S: Sedona, Arizona and the Grand Canyon, March 20-25, 2011
FC: Sedona, Arizona and the Grand Canyon
1: The kids were finally all grown . . . it was the parents' turn to play! In late 2010, Steve Hinkens suggested a couples' trip during Jayne's 2011 spring break from teaching. Gary and I were up for it, as were Pete and Mary Irzyk. We began looking into all-inclusive resorts in Mexico but ended up deciding to vacation in the red rocks of Sedona, Arizona. We found a beautiful home to rent. Arizona would be sunny and warm, who needed to go south of the border? . . . .
2: Ha! The weather was a bit chillier than we'd bargained for! However, our guys are tough. "Long pants are for sissies!" was their battle cry! "We're on vacation, and by golly, we're wearing shorts!" | My advice, wives? Just pretend you don't know them. | Are they crazy? | Gotta love 'em! | ARIZONA
3: The women dressed sensibly and took comfort in the fact that our home had a nice fireplace for bun-warming, which became a daily ritual. | I'm getting ahead of myself, though. We didn't see snow every day on this trip.
4: We had an evening flight to Phoenix on Sunday, March 20, arriving at ten p.m. We had booked rooms at the Budget Lodge near the airport for this first night stay. This was just a place to crash for 8 or 9 hours. The Budget Lodge met our three c's criteria: clean, convenient, and cheap. (It was only $50 per room.) We thought that in the morning, we might hike up Camelback Mountain, and we planned to go to a Milwaukee Brewers' spring training game in the afternoon, before heading up to Sedona. On Monday, though, the forecast for the day was rain, gusty winds, and a high of 63. We're used to this in Wisconsin, but c'mon, we're in Arizona! And it's officially Spring now! Hiking and a baseball game? Umm, I think we'll pass. | (you'd have to ask Mary about this one.) | March 20
5: We had a great breakfast at a little diner in the Old Town area of Scottsdale. (This would end up being our only restaurant meal on this trip.) Afterwards, we strolled around in that area, browsing in the shops, dodging the first raindrops. | Jayne, Mary and I tried to chat up some of the locals, but we found them to be a little stiff. Off to Sendona . . . | March 21
6: We stopped for groceries in Cottonwood, shopping with the list we created at Milwaukee's airport. When we left Fry's Marketplace, we phoned Todd Shreve, the owner of our rental home, to say we were on our way. He gave us directions to a spot on the highway where he would meet us in his truck, so that he could escort us to the house. He was worried we wouldn't find it on our own, and he might have been right. To get there, we had a ten mile, twenty minute ride on a steep, winding, bumpy, red dirt road. Did I mention mucky and slippery, too? Our white car was caked in brick-colored mud when we arrived on this drizzly day. Todd hosed it off so it wouldn't permanently adhere to the paint. I'm glad we did a big shopping trip. This wasn't like Delafield where we can say, "Oops, forgot the eggs, back in five." | This is how a flat part of the road looked on a nicer day. | Thanks, Steve, for being our driver all week! | Cool Ranch Doritos. Now I'm a happy camper. | it was a bit of a squeeze, but all of us, our bags, and our groceries fit in our Tahoe. This is what the back looked like on a good day.
7: Some exterior shots of the five bedroom, six bathroom home we rented. We found it on vrbo.com. | The home was just as described, sitting high atop a mesa in the Verde Valley, with panoramic views of red rocks all around. The nearest other home was over a mile away. After we got here, we understood why we couldn't locate this place on googlemaps.com
8: The owner calls this home the Resort at Bill Gray
9: These are the photos we saw on vrbo.com that enticed us to book this place for our stay in Sedona. In person, everything was just as pictured.
10: The house was built in 2009. Todd spent about an hour showing us around the place, teaching us how to work everything in the well appointed gourmet kitchen, on the pool patio, in the media room, etc. (I tuned out right away when he started explaining how to work all the different remote controls in the media room., pretty sure that since I can't even figure out the ones we've had at home for a few years, I wasn't going to be the person that the group would turn to for audio visual operations.) We could have hired Todd to prepare and serve any or all of our meals during our stay, but we decided to slum it and do our own cooking. | This is Todd Streve, the owner of the home. That's Shreve as in Shreveport. Apparently some ancestor of his founded that Louisianna city. We also learned about another ancestor who bought land from George Washington, and we saw a copy of George's letter, haggling over the price. Todd is a real estate developer and licensed contractor, a former executive chef who was trained at the Culinary Institute of America, and an avid outdoorsman and sports and fitness enthusiast. | There was a fresh baked apple pie on the kitchen counter for us, and a bouquet of fresh flowers.
11: We drew straws for the master bedroom and bathroom, shown above, and Gary and I won. Jayne and Steve got a big room with a king sized bed, too, called the Jerome Suite, because at night, there's a nice view of the twinkling lights of the town of Jerome (an old silver mining town) in the mountains in the distance. Pete and Mary seemed happy with their room, which contained two queen sized beds, allowing Mary to get a good night's sleep while Pete was able to toss and turn to his heart's content. (He woke up one morning and found that all his covers were on the floor, and he'd jostled his bed into the middle of the room.) | The bathrooms in the home had really pretty mirrors | The pool with its infinity edge that dropped off into the desert was one of the most stunning features of the home. | Bubble massage tub and huge shower with about a dozen thermal massage shower heads
12: The colorful Southwestern decor gave the home a warm ambiance.
14: Sunrise on our first morning in Sedona. | March 22
15: The lovely views outside of the kitchen's glass doors were most spectacular when we pushed a button and the motorized doors retracted all the way into the walls. | Outside looking in. | View of the pool and the valley from the rooftop observation deck.
16: Cathedral Rock | This was our day to check out some of the hiking trails around Sedona.
18: The West Fork trail in the Oak Creek area, part of the Secret Mountain Wilderness, is supposed to be very beautiful, but no one really had the right shoes for hiking in the snow, so we only went a couple hundred yards in, then decided to go find a warmer, drier spot for a picnic lunch. . . .
19: The Airport Road scenic overlook suited us just fine. | Now that's a flat topped mesa!
20: Bell Rock
21: Mary got a little too close to a cactus. | Ouch! . . . Jayne did, too. | This area has a number of vortexes. Jayne tried to get herself in the right frame of mind to experience one. She did seem quite serene and well balanced the rest of the day.
22: We woke up to this pretty sunrise, and these clear skies, on our next morning. It looked like we picked a good day for our day trip to the Grand Canyon! We'd be driving through Flagstaff. Just for the heck of it, Steve went on his laptop to get the weather for Flagstaff. Yikes . . .it was only eleven degrees! | March 23
23: From our pool patio, we watched three hot air balloons floating over the rocks. Those folks must have had a nice view of the sunrise! About fifteen minutes down the dirt road, on our way to the highway, we had to drive around the balloonists, who were on the road folding up their balloons. | The colorful Arizona state flag, flying on a public building in Flagstff, looked pretty in the bright blue sky.
24: Grand Canyon National Park | The South Rim of the Grand Canyon was about a two and a half hour drive from Sedona. So glad we did it!
25: We parked the car and used the park's free shuttle buses to take us from one area to the next along the South Rim.
26: This part of the Grand Canyon still had some snow
28: Steve made me a little nervous at times. | Just hanging out, enjoying this beautiful day, happy to be finally experiencing this amazing national park we've seen in pictures all of our lives. | Will this snowball make it all the way to the canyon floor? | See, there he goes again, right up to the edge.
29: We had a Grand picnic. | Better watch out, Pete, that's a snowball in Mary's hands, and I recognize that glint in her eyes.
32: A picture is worth a thousand words.
34: Grand Canyon wildlife
35: Communing with nature. | Okay, the three of us are now feeling all sorts of inner peace and harmony. Time to head back to Sedona. Some margaritas are calling our names.
36: It's 5:00 somewhere.
37: We drank non-alcoholic beverages sometimes, too. Coffee on the pool patio was a nice way to start our final full day of vacation. (Especially when the pool boy arrived, Jayne?) | March 24
38: This last full day was a day to just relax and enjoy all the amenities of the beautiful home we rented. In the morning, we strolled around the property, checking out the spring desert flora of Arizona's high country.
40: Having learned how to play shuffleboard on this trip, now we're all set for the cruises we'll take when we're in our 80's. | Let the Games Begin! | There was a lot of friendly competition this day.
41: Steve and Jayne were the bocce ball champs, even though I don't think they've got a lick of Italian blood between the two of them. | # 1 Bocce Ball | Spectator section.
42: C'mon, you wimps! The air's gotta be at least 65 degrees now. Who's up for a swim? | The zero and negative edge infinity pool was beautiful to look at, even through it was too cold to go in. | (For the sane among us, that is.)
43: The water was only 53 degrees, but there are a lot of things a person might try when he's feeling no pain. Gary lasted about 5 seconds. Steve must be of heartier stock. He stayed in at least 3 times that long.
44: We spent a fair amount of time in the garage, which was turned into a 2,000 square foot recreational center with a basketball court, pool table, ping pong table, poker table, and fitness equipment. This wasn't the "man cave," though. That was the room inside the house with the three 46" plasma t.v.s set in one wall, and surround sound. | The Badger men's basketball team made it into the Sweet Sixteen and all week we looked forward to the game against Butler. A win wasn't in the cards, though . . . . darn. | Mary and Jayne worked out a lot. I think they forgot to look up the definition of "vacation" before this trip.
45: The panoramic views surrounding us were especially pretty in the evenings, when the air was hazy and the red rocks had a subtle, warm glow in the low rays of the setting sun.
47: Who needed to eat out? We had a gadget-filled kitchen with all the herbs and seasonings you'd expect a chef like Todd to keep on hand. It was great fun cooking together and enjoying leisurely meals at home. The men were in charge on the first night and served steaks, baked potatoes and asparagas. When it was the wives' turn the next night, dinner was grilled shrimp-chicken-vegetable shishkabobs, wild rice, and cantaloupe. Dinner #3: burgers and brats. The last night was, of course, "clean out the fridge night." We had some great breakfasts, too . . . omelets, "farmer eggs," hash browns, bacon, & pancakes. On the two days we left on outings, we packed a picnic lunch to enjoy at a scenic spot. (Thanks, Jayne, I don't know if it was the teacher in you or your mom instincts coming out, but those hot pink post-it note sandwich labels were a great idea.) This was an economical way to vacation! We spent only about a hundred bucks per couple on food and drink in the four days we were in Sedona. | Pete's a great cook! We love it when he mans the grill or volunteers to make omelets.
48: Sometimes I forget that "Milky Way" isn't just a candy bar. On this cold, crisp night, in the middle of nowhere, the steamy hot tub felt great and the stars were as bright as I've ever seen them. | The hot tub was big enough for all six of us. We challenged ourselves to come up with as many songs as possible containing the words "star" or "starry." (Good thing about that "middle of nowhere" part.) | Too bad I missed getting a shot of Jayne when she came out in her swim suit and red woolen hat and mittens.
49: Daytime soaks were great, too. Perfect way to enjoy the beautiful red rocks all around us.
50: The stairs in the great room led to an observation room, with arched windows on all four walls. The door up there led out to a 1200 square foot observation deck.
51: The photos on the opposite page show the observation room in the morning sun, and on this page, just before sunset.
52: March 25 | Daybreak as viewed from the observation deck
54: Sunrise over the Verde Valley
55: It's too bad we had to leave. It looked like another spectacular day was in store. But we were going away with wonderful memories of a fabulous five day vacation. It was such fun being together in this beautiful setting . . . relaxing, playing, laughing, and just enjoying each other's company. Gary and I treasure our friendships with Pete, Mary, Jayne and Steve. We feel very blessed to have them in our lives and lucky to have had this special time together..