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Imperfect Perfection

August 23, 2017

Today was weird.

We woke up before 6 a.m. to catch our flight so we could land in Phoenix at around 10:30 a.m. local time, giving us a whole day to do fun stuff. The only problem is that there wasn’t much fun stuff to do.

The first order of business was to pick up our rental car, which turned out to be a bright blue Toyota Camry. (Thanks, Enterprise, for the free upgrade!)


The plan was to head straight to Wal-Mart, Costco, and a kosher butcher to stock up on all the things we usually bring from home, and then to get lunch. But it was 107 degrees in Phoenix today, so instead of buying fresh food only to leave it in a steaming hot car, we went to lunch first, which turned out to be an adventure all by itself.

We went to Samarkand, a Russian and Uzbek restaurant that turned out to be closed because it was hosting a private party. So we ended up at a place called Oasis Grill. Based on the name, you’d probably guess they serve Israeli food, and you’d be right. You’d also be right if you had guessed that they serve Chinese food, or Thai food, or Korean food, or Jewish deli, or American classics. It was the busiest menu I’ve ever seen, and for a kosher restaurant, that’s really saying something.

Segal's Oasis Grill

There’s also a whole page of various Asian dishes, and a whole page of kebabs.

Pro tip: never order the Thai Chicken Salad in a place that also serves Chummus.

The food ended up being delicious, and not terribly expensive, so we were quite satisfied when we got back into our disgustingly hot car to go shopping. Somehow it was already 3 p.m. by the time our shopping was done. This was not really a problem, because we had no plans to do anything of substance in Phoenix. We’ve already road-tripped through Phoenix, so there was nothing in the area that we were burning to do. (Get it? Burning? Because it’s hot here?)

We were also a little jet lagged, which is something we’d never experienced on a road trip. Because we always drive from home, we experience time zone changes only one hour at a time, which is much easier and often barely even noticeable. Today we jumped three hours at once, which left us kind of tired, hungry at the wrong times, and generally feeling just a little bit off.

Oh, and did I mention that we have an extra traveler with us? My wife usually flies out to meet us somewhere during the course of our trips, but this time she’s joining us for the first leg because it includes the Grand Canyon. She’ll be with us all week, and then on Sunday she’ll fly home from Vegas while we continue for the second half.

Of course it’s great to have her with us (and for me to have another potential driver). But the different car, the extra passenger, the jet lag, the errands, and the lack of exciting activities all added up; more than 12 hours into our trip, it still didn’t feel much like a road trip.

Leaving Phoenix turned out to be exactly what we needed to turn the day around. We headed north in I-17 toward Flagstaff, and when Waze told me that my next turn wasn’t for 81 miles, it started to feel more like a road trip. We cranked up the music, cranked up the speedometer (the speed limit was 75 for most of the way), and finally started to really enjoy ourselves. We joked about funny street signs …

… appreciated the occasionally gorgeous views …


… and by the time we got to our first real destination, we were totally in a road trip frame of mind.

That destination was Montezuma’s Castle, a visually impressive, ancient apartment building built into the side of a cliff sometime around the year 1100, and which is still remarkably intact, considering nobody’s lived there in roughly 600 years.




For the first time all day, our timing was perfect; we arrived about half an hour before the park closed, which was more than enough time to gaze at the structure from different angles, read the plaques about its history, and buy Sam’s first gift shop souvenir. That also left us enough time to drive to Flagstaff and do something fun there before dark.

Two years ago, when Route 66 took us through Flagstaff, we had a great time conquering the Flagstaff Extreme ropes course, but we also had a few other fun things we never got to do. We only had enough time for one today, but it was a pretty good one.

We arrived at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, appropriately, about an hour before sunset. That gave us enough time to grill dinner at one of the picnic areas within the park, and then tackle an easy but scenic hiking trail through a fascinating landscape of volcanic lava, experiencing sunset at a place named for it, and getting out of the park before it got too dark.






The hike made Sarah and me increasingly nervous as the sky slowly darkened and the end of the trail was nowhere in sight, but we made it back to our car before it got too dark, and the late hour meant that we had the whole picnic area and trail (and much of the entire park) all to ourselves.

The day may have started out strangely, but the last few hours got us right back into our road trip groove. Now if we can just sleep off this jet lag …





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