We were up early thanks to an alarm we set at 7:30am since Dan had an online class he had to attend at 9am. We had plenty of time to wake up to the smell of petrol and hit the road. Thanks to such a big dinner last night, neither of us were hungry for breakfast so it was an easy morning routine. Dan took the wheel to brave the ruts of Fossil Creek Road one last time. We feared for the fuel tank so he took it slow. We got into Camp Verde with plenty of time and I navigated us to the café I’d visited a few times before. It was a local place with a friendly manager who was always milling about the place talking to his customers.
We parked and sat on the outside patio so that Cleo could join us. I got myself a smoothie and Dan a latte while Cleo sunned herself on the concrete deck. Hooked up to the Wifi, I sat and blogged while Dan listened to a TED talk before doing his homework right there on the spot. What a productive morning! By 10am, we were ready for action. We took the scenic route north into Sedona, stopping in at a Walmart for more supplies. After nabbing some delicious herb and garlic bread off the clearance rack for 50c, I made us some toast and eggs for breakfast before we carried on our way.
Dan drove us north on the familiar 89A highway towards the red cliffs of Sedona. I’d made a point of looking longingly in my rear view mirror the last time I left this place, sure that it had been goodbye. Not so apparently! We drove through the bustling town with ATVs and pink Jeeps jostling through the streets. When we got to the main strip, I was disgusted to find that one of my favourite parts about Sedona had changed. Despite the touristy nature of the small area, the parking along the main strip had always been free with ample places to put your car behind the main street too. Now, there were shiny brand new parking machines and signs lining the streets. Assholes! They were just charging because they knew they could, I was super disappointed. Good thing it made no difference to us since we weren’t stopping in town.
We carried on past the hustle and bustle and drove just past the entrance to Slide Rock State Park. That’s exactly where we were going, but we weren’t going to pay for the privilege! When we came to a pullout on the side of the road, I instructed Dan to flip a bitch and he skilfully manoeuvred the Cabana between a few big boulders and another parked car. Perfecto! We packed a bag with beers, water and snacks, donned our swimmers and bush bashed towards the river below. I’d done this before on my first road trip and when Vanessa visited but I swear I took a different route down to the water every time. Dan lead the way following what faint trails there were and taking a look out on a big rock to see if there was a way down. We eventually found a path that was scramblable, but not quite so for Cleo. Despite her best efforts to arrange her legs in a fashion that would get her down the steep chute, Dan had to help her along so she could get down without hurting herself.
A short time later, we were at the water! If we thought Fossil Creek was cold, this was bloody freezing being snow melt! Cleo managed to follow us across the river, following our footsteps on the rocks that sat out of the water until we reached the other side. We took our first dunk here, me screaming out at a high pitch at the temperature of the water on my body. Yeeee!
Thoroughly chilled, we took to the sun and walked downstream to the actual Slide Rock. I’d never taken the slide and Dan hadn’t done so since his early youth so it was something that had to be ticked off. The walk down the creek was fun for us and for Cleo. We stuck to the sides, hugging the red walls in places to keep our feet out of the water. When we couldn’t do that, we just waded through the chilly water.
At the main part of the park, we came upon the zoo of people that had paid money to get where they were. We waltzed in like we owned the place and watched as a few kids made their way down “The Slide”. The water was still freezing but the sun was out in all its glory and the rock underneath our feet was warm. Dan took first run, waiting his turn behind a couple of kids before gently sitting in the path of the flowing water at the top of the slide and pushing his body forwards. Not exactly going at breakneck speed, he slid down the levels of rock, keeping his head above water and pushing himself along when he had to. He had perfect style, except for after he reached the end and started walking back to me when he did a perfect slide down onto his butt. Ha ha. With such a big audience all around, he got straight back up and denied any pain.
My turn, I got myself positioned at the top of the shallow flow of water and dropped myself into the narrow slide. The rock was smooth with moss so even the 1-2 meter drops didn’t cause me any trouble. Like Dan, I had to push myself along in places, but not during the last few meters. The slide went right to left before dumping me into a pool that meant my ride was over. I made sure not to repeat Dan’s embarrassment when I got myself out of the pool and gave my arse a good squeeze from the scraping it had just had.
Dan had one more run, trying to keep his lungs full of air to promote floating but he didn’t manage a much quicker time. Cleo happily followed us further downstream now that we were done with our sliding. Dan, from his memories of being here years ago, knew of a couple of rock jumps we could investigate underneath the bridge. We only got as far as the yellow tape strung across the river labelled with “No Admittance”, able to see the rocks that Dan was talking about, but nothing more.
That didn’t matter, it would have been too cold to get in the water in the shade of the bridge anyway. Instead, much to Cleo’s glee, we sat ourselves down on the rock to sun ourselves like lizards. We had plenty of entertainment in front of us with all the people making their way down to the rocks for the first time and a Mexican family playing in the water. We had fun guessing who was the father, grandmother etc. and watching as the little kids came close to going bottoms up many times.
The heat soaked our bodies as we sipped our beers and judged the people around us. It was a nice way to spend the early afternoon. After a couple of hours, our bodies could take no more so we made our way back upstream and to the Cabana. We soon left the masses of people behind and tried a different path back up to the car. I had one last dip to cool my body down before we made the scramble back up top. The pullout where we’d parked was full, so obviously we weren’t the only scammers.
In the Cabana, we debated plans for the rest of the afternoon. It was just past 1pm so we still had plenty of time to spend in the sun. After juggling a few options, I was so relaxed after our sunbake that I managed to tempt Dan to hang out and play cards for a while before we did anything else. We had a great couple of rounds, me winning the first, but Dan destroying me in the second. When we concluded play, we didn’t realise how long we’d been going and it had warmed up inside the Cabana so before going anywhere, we wandered back down to the water for another dip. We met a couple of fishermen down at the water and scrambled past them to get to a spot in the river that was in the sun and deep enough for a body dunk. Thoroughly refreshed for the third or fourth time today, we scrambled up the embankment one last time and back to the van.
We were on the hunt for some beers and a pool table. Intent on winging it, we drove back into Sedona figuring we’d park somewhere and walk around until we found what we were looking for. After searching for a park in one of the back lots on the main strip, we decided to give up on the touristy part of town and head south to the second town of Sedona. We ended up at the Olde Sedona Bar and Grille, exactly where I’d celebrated Kevin’s birthday back in March. We were doing a tour of my Sedona!
I’d called ahead to make sure they had a pool table and we found that we had the whole bar to ourselves. The very proficient bar tender didn’t accept my out of date California driver’s license or my Australian ID, but after presenting him with my passport, we had a jug of beer in front of us. The pool table was small so took a bit of getting used to but I still didn’t have a chance against Dan. We bought 6 games for $5 and he won all but one of them. Shit. Pretty sure he’s been practicing the whole time since the last rage. We kept count of the number of times we each sank the white ball since this is a special skill of mine and I lost that fight too.
Smug as ever, Dan was happy with his performance and I was happy to retire to the balcony for an after-game drink and some happy hour wings. Sitting where Kevin and I had been months ago getting drunk, we enjoyed the view and watched the world go by as we munched on celery sticks, carrots and wings. Another perfect day of van life. As we sat, Dan pegged an ambitious camping spot to the east of Sedona along Schnebly Hill Road and I happily trusted his judgement.
Properly drunk, we paid our tab and I followed Dan out of the pub and into the Cabana. I called Mum and Dad on our drive up to camp. Just as we were getting into some goss, we got cut off as we drove into the mountains. We were near the trailhead of “The Hangover” trail I’d done and passed a sign that said something about only 4WDs should pass. Not an issue for the Cabana! We came across a few pink Jeeps (a tour company in Sedona) and they let us pass while they pointed out things to their passengers. When one came at us the other way, he must have assumed that we were worried about the road ahead and assured us, “Don’t worry, it flattens out just ahead.” Oh good! The going was super rough and we were definitely in 4WD territory.
The guy was completely having us on and he’d done well too, his straight face gave nothing away. As far as we could tell, the intensity of the drive remained about the same though we didn’t hit any obstacle Dan couldn’t navigate. Concious of the leaky fuel tank, he took it easy and I enjoyed the slow rock of the van as we climber over 1,000 feet in just a few miles. The views of the Sedona cliffs were stunning, especially with the sun setting behind them creating a silhouette.
When we reached the top, we could see a few campers spotted about but the sites were dispersed and few. Not to worry though, after a few looks down another road, we the jackpot with a nice big site, fire ring and some fire wood already laid out. Just like an old couple with a massive RV, I got out of the Cabana and directed Dan onto a rock I’d put by his back wheel to get us level. Unlike most couples with a massive RV, we got it level first go without any arguments.
Since we had a spot of reception, I got back onto Mum and Dad for the full update on home events while Dan went off and did the manly thing collecting fire wood and getting the flames going. Unlike last night, the fire would be necessary since the temperature had dropped off at this elevation. I was still blabbing to my folks by the time the fire was properly ablaze so after one last story by Mum and Dad, I joined Dan by the fire.
After sitting a while listening to a Spotify playlist inspired by “Glorious”, Dan whipped up a late dinner of pasta to get us through the night. As the fire dwindled, I remembered that I had an experiment to conduct with my electric toothbrush. Since I didn’t have a use for it anymore, going back to Australia and 240V soon, I wanted to put it in the fire and see what happened. As I brushed my teeth manually, I placed the electric Oral B in the hot coals. Dan said something about batteries exploding so we stood at a cautious distance watching the plastic melt and the bright blue flames burst out of it. Thankfully, there were no explosions or hazardous chemicals flung about the place and after a few minutes, there was nothing left of my electronic dentistry, only a couple of bright blue spurts of flame.