Arizona flag on map
Illustration via Wikimedia

And on to Arizona

I’m writing from the Grand Canyon International Hostel in Flagstaff, Arizona. I’ve wanted to get out to Arizona for years, and finally treated myself for my birthday. Glad to share the joy of my new adventure with you folks.

The morning’s start was difficult. On the eve of my departure, Cori and four others were performing at mothertongue at the Black Cat. Expecting that they would arrive around 10ish, I had offered my place to crash for the night. Egads, they arrived after midnight, barely eliciting grunts and directions to the living room before I crept back to bed and sleep. At 4 in the morning, my alarm clock was practically deafening. I leapt from bed, called Vicki (Mr. Woofy’s Taxi Service!), and grabbed my bags for a dash out the door.

I slept all the way to Phoenix.

The Phoenix airport was little improvement over the Philadelphia transfer point. Thankfully, I was warned of the area around the airport: it looked just as blighted and unwelcome as LAX. I had already decided to nix Phoenix from my “see Arizona” plans, but that definitely confirmed it. It took about an hour for me to pay for and pick up my rental car, and to get on the road out of there.

I was well on the road listening to a wonderful classic rock station (100.7, I think) when I realized that I didn’t have my iPod’s radio transmitter for the desert north of the city. Meine Gute!

I would love to say that my first stop in Arizona was a lovely national park but, alas, I couldn’t do without a constant stream of music for the nearly 3 hour drive to Flagstaff. So, sigh, I stopped at a Super Wal-Mart. Yeah, yeah, I know. But with 100+ degree temperatures, it made sense to also stop for water to keep in the car.

Bylers Amish Kitchen
Bylers Amish Kitchen

Watered and with music, I hit the road again in search of a local place to eat. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw a sign for Byler’s Amish Kitchen? Amish? In Arizona?!

Turns out that the restaurant was opened by an Amish couple that migrated to Arizona sometime in the 70s. The “formerly Amish” line was thin and I can’t recommend the decor, but the food…ohmygod. For 8 bucks, I got a simple salad, a still-makes-my-mouth-water-at-the-thought chicken and dumplings entree, and a scrumptious apple betty. The woman who served me (the owner? a relative?) was so Southern Hospitality that I think my own ya’ll and ma’am crept back into my language. YUM-E!

Up the road a ways, I found the signs for Montezuma Castle. No, Montezuma had nothing to do with the place, but the early assumption that Aztec’s had built the cliff dwellings stuck.

Montezuma Castle, AZ
Montezuma Castle, AZ

My pictures don’t do it justice, but it’s a lovely place, and the home of about 50 Sinagua (yes, without water) residents many hundreds of years ago. Despite their name, the Sinagua lived next to a creek and used irrigation techniques for farming. There was more evidence of their handicraft another 7 miles north at Montezuma Well, a naturally replenishing spring with some beautifully shaded areas down near the water’s edge.

Still, these areas of water are in otherwise dry land. It reminded me of Colorado, and I feared that the expansive brown would only make me long for the green East Coast. But about 30 minutes outside of Flagstaff the landscape makes a dramatic shift to lush greenery. Indeed, with the 30 degree temperature drop, the incredibly blue sky and the evergreen trees, it became just what that Arizona reporter said to me last week: “God’s country.” (It reminded me of New Zealand. Sniffle!)

Flagstaff itself has the feel of a college town or a ski resort: the route in on the highway has its Denny’s and McDonalds, but they give ground to an historic downtown of local bars and craft shops. The very active train station — some 5 trains pulled through while I was still awake! — only ads to the charm.

Although my plan had been to drop things off at the hostel and head right back out to Sedona for the evening, I decided instead to leave the car behind and simply hoof it around town to see the shops. I made a guilty purchase of some Simple tennis shoes. (See the picture; aren’t they just the cutest?)

Simple-brand shoe
Shoe by Simple

And I had dinner at Charley’s. (Julian, I do NOT recommend their steak. Ugh.)

By the time 8:30 rolled around though, my wacky sleepless night and hikes about the area had worn me out. I put the ear plugs in (those trains!) and called it a night.

P.S. You know who you are, and you know you are missed.

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