When we got off the plane in Phoenix we decided to grab a quick bite to eat at the airport before heading over to the car rental agency. I usually refuse to eat fast food, but since it was the only option I decided to temporarily lift my embargo and eat at Wendy’s. This decision would later come back to bite us in the ass, but we’ll circle back to that later.
As we were in the shuttle, it dawned on me that it’d been over 10 years since I’d had my own car. I couldn’t even remember the last time I’d been behind the wheel. What was I thinking going on a road trip?
The first few hours were nerve-racking, but I finally loosened up and realized I was doing just fine. I guess it’s kind of like riding a bike.
Goldfield Ghost Town
Before we knew it, we’d arrived at our first stop: Goldfield Ghost Town.
When researching our trip I stumbled upon Goldfield because my boyfriend wanted to go gold panning. There was another option nearby, but they only did tours in the early morning. Since our plane didn’t arrive until almost noon, that didn’t work with our schedule.
The first thing we noticed when we arrived was the size of the cacti. They were HUGE! When you look at the picture below you may think to yourself, “Come on, how big can they really be?”
Now look at that same cactus with my 5’8’’ (1.73 m) self next to it. That thing is easily 3 times the size of me.
I asked my boyfriend if he wanted a picture next to it as well and he replied, “Nah, I’m sure we’ll see tons more of these on our trip.” Ironically, we never saw any other large cacti again. Who knew the vegetation in Arizona was so diverse?
When we finally made our way to the gold panning part of the ghost town, we discovered that the “gold panning” was actually indoors. In a trough. Needless to say, there was no way we were going to pay to filter what was probably fool’s gold out of an oversized metal bucket.
And so in the blink of an eye our gold panning dreams went out the window. Luckily the rest of the ghost town was quaint enough that it wasn’t a complete waste of time.
We walked around for about a half-hour, checking out the different tourist shops to see what they offered.
We could have gone on a tour of the old mine or for a ride on the train, but we didn’t want to spend too much time there since we still had a ways to go that day.
The Drive to Sedona
On our way to Sedona, the sky started getting a little dark. As it turns out, all of our preconceptions about Arizona were wrong. It’s not overrun with cacti and it also rains sometimes. Who knew?
Did I mention I’m terrified of storms, especially when I’m driving? Panic started to set in as the winds picked up. I could feel them fighting against me as I held the wheel.
We ended up stopping in a random town along the way to wait for the storm to pass. By the time we left it wasn’t exactly sunny, but it seemed like the worst was over so I felt okay getting back out there.
And the drive was beautiful, despite the cloudy skies. They don’t call it the Red Rock Scenic Byway for nothing.
Unfortunately, by the time we got to Sedona, it was already late afternoon. We realized we could either climb to the top of one rock formation or see several but not hike up very far. We chose the latter option.
Our first stop was Bell Rock.
- Bell Rock
I really loved the juxtaposition of the red rocks, the green shrubs, and the dried up trees. Simply gorgeous!
- View after hiking about 10-15 minutes up Bell Rock.
Then we hiked back down and drove a few minutes to Cathedral Rock.
- Cathedral Rock
Here again we only hiked up about 10-15 minutes, but the view was stunning.
- View after hiking about 10-15 minutes up Cathedral Rock.
At this point we realized that we needed to hike down quickly before it got dark since we didn’t have a flashlight. And we made it down just in time to see this beautiful sunset.
And off we went to find our hotel. Tired, hungry, and starting to feel a little sick, we checked in and made our way to a nearby restaurant. Unfortunately, the sickness got the better of me and I wasn’t able to enjoy the meal (which was a shame because it looked delicious).
Since we both had varying degrees of symptoms that started several hours after our fast food adventure, we’re convinced it was the culprit. I’ll spare you the details, but I will say that I felt so light-headed that I could barely sit up, much less drive.
We ended up staying an extra day in Sedona in hopes I’d feel better. The only consolation was that the hotel where we stayed had a balcony with an unbeatable view.
- View from our balcony at Cedars Resort
Because of this unforeseen misadventure, we had to skip the Meteor Crater and the Petrified Forest. We considered trying to jam them into day 3, but decided that it would be more stressful than anything else. And we didn’t want to rush through Monument Valley, since that was one of the places we were the most excited about.
If we had it to do over again, there are a couple things we’d change. I’ll share them with you here in case you’re planning a trip to Arizona and are looking for some tips.
- Nix the fast food. That burger and fries may be cheap and convenient, but when you’re traveling just say no. It’s not worth getting sick and missing out on part of your trip.
- Skip Goldfield Ghost Town. Unless you’re dying to see a ghost town or it’s on the way to your next stop, don’t bother stopping. It was charming, but not worth going out of your way for.
- Stay longer in Sedona. Had we known you could hike up to the top of some of the formations, we would have planned more time there. If you like hiking you could plan to stay 2 days or so.
As you can see, our journey got off to a rocky start, but every good road trip has a couple bumps in the road, right? And they usually make for the best stories.
Do you have any good road trip tales to tell? Share them in the comments section below! And make sure to subscribe using the form in the upper right-hand corner of this page so you don’t miss part 2 of our Arizona road trip.