Arizona Birthday Trip: Sedona & The Grand Canyon

Since I’m sitting on a four-hour flight and studiously avoiding my Barack Obama Reading Challenge book for March (and gluttonously consuming Laini Taylor’s Days of Blood and Starlight instead), I thought I’d tell you about how our Arizona birthday adventure concluded.

After Tucson, we headed for Sedona. Have you ever been there? After driving for hours through dusty, brown, rocky hills, now devoid of the ever-interesting Saguaro cacti, we came upon the exquisite beauty that is Sedona. First, you can only see hints of red rocks in the distance, but, holy wow, it gets beautiful in a heartbeat.

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And this was just the view from the rest stop!

Hang on. I’m getting ahead of myself.

I had read in a tour book that we needed to make a stop in the tiny, haunted, former-mining town that is Jerome, Arizona. If you are ever within, say, two hours of Jerome, make the drive. It’s precariously perched on the side of a mountain, with twisted streets and broken sidewalk paths. The view is unbelievable, as are the ghost stories. We grabbed lunch in a hamburger joint called the Haunted Hamburger, which was crawling with skeletons, stories of poltergeists, and delicious Oreo milkshakes. I wish we’d had more time to poke around in the art galleries and historic buildings, but, alas, Sedona beckoned.

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A taste of the view from Jerome, as well as the Haunted Hamburger and her…decor.

In case you haven’t discovered the vacationing boon that is VRBO.com, give it a visit. Both in Tucson and Sedona, we rented homes instead of hotel rooms. We had kitchens, laundry, separate bedrooms, etc. It’s just nice to have a little more elbow room when traveling as a group. Our Sedona home had a wall of windows and a gorgeous view of the protruding, red-rock mountains.

Sedona was our rest-and-relaxation stop in the middle of our busy week. We visited a spa (NAMTI had normally priced services, as opposed to the insane pricing of other Sedona spas), did a wine tasting at Page Springs Cellars, and ate dinner at a German-inspired restaurant in a town called Cornville.

Then we packed up and headed north to the Grand Canyon. I mean, how can you get that close and not visit the Grand Canyon?

We had a reservation at the Bright Angel Lodge, which, to our immense surprise and excitement, backed up to the canyon.

Have you been to the Grand Canyon? In this day of green-screens, PhotoShop, and special effects, I had trouble convincing my brain it was real. Like, it really is that immense and vast. I felt silly taking pictures, because really? Then again, that clearly won’t stop me from sharing those pictures with you. You’re welcome.

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The view from our hotel.

We spiffed up and had dinner at El Tovar, the swankiest place on the canyon, which basically meant we had real napkins and weren’t allowed to wear shorts and sandals. Hardship, really.

After planning just how many layers of clothing I’d need to survive a three-hour mule ride at 8 a.m. in 35-degree weather (three up top, two below), I set my alarm and looked forward to a few hours of reliving my childhood equine dreams.

For the record, I never owned a horse, but took lessons, read books, bought horse-shaped toys, and generally loved horses. Whenever we were on vacation, I’d ask to do the touristy trail ride or take the horse-drawn carriage through the city. I literally have childhood journals that have a few pages of writing like this:

Dear Diary,

Today, we’re in New Orleans. I got to ride in a carriage around the city. The horse’s name was Buttercup. She was a Clydesdale-Quarter-horse mix and stood about 15-hands tall. She was chestnut with a white blaze and three white feet. I got to pet her nose and feed her a carrot.

Seriously. Nothing about the city. Nothing about the history or what I saw.

Therefore, I decided to pay for the Grand-Canyon mule ride. And other than a sore backside and being covered in the kicked-up dust of 10 other mules, it was well worth the effort. Jon Jon the mule plodded along, which “forced” me to gaze at the Grand Canyon for two solid hours. I just kept marveling at God’s handiwork and thanking Him for making the effort, as this was pretty much the theme of the trip. Arizona has a lot going on creation-wise.

We then got in our rented Excursion—which are huge, by the way—and headed back toward Phoenix so we could catch our flight. Thankfully, our flight was perfectly on time, and we had zero trouble at the airport. I even started a conversation with a waiting pilot who happened to be in the seat next to me at the gate (Hi, Dave! I wish I’d given you this site so you could see this shout-out!). It was a sweet, serendipitous moment to chat with a man who seemed a little lonely as he flipped through pictures of his family (three Jack Russells and a gorgeous wife to be exact) on his phone and waited for his flight to leave. Then again, I seem to chat with strangers wherever I go, so I’m always game.

And now, I’m ready to see my babies. I hope can get home before they’re put to bed, but I doubt it. Of course, I’m looking forward to seeing my husband as well. He’s defending his doctoral dissertation on Tuesday, so please breathe a prayer for him. I’m looking forward to relieving him of extra parenting duty so he can brace himself for that (though, I’m eternally grateful to my mother-in-law for gifting me this time with my mom and “aunt”).

Happy Easter, everyone. What a special holiday to celebrate Jesus–all that He did and all that He is.

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