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Sightseeing in Arizona

Laugh Tracks in the Dust
Milo Yield
Damphewmore Acres, Kan.

Whoa! A lot happened in the week since I finished my most recent column. Not in order of their importance, but, first, the Kansas City Chiefs won the Super Bowl, which I doubted I’d ever live to see again.

Second, our President was acquitted in his Senate impeachment trial.

Third, Iowa gave itself a national black-eye by snafuing the democratic caucus.

And, fourth, ol’ Nevah and I saw four of the deepest gouges in the Earth in fewer than 24 hours.

I’ll let the first three items on the list go by without further comment. However, I’ll talk more in-depth about our visit to the Four Canyons.

• • •

I’m happy to report that ol’ Nevah and I survived two days of playing what I’ll call “Geologic Russian Roulette.” By that I mean that quarter-mile high stacks of fractured rocks did not choose to fall on top of us, or fall out from under us, as we rode, drove or walked by them.

Last Thursday we traveled north of Phoenix and stopped 20 miles south of Sedona at the little towns of Cottonwood and Jerome. We had first-class tickets to ride the scenic Verde Valley Railroad.

It wuz a four-hour round trip up and down the valley on a quarter-mile long train (about 10 passenger cars) powered by two old, but well-maintained, diesel engines. I forget the name of the engines, but there are only four working in the U.S. today. The entire round trip wuz about 40 miles, every inch of it alongside the Verde River, which starts with a big spring high in the valley. The RR didn’t go high enuf for us to see the spring.

The passenger cars were former commuter cars from the rail system in Chicago. They’d been refurbished into tables for two or facing sofas for four. Each car had a waiter or waitress who doubled as a tour guide. In addition, if I chose, I could go onto an open air car for a better view. Each car had a selection of hors d’oeuvres to chow down (price included in ticket), and a selection of premium spirits that we could purchase — and we did.

Let me tell you the scenes in the Verde Valley were gut-tightening. In many places, the stacks of rocks on the canyon walls were close enuf to touch. But, looking up, you couldn’t see the tops of the rocks. And, our friendly tour guide/waitress happily showed us on her smart phone piles of big rocks that had fallen onto the tracks last fall after a big rain. All I could do was just enjoy the scenes and the wildlife and hope that the rock-gods were in a good mood.

I might add, that the Verde RR, still hauls freight once a day through the canyon. The train was originally built to serve the mining interests in the canyon.

We spent the night in Cottonwood and ate pizza at an upscale, yuppie pizza joint by the name of Bocce. The pizza and craft beers were good, and, once again, I wuz the only fella in the joint wearing overalls.

The next morning we headed to beautiful and scenic Sedona, where we breakfasted at The Coffee Pot cafe. It wuz packed, but the food, coffee and service were excellent.

From Sedona we headed north through Oak Ridge Canyon. It’s equally deep and scenic as the Verde Canyon, except it’s a high mountainous green versus sere desert brown. I’d traveled, as a rider, up the canyon three years ago. This trip, as the driver, was a lot more white-knuckled than I recall as a rider. But, we made it to the top without mishap and enjoyed every one of its 20 miles.

From the top, we headed for the Big Momma — the Grand Canyon, about 80 miles north of Flagstaff. I’d never seen the Grand Canyon except from on-high in a commercial jet looking down from five miles in the air. The aerial view of the Grand Canyon is impressive, but not nearly as impressive as the views from the south rim.

Since the first person tried, and failed, to find the words to accurately describe the grandeur of the Grand Canyon, I surely won’t be the first. Words just fail me. You just have to see and feel it for yourself.

I can tell you this, with my inner ear and balance problem, getting anywhere near the rim without holding on to a safety rail, sent my head to spinning. The Grand Canyon is a geologist’s nirvana. So much to see and so little time to see it.

Another thought, in the beginning of the Grand Canyon’s occupation by white men, the miners of copper and uranium were incredibly tough. But, still not as tough as the Native Americans who colonized the canyon from the bottom to the rim hundreds of years before the white man. Now that’s tough.

Still another thought. I think half of the Japanese population were enjoying the canyon the day we visited.

When we left the canyon, we headed east to the Navajo village of Cameron. Getting there we got a good view of the Little Colorado River canyon before it empties into the Grand Canyon. It’s impressive in its own right,

We ended up spending the night at Flagstaff. The next morning we drove through the campus of Northern Arizona University. Then we headed back to our temporary home in Gilbert.

• • •

I’ve reached deep enuf in this column for the weekly words of wisdom. My first is: Never tear up a State of the Union address on public TV. It’s bad theater.

And, this: How many socialist Americans leave the U.S. each year for a socialist country in order to escape capitalism?

I’ll wait for an answer. Have a good ‘un. ❖


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