Colors of the Southwest

Sedona and Las Vegas are five hours and a world apart.
By Sally Moe

Statuesque red rock formations cast deep velvet shadows you could get lost in. Mountains change color from mauve to periwinkle in the waning light of the setting sun. Blue-faced men in suits pound a wall of drums while a rainbow-bright neon forest drinks up more electricity than a Third World country.


Above: Awesome natural beauty of Sedona can be captured on a photo safari. Sedona CVB photo

Below: The Strip in Vegas glows in neon glory at night. AAA file photo

Las Vegas Strip

This is the desert Southwest, home of single-digit humidity, quirky cacti and ancient tribal artifacts. Whether you crave dreamlike scenery, a taste of ancient mysticism, pounding nightlife or an Eden of peace and quiet, you’ll it all here.

Without question, Arizona is a melting pot of scenic variety. Across the state, dramatic rockscapes, ancient petroglyphs and postcard moments abound in Monument Valley, Canyon de Chelly and Antelope Canyon, the state’s most photographed slot canyon. You won’t feel like you’re on Earth anymore when you set eyes on the other-wordly badlands and fossils of the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park. Near Winslow is the 50,000-year-old Barringer meteor crater that’s massive enough to accommodate 20 football games and 2 million spectators all at once. Due north of Phoenix is Jerome, a former mining town that was a breath away from being read its last rites until 1960s-era creatives and counterculture types discovered its rugged beauty and dirt-cheap rents. From the Asylum Restaurant’s Wine Bar and Wine Spectator award to the Jerome Artist’s Cooperative to historic home tours, you won’t believe what they’ve done with their little town on Cleopatra Hill.

For the ultimate surprise, drive to the Arizona-California border where you’ll find the improbable yet authentic London Bridge, purchased from London in 1968. Dismantled and relocated to Lake Havasu City, the bridge–dubbed the most expensive antique in the world–connects the city to an island and lends a droll air of authenticity to the English-style village that has sprung up around it.

Between Phoenix and Sedona is the futuristic Arcosanti Project. The brainchild of distinguished architect Paolo Soleri, this avant-garde project reflects his concept of “arcology”–cities that embody the fusion of architecture and ecology. Construction began in 1970 and the community’s profile continues to evolve. Overnight stays can be arranged and guided tours are offered daily.

Would you like to rebalance your electromagnetic field or have your aura photographed? Interested in a past life regression? New age excavations and therapies such as these have long been a draw in Sedona but for many of us, just feasting our spirit on the city’s magnificent surroundings would be therapy enough.

Not that you have to stop at that. There’s plenty to do for anyone with a pinch of gumption. Strap on your hiking shoes, grab a camera, attach one of the area’s hiking paths (choose from more than 20) and you have the beginnings of a photo safari. Channel the soothing–or energizing–forces of the area’s famed vortexes on a vortex tour, quite possibly a Sedona original. Hop onto the quaint Sedona Trolley to see the highlights including the dramatic chapel of the Holy Cross. Wreck the seat of your jeans rushing down the natural 30-foot water slide in Slide Rock State Park for big fun. Explore the less trodden spaces of Montezuma Castle National Monument south of Sedona or the dusty corners of your wallet at Tlaquepaque, a charming shopping, dining and entertainment village. Gently lift off in a hot-air balloon for a floating tour of red rock country, awash in the first light of dawn and top it off with a champagne breakfast for two.

Accommodations stop at all points between rustic cabins and ultra sophisticated spa retreats. Oh please. What are you waiting for?

William Blake said, “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom,” and if he was right, then Las Vegas will get you there in a nanosecond.

But you’re not in it for the wisdom are you? It’s for the excess, like the sights of The Strip from the moonroof of a limo. Experience negative G-forces on a rollercoaster that hurtles you around and through your hotel at speeds close to 70 mph. Feast on a brunch buffet at midnight in New York, take a serenaded gondola ride through Venice at sunset or play blackjack in Paris at dawn.

Vegas is the nonstop party and explosive sensory overload of the Freemont Street Experience, a pedestrian promenade in the throbbing neon heart of the city.

Scads of people arrive in Vegas every day with the full expectation that they will be kissing their money goodbye. But why not have a little bling to show for it? Retain some of the Vegas glamour at the Forum Shops at Caesar’s. Grand Canal Shops at the Venetian are another stop for serious shoppers. Pay a visit on your first day when you still have money.

So get going. The palace of wisdom is expecting you.

Sally Moe is a senior copywriter and graphic artist for AAA Going Places magazine in Tampa.

Nov/Dec 2008 Issue


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