Arizona Vacation

by Danny Zawacki

I’m really kind of late on this but last month Ellie and I took a vacation to celebrate her graduating, my ability to take a vacation, and our one year anniversary. It couldn’t have been timed better either because Wisconsin had just taken a hit of -20 degree weather and we needed to warm up. Warm up we did in Arizona.

A while ago, I had read about airbnb and thought it was a neat concept but didn’t really see myself with an opportunity to test it out. I happened to mention it to Ellie and she loved the idea and fell in love with more than one of the places in the US. I told her she had to pick one and after some deliberating, we decided on a place on the north side of Phoenix. We had a whole guest house to ourselves and it was beautiful. It was also warm, so that might be affecting my judgment but I really don’t think that mattered.

The view from our balcony, in January no less!

Now, we had a lot of things we wanted to do and we did our best to fit them all in, but number one on my list was to see the Grand Canyon, and see it we did. Since we flew to Phoenix, we had to get a rental car to get us around. Because of this, we had freedom to come and go as we pleased and weren’t confined to public transportation or tour groups and it made for the best of weekend. So, when we decided to see the Grand Canyon at daybreak, there was nothing stopping us. Our first morning in Arizona, we got up at 4 a.m. to drive 3.5 hours to catch the sun rise over the canyon. The drive was long and dark and all I really knew was that we kept going up and up and up. Had I know that the road was as treacherous as it seemed in daylight, I doubt I would have been going the full 75 MPH, or rather 80 MPH, speed limit. But the drive was worth it (and for a brief time, we drove on Route 66, so I can cross that off my list).

When we got to the Canyon, the view was far from breathtaking. Far beyond. Words aren’t enough to describe it for me, so take a gander at what we saw.

Oh, and…

Stunning, absolutely stunning

We also didn’t realize that this big hole in the ground was high up in the mountains. We were a little under dressed for the outing but we were troopers and powered through because oh so beautiful.

Happy, but the cold kind of happy.

After an adventurous and freezing morning spent exploring the views of the Canyon and marveling at the vastness, we set our compass towards home. Albeit, a meandering compass home. We drove through Navajo country and the desert. The drive was beautiful as well, maybe I have a soft spot for vast expanses of open and empty land (protip: I do). My perception of the desert was also changed. I always pictured the desert to be like the African deserts with sand dunes that blow around all day. This was a lot more alive and still.

In the late afternoon, we decided to see another canyon before heading home. This one was much smaller but the drive to get to it was more taxing than that of the Grand Canyon. It was a slow weave back and forth which taught me the value of a semi-manual transmission because I could keep the car in low gears to prevent the car from rolling too fast. Boy was it nerve-wracking. Totally worth it.

And…

Oh, yeah, and…

Only a slight bit warmer.

Even after the second canyon, we weren’t done for the day. We stopped in Sedona to wander. It’s also known as the land of way too many roundabouts. Seriously.

The next morning, after sleeping a long, long sleep. We slowly woke up and decided to hike in the desert in our backyard.

There were no road runners or coyotes, but it was kind a of nice to just wander outside and really be in the nature and the desert. Also, we really needed time to recuperate from our excursion to the Canyon.

In the evening, we went to the Desert Botanical Gardens to wander around. We saw a nice car parked outside:

And then some nice cactuses (because that’s one of like three things you can have in a botanical garden for a desert because nothing grows there).

Oh, and they had an art installation all over the Garden which I kept mistaking for plants. No joke, it wasn’t funny. Pretty, for glass, but not funny.

Then for dinner, we celebrated the anniversary of our first date and had a really nice, fancy dinner at a gem tucked away in a residential neighborhood. They had cheese curds as an appetizer and well, I never thought anyone out of close proximity to Wisconsin knew what cheese curds were. Our minds were blown at how decent they tasted (and we would know as that seems to be our appetizer of choice when we date night).

The next day we tried going to see a ghost town but got swindled into going to a tourist trap re-enactment ghost town. It wasn’t completely terrible. Kind of amusing in its own way. There was a mock gun battle and we went down into a replica mine where I actually learned a few things about mines. Oh, and we had ice cream in fresh waffle cones and if you’ve never had fresh waffle cones, Yelp the closest place that makes them and get your ass over there right away I’m not sorry for saying ass because seriously it will change your world when it comes to eating ice cream from a cone.

Then our last day before we flew out, we just wandered around to see the last few things we wanted to see before he had to leave our paradise. We went to the Pueblo Museum where I think we were the only customers because that’s what you get when it’s the middle of the day during the week and there’s school. Then we went to the ASU campus because we thought there would be a nice park there but we were severely let down.

When we left, we cried on the inside for days. The whole trip was something out of a dream. Neither of us had been to Arizona before and it was the perfect time of year to visit. I miss it a ton still, and I don’t see how anyone could complain about the heat there (those people must never have left it for Wisconsin’s weather).