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Tuzigoot National Monument

Vortexes and Pueblos

After visiting family, then visiting more family, we drove across the desert of Southern California to Cottonwood, Arizona. This was the last Thousand Trails campground in the Southwest zone, so we took our time to explore the Sedona area. Our Thousand Trails membership saved us once again. We pulled into the campground and asked the ranger if there were any sites available because we weren't able to make a reservation online. He said he only had a tent site with 20 amp electric. We said we would take what we could get and handed him our membership card. He looked at the card and said, "Oh, you're members! That changes everything!" There were still several full hook-up sites available for members only. We pulled into a spot, got hooked up and enjoyed the scenic views of red rock and the vineyards at the winery next door.

Tuzigoot National Monument
Tuzigoot National Monument

Ben had already seen a sign for a national monument, so we drove a couple of towns over to Tuzigoot. Google maps is a great app but sometimes will really fall through on getting you to a destination in a low-density area. After meeting two "No Trespassing" signs via navigation, we switched to Apple maps, which led us straight to the beautiful Pueblo ruins. Tuzigoot is what remains of an ancient village built by a nomadic Native American tribe. There is a visitor center that has artifacts such as tools and bowls, and is also where you can buy a National Park pass. It's a steal at $80. Tuzigoot is $10 per person entrance fee but if you have a National park pass, it covers the pass owner, 3 accompanying adults age 16+ and 15 and under are free to accompany. There are also several other discounts or free passes for military, seniors, children, and volunteers. With two national monuments close by where we were staying and the Grand Canyon on our way north, the pass would pay for itself before we left Arizona.

Aliens and Ladies From New Jersey

Aliens were in several store windows
Aliens were in several store windows.

On our way back, we stopped into the small village of Cottonwood. Eclectic shops line the streets with funny window signs and alien statues. The area is known for the vortexes and "energy" that emanates from the spiritual red rocks, which seems to attract people from all walks of life and makes for an interesting stroll through town.

Wineries are everywhere in the Southwest. They're especially abundant in the Sedona/Cottonwood area. Signs for wine tastings line the sidewalks and we decided to try some local flavor at the Pillsbury Wine Company. Live musicians were playing inside and we took an open seat in the back room where local art lined the walls up to the exposed rafters in the ceiling. People were casually milling about and enjoying the wine with smiles. The people seemed very relaxed and friendly, perhaps due to the vortex energy. It was contagious and we were engrossed in the peaceful ambiance.

I met two women who were on a day trip from where they lived in Phoenix. One was originally from New Jersey and said when she first moved to Arizona, she found a scorpion in her backyard that was "as big as a lobsta!". They said we had to try Bocce down the street, an Italian restaurant that had meatballs that rivaled hers.

Pillsbury Wine Company.
Pillsbury Wine Company. The two women in the back were a hoot.

Carefree and comical shop windows.
Carefree and comical shop windows.

Don't Cry Over Spilled Wine

Bocce Restaurant where Ben spilled his wine.
Bocce Restaurant where Ben spilled his wine.
We took the ladies' advice and had dinner at Bocce. And this is where Ben spilled his wine. We were sitting at the bar and it almost got on the guy sitting next to him, luckily not. It was a little embarrassing and the bartender refilled his glass. A while later into our meal, the lady who was accompanying the man next to Ben made a loud joke in her British accent about watching out for that guy who spills his wine. It was a good icebreaker to start a conversation with our bar neighbors. One of the great things about our lifestyle is that we get to meet new people everywhere we go. Coincidentally, this couple traveled for 25 years together, the husband as a pro golfer and the wife as a ski instructor. They fell in love with the Sedona area and he settled into a job as Director of Golf Operations at Seven Canyons golf club. They seemed very happy together and I wondered if we weren't looking at ourselves in 20 years, minus the British accent.

Stories From Strangers

The next day we were ready to feel the energy. Sedona was about 30 minutes north so we put on our hiking boots and got on the road. The town of Sedona is very touristy, not our cup of tea, but driving to the big rocks through the forest is gorgeous.

Sedona Red Rocks
Sedona Red Rocks
Especially on a rainy day with dark clouds hovering over Coconino National Park (National Park pass use #2). We found Cathedral Rock which is where one of the vortexes is supposed to be located.

About halfway up, my survival instinct kicked in and I told Ben to continue without me. The idea of coming down a steep technical climb locked my boots where they were so I sat down on the rock and watched Ben climb. During my wait, I saw an older gentleman standing alone on the rock. He said he was waiting for his wife, and he too was afraid of heights. They were from Texas and they traveled and hiked together frequently. I told him about our full-time adventure and he said they considered it as well but grandkids kept their base back in Texas.

Chapel of the Holy Cross
Chapel of the Holy Cross, another vortex
He said once he had a business trip out-of-state in which his wife joined him. She dropped him off at the conference and said she was going to check out an ice cave. He told her to take the 'big flashlight' and be careful. On her way there at about 10 am she texted him that she forgot the flashlight and was stopping to grab one. He hadn't heard from her again when the conference finished at 4 pm. He walked outside and she wasn't there to pick him up. An hour later he got a text from her with a picture of her face. It looked bruised and dark. It was actually mud. She said she didn't remember what happened but she was leaving the ice cave and must have fallen. She awoke to the sound of a helicopter and thought that her husband had sent a rescue team. About this time in our conversation, a helicopter flew over Cathedral Rock and I laughed and said he shouldn't have called the copter again. Another happy couple, perhaps another glimpse in our future, and I was getting the feeling more and more that we were doing the right thing. His wife came down the cliff, a petite, fit, pretty red head. A handsome, adventurous, and inspiring older couple.

View from the Chapel
View from the Chapel

National Parks Pass Use #3: Montezuma's Castle

Montezuma's Castle National Monument
Montezuma's Castle National Monument
The other national monument in the area that I mentioned is Montezuma's Castle, just southeast of Cottonwood. It's cool. Very cool. The only thing that's disappointing is that you can't go IN it. Because you want to. So bad. Again, built by a nomadic Native American tribe, strategically placed in the the side of a cliff to keep enemies away as well as annual floods. They used ladders to get to their home (must have been some tall ladders). If you buy a ticket at Tuzigoot, it's good at Montezuma as well, for up to 7 days. There are also many free days for national parks and monuments that are on the national parks website, such as the National Park Service's Birthday weekend on August 25th-28th 2016, so go to a national park and enjoy some beauty and history!

What is this, Napa?

Jerome, Arizona
Jerome, Arizona, an old mining town on the side of a mountain.
After checking in on Facebook in Sedona, an old friend who is a comedian messaged me that I should go up to Jerome to visit the winery that's owned by the lead singer of Tool, Maynard James Keenan. Jerome is an old copper mining town built on the side of a mountain about 20 minutes past Cottonwood. Placards on the sides of buildings tell of the history of the town, the personalities of the people who resided there, and which buildings, now full of local arts and souvenirs, were previously brothels. Caduceus Cellars has a beautiful tasting room with olive green velvet couches and lots of interesting merch to leaf through while sipping a glass of vegan wine.

Baby birds at Alcantara Vineyards
Baby birds at Alcantara Vineyards
Just to be fair, and because it was our last night in town, we stopped at the Alcantara Vineyard that is located right next to the campground we were staying. Once again, we ran into fellow traveler. The woman working as the tasting server told us how she travels in her camper van and was working at the vineyard for the season. She was originally from the southwest corner of Colorado and loves her life on the road. We explored the vines and the chapel they have at the back of the property. On the patio, Ben and another guest found a nest with baby birds waiting to be fed. We weren't sure if it was the energy or the wine, but it was definitely a peaceful day in the red rocks, feeling one with nature...and wine.

Cathedral Rock