Here is our Road Trip Review
We took our adventure from Phoenix to Sedona, Monument Valley, Page, Grand Canyon and Vegas. We had some great advice from some of the experts and residents. Thank you all for providing terrific information.
We landed in Phoenix to a cozy 112 degrees. We opted out of an airport car rental, which would have been almost four times as much as an offsite. It was a quick ten minutes by taxi to the offsite rental. We rented from HERTZ, which worked out well. Both the pickup in Phoenix and drop off in Vegas went off without a hitch. We stayed at the PHOENIX AIRPORT NORTH. It was spectacular. The room was a huge split suite with beautiful garden views and free breakfast. The lobby offered snacks, cold drinks, coffee and water. The rate was a whopping $73.00. We were central to all things. We only stayed one night, but had a nice ride through the area. We shopped at the local stores for cases of bottled water, snacks and our ever so faithful cooler, which took us all the way to Vegas, filled with cold ones, water and perishable items. We saved a ton of money on buying our own 24 pk water cases and six packs at each stop we made. We didn’t want to drain each hotel's ice machine, so we filled the cooler half way and followed it up by a bag of purchased ice for the other half.
In Phoenix, we took some pictures of Camelback Mountains and drove through the residents up there. Very nice houses built into the mountains. We were starved for a good meal and ended up at “Donovan’s Steak House”. WOW! Very pricey. We were not permitted to sit in the "formal dining room" because our apparel was less than adequate (shorts and tees.... yeah it was 112 folks) so we were escorted to the bar area (one of my favorite places). Most folks would be put off, but we had a blast and decided to "liven up the place". They served us ice cold beer and complimentary steak sandwiches. They were delish and so was the rest of the meal. Good food, but not worth the prices. But, what to do, you only live once, right?
The following morning, we headed to Sedona. Nothing can prepare you for the drive into Sedona. To date, it's one of my most favorite places. There is a feeling that comes upon you as the Red Rocks, mountains and landscape come into view that is so overwhelming, it’s indescribable. Go there! Just go there!! No picture can do it justice. We were only there (only) four 4 days. Next time it will definitely be longer. We stayed at The Orchards Inn. We had a top floor corner room that was awesome. It had a balcony with a view of both front and side AND while in the bathroom, I lifted the blinds and there was another view. Wow! … is all I can say. Views while paying my dues!! Some will tell you that room and hotel choice doesn't matter because you don't spend much time there, but I disagree. It just makes the experience that much better. It’s not necessary, because you will see it all, but nice just the same. Although, I will tell you that this hotel is really just a Motel that sits on a nice spot. The room we had was refurbished. The free Breakfast was no big deal, but good for fresh fruit, a yogurt and a bagel or pastry for later. The place to eat a great breakfast is the Coffee Pot. They don't open till 6:00am, so we had to skip a few times to be out on our hikes before the brutal sun reared its ugly head. We hiked Devils Bridge, Fay & Boynton Canyon. We were sad to not get to hike West Fork but I know one day we will. We toured Chapel of The Holy Cross & Red Rock Scenic Byway (on the way in). Just a quick downer, Chapel of the Holy Cross is a beautiful place and deserves some respect while inside. When you enter there is a sign that clearly reads Sssshhh (quiet).... People get a sense of calmness and spirituality and sitting quietly, lighting a candle or just admiring the beauty is wonderful. It’s disheartening when children are allowed to run wild all over the alter and loud conversations and hooting and howling occur. It can truly take a moment away. We did take the Pink Jeep tour and I've got to tell you, it was not all that it is built up to be. Perhaps if you take it first before hiking and touring, it could serve as an introduction to Sedona, but we were just not feeling it like we had hoped. There were some great stops for picture taking and the guide had ice cold water refills. It was just OK for us.
We also drove down to Prescott National Forest in Camp Verde and rode some ATV’s. It was fun and the switchbacks are spectacular (but scary to ride) and we got to see wildlife and some super cool huge live honey bee hives. BTW, just a quick bit of advice. Drink, drink, and drink TONS of water. You will not have a good trip if you don't. Down them as often as you can. You don't even realize that you need it. If you are hiking or backpack at a minimum a gallon of water per person. More if you can fit it and some salty sweet snacks too. I like the Nature Valley or KIND bars. They definitely change your energy source and act as a vital replenisher. We drove endlessly around Sedona and each and every corner and turn you take brings another round of beauty. I can go on about that but as I said, just go.
We ate Pizza and the Cowboy Club where they make a delish chicken pot pie. Didn't care for the Rattlesnake bites thou and missed out on Dahl & DiLuca because we didn't feel like dressing up. And then there is Elote …..... which we ate at twice and if I had known about it sooner, there would have been a third time. I didn't know beforehand that Elote is not only #1 in Sedona, but # 2 in the USA. Unique, fresh, fabulous and delish (did I use enough verbs). The margaritas will kick your you know what, the food will surprise and delight you and the history of the owner/chef making will intrigue you. I will caution you, they start serving at 5:00. If you are not there on line by 4:15, you will wait for a while to be seated. But it will still be worth it. Of course, have the guacamole and the signature house appetizer, Elote. Pace yourself because desserts can’t be missed either. Ok, well sadly, I must leave Sedona now and go on to our next stop... Monument Valley.
We took our time up the beautiful 89A and stopped at Sunset Crater Volcano and Wupatki. As we traveled, the land lit up with what's called "The Painted Desert". It was just beautiful. We took over 3500 pictures on this entire 16 day journey, but I would encourage you to just look. Look, ponder, relax, dream and enjoy. There is no picture that can do that for you. So take some time and let it all soak in. We watched tourists rush through for the perfect picture everywhere we went and never stop to really take it all in.
In Monument Valley, we stayed at The View, which needs no explanation. You are plunked right down in the Valley and the view is great. Sunrise and Sunset are fantastic. See the sunset on the other side of the hotel. They have some nice observation decks. We even caught a fantastic lightening storm in the distance. Sunrise from your balcony is great. Again, I think moments like this can be damped by the loud chatter and yelling back and forth. Go out, sit with your morning beverage and contemplate. Sunrise is a process, rather than a one moment event. The stars at night were also beautiful. We did not get the whole sky because of clouds but what we did get was sufficient and lovely. The rooms at the view are spotlessly clean, comfortable and cozy. We had a second floor room, which was nice. In my opinion, you do not need a top floor and the star view is a waste because you can see the stars completely from any room.
The back road tour of MV was awesome. It’s a must do. If you want to try and do it yourself, not only will you miss the back roads (which you can’t take your vehicle on), but you will put your vehicle through hell. The roads are not good and why you would want to destroy your vehicle is beyond comprehension. Even the Jeeps and SUV's were struggling, especially getting back up. They say many a vehicle is pulled out from over the side of a cliff. It takes hours for road side assistance to get there to get you out and it cost a ton of money. I know some have done it successfully, but the road changes daily based on the weather the night before. Just sit back and let the local take you through. Don't do it!! Besides, you will miss the best parts because you can’t get there on your own. Snake pits, Indian songs and beautiful horses riding by, just to name a few. You only need one night there in Monument Valley. After our morning tour, we ate lunch and moved on to our travel to Page
We arrived in Page in enough time for the last Lower Antelope Canyon Tour (4:00pm) I planned it that way (after reading reviews) and in retrospect, it worked out great!! We ended up touring the Upper and Secret Canyon too and neither can compare to the Lower. First, scratch Hummer Secret Canyon off your list. It’s a 30 minute ride over humps and bumps where the driver attempts to do some wheelies or whatever one does in a Hummer and then you arrive to a second class canyon (compared to the other two). It’s not worth the money or time. Tour the Upper or Lower for 1/3 of the price of Secret Canyon. The upper was super crowded and that took from the actual beauty. Again, it was overrun with tourists snapping pictures and yelling and kids screaming. Sad, but true. The lower was less “kid friendly” probably because of the ladders you have to climb in and out of. I think this is important info for those traveling with children. No offense, but Lower is not the place for you. The ladders are somewhat steep and your babies could get hurt. However, it was the place for us. Stunningly beautiful, with tangerine & purple colors late in the afternoon. There were 8 of us on the tour and we were in heaven snapping pics and enjoying the quiet beauty. Rare, I understand, but we lucked out. Go late, push the limit. Show up right on the 4:00 mark. They will take you and you will be happy you did.
We also took the Colorado River Tour the next morning and it was spectacular. The cold breeze off the water on a hot July morning was refreshing and lovely. We had a great ride through the Dark Damn Tunnel on the bus to get there and a super sweet river guide, who educated us nonstop, refreshed us with cold bandanas dipped in the river and sang beautiful songs for us. As I previously wrote, our tour was combined with the afternoon Hummer Slot Tour and it was extremely disappointing. This would probably be the one tour I would discourage. In Page, too you can pull over/off on scenic routes and get some great pics. We went to the Wahweap Marina for sunset and Glen Canyon Damn for great pics. On our last day we rose super early (while the sun was still making its way up) and took on Horseshoe Bend. The distance was not bad at all. It was just difficult to climb back up in what I refer to as “quick sand”. If you do it early before the orange blaze shows up, it’s good. I did not lie down and get the “good picture”. I was too scared. But we got good pics, none the less. We arrived well after sunrise and it was beautiful. We stayed at the Days Inn which was fine for us. It was a nice place, decent breakfast (hot & cold) and close to everything. One note, there are no balconies unless you get a suite. Instead, there is a railing across the door when you open it. To the mothers, think about that.
On to the Grand Canyon, where we arrive early enough to tour Desert View and then a quick no nonsense check in to Thunderbird, where we found that our lovely Canyon view room had windows that opened with screens for fresh air. Not only was the view fantastic, but we were so looking forward to the night breeze when the temp dropped to 55 and it was fabulous. El Tovar had a good breakfast, decent dinner, but somewhat overpriced. We preferred The Arizona Room. Just a quick note that there are no water bottles sold at GC, so bring your own. There are fill up stations around for refill, but don't rely on them to be everywhere. Again, we arrived with our own cooler, packed with cases of water (Necessary and cheaper).
The bus lines that take you to each point (especially the Red) were very crowded and the lines were long to get on. We had a short experience at the end of the day of our arrival, in the late afternoon. Storms got the best of things and area closed. So we went for dinner and while dining at El Tovar we met two lovely seniors that were "Grand Canyon Regulars". We chatted up about the storm and the crowded buses and before you know it, they were inviting us to join them on their own private tour of all the points. We learned that they had handicap access to where only the busses can go and no traffic is permitted. So they invited us bright and early the following day. It was truly a blessing to be able to tour the Grand Canyon without the tourist bus madness and even more so, with the kind and wonderful wisdom of our new found friends. It was spectacular and a good source for those that wouldn’t otherwise get to tour the points. I'm so very grateful we were able to experience the Grand Canyon this way. I also feel that we made their day too! My favorite place …. YAVAPAI !!!!! , sunset could not have been more magnificent!
On to Vegas .... We included Rt 66 on our itinerary just for the fun of it. Our first stop, Seligman, was cute and fun and we got to sign the Hippy Van. We had decided to drive Rt 66 to Kingman, rather than return to the highway, which was a bit boring with exception to the “fun” little signs warning you about speeding. We didn’t get to stop in Hackenberry, primarily because we never saw the General Store. Must have blown right past it. I’m sorry I missed that, because as I understand it, there is a gentleman there full of fun and wisdom. We did however stop for lunch at Mr. D's, another just OK place. It was nice to experience Rt 66, but I wouldn’t make a big deal about it.
We arrived into the madness of Vegas with its crowded streets and flashing lights. We had been to Vegas many years prior and could swear that it had tripled in size. We checked into the historical (what’s left of it) Flamingo and had a very nice room with a killer view. The only problem was that it was three long hallways away from the elevator. I think when they built hundreds of more rooms on to the existing casino they didn’t plan well for elevator service. Well, what do you want for $44.00 a night? We had a great room that was clean, cool (Vegas was in the 109 temp zone) and comfy. The strip was loaded with people drinking and screaming, loud blaring music coming from the casinos and private BOOM BOXES and people showing off their "wares". A haven for party people, but more than wild with unnecessary behavior. I think Bugsy is turning over in his grave. What once was a "classy" place to go and dress up, fine dine and see a show has turned into mayhem. Still, after three days, two nice size jackpots and some decent food, we were ok with the whole deal.
We felt blessed to be able to experience all that we did and loved our journey! Already planning the next one!Edited: 21 July 2014, 18:49