The Daily Double

Monday, November 25, 2013 Road Junkies 0 Comments

On the Road Again, Day 20: Flagstaff, AZ to Phoenix, AZ

Our day began with a search for a letterbox on the campus of Northern Arizona University.  With the snow cover left from yesterday, we were unable to identify the landmarks to follow the clue and decided to move on south toward Phoenix.
Oak Creek Canyon
Rather than speeding down I-17, we opted for US 89A, the scenic route that parallels the interstate and goes through the popular town of Sedona.  The drive took us through the spectacular Oak Creek Canyon, a river gorge often described as a smaller cousin to the Grand Canyon but accessible by car.  Towering rocky ridges loomed above cool streams running through the canyon floor.
Portable civil defense siren
North of Sedona we stopped at the West Fork Campground in search of facilities for a pit stop.  Near the restrooms we spotted a portable siren on a trailer parked nearby.  In response to our inquiry, the ranger on duty explained that the sirens are used in case of floods, forest fires, road closures or other causes necessitating evacuation.  Posted signs direct motorists to tune their radio to 92.9 for further information if they hear a siren alert.
Sedona visitors love shopping, and the town complies.
As we neared the popular Sedona, we noticed a significant increase in traffic.  This town of 10,000 residents sees more than 3 million visitors each year, most of them AARP-eligible.  That's roughly equivalent to one visitor per resident every day.

According to the local Chamber of Commerce, shopping is far and away the most popular activity visitors report they enjoy.  A stroll down the main thoroughfare lined with gift shops and restaurants and tourists and tours is testament to Sedona's willingness to provide what its visitors are seeking.  The only feature we found lacking in the cheesy tourist genre was the immensely popular pancake house.  But perhaps that's unique to tacky tourist towns of the South.  (We're talking about you, Gatlinburg and Williamsburg.)
Chapel of the Holy Cross
Like some other towns in this category—such as Bar Harbor and even Gatlinburg—the natural setting for Sedona is quite spectacular, sitting midway in Oak Creek Canyon, surrounded by towering red rock formations.  Fittingly, one of Sedona's more popular attractions is a 250-ft. Catholic chapel emerging from a 1,000-ft rock wall.  Constructed with funding and impetus of a local resident, the church was completed in 1955.
Montezuma Castle National Monument was built between 1100 and 1425.
Happy to leave the tourists and their town behind us, we continued south toward Phoenix, stopping near Camp Verde to visit some of the best preserved cliff dwellings in North America.  The primary structure, built into a limestone cliff face, is called Montezuma Castle, so named by early European Americans in the 1800s, even though the structure was built and later abandoned before the famous Aztec emperor was born.  Nor was the dwelling a castle but a "high-rise" apartment complex of five stories, with 20 rooms which housed many families.
About 30 miles north of Phoenix, we entered saguaro cactus territory, charmed by these human-like giant plants growing up and down hillsides and even atop rocky mesas.  Traffic around Arizona's capital city was thick and slow-moving.  After creeping along for an hour and a half, we traversed about 25 miles to reach our destination for the night near the suburb of Gilbert.