As I could not camp overnight at the White Sands National Monument, after hiking the Alkali Flat Trail and knowing that a storm was on its way, I decided that moving on was the best thing to do. My next planned destination was the Grand Canyon, which meant crossing the state of Arizona diagonally in a southeast to northwest route. I reached out to a dear friend who worked in New York with me and now lives nearby Tucson in Oro Valley. I was to at his hotel for the night and he invited me to join him and his wife for dinner. It was estimated that I would be arriving in Oro Valley around nine o’clock that evening. About an hour later I realized that because of the time difference I was gaining one hour and my arrival would be around eight o’clock local time. Well, it would’ve been! The storm that I had heard about while I was at the White Sands Monument had finally arrived! The wind was so strong that many drivers just pulled over on the shoulders of the road. I figured that I would just slow down and keep on going! At some spots it was really rough, but I thought it was best to continue on and beat the storm. After all, it was very “spotty”. I drove through torrential rain for a quarter of a mile to come out on the other end to the most beautiful sunset skies and calmness. Those moments did not last long either. I had had my initiation on rattlesnakes while I was hiking the Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Texas, but now I was about to graduate!
Along with the welcome sign to Arizona, the Grand Canyon State, I was shocked to see the warning signs about poisonous snakes as I got out of the car at the first rest stop in the state. Later on that evening I would learn more about rattlesnakes and why the adult snakes are not as much of a threat as the baby snakes. Delayed by the storm and an attack of gigantic tumbleweeds on the road, I ended up losing the hour I had gained and still arrived around nine o’clock that evening. After agreeing that I would meet my friend Roger in the lobby of his hotel around ten o’clock, it was time for a serious clean up! When you’re on the road for days and camping or sleeping on the road, and you come to a hotel and have a hot shower, that is priceless! No matter how hungry your are, that shower comes first! Sorry, but anything else will have to wait! I was at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Oro Valley, Arizona, which is a comfortable and beautiful property. I knew I was in good hands! About an hour later I met Roger and Helen in the lobby of the hotel. We headed out for dinner and although it was a bit late they seemed to have everything under control. They took me to the restaurant Noble Hops Pub in Oro Valley, Arizona. As we got to the parking lot of the restaurant, Hellen had a flash light with her. I learned that she carries a flash light everywhere to spot rattlesnakes whenever she goes out at night. That’s when I realized that this rattlesnake thing in Arizona meant serious business! She went on to educate me about the fact that the adult snakes do not pose as much risk as the young rattlesnakes do. The adult rattlesnakes have the “bells” and announce their presence in the area. The problem, she explained, lies with the infant snakes that do not have the bells yet and cannot let you know that they are there. She also told me that the young snakes do not have a control over how much poison they dispense and can be more lethal than the adult ones. With all that in mind and the information to be digested, it was time to eat! I was famished to a point that I think I could bite a rattlesnake! Obviously, the margaritas were fabulous and my hamburger was delicious! It is always so great to catch up with friends I haven’t seen in a while and we had a great time. There was a fire pit just a few feet away from us where a lively, joyful group seemed to be having a grand ol’time.
It was during our conversation that night that Roger suggested that I at least stopped by Sedona on my way to the Grand Canyon. He tried to tell me about how magic and spiritual Sedona was. I must admit that although I had heard about Sedona, I hadn’t really paid too much attention to it. Probably because I was focused on the Grand Canyon. A couple of months before I started on the road, I mapped a tentative route for my road trip which included one or two national parks per state. However, once I got on the road and met old friends or made new friends along the way they gave me advises and suggested a stop here and there. In some cases they dissuaded me from stopping at a location that I had my heart set on. Well rested, the following morning I left Oro Valley heading to Sedona, Arizona.