November 16, 2017

5-day Scenic Sedona & Verde Canyon Railroad Tour

IMG_7938It was an early start for 52 guests and Ernesto and I as we headed for Arizona. The first day would see San Diego’s coastal climate disappear as we traveled through the San Gorgonio Pass (and past hundreds of wind turbines), the Coachella Valley, and skirted the Sonoran Desert. Our lunch stop was at the Applebee’s in Palm Desert and a comfort stop at a genuine truck stop is always an experience.

Before long we were traveling alongside the mighty Colorado River (the source of much of San Diego’s water) and arrived at the London Bridge Resort in Lake Havasu City. The resort is well situated next to the London Bridge, built in the 1830s across the River Thames in London, and moved to Lake Havasu City in 1967, and with reconstruction completed in 1971. It was purchased by local developer Robert McCulloch to attract people to the area, and it obviously worked. The Resort is also a timeshare, so our rooms were large and included a full kitchen and living room. Guests enjoyed walking around the property, up to the bridge, and were fascinated by the replica of the Gold State Coach in the lobby.

No need to cook in those kitchens as we went to Farrell’s Golden Corral for dinner. A staple of the community and family run for nearly two decades, this restaurant had a friendly crew, peanuts tableside (you could throw those on the floor) and HUGE portions. The brownie desserts were delicious, and no one complained of being hungry!

IMG_7952The next morning saw us up with the sun as we had a lot of ground to cover, and again, another day with varied landscape. For part of the drive we run parallel to Route 66, often referred to as the Mother Road. Begun in 1926 it ran through seven states, starting in Chicago Illinois and terminating in Santa Monica, California. When the interstate replaced it in the 1980s, whole towns were left abandoned and their livelihoods threatened. Angel Delgadillo of Seligman, one of those forgotten towns, helped preserve sections of the road, and runs a gift shop in an old pool hall next to his barbershop. We were lucky to see him there when we arrived, and he was giving a young man a shave as he still works his shop at the age of 90!

Soon we’d left the desert behind for the edge of the Colorado Plateau in Flagstaff, and a lunch stop at a perineal favorite – Cracker Barrel. Thanks to a hot tip from Tour Director Mark, I called ahead to make sure they had plenty of blackberry cobbler for us. They didn’t, but offered to make up a pan just for us! After lunch, and some shopping we descended Oak Creek Canyon which is one of the prettiest drives in the state. The roads are “wiggly” but they allow great views, and the creek (a tributary to the Verde River) runs along part of the roadway. Towards the bottom the trees were changing to autumn colors, and gave way to the amazing views of the Sedona area. Such a beautiful ride!

The group took a Sedona Trolley tour which included a visit to the Chapel of the Holy Cross – a building high on a hill that looks like it’s sprung up from the surrounding rock. The tour also include information on how the rock formations came to be, and what the locals call them (my favorite is Snoopy). After some exploring of Sedona we headed to the Javalina Cantina (so much fun to say) for included dinner and optional (though how could you pass them up) Prickly Pear Margaritas.  Then it was off to the Hilton Sedona Resort – a beautiful location and property for a two-night stay.

DSCN3910Day three allowed a bit of sleeping in and after breakfast we were off to the town of Jerome, once known as the “wickedest town in the West.” A former mining town perched on Cleopatra hill (with a killer view of the valley below), the town has turned artist enclave. There are plenty of shops to explore (many were fascinated by Nelly Bly’s kaleidoscope shop), and the historical society has a very good museum for only $2! We then headed out to Clarkdale for the main event – the Verde Canyon Railroad.

At a quarter of a mile long, it is a big train. The Daytripper group got two private enclosed cars along with a private, outdoor observation car. After some appetizers and sandwich, and welcome Champaign, most guests went outside to watch the canyon get deeper and to see the different rock formations. Although I never did see Abe Lincoln’s head, I did see the grizzly bear and the three frogs. The trip includes a short run through a tunnel (who can’t resist shouting like a five-year-old), wildlife viewing, and glimpses of the river as the train lumbered by. Such a beautiful afternoon to just watch the natural beauty change and unfold around every turn. It’s possible that the gentle rocking of the train encouraged some in our party to take a nap.

DSCN3849As if that wasn’t enough, we then headed to the Blazin’ M Ranch for fun, food and entertainment. Some tried their luck with some shooting practice, I gave a go at lassoing a horse (got it on the 5th try!) and others took the tractor ride around the grounds. Then the dinner bell rang and we went inside for BBQ. The chuck wagon line went fast as we had ribs, chicken, baked potatoes and their famous prickly pear slaw and biscuits loaded onto our plates. Another amazing meal where no one was hungry. After the dessert dishes (apple crisp with ice cream – yum!) were picked up the entertainment began and the singers were excellent and their harmonies beautiful. So many guests commented on the way out how great the day was, and that the highlight was the entertainment.

On the fourth day most of the Daytripper group opted to take a Pink Jeep tour. A few took the two-hour tour, which included time to explore off the jeep, and the rest split between the 1.5-hour tour that had some off-roading, and the 1.5-hour tour that stayed on paved roads. Everyone came back with smiles. As beautiful as the town of Sedona is, to really appreciate the beauty of the area (and it is breathtakingly beautiful), and to experience the vortexes (places where concentrated energy is rising from the earth) that the area is known for, you must get out of town.

That afternoon short drive brought us to our final night in Prescott AZ. Known for Whiskey Row, some folks took advantage of the area’s many bars and restaurants, while others relaxed at the Prescott Resort and Conference center. No one won big at the casino (or at least they didn’t admit to it), but many enjoyed the on-site restaurant and the in-room snacks provided by the hotel.

By now the individuals who came on the trip had formed a Daytripper family, and we spent our last day driving once more through varied landscape, while seeing how well we had gotten to know each other by playing Two Truths and a Lie. After lunch at the Sizzler in Blythe, and a comfort stop at Hadley’s (those date shakes are amazing!) we started the process of saying good-bye to our new friends. I’m always sad at the end of a tour like this, where I have gotten to know 52 awesome people. But hopefully we will all meet again on their next Daytripper tour!

jennifer-hudsonJennifer Hudson
DayTripper Tour Director
Tour: Scenic Sedona & the Verde Canyon Railroad
Date: October 30-November 3, 2017


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