As mentioned in my last post, I have a soft spot for the Western Hills Motel on Route 66 in Flagstaff. It is a classic roadside motel that has changed little over the decades and still features the original cheesy western themed decor. The motel is owned by a Polish family which advertises “European Hospitality” and they are indeed good hosts.
Allow me to be blunt for a moment. Many historical Route 66 motels are now owned by foreigners and they have let the places go to shit because they are cheap and lack the pride to maintain these old properties. Moreover, they have a crappy attitude towards their clients and discourage any repeat business. This is why the astute Route 66 traveler should look for motels which proudly advertise “American Owned and Operated” as it generally means the place is well kept and the hosts are gracious. It is rare to find an exception to this rule of thumb, so kudos to the Polish family who own the Western Hills Motel and have done a good job of maintaining it and taking care of their customers.
We ate a fantastic breakfast at the motel’s restaurant which is owned by a proud Greek family, so again, kudos to them. After our pseudo-European morning, it was time to motor on to a truly great southwestern experience: a ride down Highway 89A to Sedona.
I have said it once and I have said it a hundred times: the ride down Highway 89A from Flagstaff through Oak Creek Canyon to Sedona is the most breathtaking and jaw dropping ride one can experience in the USA. One passes between giant ponderosa pines in the Coconino National Forest, then through mountain grade roads and hair pin turns cut into the majestic Oak Creek Canyon which is the gateway to the stunning beauty of Sedona. This is a ride I have done countless times and it never loses its luster or magnificence.
The day was quite cloudy as a cold weather system had settled into Flagstaff earlier in the week. This ushered in a cold and wet morning, but no matter, the fog and cloud cover created a dramatic blanket over the whole canyon. A small price to pay to get some good photos.
Actually, the inclement weather and cloud cover was a blessing since it created a luminous and inspiring landscape. Over the years, I have taken many photos of Sedona under pristine skies and broad daylight, but this time it was different…there was a deep sense of drama and structure to the terrain.
The famous red rocks of Sedona are formed by a layer of rock known as the Schnebly Hill Formation. The Schnebly Hill Formation is a thick layer of red to orange-colored sandstone found only in the Sedona vicinity. The sandstone, a member of the Supai Group, was deposited during the Permian Period, approximately 298.9 ± 0.2 to 252.2 ± 0.5 (Million years ago)
Sedona is also famous for providing the backdrop to over 60 Hollywood movies from 1923 to the 1970’s. The red rocks were a fixture in major productions such as Johnny Guitar, Angel and the Badman, Desert Fury, Blood on the Moon, Harry and Tonto, the Karate Kid, Universal Soldier, and 3:10 to Yuma.
The ride from Flagstaff to Sedona also marks the transition from a mountain climate to the high desert. Flagstaff is perched at an elevation of 6,910 ft (2,106 m) and Sedona is considerably lower at an elevation of 4,326 ft (1,319 m). Gone are the tall ponderosa pines of the Coconino forest and here one finds mesquite trees, shrubs and some cacti. A mere 2,584 ft (788 m)lower and you are in a different world.
Our westward journey along Route 66 had come to end and what an incredible ride it was. The ride through Highway 89A was our last sightseeing sojourn before arriving in Sun City, Arizona to spend time with my good friends, Ray and Tammy Huston. We would spend the next few days at their home for some much needed rest, hot sunny weather, socializing and cocktails! Happy Times.