State #12: Ducks and the Canyon
The biggest difference when travelling on the West Coast as opposed to the East Coast is the size of the states. Having only 3 states encompassing the entire West Coast, you can drive all day and not leave a state. And what touches those 3 large states? 3 more large states. In New England, you could potentially step foot in 7 states in less than one days' worth of driving. Not so out West. We went from Los Angeles, CA to Sedona, AZ in what seemed to take an entire day. Fortunately, you get to see the beautiful Southwest, Mojave desert and end up at the Grand Canyon. If you have the time, you really can get to take in a lot of scenery.
Anyway, Danielle and I managed to drive all over the state and see the vast difference in topography that Arizona has to offer. It isn't the raging hot desert that people think it is. We spent most of the time in weather that was barely above freezing. The Grand Canyon was nice, but cold. Sedona was also very beautiful, but even colder. And just about every other northern part of the state was cold! Of course, to be fair, we were there at the begining of January. Luckily for us, after crossing the state back and forth at least twice, we did manage to end up in Phoenix where it was over 70 degrees everyday.
We were lucky enough to stay with one of my college friends in Paradise Valley. We arrived two days before the Oregon Ducks played for the National Championship game. I had plenty of friends show up for the game, so we all went out and explored the Scottsdale area and enjoyed the sun filled days. We ate Mexican food and drank Coronas in open air bars. It was quite the end to a week long road trip that started in San Francisco and 5 states later, ended in Phoenix.
Danielle flew back home the night before the game and I was left with my college fraternity buddies to go to the big game. We got all caught up with each other and shared some laughs. Unfortunately, Oregon lost the game in the last seconds, but it was a great game anyways. The following morning, I was looking at a drive straight back to Portland, Oregon. Now although it was only two states away, how far could it really be? Well, the trip was 1,300 miles long. How many states could you cross on the East Coast going that far?
Of course, I’d love to say that we went to Arizona specifically for the beauty and majesty that is the Grand Canyon. To watch the golden sun set behind the walls. To sit in awe of its sheer size. To even go on a small hike around its rim. But, no. We went to Arizona for the 2011 BCS National Championship Game. The Grand Canyon just also happened to be located in the same state.
Now, having gone to school at a university without a football team, I just don’t understand the culture. So I had no idea what I was about to get myself into. Apparently, this BCS thing is a big deal. I didn’t believe Jacek until we arrived in Arizona. People had hula skirts on their SUV’s, flags out of their windows and faces painted like Braveheart. Not to mention the scores of drunk people in jerseys lining all the streets. But I digress.
It was just after New Year’s; we had left San Francisco and began to drive south. For hours. And hours. It seemed like California would never end. Finally, we ended up in Arizona. As we approached the Canyon, it seemed as though we would have it all to ourselves. There was hardly another car in sight. All the sane people apparently visit it over the summer. Not us, though. We like our Canyon covered in snow with wicked winds whipping all over the place.
The weather aside, though, it was still an awesome date. We parked the car in the main lot and boarded the lone shuttle that was still operating along the rim. We hopped off from time to time in order to get some pics and meander along the side of the road looking for wildlife (that is, in addition to Jacek). By far, the best part was watching the sunset behind the west rim while seated along the eastern part. It was just as amazing as when I’d been there earlier that year with my mother (a mother-daughter cross-country trip, but that’s another story!). Most definitely a bucket-list item.
After taking in the last of the sun (and warmth), it was time to get outta there! I couldn’t believe how quickly my fingers turned to icicles. The shuttle could not come soon enough. But after having hopped back into our car, we headed out and back towards civilization. As usual, Jacek was hungry. So we found a small lodge at the exit of the canyon and stopped in for a bite. I’m not sure exactly why, but absolutely everything about that meal with him was perfect. I had a glass of red wine with some penne alla vodka and he ordered some red meat and a beer (no surprises here). We ate. We listened to the live guitarist playing on the stage. We drank. We talked. It was the best way to end the day. Even though I’m not a ducks fan, I sure am glad they played in Arizona this time!