Day Five: The Grand Canyon and dinosaurs.

As per usual, if you are just joining us, you may want to start here.

ZOMG MONSTER DEER!On the fifth day of our Southwest adventure, we were going to hit what I suspect is one of the biggest travel spots Arizona has to offer: The Grand Canyon. We packed our bags, jumped in the car and got on 64E to see what this big hole had to offer.

As you can see from the sign on the left, Arizona is home to GIANT DEER (in addition to the jackalope, of course). I kept my eyes peeled for these freaks of nature during my drive, but sadly these elusive beasts were nowhere to be found.

After about an hour and a half drive, and a brief stop where we picked up our pass to the park (using my dad’s VIP AARP discount, FTW!), we took a drive around the canyon.

Now, let me say, the Grand Canyon is impressive as hell, there is no doubt about it. But I can see where people are coming from when they say Sedona is the better visit. Sedona has an edge over the canyon because Sedona has color, something the canyon is missing. Sure, its sheer size is amazing, but at there is no green to be found. And its all pretty much one shade of brown. To a small degree, the painted desert has slightly more to offer. That’s not to say the Grand Canyon is overrated, but considering what I had seen the days before it, I wasn’t blown away by it. That didn’t stop me from taking a thousand pictures, though.

Pops. Big Les copping a feel on The Sheriff.

That picture on the right, that there is the epitome of my trip. That’s Big Les groping at my father, as my aunt Fame completely ignores. Make no mistake, she knows what he’s doing, but after years of living with him, I suspect she just finds it easier to act like everything is normal. Is there any wonder why I used to love spending summers up there as a kid?

Grand Canyon More Grand Canyon

Even more Grand Canyon Stupid lizard.

Like I said, impressive, sure, but the canyon just doesn’t have the beauty the other places I’d been on this visit. I’m still glad I went, though. I can say I’ve been. And if I didn’t go, that lizard would have been giving some other fool the evil eye.

After we saw all we wanted to see, we hopped back into the car and headed East, back in to the general direction of Albuquerque. We were in no hurry, but that’s where the flights were leaving from in a few days, so we figured we better start going in that general direction.

On the way, my pops and I decided to take a quick jump off the highway to check out Meteor Crater. We had seen the exit on the way out West a couple days before, and we figured what the hell, let’s stop. We paid our $15 and checked out “The first proven, best-preserved meteorite crater on Earth.” That sucker was impressive, and man I’m glad I stopped.

Big Hole Big hole, small people.

Okay, you can’t see it, but down in that white circle in the center stands a man (not a real man, a man cut out of wood) holding a 6′ tall American flag. The pic on the right with the people kind of gives you a perspective of how huge this crater is. It’s 4,000 feet across. I think you could have like 20 football fields fit into it. It was pretty spectacular.

Pops, again.The last stop we made for the evening was a gift shop just off the highway that offered A FREE PIECE OF PETRIFIED WOOD! (one per car).

Free is free, and they had dinosaurs and Indians outside on their lot. Honestly, how can you resist a store that has dinosaurs AND Indians on their parking lot. You can’t.

So while the rest of my family was in the store checking out the goods and getting their FREE PETRIFIED ROCK, I, like a child, went down to check out the T-Rex and Teepee. I would have certainly regretted it if I didn’t.

Soon enough we left, and headed for parts unknown. We had two more full days left on this jaunt, and we were going to make the most of them, come hell or high water.

The Indians really had it rough. ZOMG DINOSAUR!

Day Four: Sedona and getting my kicks.

Day four of the Southwest excursion was probably one of my favorite days out there, for two reasons, the first being Sedona.

Hitting the various tourist spots you always run into, well, other tourists. And once you got to talking to some of them, there was a general consensus that a visit to Sedona, Arizona was an absolute must if it’s in the general direction of where you were heading. I also heard from more than one person that Sedona is more impressive than the Grand Canyon — something which I tend to agree with, but that will come later.

We pulled off 40 west and jumped on Arizona 89A about 9 (or maybe 10) on the fourth day. This road was going to take us right down to Sedona, but it was most definitely the scenic route. At the first pull off, the first thing I noticed was a temperature board by the bathrooms. In Flagstaff the temperature was going to be about 75º. In Sedona, the temperature was going to be 93º. Flagstaff and Sedona are about 30 miles away from each other. A damn 20º difference in about 30 miles. That’s almost as insane as the view from that first stop.

Sedona More Sedona

I wish I remembered the name of that first stop, but it slips my mind. It was one of the memorable of the scenic overlooks we’ve hit, though. (So memorable I can’t remember what it was called, right?)

Even more Sedona

After spending a bit of time checking out the sites and the vendor’s wares (yes, there was a string of vendors set up at the overlook having some sort of flea market. Everything was 100% INDIAN CRAFTED and 100% AUTHENTIC. Everywhere we went had 100% INDIAN CRAFTED and 100% AUTHENTIC trinkets. Most of it looked the same. Some of it was the same thing from vendor to vendor. I think they all buy from the same warehouse.

Face!As we headed south on 89A, we pulled off at various points to snap some pictures. Okay, I took most of the pictures. I was averaging about 100 pictures a day on this trip, but I figured the more pictures I took, the better chance I would have of a great one in the mix. This one on the left, while not necessarily a great picture, was one of the more cool ones (without me in it, of course) that I took.

When you are checking out the scenery, and you see a face in the cliffs, you have to take a picture. I think I have five more of this one, but I posted the best one.

I swear it's there.I saw another shape in the cliff, and I snagged a picture of that one, too. However, on this one, no one I was with saw what I was seeing — which was kind of a horse.

If you look close (at least in my head), you can see the right eye (his left) of a horse, and the nostril. If you can’t see it, let me know and I’ll draw lines and shit with microsoft paint. It’s there. Trust me.

Moving on, 89A runs right smack into the town of Sedona, which was a gigantic tourist trap (not that that is a bad thing).

The best part of Sedona was Buck Thornton’s World of Jerky store. When I went on  my Texas road trip a year or so ago, one thing I didn’t-buy-but-wish-I-had was some Alligator jerky I saw at a truck stop. Ever since that trip, I’d been half ass looking for it at random truck stops. At one point during this trip, I had asked someone who was selling jerky if they had Gator jerky, and my uncle overheard me and laughed at me, saying that people wouldn’t have it. Well, low and behold, the jerky store not only had Gator jerky (which, yes, I did buy and it was delicious), but also Ostrich, Salmon, Buffalo and Elk jerky. I picked up Ostrich jerky, too, but it wasn’t as good as the Gator. Big Les didn’t have much to say about the jerky. The particular brand I had was Buffalo Bob’s. If you ever see it, I highly recommend it.

MORE Sedona Good God, here's some more.

The people we had spoken to about Sedona were right, if you are passing near, absolutely stop. Amazing views and a cool little town with friendly people makes the stop worth it. Another very cool thing about the town of Sedona is the damn view from it. I could get behind living in a town that has the scenery Sedona has.

Last Sedona.

We got back on the road and headed for Williams, Arizona, which would be the last stop for the evening. We were planning to go to the Grand Canyon the next day, and Williams is a town far enough away from the Grand Canyon to have reasonably priced hotel rooms, but not too far away where you have to drive forever to get there (not that I would have minded, I was in heaven with all the driving I was doing).

Williams is also a town that probably hasn’t changed much since the ’50s. Located right smack on Route 66, this was pure enjoyment for me. One of the things I’ve always wanted to do was drive 66 from beginning to end. While I didn’t do that this trip, we did a lot of traveling of that historic highway.

Sign at Cruiser's waiting spot.We got our rooms just on the edge of town, unpacked, and decided to grab a beer or two at a bar we had passed, then explore the town a little. The bar, Cruisers 66, was exactly the type of place I wanted to have a beer at, as it screamed Route 66, from the sign on down to the awesome atmosphere.

Now, by this time, I wasn’t the only one with a cowboy hat. My dad had mentioned that he liked mine, and I convinced him to buy one when we were in Sedona. I was getting a lot of goodhearted ribbing from my uncle about mine (which if it wasn’t the hat, it would have been something else, and that’s how my family is, anyway), and I think my pops knew he would be hearing it too. But, in the end, he cared as much as what Big Les was going to say as I did, and picked up his own hat in Sedona. Oh, holy hell, did Big Les go at him with guns blazing, and immediately coined my pops “The Sheriff.” And not only did he let my father know that he was The Sheriff, he let waiters, waitresses, salespeople…well, anyone that would listen, that my dad was The Sheriff and not to mess with him. And I was The Deputy. Good Lord did he have us laughing.

The Sheriff scoping the crowd, watching for trouble. Don't mess with the Sheriff or his Deputy.

After a few beers (which were brewed on site, and quite tasty), we tooled around the (very small) town a bit, checking out the souvenir stores. Shockingly, I don’t think any of us bought anything this night. We eventually headed back to the hotel to call it at night, as the next day held another adventure.

Love this pic. It looks better in real life.