Leaving the Grand Canyon, I opted for a slightly slower, but more direct road back to Flagstaff to the East. It turned out to be far quieter, and much more scenic. I hadn’t really thought about snowy mountains out here, but between the Grand Canyon and Flagstaff was the snow capped volcano of Humphreys Peak.


Rolling into Flagstaff, it just had that feel of a lively place. It felt younger, and more energetic. But, before I got too engrossed in checking out the town, I wanted to get a quick mountain bike ride in before it got too cold and dark. It was already borderline too cold, but there was still light. 

Also, there was something about the town that just didn’t feel like Arizona. It felt alpine, with pine trees, and mountains, and granite rocks – not the red rock and desert that I’d come to associate with Arizona.

I never really know what to expect when I ride in a new area. There are trail maps, and there are reviews and ratings on trails, but is one person’s idea of what makes something difficult the same as your own perspective? Sometimes I see trails rated as black diamond, not due to the technical difficulty, but rather the physical endurance. So, when I saw a little trail network that was a patch of green and blue, I felt pretty confident giving them a go.

What I found was a rough and rocky battle, with frequent interruptions that forced me to hop off the bike frequently. Maybe I was just tired, but I wasn’t really ‘feeling’ it today.

I had booked accommodation in Hotel Monte Vista, which looked like a pretty historic hotel – supposedly it’s haunted. There was a gorgeous bar downstairs, but due to covid restrictions, it remained closed – though, there were still plenty of other bars/restaurants open in town.

Day Eight

Undeterred by the rather unsuccessful ride yesterday, I attempted my luck again today. However, instead of my bike and skills being defeated by rocks, my body was thoroughly defeated by the temperatures. It was -8C, and I just didn’t have enough clothes to keep me warm. I could wear a down jacket, but my fingers and toes just wouldn’t be able to cope.

So, rather than suffer, we decided to head back down and ride in Sedona again – we had to return through Sedona to return Jane’s rental bike today anyway.


It was amazing that a 1hr drive down the canyon from Flagstaff would take us from well below zero, to nearly t-shirt temperatures. Sure, it was now also later in the day, but it was still difficult for my brain to accept.

There were still quite a few areas I hadn’t ridden, and I conveniently had a quick route created in the southwest of the city, near the Thunder Mountain Bikes store where Jane rented her bike. I was actually kind of happy to be back here in Sedona. The views are just incredible.

We parted ways, allowing her to go at her own pleasure pace, and I took off trying to stretch my legs one more time. 

Anyway, my planned route ended at a river, which didn’t really look like it was supposed to be crossed. I tried for a while to find a bridge, or a shallower way across, but no success, and ended up just cutting the ride short – which was for the best really.

There were definitely a few more loose and technical sections in this area, and maybe the fatigue of a week of travel was setting in, as I had a few little moments of panic when I misjudged/timed some of the trails.

For a town as small as Sedona, it’s amazing how long it takes to drive from one side to the other, with gridlock where the crossroads converge in the centre of town.


Between Sedona and Prescott stood little leftover Jerome. It was once a copper mine (heck, maybe it still is), but it has been through boom, and bust, and is now a bit of a historic relic. 

The town kinda pops out of nowhere, with a cluster of houses, hotels and other larger historic buildings – and of course, the scars of open cut mining.

I didn’t end up stopping to walk around town, but driving through it looks like it’s got a haunted town vibe to it, with ghost tours, and plenty of historic looking buildings. It might have been fun, but it also looked a little tacky.


I’d signed up for a mountain bike race here in Prescott, but, like most events in 2020, it was cancelled. The race really built the town up as a bit of a party town, with a lively set of historic bars in the centre of town. I kinda wanted to come and ride the course anyway, so it seemed like a fun little addition to the trip.

The centre of town did indeed feature a cluster of historic bars, called Whisky Row. Like Jerome, Prescott had been a boom town, but it was decades earlier with gold and silver. It was also occasionally the Arizona state capital, so there were some rather stately older buildings in the centre of town, too.

It was also reminding me of the stark contrast to the (very) liberal rules and behaviours in San Francisco. Masks were still worn here for the most part, but, it certainly felt a lot more contentious – unlike San Francisco where it was just accepted.

There were also a lot more signs of politics here, with (small) demonstrations against the results of the recently decided 2020 Presidential Election, and generally more Trump paraphernalia. It’s still something that I find strange to see.

Anyway, there was no shortage of options for dining, but ended up settling on the historic Palace Saloon. Story tells it that during a fire that broke out on the block, regulars at the bar helped to carry out the (enormous and ornate) wooden bar to save it from destruction. 

It was a gorgeous interior, and the waitstaff were all dressed in theme (the women as saloon dancers, no less). Food was decent, too, so not sure what else you could ask for.

Day Nine

As I mentioned earlier, I had signed up to race the 50 mile version of the Whiskey Off-Road race here in Prescott. When I signed up, I had no idea where Prescott was, but the race sounded ‘fun’. It was a mixed feeling having it cancelled, as the race was going to be pretty taxing physically, plus a bit of a challenge to get to. But, since I was in the area anyway, it was a great excuse to come and ride (a shorter version of) the course.

It was freezing when I left home. In fact, it was actually sub-zero when I intended to leave, but I just faffed around long enough that the temperatures were at least positive by the time I finally got on the bike.

It was a pretty physically demanding course, with a long climb that seemed to get steeper and steeper, before dropping into what felt like hours of single-track.

Some of the trails were beautifully groomed and smooth – others were loose chunky rock that had me holding on and hoping for the best.

I had the route saved on my bike computer, but even so, following it proved to be quite difficult – I blame whoever created the route not making something accurate. It had me scrambling through bushes, as well as plenty of back-tracking to work out where I was supposed to be.

But, it was a blast to be riding somewhere so very different. So much so that I totally neglected to even pull my phone out to take a single photo! Oops.

I passed on having a shot of whiskey at the end of the ride though, which is meant to be a race tradition – I excused myself that this wasn’t a race today.

We returned to central Prescott again in the afternoon, and there was (at least in my mind) a strange amount of antique stores in town. There was a street with nothing but antiques and curios. Some were a little tacky/trashy, but there were some truly stunning native American arts and products.

I was absolutely fascinated with the Hopi kachina dolls. They had the most elaborate and creative masks, reminding me of something I’d see in a video game (I couldn’t think of the Legend of Zelda – Majora’s Mask). I really wanted to buy a whole collection of them – but, there just isn’t a space for them in my apartment.

Day Ten

I had a few hours in the morning, so managed to cram in one final ride before checking out, and making our way to Phoenix airport. 

Once again, it was freezing – and this time I couldn’t just sit around and wait for it to warm up, so just had to put on all my warmest layers, and go for it!

Today was a lot less technical than yesterday, with a lot more ‘flow’.

I accidentally loaded the wrong map, and went a little further than I was supposed to, so I had to rush to get back in time (and quickly wash/pack/checkout). Totally worth the added stress though!


On the way to Phoenix, we stopped to make a little detour to visit Arcosanti. Arcosanti was a bit of a design experiment, trying to build a small town in an ecological manner. There were all sorts of interesting design/construction ideas that went into this vision, including the orientation to maximise sun/shade, and local materials that help the building blend into the landscape.

I don’t want to say commune, because it sounds like it was more of a school, where people came to learn and experiment with different building techniques.

Unfortunately they were only partially open, allowing visitors to walk through a portion of one of the main buildings (and gift shops), but no tours or guides were taking place at the time (due to covid restrictions). Under different circumstances they actually offer lodging here, too, which would be a great experience.

Walking a little beyond the buildings, and looking back at the ‘town’ from a far, it was really amazing to see just how varied, yet oddly cohesive it all looked. I guess there was the common construction material, plus the use of circular windows set against angular concrete.

The on-going construction is mostly funded by the sale of these beautiful cast bronze bells and chimes, which had all manner of elements embedded into their casting. The exterior of the buildings were lined with these chimes, and it was for once something that was actually enjoyable to listen to. Sadly they were a few hundred dollars a piece, so a little out of my budget for my little apartment.

It was a strange little location, seemingly in the middle of nowhere – but, that was probably the intent.

And so ended another great birthday vacation. Having a birthday here around Thanksgiving really makes it convenient to travel – as long as you can avoid all the peak prices for airfares for what is one of the busiest times of year to fly!