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We are, actually, now home again but want to give you some information about the last section of our holiday. I finished the last blog post reporting the final stage of our journey to Flagstaff and our intention to visit Sedona so that is where I will begin.
I referred to the plateau we drove across that contained trees that I described as looking “similar to Ponderosa Pines.” Well, they were not just similar to Ponderosa Pines, they were Ponderosa Pines. The largest Ponderosa Pine forest in North America is the one located near Flagstaff on part of what is known as the Colorado Plateau. Very impressive and beautiful.
Our visit to Sedona started with a small glitch. I asked the young man in the front office of the motel where we were staying to advise me of the best route out of town to get on the road to Sedona. I had consulted a map and it looked to me as though the best way was to get on a freeway not far from the motel and then leave it at the first exit to get on the road to Sedona. I asked him whether this was the best way. He shook his head and gave me instructions to go through the centre of town and join a different route and, “follow the signs to highway 17 and Sedona.” I tried to do that and successfully joined highway 17 but could not see any further signs directing us to Sedona! We soon realized that we were not heading in the direction we wanted to go and, if we stayed on the present highway we would eventually end up in Pheonix, more than 300 miles away. It was 27 miles before we could get off the freeway and get on to a road to Sedona.
This actually did not turn out to be a disaster as it put us on to a different route through spectacular red rock formation country that we would have missed if we had gone the more direct route.
Sedona, at an elevation of 4,500 feet, is one of a number of communities that are located in the Verde Valley, the traditional home for many centuries of the Yavapai and Apache tribes. In 1863 gold was discovered in the area and this signalled a dark and shameful period in the history of the US in the 19th century. The Yavapai and Apache people were hunted and shot as though they were vermin. After the American Civil War, the government set up reservations for the native people. In 1876 the surviving Yavapai and Apache people in the Verde Valley were forcibly marched out of their traditional home to the Carlos Indian Reservation, 180 miles away. The move was undertaken in midwinter and several hundred died during the march. They were interned for 25 years. In 1900 about 200 returned to the Verde Valley but it would take decades more before the US government would take steps to address the grievous harm that had been done. I do not mention this in any spirit of self righteousness or judgmental manner, but for the record. No matter what our national, ethnic roots may be, we share the same cursed fallen human nature and will find that the history of our own nation will also record acts of cruel inhumanity and episodes of wicked, irrational violence.
When you learn the name of a place do you ever wonder how it came to be so? I wondered whether Sedona had a Spanish influence or perhaps it came from the language of the native people. The answer is much simpler. The town was named after Sedona Arabella Miller Schnebly. Now who was she? She was the wife of the first postmaster in the town. He was sent there by the US Postal Service in 1902. Sedona (1877-1950) was a warm hearted, much respected and liked lady who was known for her hospitable ways and industrious nature.
The population of Sedona is just over 10,000. It has become a successful vacation destination and resort. One of, if not the major attraction is the glorious number of stunning red-orange sandstone formations that surround the town. It is the only place in the world that this particular kind of red sandstone exists. The sandstone formations, that go by such names as Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock are truly awesome.
The architecture of the buildings in the town is such that the colours must blend in with the red sandstone topography of the area. The town council has, and still does, show wisdom in its control of this matter. For example, when MacDonald’s wanted to open a fast food restaurant there, the Sedona council told the company that golden arches would not do as the colour would not “mesh” with the natural colours of the area and that of other existing buildings. MacDonald’s was asked to submit an alternate colour for its arches and turquoise was suggested. Sedona’s council members liked it and approved it. MacDonald’s in Sedona is the only place in the entire international chain of its restaurants where the arches are a colour other than golden.
There are quite different types of tours offered in the town. We met a young man during the morning who said he could arrange for us to join a jeep tour in the afternoon. It would cost us no money but we would be expected to attend a “presentation.” It turned out to be a sales pitch for a time share organization which we did not take – and thus did not get the jeep tour!
Sedona has become a centre for “new-agers.” This became clear to us the moment we started driving along the main street through town. It seemed that every few yards there was an establishment advertising psychic readings, card readings, healing crystals for sale, or stating that it was a metaphysical centre or the location of a healing vortex.
We returned to our motel in Flagstaff around supper time. Our original holiday plans were that we would continue going east in Arizona and then go north into Wyoming, up through Yellowstone Park and into Montana, from where we would make our way westward into Idaho, Washington and home. We had been discussing together whether we should change our plans. We had already done a lot of driving and our original proposal would mean many more miles and hours of driving than we had already done. Grace was also feeling that she had had enough of hours and hours driving across barren landscapes and desert. So we made the radical decision to leave Wyoming and Yellowstone until another time. Also, because we had been to the Grand Canyon twice, once to the south rim (1973) and once to the north rim (2003), we had not included it in our itinerary this year. We decided to start our journey home. We thought about driving around the east side of the Grand Canyon, north to Salt Lake City, on northwards into Idaho, Washington and home. This route would take us through some great scenery but would be long and slow through the mountains. There was another option, and that was get on Interstate 40 and drive west into California where we would connect with Interstate 5 that would bring us all the way to Bellingham, Washington, less than one hour from home. It would be freeway all the way and once we entered California we would never be very far away from an urban centre or a shopping mall! It was a no brainer – we would take it.
The following morning (September 21) we left Flagstaff and headed west on I-40. We still had some desert to go through as we dropped down to a lower altitude. We stopped at a rest area in the desert to have our picnic lunch. Not far from our table was a sign stating, “Warning. Poisonous snakes and insects inhabit this area.” The sign also included pictures of a snake and a scorpion. We did not see any.
We decided, if possible, to drive to Bakersfield, California and stay overnight there. South east of Bakersfield we began to drive through a mountainous area and, as we did so, saw an amazing sight. It consisted of hundreds and hundreds of wind generators. We did not know (because we had never heard of it) that we were entering the Tehachapi Pass Wind Farm. California has 13,000 wind generators, 5,000 of which are located at Tehachapi. To us it appeared that the mountain ridges and upper slopes were covered by a solid mass of these high tech, modern wind turbines, almost all of which were whirring away. Billions of dollars have been invested since the 1980s in California’s wind energy industry and created thousands of jobs. Of course, most of all, it is providing clean electrical energy using a renewable resource. Wind turbine design, plus other equipment involved in the process have improved so dramatically that it now costs only a quarter of what it cost to generate the same amount of electricity in the 1980s. It is said that the US is the highest consumer of fossil fuels such as oil, but it must be pointed out that it is also in the vanguard of developing energy production from alternative, clean sources.
The following morning, not long after we set out from Bakersfield we joined I-5 at a little place called Button Willow and were in familiar territory. The next three days passed smoothly as we drove north on a freeway and territory (California, Oregon and Washington) we have come to know well during the almost four decades that North America has been our home.
It is good to be home and we hope you have enjoyed travelling with us via this blog.