A Few Thoughts on Our Trip to Arizona
A travelogue by Evelyn C. Leeper
Copyright 2006 by Evelyn C. Leeper

Before going to the World Science Fiction Convention in Anaheim, we stopped off in Arizona for a few days. We landed in Phoenix Thursday, August 17, and drove up to Flagstaff the next day. We return to Phoenix Monday, August 21, and flew to Anaheim the next day.

Driving up, we got off the Interstate at Sedona and had lunch at the Oaxaca Restaurant, where I got their posole (a.k.a. pozole). I had made posole from a recipe, and it was pretty good, but I had no idea whether it was authentic. Mine had more posole and less chicken than Oaxaca's and my chicken was not chopped as fine. Mine was also spicier--not too surprising, as restaurants tend to be cautious.

My Posole Recipe (found on the Web)

Soak 8 oz posole overnight.

Combine posole, 2 dried New Mexico chiles (stems and seeds removed, crumbled), 1 chopped onion, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon oregano, and 6 cups water. Boil on medium for 3 hours, adding water as necessary. Add 1 pound cubed chicken. Cook another half-hour until chicken is done.

Meanwhile, cover 4 dried New Mexico chiles (stems and seeds removed--or leave the seeds in if you want it very hot) with hot water and soak for fifteen minutes. Put chiles, 1/2 cup of the soaking water and 1 teaspoon garlic powder in the blender and puree.

Serve pepper sauce and chopped onion as garnishes for posole.

From Sedona we took Route 89A north through Oak Creek Canyon, one of the most scenic roads I know. My mother-in-law seemed to think it was very difficult to drive, but I did not find it so.

I do not think it matters where one stays in Flagstaff--one will hear the trains coming through constantly.

Saturday we drove to Williams and took the Grand Canyon Railway to the Grand Canyon. My only complaint is that I wish there was a "no entertainment" car, without singers, fake hold-ups, etc. The most exotic animals we saw were llamas. Other than that it was cattle and birds.

This is our fourth time at the Grand Canyon (three times at the South Rim and once at the North Rim), so I am not going to write a lot about the original "Big Dig". Mark had a lot of fun learning his new digital camera, which someone had given him as a gift just ten days ago. The problem with the shuttle bus system at the Grand Canyon is that it is very difficult to gauge how long it will take to get somewhere. I mean, it seemed as though two hours was more than enough time to get from the train depot to Hermit's Rest and back, given that it was under ten miles. But after we got on the bus, the driver mentioned that the round trip from the transfer spot to Hermit's Rest was seventy-five minutes. Add ten minutes for each stop where one gets out to look around, and the time from the transfer point to get back to the depot, and you discover you are cutting it fairly close. But since there are no timetables posted, one may not discover this until it is too late.

The bathroom stalls at the train depot at the Grand Canyon are so small that they had to cut away part of the door so that it could swing over the toilet. I almost couldn't fit in--Heaven help anyone larger! (And I wish that all bathroom stall doors had hooks on them. Not only were these very small, but I was trying to juggle my day bag at the same time!)

We had dinner in Williams at Cruiser's Route 66 Cafe. There is a lot of retro decor in this area; even the McDonald's near our motel is one of the retro ones. The sales (or possibly restaurant) tax is outrageous in some of these towns--11% in Williams and something similar in Sedona and Flagstaff.

I would like to do something drastic to whoever invented the electronic car lock that honks the horn whenever it locks or unlocks the door. And I would love to see motels charge a $10 fine every time someone sets off his horn by locking or unlocking his car door ($20 after 10PM).

Sunday we went to Wupatki and Sunset Crater National Monument. We ate dinner at Granny's Closet, which had a good chile stew, but mediocre Italian dishes.

Monday we drove back out of Flagstaff on Route 89A again. In additional to the curves and the grade, we also had to contend with road work, and a slow truck in front of us.

The McDonalds in Sedona apparently had to meet various special building codes: it is pink stucco with a set of turquoise arches painted on the side.

We passed Planet Java, which advertises "The Galaxies' Best Coffee and Ice Cream." Unless they are really including other galaxies, their grammar is wrong.

After Sedona we continued on Route 89A. For a while it was fairly level and straight, then as we approached Jerome things changed. A few miles out, I commented, "Look at those houses perched way up on that mountain." Well, little did I know we were going to be driving right through them!

After Jerome, we got more warning signs about curves, 7% downgrade, and "watch for animals", as well as the ubiquitous "road work". I think Mark's mother may have gotten a bit of a scenery overdose on roads.

We finally arrived in Prescott, where we went to the Sharlot Hall Museum (after someone named Sharlot Hall). This consists of the original Governor's Mansion (a log house), a later Governor's Mansion, and some other buildings, all with displays about early Arizona history. One display was items excavated when they decided to build a parking garage in Prescott, and so did an archaeological excavation before construction began. There was a poster about what it might be like 135 years from now, when archaeologists did there again. Termed "Parking Garage of the Mysteries", it assumes that such objects as Popsicle sticks, car air fresheners, and hood ornaments will be completely unknown to archaeologists. But given how many photographs, books, and so on we have documenting our current world, that is unlikely. (Back 135 years ago (1871), non-portrait photographs were still rare, and books did not talk about objects in common use.)

For one display, on the wall, they had a quote: "We took away their country, broke up their mode of living and their habits of life, introduced disease and decay among them, and it was for this and against this that they made war. Could anyone expect less?" --General Philip Sheridan

This is the same man who said, "The only good Indian is a dead Indian"?

America West/US Airways at the Phoenix Airport has little booties for you, drawstring plastic bags for your pocket stuff, dogs, and an air puffer. You stand in a booth and it puffs six puffs of air at you from various angles, then analyzes them for explosives. I said to Mark, "This is the sort of thing people would pay for at Disneyland," and the TSA person thought that was pretty funny. (Kids are either afraid of it or love it.) There was also no line at check-in and hardly any line at security at 9:00AM. (Newark had 25-minute check-in lines, and about 20-minute security lines at 5:30AM.)

On the other hand, we were almost burned by the problems due to a lot more bags being checked, as they almost tagged our checked bag for "PSP" instead of "LAX". (There were two check-in kiosks forming a 90-degree angle, and apparently the person at the other was going to "PSP"--Palm Springs.) Luckily we noticed this--I would highly recommend that you look at the tag stuck on your luggage if you check bags. (The last time this happened was when they tagged our bags for Belgrade when we were going to Zagreb in 1991. We did not catch it, but when the agent turned back to give us our boarding passes, he noticed and then ran down the conveyor belt to rescue the bags!)

More about travel in the Southwest can be found in my earlier logs: