Between the cactus mountains of the Tonto National Forest and its snow-capped plateaus further northeast, I realized Arizona is a beautiful state.
I really hadn’t thought much about it before. I had identified Arizona as Greater Phoenix, Tucson, and the Flagstaff / Grand Canyon area. Even after visiting Sedona, I have never stopped thinking about the totality of the splendor of the state. I apologize. And I realized I needed to see more.
Trish the Dish and I left Scottsdale on Sunday morning, but our adventures in Arizona weren’t over. The drive to Holbrook to connect to Interstate 40 in northeast Arizona was spectacular. The Tonto National Forest is beautiful. To the south it is literally a forest of cacti, many of which are 20 and 30 feet tall, many of them with five or six branches.
The Mazatzal Mountains are rocky and barren and beautiful. I knew Phoenix was called the Valley of the Sun, but too often we focus on the sun part and not the valley part. But Phoenix is truly surrounded by exquisite mountains.
When we arrived in Payson, a mountain town of about 15,000 people, the topography changed. The cacti have largely disappeared, replaced by the pine forest. And the cool weather in Scottsdale all week had brought heavy snow farther north. So much snow that all kinds of families pulled up on the shoulder of the two-lane highway for the children to play in the white. Some even built snowmen.
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Finally, we left the forest to return to a desert region. Less mountainous but still at high altitude.
At Holbrook, we reached I-40 and resumed the superspeedway portion of the trip. In New Mexico, the Gallup-Albuquerque stretch that we had only seen in the dark. But it was beautiful in broad daylight, with one magnificent bluff after another. I can never get tired of these giant mountains.
Sunday Drive on satellite radio made the time pass fast again, with constant updates on professional football, although this week it didn’t seem to keep you up to date as well as it did last week. Maybe because there were too many good games.
We arrived in Albuquerque after dark and found a Mexican restaurant in Monroe. My boyfriend, Erik Gee, worked on Albuquerque Radio for years and suggested it. I had a combo platter which included a chili relleno, which hit the spot. As a bonus, we met some OSU fans who were also returning from the Cowboys’ victory at the Fiesta Bowl. At Monroe’s, we decided to continue to Amarillo, a four hour drive away, which would make a long night but a short trip back on Monday.
We had a room in the Courtyard in downtown Amarillo, which is in an old bank. On Monday leaving we drove through vintage downtown Amarillo which has a certain charm. We found a unique drive-in, Elmo’s, for a nice cheeseburger lunch and took I-40 for the return trip, hoping we’ll be back soon to see more of Arizona’s wonders.
Berry Tramel: You can reach Berry at 405-760-8080 or [email protected] It can be heard Monday through Friday, 4:40 p.m. to 5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of fellow Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Fiesta Bowl Travel Blog: Arizona’s beauty ranges from cacti to snow