We spent a week in Sedona in a single wide trailer, slightly reminiscent of an old folks trailer park with a rustic Spanish feel. Inside the gated area was everything we needed. The walk way through the entirety of the trailer was one person wide. It was a cool place to stay. Pool, a breakfast cafe on site, and daily art classes.
We were lucky enough to get signed up for an art classes at a nominal fee. We were thrilled to do a water color painting class. Now, for my sister this was second nature for her. She is an amazing artist. Everything that one needs to be, to be called an artist: creative, thoughtful, and paints as if each brush stroke is preplanned for the the next one as if she sees the finished piece of art in her mind. It is actually a beautiful thing to watch someone be with their art, in the moment… creating it.
I have a friend who is an architect. I have seen her drawings on paper, on a computer screen, and even more impressive the buildings she has designed. She is an artist also. She gets that same look my sister has when she paints and the same ease and grace when she speaks about her designs.
The first full day we had, we were both nursing our way down the hill to a little building. Putting one step in front of the other-a bit too much fun the night before and our inability to stop talking is often difficult on our trips. Conversations go on and on, unconsciously fighting over the last word, the last laugh, and soon 2am rolls around.
We signed in with a skinny man wearing a beret, small build, no hair with a gentle voice and the sheer sight of this man gave us a little chuckle. I am not sure if it was his demeanor, the way he spoke and looked perfectly like someone in an 80’s comedy about a painter…a complete stereotype on my part, but he was fun to be with for a few hours. The icing on the cake, his name. Art Gecko. I think that his name was the kicker to our whispering giggles. Still to this day, I wonder if that was his real name??
I had a surprise for the next day but turns out, not actually a surprise because I told her. I am so bad at keeping surprises. We were headed for a Jeep Adventure. Alone, she and I would go off road with a penciled paper map in a brand new Cherry Red Rubicon. This still is one of my favorite adventures.
I started driving through town as we made it to the dirt roads and I remember us looking at each other like we were entering a wonderland of excitment. The red rocks towered around us, brush and tumble weeds wiped the sides of this awesome toy. A rather expensive toy but it was SO SWEET! We drove for what seemed like a few miles before our surroundings started to change, the roads narrowed, we began to drive over uneven ground and rock. My stomach seemed to flutter with nerves or it could have just been sore from all the laughter from the day before and laughter that was happening inside that open-topped jeep of joy.
The terrain again changed drastically after a few S curves and the dirt underneath us started to disappear, we were driving and climbing rocks. At this point, I knew it wasn’t sore stomach muscles, it was fluttering nerves. Another jeep approaches as we sweep by each other nearly hitting mirrors, they warn us of what is ahead. We climbed the large hill and came around the left bend in the path. About 20 feet in front of us, was solid rock on a 45-degree incline and it sharpened off about ½ way up probably to a 75-degree incline. After some discussion, about putting the Rubicon in 4-wheel drive manually, my sister says, “now once you start driving you have to make it to the top, there is no stopping half way.” The incline didn’t seem that scary from the flat path we addressed in front of us. I decisively decide… I got this.
I start to accelerate slowly and my sister urges more gas, more gas, and I know my facial expression right then, and my laugh turned to a terrified nervous giggle. My sister is holding on for dear life, leaned forward as if that would help move us forward faster. Her urgency for me to give it more gas grew quickly and my weightless numb foot couldn’t push any harder.
I started babbling, “oh shit, oh shit. I can’t, I can’t.” I use both feet to slam the break into the floor board and in that exact position, at that angle my entire upper body felt as though I couldn’t lean forward even if it was life or death. My sister yells, “what the hell,” and looks like she is going to punch me in the face. We both looked forward and all we saw was the sky. In a split second, I decided I was done driving, at that moment, at that angle, and I was done. I absolutely pictured that if I went up any further the Jeep would somehow tip over backwards and flip end over end down the hill.
I needed my sister to drive. She decided we were not exactly in the right place to do a Chinese fire drill and switch drivers. I slowly let off the brake which allowed us to roll backwards to where the incline began. Emergency brake engaged, we switch places by me sliding in the passenger seat inside the Jeep and her passing in front of the Jeep to get in the driver’s side.
She took over and charged the climb. Up slowly we went and once that incline hit 75 degrees I swear those tires had suction cups on them to keep us attached to the rock. We drove a bit further, another climb or two and we finally reached the top. Red rock towered on one side of us. We stopped in the center of the rock. Our laughter echoed for miles, I’m sure of it. We replayed my abort mission mid rock climb and couldn’t catch our breath. We explored a bit, tried to take selfies in the middle of nowhere, yelled to see if voices would echo, talked and relished in the hot humid afternoon drinking water and celebrating with trail mix.
Our journey in the Rubicon was not over. We had to find our way back and together we decided we were loosing too much daylight. We headed forward off the grid where the map just ended and figured we would make it back just fine.
We travelled many trips before but this one we took by storm because of the heat we were told we would encounter as summer drew closer in Arizona.
I left Portland and she left Seattle joining forces in the Phoenix airport. Beyond the excitement of just being in this new state together and the enjoyment of embarking on another sister trip we simply couldn’t contain ourselves. We were interrupting each other and laughing as we wandered to the rental car counter and bounced about like young girls with pigtails in a make-believe world. Neither of us could get a word in edge wise. We filled out paperwork and as always argued about who would pay.
Our rolling suitcases trailed behind and we were off to find our car. This car was claimed to be an upgrade but from what I do not know. Not any bigger than a smurf’s turd, our tan car was squeaky clean and we rolled off to take on this state.
One of the best things about our trips is that we are open to anything that comes our way. There is always adventure, some fear (for me, anyway), a little ass kickin’ of both of ours, a challenge, laughter, outdoors, staying up late, and the most amazing conversations that makes me relish in the moment…exist in that one second and breathe deep to not miss a thing. I know everyone has their favorite person, and she is mine!! (Listen up! I am not slighting my husband in anyway, he is “my” person. But it is distinctly different than a sister.)
I am behind the wheel and getting myself situated in a car that has no power what so ever and feels like I am driving a steel tank from the 80’s we circle around the inside loop of the airport. She is looking at a map, the airport signs to get on the freeway, and digging in her purse for chap stick. We are still enthralled in conversation and laughter as we continue in the largest round about in the world.
She is searching for music and honestly, I think she noticed first that we were passing the rental car exit from the airport again. Not only did we exit there with our rental car but we had now finished a complete circle, she laughed that glorious, addicting laugh while looking slightly irritated. I had no option to change directions or stop on the side of the road.
If you have been to the Phoenix airport, you know what it is like to leave that airport or at least, now you know how hard it was for me to ‘try” and leave that airport for the first time. There is no way of knowing if I could leave it again without making the same mistake.
She instructs me to pay attention and get my shit together as she dumps the map because we still haven’t left the terminal gate. I begin to circle over my first tracks and am determined not to circle the entire airport again. I wait for my sister to tell me something.
It’s four lanes wide…what the hell lane was I supposed to be in?? We continue to find the situation hilarious and know we are going to be late getting to where we were supposed to be. She shouts, “exit there” and in our gutless smurf turd, I floor it and shoot across the other three lanes of traffic to an actual exit from the airport. What the hell? It took us over 30 minutes to get the hell out of there!
My sister is back on map duty and the city scape starts to disappear, it’s dry, hot, and the freeway stretches behind us and in front of us for miles. My blood pressure drops now that we have actually left the airport and we start chatting in a calm manner, excitement fills the car, and what are plans are for the week; while miles and miles pass. Maybe eight songs run through the radio in their entirety and we wonder how close we are to our destination.
We start to actually pay attention to the freeway signs and wonder what town is next. Map reading, her head is down and I report, “we are 38 miles to Tucson.” She looks at me puzzled, in an empty stare and says, “wait, what? Isn’t that the wrong direction?” In my stammer, I look at her laughing and make the statement, “I don’t know?” Annoyed, she looks back at me, “what the fuck?” She looks up from the map and declares, “we have to turn around,” which is hysterical to me and frustrating to her. I figured it was as good a time as any to ask her, how far out of the way did we actually travel??
Again, we exit and turn the car around to get headed in the opposite direction. If you ask me whether we were headed north, south, east or west…I deny, deny, deny…because, I simple have no sense of direction. Easier put, I wonder if it is a birth defect I was born with?
As we head the opposite direction from Tucson back the way we came, I question will we actually get to where we are going. I look to my older sister for guidance and she was less than enthused. She said, “Phoenix, we are supposed to be in Phoenix.”
Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey
We climbed back in our car after losing about 2 hours’ time and drove on. The chatter picked back up and our singing out loud filled the car. I think, we compete subconsciously at who sounds better but let’s face it, we both equally suck.
We made it the Oregon border, where we stopped for a potty break and decided ice cream was a good idea. However, I don’t think I mentioned it was nearly 115 degrees outside and the minute I stepped out the door with my vanilla cone it turned to sweet cream. It was running all over the place. My hand was white and it continued down my forearm and as I begged for help with the one napkin we were given, she laughed the kind of laugh that was infectious. We stood there for a few seconds laughing as I struggled to get my shit together. Tears streamed down my face and as we came to the back parking lot we passed a car with the bumper sticker that read “I have issues,” and at the moment, I had some serious issues! I posed for a photo, we made it back in the car and I sucked down an ice cream cone in a way that most people would think was savage.
The scenery around us had started changing. The Oregon green had changed to browns of many and tumbled weeds were blowing in the distance. The miles and hours passed until we made it to the Idaho border. We needed to fill up the car, use the restroom, and gather snacks. The gas station had two very unfortunate characters behind the counter. I attached myself to my sister’s hip, I knew she would always be the one to do the ass kicking on our trips. We filled a tiny plastic bag with unhealthy snacks, drinks, paid for gas, and there was no bathroom.
Next door in the middle of nowhere was a questionable casino. We knew it was our only chance at a real toilet. Although we were hesitant to enter, our bulging bladders drew us in and what was inside those doors was unbelievable. If one could picture the most redneck version of a casino, the smell of dust, dirty body, sweat and a big room cropped dusted by cigarette smoke – that is what we walked into. It was some place I wish we never entered and knowing what it was like inside, in retrospect, I defiantly would have chosen to squat and pee between two cars rather than use that bathroom. As we left, a little person with a cowboy hat, cut off shirt, sitting on a stool so high it was twice his height, gave us a head nod.
As we exited the building of smells, a ploom of what was trapped inside that building followed us to the car. It was my turn to drive, we jumped inside and in my uncomfortable state of glee, I left the parking lot over one curb and then another and we were on the road again.