the hills east just outside of Scottsdale/Phoenix. The view? Breathtakingly beautiful. While touring his home, and architecture school, I saw a real live, in the wild, honest-to-god Road Runner! It was a hoot and I had to be quick to capture an image of the little fellow, but capture I did!
The artwork was regional, as well as both eclectic and from a bygone era. The theater was built acoustically so that a whisper from the “stage” or front seat could be heard clearly from the far back. Ingenious when one wants to know what the competition is up to without being perceived as eavesdropping.
The entire site was built as though it grew right out of the landscape—both manmade and seemingly natural. Rocks with petroglyphs were scattered throughout, having been discovered and incorporated at the time of building. Even the multiple decorative pools of water were built with multiple uses in mind—cooling of the air as it blew across the water and into the house, beautiful decoration, and in the event of a dreaded fire (no fire service was nearby).
One of the truly amazing things about the site is that it is still a very active and elite school of architecture, with students living onsite.
I would highly recommend adding this side trip to your itinerary when visiting the area.
Next, it was off to the Botanical Gardens situated between Scottsdale and Tempe. Now this was someplace everyone should experience. Unbelievable the variety and beauty of the fauna and some wildlife found in a desert. The vibrant colors surrounded by cactus spikes protecting it from predators that might otherwise want to nibble at it. Geckos, lizards, diverse butterflies, Quail, and birds I’d never seen before.
So when you come to visit the Botanical Gardens—I have every faith that you will one day—don’t forget to find a shaded area off the beaten path where you can sit on a bench and wait. Wait for the birds to realize you’re not a threat. Wait for the lizards to creep out and crawl up next to you where they can bathe in the warmth of the sun. Wait for the Quail to begin to chase one another bobbing their tufted heads and warbling in their strangely uplifting song. Wait to let your eyes begin to see things in your surroundings you may have otherwise missed as you merely passed by.
Well, our week in Arizona was surprisingly eye opening for both me and my husband. We came with a pre-conceived expectation of brown. Neither of us expected landscape and vistas that took our breath away. Neither of us expected lush greens, the never-ending shades of browns, reds, tans, yellows. Neither of us expected the diversity of plants and animals, some of which can only be found in Arizona. Neither of us expected the beauty or the majesty that awaited us. Neither of us expected to develop an understanding of just why someone might want to live in such a hot place.
Moral of this story, never assume what you will experience before you experience it. You just might he surprised by what you find when you open your mind and your eyes, and allow yourself to beat a slightly different path than the typical tourist.