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Old 08-05-2021, 09:54 AM   #1
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Join Date: Feb 2006
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Default Southwest in a Monsoon Trip Report

We're back from our trip to Arizona and New Mexico and had a wonderful time! I learned that monsoons in the Southwest are a thing. I learned that "it's a dry heat" isn't true in monsoon season. I learned that 7,000 elevation puts you 7,000 feet closer to the sun AND robs your lungs of oxygen. But yes, we had a wonderful time!

I do have pictures, but I'm starting the narrative first.

The Itinerary

The overall shape of our trip was:
  • Sedona - AirBnB (2 nights, should have been 3)
  • Grand Canyon - El Tovar (2 nights)
  • Holbrook - La Quinta (Petrfied Forest)
  • Albuquerque for a stop-over (always check TripAdvisor for hotels)
  • Santa Fe - AirBnb (5 nights, too short)
  • Phoenix (Arizona Biltmore Waldorf - we got a DEAL)


We flew from EWR to PHX non-stop on United. Originally, we booked an 8 am flight, which United canceled. The next non-stop was 4 pm, which was easier logistically but did mean we wouldn't get to Sedona and our AirBnb on Saturday as planned. We technically could have done it but I wanted to take the trip in the daytime for scenery and some stops we had planned along the way.

Apart from masking, airport and flight were perfectly normal. The United lounge was closed, unfortunately, but we really didn't need it.

I initially booked Alamo through Costco for car-rental several months early and glad I'm did. Prices were high, but went higher after I booked. I checked regularly, had some back-up bookings with other agencies, and tried autoslash. Ultimately, we were able to get our rental down from low $800s to low $500s. That was in line with what I often pay for two weeks in the West.

PHX has a good combined rental-car facility but it is FOREVER from the airport by bus. They are introducing a rail system but I'm not sure it's planned to go to the rental car location. I still love SFO for that.

We got in at 7:45 pm as planned. While we were supposed to be 20 minutes late, we made it up in flight. We were in the car by 8:30 and Embassy Suites at 8:45. I had looked carefully for a decently priced hotel with room service or a restaurant for dinner since I knew we would be tired. Arizona doesn't keep daylight savings time, so it was a 3 hour time change.

When we landed, the temperature had dropped to 107 degrees. You could feel it in the jetway! Wow. A monsoon was rolling in, so it was quite humid, but it dropped the temp to 99 with a real-feel of 110.

A friend warned me that Arizona rolls up the sidewalks at 9, and indeed many hotels had dining that stopped at dining. Fortunately ES, stopped at 10, and had room service! We split a turkey avocado sandwich, the first of daily avocados while in the southwest and went to bed.

Heading to Sedona

I'll add more narrative when I get the photos up, but here are the highlights.

Instead of an expensive and huge room-service breakfast, I headed out to the Panera across the street. I haven't been inside one in 15 months and my app had to learn who I was all over again. It was a great breakfast, again with avocado being a featured ingredient. Once fortified and our minds caught up on being on vacation, we headed out for our trek to Sedona with a couple of stops along the way.

Jim likes funky architecture and intentional communities, so we decided to stop at Arcosanti on the way to Sedona. It is an intentional community based around certain design principals and focuses on sustainability. They offer daily tours, so we booked the 11:00 am tour. They are a little over an hour from Phoenix so a great stopping point anyway.

It's an interesting concept and I have to see, it is the true EPCOT, Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. If Walt had been alive (they started in 1971), I think he would have been interested in them. They really haven't lived into their potential, but they have made it a half-century and the foundation is re-invigorating itself, so it will be interesting to see how they develop.

One interesting take away (because it was HOT) was that they said summers rarely topped 90 when they were first formed, but now they are routinely in the 100s. A big theme of this trip was the Arizona is getting hotter.

Fortunately, we were heading to higher elevations!

After a couple of hours at Arcosanti, we headed on to Monteuma's Castle National Monument, about 45 minutes further up the road and just before the Sedona turn off. It has nothing to do with Montezuma and isn't a castle, but is a well-preserved cliff dwelling the area. We've been to Mesa Verde, so it wasn't nearly as impressive as that, but it was a nice stop-over to learn some more of the history and archeology of the area.

I know English history very well and European history decently well, so it was interesting to think about what was going on in different places on the same timelines. Another theme of this trip was that Arizona and New Mexico are not Eurocentric at all, in terms of foundational story. That's not a nuanced statement, but I hope I'm getting the gist of it across!

We finally got into Sedona (what a beautiful drive as the red-rock formations come into view!) and into our AirBnb at 3:30. We were right in town and the AirBnb was FANTASTIC. We could have easily stayed there for a week or more.

We had no groceries and I didn't feel like going out to find a store, so Instacart to the rescue! We ordered some staples for breakfasts and snacking and then went to a local brew-pub for dinner. It was right next to a dispensary. We sat outside and watched. What a learning experience!

The dispensary had queues set up with Disney efficiency. People of all ages and types got in line - preppy 20-somethings, obvious stoners, business-types, construction-types, little old-ladies, etc. The "FastPass" queue was for those with a medical license who got discounts. the "StandBy" queue was for recreational. You scan a QR code, answer some questions, are admitted, make your purchase, and then leave with a little white bag of goodies. Apparently weed comes in plain white bags while **** comes in brown wrappers!

Please note, I know all of this strictly by observation!

We also noted more than a few people made their purchase, went to their car to lock it up, and then came over to the brew-pub for dinner.

After dinner, we went back to place and relaxed awhile. We had planned to get up for a hike the next morning (time change being in our favor), but that didn't happen. So, we organized a day of exploring instead.


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Old 08-05-2021, 10:29 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by carolina_yankee View Post
I do have pictures, but I'm starting the narrative first.Dirk

Waiting for the eye-candy!
Love, Faith and Pixie dust!
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Old 08-05-2021, 10:36 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by carolina_yankee View Post
We're back from our trip to Arizona and New Mexico and had a wonderful time! I learned that monsoons in the Southwest are a thing. I learned that "it's a dry heat" isn't true in monsoon season. I learned that 7,000 elevation puts you 7,000 feet closer to the sun AND robs your lungs of oxygen. But yes, we had a wonderful time!
AWESOME! Can't wait for more (and pics)!
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Old 08-05-2021, 10:55 AM   #4
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Welcome home!!!

Sounds like a fantastic tripÖ.. Iíll wait patiently for pictures.

I truly mean patiently, I know how time consuming it can be.
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Old 08-05-2021, 11:01 AM   #5
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Cannot wait to read more. Though I wouldn't judge if you know about white bags from experience
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Old 08-05-2021, 02:26 PM   #6
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Love Arizona!!!

The variety of landscapes, views, flora and fauna throughout the state cannot be outdone!!

I am all in on your report!!! Can't wait to hear the details! My only gripe is that your first post was too short!!! I'm delighted that you had such a great vacation!

I remember an incredible restaurant in Sedona with street tacos that are to die for when my sister and I were there a decade ago.

We are looking at the Scottsdale area for retirement after living in Tucson for 3 years in the late 1980's. DH has decided on a September 2023 date for ending the 80+ hour work weeks!!!
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Old 08-05-2021, 06:02 PM   #7
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Looking forward to more... and especially pictures.
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