Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sedona and the Wild West

Driving into Sedona is truly amazing. The scene sort of opens up before you and you see all the red rocks gleaming in the sunshine.

We had decided to take a mini-break and visit the Grand Canyon and Sedona since we’re so close (a 1-hour flight to Phoenix or 8 hours driving). We picked up our rental car and drove the hour and a half north to Sedona.

Along the way you also go through Flagstaff which is beautiful and home to Northern Arizona University. It’s so funny because I never think of Arizona as having snow but there was plenty in Flagstaff (and driving out here from the East Coast we got caught in a straight-up East Coast style blizzard in Arizona).

We just got a room at the Super 8 but you can get super-fancy rooms at all-inclusive spas if that’s your kind of thing.

Sedona is famous for a few things:

  • The amazing red rocks (due to their high iron content)
  • New-Age stuff (ie. vortexes, palm readers, crystals, etc). Trust me you will very likely get annoyed by all the peasant skirts, fringed Robin-Hood style boots and incense but that’s Sedona.
  • I thought there was more but actually that’s about it

We did, however, go on the Pink Jeep Tour. You can go 4-wheeling out in the desert but we can do that at home (if so inclined which I’m not) so I chose the Ancient Indian Cliff Dwelling tour.

Although not what I was expecting (I thought we were going to climb up ladders to get to some crazy cave fortress set high in the cliffs—don’t ask why I thought this), we had a lot of fun.

The cliff dwelling was about 700 years old and from a group of Indians called the Sinaguans” which loosely translates to the “Without Waterer’s” in Spanish.

The term cliff dwelling was a little misleading to me (see above reference) but I guess technically you could call it a cliff dwelling since it’s built alongside the foot of a cliff.

We saw some cliff paintings which were pretty cool, including one of a Kokopelli. I have always hated that stupid Kokopelli guy.

I think it all stems back to when I lived in Atlanta in 1997 and a new pizza place (called Kokopelli’s and with tons of pictures of Kokopelli’s opened near my house). I had never really known what that little guy was before, but now I started seeing them on every hippy and new age-wannabe. They’ve plagued me ever since.

However, our guide told us that most modern depictions don’t show what I can politely call the Kokopelli’s huge male member. He is a fertility symbol after all and he used to travel from village to village knocking up various women in order to prevent interbreeding among the village people (or so the myth goes).

A kind of Don Juan of the Desert if you will.

The best part of the Indian dwelling for me was that someone had painted a picture of their hand on the cliff side (like those tracings of your hand you made in kindergarten except this guy didn’t turn his into a turkey head).

It was pretty amazing to imagine some Indian guy 700 years ago or so, tracing his hand on the wall for posterity. It’s such a human thing to do that it made the experience so real. You could also see people’s fingerprints in the mud they used as mortar in some of the buildings.

In Sedona there were a couple of vegetarian and vegan restaurants (yay!) but we really only had time to visit one. D’Lish (and it was!). I had a seitan BBQ sandwich which Leo tried also and loved. Although I wouldn’t get their falafel. Leo got it and it was way too dry. I think they tried to make it too healthy and you can’t do that with falafel. I also had some sort of vegetable power drink with cilantro and a bunch of other stuff. It was good but tasted like pico de gallo in a glass.

Also in Sedona is Tlaquepaque, a centralized courtyard of shops designed after the original Tlaquepapue artist village in Guadalajara, Mexico.

I’ve seen them both and the one in Guadalajara is definitely better. But they’re both tourist attractions which means, at least for me, they’re nice to stroll around in and get a coffee or something but not to buy anything, unless you like paying 3 times what’s you’d normally pay for a souvenir.

On our last day, everyone told us we had to go through this old mining town Jerome which is about 20 miles away. At one time it was one of the biggest towns in the West and in 1903, The New York Sun dubbed it “the wickedest town in the West” because of all the prostitution, gambling and drinking.

When mining died out, most people moved but eventually hippies and artists moved in and revitalized the town. The interesting thing about this town is that it’s literally perched on the side of a mountain. It looks like it could tumble down at any moment.

The streets of the town are narrow and there are stairs everywhere so that pedestrians can get to the higher portions of the town and businesses. Unfortunately for us, we drove through on Sunday morning so not much was open, although it looked like a great place to have lunch and walk around. Definitely an interesting side trip from Sedona.

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