Flagstaff, AZ

Flagstaff, AZ is basically one big boondocking site. Free camping areas surround the city center like flies to sh…oo-fly-pie. Paired with Flagstaff’s reputation for great beer, great food, and running trails galore, we couldn’t resist the temptation of a free camping site – even when threatened with below enjoyable temperatures and probable snow squalls.

We settled on some land in the Walnut Canyon National Monument area, as we were sure the roads would be open and possibly accessible by Dyna. When we boondock, it’s a bit of a process. Rolling around the country in a 40’er has it’s perks (dance party space!), but it also has its cons (will she fit here?) So, we typically un-hook the orbiter (Jeep) a few miles before approach to a target landing pad and Jake scouts ahead to make sure the spot is Dyna worthy. He assesses functional things like turn-around areas, rutting, ground sturdiness, levelness, cell coverage, and solar viability. He considers aesthetic things like cleanliness and views. I sit in Dyna and wait for his verdict.

After some poking around, we settled on a site with slightly obstructed views of the mountains, questionable, but probable accessibility for Dyna (spoiler: she made it!), and no signs of neighbors (spoiler #2: there was a secret neighbor who only came at night and left every morning, but he was quiet).

It was pretty chilly most nights during our stay in Flagstaff, but during the day the sun gave us enough heat and solar to crawl out from under our down blankets and sweatsuits and enjoy the view out our ‘office’ windows.

Not too far down the road from our stake of land was the actual Monument part of Walnut Canyon. There are a bunch of ancient homes built into the rock cliffs of the area, and they are pretty neat to see. Also, I am a little glad that we live in ‘regular’ homes now (an RV is more regular than these homes) because I would probably have spent my entire life shitting my proverbial pants if I lived in the ancient Walnut Canyon homes. Who the heck builds their house into the face of a cliff?! There best have been some serious danger to avoid in living on the precarious cliffs of a canyon.

We also used our time in Flagstaff to partake in our 6 month teeth cleanings (ok, ok, we were a month late!) And it was during our dental cleaning visit that I ‘discovered’ (ok, searched for) Biff’s Bagels and surprised Jake with a post dental bagel breakfast. He just loves bagels for breakfast. PSYCH! That is false. He likes bagels but not as ‘full breakfast.’ Anyways, all that to say that Flagstaff has good bagels! Which is a rare find anywhere outside of NY. I guess it’s not surprising that Flagstaff has good bagels. Flagstaff is a mecca for elite runners to come train at high-altitude for the winter (MOLLY HUDDLE!!) And elite runners clearly NEED good bagels. It is known.

Diablo Burger

I also suspect that these elite runners must like good burgers, because Flagstaff has a plethora of good burger joints. Since elite runners are probably healthy, they probably get the veggie burger edition of the many varieties of tasty burger. I did that too, since in my mind I am very elite. But also because there is a local veggie burger company that seems to supply all of the veggie burgers to the plethora of burger joints and they make some damned delicious veggie burgers.

Mama Burger

We chose to patronize Mama Burger and Diablo Burger while in town. Neither disappointed. Also, don’t ask me which was better because I will not be pushed into a corner like that! Nobody pushes me into a “which was better burger” corner against my will! (Mama Burger is more ‘fast food’ vibe, whereas Diablo is more ‘smokey lighting’ vibe)

One of my favorite favorite favorite (three favorites!) parts of being in the Flagstaff, AZ area is that my friend JB (you’ll always be JessBrown to me Jess!) lives in the general vicinity. And because she’s too cool for school, both times we’ve been in the area she has made the 90 minute trek from Prescott to Flagstaff to hang out for a bit. This time she told me that she’d like to get a ‘high-altitude run’ in anyways, so she’d come up to Flag to meet-up. After JB (who really is an elite runner and not just in her mind like I am in my mind) exhausted me with a short run around Buffalo Park, we hit up some pizza and beer and reminisced about the days of Coach Love (we miss you Coach!) and NazXC. We also caught up on current life things, like the fact that JB is going to run a super fast (3:11!) marathon at Boston this year (go JB go!)

Confession: I tried to run 11 miles from our campsite into downtown Flagstaff to meet Jake for breakfast one morning. Jake ended up picking me up at mile 9.5 due to ‘slow pace’. I would make the whole ‘but Flag is at 6900′ elevation’ excuse, but let’s be real. Moral of the story: JB is elite and also I need to run more if I ever expect to be able to run JB’s easy runs with her in Flagstaff ever again.

JB and just about every single person we met in Flagstaff highly recommended a visit to Sedona while we were in the general area. Initially we considered draggin Dyna down to Sedona to find some boondocking down there, but a circumstance arose that changed that thought. The circumstance was Jeffy. And it was awesome. He decided to make an impromptu trip to from Roc to Flagstaff to hang out with us for a week, so we decided to hang tight in Flagstaff so we could more readily pick him up from the airport.

But, first, Jake and I spent a Sunday hanging out in Sedona. And it was lovely. Apparently I had been to Sedona with my mom, brother, and sister when we were young, but I don’t remember it. Which is damned insane because this place is beautiful and completely memorable. I was probably too involved in fighting with my sibling over who was touching who in the back seat of the car. I was that kind of idiot child.

This time around I had no siblings to fight with. Although I do wish they had been with me (and Jake!) again for this trip to Sedona. I wish EVERYONE EVER had been with us, because it is too awesome to show you all via photographs. There is no justice in these photos. Sedona is a place for eyes and ears and goose-prickled skin. Also, it’s a place where people like to stand on the edge of the rocks and take photos of themselves looking epic. Which makes me want to poop my pants in fear for them. And I can’t decide if it’s better to be part of the idiots who reach the top of a trail and then position their weary selves near a cliff for an epic photo, or to be part of the majority of folks who never tread farther than a 1/4mile up a trail and therefore never reach the point of those views.

Safety first, last, and always friends – never takes a holiday.

Also, apparently in Sedona you can catch a Vortex to another dimension or world or something. Which I don’t understand, because why would you want to leave Sedona? They should put the Vortex is a dumpy place like Bakersfield, CA instead. Anyways, there are entire Vortex Tours in Sedona and there is even a map if you want to do a self-guided tour. We didn’t do either, but we did hike, walk about town, and have brunch at a cafe. And I didn’t even fight with Jake about who is or isn’t touching who in the backseat of the car.

About 3 days into our Walnut Canyon boondock, we got a call from our good friend Jeffy letting us know he’d be flying out to stay with us for a week or so.

Beer & Wiring Charts

Which was super exciting, but also a little bit of a literal ‘oh shit’ moment because, oh shit – our fresh/black/gray tank usage had been worked out for two adults with self-imposed water restriction experience staying between 10-14 days in no-hook-up land. We warned Jeffy that our black tank would probably be near full upon his arrival, and showering availability would be limited for the days he joined us in Walnut Canyon. He said ‘that’s cool’.

New Neighbor

So, we put the pedal to the metal on work projects, dusted Dyna’s innards, and killed time until Jeffy arrived. One evening we killed time by drinking beer, dancing, and reviewing Dyna’s electrical charts.A  new neighbor killed some of our time for us by stopping over with his pistol and talking to me at length about a book he is writing. You don’t not listen to a guy who open carries an antique pistol when he decides to converse at length with you about the post-apocalyptic tale he is writing, but he can’t give you details on in case you steal his story. Other than that pistol and the classic butt rock music he decided to blast all day and much of the evening, he was a fine neighbor. And hey, free land campers can’t be choosers.

And then, the Jeffy arrived.

And we drank beer and re-visited Walnut Canyon National Monument ancient dwellings and ate burgers and tried really hard to conserve water and dirty water tanks.

And when our tanks were full, we packed up the cat and the Jeffy and rolled towards Williams, AZ. Because they have hook-ups and the Grand Canyon isn’t too far away.