Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Chance Meetings in Sedona, Arizona

The day began like every other day on the road.  The Subaru's navigation system rejected our destination's address once more, and the earth flashing by at 75 miles per hour continued to swallow us in its boundlessness.  While the topography evolved and transformed with each passing hour, the constancy of the road ahead dulled conversation and magnified anxiety.    

The random stops along the way have increased.  Now, I think we're just making up excuses to stop. 
Example: "I want a picture of the car" - Dad

It wasn't until we almost haphazardly entered the scenic route between Flagstaff and Sedona that we emerged from our respective stupors.  Long stretches of dry grass and occasional mounds of broken rock suddenly traded places with the lush, hilly forest and gargantuan trees that dominate the serpentine drive through Oak Creek Canyon.  We were so captivated by the change in landscape that we almost missed the fortuitous scenic overlook that led to our chance encounter with another traveling pair.  Our desire for father-son pictures in each location has required us to search out help from other tourists, so being able to identify the right person (specifically, someone approachable, capable with a camera, and willing to take direction) is key.  We noticed a young couple struggling to take a picture together, so we quickly approached them, exchanged cameras, snapped the pics, and chatted about where we were headed next.  It was this brief conversation that led us to Jerome, Arizona, an abandoned mining town that now flourishes as a premiere art destination.

We dropped off our bags and steeled ourselves for another 20-mile drive outside Sedona.  Once in town, we stopped for lunch at Grapes for something light and tasty.  I mauled the Caprese sandwich with mixed greens and dad enjoyed another one of his hearty sandwich-soup combos: Pastrami and Swiss with a bowl of Mushroom soup.

While Grapes was a restaurant the couple briefly mentioned as a town treat, they really raved about the surrounding art galleries.  They particularly enjoyed a massive art gallery owned by an older couple on the outskirts of town.  Despite their vague description of the gallery and the owners, we decided to search for this elusive speck of paint on the town's daunting palette.  

Fortunately, we found a lead in Raku, a beautiful gallery overlooking the surrounding valley 5,000 feet below the town (  The Raku staff told us to get in the car, leave the town center, and look for four brown brick buildings on the way down the road.  They thought one of these buildings housed the mysterious art gallery.  After searching the grounds of three of the buildings, which turned out to be part of an abandoned school reappropriated by local artists, we finally found Margo Mandette and Robin Anderson's gallery.  It was worth the search.

Margo greeted us immediately and introduced us to the various art rooms on the first level of the building.  During the brief tour, she related her history with her husband and business partner, Robin.  Here are the bullet points: French girl follows her passion for art to New York to study; she meets a dashing American artist; they fall in love with their art and each other; they become successful in New York and Arizona; they settle in Arizona and continue their passion for art in their respective studios that take up floor one and floor two of their charming art gallery.  As you can probably tell, I'm a little bit in love with these people, and I'm going to move to Arizona to worship them.  Check out some of their artwork here:

Margo took us to meet her husband on the second floor of the gallery where he showed us his printmaking process.  I'm probably going to skip over the important parts and I'll definitely use the wrong language to describe the demonstration, but here's the gist: Robin painstakingly etches lines into the surface of a zinc plate to make a design (in this case, a portrait of a Native American man) in intaglio.  Then, he coats the surface of the plate in a blueish-black ink, which he quickly removes with paper and textured cloth.  Once he's certain the surface of the plate is clean (and that the ink only remains in the slight creases of the design), he lays a new sheet of paper over the ink-coated side of the plate and rolls the paper and plate through a pressurized rolling pin.  Once the paper and plate come through the mechanism, Robin gently pulls the paper away from the plate to reveal the finished print.


Needless to say, the entire experience with these amazing, gracious, inspiring people was priceless (even though I had no trouble laying down 50 bucks to bring the print back home with me).  I think a book needs to be written about this incredible couple; maybe I'm the one to do it?

Anyway, we were feeling pretty damn good after our time in Jerome with Margo and Robin, but we still needed to see the red rocks of Sedona...and eat dinner of course.  We drove to Red Rock State Park, parked the car, and took in the view.

We later ate dinner at Elote, and we were both adventurous this time around: I tried the Duck Chile Negro and Dad tried the Lamb Adobo.  

Finally, we ended the day on Airport Road where we watched the sunset beyond the red rock mountainscape.

The Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, and Las Vegas await our arrival tomorrow.  Wish us luck, and thank you for continuing to read this glaring narcissistic exercise.  I sincerely appreciate the well-wishes and recommendations, and I'm also sorry the food looks so damn good.  I also need to put the spotlight on Chrissy for commenting so often and offering so many great tips for sightseeing and food-eating.  Thank you!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Terry and Kathy Walker warned us we were going to see a whole lot of nothing during the long drives to our destinations, and they were certainly right today.  Fourteen hours of endless pavement, jagged rock faces, and expansive terrain made the drive seem interminable.  However, I was still surprised by the lush Texas landscape and the spectacular rock hills that jut out of the earth and continue for miles.  Occasionally, a monstrous cloud skirted across the deep blue sky to block out tiny bits of sun and offer momentary relief from its rays.  It was quite picturesque, but I think we simply spent too much time looking at endless earth today. 

I've attached a brief video of the ride.  Just refresh the video 4,000 times if you really want to know what our drive was like.  Listening to a murder mystery kept our eyes open, though!

We finally made it to Santa Fe around 4:40 PM.  We didn't want to lose daylight or miss any important sights, so we quickly left the luggage behind in our room and drove another five miles into the city center.  After making reservations at The Shed for dinner, we explored the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis Assisi located in downtown Santa Fe.  While mass was in session, the majority of the church remained open for guests to browse and photograph.  

Once we left the Cathedral, we returned to the central city plaza to browse the unique buildings and stores.  We spent a significant amount of time wandering Cowboys and Indians, a distinctly western store that featured gaudy clothing, elaborate furniture, and numerous cowboy and cowgirl boot styles.  

Who wouldn't want this bed made for the gods!

This incredible bull is more than just a statue; it's a working grill.  When grilling, the smoke escapes through the bull's nostrils and rear.  A measly $2,500 will make you the talk of the neighborhood!

Dad's travel books recommended The Shed for authentic Mexican cuisine, and, boy, did this place deliver!  The service was excellent, the atmosphere was fun and informal, and the food was unlike any Mexican meal I've scarfed down before. Actually, I couldn't really scarf it down because it was so hot and spicy!  We both enjoyed variations on the chicken enchilada meal, and we finished with our first decadent dessert of the trip: rich mocha cake.  You can start hating us now.

A relaxed stroll through the Canyon Road art galleries was the perfect way to end a long but rewarding day.  I happily commandeered a tree and reconnected with the St. Mary's hippie in me; Dad made friends with some sheep; and we both enjoyed one of our favorite pastimes: studying/appreciating art.  

Inspiration = Puff the Magic Dragon

The bunny is for you, mom!

After I finally write the book that only my family members will purchase, I'll be 
putting this arch made of books in my apartment.  Sorry, Dug!  It's happening.  
I think Chester will like it, though.

Each book featured a one-of-a-kind title on its spine.  

I finally got a chance to pick a bone with Twain about Number 44: The Mysterious Stranger.  He wasn't having it.  

Well, I'm exhausted!  Stay tuned for stories from Sedona!