Ken travels a good bit for work. Sometimes it’s just a one nighter here or there, and then other times he’ll be gone for weeks at a time. I don’t love it when he’s gone, but after fifteen years of marriage, I’ve learned to deal. I can pretty much handle the kids and the day to day duties that keep this family running, but after awhile even I have a breaking point.
I recently reached that point sometime near the end of last year (which might also help explain my lapse from blogging).
“I need a break,” I announced one evening around Christmas, “and I don’t think a date night is going to cut it. I mean, a real break where I have to get on a plane and I have a chance to actually miss the kids.” I think it’s good for a mommy to miss her children every once in a while. It’s makes me a better mom.
“That’s fine. I could use a vacation too. You plan it, and I’ll be there.”
And so that’s how I found myself in Arizona a few weeks ago staring at this:We settled on Arizona because neither of us had ever been to the Grand Canyon. Well, I take that back, I’d been once when I was five, but I have absolutely no memory of it except for a picture from the early 80’s of my family all smiling together with the Grand Canyon behind us. In the picture, my mom is sporting some high-waisted, acid wash jeans, my brother, a rat tail, and yours truly in long, pig tails and really short shorts. That’s it. That’s my one and only memory of my first visit to the Grand Canyon. A picture. So even though I could say I had been there, I can’t say that I really appreciated it at the time.
For years Ken and I had talked about going out there, but I always put it off because I wanted the kids to be older. Speaking from experience, I knew they weren’t going to remember it. As we were throwing ideas around about where this child-free vacation was going to take us, Ken suggested the Grand Canyon as an option. I mean, just because we want to take the kids there one day, doesn’t mean we can’t go ourselves today, right? That seemed logical enough to me. So I did what any good little vacation planner does; I enlisted the help of Trip Advisor and Fodor’s.
Our first stop was Sedona, Arizona. If you ever plan a trip to the Grand Canyon, be sure to spend of couple of days in Sedona. It is absolutely beautiful. During the weeks leading up to our trip, I researched all kinds of tours and things to do in the area. At the risk of sounding like a total nerd, let me just say…I love a good tour. The way I see it, if I have gone to all the trouble to fly across the country and see something, I want to know exactly what I’m looking at, and if I’m ever in a museum, I’m going to stop and read every single plaque. Consider yourself warned if you ever take me to the Smithsonian.
However, as I was researching tours in the area, it became very clear to me that I would probably not enjoy the typical bus or hiking tour in that part of the country. For one, the minute a tour guide broke out with some “fact” about how the earth is 562.8 zillion years old, I immediately would discredit most of his other “facts,” and two, there’s a lot of New Age baloney circulating around out there. I just didn’t really want to spend money on a tour that required me to separate the facts from fiction, so in the end, we decided to go a completely different direction with the tour. For years I’ve said that I want to ride in a hot air balloon before I die. I know it’s a morbid thought, but it was just a statement I would make every time I saw one floating through the sky. Well, when Ken realized that hot air balloon rides were offered in Sedona, he told me to quit researching other tours and make the call. Man, was it the right decision! We had so much fun! At first, I was a little nervous. I mean, I am kind of funny when it comes to heights. I don’t like them, and as a rule, I try to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground at all times. However, I really wanted to do this because I thought it would be an incredible experience. So I sucked it up, and as I watched them inflate the balloon, I tried my best not to think about the fact that soon there would only be a wicker basket standing between me and thousands of feet of nothing. I was fine as soon as we were air born. Since we were moving with the wind, the ride is very smooth. In fact, I was shocked to find out that it wasn’t windy at all. I was prepared to feel windblown the entire time, but since the wind was pushing the balloon, I didn’t even notice it. It’s actually quite toasty up there since you have a ga-gillion BTUs of heat blasting overhead. It was much warmer in the balloon than on the ground. Overall, it was just very peaceful. We saw rabbits and deer eating their breakfast, and we even spotted a couple of coyotes running through the cacti. I did have the thought couple of times that if for some freak reason I managed fall out of the balloon, the chances were pretty good that I was going to land on a cactus. These are the kinds of things I worry about, but for the most part, the height thing didn’t bother me at all.
The only hiccup we had was when we were landing. Our guide had tried to prepare us that landing can be difficult because the balloon will still try and move with the wind even though the basket is on the ground. If for some reason the balloon catches the wind, it can drag the basket across the ground for several hundred feet. Again, my mind went to all the cacti. When we landed, we started to tip, but our pilot was Johnny on the spot and had us right side up again before we really had time to register what was even happening. However, we didn’t waste any time bailing out when he gave us the go ahead.
The rest of our time in Sedona was spent hiking and sightseeing on our own. We toured the Chapel of the Holy Cross which is a church by Frank Lloyd Wright that was actually built into the side of the cliff. It was neat to see, but again, this would have been totally lost on the kids. This was the view from the chapel looking into Sedona.Also, that’s a Sedona mansion in the middle of the picture. The house cost $18 million dollars to build, or at least, that’s what the hot air balloon pilot told us. I believe him though because it was a pretty incredible house with a really awesome view.We spent two nights in Sedona, and that was just about right. If you are really into hiking, you probably would want to spend some more time there, but for us nonathletic types, this was plenty of time to see all the sights.
Next stop…the Grand Canyon.