Holiday Time Travel

I am not one to attempt travel during the holidays since I prefer to live in a less complicated, less populated fantasy. But my adventuresome great niece, who once worked for Booking.com, boldly put money down on a VBRO, that sleeps 11, at the beach, for the week around Christmas, way back in early 2022. This leap of faith was completely unwarranted since most of the members of my family are on the agoraphobic spectrum.

But as the months went by, my memory traveled back to times when we all gathered around my sister’s dining room table, eating, playing games, laughing until someone peed her pants, and generally enjoying the company of the few people on earth who “get” our mildly ribald sense of humor. I have three favorite nieces, one lives in Michigan, one in Denver, and one who lives a couple of miles away here in California. The Michigan contingent was a given since they had initiated the plan, but the Denver niece, MFN Tamera was going to be a hard sell as she would rather take a beating than be parted from Lucy, referred to by the unenlightened as a dog.

So, it was incumbent on me to persuade MFN Tamera to do yet another road trip. In a moment of weakness she tepidly agreed it could be fun when I told her I’d booked a flight to Denver and I’d be there on the 16th. It was her job to find pet-friendly hotels along our intended route to Carlsbad, CA, which included Sedona, AZ.

Denver was shockingly cold when I arrived, and that was BEFORE the cold front that moved in a couple of days later. We immediately headed South to her dad’s place in Pueblo where his wife, Bonnie, had prepared a brunch fit for kings. A fluffy, cheesy, egg concoction that included little cubes of ham (which I could surreptitiously pass to Lucy under the table) was deliciously fortifying for the four-hour drive to Santa Fe.

As we drove through desolate scrub lands of New Mexico, I entertained Tamera with the tale of how her mum (aka Babs, in this venue) and I had nearly run out of gas in this area. Babs had grown increasingly panicky as her low fuel light glowed larger and larger in her consciousness. I had tried to calm her fears reminding her that we had two cell phones, two bicycles, a pop-up trailer with a bed, and a refrigerator crammed full of food. What was the WORST that could happen? At last, we had come upon a for-sale sign on a property with what I thought would be a local phone number. I dialed and got a woman in Idaho who kindly assured us that there was a gas station less than a mile ahead of us. Of course, I embellished the story to include rescue by a Brad Pitt look alike when in reality there was only a girl selling freshly made doughnut holes in the gas station parking lot. She insisted that the first one was free and wouldn’t allow me to pay since I only wanted one. But I digress…

Tam had talked about filling the tank at some crossroads north of Taos but, Google Maps had taken pains to divert us from any road that included gas pumps, and soon we found ourselves in mountainous terrain with dusk falling like fog rolling in off the ocean. Tam, like her mum, prefers not to have adventure forced upon her but, she tried valiantly not to express her anxiety as the low fuel light grew hard to ignore. As luck would have it, we eventually came upon a gas station before adventure found us. And, thanks to a generous state government, we paid a scant $2.99/gallon!

A charming diner/convenience market on the highway through the Laguna Reservation.

Our overpriced room in Santa Fe, reeking of fragrance intended to mask the smell of pet-friendly, rarely-shampooed carpet, was a welcome refuge from the lung-searing cold. I think it was in the high twenties (Fahrenheit). The grand lobby, with its silent, gas-fueled fireplace and twenty-foot ceilings, led to unrealistic expectations of a luxurious room. Our bathroom had no exhaust fan and mold on the ceiling. But the beds were comfy and the neighbors were quiet, even the coyote we had seen casing the parking lot.

In the morning we hiked up a drainage behind the upscale houses above our hotel. Lucy was kept on leash as there was no reason to encourage the local coyotes to develop a taste for pedigreed dog.

In spite of our efforts to keep to some sort of discipline on the road, we still didn’t make it to Sedona much before dark. The steep descent from Flagstaff to Sedona was slowed by road construction that allowed for appreciation of the natural splendor of the darkening canyon.

This time, we were not disappointed by the comforts of our room. The hotel restaurant included a well-stocked bar and a chatty bartender, so we saw no reason to look further for something to eat, especially because we intended to hit the trail by dawn to avoid the crowds at the Subway trail in Boynton Canyon.

The side trail to the Subway was blocked by logs, placed to deter hikers from straying from the main trail, so we mistakenly passed it by. Big mistake! By the time we got to the end of the canyon and turned back, scores of other hikers were already ahead of us making the final ascent into the Subway tunnel look like the Hilary Step on Everest. I made it half way up the slippery ramp before deciding that I was in danger of having another hiker slide down on top of me. Tamera took advantage of a break in traffic and scrambled to the top while I waited below with Lucy.

MFN Tamera poses for a selfie.
The Hillary Step of Sedona
Morning frosting on the cake.

To be continued…or probably not.