Six Southwest Surprises

I learned something on our recent trip to the Southwest. The most fun parts of a trip are the surprises. For example, we loved the great expanse of the Grand Canyon and the red rocks of Sedona. But we knew they were going to be spectacular, so they didn’t surprise us.

Marnell framed by the majestic red rocks.

What did surprise us? Well, I’ll start with least surprising and move to most surprising.

6. The Armies of Armed Cacti outside Phoenix

We saw cacti here and there throughout Arizona. But driving south into Phoenix for our flight home, I was truly astounded by the fields and fields of tall cactus plants, lifting their many arms to the sky!

5. The Helicopter Ride Over Sedona

After the vomiting on the commercial flight, I declined to join Marnell on a helicopter ride over Sedona’s expanse of red mountains. However, I ran to the fence to see them lift off, and Marnell pointed me out to the pilot, so they flew right over my head before turning out over the valley! It wasn’t quite close enough to scare me, but it was pretty impressive! The surprise for Marnell was getting to fly in the co-pilot seat, since the people in the back all knew each other.

4. The Black Mountains of Arizona

On a whim one afternoon, we drove out of Kingman, Arizona down old Route 66. We had no idea what we were getting into. After a few miles, a sign warned us that we were about to cross a mountain, and vehicles longer than 40 feet should turn back. I was a bit leery about my stomach, but it held up, and we had a breath-taking ride over the mountains and across the Colorado River into California. We also met…. But that’s my favorite surprise, so I’ll leave it for last.

3. The Cliff Called Flagstaff

I can’t remember why, but I’ve heard about Flagstaff, Arizona, all my life. The surprise was falling off its edge into the town of Sedona and later down into Phoenix for our flight home. Seriously, don’t drop a marble in Flagstaff, or it may not stop rolling until it gets to Phoenix 144 miles later.

Here in Indiana we call 1300 feet of elevation a mountain, and that’s about the elevation of Phoenix. Shortly before driving into Flagstaff, I saw a sign that said “Elevation 8000 feet.” Shortly after leaving Flagstaff, as we careened down the mountain road we weren’t expecting, I saw a sign that said “Elevation 6500 feet.” By the time we reached Sedona, we were around 4500 feet. It was such a shock I didn’t have time to vomit!

And, I have to say, it was breathtaking. The rolling pine hills on the plateau above Flagstaff just vanished into towering cliffs of red rock and scrawny pines clinging to them, with the highway switch-backing through the middle of it all, along the ever-cold Oak Creek. Best of all, as we drove through this wonder of the world, we realized that we only had a mile to our bed and breakfast. Sure enough, there it was, north of the touristy town of Sedona, clinging to a hill across from a regal red spire. It was such a treat, and the weather was 15 degrees warmer than normal that day!

2. The Bighorn Sheep

It’s a little hard to decide what to do at the Grand Canyon if you only have a few hours. We mostly walked and drove on the rim, taking everything in from above. As we walked out on one point, however, my eye caught a bighorn sheep, far away on another ledge, sunning himself in a white patch of sunshine. His splendid horns curled nearly in a full circle, marking him as a male. We watched him for awhile, slowly shifting positions in his patch of sun. Then, the lazy thing pawed the ground to churn up a little dust, and plopped down in it for an afternoon nap.

Since the show seemed to be over, we decided to leave that spot. We drove on down to the end of the road, then came back. Marnell suggested that we go check to see if our friend the sheep was still there. So we piled out of the rental car, and hurried back out to the point. A couple of people were staring at something with binoculars in the same direction as our friend the sheep. Sure enough, he was still there! He had awakened from his nap, and stepped out onto the very edge of his ledge.

The other people walked on, but we pulled out some snacks and sat down to watch the show.

“He’s gone!” Marnell said seconds after we both glanced away. Sure enough, we could not find him. Perhaps he had gone back up the mountain.

“There he is!” Marnell said a little later. He had descended the ledge into stones covered with shadow. He matched perfectly with the shaded rocks, and it was all we could do to keep our eyes on him.

“I wish we could watch him go down on that really steep part,” Marnell said.

“He’s too lazy,” I said.

But sure enough, after wandering around for awhile, the sheep circled his point of land on what looked like a sheer rock edge. When he disappeared around the point to the other side, we finally picked up our things and left him to his devices.

Oops. It looks like I rambled on too much and no longer have room for my number one most surprising moment.

Come back next week for “The Fairly Tame Wild Donkey Strikes Back!”

Us, somewhere above our friend the curly horned sheep.

More Ways to Listen to the Audiobook of From the White House to the Amish

CDs are here, and cheaper than expected! We’ve produced a short initial run of CDs for $34.95 per 8-CD set. We are working on a system to produce them in bulk more efficiently, but they are currently available.

As always, the audiobook can be purchased as an instant download. Also, if you like listening on Scribd, Apple, Nook, Kobo/Walmart, Chirp, Binge Books, Google Play, or Hibooks, you can now access it on those sites as well. Most of them also give you the chance to listen to a sample first. The book is not yet available on Audible and may not be for quite some time.

While supplies last, I will stick one CD into all paper book orders as a free sample. Get to listen to several chapters of Conrad’s interpretation for free!

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