Thursday 23rd March – White Out

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Snow! And lots of it! I awoke to a noise on top of the van and looked out the window. When I saw the winter wonderland, I shouted at Kevin to look outside. Everything was covered in white! The noise I’d heard was snow shifting off my roof. The hail had obviously turned into a snow storm and given us this beautiful surprise. Kevin was up to pee in the snow then got straight back into bed, but I was like a kid seeing snow for the first time. I was out and walked around camp. Kevin challenged me to build a fire so I did the rounds of every fire ring hoping for piles of wood. I didn’t find much, but maybe enough to get some flames going.

At the end of my lap, I stopped to talk to Mark. A guy in his late 30s with a Toyota Corolla rental car that couldn’t get out of camp on the slushy road. He was on his way to the Grand Canyon and I let him know that if he was still stuck by the time he finished going on a short walk, we would give him a tow out. It never happened, he drove out at some point so didn’t need our help. Right, back to the fire. All the wood I’d collected was green so I did another scout a little ways into the forest and found some dead stuff. At the fire ring, I cleared the pit of snow as best as I could and laid the foundations of a fire. I battled snow falling into the pit from the trees above and very, very wet wood to get some smoke going, but no fire. Everything as just too wet. Kevin told me to go ask the neighbours for a fire starter, but I was enjoying the challenge. Eventually, after about an hour of trying, I went over to our neighbours. They were a van camper couple with two dogs and had a pitiful fire going, which produced no heat, which made me decide I wouldn’t bother taking some of their fire starter to start my own. I talked to them a while about their travels and their van then retreated back to my camp to start breakfast.

Kevin was out of bed by the time the oats were ready and making his coffee and doing the dishes as I sat in bed warming up my toes and fingers which I couldn’t feel anymore thanks to being out in the cold. Kevin didn’t want to stick around in the cold, so after coffee, it was time to go. We got out of camp no troubles and it snowed all the way into Flagstaff, the flakes falling gently but in a thick fog. Today was a rest day for errands so our first mission was to find a Laundromat. After a bit of hunting for a place to get cash, we found a Laundromat by Walmart so I went and got some cash while Kevin stripped the bed of the sheets and gathered all our dirty clothes.

The Laundromat had a fancy card-operated system which meant the lady helped us through every step. All we had to do was put our clothes in one big washer and she set it up for us. It was easily the best Laundromat I’ve been to, with a free dry included with the wash and really good Wifi. I caught up on the blog while Kevin looked at accommodation options in Flag. After one night in the snow, he was out, he wanted his comforts. He also managed to make a huge discovery with the Arizona Snowbowl, the ski field at the top of Flag. For $40 a day, we could get a lift ticket, ski rental and a $15 lunch voucher. Unreal, especially when a lift ticket is normally $80 per person. We figured they were desperate to get people to the slopes so late in the season. He called the bowl just to make sure we weren’t missing something and no, it was in fact a brilliant deal. We bought our tickets for Saturday and Sunday, incredulous that we’d been in the desert only yesterday and now we were booking ski tickets!

Our washing done, I toasted some wraps for lunch in the carpark and we both noticed that my roof rack had a significant bend in it, putting the bike on a big lean, something that will need a bit of investigation. It was a bit early to go to the hotel that we’d booked, so we drove a few minutes out of town to check out Walnut Canyon National Monument. I’d been told about it by other travellers and they’d all been impressed.

When we got there, the sun was shining which took the bite of the cold away a bit, but by the time we’d gone through the visitor’s center and out onto the only trail in the park, it was snowy and windy. We walked around the Island Trail of the canyon, peering into the cliff dwellings set into the wall and scanning the opposite walls of the canyon for old foundations. Unfortunately, most of them were modern reconstructions because of looting and damage that had happened since their original build in the 1100s. It was interesting, but I wasn’t too awed.

Kevin was due to call his daughter so he went back to the car while I stayed out and walked the rim trail, which wasn’t anything special, especially in the blowing snow. I joined Kev in the car and did a bit of an inspection of the roof rack and was satisfied nothing was going to fall over in the near future so it would survive for now.

We drove back into town and to our hotel, anxious to see what our $50 a night had got us. We went via a craft beer bottlo and found a very helpful beer fanatic to pick us out some choice local beers. He also gave us a map and pointed out the local breweries in town that could offer us food as well as brews. The Howard Johnson Inn was nothing like the rapey rooms I’d booked for us in Phoenix, so Kevin will be in charge of accommodation from now on. With breakfast included and a nice room with a comfy bed, we were pretty chuffed. I was even hopeful that I might get to watch F1 on one of the sports channels. We chilled out in the room for a bit, drinking our beers with cheese and biccies while I had a chat to Dad and toiled to find a way to watch Free Practice 1 in some way. The TV didn’t offer the right channel so I eventually found a live stream online, but no commentary so Dad filled me in with the details over text as I watched.

Dinner time, we suited up and ventured out into the cold to find ourselves a brewery. The Flagstaff Brewing Company was a quiet little spot at the entrance to an alleyway that suited us just fine. Within minutes of sitting down, there was a waitress at our table going through the different beers on tap that might suit our fancy. We shared a pear and blue cheese burger since we’d both filled up on our cheese and biccies and talked about steam engines as we ate and drank. Only one round for me, two for Kev and we were keen for an early night.

It was a cold walk back through slushy snow on the footpath but we made it back no incident, although we had a close call when Kevin crossed the road looking the wrong way. After shouting at him to stop a few times he backtracked and avoided the car coming towards us. I watched a bit more F1 before bed before I conked out, feeling spoilt to be in a heated room sharing a king size bed.

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