Zoo wrote his own post about our adventure here, and now here's my take.
We were aimed towards making Seonda, AZ when we spotted a way to loop down south from Ash Fork under and come up on it so that we didn't have to backtrack. We hate driving the same road twice and will do anything to avoid it. It simply isn't in the road tripper spirit, or manly.
As we drove down the highway, Zoo spotted a side road the seemed to cut north of the mountains and drop straight into Sedona. I said, "where is it?"
He pointed, "there!" SHARP LEFT, boogie right, then stop. That wonderful, bullet-ridden sign and a cattle gate. I'm form the East Coast and had never seen a cattle gate. I was afraid we would fall in. No worries, we forged on into... cattle land.
Wide open spaces, black steer staring us down with clumps of yellow grass hanging from their mouths... it was idyllic. It was awesome. It was exciting. We stop and bust out the film camera. Bam. Wow. Breathless, because I knew the latent images I was burning into the silver halides would knock me over... I mean, how could they not? This was the great unknown. Now.
And this was just the beginning...
After this, the road dipped through gullies, wound around lots of enormous ranches and we passed (I swear) only seven trucks on their way out and one poor PT Cruiser loaded with a family later on... But I will get to that.
It was gorgeous. No one was around, we had a feeling (mind you, only a feeling) we would make it out of this alive when we realized that turning back would put us severely out of our way and damage our manly road tripping egos. So, despite the disappearing light and rising elevation, we pressed on. It was only supposed to be about 9 miles on rough road, and this was all dirt and gravel, baby.
That's when the PT Cruiser passed us, loaded with parents, kids and vacation accoutrements. We gasped and sighed. Oh, God, they are not likely to make it out of here. I mean, we were looking at little gray lines on the map and there were tons of branchings on the way to where we were at this point, and they were just starting at dusk! Hopefully, they were headed out to a ranch... Bu that PT Cruiser was a little lower to the ground than our Toyota Highlander had a titch more clearance... We waved at them like the devil was chasing them. They just smiled gaily and waved back... Sigh...
As we continued on, the hills and gullies turned into mountainous terrain. We had gone from almost-desert flatlands to the mountains, and it was just plain invigorating. And we did NOT want to be out in this area in the dark. As we crested a rise and saw the cut in the mountain ahead, our hopes rose, and then the road curve to the right and switchbacked around mountainsides, no guard rail, 10', 20' 40' 100' drops around the mountains... eventually bringing us to the cut in the mountain pass.
It was dusk, and I swear as we passed through the cut onto the near-summit, a wash of moisture passed over us. We stopped the truck,hopped out and landed in mud. It was totally arid moments before and all along our path. Spread out below us was the Sedona Valley, lit up and glittering... waiting for us to come and quench out thirst on their beer, and perhaps make a pass at some locals. Squish. Cold. Wonderful.
We hopped back in the car and headed down to what we hoped was a little town called Jerome. On the edge of town, our welcome was a sign that bore this warning, "IF YOU CAN READ THIS, YOU ARE IN RANGE" and it was ridden with bullet holes and rode a chain-link fence with barbed wire. WTF? We boogied.
And in 100 yards, we were in the quaint, artsy town of Jerome. WTF again? We were relieved, and proceeded to drive down the windy (paved) roads into Sedona. Dropped our shite off at the hotel and went out for brisket at a local family-style BBQ joint.