A Visit to the Dentist in Mexico

Dentistry is really expensive these days, and RVers that make their way south in the wintertime can take advantage of the good quality dental care that is available just over the border in Mexico.

The November/December 2016 issue of Escapees Magazine features our article about some of the great experiences we have had with dentists in Mexico just across the border from Yuma, Arizona, in San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico.

Mexican Dentistry Escapees Magazine Nov-Dec 2016

Escapees Magazine Nov-Dec 2016
Article by: Emily and Mark Fagan

Escapees has posted the article on their website at this link:

The Affordable Alternative of Mexican Dentistry

Our dentist, Dr. Sergio Bernal, is a general practitioner in San Luis Rio Colorado just over the border from San Luis, Arizona (south of Yuma).

Last year he coordinated and oversaw a root canal I had done in a tooth that already had a crown on it (described in detail here).

Eight years ago, Dr. Bernal put a porcelain crown on a baby tooth of Mark’s that had never fallen out. It was an exccellent crown and very easy procedure.

The crown was fabricated by the lab and ready to be installed within 18 hours of us arriving at Dr. Bernal’s office for the very first time. It fit perfectly and cost just $130.

Mark always said it was the best crown in his mouth.

Unfortunately, the baby tooth under this crown came loose this past October, and Mark was suddenly in a lot of pain. He needed another solution.

Ironically, this happened just as the issue of Escapees Magazine with our article about Mexican dental care was being mailed out to Escapees members.

Because we lived on our sailboat in Mexico for the better part of four years, we have enjoyed top notch dental care all over Mexico, from the Arizona border to the beautiful Bays of Huatulco very near the Guatemala border.

We have always been very satisfied with both the dental care and the price.

With Mark’s tooth aching, we dashed to Yuma and then zipped across the border from San Luis, Arizona, to San Luis, Mexico, on our bikes (you can learn more about doing this as well as walking over the border in our blog post about Mexican dental care here).

Even though dental care in Mexico is excellent, the upscale frills that Americans are accustomed to are not necessarily a part of the deal.

For starters, dentistry in Mexico is usually handled on a walk-in basis rather than making an appointment in advance.

Some people have read my writings about dentists in Mexico and have tried to find these dentists on the internet. Well, most Mexican dentists don’t bother with the expense of setting up a website, as they rely more on word of mouth and patients showing up at the door when they need care.

So, we got psyched up for a day of dentistry, rode the 1/2 block from the border to Dr. Bernal’s office, leaned our bikes against the wall and peered in the door. Unfortunately, he wasn’t there.

Rather than wait, we decided to ride over to visit the endodontist, Dr. Horacio Avila, who had done such an excellent job on my root canal last year. I needed to see him for a follow-up on my root canal anyway, and we figured he might have some thoughts about Mark’s aching baby tooth. We each took a quick turn in his dentist’s chair and looked at our x-rays with him on his computer screen on the wall.

My root canal was doing great, but Mark’s situation was more complex. The adult tooth was present but was lying sideways, which meant there was no option for an implant. Instead, Dr. Avila felt he probably needed a bridge.

Mexican dentist San Luis Rio Colorado Mexico

Mark and Dr. Avila check out his tooth on an x-ray.

Being an endontontist and not a general practice dentist, bridges are not his line of work. So, he handed us the x-rays and sent us on our way.

The bill for our five x-rays at Dr. Avila’s office was $50.

We biked back to Dr. Bernal’s office and found he had returned from his errands and was happy to see us.

Mark got in his dentist chair, and Dr. Bernal had a look at his tooth and Dr. Avila’s x-rays. Of course, Dr. Bernal has an x-ray machine too, but there was no need to duplicate the x-rays. He agreed that an implant was out and that a bridge was probably the best way to go.

He pulled Mark’s tiny baby tooth out of his mouth with a quick yank and explained that a bridge involves grinding down the two adjacent teeth, putting crowns on them, and then suspending a false tooth in between. Egads!!

Sadly, the two teeth on either side of Mark’s (now absent) baby tooth were 100% healthy. Mark felt really badly about grinding those teeth down to support two crowns and suspend a false tooth in between.

Dr. Bernal scratched his head for a while and studied Mark’s teeth for a while and then suggested he consider a different option: grinding a tiny channel on the back side of each of the two healthy teeth and suspending a false tooth in between on wings that were inserted and glued into the channels.

This sounded intriguing.

He suggested that Mark try a temporary solution like that and see how it felt before committing to a permanent solution. So, we hung around San Luis for about three hours while Dr. Bernal’s lab technician across the street fabricated a plastic temporary tooth. In the middle of the afternoon, Dr. Bernal inserted it and off we went back over the border.

He charged us $20 total for all of his work and the lab’s work.

Mexican Dentist San Luis Rio Colorado Mexico

Dr. Bernal goes over Mark’s options with him.

Mark liked the idea of being able to keep his healthy teeth mostly intact and not crown them, so we returned a few weeks later to get the permanent work done. Again, we showed up unannounced around 8:00 in the morning, and by late afternoon Dr. Bernal’s technician had fabricated a permanent false tooth with wings and Dr. Bernal had prepped Mark’s teeth and installed it.

The cost: $250.

Mark absolutely loves this tooth. He’s had it for a few months now and doesn’t even notice it’s there. It chews fine, looks fine, and the teeth on either side of it are totally intact except for a tiny indent in each one to support the wings of the false tooth. A retired dentist friend of ours said similar dental work in the US would have cost over $1,000.

Besides the high quality workmanship and low cost, the best thing about all of this was the back-and-forth conversation we were able to have with Dr. Bernal. Rather than the brusque manner of many dentists, he took the time to consider other options besides a bridge and to listen to our concerns about destroying two perfectly good teeth. I was in the room with Mark the whole time, and I liked the feeling that we were participants in Mark’s dental care rather than being just recipients.

Next door to Dr. Bernal’s office there is a hair cutting salon. Both times we visited Dr. Bernal, we dropped in on the hair cutting salon to get haircuts. The most delightful stylist named Amber works there, and for just $3 for men and $5 for women, she does a great job.

To find her shop: as you walk into the alcove where Dr. Bernal’s office is, the hair salon is on the right side before his office. For both of us, these have been the bests haircut we’ve had in over a year!

Barber next to Mexican dentist San Luis Rio Colorado Mexico

Next to Dr. Bernal’s office there is a great little hair cutting place.

Getting a haircut in San Luis Rio Colorado Mexico

Amber gives me a haircut

Another thing that’s great about going to Mexico for dental care — besides receiving excellent care at a fraction of American prices — is that it’s an excuse to enjoy a daytrip to another culture and eat some really wonderful Mexican food.

In San Luis there is an absolutely fantastic restaurant called El Parianchi that serves incredible food, complete with fun entertainment. We’ve now eaten several lunches there and a breakfast too, and we have loved the experience every single time.

El Parianchi Meal San Luis Rio Colorado Mexico

The first course of a feast for two for $13 (pancakes and omelette not shown) at El Parianchi restaurant.

We’ve gotten to know several of the waiters as well as the harpist, Elias. Mexicans enjoy listening to folk songs played by various kinds of musicians while dining, and the harp music adds a special something to the ambiance at El Parianchi.

Mexican restaurant El Parianchi San Luis Rio Colorado Mexico

Elias entertains us with his harp.

El Parianchi also has a stash of huge sombreros, and sometimes the waiters bring them out and put them on their guests as a gag. We ended up wearing these crazy hats on one of our visits for my root canal last year (see this post). On one of our visits this year, a group celebrating a 26th birthday ended up in the hats right behind us!

People in sombrero hats El Parianchi Restaurant San Luis Rio Colorado Mexico

Sombreros for everyone at the birthday party!

For lots more details about dental care in Mexico, including directions to our dentists’ offices, check out this link:

Mexican Dentists – Finding Affordable Dental Care in Mexico

Basic info for our primary care dentist. He’ll set you up with specialists in town as needed:

Dr. Sergio Bernal

Call him directly from the US by dialing this number: 011 52 653 534 6651
Address: First St. #118-9 San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico

Open Monday-Friday 9-5, Saturday 9-2, Sunday 9-11

For first timers, walk 100 yards from the border to Dr. Bernal’s office (detailed directions at this link), and then take $2-$3 cabs to visit other dental specialists, if needed, and be sure to enjoy a meal at El Parianchi! Here is a map showing the locations we visited:

Locations of Dr. Bernal’s Office, El Parianchi Restaurant and Dr. Avila’s Office – Interactive Google Maps

On the above map, the locations are labeled as:

  • Dr. Bernal = “Calle 1 115”
  • Dr. Avila = GPS 32.477776,-114.766224 (Calle 13 & Madero)
  • El Parianchi is in between them at Calle 10 & Captain Carlos Calles

When we crossed the border for our first visit with Dr. Bernal this past October, we were alarmed to see a huge group of illegal immigrants waiting to cross into the US. On our return visit a month later, Mexican authorities had removed them from the sidewalks and placed them in shelters. The sidewalks near the border were empty as they always had been before.

So how do you get hooked up with a good dentist in Mexico?

We first heard about Dr. Bernal from fellow Escapees members at the Escapees Kofa RV Park in Yuma. For new RVers, we highly recommend joining Escapees RV Club, as it is little tidbits like getting the name and address of a trusted Mexican dentist that are the unsung benefits of being part of this club.

Escapees is known for its fabulous magazine, its many member parks, its discounts on RV parks across the country, its workcamping job board, its massive database of boondocking locations, its bootcamp training for new RVers and its incredible mail forwarding service and RV advocacy work.

But sometimes it is the little things that are passed on member to member, like dentist and doctor referrals, that make the club particularly helpful for folks living on the road in their RV. Lots of people go RVing, but there is a comaraderie among Escapees members that is unique.

To learn a little more about the unusual history of Escapees, check out our links:

If you think you might want to join Escapees RV Club, you can become a member at the link below…and if you mention that you heard about Escapees from this blog, Roads Less Traveled, they will put a little something in our tip jar as a thank you (and thank YOU!!):

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We’ve been members since 2008!!

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Grand Canyon’s North Rim – Magnificent Yet Intimate!

October 2016 – After driving through the red rock wonderland of the Vermillion Cliffs in northern Arizona, we found ourselves at 10,000′ elevation on the Kaibab Plateau in beautiful pine forests. This is the home of the Grand Canyon where the earth seems to have split apart, revealing the massive crimson hued jagged walls that rise up from the Colorado River thousands of feet below.

Red cliffs of North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

Red cliffs at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon runs east to west for 277 miles and spans as much as 18 miles between its north and south rims.

A huge region towards the middle of the chasm has been set aside as Grand Canyon National Park, and it has two entrances you can drive to, one on the north side of the canyon and one on the south side. At each of those spots you can wander along the rim and peer over the edge to look 6,000′ down.

North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona view through trees

A glimpse of the Grand Canyon through the trees.

The South Rim is much more popular than the North Rim and is quite overrun with tourists, many making a once-in-a-lifetime bucket list trip from far distant corners of the planet. It is wonderful, but it is extremely busy.

Colorful cliffs North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

View from the North Rim.

The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is a bit out of the way, so far fewer people go there, and most visitors are from the surrounding states. The North Rim sees 10% of the tourist traffic that the South Rim does and is 1,000′ higher in elevation.

Chasm North Rim Grand Canyon Arizon

Looking across the Big Ditch!

The North Rim has a very special lodge that was built by the National Parks Service in 1927. This wonderful and inviting stone building is perched right on the edge of the Grand Canyon, and the huge picture windows look out on a spectacular view.

View from Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim Arizona

The Grand Canyon Lodge at the North Rim – What a view!

There is also a huge dining room where diners can eat dinner while watching the sun cast its golden glow across the ridges of the canyon right next to their table!

Dining Room Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim Arizona

A historic and beautiful spot for a dinner…with a world class view!

Outside the lodge there is a low stone wall and a line of big wooden chairs where you can sit and take in the view over a beer.

View from deck of Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim Arizona

The deck behind the Lodge offers a relaxing spot to enjoy a drink and take a few pics.

What a fantastic place!

View from deck Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim Arizona

Tourists kick back at the North Rim.

There is a feeling of intimacy and wonder on the rim here as strangers chat with each other and snap pics and take in the incredible view, enjoying a unique National Parks experience.

Deck view North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

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A short trail leads from the edge of this deck out onto a peninsula that just into the Canyon and ends at Bright Angel Point.

Hiking to Bright Angel Point North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

The trail to Bright Angel Point at the North Rim

This is a fun paved path that provides endless opportunities for jumping up on the rock pinnacles on either side to get a better view.

Hke to Bright Angel Point North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

There are lots of places to scramble a little higher for a better view.

Of course, the best light in the Canyon is early in the morning and late in the afternoon.

North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona View

Late afternoon’s golden light brings out the contours of the jagged cliffs at the Grand Canyon.

The sun was sinking in a very hazy sky when we were there, but the towering walls of the Grand Canyon still radiated a soft light, as if from within.

Golden hour North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

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North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona overlook

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Rock formations North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

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Here and there couples and friends staked out a spot on a precipice to watch the sun fade away.

Sunset North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

Catching the sunset at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

As the shadows crept up the canyon walls from the bottom, the tips of the craggy peaks held the light the longest.

View of Red cliffs North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

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In the final few moments of daylight, a thin ribbon of orange hovered over the Canyon.

Chasm view North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

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As the sun sank deeper behind the horizon, the colors in the sky grew ever more rich.

Sunset North Rim Grand Canyon

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Once the sun was gone from the sky, the contours of the Grand Canyon flattened out, revealing beautiful patterns.

Color Patterns North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

Patterns in the view at the Grand Canyon after sunset.

Without any shadows to show depth, near and far blended together.

Patterns North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

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Cliffs North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

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Because of the 10,000′ altitude at the rim, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is very cold, except in midsummer, and the Grand Canyon Lodge closes October 16. The 45 mile drive on Highway 67 between the hamlet of Jacob Lake and the North Rim remains open but isn’t plowed, and the self-service gas station in the park closes December 1.

In mid-October we shivered in overnight temps that dipped into the 20’s. Nevertheless, we snuck out onto the trail in front of the lodge in the pitch dark, lighting the way with our new and very cool Lumintop flashlight (we reviewed it here) and got set up to take some shots.

Overlook night stars North Rim Grand Canyon

Night photography at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Above us, the lodge was well lit and looked very cozy and inviting. Occasionally we heard the excited conversation of revelers out on the deck and saw flashes from their cameras.

Stars over Lodge at North Rim of the Grand Canyon starry night and fifth wheel trailer RV

The Lodge at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Slowly the stars began to shimmer above us, forming a dome full of glitter over the Grand Canyon.

Stars at North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

Stars began to fill the sky

Both rims of the Grand Canyon are decorated with the skeletons of dead trees whose gnarly branches reach out in all directions. The Milky Way formed a majestic backdrop in the sky.

Tree and Milky Way North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

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The moon was setting and slowly sank into the horizon. It was nearly full and glowed orange.

Milky Way at North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

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Seeing the moon at the horizon below the Milky Way reminded us of our many nights at sea on the Pacific Ocean. Sailors doing their first overnight passages are often shocked as they fly along in the pitch dark at full speed, squinting hard to distinguish the sky from the ocean, and then suddenly see a very bright light on the horizon right in front of them.

More than a few hearts have skipped a beat, and more than a few frightened sailors have dashed to their radar display in a total panic as they tried to figure out what kind of mammoth ship was about to crash into them.

Then they’ve suddenly collapsed in embarrassed laughter when they realized the enormous ship approaching them was actually the rising moon.

We’d read these stories before our cruise, and of course we knew we were far too smart ever to fall for Nature’s little nighttime tease. So, it was particularly funny when it happened to us too!

Milky Way at the Grand Canyon North Rim Arizona

Good night, Grand Canyon!

If the Grand Canyon is on your horizon for your RV travels, you can camp right on the rim in the campground at the North Rim. How totally cool is that?!

However, you need to have a small to mid-size RV to fit into the campsites and drive the camground loop, and it is best to reserve a spot in advance. There are other RV camping options for slightly bigger RVs in Jacob Lake.

For folks without an RV, the Grand Canyon Lodge has a collection of charming small cabins that surround the main lodge building, and they are just steps from the rim as well.

The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is quite vast, and many of the overlooks require a drive of 50 miles or so round trip to reach them. We breezed through the North Rim on this RV trip because it was late in the season and we couldn’t drive through Jacob Lake on our route from east to west across northern Arizona without dipping down to say “hi” to the Grand Canyon, if only for a moment.

However, like all the National Parks, the Grand Canyon deserves a week or more to enjoy its many nooks and crannies in depth. During our second year of full-time RV adventures, we stayed for a month at the North Rim.

More info and links below.

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Some details about Arizona’s North Rim of the Grand Canyon:

Other blog posts from our RV travels in Northern Arizona:

All of our blog posts from Arizona
National Parks and UNESCO World Heritage Sites we have visited

Our most recent posts:

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“Cliff Dwellers” on Arizona’s Vermillion Cliffs Scenic Drive – A Fun Stop!

October 2016 – Cutting across the northern part of Arizona from east to west in an RV is a total treat.

RV trip Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

An RV trip through the Vermillion Cliffs area in northern Arizona is a fabulous scenic drive.

We took US-95 south from Page to US-89A, and then followed US-89A northbound towards Marble Canyon, passing through the stunning red rock scenery of Vermillion Cliffs National Monument.

Driving through Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

Classic scenery in the Vermillion Cliffs of Arizona

The most spectacular section of this drive does a 180 degree turn on US-89A near Lees Ferry and Marble Canyon.

RV trip in Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

My camera never stops when we drive this part of US-89A!

Every time we pass through this region we are blown away by the scenery once again.

02 761 RV travel Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

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As I was going through our photos this morning, choosing which ones to include in this post, I was amused to discover that a lot of the photos were essentially the sames ones I had taken from the passenger seat of our truck on previous trips through this area on our way to Kanab and Bryce Canyon years ago, and again this past spring of 2016 on our way towards the Canadian Rockies.

It is just that beautiful: even though I have the photos already, I’ve gotta take them again!

Motorhome RV in Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

RVing through the Vermillion Cliffs. Wow!

A stop at Marble Canyon and Lees Ferry is an absolute must. We loved visiting that area last spring.

This time, however, we wanted to see something new, and a small roadside stop called Cliff Dwellers was just the ticket. This is essentially a pullout located about 9 miles west of Navajo Bridge at Marble Canyon.

Pullout at Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

The pullout at “Cliff Dwellers” on US-89A.

Boulders at Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs Arizona

The boulders at Cliff Dwellers are huge!

RV at Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

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We had no idea what we would find at this roadside stop in the middle of nowhere, but the first thing we saw was a towering mushroom red rock formation.

Rock formation Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

A huge mushroom rock formation towers above me!

Red rocks at Cliff Dwellings Vermillion Cliffs Arizona

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In the distance there was a rock structure.

Rock formation and rock house Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs Arizona

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Whoever built this structure had placed red rocks on top of each other to form walls that fit under a huge overhanging mushroom type of boulder which formed part of the roof.

Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

The rock building at Cliff Dwellers isn’t on a cliff, but it probably was a dwelling!

Rock house built into boulder Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs Arizona

The building is tucked under and overhanging boulder which provides part of the roof.

We prowled around the outside and inside of the building, peering through the windows and door.

Photography at Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

View from the rock dwelling.

Windows at Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

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There were some beams that had once formed a ceiling over part of the structure.

Interior Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

Simple living!

Off in the distance, we found a plaque that probably used to describe the history of the structures and the area, but the plaque was empty. So, we just enjoyed roaming around this odd structure.

Cliff Dwellers rock house Vermillion Cliffs Arizona

The rock house looks small compared to the huge red rock hill behind.

Behind it there was a fantastic red rock hill that had all kinds of striations and textures. Huge white boulders had come crashing down from one of the layers over the years, and they were strewn around the base.

Red rock cliff at Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs Arizona

Enormous rock boulders had fallen down the sides of this hill and lay around the bottom.

A Navajo woman had set up a folding table to sell jewelry to tourists who stopped by.

Navajo trinkets Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

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This little stopover at Cliff Dwellers was a fun way to spend an hour or two.

Cliff Dwellers red rocks Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

What a great little spot to take a breather in the middle of a truly gorgeous drive!

Motorhome Navajo trinkets Cliff Dwellers Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

Cliff Dwellers Roadside Stop on US-89A.

Continuing our drive west along US-89A, we came to the end of the red rock region where the red rocks of Vermillion Cliffs abruptly give way to the evergreens of the Kaibab Plateau.

RV at Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

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Climbing up a series of tight switchbacks and steep grades, we arrived at a pullout near the top where we could take in the view in all directions and see this incredible transition in the landscape from red desert to green forest.

On one side there were beautiful yellow wildflowers that set off the red rock cliffs in the distance.

Wildflowers Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

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There were also some beautiful pink fairy dusters in bloom.

Fairy Duster wildflowers Vermillion Cliffs Arizona

Pink fairy dusters.

Looking east back down the way we came, the road cut a cool s-turn through the desert.

Road in Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

Looking back towards the red rock cliffs.

And looking to the north, we saw the very cool divide between the red rocks of the desert and the green hills leading up to the very dense Kaibab forest that surrounds the Grand Canyon.

Red rocks and juniper hills Vermillion Cliffs Arizona

The red rocks of the desert give way to the greenery of the forested Kaibab Plateau which surrounds the Grand Canyon.

More about the Grand Canyon in our next post!! In the meantime, there are links for Vermillion Cliffs below.

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Info about the Vermillion Cliffs:

Other posts from our RV travels in Northeastern Arizona:

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.
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Immigrants Flood California’s & Arizona’s Borders – Surprise in San Luis AZ!

This blog post is a departure from our normal fare of cheerful travel stories, but as documenters of what we see in our day-to-day travel lives, it is something we encountered that we believe is worthy of sharing. This is not intended to take a political side or offend anyone.

A few days ago, we crossed the border between the US and Mexico at San Luis, Arizona. We were returning to the fun, small town of San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico, for checkups with our dentist and endodontist whose excellent work we describe here.

After quite a few visits to this Mexican border town, we now know it pretty well. We like to make this border crossing by bicycle, because that gives us great transportation around town in Mexico. It also makes it super easy to return back across the border into the US, because bicycles bypass all the lines and go straight to a gate set aside especially for them and for holders of the US Sentri pass.

After wrapping up our dentist appointments, we rode our bikes back to the border to cross back into the US. As we approached the border gate, we stopped dead in our tracks when we saw dozens of people sitting on the sidewalk right outside the US border gate on the Mexican side.

Illegal immigrants waiting in Mexico to cross the border in Arizona

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How bizarre! We’ve never seen anyone sitting on the sidewalk in this area before.

Pedestrians always simply walk up to the border crossing gate, show their passports and walk on through into the US. Often there’s a line of people, but everyone stands in the line, rather than sitting on the ground, and the line keeps moving.

These folks appeared to be settled in for a while. They were leaning against the fence in the border crossing zone that separates the US and Mexico. They had hung some blankets up to shade themselves from the intense sunshine, and they had bedding and luggage around them.

What the heck was going on?

800 Undocumented migrants wait to enter the United States in Arizona

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Two US border patrol agents in front of the gate asked us for our passports before we even got to the actual US Immigration booth. That was weird too. Usually you present your passport to the agent in the booth, not to agents standing in front of it on the sidewalk.

We asked them who all these people were and what was going on.

“They are from Haiti, Africa, Central America, Asia, even Russia — lots of different countries — and they’re waiting to come into the US,” he told us. “But they don’t have any documentation, so they are waiting for an appointment with an agent.”

He went on to explain that his job was crowd control. Fortunately, this was a quiet crowd. On the other side of the street several Mexican soldiers in camo gear held rifles and stood watch as well.

He told us there has been a huge increase in migrants since last spring, and there had been so many at the San Ysidro/Tijuana crossing in recent months that the area in front of the US border there was quickly turning into a Tent City.

So, the migrants were moving to other, less crowded border towns in Mexico at the California and Arizona ports of entry. More and more were coming to the San Luis port of entry on the Arizona border.

“But this is nothing,” he said, sweeping his hand in the direction of all the people. “You should have seen this place a few days ago.”

721 Illegal immigrants wait to enter the United States in Arizona

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We have crossed the border between the US and Mexico many times. We spent the better part of four years cruising Pacific Mexico on our sailboat, and we have crossed the border at least 25 times, by car, on foot, by bicycle and by boat.

We’ve crossed at the massive San Ysidro/Tijuana border crossing south of San Diego, the busiest port of entry in the Western Hemisphere. It resembles a mammoth freeway tollbooth plaza: 25 or so regular booths and perhaps 10 or so other booths for buses, commercial trucks and “Sentri Pass” holders who cross the border frequently.

And we’ve crossed at the smaller border crossings in Tecate (in rural southern California), Nogales (south of Tucson, Arizona), Los Algodones (western Yuma, Arizona), San Luis (south of Yuma, Arizona) and Boquillas del Carmen (at Big Bend National Park in Texas). At sea, we crossed just off the Pacific coast of southern California and northern Baja California, Mexico.

Going into Mexico is always very simple, and when on foot or bicycle, no one ever checks out passports. Returning into the US, however, is always an adventure. The wait in line to get into the US by car is usually at least an hour and is generally closer to two hours. It can be as much as four hours.

771 Undocumented migrants wait to cross from Mexico into the United States in Arizona

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The fun thing about this mind-numbing wait in an idling car, creeping along inch by inch, is that entrepreneurial Mexicans make the most of their captive audience. They walk up and down the road between the cars and provide crazy entertainment for tips, and they sell things, from food to cold drinks to trinkets of various kinds.

Crossing into the US from Canada with an RV at Calais, Maine, and Chief Mountain, Montana, in the early morning avoids the lines, but you don’t want to have any fruits or veggies in the RV’s refrigerator!

Sailing across the border from Mexico into the US was quite different. Helicopters buzzed our boat and border patrol boats zoomed out to get a good look at us through binoculars. US Customs and Immigration came down to inspect our passports, boat documents and the boat itself when we tied up at the dock in San Diego.

But we’ve never, ever seen people hanging out on the sidewalks a few feet from the border gates setting up tent cities.

What had brought all these migrants here in such huge numbers? Even the agents themselves expressed shock at what was going on!

Illegal immigrants wait to enter United States from Mexico

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Researching things a little bit, we discovered that after the big earthquake in Haiti in 2010, many Haitians moved to Brazil and stayed there for a few years. Many worked in construction-related jobs in the lead up to the 2016 summer Olympics. Unfortunately, Brazil’s economy has gone into a deep recession, so the Haitians began leaving Brazil this past year to come to the US.

It is a long journey to get through all of the Central American countries and Mexico, and without documentation, they can’t cross the borders in these countries legally. So, they pay smugglers to get them from one border to the next. The cost for them to get from Brazil to the US has been estimated to be at least $2,350.

When they reach Mexico’s southern border, many claim they are from Congo or other countries with which Mexico has diplomatic relations. This allows them to get a 20-day permit to remain in Mexico, which gives them enough time to get to the US border and wait for admission.

Illegal aliens wait to cross the border from Mexico into America

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Haitians aren’t the only immigrants that are arriving in large numbers. Central Americans, Africans, Asians and others are taking this same route to America’s southwestern borders too.

Apparently 5,000 have arrived, and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Sarah Saldaña says 40,000 more are on their way. This movement of so many people is putting huge pressure on the Central American countries and Mexico as they try to find places to sleep and eat along the way.

Will they be deported?

Would they make this long journey and pay all that money if they knew they had no chance?

People arriving at the US border can ask for asylum. Held in detention for a short time until their request to apply for asylum is approved, they can then file their actual application for asylum.

Once this application for asylum has been filed, they can legally live in the US while their case goes through the court system until they are either granted or denied asylum. The time period is generally three to five years, and if asylum is denied there is an appeals process which allows them to stay longer.

This is different than people who are outside the US that are classified as refugees before they arrive. Both refugees and people granted asylum status are eligible for the same cash and medical benefits.

The Border Patrol agent commented, “The vetting process starts with figuring out if they are actually from the country they say they are from.”

I asked him how they do that. He said he had no idea.

Undocumented migrants waiting to enter the United Sates from Mexico

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Coming face to face with “the immigration issue” like this was startling and disturbing, to say the least.

For most of us, it is something that’s happening “over there,” beyond our neighborhood, at least for the moment.

I have wrestled with this post for three long days now, unsure if I should share this tale on my usually very upbeat website.

However, I was shocked that the Arizona Republic (the Phoenix, Arizona, newspaper) hasn’t mentioned a thing about it in their online edition and that the Arizona Daily Star (the Tucson, Arizona, area newspaper) has reported it online only once…two days ago. It doesn’t appear to be on the Arizona TV news networks either.

Many Arizonans are unaware that the state of Arizona is taking in more Syrian refugees per capita that any other state in the union. In raw numbers, it is taking in more refugees than all but two other states, California and Michigan!

I think this story is important for people to know about. So here it is.

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Navajo National Monument, Monument Valley and Bears Ears

March 2016 – The Northeastern quadrant of Arizona and a bit of southeastern Utah is the Navajo Nation, an Indian reservation that is over 27 thousand square miles. It is larger than the state of West Virginia (~24k sq. mi.). It is also larger than the states of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Delaware combined, with enough left over to add in the southern half of Vermont.

Just under 175,000 people call it home.

Within the borders of the northern part of the Navajo Nation, the National Park Service manages the Navajo National Monument, an area where there are some ancient Indian cliff dwellings and ruins.

Hiking at Navajo National Monument Arizona

Navajo National Monument is home to ancient Indian cliff dwellings.
One is in a cave across the canyon.

After visiting stunning Horseshoe Bend and Lees Ferry near Page, Arizona, we drove our truck and trailer across the northern part of the Navajo Nation to see Navajo National Monument.

There are three short hikes at Navajo National Monument, each one progressing along the canyon rim and offering views down into the canyons. We started with the Sandal Trail which was an easy stroll on a paved path to a viewpoint at the end which looked across the canyon at the Betatakin Ruin.

Navajo National Monument Arizona

The Sandal Trail took us along the edge of the canyon to an overlook facing the Betatakin Ruins

In the summers there are guided tours of these ruins, but they don’t start until May 29th, and we were there in mid-March. But the view of the ruins — with binoculars or our long telephoto camera lens — was wonderful.

Betatakin Ruins Navajo National Monument

The Betatakin ruins are in the back of this cave.

Ruins at Navajo National Monument Arizona

In the summer months you can take a guided tour of these ruins. We were there too early!

The Canyon View Trail hike gave us views of this same canyon, although there were no Indian ruins to be seen.

Navajo National Monument canyon view

The Canyon View Trail gave us different views of the same canyon.

Unlike the first two “mesa top” hikes, the Aspen Trail hike descended down into a canyon and gave us a terrific stair-stepping workout going down and then climbing back out.

We were definitely missing the “prize” at this park since we couldn’t do any tours of the ruins themselves, but spring was in the air and wildflowers were just starting to bloom.

Spring flower Navajo National Monument Arizona

Pretty wildflowers on the trail.

There are two dry camping campgrounds at Navajo National Monument, and they are free. Only one campground was open (and only two campsites were being used!), and with some jockeying a bigger rig could fit during seasons where there is little traffic. The signs give RV size limits of 25′ to 32′, depending on the sign, not just in the campground but on the road leading to Navajo National Monument, but in reality a 35′ fifth wheel could manage in one or two of the campsites we saw (with patience). Busy summer weekends might be more hair-raising with a big rig.

This is high desert country (7,300′) so it was quite cold during our stay, but we saw a beautiful sunset.

Sunset starburst Arizona

Remote and quiet in March, we had the sunset to ourselves.

Sunset Navajo National Monument

Sunset at Navajo National Monument

Traveling northeast from there, we passed through Monument Valley, which sits on the Arizona and Utah border. This ia a vast flat plain that is dotted with towering rock formations.

The most dramatic rock formations of Monument Valley are in the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park in the Navajo Nation, a four mile detour east of US-191, the road we were on. We decided to save a trip there for another time, but stopped in at a Welcome Center to get some info.

At least, the building had a sign on it that said “Welcome Center!”

When I walked in the door, I expected to see racks of literature and a helpful person behind a desk. Instead, I found myself staring at the backs of several rows of people in folding chairs listening to a man giving a speech. His voice was low, melodic and wistful. And the language he was speaking was Navajo!

Monument Valley Arizona

Monument Valley is dotted with enormous rock formations

I wasn’t sure if I should back out quietly or stick around and see what this was all about. Suddenly, a woman approached me and whispered and gestured towards some pamphlets on a table. She wanted me to sign a petition.

“What’s it for?” I whispered.

“It’s a petition to create Bear’s Ears National Monument,” she said. She handed me a map and a glossy brochure.

Monument Valley selling Indian crafts Arizona

Indians sell crafts from stands on the side of the road.

It turned out that the Navajo Nation (together with 25 other Indian tribes) has approached the federal public land agencies for help protecting their artifacts, relics and ruins. They have been struggling with preventing the desecration of archaeological sites (ancient ruins and petroglyphs), and they want to phase out mining too.

The Navajo have never sought this kind of help before, but apparently they simply don’t have the manpower or the authority to protect the unique archaeological sites. So they are proposing to convert 1.9 million acres of land (about 3,000 square miles) into a National Monument.

Monument Valley Arizona

Towering rock formations in this part of the country often hide Indian archaeological treasures

The parcel of land is enormous. It is the size of Delaware plus half of Rhode Island.

It is a triangle that stretches, more or less, from a bit SW of Moab, Utah, in the north, down about 90+ miles to the Utah/Arizona border in the south, and westward about 50 miles to Glen Canyon, and then about 80+ miles back up on a diagonal along the Colorado River towards Moab.

The popular landmarks and destinations of Natural Bridges National Monument, the Valley of the Gods, Goosenecks State Park, Newspaper Rock and Manti La-Sal National Forest would all be enclosed inside the boundaries of the new National Monument land.

Canyonlands National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area would border it to the west and south. The north-south highway of US-191 would be outside the eastern boundary but would more or less parallel the eastern border of the National Monument between the Moab area and the Arizona/Utah border.

You can see a map here:

Map of Proposed Bears Ears National Monument in Utah

RV at Monument Valley Arizona

This whole area is extremely popular with RVers and other travelers

This proposal is unique because it requires cooperation between several different agencies that manage public land, including the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Park Service, all of which manage portions of the land parcel already (most of the land is currently under BLM management).

The organization that is behind this and that was making presentations and gathering signatures to present to President Obama when I walked in the door is called Utah Diné Bikéyah. “Diné” is the Navajo word for the Navajo people.

I spoke briefly with Gavin Noyes, the Executive Director. He explained that this has been in the works for a few years and that the hope is that Bears Ears National Monument will be created by President Obama before his presidency is over.

He explained that in many ways the process is being modeled on Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, another ~3,000 square mile public land conversion in southern Utah that was designated a U.S Presidential National Monument under the Antiquities Act of 1906 by President Bill Clinton.

Grand Staircase Escalante was created to preserve unique natural treasures (like red rock formations). Bears Ears National Monument will be created to preserve Native American cultural and archaeological treasures (ruins and petroglyphs and ceremonial sites).

RV at Monument Valley in Utah

The landscapes in this corner of the world are stunning.

I asked what the impact would be on recreational use of the land, like dispersed camping, hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, etc. Gavin explained that the intention was for better management of the archaeological artifacts and that recreational use would still be allowed, just as it is still allowed in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

Photos in the proposal’s brochure show situations where people have attempted to remove petroglyphs from rock faces by cutting them out with high powered saws. They also show images of mining and other commercial land use. These are the things that this proposal is seeking to eradicate.

Of course, even presidential protection doesn’t guarantee anything. In 1955 President Eisenhower protected a four square mile portion of Tonto National Forest in Arizona, making it off limits to all future mining. In late 2015, that was overturned by the National Defense Authorization Act, signed into law by President Obama, enabling the very same National Forest public land to be sold to a private, for-profit Australian and British mining operation. Eventually, this mine will destroy a beloved recreation area once used by campers and rock climbers that at least one president sixty years ago thought was worth hanging onto. (More info here).

An editorial in the LA Times by former Secretary of the Interior (1993-2001), Bruce Babbitt, spells out all the political back and forth that is going on behind the scenes. Just like the situation that arose in Tonto National Forest where foreign copper mines have trumped recreational use of America’s public land, mining seems to be playing a central role here as well.

Monument Valley reflected in fifth wheel trailer RV

Monument Valley reflections on our RV

All of this was news to me, and perhaps it is news to you too. I am sharing it here because the recreational use of public land is a large part of what this website is about.

Further questions can be directed to Gavin Noyes, Executive Director of Utah Diné Bikéyah by phone: (801) 521-7398 or by email: gavin [at] xmission.com

For more information about the proposed Bears Ears National Monument, see these links:

Further info:

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Lees Ferry & Marble Canyon AZ + Pretty Paria River Hike

March 2016 – Arizona boasts lots of incredibly scenic drives, and one beauty is Routes 89 and 89A which double back on themselves between Page and Lees Ferry in the northeast corner of the state. This is a portion of the Vermillion Cliffs Scenic Byway, an area that is great for RV travel. After our wonderful visit to the Horseshoe Bend overlook in Page, we drove to Marble Canyon and Lees Ferry.

RV at Lees Ferry Arizona red rocks

Lots of RVs drive the Vermillion Cliffs Scenic Byway

At Marble Canyon, the Navajo Bridge spans the Colorado River. It was built in 1929 and was an important bridge because it made it possible to cross the moody Colorado River without taking the more antiquated cable ferry across at nearby Lees Ferry.

Cars were new in those days, and the ferry system wasn’t great for carrying cars across the river. In 1928 the ferry sank, killing three men, so the bridge, known then as the Grand Canyon Bridge, was a huge improvement.

Today the original bridge is a walking bridge that runs parallel to the newer highway bridge that was opened in 1997.

Navajo Bridge Marble Canyon Arizona

The old Navajo Bridge (left) is now a footbridge. Highway traffic takes the bridge on the right.

Sheer cliffs plunge down to the Colorado River on either side.

Navajo Bridge Lees Ferry Arizona

The Navajo Bridge crosses the Colorado River

We enjoyed a stroll on the walking bridge. The river is a looooong way down!!

Navajo Bridge Overlook Marble Canyon Arizona

The river is way down there!!

We had loved our stay in the red rock country of Sedona, Arizona, a few weeks earlier, but that little town is just the beginning of the southwest’s explosion of orange and pink color in northern Arizona and southern Utah. Spring was just beginning, and we saw bunches of tiny purple wildflowers here and there.

Wildflowers in Lees Ferry Arizona

Wildflowers were just starting to bloom.

The road that winds from Marble Canyon into Lees Ferry is lined with dramatic red rock cliffs, and it is a jaw-dropper of a drive.

Scenic drive to Lees Ferry Arizona

The drive into Lees Ferry is gorgeous.

The towering red walls are still eroding, and in one area there is a massive debris field of enormous boulders that have broken away from the cliffs and rolled downhill. From a distance they look like gravel, but up close these boulders are gargantuan.

Huge red rock boulders Lees Ferry Arizona

Boulders strewn like gravel around the cliffs are actually really massive!!

We meandered among them and took a breather on a rock, totally awed by the sheer scale of Nature’s handiwork.

Hiking the red rocks at Lees Ferry Arizona

We love red rock country!

The forces of wind and water shaped these rocks, and we saw a jagged tributary leading to the Colorado River where a stream carved a zig-zag pattern through the rocks.

Lees Ferry Arizona crack in the earth

A tributary makes its way to the Colorado River

Prior to the Navajo Bridge, Lees Ferry was home to a cable ferry that was originally built by John Lee in 1873. It was the only place travelers could take their horses and wagons and themselves across the tempestuous Colorado River safely.

At the river’s edge there is a boat launch now, and this is a popular put-in spot for river rafters heading down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Two groups of rafters were launching their rafts when we were there. One group was starting a 24 day voyage down the river and the other was starting a 16 day trip. What fun!

Colorado River Rafters headed to Grand Canyon

Lees Ferry is the start of the Grand Canyon, both geologically and for river rafters too.

Just downstream from the boat launch we found the Paria Riffle and white sand Paria Beach where the Paria River joins the Colorado River. This is a really beautiful spot with turquoise water and pink boulders. For those wondering, Paria is pronounced “PaREEa” and not like the word “pariah.”

Paria Riffle and Paria Beach Lees Ferry Arizona

The Paria Riffle and the white sand Paria Beach are very inviting

John Lee’s homestead is now owned by the National Park Service, and we roamed around a little bit. There is an orchard, and visitors can pick the apples and other fruit for free during the fall harvest. We found an old wagon sitting nearby and chatted a bit with an NPS worker who was tending the trees in the orchard.

Old wagon at Lees Ferry Arizona

We roamed around the grounds of the old homestead at Lees Ferry

The farm house itself is off-limits to visitors, and the National Park Service has an engraved padlock keeping folks out.

NPS Padlock Lees Ferry Arizona

No Admittance.
(What a nice padlock!)

The last family to work the farm and live in these buildings left in the 1960’s when the National Park Service bought the property. We wandered out beyond the farmhouse along the dirt road that passes the old farm fields, and we found an old Chevy dually truck sitting out there. As I looked at it, I couldn’t help but think of the day the first owner proudly put the key in the ignition and drove it home. What kind of deal had he struck with the salesman, and what did his wife think of their new wheels?

Antique Chevy truck Lees Ferry Arizona

The last family that lived in the homestead moved out over 50 years ago and left some things behind.

The dirt road that goes by the Lees Ferry Homestead (the homestead is called Lonely Dell Ranch) is the start of the Paria River Trail hike, and we followed the trail for a mile or so along the river.

Paria River Trail Hike Lees Ferry Arizona

From Lonely Dell Ranch, we walked along the Paria River towards Paria Canyon.

The red rock cliffs glowed a deep orange in the afternoon sun, and the cottonwood trees glowed green. What a spot!

Paria River trail hike Lees Ferry Arizona

How beautiful!

Paria River Trail hike Lees Ferry Arizona

Who knew this gorgeous canyon was back here behind Lonely Dell Ranch?!

There was a corral and cattle chute in a more distant farm field. I think farming and ranching would be a pretty enjoyable activity in a setting like this!!

Cattle chute Lees Ferry Arizona

We found a corral and cattle chute out beyond the farm fields.

We walked back towards the farmhouse and caught some trees shimmering in the sun.

Artsy trees Paria River Trail hike Arizona

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The Paria River trail at Lees Ferry is actually the end of the 40+ mile Paria Canyon trail that starts at the White House Trailhead and goes through Buckskin Gulch and the Wire Pass Slot Canyon. As we were walking, we met two hikers that were wrapping up a three day hike through Paria Canyon. They were tired and had sore feet, but they said it had been a glorious hike. That multi-day hike is said to be one of Arizona’s best.

Hikers on Paria River Trail Buckskin Gulch Lees Ferry Arizona

We met a pair of hikers doing the last mile of their 3 day Paria Canyon hike. Wow!

If it is anything like the mile or so we walked at the south end, it must be truly stunning. We were catching the late afternoon sun on the eastern red rock canyon walls, but glancing at the shaded cliffs to the west, we could see that they must light up in spectacular color in the mornings…

Dirt road Paria River Trail Lees Ferry Arizona

The golden hour just before sunset lit the red rocks beautifully

We didn’t stay long at Lees Ferry, but we got a taste that will bring us back. This is the edge of the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, and the whole area is ripe for exploring.

Road at Marble Canyon Arizona

Rush hour on the Vermillion Cliffs Scenic Byway

If you are taking your RV through northeastern Arizona from Page westward towards Jacob’s Lake and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and Kanab, Utah or north towards Natural Bridges, the detour to Lees Ferry is really worthwhile. The combination of red rock canyons and riverside scenery is hard to beat!

RV camping Lees Ferry Arizona

Red rock country knocks our socks off every time we visit.

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Wire Pass Trail Slot Canyon – A FABULOUS hike further north in Paria Canyon
Two Gorgeous Paria Rimrocks Hikes – Easy to reach (and do) hikes at the far north end of the Paria River

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Horseshoe Bend Overlook – Page, Arizona – Stunning!

March 2016 – Horseshoe Bend is a jewel of spot just a few miles south of Page, Arizona, that’s easy to access and is a fabulous place to spend a few hours or more, especially for RVers headed through northeastern Arizona. As we brought our truck and trailer up from Sedona, Arizona, we stopped at Horseshoe Bend in the afternoon.

All smiles at Horseshoe Bend Arizona

At the Horseshoe Bend overlook it’s easy to be all smiles!

From the parking lot there is a 3/4 mile walk up and over a rise to get to the Horseshoe Bend overlook. Hundreds of people were on this trail going in both directions.

As we crested the rise and began the descent on the other side, we could see people scattering like ants as they approached the Horseshoe Bend overlook.

Walking towards Horseshoe Bend Arizona

Horseshoe Bend is extraordinarily popular, and swarms of tourists roam along the rim all day long.

This is a Very Cool Place. Even though we were there with throngs of other people, we felt a rush of excitement as we neared the edge. Everyone else seemed to feel the same way, and the unprotected rim of the overlook was jammed with tourists peering over the edge.

People at Horseshoe Bend Arizona

Tourists were fearless at the edge.

Far down below, rafters were making their way along the Colorado River. The mighty Colorado has carved Horseshoe Bend over millenia, and it is staggering to think of the force necessary to dig this huge ditch through sandstone rock, especially with the river looking so meek and mild down there.

Colorado River rafters Horseshoe Bend Arizona

1,000 feet below, rafters were floating on the Colorado River

This is a great place for selfie shots too!

At the rim of Horseshoe Bend Arizona

I wasn’t the only one who wanted a pic of themselves at this overlook.

Selfie sticks were held high aloft all around us.

Taking selfies at Horseshoe Bend Arizona

Selfie sticks were everywhere!

Taking selfies at Horseshoe Bend Arizona

No selfie stick? Use a folded up tripod!

Some folks were pretty creative getting photos of themselves. Others just laid on their bellies to get a shot of the incredible bend in the river a thousand feet down below.

Taking selfies at Horseshoe Bend Arizona

Hmmm…. should I take a photo of me or a photo of that incredible view out there??

Some were brave and crept far out on a precipice for a very dramatic photo of themselves.

Horseshoe Bend Arizona Sitting on the RIm

The more daring the photo the better!

I’m not sure how many people had noticed the sign on the way in saying that the sandstone is crumbly and the overhanging edges have a tendency to break off…!

Photographer Horseshoe Bend Arizona

Everyone liked to be right on the edge.

As the afternoon wore on, the crowd swelled as people came in to get a shot of the sun setting over the bend in the river.

Photographers at Horseshoe Bend Overlook Arizona

Photographers lined up on the rim with their tripods.

The rim was packed with photographers getting set up for this special moment. Finding a place to squeeze in along the rim wasn’t so easy!!

Photographers Horseshoe Bend Arizona

We waited patiently for the sun to go down.

The excited discussion between everyone standing on the rim alternated between what kind of photography gear they had and speculation about whether we’d all have a chance to go for a starburst shot at the moment the sun vanished from the sky on the far side of the canyon. One woman said she had gotten a doozy of a starburst photo two nights before. We all crossed our fingers.

But Mother Nature had other plans for us that afternoon, and the sun slipped behind the horizon with nary a wink.

It was still very special!

Horseshoe Bend Sunset Arizona

We didn’t get a starburst, but the sunset was beautiful.

I had an 18-35 mm lens, but the best images were a little wider. Mark whipped out his favorite trusty 14 mm lens and got a fabulous image.

Horseshoe Bend Arizona sunset photo

Mark was able to get a beautiful and slightly wider shot at 14 mm.

As we watched the clouds drift across the sky in shades of orange and yellow, suddenly the river down below began to reflect the color. How cool!

Sunset at Horseshoe Bend Arizona

For a split second, the river reflected pink and orange back at the sky.

We left Horseshoe Bend on a total high, absolutely exhilarated by Nature’s show. If the sunset could be that magical, we thought, then what might be in store at sunrise?

The next morning we were on the trail before dawn. There were three cars in the parking lot, including ours, and a young couple was just ahead of us on the trail, weighed down with some serious looking photography gear.

I got chatting with Brittany as we trudged along the trail in the dark, and I discovered that she and her companion, Justin, were professional videographers with their own video production company, Chiet Productions. They had just landed a gig for a regular show on PBS about a nightclub in Washington, DC, that will begin airing in April. It’s called “Live at 9:30.”

They were here at Horseshoe Bend for pleasure, however, and they were planning to shoot the sunrise using timelapse photography.

Timelapse photography Horseshoe Bend Overlook Arizona

A pair of professional videographers set up three cameras on the rim for a timelapse video of the sunrise.

Mark and I went for stills, however, since that was where our heads were at this morning. it was too early to think clearly enough to figure out everything we’d need to do to set up a timelapse, although I LOVED the idea!!

The sunrise was lovely.

The funny thing is that the sunrise wasn’t all that different than the sunset the night before. The sun had set over the horizon in the distance in front of us, but the sun rose behind us, so it would seem the canyon would look quite different. However, the colors we saw at sunrise filled the sky opposite the sun as it rose, casting a soft light across the horizon front of us.

Sunrise Horseshoe Bend Arizona

This morning’s sunrise was just as lovely as last evening’s sunset.

A little while later, the sun lit up the top of the peak in front of us. As the sun rose higher and higher, the shadow on the cliff slipped lower and lower.

Horseshoe Bend Arizona between the cliffs

As the sun rose it lit more and more of the cliffs across the canyon, while the shadow crept slowly downwards.

When the big show was over, we found Justin and Brittany where we had left them with all their gear on the edge of the canyon. They had done three timelapse videos, one on a GoPro, one on a Sony mirrorless camera and one on a cell phone. Brittany showed me the one she’d done on her cell phone. She had caught the sun lighting the top of the pinnacle in the canyon and had captured the shadow slipping down its front as the sun rose higher. Wonderful!!

Videographers at Horseshoe Bend Arizona

Brittany and Justin captured some great timelapse video of the sun rising in the canyon.

The morning wasn’t over yet, though. In fact, the day was just beginning. Where there had been just four of us on the rim at sunrise, we could now see a steady stream of people pouring down the trail, cameras and tripods in hand. The rim slowly became crowded with photographers and tourists once again!

Photographers with tripods at Horseshoe Bend Arizona

After sunrise, we were joined by lots of photographers at the rim.

Curious about some rock formations nearby, we headed off to the right (north). Leaving behind the growing rush of visitors arriving at the rim, we walked out into these cool rocks.

Lines in the rocks Horseshoe Bend Arizona

Away from the fray, to the north, we found some wonderful rock formations.

There were lots of curvy lines and ripples in the sandstone.

Patterns and Lines Horseshoe Bend Arizona

The curving lines and formations in the rocks were beautiful.

Rock crevices Horseshoe Bend Arizona

What magical shapes and formations!

We were both really intrigued by the contours of this fantastic land, and we roamed around this spot for quite some time.

Rock patterns Horseshoe Bend Arizona

The lines and patterns in the rocks drew us in.

If your RV travels take you to Page, Arizona, a stop at Horseshoe Bend is a must.

A few tips:

To avoid the crowds, the best time to get there is early in the morning.

If you are driving your RV, your best chance for finding a place to park it in the parking lot is early morning, not too long after dawn. There is turnaround room (big buses come and go regularly all day long), but it seemed to me that on weekends at peak season, especially holidays, this parking lot probably fills early and would be nearly impossible for an RV. We were there midweek in mid-March, and the number of tourists was mind boggling. The numbers intensify in the afternoon, especially near sunset.

Rock lines Horseshoe Bend Arizona

Horseshoe Bend is an overlook that deserves more than a fleeting glimpse over the edge

As you hit the walking trail to Horseshoe Bend, there’s a sign that says this is a Fee Area managed by the National Park Service. Interestingly, no money was being collected and no one asked to see our Federal Interagency Pass. The National Park Service could be making a small fortune here, as I’m sure several thousand people visit every day.

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More info about Horseshoe Bend:

National Park Service Website – Official description of Horseshoe Bend
Allstays – RV Parks near Page, AZ
Location of Horseshoe Bend – Google Maps (it is mis-labled “Houseshoe” and called a “chapel” – funny!)

Other blog posts from our RV travels in northeastern Arizona:

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Sedona Arizona – Brooding Skies at Sunset in the Red Rocks

March 2016 – During our RV travels to Sedona, Arizona, we were eager to capture a gorgeous sunset over the red rocks. We had seen some lovely sunsets, and we had enjoyed lots of time hiking and biking in the red rocks, so it only made sense that we should be able to get some photos of a magical sunset casting a pink and orange glow across the unique Sedona landscape.

We checked what time sunset was, got all our photography gear together, and headed out at the Golden Hour just before the sun went down.

Golden hour Bell Rock Pathway Sedona Arizona

The “Golden Hour” (an hour before sunset) on Bell Rock Pathway in Sedona AZ

We had everything we needed to capture the ethereal light of sunset. We hiked well out onto the Bell Rock Pathway to the big flat boulders in the middle where you get a wonderful 360 degree view of the majestic red rocks all around you.

Bell Rock Pathway Golden Hour Sedona Arizona

Would the brooding sky grace us with a beautiful sunset tonight?

Well, a daytime sky full of clouds doesn’t always translate into an evening sky full of pink and orange colors.

Golden sky Bell Rock Pathway Sedona AZ

Dark gray and pure white clouds striped the sky.

I had found an awesome spot to capture a vividly colorful sky with a craggy old tree framed by the red rocks, but as the minutes ticked by after the sun was gone from the sky, we both finally had to admit that this evening’s sunset was a total dud. Oh well.

Bell Rock Pathway views Sedona Arizona

Despite all the good looking prospects beforehand, the sunset never materialized.

We packed up our gear and went home. As we drove, we bolstered our rather dejected spirits with hopes for a stunning sunset tomorrow. After all, Nature would have to put on a vivid display the next night. There couldn’t be two dud sunsets in a row, could there?

So, after a day of other activites and much anticipation, we packed up our camera gear once again, hopped in the truck, and drove out to the Bell Rock Pathway for the Golden Hour a second time, our spirits high and hopeful.

Photography in Sedona Arizona

Tripods at the ready, we had everything we needed for a great sunset, provided Nature cooperated!

We had expected to see big crowds at the trailheads at sunset, but instead there were just a few vehicles. Some kids in a rental RV were climbing on the roof to get a shot of Bell Rock. They flashed peace signs at me and gave me a thumbs up.

RV motorhome at Bell Rock Sedona Arizona

Some Asian kids with a rental RV get shots of Bell Rock from the roof.

Just behind us, a girl in a beautiful pink gown was posing for a photographer. How fun!!

Photo shoot at Bell Rock Overlook Sedona Arizona

A pink gown and Sedona’s red rocks — what a great combo!

Mark posed for me too, although his outfit wasn’t quite as stunning, and the skies began to go gray above us. We stared at the darkening, mottled sky wondering how this sunset would go. Hmmm.

Bell Rock Pathway dark sky Sedona AZ

Mark models for me before we head out on the
Bell Rock Pathway trail.

Well, maybe a sunset would develop. We hoisted our tripods over our shoulders and trekked out onto Bell Rock Pathway once again.

To get a good sunset, there has to be some kind of small opening in the sky at the horizon where the sun can shine through and light up the clouds as it slips away. We watched with disappointment as the entire horizon filled with dark, dense, gray clouds, obliterating any chances the sun might have had to peek through.

Night sky Sedona Arizona

Very cool clouds, but no sunset.

We had our trusty radios with us, and we kept each other entertained with banter while we waited, even though we were on opposite sides of the huge rocks.

Eventually, the clouds and nighttime won, and the last shafts of light from the sun flashed across the sky. The sky went black, and our spirits went the same way. We couldn’t believe our luck. Two days in a row!

Stubbornly, we stayed put out on the trail until the trail itself was impossible to see, as if by remaining out there we could make the last half hour replay itself, this time with bright color and a vivid sunset.

Cathedral Rock light in the sky Sedona AZ

The sun splashed across the clouds for a split second before darkness fell.

We were very quiet in the trailer that night as we sorted through our photos. Would we give it a try again tomorrow? The third time’s a charm… but then, bad things come in threes. Oh goodness.

The thing was that these nights were COLD. We each wore three jackets when we hiked out onto the trail, and the wind always found its way through our clothes, even when we snugged our hats and hoods around our ears while waiting for the sun to do its magic.

Cold nighttime photography Sedona Arizona

Staying warm at sunset in Sedona in early Mark takes a lot of layers!!

On the third day there were puffy little idyllic happy clouds in the sky all day long. Huge platoons of them marched across the sky, and they promised us they’d still be marching come nightfall so we could photograph glorious shades of magenta and orange suspended over the red rocks.

But no.

Cathedral Rock stormy sky Sedona Arizona

Clouds streak over Cathedral Rock.

By sunset the clouds had banded together into massive blankets of gray that streaked across the sky.

Wild Skies at Cathedral Rock Sedona Arizona

The streaks over Cathedral Rock take on a wild look.

They swam from horizon to horizon, and even when the sun was able to cast its warming glow for a split second, the clouds hung heavy and dark.

Views from the Bell Rock Pathway Sedona Arizona

Sun lights the sky for a fleeting moment.

Mark got creative, though, and caught them in the act of coming directly towards him over the cliffs in the distance.

Bell Rock Pathway night views Sedona AZ

A spray of clouds.

But the color just wasn’t happening. The gods of the Sedona skies had decided not to give us any orange or pink brilliance for the third night in a row.

Suddenly, just as we were giving up hope and talking about packing it up so we could go home and get warm, we turned around and saw fire lighting the sky beneath the dramatic clouds hanging over Cathedral Rock.

Cathedral Rock at sunset Sedona Arizona

The sky is on fire at the base of Cathedral Rock.

“Holy cow. Do you see THAT?” I called on the radio.

“YES!” Mark answered. And we both leaped into action.

Sunset Cathedral Rock Sedona Arizona

Wow!

At last we had our colorful sunset skies over the red rocks in Sedona.

If you are traveling in your RV to Arizona’s red rock country in Sedona, try to get out on a hike during the golden hour for sunset. Even if you don’t get a wildly colorful sky, you will still see a lot of beauty. And who knows, at the very last moment the sun might do something magical!

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Each of the three nights we ventured onto Bell Rock Pathway from a different access point. The three trailhead parking lots can be found on Google Maps at this link.

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The Crack at Wet Beaver Creek (Bell Trail Hike), Sedona, AZ

March 2016 – We really enjoyed mountain biking the Bell Rock Pathway during our RV travels to Sedona, Arizona, and one day we got chatting with young neighbors in an RV nearby about where the good mountain biking and hiking spots were around Sedona. They knew the area really well and asked if we’d ever been to The Crack at Wet Beaver.

Mark raised an eyebrow.

“No, no, not that!” They said. “It’s a really cool gorge on Wet Beaver Creek. It’s a great hike, and if you take your bathing suits you can swim there!”

Bell Trail Hike to Wet Beaver Creek The Crack Sedona Arizona

“The Crack” at Wet Beaver Creek

The next morning dawned sunny and warm, so we took off on the Bell Trail to hike into the Wet Beaver Creek Wilderness to find this infamous Crack.

Beginning Bell Trail Hike Sedona AZ

The beginning of the Bell Trail hike into the Wet Beaver Creek Wilderness goes through open grassland.

The Bell Trail is named for Charles Bell who built the trail in 1932 for moving cattle, and a sign at the trailhead indicates it is still used for that purpose today. It is about 3.5 miles from the trailhead to The Crack. The trail goes deeper into the Wilderness, but we figured 7 miles out and back was plenty for one day.

At the beginning, we hiked through open grasslands and under a canopy of trees alongside Wet Beaver Creek. After about two miles, we came across a red rock cliff soaring into the sky with a tree on top.

Hiking the Bell Trail Hike Sedona AZ

A red rock cliff with a tree on top juts into the sky

For the next mile or so we walked through gorgeous red rock scenery as the trail hung onto the edges of bright orange hillsides and zig-zagged under exotic red rock formations.

Hiking Bell Trail Sedona Arizona

How’s that for a cool trail?!

We were hiking in the morning, and the sun felt good on our skin, but later in the day this desert landscape would become very hot.

Bell Trail Hike Sedona Arizona

Desert plants, like ocotillo cactus and prickly pear, abound.

We could hear the sound of rushing water ahead of us, and soon we saw the creek splashing noisily over river rocks to our right. What a nice spot for a picnic!

Bell Trail Hike to Wet Beaver Creek Sedona Arizona

We stopped for lunch in a quiet spot where the water rushed over river rocks.

The whole area was filled with leafless deciduous trees that must bring true magic to the landscape in the fall. And what a great spot to do some flowing water photography!

Bell Trail Wet Beaver Creek Sedona Arizona

Wet Beaver Creek polishes the rocks in its path.

We hiked just a little futher on and suddenly the landscape opened up to massive shelves of boulders stepping down to sheer cliffs that plunged into the water below. This was The Crack!

View Wet Beaver Creek The Crack Sedona Arizona

“The Crack” is like a red rock quarry with huge flat slabs of sandstone and water far below.

Our friends had described crystal clear water that was a lovely shade of blue, but the creek was running fast from the snow melt and had swelled so much that lots of debris had been stirred up as the water tumbled down from the mountains. The water was murky and filled with foam from the crashing waterfalls upstream.

This made for some neat slo-mo photos!

Swirls Wet Beaver Creek The Crack Sedona Arizona

The fast moving water from the snow melt created cool foam swirls

The Crack is a stunning spot that is so unexpected in the dry dusty desert.

Hike to Wet Beaver Creek The Crack Sedona AZ

The canyon walls were steep and the surface of the water was foamy!

The huge flat boulders are really inviting, and we scrambled around on them for quite a while.

Wet Beaver Creek The Crack Sedona AZ

I just love that tree growing out of the crack in the rocks.

Photography at Wet Beaver Creek The Crack

This little oasis was such a surprise after the dusty, dry hike to get here.

We had the place to ourselves. Other than the distant sound of rushing water, it was quiet and still.

Hike to Wet Beaver Creek The Crack Sedona Arizona

We had the place to ourselves…for the moment!

I ventured out onto a cool looking precipice hanging out over the water and Mark got my photo.

Diving platform Wet Beaver Creek The Crack Sedona Arizona

Little did I know that this is a favorite diving platform!

Suddenly, we heard voices coming down the trail. Two young couples appeared and set up beach towels right on that same rock precipice I’d been standing on and then stripped down to their bathing suits to get a tan.

“Are you going to jump in?” One girl in a bikini asked me.

I looked down at the murky water doubtfully. Diving into the its depths had not been on my agenda today!

Sunbathing Wet Beaver Creak The Crack Sedona Arizona

Sunbathers stretch out on the diving rock.

Then, I watched in amazement as she made her way down to a lower rock and jumped in. Brrr!! Then the other girl did the same.

“The water’s great!” They yelled out to me.

Well, I was happier taking photos of them than swimming, so I let them have all the fun in the water while I stayed warm and dry on shore.

They debated jumping off the rock precipice where they’d laid their beach towels, but because they couldn’t see the bottom — which they said you usually can — they decided not to. You never know what kind of submerged log might be lurking just below the surface.

Flying leap Wet Beaver Creek The Crack Sedona AZ

The water was too murky to dive from the upper rock, but this intrepid gal jumped in from lower down.

The bathing beauties climbed out of the water using a rope that someone had secured in the rock, and they settled in on their beach towels for a while.

We left them and began to make our way back along Bell Trail. The trail had gotten really busy, and we were amazed that the silence of the early morning was completely gone now, shattered by the continual voices and footsteps of other hikers making their way to The Crack on this warm Friday afternoon.

A snort and a whinny up ahead alerted us to horseback riders coming down the trail. What a neat sighting at the end of a very enjoyable hike.

Horseback riding Bell Trail Sedona Arizona

A pair of horseback riders greeted us on the trail going back.

If you spend some time in Sedona, whether you travel there by RV or some other means, a hike on Bell Trail to The Crack at Wet Beaver Creek is a really nice change of pace. More info and links below.

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More info about Bell Trail and The Crack at Wet Beaver Creek:

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Sedona, Arizona – Great Beer, Coffee, Red Rocks & Psychics!

March 2016 – When we brought our RV to Sedona, Arizona, even though we had been there many times before, we still hung our heads out the windows of the truck saying, “omg omg omg OMG!!!” We’d forgotten just how stunning the towering red rocks cliffs are.

RV travel to Sedona Arizona red rock country

Driving into town, we were totally awed by the red rock scenery.

We were utterly mesmerized as the road carved beautiful sweeping turns through these monoliths. We just drove around for a while, taking it all in, and marveling at the views out the windows.

RV road trip and scenic drive Sedona Arizona

Anywhere you drive in Sedona, the landscapes are breathtaking.

RV adventure in Sedona Arizona and scenic drives

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White flowering trees were in bloom all around town too. What a great combination these made with those incredible cliffs behind!

Sedona Arizona red rocks and flowers

White flowering trees were in bloom.

Sedona Arizona rock cliffs and white flowers

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Sedona is a funny mix of dramatic natural landscapes, upscale trendy shops, and outdoor pursuits, all overlaid with a mystical, New Age flair. The Hyatt Regency has a fancy resort hotel in the middle of it all, while the main drag is dotted with psychic readers, mountain bike shops, art galleries, hiking stores, elegant bistros and souvenir shops.

Restaurants Galleries Shops Sedona Arizona

For many, Sedona is all about shopping, artsy stuff, and eating great food.

It is a vacation playground for people from “The Valley of the Sun” (Phoenix) about 100 miles away. Bustling shops selling homemade ice cream cones are lined up against a breathtaking backdrop of bright orange cliffs where tourists go on joy ride jeep tours into the rugged pink and orange desert landscapes.

Uptown Sedona Arizona

Gorgeous natural landscapes beckon just outside of town.

And every few minutes a snazzy sports car or vintage car rolls by.

Sports car in Sedona Arizona town center

Some folks travel here in style.

Fancy vintage car in Sedona Arizona

Exotic car sightings are the norm in Sedona.

It’s a fabulous town to stroll around, and we love the sculptures that grace the sidewalks.

Horse statue Sedona Arizona

Sedona is an artsy town with creative sculptures decorating the sidewalks.

Sedona Arizona T-shirts

No problem finding a souvenir t-shirt in this town!

The town was founded in 1902, and camera buffs have been stopping in at Rollie’s Camera Shop for camera gear and supplies since it opened in 1961. We dropped by three times to visit our friend Tom Kelly who works there and also sells his beautiful photographs.

How funny it was when a pair of tourists came into the shop to buy film. “Fuji Film or Kodachrome?” Tom asked them. They took the Fuji Film, but gosh, I never thought I’d hear those words again!

Rollies Camera Sedona Arizona

The back door of Rollies Camera where photographers have bought gear since 1961.

Of course, part of vacationing in a place like Sedona is relaxing with a glass of wine or a good microbrew beer after the sun has crested its peak in the sky. Sometimes you can have too much of a good thing, though, and partiers occasionally wind up regretting last night’s wild party the next morning. We passed a hilarious sign showing a fish that…well… drinks like a fish…

Murphy's Country Store Sedona Arizona

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And where do you find the biggest selection of beer — at the best prices — in this oh-so-trendy and pricey town? At the Chevron station in the Village of Oak Creek!

Really!!

They have shelves and shelves of unusual microbrew beers, all at very modest prices, and best of all, you can build your own six pack. On Thursdays they knock even more off the price of the build-your-own-six-packs. So, if you plan your week out right, Thursday is the day to go stock up on beer.

At Chevron!

Chevron Station Village of Oak Creek Sedona Arizona

This place has the best selection of craft beer (and at the best prices) in town!

Why does a gas station have the best beer selection in a fancy dancy town like Sedona? Because it’s run by a very cool guy. Tony Pugliano is a young, entrepreneurial mountain biker who owns not just this Chevron but a 76 station over in Cottonwood too. His gas station in Cottonwood is even better. It has craft beers on tap!!

Now that’s the way to bring customers in and make them happy at your gas station!

We met Tony two years ago when we brought our RV to Sedona, and this year, while stopping at the Sedona Bike and Bean bike shop to get a part for Mark’s mountain bike, who walked in but Tony! He was picking up some parts for his bike too.

Sedona Bike and Bean Sedona Arizona

Mark recognized Tony at Sedona Bike & Bean right away. What a perfect place to run into each other!

While we chatted, I got a latte. And why not? This bike shop is the Sedona Bike and Bean, afterall. When you walk in the front door of the shop, the first thing you notice — before the bikes, and bike jerseys and bike repair stands — is the huge coffee bar where you can order any kind of fancy coffee drink you can imagine.

That’s the way Sedona is. It is a haven for lovers of gourmet coffee, great beer, and the outdoors. If you are clairvoyant and/or rich, you’ll fit right in too!

Gypsy Jenny's Sedona Arizona

Sedona is a great place for reflections — in store windows and introspectively too!

Another fun place to go for a beer is at the Oak Creek Brewery. The brew master was busy making one of our all time favorite beers when we stopped by, their Nut Brown Ale.

Oak Creek Brewing Company Sedona Arizona

The Nut Brown Ale is as fresh as it can be at the Oak Creek Brewery in Sedona.

When we cruised out of Sedona to the west, we found even more stunning scenery.

Red rock scenery in West Sedona Arizona

Even under cloudy skies, the scenic drives in West Sedona are jaw-droppers.

Pink Jeep West Sedona Arizona

Pink Jeep Tours are everywhere. What a fun way to get into the more rugged areas out of town.

The red rocks and towering mountains just don’t quit!

West Sedona Arizona scenic drives in the red rocks

Sedona is in the heart of Arizona’s red rock country!

Sedona is an awesome place for RVers to settle in for a week or two.

Truck and fifth wheel trailer RV at sunset

Mark catches a pink sunset over our truck.

If you have a hankering for an RV roadtrip to red rock country, Sedona is one gorgeous spot, and the climate is ideal in spring and fall! There are more tips and links and info about Sedona below.

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More info about Sedona Arizona:

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