A PERPETUAL STATE OF WONDER

I am mildly concerned that I am suffering ‘scenery fatigue’. In the last week or so we have seen so much natural beauty on our travels, for example, Monument Valley, the Grand Canyon and Sedona, that I am concerned that:

(a) I’m no longer giving each place the adoration it deserves; and

(b) that my threshold for what constitutes natural beauty has been raised and I risk being very hard to please in this area in the future. And I haven’t seen Uluru yet. Although from what I hear, being under whelmed at the sight of Uluru is not really a risk.

The point is, the most recent part of our journey has had me in a perpetual state of wonder. Flagstaff was stunning in the snow. I had really only chosen there to stop because of its proximity to the Grand Canyon but it turned out to be more than that. It’s surrounded by the San Francisco Peaks, Humphreys Peak and a Ponderosa Pine Forest. And we got to see all of the above covered in snow.

I’ve also decided that snow is a lot more fun when you’re just passing through it, as opposed to living in it. Driving through the Arizona countryside in your rental car, heaters on, marvelling at the scenery? Totally pleasant. Digging your VW Polo out of your driveway with a hand shovel in the freezing cold just so you can go to Tesco? Less fun. Not fun whatsoever, actually.

Tuesday saw us catch the Grand Canyon Railway to the Southern Rim. The train leaves from a little town around half an hour from Flagstaff called Williams and is a very pleasant way to get to the Canyon. It’s not going to set any land speed records (peaking at a blistering 40 miles per hour), but the leisurely pace gives you an opportunity to enjoy the scenery and wildlife, as well as some good old-fashioned train hospitality.

Side note: I am concerned that I just might be a train enthusiast. I gravitate toward them wherever I am. I don’t own any model railways or anything, but it is definitely my preferred mode of travel. I guess I’ll just add it to my list of secret guilty pleasures (along with Eminem, LA Ink, Tetris and KFC mashies – when the fine folks at KFC deign to grace us with their gravy-covered presence).

So we (eventually) arrived at the Grand Canyon and we immediately decided that it is absolutely a canyon worthy of the adjective ‘grand’. And we felt quite chuffed that we got to see it under clear skies but also with a smattering of snow about the place. Firstly, because of the aesthetic value and secondly, because Hoff was then able to throw snowballs into the canyon. *Sigh*, boys.

And on our return train journey we were set upon by train-robbers. I am 95% sure that this was just a ruse perpetrated by the folks at the Grand Canyon Railway. If not, they were really the least insistent robbers that I have ever had the pleasuring of encountering (and only, thankfully). Actually the whole thing was a little confusing as I wasn’t sure if it was a really creative way of asking passengers for tips. It didn’t work on us, if that was the plan. We prefer to hand our gratuities over whilst not being held at (toy) gunpoint.

On Wednesday two monumental things happened:

  1. We left Flagstaff and arrived in Phoenix, via Sedona
  2. We got out of the car and we were warm. Words cannot express how happy this made us. Until yesterday, I really felt like I had been cold for 13 straight months. Thank you, Phoenix.

Sedona deserves a special mention because it was beautiful. And as there was not locomotive-based way to enjoy the scenery (boo), we jumped in a Barbie-pink Jeep and went on a tour.

During the tour, Hoff asked our guide what kind of wildlife one might find in the mesas of Sedona and amongst other things, the guide mentioned the Road Runner. Hands up who didn’t know that Road Runners were actually real? Go on, admit it. I can’t be the only one who thought that they were purely the domain of Looney Tunes. Apparently they don’t really make that ‘meep meep’ noise, though. So confusing.

I’m quite concerned, however, that the world-famous scenery was only Hoff’s second-favourite thing about Sedona because on pulling onto Main Street, Sedona, look what we found….

A quick moment to vent: what was initially suggested as a fun game to pass the time whilst we tootle around the American countryside, for Hoff has become a full-blown compulsion. I have a few concerns on this matter, specifically:

1)   I am concerned that Hoff if missing some amazing scenery in favour of scanning each and every number plate we see for that elusive West Virginia

2)   That Hoff might secretly change our flights to stay longer so that we can complete the game and whilst we are having the time of our lives, I miss my family and friends and am very much looking forward to going home. (There is also the small matter of preseason… The Tan waits for no man)

3)   Scarily, Hoff has taken to driving around random hotel car parks in the hope of hitting number plate pay dirt and frankly, I would rather be doing other things with our quickly diminishing holiday time…

Honestly. Who would have thought that marrying a professional rugby league player would come with the baggage of epic competitiveness in every endeavour?

So here we are in Phoenix feeling warm and very excited to be surrounded by cacti. Hoff is watching Virginia Tech v Georgia Tech (and NHL in the ads) and I am pondering whether there are any other creatures that I have until this point mistaken as purely fictional. Unicorns are definitely not real… Right?

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