Thursday, April 7, 2011

Arizona Travel Journal, Part Three: Cheese and Meat

Thursday, Oct. 14th -  We woke up again around 7am, but this time we had enough sense to forgo the Super 8 super start breakfast for some coffee that actually tasted like coffee instead of water. We went to Starbucks! V got a grande drip with no room for cream and a sausage breakfast sandwich, while K got a tall, nonfat white mocha and a pumpkin scone.  With food and coffee in hand, we headed off in search of the elusive Aspen trees.
On our way, we stopped by the ranger station to get some maps and talk to the experts for advice on where the trees were hiding, but the ranger station was closed. Instead though, we were able to find directions to the trees on a sign posted over the door. With a plan, we headed down Hwy 180 past the snow bowl, and into the woods looking for Forest Road 749. Finally, we found the little dirt road we were looking for. With screeching tires and a bit of dust, we turned off the highway onto the road less traveled. We continued a little further down, and low and behold we struck Gold… aspens!! The trees were in full yellow splendor. The morning light filtered through the thin citrine-hued foliage, making each leaf shine and glow with brilliance. The trees were exactly as our character, Kate, would have seen them on her adventure.  We walked along, tiny amongst the ashy trunks, amazed at the beauty around us. We took some really spectacular and inspiring pictures as we explored the forest around us.  After seeing everything there was to see, we moved on and headed back down R 749 towards civilization.

These pictures speak for themselves.
Once off the dirt forest road, we found ourselves back on Hwy. 180, and continued further in exploration. We hadn’t made it too far when we spied a pullout for a nature/ wildlife loop, and pulled into the parking lot. We thought this might be a good opportunity to capture the seasonal mating elk (we learned this through our research of the area), so with cameras in hand, we took off down the trail in search. We saw lots of squirrels, bugs, and a few birds, but nothing larger than that. It was a beautiful hike and wonderful weather. It was a positive event, even though there were no elk to be found. We returned to the parking lot, jumped back in the car, and headed back towards flagstaff to see what other trouble we could get into.

Woodpecker in the tree, one of the small wildlife creatures we saw.

During the drive back, we spotted a sign for the ‘snow bowl’ so we made a sharp left at 80 mph onto the steep drive towards the summit. One of the events on our agenda was to take the sky-ride over the peaks. When we got to the top, much to our disappointment, we found that it was closed for the rest of summer. While at the top, we snapped a few more pictures, and then headed back to the hotel to grab some lunch from our collection of leftovers in the mini fridge. 

View from the top.
With our bellies full, we headed towards the Walnut Canyon cliff ruins.  The trail to the ruins was accessible through the ranger station to that park. When we entered the building, we were shocked to see that we were standing at the top of a cliff with a deep canyon below. We picked up pamphlets and started our descent. The hike consisted of 240 steps down, and another 240 back up on a .9-mile loop trail. In total, there were 25 cliff dwelling rooms.  It was amazing!!! The dwellings were built on the side of the cliffs, with only a few feet of foot path between them and the cliff’s edge. We had so much fun being able to enter and explored the ruins up close and personal. If you’re ever in the flagstaff area, this activity is highly recommended.

Walnut Canyon Ruins, at the top of the trailhead.

Kristina taking pictures of the ruins.

I don't understand how they didn't fall off.

Look familiar? This is our background for our blog!
No S#@t!
Part of the trail we just hiked up!
After our hike, we went back to the hotel to get all dolled up. After getting pretty again, we headed over to the historic route 66 Museum Club for adult beverages and dancing! The parking lot was almost empty, and hesitantly, we went inside to see if they served food. We were starving from our hike. The club didn’t have food but they recommended the restaurant next door so we walked across the dirt lot and into the diner suggested. The place was an old diner with original ‘route 66’ décor, and a toy train circling the room.  We shared a meal of canned gravy on lunch meat to gain some strength for our dancing extravaganza; food was meh. It filled the spot though, so we paid our tab, and headed back over to the bar to get our groove on. 
We walked back into the club ready to swing, but apparently the free dance lessons started with line dance. We decided line dancing wasn’t really our cuppa’ tea but the line dancing instructor glared at us when we tried to sit out after the first song. When she called us out back onto the floor, we explained that we had just ordered our drinks as we held up the evidence. She told us, “You can drink between dances...” And so, admonished, we put our beers down, and went back out to the dance floor. After a long hour lesson, it was finally swing time!!!
This was what we came for! This was a new instructor and he asked us if we had any experience, we modestly told him we had a little bit.  K proceeded to tell him how we’d taken ballroom classes in college but V nudged K into silence, preferring that the instructor think we didn’t know much so he’d be impressed with our quick pickup.  Class began, and we spun and swung all around the floor having an amazing time. For more details on the rest of our dancing and adventure that night, check out our Cowboy Story.
It was a great time, and nice to feel like the center of attention. Once back at the hotel, we cleaned up, unwound, and turned on the TV to HBO. The end of some movie was playing so, K jumped in the showered, while V went out to get a coke and pee Kiko. When we both came back into the room, ‘The Bunny House’ was on TV and we were shocked to learn some new things about brothels and the women in them. After a disturbing minute, we changed the channel and went quickly to sleep.

Friday 15th - This was the last day of our research trip, and as per our usual style we went to Starbucks. With hot coffees in hand, we moseyed downtown, and relaxed as we strolled the streets, enjoying the quiet of the morning. It was one of those bittersweet moments, as we absorbed the sensations around us, and did our best to commit them to our memories.
We were at peace, but, of course it didn’t continue that way. The car seemed to be using more oil than usual, and Virginia was worried. So, we called home for mechanical advice, and were told just to add more oil in the car. After constructing a make shift funnel from an old water bottle, we added some oil to the engine and hoped for the best. We were told not to worry about it, and to check the oil level often. Somewhat relieved, we found something light to eat, and then went into some boutique shops in search of bargains.
            After shopping, there were still more Ruins site we wanted to check out so we went back to the hotel, dropped our stuff off, grabbed Kiko, and headed off to the Wutpatki Ruins. We explored the area, shocked to find pieces of old pottery that still resided at the ruins. It was am amazing experience to be able to hike and explore through the old sites.

It looks as if someone planted it there, doesn't it?
Pottery shards!
Virginia, hanging out on the edge of the ruins, taking in the view.

After much running around, our energy levels were draining, and we were starved by late afternoon. We headed back into town, thinking of eating anything and everything in sight for an early dinner. We headed back downtown, which was teemed with life. Live music was heard pumping from the doors of many of the bars and restaurants. We chose to stop at the Beaver Street Brewery where we had a nice meal of fondue and big juicy burgers with fries. Who doesn’t love cheese and meat?! After our feast, we were lethargic so it was back to the hotel with us for the rest of the night. We had to wake up early for the long drive home the next day. :(

Saturday the 16th – 5am - We packed the car and headed home to California.

Arizona was a truly amazing experience, one that we’ll never, ever, forget. It brought us closer to each other, to our characters, and to our story. By being able to visit the landscape that shaped Chevy, one of our leading males, we began to understand the depths of his personality, and it shined a little light into the deep shadows of his soul where he keeps his dark secrets hidden. We visited the work place of Professor Trevor Hart, and enjoyed some of his college haunts. We discovered secrets to this man that even we couldn’t have thought up before arriving in his town. In walking amongst the aspen trees one cool quiet morning, we knew the anticipation and anxiety that Kate must have felt as she entered this landscape. The energy of the land spoke to her in a way that both scared, and reminded her on a subconscious level, about the past she didn’t know, but would soon discover.

Because of the whispers through the wind, energy vortexes, or whatever you want to call it, we found a power in Arizona that allowed us to breathe life, as well as inject passion into our characters and their world. We can’t wait for the day when we can share with all of you, our story, GIFT OF BLOOD!


  1. Wow!You two got some amazing photos! You're so lucky! I would love to visit the spots you captured so well on film :-)

  2. I love reading about your adventures...It looks like you had fun.

  3. Yeah I'll add my "Wows!" to these photos. This was great piece. I had wrongly assumed that Arizona was all desert but your images suggest a state of much more diversity. Beautiful.

  4. The pictures really don't do it justice either! It was a fantastic journey. Fitting to end this little blog piece as we are tying up the ending to Gift of Blood! We're outlining and starting on the next book which is set largely in New Orleans. Soon we're off to visit that great city, so we'll see what new adventures, and inspiration, come from that!

  5. I LOVE these pictures and the chronicles of your adventure!! I have added a lot of destinations on my AZ road trip list!!

  6. I am really late reading this, but it was worth waiting for. What amazing photos. I never really thought of that area as being beautiful. Boy, was I wrong! Gorgeous. It also sounds like you guys had a lot of fun :)