With Mohawk Radio having an early flight the following day, it was decided beforehand to drive up to Phoenix for the night so they could be closer to the airport for when they move onto Texas.
Sue and I are staying with a girl called Jennifer in a cosy and modern flat just off the Interstate, and the band and Maddy have a full house to themselves ten minutes away.
We both dump our luggage at our respective airbnb addresses and then make the two hour drive north up to Sedona, which we’ve heard some excellent things about. I follow the band up as their host has given them an alternative and more picturesque route to the one I have.
Back on the road was great! There were no nerves at all now and I was thoroughly enjoying it. Once you get your head around a few rules (and being on the other side of the road) then it’s a blast, especially in the car we have. The music we have playing heightens the emotions too as all the songs you associate with an American Road Trip music roll one after another.
One road rule in America which is brilliant, and should be enforced in the UK, is that you can make right hand turns at red traffic lights if no one is approaching. I better watch out for this when I get home because I may be tempted to just go having forgotten our own highway code. I also begin to notice just how big everyone’s car is. No one has a Punto or a Mini. They’re all so huge and powerful. Most people have pickup trucks too. Surely they’re not all tradesmen?
I have to stop for ‘gas’ on the way, and immediately I’m confused. I have to ask the assistant for help and she says I have to pay first by cash. She asks me how much I want to put in and I say $30. She’s surprised and says anything under $30 will not be charged. I’m nearly on empty so how can it not be over $30? The tank takes a while to fuel, and the cost is going up so slowly I think I’m going to be there for an age. Then, it stops at $18! I keep pressing the trigger and it won’t go any further. When I get in the car I see the tank is full for $18!! Can you believe that? That’s about £15 back home. If I was to fill up a car this size in the UK it’d easily be about £60 or £70. Just another example of how we get screwed over in the UK.
After ‘gassing up’ we exit the busy freeway and enter more scenic surroundings. The journey becomes luxurious. The mountains and rock formations are breath taking and I have to be careful on the long, windy roads as we climb up into the mountains because my eyes are wandering, and this car is a sensitive bastard! One slight head turn and the car shifts in that direction. Or is that just my shit driving?
Dave pulls off into a rest area in the middle of a ravine, and we follow. Rest areas in the US aren’t like ones in the UK. You don’t get seating areas with these views back home. Spectacular! A wave of golden brown undulating across the landscape. Sedona is meant to be one of the most picturesque places in Arizona. It must be special because this view at a rest area is already leaving me in awe.
After an hour’s drive we enter Sedona and everything I’ve seen before on the American landscape has now been dwarfed by the red rocks of Sedona. Enormous cliffs painted in red and orange just appear out of nowhere. They are shaped in such a way that you wonder what’s holding them up. I need to remember my school Geography lessons! Huge boulders sit on top, and it’s like we’ve been transported to Mars. Everything is just so red and beautiful. I don’t know where to look, but on these curved roads I have to keep one eye on that, and try and soak in what’s all around me.
We stop at Slide Rock Park on recommendation of the band’s host back in Phoenix. He says you can actually get in the river and slide downstream because it’s so smooth. Our walk to the river is simply spectacular. I’m running out of superlatives to describe this landscape, which has a tinge of psychedelia about it with the blue backdrop of the sky, and the pockets of green around each cliff and hill that merges with the red and orange. It’s like the rainbow fell from the sky and sprayed the landscape as it hit the ground.
We reach the river and make our way up to the point where you get in and slide down. A few people are already weighing it up. I’m apprehensive as I’m driving and don’t fancy driving back piss wet through. Dave feels the same, but the others have been on the beer in the car and are well up for it. Dutch courage and all that! Greggsy strips off to his shorts and is weighing it up, dipping his toe in the river saying how cold it is. By this time, Mia has taken off her jacket, shoes and socks and jumps in without warning.. Not wanting to be upstaged by their lead singer, Greggsy and Sean jump in and slide down to the bottom, screaming how cold the water is on their way down. Fuck it!! I’m not coming all this way and not doing something so daring! A friend had told me to say “yes to everything” whilst away. Have no regrets! This is one such activity to say yes too. So I stripped down to my shorts and made my way over to the starting point, slipping on my arse from the wet surface like a clown. Whilst on the floor I ease my way in and slide through. OH MY GOD IT’S FREEZING!!!! I make it down to the bottom and cheer, and when I reach the top, Sue tells me she pressed the wrong button to video it! So I go again, but this time I don’t fall. Oh my friends will be so disappointed that me falling wasn’t captured on camera. Maddy and Sue then run the gauntlet leaving only Dave. Designated driver or not, he can’t be the only one who hasn’t done it, so he gets undressed down to his shorts and is the last down the slide, looking a picture of coolness as he keeps his green trimmed shades on!
Perhaps I’m learning a few things about myself. I never would’ve done anything like this back home, but it didn’t take too much convincing here. It’s all about experience and having no regrets in life. My friend was right, on a trip of this magnitude, say yes to everything!
We then head back into the centre of Sedona and park up for food. We are forced to sit outside a typical burger and steak joint if we want a seat straight away. The sun was shining so it was pleasant to sit out……but when it disappeared over a rock, the real air temperature set in. It was like sitting outside a restaurant in Manchester in January. It was freezing. Not so tough Northerners now!
The meal was fantastic and brought an end to a fantastic day with the band. It was so much fun being together and experiencing and seeing what we had. It’s something I’m sure we’ll cherish forever. We’d already said bye to Mickey and Noomie that morning, and now we had to say bye to each other for a week. The band are due in Texas for two gigs, and we are making our way up to Flagstaff in preparation for The Grand Canyon. We will make the slow drive back to LA and eventually meet them there, but for now, our time to separate has come in the middle of this beautifully quaint, sleepy hollow village of Sedona!
We pull in at the flat around 21.30 and shortly after arriving, our hosts friend, Debra returns. She sometimes stays and tells us our host, Jennifer, is working late and not back till about 10pm. We chat with Debra about culture and our differing ways of life. It seems to be a common theme when talking to our American cousins, but it’s great to hear different perspectives and opinions. The conversation takes on a more political tone and before we know it, we’re engaged in an episode of Question Time, but a little more light hearted. Talking about the healthcare and education system in the US makes me realise how fortunate we are in the UK in some areas at least……not fuel though!
The political debate will have to be sorted another time as it’s getting late, and after such a tiring and eventful day we need our sleep, but it was a very interesting series of conversations to mull over as we headed to our slumber.
We set off early the next day for Flagstaff. It’s about a two and a half hour drive north so I can relax a bit. I go up the same road I did for Sedona, which isn’t boring in the slightest. When we hit the outskirts of Flagstaff, the terrain changes. It appears greener and we can see the odd pile of snow in the distance on the mountain tops. Our temperature gauge in the car is dropping with every mile too, and we climb to about 8,500ft above sea level at one point. I can’t believe the complete change in temperatures in such a short space of time.
We arrive in Flagstaff and realise that we’ve been travelling on the historic Route 66! Wahey! Another Bucket List point ticked off! Ok, not the full way, but still! We are staying in a motel for two days called The Canyon Inn, and I’m sceptical it’ll be like Bates Motel. Judging by the amount of motels and fast food places in the immediate area, I’m pretty sure I have nothing to worry about. But, when we walk to a Walgreens to stock up, we are the only people about, and anyone else we do see walking appears a bit strange….well that speaks volumes doesn’t it!!
Flagstaff ends up being a quiet night. It’s a stopping off place before we hit The Grand Canyon the next day….on my birthday! Best birthday present ever! Thanks Sue!
Mohawk Radio land in Texas safely and have a couple of days rest before their gig at Strange Brew. We are missing them already!