I opened my prior post with a photo of our penultimate sunset in Des Moines. The photo above offers the flip-side of our ongoing half-continental moving experience: this was our first sunrise in Sedona, Arizona, taken this morning from the patio on the rental property that we will call home for the next six weeks. Quite the change in scenery!
We did the Des Moines to Sedona trek in four legs, with overnight stays in Atchison and Dodge City (both in Kansas) and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Plus a quick stop at the Iowa-Missouri border so we could capture the moment of departure from the Hawkeye State in real time. In a pleasing happenstance, the skies were grey behind us, but a bright shaft of sunlight illuminated the path before us to the South. We took it as a positive sign and omen. Because of course we did!
Atchison is a lovely town on the Missouri River. We were a bit bummed that the dreary, rainy skies that had made our moving-truck loading experience in Des Moines sub-optimal then followed us to Kansas, so we were not able to explore it on foot. I had lived just south of Atchison in Fort Leavenworth when I was in sixth grade, and when my father was at the Army Command and General Staff College. (That’s when I adopted The Beloveds as my baseball team of choice). Marcia’s oldest brother had taught Chemistry at Benedictine College in Atchison for 12 years, so we did make the effort to drive by the house he and his family had lived in, as well as the building where the Chemistry Department makes its home, so we could send him current photos. We also drove by Amelia Earhart’s birthplace, in her grandparents’ home on a bluff above the river valley, and had a surprisingly good take-out dinner from a local restaurant called Lopez de Mexico. I commend it to you highly, should you find yourself thereabouts.
Dodge City wasn’t quite as nice a stop, alas. The city has an extraordinary history, though much of the physical proof of that is no longer standing, replaced by modern replicas and/or roadside vernacular offerings. Our hotel was fine, though the view out the window of a trailer park wasn’t as inspiring as other views might have been. Well, except for what appeared to be a double-tall double-wide in the middle of the park, the redneck engineering of which did deeply pique my curiosity. Had it also not been cold and windy there, I’d have felt compelled to go check it out up close and personal. Despite the chill, and desperate to stretch our legs, we found a nice park downtown with a pleasant urban trail, but it didn’t go as far as we normally like to walk. So, being adventurous, we noted that there was a cement drainage ditch that seemed to run the rest of the way southward across town, so we clambered down and walked a while in that as well, ducking through culverts to get under roads, and seeing things that I’m not sure the tourism board would want us to see, e.g. vile racist graffiti, boo hiss!!
Then onward out of Kansas and across the Oklahoma Panhandle to Santa Fe, New Mexico, which was wonderful. We’ve been there before, and we enjoyed seeing some of the changes that have taken place there, most notably a very nice rails-to-trails system that gave us a great walking opportunity. We stayed close to the historic downtown area, which was also nice to re-explore, though it was a bit sad to see the impact of COVID on the vibrant arts and culture scene there. It was also sad that as we were walking about, a rally was being held at the State Capitol Complex against the (smart) measures New Mexico’s elected leaders have taken to combat the strong resurgence of the virus. It did not feel good, at all, to hear “Lock Him Up” chants wafting across the downtown area, though we are not sure who the Covidiots were wishing to incarcerate.
Our final drive took us westward to Flagstaff, then southward to Sedona. There was a major wind event unfolding over the last two days of the drive, making for more of a white-knuckle experience than I would have liked as we were hauling ass at 80+ miles per hour while the car was being buffeted by 50+ mile per hour crosswinds, and we nervously watched 18-wheelers wobbling in their lanes against the heavy air. We made a pit stop in Winslow, Arizona, so we could stand on the corner of Old Route 66 immortalized by Glenn Frey and Jackson Browne in the Eagles’ first hit song, “Take It Easy.” And we got snacks at the local Circle K there, so the rural economic function of that little tourist attraction was properly satisfied.
Much of our trip followed the historic Santa Fe Trail, the Route 66 Mother Road, and/or the BNSF main rail line from Chicago to Los Angeles. It was always interesting to think about how many people, in how many different ways, have made the same journey we made, under often much more difficult circumstances. Good perspective to have, always.
We’ve already done two hikes since arriving in Sedona, walking from our rental house into the Red Rocks region surrounding the town. We’ve also already visited eight houses for sale, and two of them are serious contenders for us. We’re looking at more tomorrow. It’s conceptually possible that we could make an offer and have it accepted before the week is out. We shall see. Lots of exciting potential, in any event.
As always, I’ve been snapping away as we’ve driven, stopped and walked our way westward. You can click on the photo below if you’d like to see the full album of the trip. This shot was taken in Oklahoma. It’s representative of what that entire leg of the journey looked like. Stark, for sure, but beautiful and haunting in its own deep ways. I must say that I prefer scenes like this to scenes involving horizon-to-horizon fields of Monsanto Frankencorn. I guess that’s good, since we’re out of the crop zone for the foreseeable future. Not complaining. Not one bit.