Last week I left you hopefully-interested readers with Nevah and me and our friends about to leave Phoenix, Ariz., on our trip to return home from our vacation in the Valley of the Sun.
We opted to not stay the final night in our Air Bed and Breakfast in order to get in two days of sightseeing rather than one. We started off by heading north to Cave Springs where we met for lunch with a dear lady high school friend and her daughter and grandson. Last time I met the daughter she was still in elementary school and now her son is preparing to graduate from high school and prepare for a career in the medical profession by attending the University of Arizona. We met at a very nice golf course and ate a sumptuous lunch made all the more enjoyable in that the daughter graciously picked up the sizable tab. It’s always a joy to rekindle old friendships.
From Cave Creek we headed north toward the picturesque Sedona, which none in our party had ever seen. We weren’t disappointed as we drove around and through the massive red and striated buttes and mesas that loom all around Sedona. We spent the night and ate a supper and watched the sunset from the veranda of Pizza Lisa, which I’d call a gourmet eating establishment.
The next morning we headed north toward Flagstaff via the 20-some-mile drive through the deep and winding scenic Oak Creek Canyon. I’d describe is as close to driving through the bottom of a forested Hell’s Canyon in Idaho. As we emerged on top at near 7,500 feet elevation we pulled off at a rest area that provided a marvelous view back down Oak Creek Canyon. An added treat was an outdoor market of Native American arts, crafts and curios. Nevah purchased a neat vase and a Christmas tree ornament from one of the friendly vendors.
When we reached Flagstaff we headed east on the interstate intent on reaching the Petrified forest and the Painted Desert. However, we gone only a few miles when we saw a sign for the Walnut Creek National Monument only three miles off the interstate. We were glad we made the stop as the deep rocky canyon was the home hundred of years ago of an early Native American culture. The monument provided archaeologists more than 400 study sites. There wuz a spectacular trail to the bottom and through the canyon, but my advancing years and balance impairment precluded my walking the trail. Wish I’d been 20 years younger. Seeing the ancient Indian homesteads perched precariously amid the rock ledges made me wonder how those ancients managed to keep their rambunctious children from falling to their demise to the canyon bottom. Then I figgered those youngsters probably climbed around and played in those rocks as nimbly as baby squirrels play in the trees.
From Walnut Creek we went only a few more miles and discovered another tourist must-see — the world’s best preserved meteorite crater, which was only six miles from the interstate. A bit of history about the site: 50,000 years ago a 150-foot in diameter meteor slammed into the desert with such force that it created a crater a half-mile across and more than a mile around the rim. The crater is as deep as the Washington Monument is tall. The crater is so well preserved in the desert weather that scores of U.S. astronauts trained there for the moon mission and other space travels.
An informative interpretative center helped us understand the creation of the crater and the demolition and devastation it created for miles around. We were glad we made that stop.
Finally, we arrived at the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert 30-mile drive-through. While not scenic per se, the history of how the trees got petrified and how a variety of now-extinct dinosaurs lived and died in a prehistoric swamp — which is now desert — was an interesting history lesson.
We arrived at the Painted Desert just at sunset. The earth tones in the erosion-scarred landscape reminded me of the South Dakota Badlands, only much more colorful.
We finally got to our evening destination, Gallup, N.M, after dark and found a motel room. Our evening meal at a well-known set-down national dining franchise was easily our worst dining experience of the trip. The food was marginal and our wait for it was exasperating. ‘Nuf’ said about that.
The next day was a long slog against a strong headwind across New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle with the end at Clinton, Okla. Upon the recommendation of the nice young lady at the front desk of our motel, we found Pedro’s Mexican Restaurant. The food was excellent and we had the most friendly and helpful waiter of the entire trip. That dining experience made up for the previous night.
Our waiter directed us to the Arapahoe and Cheyenne Casino north of Clinton a few miles. Luckily, a 45-minute stay turned into nearly $50 of profit as Nevah and I both scored a profit from the nickel slot machines that more than paid for our supper.
On the final leg of our trip on Sunday, the Cilpushers delivered us to retrieve our car at our grand-daughter’s home in Oklahoma City. We had an uneventful trip back to our welcome home in the Flint Hills.
In summary, it’s hard to beat a wonderful vacation with treasured old friends.
Spring has arrived in the Flint Hills in a gust of wind that seems to never cease. It makes us all uneasy as the entire region is a tinderbox just waiting on a errant spark. The last day of winter reached 90 degrees. The spring birds — killdeers, robins, brown thrasher, and even a scout purple martin just today — have arrived, but no bluebirds. The apricot blooms got frozen while we were gone and the pear tree is blooming now and the apple trees and the lone peach tree are getting ready to bloom — as are the redbuds.
County news of note: The Chase County Elementary School fifth graders made an educational video of their “Outdoors School” real-life, practical learning experiences with their beef calves. It was good enuf to win first prize in a regional contest and the prize was $30,000 worth of educational products. Now their video is being judged for the national prize, also for $30,000. Hope they win that, too.
I’ll close with these words of wisdom: “Since light travels faster than sound, some people appear bright until you hear them speak.” I think our nation’s outstanding Congresspersons are who they had in mind. Have a good ‘un.