What do you do when you have friends who live in a state that has a lot of neat things to see and do? Well, I don’t know about you, but I plan a vacation to go visit them! And that’s just what I did March 4th – 11th – I went to Arizona and had an amazing time!!! I do believe I saw more of the state of Arizona in one week than most people see in a lifetime – and there are still a whole bunch of things I didn’t get to see and we put on the list for my next visit!
DAY 1 – March 4th
Not much to say about day 1 – I had an early morning dentist appointment, I dropped the girls off at the boarding place, and I flew non-stop from Buffalo to Phoenix! The flight was long, but uneventful. I stayed with Ron and Lisa in Apache Junction in the Phoenix/Mesa area – they have a beautiful home at the foot of the Superstition Mountain with gorgeous views from every angle!
My morning view outside the glass sliding doors of my bedroom – I could get used to this!
And I didn’t even have to go outside to enjoy the views!
This is the view from sitting on the couch in the living room, looking out onto the pool area – with the Superstition Mountain in the background!
One of Ron and Lisa’s babies – Chico (AKA, PeePee) – checking out the brochures and suggesting things for us to do!
Me – soaking up some sun by the pool – fitting right in with my cowgirl hat and shades!
This amazed me — I brought this photo home and showed it to my girls and told them that this cabana is how their spoiled AZ cousins shade themselves on the patio! They are so jealous!
DAY 2 – March 5th
This was my “Bonnie” day. A dear old friend that I’ve known from kindergarten also lives right there in Mesa, so we planned to spend a whole day together – just the two of us! What a treat! On the long drive to Tucson, we talked and talked and laughed and laughed – we caught up on everything and everyone! Then, we spend a few hours at Old Tucson – a theme park with old movie and TV sets and memorabilia. We had such a good time! Then, when we got back at the end of the day, we went to Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill for dinner and had a delicious steak! Here are some photos from our fabulous day together:
We had to start the day with a photo — this is me and Bonnie on the patio at Ron and Lisa’s with the Superstition Mountain in the background.
As with most theme parks, they had a photo shop where you put on period clothing and take a fun commemorative photo! We couldn’t resist! Here we are ready to take on any cowboy that comes along! The girl taking the photo asked if we wanted a gun or other props she had to offer – Bonnie took a rifle, but I said, “nope, I’ll just take this bottle of Jack Daniels!”! She still gave me a pistol to hold, but I was happy with the bottle of Jack! hehehe
We posted the WANTED poster on Facebook and asked friends to send bail money………no one did!!!!
I love this picture of Bonnie – she is in a chapel looking out at the dessert and mountains – it came out dark, but that is just as it should be……..
All of Old Tucson looks like you just walked onto the set of an old Western movie – cause, you DID!
We saw a gun fight, cowboys, a sheriff, and saloon girls – we even sat in on a Saloon show, complete with a can-can dance:
DAY 3 – March 6
On Wednesday, we made the rounds of some local attractions right in and near Apache Junction. We went to the Superstition Mountain Museum – I had to go there because the web site said they had an Elvis Chapel – the chapel used in the filming of Elvis’ western movie, Charro! What self-respecting Elvis Presley fan wouldn’t take advantage of that? We also went to Saguaro Lake – so beautiful – the water was like the bluest glass I’ve ever seen! Then, we went to Fountain Hills – a town with a gorgeous lake and a huge fountain.
Here are a sampling of photos from Day 3:
First up are pics from the Superstition Mountain Museum – again, there are actual movie and TV sets on display. It is the home of Apache Land Studios and a lot of big stars shot scenes right there where we were!
This is Ron and Lisa looking at a small section of a wall of portraits of all the stars who were there at one time or another – lots of famous faces.
Hard to see him, but this is Ron in the stage-coach.
And, THIS, is the Elvis Chapel! What a thrill to step foot into a building where Elvis actually walked!
I half expected to see this walk through the door or be sitting in a pew, just waiting for me to arrive! (be still my heart!)
Instead, this was the display I found inside the chapel……….
……….a cheesy metal stand-up that was a badly painted rendition of “Las Vegas Elvis”!
What a disappointment! But, heck, it was still Elvis, so I had my picture taken beside it! HA!
Next, we went to Saguaro Lake – the first picture is me and Lisa and the second is of Ron and Lisa:
After Saguaro Lake, we went to Fountain Hills – very pretty and peaceful place! We had fantastic dinner at a place there called “The Saddle Bronc Grill” – very nice place!
Ron and Lisa at the fountain.
There were many, many ducks all around the lake – this couple had a bag of bread and were feeding them! They started to leave and a whole line of ducks followed them all the way around the edge of the lake, across the yard, and on until they were out of sight! It was so funny!!!
This is the Saddle Bronc Grill – cool looking outside and very nicely decorated inside, including (as you can see in the next two photos) the lady’s room…..
……it wasn’t just the food that was YUMMY!
DAY 4 – March 7
On Thursday, Lisa and I went shopping during the day. We also stopped in at the Chamber of Commerce and picked up some brochures and information for the rest of the trip. The Chamber building was a great representation of the area – a real eye catcher and typical southwestern design.
Then Ron joined us later in the day to go to Tortilla Flat and take a cruise on the Dolly Steamboat on Canyon Lake — what a fabulous choice! First stop was Tortilla Flat, which is a very small (population: 6) town – actually, just a strip of buildings at the end of a very long, winding, scary road up the mountain. Now, I need to mention here that I’m not a fan of heights and panic a little (OK, a lot) when I don’t feel safe from falling! There were parts of this road where I had to just close my eyes and hold my breath to keep from losing it – like, you know those mountain roads that are so close to the edge of the mountain that you really think if you sneeze, you’ll slide off the face of the earth!!!??? That’s this road! But, when we got there, it was all worth it…….there was a mercantile, a restaurant, a gift shop, and a post office – that’s it, well, and a live band playing some awesome music! It was so cool and was jammed with people – THE place to be! The intent was to have our dinner there, but we ended up not having enough time to eat and get to the cruise on time, so we just shopped and snapped some photos.
The left side of the road at Tortilla Flat – across the street was were all the action was!
What fun – lots of people hanging out and enjoying life!
The band was really awesome!
Wish I knew what this guy’s story is!!!
Then, the ultimate adventure happened — the Dolly Steamboat Cruise on Canyon Lake! If you are ever in this area of Arizona, I highly recommend this cruise – words can not describe how amazing it was! And emotional…….I was in tears and had to remind myself to breathe at several points along the hour and a half cruise! Canyon Lake snakes through the canyon and the steamboat takes you through the most gorgeous views and experience. The water was so blue and crystal clear – like a mirror reflecting the rocky ledges along the way. Amidst all that beauty, we also saw big horn sheep, bald eagles, a bald eagle nest, and other wildlife native to the canyon. Photos can not come close to portraying the majestic beauty we witnessed, but these examples do a good job of trying:
I chose to include this photo to show the incredible massiveness of the canyon – that little boat looks like a toy in the water!
There were points in the cruise where the boat sailed so close to the wall of the canyon that you could reach out and touch it!
This is a shot of Ron (the one with the cowboy hat) taking a close up photo of some petrified logs embedded in the rock!
The two narrow stacks of rock are called the “guardians of the canyon” – on top of the tallest of the two is a bald eagle nest!
And now……some shots of God’s gift of beauty:
DAY 5 – March 8
Friday was our “take a breath” day! We needed to chill a little and rest up for the weekend trip to the Grand Canyon. So, we went to see a movie in the afternoon – Oz, The Great and Powerful at the IMAX theater – awesome movie! (When you get done reading this post, scroll to the next one down and read my review of the movie!) Then, in the evening, I went to watch Ron bowl with his team – some other friends that I haven’t seen in a long time that now live in AZ, too!
DAY 6 – March 9
We got up early Saturday morning to make the three and a half hour drive to Williams, AZ to catch the two-hour train ride to the southern rim of the Grand Canyon. About the time we were near Flagstaff, it started to snow and it was pretty messy when we made it to Williams. We had breakfast in Williams and then got on the train, which was a really cool experience! There was incredible scenery all the way, musicians singing for us, and lots of wild life to see – including, herds of mule deer, elk, antelope, coyote, and lots and lots of cattle! And, on the way back, we even got stopped by some train robbers, who boarded the train with scarfs over their faces and guns to rob us – boy, the ladies were screaming and everyone was shaking in our boots!!!
Arriving in Williams, AZ – Gateway to the Grand Canyon!
THE TRAIN RIDE:
There was a photographer onboard who took souvenir photos – our’s came out so good! LOVE IT!!!
And, the package included this photo of the train robbers on their horses, too – we absolutely had to buy the package:
THE GRAND CANYON:
Whatever you’ve heard about the beauty of the Grand Canyon, multiply it by 1000……you still won’t come close!!! It was so cold and snowing while we were there – I wish the weather was better so we could have spent more time just sitting there staring at it in total awe! It was hazy with fog and snow, so we couldn’t see across the canyon as well as they say you usually can, but what we did see was so awe-inspiring – just breathtaking! Again, the photos can never capture the majesty that we experienced in person, but here are some examples that give you a little bit of an idea:
Dang – this would have been a great picture, if the wind and snow wasn’t blowing so hard in my face!!!
Me shopping inside the Hopi House
Some cool things about our day at the Grand Canyon – besides just the obvious cool thing – getting to see the Grand Canyon: The guides on the train told us to drink lots of water because of the high altitude we were at (over 7000 feet elevation) and the fact that the snow there is a “dry” snow! I snickered when I heard that – you know, they are always saying it doesn’t feel as hot out there cause it is a “dry heat”, but if it is 120 degrees, that is still HOT, regardless of whether or not there is humidity factored in! Well, I thought it was odd that they were saying the snow was actually dryer than what we’re used to in the eastern states. So, when I got there, I had to touch the snow to see if it was really dryer! And, I think it actually was! It felt “odd” – it packed really tight, like a good wet snow, but it also felt powdery, like the fluffier kind that doesn’t pack as well and it took quite a bit to make it melt in my hand and when it did, it wasn’t as watery! Really strange feeling snow! HAHA! Also, they sold recyclable water bottles that we filled at stations around the area – super icy cold water that was filtered straight from the mountain springs — the best water I think I’ve ever tasted!!!
We spent the night at the Grand Canyon Inn that was out in the middle of nowhere about 1/2 way between Williams and the Grand Canyon – really nice place and fantastic food in their restaurant! But, it was so funny – we were driving along for quite a way with nothing but ranch land on either side and then, all of a sudden, there was this little inn, a gas station, a small airport with a museum, and right across the street from the inn was “Bedrock City” – a theme park devoted to the Flintstones!!! And, then, it looked like miles of more “nothing” beyond that!
We got up the next morning and went back to Williams for breakfast at the same place we ate the morning before and to explore a little.
DAY 7 – March 10
Sunday was the return drive back to Apache Junction. We spent some time in Williams and then took the long way home and went through Jerome and Sedona!
Williams, AZ is a small historic town established in 1881, but it really looked more like it was stuck in the 50s! Historic Route 66 goes right through the middle of Williams and they really capitalize on that history and the popularity of it during the 40s, 50s, and 60s.
This is a really cool cafe in Williams – we didn’t eat there, but couldn’t resist the photo-op!
Here is Ron in front of a 50s style gas station
A corner shot in Williams
I thought taking my pic with this dude would be cool, but what made me like it even more is that you can see Ron’s reflection in the window as he is taking the photo!
Of course, we had to get our picture by one of the US 66 route signs!
Lisa and I really did “get our kicks on Route 66″ – in the form of shopping – see all the bags full of goodies in our hands???
After we left Williams, we headed toward Sedona to see the beautiful red rock that the town is famous for. On the way, we drove through Jerome, which is a very small historic town built right on the side of a mountain at over 5000 foot elevation - it literally looks like there is little keeping it from falling off the edge! Located on Cleopatra Hill in the Black Hills, Jerome used to be a booming mining town in its heyday! Now, the population is barely over 400 people.
The road to Jerome — just beyond the guard rail (that is inches from the edge of the road – another route where I needed to close my eyes and remind myself to breathe a lot), you can see the part of the road that we just came from – so twisty, turny and constantly getting higher and higher!
Fabulous scenery on this road, but a little too close to the edge of the earth for my taste!
Jerome…….we didn’t stop – just drove through it!
Coming up on Sedona – see the red rock hills?
Downtown Sedona — beautiful — different from any other mountains/hills that I saw anywhere else we went!
This mountain really fascinated me!!! Hard to see the detail in this photo, but it looks just like someone carved a statue of an elephant lying down on the top of it!
In person, you can clearly see the body, floppy ears, head, and that big ole trunk curled up out front of it!
Gorgeous mountain rock and buttes! The red color is striking!!!
We stopped for lunch in Sedona and on the way out of town, Ronald and I played tag with the camera to get lots of shots of the beautiful red rock – that was fun – I’d have the camera taking a photo out the front window and he’d rush me to give it to him to get a shot he didn’t want to miss out the side window and I’d say “hurry, hurry, I got a great shot ahead!” and back and forth we went with it! Afterwards, I realized I had my other camera right in my purse and we could have BOTH had a camera to get shots…….but, that wouldn’t have been as much fun!
When we got back to Apache Junction, we were so exhausted from the exciting weekend, that we all crashed with a nap!
DAY 8 – March 11
Last day of the trip….but, we had one more thing to squeeze in before I left! We went to the Queen Creek Olive Mill – a family owned olive orchard and olive oil mill! We had lunch at their cafe and looked around the store/gift shop. Then, we went on the tour and I learned so much about olive oil and how it is made! I won’t go into it here cause I’d like to devote a whole post on what I learned — watch for a post on “Everything you ever wanted to know about olive oil, but were afraid to ask!” – coming soon! After the tour, we shopped and I had a bunch of stuff shipped to me so that I wouldn’t have to take it on the plane — flavored extra virgin olive oils made fresh right there, flavored vinegars, a cook book of owner’s family recipes, a jar of a delicious tapenade that was on the sandwich I had for lunch (caramelized red onion and fig tapenade – YUMMO – so sweet and rich in flavor), and some body butter made with olive oil, shea butter, and lavender essential oils that they make right there, as well. The box came last week and I’ve already had a couple of big salads made with the roasted garlic flavored olive oil and aged balsamic and fig flavored vinegar and relaxed with the lavender-scented body butter – nice to rub on my arms at bed time to soften my skin and give me that wonderful aroma to fall asleep with!!!!
Ron and me in the courtyard outside the cafe at the Queen Creek Olive Mill
And, Ron and Lisa in the courtyard with some olive oil they purchased!
And, this is the press they use to manually cold press the olive oil – fascinating!
And that, my friends, is my trip to Arizona! The week went by so fast, but we crammed a LOT into it! And then, I was on a plane headed home…..leaving the beautiful views and warm, sunny weather (except for the days we were in Williams and the Grand Canyon – it was actually colder there than back home)……….leaving my dear friends………..and returning to the real world!!! It was amazing — so wonderful to spend time with Ron and Lisa and Bonnie! And the sight-seeing was icing on the cake! It was a vacation I’ll never forget and we’re already making a list of things to see next time I can make the trip out there!