Arizona Sojourn, Part One

September 9 – 20

August blew by in a hurry, with lots of bike riding, a visit to Oakland to see Jessica, Kris and Gemma, and then a fun Labor Day when sister Bev, nephew Jed and his friend Shikerra came to see us at home.  We soon thereafter set out for another ten-day trip that would take us to Sedona, Flagstaff, Henderson and finally Solana Beach. 

Our Campsite by the Creek
Our Campsite by the Creek

We’d last been in Sedona in the fall of 1990 when Jessica was quite young and we tent camped in an RV park on the outskirts of town.  Our site was lovely, down an embankment in the sand adjacent to Oak Creek which runs through town.  One of the night’s there we ran into a family of long-term residents in the common room and they regaled us with tales of alien sightings and the power of nearby vortexes.  It was quite the experience.

Jessica and I at the Petrified Forest

On our way out of town heading towards the Petrified Forest, I rode my bike up a dirt road that would eventually link up with Schnebly Hill Road.  It offered great views of the valley below with those majestic red cliffs in the background.  So, we looked forward to seeing how much, if any, Sedona had changed in the intervening years and what a difference a few decades can make. 

Me on that Ride Out

It was a fairly easy seven-hour drive, all of it on interstate until south of town when we drove up Highway 179 off of the I-17 to the Village of Oak Creek, our home for the next three nights.  We’d be staying in a small but fully functional Airbnb, Esme’s Place, a couple of blocks off the highway in this suburb of Sedona which has much going for it. 

Home to Sedona

Check-in was straightforward and easy, simply entering a code on the front door lock; We then spent an hour or so relaxing after the drive and getting set up for our stay. 

After, a search of Trip Advisor provided us with a suggestion for dinner, PJ’s Pub, just a couple of blocks away.  Arizona has quite relaxed standards about dining and there were a number of folks seated at tables inside when we arrived. 

PJ’s Pub and Grill

We opted to sit at a table outside, near the front door, which afforded us a bird’s eye view of folks entering and leaving.  And this established that the joint is a local watering hole, with almost everyone walking by greeting someone else in a friendly fashion.  We ordered a couple of local craft beers and the Coconut Shrimp appetizer, adding a Bulleit Bourbon Manhattan, the drink special of the day, for the ridiculously low price of $6. 

That $6 Manhattan

Our food came and the size and quality of the shrimp (Eight tiger prawns dipped in tempura batter and shredded coconut, fried golden brown and served on a bed of mixed greens with citrus chili dipping sauce) was impressive, all around a good choice for us that day.  We paid our tab, a cheap $30, and walked back to the condo, remarking on what a friendly and convivial joint PJ’s was, and how if we lived nearby, we’d likely be regulars there. 

Coconut Shrimp

One of our goals for the two full days we’d spend here was to get in some bike riding and so after breakfast we took off to do some exploring, first riding up Jack’s Canyon Road just outside the condo for six miles or so before turning around and hitting Highway 179 which took us into Sedona proper. 

Oak Creek to Sedona and Back

Riding on the highway here is good, with a wide bike lane and gorgeous scenery to beguile you; we stopped briefly at the Bell Rock Trailhead to snap a picture or two and then continued on bypassing many stops we’d make later in the day when we commenced a driving tour of the area. 

Heading into Sedona

Just past the Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village we hit a roundabout where Highway 179 joins 89A and branched to the right to land in downtown. 

At Bell Rock Trailhead

I don’t recall much about Sedona during that last stay here those many years ago, but it has definitely changed since then, some would say not for the better.  During that first visit it seemed populated with aging hippies, vortex chasers, and extraterrestrial disciples.  Today, the main drag could be any street in any tourist town where the shops sell merchandise like coffee cups, license plates with your kid’s name on them, dubious works of art, and pseudo native American crafts. 

Main Street Sedona

We did find the one redeeming element of the new main street, that is the Black Cow Café whose outdoor signage prominently promoted it as a bakery with homemade ice cream.  Faithful readers of this blog will recognize what this means to us mid bike ride.  Like bees drawn to a flower, we parked our bikes outside the shop, and proceeded to procure a great piece of apple pie topped with very good vanilla ice cream. 

That Apple Pie

The ride back to the apartment went smoothly, easier than we thought it would be on the ride in given the hills we needed to climb before coasting down to Oak Creek Village. 

Heading Up The Last Hill

We stopped in at the gas station on the corner of our block to get something to eat for lunch, but they didn’t stock anything appetizing so instead meandered across the lot to Los Betos where I picked up a Machaca Burrito to take with us. 

That Machaca Burrito

I’d not had a burrito with this filling since the 1970’s when I’d get them at the Burrito King on Sepulveda in Culver City.  And this was a good one, moist and flavorful, just the thing to split and get us ready for an afternoon of sightseeing.  And we’ll take you there in the next post. 

Walking Back to the Apartment After Dinner


Esme’s Place:

PJ’s Pub:

Black Cow Café:

Los Betos:

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