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Back in 2012, we decided to take the kids back to our home state of Arizona and then do a big loop out to California. The kids were eleven and eight, so there were old enough to remember the trip and at that great age when they loved doing things as a family. It seemed like a good time.
We were going in early June, so we knew that Phoenix would be in the low 110 degF range each day, but we were also planning to go to Northern Arizona, which would see temperatures in the 70’s, and also out to the beach in California which might be in the low 80’s. During the time in Phoenix we decided to stay at the Pointe Resort, which had added a small waterpark as part of the resort, so we figured we’d just hang out in the water a lot of the time.
So the plan was to fly into Phoenix, then go up to Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon for a couple of days, then drive through Lake Havasu City and Kingman, then out to LA and Anaheim, down to San Diego, then back to Phoenix. We got our digital camera, packed our suitcases, and jumped on the plane. In a few hours, we had landed at Sky Harbor Airport.
We got into Phoenix. As expected, the heat was oppressive, but nothing we weren’t expecting. We went to the Pointe, which was arranged in a set of smaller buildings with eight or so condo-like rooms in each building. When we got to our room, the kids got a drink of water from the tap.
“Dad, this water is terrible!” said my son.
My wife and kids quickly declared that the water was undrinkable. I remembered drinking water from the tap growing up and never really minded the heavily chlorinated taste. After living in places with good tap water, however, I had to admit that it did taste a bit off. I thought we could tolerate it for a few days, but after consultation with my wife, I headed off to the supermarket to buy a bottle of water.
I went to the Abco, which was actually the supermarket we used when I was growing up in Phoenix (it was a Lucky’s supermarket at the time). I’d been there probably more than one hundred times. I bought a gallon jug of water (I’ve never understood paying a quarter for a single-serving of water) and headed back to the room. I also bought some soda and snacks.
We spent the next couple of days at the resort. The water park was nice with one big pool with a few slides from an upper level down into it and then a lazy river that went around the area. We also saw a few friends while we were in town and had dinner with them. After that, we loaded up the car, including the bottle of water, minus a glass, and headed up I-17 to Flagstaff.
Jerome, Sedona, and Oak Creek Canyon
Once we got out of the Valley and up onto the Mongolian Rim we stopped at Sunset Point, my favorite rest stop. Shortly after that we left I-17 and started to take the backroads.
First, we drove through Cottonwood and over to the ghost town of Jerome Arizona. Jerome is an old copper mining town, once known as the “Wickedest Town in the West.” It reached a population of 15,000 in the 1920’s, but was abandoned after WWII and became a ghost town. Then it was resettled with 50-100 residents there today. They even had an influx of hippies during the 1980’s and this largely isolated town is full of artists today. Many make art from copper and silver, given the town’s history in mining these minerals.
The neatest part about the town is that it is on the side of a mountain with all of the houses built out over the slope. The highway up to the town is narrow and windy, so it had my wife grasping the dash board the whole way up. Once up at the town, we found a place to park and went to eat lunch at the restaurant. There are spectacular views of the whole area below. I remembered staying with my wife at the Ghost City Inn Bed and Breakfast several years ago and looking out the window there from our room over the expanse.
From Jerome we continued up the old highway through Oak Creek Canyon, which has some of the most beautiful scenery in Arizona. Along the way we stopped in Sedona and went shopping at a few of the shops. We remembered being at a bed and breakfast in Northern California a few years before and listening to a New Agey-couple talking about Sedona and how you could feel the vortexes rising up from the rocks. We didn’t see any vortexes, but did get some nice pictures of red rocks along the way.
After Sedona we continued up the road and up in elevation towards Flagstaff, AZ. we then reached a destination I was eager to share with my kids: Slide Rock. Slide Rock is a natural area where the creek flows through a series of rocks that have some algae growing on them. The result is a series of slides where the you can sit down and the water would push you downstream.
I was a little disappointed when we got there in that what had been just an open area that anyone could enjoy when I was growing up had become a park property with a $20 day use fee. Since it was around 5 PM by the time we got there, we would only have an hour or two to enjoy the area before sundown, so the $20 felt like a rip-off. Still, we had come all of that way and decided to go ahead and feel the pain to show the area to the kids.
The park service had added some nice amenities like a bath house, which allowed us to change out of our wet bathing suits at the end of the stop. (We were a little disappointed in that they were trying to close the bathrooms early, so we had to fight a bit to get time to change.) They also had constructed a homestead and some landscaping that would have been typical of houses in the area a hundred years before. If I were living in the wilderness, being in a place like Slide Rock would have been great.
During college, my wife and several of her friends had a different adventure at Slide Rock. She went with her female friends and couple of guys that they knew. While they were there, my wife (girlfriend at the time) looked over to see her friends sunbathing topless on a rock. She didn’t join them and was a bit shocked by the scene.
After the sun went down we headed on up Oak Creek Canyon and finally arrived in Flagstaff and went to our motel for the night. We went to Granny’s Closet for dinner (my wife went to college in Flagstaff, so we knew the area well). After dinner, I went to a local store Walgreen’s and bought some water bottles, since we were going to be hiking into the Grand Canyon the next day and had forgotten to bring any from home. I bought some really cheap ones, expecting to throw them away after the day, but somehow they made it into our suitcases and are in our cabinet today, never used since that trip.
The Grand Canyon
We got up early the next morning and headed north to the Canyon. The plan was to do a bit of easy hiking in the morning and then some site seeing along the rim during the afternoon. My wife had been to the Canyon several times, but had never been below the rim. I had been all the way to the river and back (in one day) during a high school Ranger team trip. Our children who were about 10 and 7 had never been to the Canyon.
We parked in one of the large parking lots and then proceeded to visit the gift shop. One of the books I leafed through was Death in the Canyon, which details the many deaths that have occurred at the Grand Canyon. Many were things like being swept away by the river or backing up too much when taking a picture, but there were some incidents like defiant children who simply ran over the edge when their parents told them to stay back. After reading up and my mind being filled with death and worry, we went to the trail.
I saw on a map the Ooh Aah point was about two miles down the South Kaibab trail, which seemed like a reasonable hike for us. We parked near the South Kaibab trailhead and headed down. Walking down was fairly easy, although my wife was a bit worried about losing her footing on the sloped trail. We made good progress, however, and after about an hour made it down to Ooh AAh point and took some pictures. I looked down at the trail below, and of course it was tempting to continue on since it seemed like it was just a little bit further, but we were sensible and started back up.
Now, even though it wasn’t particularly hot (it was in the high 70s or 80s) since we were at high altitude on the rim of the Canyon, it was very dry and the sun was intense, making you dry out quickly. All of us were drinking water regularly, except my daughter who declared that she was not going to drink water. My son and I tried to explain that she needed to drink water to avoid dehydration, but she insisted that she wouldn’t. I started having pictures of her passing out on the way up and wondered if I’d be strong enough to carry her back up to the rim. Luckily, she changed her mind with a little prodding, drank some water, and was able to make it back up to the rim.
From there, we went in to the café to have lunch. Then, we went on a park bus out to Herman’s Rest. We saw that area, then went out to the second to the last bus stop, where we heard it was a great place to see the sunset. We sat there, looking out over the canyon as the sun set and the canyon came alive with colors. After it had sufficiently set, we got up and gathered with the crowd who were also there to wait for our bus.
That’s where we realized our mistake. Because the buses went out to the end of the line and loaded up before heading back, and because everyone who went out to see the sunset was heading back at the same time, we needed to wait for a few buses until there was enough space that we could get on one. One we did get on a bus, it was standing room only. So, we stood up for more than a half hour as the bus slowly made its way back to the visitor’s center and unloaded.
At that point is was absolutely pitch black. There were absolutely no street lamps in the parking lot and no ambient light at all. As we wandered the huge parking lot in total blackness except for the car lights as people drove away, I kept thinking that there was a canyon somewhere around there somewhere and wondered if I would be one of the deaths in the canyon, having wandered over the edge, looking for my car. Finally, we found the car and headed back to Flagstaff.
Kingman, Lake Havasu City, and the trip to LA
The next day, after having breakfast at the Little America coffee shop, we headed out towards Kingman, Arizona on Highway 66, then went Southwest to Lake Havasu City. I’d been to Lake Havasu about fifteen years before, having ridden my bike there from Phoenix. It is a pretty place right on the lake formed from the Colorado river but it is also really, really hot with temperatures routinely reaching 115 deg F or more each summer. It is frequently the hot spot for the country, swapping the title with Bull Head City several miles down the river.
This day was no different than normal. We drove through town from north to south, watching the wavering of the air that happens when really hot air rises off of the asphalt. There we turned into the parking lot for the London Bridge Village.
You’ll remember the nursery rhyme about London Bridge falling down. Apparently this was actually the case. Well, hearing that this was happening, the town of Lake Havasu decided to buy it. London bridge was transported from London, stone by stone, and reassembled over the lake at a fairly narrow spot. The rumor is that the town folk of Lake Havasu thought they were buying the Tower Bridge from London, an iconic structure, and were disappointed when the London Bridge showed up, much as it is. Still, the town made the best of it, set it up, and then created a little shopping area around it, complete with a little hedge maze. Luckily the maze isn’t too large as many would probably perish inside after getting lost in the 120 degree heat.
So, we walked across the bridge between Arizona and California, took a few pictures, then headed down a set of steps under the bridge to go into a few shops. We were absolutely the only people anywhere around, the temperature being in the high one-teens and it being very close to noon. Right then, a lady appeared from one of the doors and gave us a sales pitch for a timeshare in Lake Havasu City!
We were nice enough, but we were all thinking that right in the middle of summer, right in the middle of the day, right there on the hot sidewalk was not the time or place to be trying to convince people to come back every year. Perhaps if she had gone to a marina where people were coming back from a day on the lake or to one of the beaches around she would have found some interest, but I couldn’t imagine anyone seeing the place on that day and thinking, “Wow, I really want to get a timeshare here.” I’m sure that in January when it is 70 degrees and sunny there they get lots of interest, but not in the middle of summer.
On to Anaheim
From lake Havasu City we headed through Kingman AZ to Anaheim, CA. I’d driven across the Mojave desert many times as a young adult and rode across as a passenger in my parent’s car, but this time the distances and remoteness were intimidating. Often there were spans of 20 to 40 miles with absolutely nothing, only interrupted at the end by a small gas station with maybe a restaurant attached. I thought about what it would be like to break down out there and walk a day or more in the 110 degree heat to get to anything. Luckily this didn’t happen and we made it to LA and into Anaheim.
The next day we got up bright and early, trying to get to Disneyland when they opened. We had a hotel about five or six blocks away, so we were able to walk to the entrance. Of course, we had to walk all the way through the Disney Marketplace to get the the entrance. We stopped in the Disnew General Store where my wife found some potholders she liked, but figured she could buy them somewhere else in the park and didn’t want to carry them all day, so she left them there. Somewhere along the way my daughter got some $30 Mickey princess ears that she wore for the day.
We spent the day and evening in the park. For dinner we ate at some sort of Mickey Italian restaurant and I got a $15 plate of spaghetti. we then started looking for the potholders my wife liked, but couldn’t find them anywhere. Finally around midnight the park was closing, so we were heading back to the hotel. It was then that my wife discovered that the Disney Marketplace was open until 1 AM and that if we hurried, we could get back to the General Store and get the potholders. The store was, of course, all the way at the end of the marketplace.
We walked all the way down. Along the way we were seeing that a lot of the stores were closed. I was hoping that we’d missed the opportunity and could just go back to the hotel and save $30. No such luck. Some cast members indicated that the store was open. Sure enough, the General Store was about the only thing open at this time we finally made it down there. So we went in, shopped for what seemed an hour, and then left at about 1 AM with the pot holders. We then trudged all the way through the Disney market, back up the five or six blocks to our hotel, and got in around 1:30 AM.
Around 3 AM I woke up and emptied the contents of my stomach into the toilet. I was so sick. I thought maybe it was food poisoning from the Mickey spaghetti, but it may also have been dehydration and exhaustion. We ended up staying in the motel until about 10 AM when I finally felt better enough to drive.
To be continued….