Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Road Trip - Sedona Arizona

We went on a field trip last weekend – my new employer actually gives us time off on holidays, and Monday was President’s Day. Conveniently located between Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays, I don’t know if this was a created day to give us another holiday or a consolidation of those two to give us one less holiday. But we did not have to come to work that day, so I don’t really care. We took the time to go on a short trip that my wife has been requesting for a few months.

Her cousin has temporarily moved from Vegas to a small Arizona town named Camp Verde. It is the historical location of an old fort, where soldiers were stationed to keep the ‘Indian scourge’ in check, and enforce the move of the Navajo nation into concentration camps (oh, sorry, Indian Reservations). Yes, Native American is the correct phrase, but back then they were the fierce red man. A friend of mine from the train club (yes, I play with toy trains) has also moved to a small Arizona town named Cottonwood, not far from Camp Verde.

Its 300 miles from our house to that area, so we planned on a three day trip. Out west we don’t always talk in miles. Since the speed limits are 65 or 75mph we usually talk hours. So from Vegas to Camp Verde it’s five hours, including a stop in Kingman for gas and food. One night at the cousin’s house, and one night in a hotel. I would much rather do hotels than guest rooms – our own tv, don’t have to worry about keeping up somebody we know, and able to get up and wander to the bathroom in our underwear.

This is what residential Cottonwood looks like. Downtown is about three blocks long and not very photogenic.

It was named after all the cottonwood trees down by the river. Like the rest of Arizona this area is also dry, but the Verde river flows through here, providing water and shade. It does get up over 100f during the summer, but the water also provides a convenient place for mosquitoes to breed, so they have bug problems that we don’t have in dryer Vegas. It was also a big mining area – lots of copper mines and slag heaps still around, though the active mining is no more.

Near Camp Verde is the historical Montezuma's Castle, a national park just three miles from downtown. It’s one of the best preserved cliff dwellings, abandoned over five hundred years ago.

B grew up in Phoenix, about 75 miles south. She remembers climbing up into the ruins when she was a kid, before the park service fenced things off and started on improvements.

Out in front of the castle is Beaver Creek, the water source for past residents.

About thirty miles north is the town of Sedona. This area is known for the red rock formations and it’s gathering of psychics, mystics, and crystal lovers: those that draw energy from the earth.

This is the road from Cottonwood up to Sedona. Rocks in the distance, and not much else. No water up here, so there is no farming. There are some farms down along the Verde River, but mostly nut trees.

We were riding with my friend, and he was just zipping along so I didn’t get much of a chance to take photos – I’ve got a lot of fuzzy ones taken through the bugs on his windshield.

On the way back we did hit a storm up on Rt. 40. The place we hit it is around 4,500 ft elevation, and the snow line was around 5,000 ft. We did run into some snow as the rode wandered up and down through the mountains, but mostly a lot of rain. These are the mountains over Kingman, where we stopped at the Burger King for lunch.

The ride then took off north and crossed the dam and back to Vegas.

I still don’t understand the ongoing paranoia in this country with ‘security’. There were checkpoints on both sides of the dam where officials searched your car for explosives. Trucks and busses are not allowed on the dam any more; they are forced to go south fifty miles to cross the river, and a big bridge is being constructed so traffic can bypass the dam. Have you ever seen the movies of the construction of Hoover Dam? There is so much concrete in there that I doubt if anything short of an atomic bomb would do anything to it. A truck full of dynamite exploding on top wouldn’t do much – all the force would go up, producing almost no damage. But I guess people feel ‘safer’ with those searches, and don’t mind the FOUR HOUR DELAY during peak tourist season. Just like those idiots that have no complaints about airport security (the main reason I drive so much). Even during our trip it took a half hour to get past security. Big waste of time.

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