Sunday, April 29, 2012

Even though we've been getting up by 5 or so, I'm always paranoid about missing planes so we set double alarms to make sure we would be on the road to the airport by 6am. As we approach the exit at headquarters we realize that, since the park doesn't open till 7, the gate is still locked. I'm glad I thought to grab the keys, one of which should open the gate, before we left the house. The gate opens smoothly and I jump back in the car. The second locked gate uses a code that I've memorized, but from inside the park a motion detector opens the gate and we are off.

We take 377 south from Holbrook through the Cochonino National Forest, then 260 which takes us over the Mongollon Rim of the Colorado Plateau and to Route 87 which winds over the mountainous Tonto National Forest. This part of the state, with its ponderosa pine forests and lakes, looks to be the weekend-cabin/hunting/escape-from-the heat area for those at the lower elevations. As we descend from the mountains and the temperature gauge on the dashboard rises so do the huge saguaro cactus and we enter the sprawl of Pheonix.

It's a straight shot to the airport and as I say goodby to John and head north on 17 I immediately feel a bit lonely, beginning my second week by myself. I turn on the radio, switching between country and christian radio stations before finding one playing 60's and 70's rock, which makes for good driving music. They even play a couple of Beatles songs which make me happy till I start to get nostalgic for when when I first sang them, when my six brothers and sisters and I were just kids and my dad was alive and strong. I stop for a break at the Black Canyon City visitors center which cheers me right up. It's tiny, and the friendliest visitor center I've ever stopped in. They suggest I go, like most people passing through, to Sedona, but I resist the detour.

The trains rule Flagstaff
I still can't decide exactly which route to take home though, I could take 206 to Winslow, or the longer route through Flagstaff. The decision is tipped in favor of Flagstaff when I realize there is an art supply store there and I could get the palette knife I forgot to bring, and stop for lunch.

As I pull into the historic downtown district I head for the first public parking I see, right next to the tracks, to check the map.  I find I'm actually right on the street of the art supply store, just two blocks down. On my way there I walk by a cool little coffee shop that serves lunch and make a note of it.

After a nice conversation with Ruth Ann from Visible Difference Art Supply I ask her to suggest a place for lunch and she suggests Macy's, the place I had passed. I don't know why it is, but I always seem to be able to find the best little alt/liberal/hippie coffee shops when I travel. This one fit the bill perfectly.
Macy's Coffee Shop, Beaver St., Flagstaff

Leaving Flagstaff, I had no trouble finding 40 east. The trouble I had, however, was staying on it. Somehow, about 1/2 hour of driving later, realized I was on 89 north, headed for the Grand Canyon. The highway was divided so it was a few more miles before I could turn around, and I actually toyed with the idea of going to see the Grand Canyon, only 45 more miles north. But it was getting late and I didn't want to have to test the gates again at the park, so I turn around and head back to Flagstaff and 40East. The speed limit on highways here is 75mph, but my little Ford Fiesta keeps creeping up to 90mph without me realizing it. You know you're not in RI anymore when you can drive for hours at that speed, and still feel like you'll never arrive.

I made it into the gate with 1/2 hour to spare. It felt kind of weird to now be here by myself, but company presented itself in the form of the little deer mouse. By now we were not so surprised to see each other and he made a beeline for the couch.  I yelled "What do you think you're doing?" and he gave me a dumfounded look and jumped up the stair to the kitchen, disappearing into god-knows-where.

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