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Old 08-05-2021, 09:54 AM   #1
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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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Old 08-07-2021, 04:20 PM   #8
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Ok, I'v got most of my photos uploaded, so let me catch up.

In 2002, we took a 23 day road trip across the US to his the national parks. We had a blast. I researched all the places to stay, evaluated time needed in each place to be sure we weren't rushed but could also hit our goals, and printed out (from Microsoft Streets and Trips) a 3" binder's worth of maps, timings, park brochures, and hotel information. We joke we did the entire trip +/- 15 minutes. People look aghast when we tell the story, but Jim admits that I neither rushed us nor was regimented. I just wanted to make sure we could do it!

So, since this kind of a repeat road trip, here is Jim signing all the paperwork surrendering planning to me and agreeing to abide by itineraries and time lines I developed or else be left by the side of the road.

I'm please to report he returned home on the same aircraft I did, and it wasn't in baggage.

Anyway, when I headed out to Panera for our first breakfast, I misread the directions on the app so ended up walking around two extra corners of the block. I'm glad I did, though, because I discovered this statue honoring the Navajo Code Talkers from WWII. That always fascinated me that an indigenous language could never be broken by the enemy!

Our hotel room view. I should have gone to the door and turned left rather than gone down by the fountain, but that's how I discovered the statue!


As we headed out of Phoenix, we saw plenty of Saguaro cacti. I had thought they were mostly down toward Tucson, but apparently they're everywhere until you get up to a certain elevation.

Our turn off for Arcosanti.

Which very quickly turns into wilderness, until you see the buildings pop up!

They have a foundry that makes bells from molds designed by the original architect. They sound really cool.

Their foundry:

The bells:

For sale:

I was mostly interested in the funky architecture and desert setting, but it is an interesting community. Everything is designed to bring people together and interact. Residents work there and may also have jobs elsewhere. If you work there, you have to live there. If you live there, you have to work there. Overall, it felt somewhat institutional, like a grad school, but it is a living laboratory, so I guess that makes sense!

If pushed, though, I would think a set for a science fiction movie.

Incidentally, they run an AirBnB so you can stay there, but it's not near anything!

Last edited by carolina_yankee; 08-07-2021 at 04:51 PM.
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Old 08-07-2021, 04:38 PM   #9
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After Arcosanti, we headed up to Montezuma's Castle National Monument.

It's also out in the middle of nowhere.

There's a paved 1/2 mile loop trail that takes you past the ruins and along a dry creek bed.

There are many excellent interpretive displays giving you the history of the Anasazi, where the came from, how they lived, and where they moved on. They are basically the ancestral tribes of the current tribes, and the dates ran from about 1100s to 1500s, depending on the region. Mesa Verde in Colorado was a major outpost, but cliff dwellings are nearly a dime a dozen, I discovered!

Mostly dry river bed:

It was interesting to me how quickly the scenery changed as we gained new elevations. After leaving Montezuma's Castle, we took the Red Rock Scenic Byway to Sedona. It wasn't long before the mesas started to come into view:

There's a visitor's center about halfway out from Sedona that orients you to the area. We stopped for some maps and I bought a mesh fedora because I quickly realized my Mickey baseball cap was only going to keep the heat in and bake me, not keep me comfortable!

On the edge of Sedona we came to the first major stop - Chapel of the Holy Cross. It has an amazing view!

While it's Roman Catholic, it's basically non-denominational - they do offer a Taize even prayer service periodically for those who know about that kind of thing - essentially meditative chant and simple prayers.

Rocks may seem immutable, but tress find a way to take root and split them apart!

Here's the thing about Sedona - the pictures make you think you are out in the wilderness, but the town is literally built and around the rock formations. You can't get a bad view wherever you look. It truly is a scenic paradise!

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Old 08-07-2021, 04:49 PM   #10
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After we got settled in our AirBnB we headed out to dinner. Our place was great! I cannot recommend Red Rock Nest highly enough.

The other nice thing about Sedona is that you be near shopping, dining, and nature wherever you are.

We had dinner at the Sedona Beer Company, one of their newer brew pubs.

We sat outside in a lovely courtyard, but the buildings blocked the breeze, so it did get a little warm, but people watching was fun. You can see the Bloom Sedona Dispensary across the way. Everything there appeared to be run with Disney efficiency!

I tried my first prickly pear hard cider. It was refreshing!

We chose the place because of the pork belly deviled eggs.

Jim had a salad and I had a burger. Yumm.

Wandering around we found a shop that sold some funky Menorahs, but my Hanukkah loving best friend's agnostic wife was horrified at the perceived blasphemy so no Christmas gift for Leslie.

Fun painted buildings everywhere:

And back to home, some relaxation and bed.

The sunset view from our deck:

Sunrise looks better!

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