“The earth has music for those who listen.” —George Santayana.
It turns out that we entered Oak Creek Canyon, a fourteen-mile drive along the Oak Creek, nestled in a gorge that has been rated as one of the Top 5 Most Scenic Drives in America by Rand McNally. It’s another of those things on our trip that we only allowed ourselves a tease of as I was determined to make it into Sedona in time to see the sun set against all of the red cliffs. There were a dozen or more ‘retreats’ and/or resorts in the canyon and I made a mental note to look it up and think about my next ‘vacation’! Additionally, we passed a number of signs announcing a trailhead enticing me to stop and hike for a bit… but this wasn’t that trip. It was a downright chore to keep my foot on the gas pedal.
As we rounded the corner into town the sight was more intense than I had remembered. I was in Sedona about twelve years ago for a really short visit and recalled that I thought the airport which is on top of a plateau, would be a great place from which to view the town and/or the sunset and so I made a beeline there. As it turns out, it is a good place – so good in fact that there is an observation point there and you have to pay $3 to park. I had to laugh a bit as I think I may have been the only one to conform and actually grab a ticket… I didn’t stop to check that other cars had done the same as the sun was setting and I wanted Erin to see it.
There is something magical about sunsets, at least in my mind and there is something electric about Sedona. It’s known as an ‘energy’ center and there are Aura Readers and Reiki Healing signs everywhere in addition to ‘spiritual’ teachers and spas. The people there would tell you that the red rock stimulates a variety of neurological centers in your brain and the green of the pine forests promotes hope and regeneration. I suspect that almost any kind of alternative medicine or treatment available can be found in the Sedona area.
From the airport plateau, you can see for miles and walk around to view the city in its entirety. No matter your viewpoint, it is stunning in all variations of light. There are trails around the airport complex providing benches from which to sit and take it all in. Erin and I sat on one and FaceTime’d Harlan and Sara just to offer them a tiny glimpse of our amazement. It felt as if we had to share it… somehow enjoying the experience ourselves seemed almost too selfish. Every time we changed positions, the view was just as dramatic and we both felt peaceful and overjoyed simultaneously.
As with all of our other stops on this trip – we were only there long enough to snap a few pictures and eat. We picked a little spot that was good but unnoteworthy overall; it was just a nice restaurant and then headed south just a bit for the night. As we drove down the road it was apparent that we were missing some incredible scenery as it had become quite dark with little moonlight to highlight our drive. We stopped for the night just outside the city and I tucked away the idea that we might backtrack a bit in the morning just to have one last look at the majestic ‘red rock’ that we were both so drawn toward.
The morning found us itching to make more progress in our westward movement and we had to make a decision about the route; either go back north and head out I-40 or move further south and pick up I-10. The weather made the decision easy as massive amounts of rain were moving across California and into northern Arizona and so we routed ourselves to Phoenix. The drive was uneventful except for the fields of cactus that dot the landscape there. I was more excited for Erin to see cactus than she was and after I pointed out the third or fourth one she reminded me that my ‘repeating’ fostered annoyance. *sigh*.
The service engine light was still on and we were about a thousand miles over the ‘oil change’ recommendation and so we agreed that Phoenix would be a good place to get everything checked out. In the interest of time we opted for a Jiffy Lube and set the GPS for a western Phoenix suburb. The employee who ran diagnostics on the car provided us with a report and told us to get to a Nissan dealership ASAP and that he would was unable to offer any service on the car because the error code indicated that we had a critical problem.
It was Monday morning and we were just under 400 miles from LA… we still had our 24 hour window to address any issues that came up but we were so… so… close and it was disheartening to think that we might be stuck there for even a little while. Nothing is as frustrating as the unknown and so we directed ourselves to a dealership close by and drove ourselves right into the service bay.
I won’t say that I batted my eyes or pretended to be helpless but I might have used a wee bit of feminine wiles in so much as I let them know that we had driven all the way from the East Coast and needed to finish our trip as easily as possible. We gave them the code sheets that JL had provided. I can honestly say that the service guys who worked with us there were two of the nicest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. They ‘listened’ to us – addressed our problem (agreeing that it had probably been the gas cap and reset the dash light), put air in the tires and told us we could wait on the oil change until we got to LA. They didn’t charge us a dime and offered to wash the car before we left.
If you ever get a chance to visit Coulter Nissan in Surprise, Arizona… I highly recommend them!
We grabbed a quick bite to eat and made the turn West, crossing the southwest portion of Arizona where nothing lives except a few wiry green things. If it weren’t for the interesting sharpness of the mountains and the intensity with which they jutted up from the flat sandy desert, there would be absolutely nothing to look at. We turned on Shonda and listened intently. I thought I could hear Erin’s heart beat just a little faster as the California border loomed in front of us.
To be continued…
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