Our current time zone: GMT +8 (We're home in Singapore!)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Onwards To The Red Rock State

Over the Christmas season, we hopped and skipped and flew and drove and made our way from Guatemala to Florida and onwards to Arizona.

It was our first Christmas celebration away from the family and thus the quietest one ever. We spent Christmas dinner in bed in a motel near the Miami airport with a large pizza that was delivered straight to our room and a heavy dose of American TV. Okay, maybe it wasn't that quiet an event - the Muppets and kooky characters from Family Guy can be quite a rambunctious bunch.

On Boxing Day, we flew to Phoenix. Never again are we flying American Airlines.

Reasons (and really valid ones too):

(1) You have to pay for your first checked bag. Yes, the first bag - you know, the one where you put all your travel necessities; the one that almost all other airlines in the world (even those hailing from countries worse off than Great Uncle Sam's mega-continent) let you check in for free?

(2) You get a drink (hooray) but you don't get any snacks. Not even peanuts. Those are for sale. Or you can opt to buy an all-American snack - the American Airlines Giant Chocolate Chip Cookie.

(Ginormous American Lady seated next to Dan along the aisle had no qualms ordering that. Dan waited till she had finished chowing down on her American-sized snack before he asked if he could get pass her to visit the washroom. She said, "Sure!" and sucked in her belly by a few invisible inches, which she thought would give him enough space to stroll through onto the aisle. He stared at her in disbelief. She finally got the hint and heaved herself up from her seat to let him pass.)

(3) There is no personal entertainment onboard the flight.

(4) Should you wish to watch the movie showing on the tiny screens lining the aisle, you have to purchase earphones at US$2 a piece.

Before you say that we're being total spoiled brats and are too ngiao (stingy) to pay for anything onboard a flight, we have to point out that other local airlines have managed to provide almost all the above cabin comforts at no additional cost to paying passengers. And their airfares are comparable to or cheaper than AA's too.

Our favourite local airline is Jetblue. The fares are cheap, you check in your first bag for free, you get a drink and your choice of 2 snacks from a snack basket, you get a personal entertainment screen where you can watch local TV channels and cable onboard, and you can plug your own earphones into the entertainment set.

We also really like Southwest. They only lose out to Jetblue in the in-flight entertainment arena but they make up for their lack of fun by being really nice and letting you check in 2 bags for free.

So what is AA's excuse for being so crappy huh?


We didn't do much in Phoenix. Instead, we hit the road the very next morning and drove ourselves to Sedona, just a couple of hours from Arizona's state capital. After spending 7 months being car-less in the Caribbean and Latin America (except for the occasional golf cart and 1-day rentals), it felt really good to be in control behind the wheel again.

Sedona is a small town set amongst chunky blocks of red mountain. While Sedona sits on the edge of the Colorada Plateau - the same one which the Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon sit on - unlike the latters' red rock wilderness, it is inhabited. And by really kooky residents too. We saw business signs offering palm and tarot readings, 'new age' products (like exotic incense and twangy music CDs) and the occasional tour promising UFO-sightings *cue twilight zone music*

We visited the Red Rock State Park, a small nature reserve in Sedona with lots of beautiful scenery to offer. Although declared a public park in 1991, Red Rock is not slated as a national park. It's relatively small proportions of red rock features cannot hold a candle to the grandeur of Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park, both which we had visited last year in Utah.

The beauty of Red Rock lies in its intimate setting and quiet nature trails. There are no carloads of tourists pouring in throughout the day. No free park shuttles that ferry large groups of camera-toting visitors from viewpoint to viewpoint. At Red Rock, you can almost have the whole park to yourself.

Taking in a lungful of desert air

It's the desert - it's always sunny

And yet, you can still see signs of a desert winter

Evidence that the temperatures drop below freezing at night

Pretty patterns form when a stream ices over. A passer-by saw me so enthralled by something on the ground and called out to ask me what I had found there. Nothing much - just some ice!

Following the trail to the lookout point

These bright orange rocks are 250 million years old. The red hue is due to the high levels of iron in the sandstone.

Cacti dot the landscape throughout Arizona

Sedona's dramatic red rock landscape

Sadly, Red Rock State Park is slated for closure in June this year due to lack of state funding. The same fate awaits 12 other state parks in Arizona. Only the 9 parks that generate the most revenue in order to fund the parks' operations will remain open.

For Red Rock, it means that members of the public will no longer be allowed to enter the nature reserve.

And with its closure, there goes yet another little sanctuary for people to escape to. We are indeed very blessed to have experienced the quiet magic of Red Rock before it gets neglected and eventually, forgotten.


Liming said...

That sounds horrible! I shouldn't complain so much about SQ then!

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