Southwest Tour 2017 Part Two: The Old Haunt

Friday, April 21

You’ll remember that I have been to Page, Arizona before.

Specifically: 10 years prior.

The summer of 2007 was full of wonder and adventure for me, a new page in a new chapter in my book of life. April, 2017 felt a lot like that, like the jaded world was wiped away and I was wide-eyed and awed again, just like when I was 15. That feeling is unlike anything, a feeling of pure joy and hopefulness.

Friday dawned bright and early with an early sunrise and many, many text messages and Facebook notifications of excitement and congratulations. Patrick was beaming too, having posted his own artsy photo of my hand in his, the ring showcased, announcing that “yes, we are engaged!”

I showered, taking my time and relaxing, started coffee, and set up my laptop with my headphones at the kitchen counter, responding to Facebook and emails while watching the latest Pretty Little Liars episode — the new season had just begun. Luckily, I had done a full through-watch in February after returning from North Carolina.

Jordan slept late (as I suspected) and once Patrick and Tyler had driven the boat from the docks to Lake Powell through the canyons, we were invited to see it (this was about noontime). We drove with some of Taira’s younger relatives, out of Page and over the Glen Canyon Dam Bridge, taking Highway 89 to Lake Shore Drive to Lone Rock Beach, Lake Powell.

The funny thing about this is that every time we drove from Page to Lone Rock Beach, we crossed the state line into Utah. Unfortunately, this meant that our clocks also changed an hour every time. Arizona doesn’t subscribe to Daylight Savings, so while it was Eastern Time + 3 hours, Utah is Eastern Time + 2 hours. So we could never tell what time it actually was. Time was irrelevant!

We drove off the highway down a long sandy road, Taira’s younger cousin driving the truck as we bumped and bounced in the sand, trying to figure out where to turn off so we didn’t get stuck in the sand. Downhill we went, rolling over spiky cacti and other plants, to the shore. Interestingly, the sand drops off steeply before reaching the water, so we actually couldn’t see where the boat was docked until we got pretty close. After that, we debated wearing shoes in the sand (it was soft and deep) and chose to keep them on due to spiky things.

Lone Rock Beach is a camping spot, so there were plenty of campers and tents on the beach as well.

We reached the houseboat while the boys were busy anchoring it, tethering lines into deep holes in the sand.

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Anchoring lines!
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It’s not that warm
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Lone Rock is Lone Rock

The sun was hot, but the water was cold, just like it was ten years before.

Pat gleefully told me he was able to help drive the houseboat (he has had his boating license for over 10 years) through the canyons and to the beach along with Taira’s sister’s husband, a boat captain.

Thanks to Evan, the boat was also decorated nicely with lights. There was a kitchen, bathroom, and living room on the main floor, along with a couple bedrooms, and a staircase led to the top, where there was a bar and jacuzzi and plenty of seating along the back.

 

We just needed to get lunch, as we hadn’t eaten yet, but we also had to get ready for Evan and Taira’s “rehearsal dinner,” which wasn’t so much a rehearsal as it was a meet and greet for all the family to gather and mingle and discuss details for the next morning.

So, the thing about Page is that it’s small and easy to navigate, seeing as there’s like one main drag through the middle of town and the outskirts are basically just residential areas. S. Lake Powell Blvd winds through in a huge backwards L shape. Honestly, the furthest part of town is the McDonald’s, which is like ten minutes away. S. Lake Powell Blvd turns into N. Lake Powell Blvd which hooks up with Highway 89, where it crosses the Glen Canyon Dam Bridge or heads south, toward Horseshoe Bend.

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Also, I don’t know if Page is secretly the Farmington Valley in disguise, but there’s both a Coppermine Rd. AND a housing section called Vermillion (where I live, Vermillion Drive boasts mansions).

Also YES: Page does boast some punny things, like the Dam Bar and Grille.

While I can’t find it on Google Maps (a lot of things in Page are closed in the winter and during off-season), Blue Coffee and Wine Bar is where Evan and Taira held their rehearsal dinner. It’s on another of the “main drags” in Page — S. Navajo Drive. The staff, the food, and the drinks were amazing. They did a great job accommodating us, they had drinks ready for us, and they did a buffet style dinner with many delicious foods including fish tacos (my first time trying them!) and Swedish meatballs. Everything was amazing. I hope it’s still open 😦

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Evan and Taira thanked everyone for coming and went over details for the following morning, such as what time to wake up, what the walk to Horseshoe Bend would be like, and what to wear since it would be cold and pre-sunrise. What to expect? Well, it would be in the 50s and the sun would be just rising as the ceremony began in order to get the best lighting, and once we parked in the parking lot, we had about a mile to walk — downhill in sand on the way there, and uphill in sand on the way back.

Gulp! I would wear sneakers under my maxi skirt, then.

After the “rehearsal dinner” was mostly over and we had chatted for a while with Aunt Cori and Tom, we decided to stay awhile and drink more. We talked to our waitress about how quiet it was in Blue, which startled us, because back home in Connecticut, places like Blue are extremely popular and always busy on a Friday night.

We ate some of Blue’s yummy small plates and then debated where to go next — State 48, a kind of barry bar and restaurant, Big John’s Texas BBQ, or somewhere else? Our waitress listed a few places for us, and we decided on the Windy Mesa, which is close to the Lake Powell Motel.

Well.

The Windy Mesa is the diviest of dive bars. I mean, townie bar. I mean, Indian blanket-covered-stage with country band performing live, static-filled TVs showing hockey (well at least that’s something), dude-ranch style chairs and tables, a checkerboard dance floor, and Grand Canyon Beer for only a few dollars. According to Jordan, it wasn’t that good. And the clientele is pretty much all Navajo. I think there were pool tables too, to complete the dive bar look.

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Photo courtesy of J. D. Rose’s Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/23738015@N07/4154789128

We didn’t stay out too late. We had an early morning — like think pre-5 a.m. morning — Taira and her bridal party would be up even earlier for hair, makeup, and making bouquets. Yikes.

We did our best to sleep well, but the truth is that the noise outside the window and the anxiety of getting up on time kept us from it.

Saturday, April 22

Wedding Day.

Obviously it was dark when we got dressed. I had minimal “warm” clothes to wear, having spent all week in hot places in the Southwest, so my warmest was my cardigan. I considered throwing a blanket on as a shawl over my cardigan, but decided against it. I didn’t have a single sweatshirt (besides my zip-up hoodie which isn’t very warm), but I did have my maxi skirt and leggings, socks and sneakers. Pat dressed in pants and a warm hiking jacket.

We had about a 15-20 minute drive to Horseshoe Bend, which is further south down the Colorado River than Glen Canyon Dam. Horseshoe Bend is so-named because it is a large U-shaped bend that has a horseshoe appearance, like that of an Oxbow Lake (which sometimes can form after a U-bend disconnects from its parent river).

What makes Horseshoe Bend spectacular, however, is that the river can be seen one of two ways: from a cliff 1,000 feet above, or from below, on the river itself. Inside the “horseshoe” of the river, a roundish sandstone canyon wall sits by itself, isolated from everything else.

Taira was not kidding about the mile-ish hike. And we did indeed sink into the sands as we walked, trying to keep warm as the sun was just peeking above the horizon.

 

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It was soft, hazy dawn light, keeping the heat at bay. In order to get the best lighting for pictures, we had to be ready to have the ceremony just before official sunrise.

Evan and Jordan waited at the cliff. There is no guardrail, no anything to stop you from falling, by the way — just don’t stand too close to the edge.

Around us, curious hikers were waiting for the sunrise too, unaware that a wedding ceremony was going to take place.

After the guests had all settled into place, we saw the bridesmaids and Taira walking down the trail, Taira hidden behind her ‘maids, all of them wearing beautiful, gauzy, soft pink dresses and shawls. Taira was the most beautiful of them all — because she always is, she really is beautiful! — in a white leotard top under a multilayered pink skirt. I couldn’t tear my eyes away.

The ceremony was read by a family friend, who told us all that Evan and Taira had wanted their ceremony to take place at a beautiful location they had never been before, which they would see together for the first time on their wedding day.

The tears!

Taira and Evan read their own vows, both heartfelt and promising, and exchanged rings. Photos ensued as the sun rose over the canyon.

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We left to grab breakfast before our Antelope Canyon tour in the afternoon. We also wanted to take a nap before we had to leave in order to refresh, and to change of course. After the Canyon tour, they would take more pictures and we would meet up for the reception back on the houseboat.

We went to McDonald’s again for breakfast — shocker! I needed coffee and hashbrowns in my life, among other things. We did take a nap, and then headed off for the tour. In Page, I bought my typical souvenir — a shotglass.

After a Navajo Hoop Dance demonstration, it was time for the tour. We took a rickety, rockety bus to Antelope Canyon, bouncing over the desert at precarious speeds. Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon, on Navajo lands, so all tours are led by the Navajo people. It’s an erosion of sandstone due to flash flooding, as you will see by the scours and swirls in the rock. As our guide explained, a flash flood in August, 1997 killed eleven tourists, caused by a storm over seven miles away upstream. Today, tourists are not allowed in the canyons unless on a guided tour.

The canyon is narrow and unbelievably beautiful, shaped by the roaring waters that carry dirt and sand and rocks with them. I shall let the pictures speak for themselves.

 

We ate Mexican food for lunch because — of course we did! We were in Arizona, after all! The name of the restaurant, which was on the main drag, of course, was El Tapatio.

After lunch, we rested and changed into warmer clothes for the wedding reception, which would be held on the houseboat on Lake Powell. Unfortunately, the warmest clothes I had were also what I wore to the wedding – a maxi skirt and cardigan.

After driving the fifteen minutes and trekking through the cold sand, we made it onto the brightly lit deck of the houseboat. Everyone else (to my chagrin) was wearing sweatshirts and comfy pants rather than dressing up for the reception. The houseboat was even equipped with a hot tub, but we hadn’t brought our swimsuits with us.

The reception was catered and the food was an interesting (but delicious) combo of many different small plates like sushi and finger sandwiches. We brought our own liquor, but their was even a bartender on board. We spent the evening singing, dancing, and hanging out together until it was time for Evan and Taira’s cake cutting and first dance. They danced to a country song, and cut their cake (delicious!) and before we knew it, we were gazing at a sky full of stars in a sky unlike anything Patrick (but which I had) seen before.

Goodnight, Lone Rock; Goodnight Lake. Goodnight Wedding; Goodnight partiers staying awake. Goodnight bartender; Goodnight sand; Goodnight desert and rocky land.

Sunday, April 23

After blearily packing up our motel and checking out, we drove one final time to Lone Rock to say goodbye to Evan, Taira, and Jordan, hugging them and discussing our very, very preliminary wedding plans. They were off to a well-deserved tropical honeymoon to relax after a very eventful week, and we had a four-hour drive ahead of us, back to Vegas to drop our car and catch our plane.

We waved goodbye to the dunes, lake, and canyons of the Utah/Arizona border, and took the exact route back to Vegas that we had driven on Thursday: back over the abandoned landscape past Zion and through the cliffs where we had sat in standstill traffic.

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At the two hour mark, we stopped for lunch at Red Robin. A funny thing about Red Robin is that I can remember the exact day and time that I had last eaten it: Sunday, March 8, 2009, at like 5:30 p.m. My dad took me and my brothers to eat there because youngest brother Ryan had just lost in the hockey state championships. To cheer him up, Dad had Ryan pick a place to eat and Red Robin was it.

Dad ate a pineapple barbecue burger.

Less than 24 hours later he died.

I had vowed then never to eat at Red Robin again, and I didn’t — for eight years. Until we decided to stop that day and I glanced at the ring on my finger (again) and thought, well, that’s a silly vow; I just returned to Arizona for the first time in 10 years. I should just eat it because it tastes good. Put the past in the past.

And so we ate there on Sunday, April 23, halfway between Lake Powell and Vegas. And yes — it was as amazing as I remembered.

Two hours later, we were pulling back into the New York, New York Hotel. The last time we were here, it was just an ordinary day. But now I was an new woman — engaged to the man I loved, walking back through the same hallways and down the escalators.

Whether we were rushing along with people that were experiencing their first moments in Vegas — that jolt of adrenaline, that awe and that childlike joy, that realization that this is something quite incredible and the whole world is open to you — or whether we were amongst those who, like us, were trotting begrudgingly home, knowing the plane takes off at X time but you just wish you could miss it — we will never know.

We Ubered to the airport (with a better driver this time) and still had plenty of time to gamble on the slot machines until it was time to line up and board. Fancy this: I actually won $15 (started with $20 and won $35). I could have kept going, but cashed out while I was up. Hey, I won in Vegas!

We watched a gorgeous desert sunset from our flight to L.A.X.

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Our one hour flight to Los Angeles landed with barely any time to spare. When we landed and deplaned, our red eye flight to Connecticut was already boarding and we rushed to get in line. We hoped our suitcases made it.

Our red eye was efficient – only like 5.5 hours — but Eastern time was three hours ahead.

Hoo boy.

Monday, April 24

I luckily was able to sleep at least 2/3 of the flight home (with earphones in) and awoke somewhere in Massachusetts with about 30 minutes to go. Patrick watched movies. We landed at about 4:30 a.m. Connecticut time — gosh darned time zones — because they were three hours ahead, it still felt to us like it was the middle of the night. I always used to feel like going west affected me much worse, but I definitely don’t recommend coast-to-coast redeyes. Especially when you have to work the next day at 2 p.m.

We stood at the luggage carousel for some time but our luggage didn’t make it.

Of course!

So then we stood in line with customer service and the woman tracked our suitcases — they were put on a flight to Charlotte which would reach Connecticut a little later, and then the suitcases would be delivered to our house. Great.

We drove home in relative silence. The early spring dawn mists were just starting to dissipate from our valley. The sleepy town was just starting to wake up — to go to school, to go to work. I had a lot of people to see, and a lot of phone calls to make. I had a brand-new ring and a whole new world ahead of me.

But for now, I thought, settling into the car, it’s time to catch up on sleep.

The End

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