Driving I-40 in the pouring rain was a small price to pay to discover Flagstaff. I parked at the Amtrak station and walked down San Francisco Street, as it seemed to house the most activity. The Historic Old Town area was exactly that. It had all the charm I was expecting: old buildings, small cafes, and art galleries. I must say that I am quite done with Native American kitsch, as that's all I've seen lately in Arizona and BC. There was
plenty of leather tomahawks and dream catchers...but then I found a gallery that actually had interesting contemporary art in it! Fancy that! :-) The Grandon Gallery had a variety of paintings that covered the spectrum of...taste. The artist, Grandon, paints/engraves furniture with Native American (mostly) themes, but in an unique style. There were a few other local artists, their names I did not record unfortunately, with paintings on display. I can't say enough how much I enjoyed meeting Mr. Grandon and looking through this great gallery! It made me realize that all an artist must do is find a community in which they are embraced and then selling is not an issue with some exposure. Other Flagstaff highlights would be the record store Rock-It, where I picked up the new Decemberists' album "The Hazards of Love." I could write a whole blog on how much I am in love with that album (concept and execution). I also stopped in to a convenience store/cafe, Pay and Take, when the rain really started coming down. Their ATM only charged me $1 service fee! Since I can't find Wells Fargo banks ANYWHERE, this was amazing. THEN, their drinks were SO cheap and GOOD. I got a large Chai for under $2. Un-heard of! The atmosphere in there was so friendly and chill, it seemed like a wonderful place to become a regular at. Shockingly, Flagstaff is the kind of town I could see myself settling down in. I have been so completely surprised by Arizona. I know that it's because I'm up North, at 7,000 feet, but it's not the sunshine-yuppie place I thought it would be at all! The altitude is rough (I almost passed out working out the other day!) but the landscape is almost lush with forests and it's about 20 degrees cooler than Phoenix, which makes it very pleasant. The towns are just a bit too small for my taste, but I can definitely see the attractiveness of such a place!
After my Flagstaff adventure, I had to work :-( I must say that waking up in the morning to my little 3 year old nephew, Cooper, singing Happy Birthday to me was the best start a person can have! So the birthday wasn't too bad. A co-worker even bought me a cake! The 6 of us who are working here together went to a nice dinner in Williams as well. The Red Raven, which is the ONLY place you can have a nice dinner in Williams, was very good. The service was left much to be desired, but that seems about the norm here.
All that was left to explore in the Williams area was, of course, the Grand Canyon. Asia and I drove there this morning, and got in for free (don't ask for our secrets, we will not divulge)! After wandering around looking for this elusive canyon, we finally found some dirt paths that ended...at whiteness. That's right kids, the canyon was filled with clouds. We walked around (very carefully) for at least 10 minutes before we saw the first hint of canyon-ness. For an hour or so, we played this game with the clouds...we'd get to an outlook spot, wait for the clouds to move enough so we could see the canyon, jump in and snap a picture, and watch it dissolve into clouds again. It was pretty surreal. Finally around 12, the clouds gave up. Unfortunately, we had to get going at 12:30, so once visibility was good, we didn't have much time. It was still such a great experience to walk around in that crazy terrain and see the HUGE hole in the ground. It was hard to believe that it was real...it almost looked just like a painted backdrop for a theatre production. Of course I got sunburned as well...even though we only had sun for a little while. Curse of the redhead.
We were starving by the time we got to Williams, so we went to Taco Bell, obviously. They ran out of chicken apparently. This puzzled me because it was a Taco Bell/KFC. Couldn't they just cut up a thigh or something and put it in my burrito? Needless to say, because they hire 14 year olds, need to take extra time to cook their fake meat, and never get an order right...I actually went through the drive-thru twice and then backed up into it after I started to leave. So worth the 3 hour stomach ache after as well.
Arizona has been a nice week long trip. I've met some really cool people and seen great sites! I'm definitely ready to go back to civilization tomorrow though!