What I learned

We arrived home nearly a week ago from a much needed getaway to the furthest south I’d ever been. And as with all places, I can’t wait to return to Arizona one day. When I go again, I’d like to see Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. They were on my list to see this time but would have added a couple more hours driving during the first leg of our trip. Through a little research, it’s just as far to those areas from Vegas as it is from Mesa so when I book a trip to Vegas, I may opt to take a day or two detour that way.

I’d also love to return to Sedona one day. The city is surrounded by so much healing and peaceful energy. No wonder retirees flock there.

I read something recently that mentioned spending time with your mom helps her live a longer and happier life. Not only do I agree with that, but I think the opposite is true too. This was our 4th year of mother/daughter trips and each time I learn so much more about myself, about her, and about the world. More than I could have ever imagined.

This is the first trip we went on that I didn’t blog each day but if you’re reading this from my blog, I post-dated our adventures. I kept a running list and outline of all the feels and things we encountered so I could be more in the moment with my mom and less in the computer.


Something I haven’t mentioned in my travel posts this trip, was my moms health. Starting the first day of our trip, my mom experienced a shortness of breath but we weren’t too concerned with it. Or at least, I wasn’t. In my research, I had read that with such drastic altitude changes (the drive from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon specifically), we might experience some of that. To combat it, my reading told me to take breaks often, not to overexert ourselves, and to stay hydrated. All of which we did.

I didn’t have much trouble at all during the Grand Canyon adventure but looking back, she had made quite a few references to feeling winded.

Throughout the rest of our trip, this shortness of breath continued. She explained it like taking a big deep breath at the doctors office when they’re listening to your lungs but not being able to. Going through the motions of breathing in deep, but not being able to actually breath in deep.

Once we returned from our trip, back to our home level of flatlander altitude, she still wasn’t better. Trouble breathing paired with wheezing regardless of what she was doing. My mom did find herself at the doctors office after a couple days being back home. They gave her a steroid shot and a nebulizer treatment. They also set up up with an x-ray and an echo-cardiogram followed by making her an appointment with a pulmonary specialist because everything to this point came back inconclusive.

In short, she learned that her lungs are functioning at 68% capacity. At this time, it doesn’t sound like they know how or why this happened. Perhaps the sudden symptoms came on from the adjustment in air density or something else? My mom doesn’t think she’s ever been at full lung capacity; she worked in a factory as a young adult and grew up in a smoking household. With the shot and the nebulizer treatments, the doctors hope that her lung capacity increases. I believe she has a couple of follow up appointments and will be retested this summer to see if that 68% can increase to 75% or greater.

This situation put the blessing of life into greater perspective for me. While I learned a lot about myself on this trip, I unknowingly learned a lot about my mom and her level of perseverance. I internally applauded my mom when she unashamedly went swimming while on vacation and continue to be in awe of how she carries herself in the world, how she raised me and my brothers almost single-handedly on her own. While some people want to provide better lives for their children then they had, I want to grow up to be just like her. I want to love and be a positive influence for my future babies the same way she has been for me. I want to instill values and genuine goodness in them. I want them to look at me the way I look at her; forever in her debt. I’ll never be able to thank her, or my dad, properly for being our parents but I’ll forever know how incredibly blessed I am to have them both.

Day 4: That palm tree life, tho.

As first time car rental people, we, for whatever reason returned our vehicle a day earlier. Actually, I know the reason. We figured it’d be easier to return it now so we don’t have to have one more thing to do at the crack of dawn tomorrow morning. We probs should have kept the rental because we may or may not have spent $65+ on Lyfts today AND we would have probably gone to more places had said Lyfts not cost so much.

But, we did have a pretty cool driver on one of the trips, her name was Yamil and she was pretty pumped that we decided to hit up In-N-Out, which by comparison is far tastier than Jack in the Box. Both, tbh, are a bit overrated but not as overrated as Chick-fil-A. Okay, that’s enough about chain restaurants.

By the way slash FYI, I think Arizona’s Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport only permits Lyft, not Uber, to taxi people to and from the airport. They have a monopoly of promotions in the bag claim area. I found it interesting. I didn’t bother trying to get an Uber just because I have both on my phone and figured if Lyfts bubblegum pink signage was going to be glaring at me, I should take it as a literal sign.

Damn, what a bunch of rambles! Ha!

Today was our chill day. We’re not here long and we front-loaded our trip with a lot of things in a short amount of time. The purpose of this trip was part to escape the cold and part to relax and breathe in fresh air. Because of that, we slept until we woke up and then headed to the hotel pool. The Arizona sky was a tad overcast and cooler than we both expected, I think. But we spent an hour or maybe a bit more down by the pool soaking in the rays of sunlight peeking through the clouds. We both swam and floated for awhile on this quiet Tuesday morning. It was nice.

I do wish I exuded the confidence my mom seems to have. We’ve both struggled with our weight our entire lives. Her, a little later in life than me, but still a struggle all the same. I don’t know if it’s an age thing or a feeling of security in life but she doesn’t seem to give a flying F what people think of her as a person, or even, how she looks. I mean, we all have self-esteem issues and a lot of us, women especially, struggle with our body image. My mom does too. But when it comes down to it, if she wants to go into the pool, she’ll go TF in the pool. I wish I was more like her. To say “who cares” if anyone sees you.

I, on the other hand, feel like I need to make a very strategic and well thought-out path towards the pool. Never embarrassed of my parents or others in life but always embarrassed of myself. Not only am I outside of my comfortable ‘spanx induced coma of regular clothes’ but I’m in a revealing swimsuit. My bathing suit is cute AF, not going to lie. But still not lying, it’s cuter on the bed next to a floppy hat and sunglasses than it is on me. I map out the path I’ll need to take to get into the water, scan the pool area to see what everyone is doing; I want to make sure literally everyone is preoccupied as I make my escape from sunbathing chair to the steps of the pool. I imagine myself getting up, how long it’ll take, how I’ll remove my shorts and tank exposing my swimsuit. I psychoanalyze what people will think of me or whisper to one another when they see me swimming with my big fat arms. I will not lifelessly float, belly up because #whalewatch.

I know this all sounds self-deprecating. It’s not meant to be. It’s more of a self-awareness exercise; an observation of how I view myself and assume others do to. Something I want to change.

Even with all that running through my head, I managed to get into the pool and loved it. I love the water and I love swimming. I’d swim every day if those insecurities didn’t torment my mind and emotions.

After we swam and sunbathed for awhile, we visited Hole in the Rock at Papago Park. We really didn’t know what to do today. There were loads of things I think we would have ventured to had I planned the day out a bit more and kept our rental but I think we ended up really enjoying this place.

Hole in the Rock looks “meh” from the ground but a spiraled hike up proves otherwise. The jaunt wasn’t too bad, honestly it was one of the easier ones my mom and I have done in the last couple years. Getting into the hole itself was more difficult than the climb. The view was pretty cool too. Being that high up and observing everything below really gave me a sense for how vast everything is in the world compared to what our eyes can see.

By this time, the clouds had parted from earlier in the day exposing a baby blue sky and refreshing amount of sunshine. After hanging out at the Hole in the Rock formation for a bit, we made our way back down and walked around the park, taking a break or three from being warm and a little afraid of heat exhaustion.

We found ourselves ending our trip in the park stationed on a cut down palm tree trunk fashioned into a chair. We were seated facing a pond and watched the duck families hang out and paddle their way across the cool water. We observed some people across the way getting excited about catching a few fish. We sat in quiet and peace for a bit just enjoying where we were at that moment in life.

Tomorrow we go home. This trip has been short, but it’s been good.

Day 3: If you ever have the chance, always choose the scenic route.

Back at it again in the Coconio National Forest. We ventured south and slightly west from Flagstaff to Sedona today and then on to Mesa. Remember a couple days ago when I said I need to enhance my personal dictionary? Yeah, I’m having those same feels again today. I’m a rural Minnesota girl. I grew up surrounded by trees and summers fishing off the dock in my grandma’s back yard. I know pretty when I see it. Granted, it’s not difficult to impress me in that capacity but consider me overwhelmed in all the best ways today.

There are two main ways to get yourself from Flagstaff, which is basically a retirement community, to Sedona. You can be a Meh Mary by taking I-17 and then some crossroad highway like some kind of non-adventurer OR you can take the scenic route along 89A which is approximately 50 miles or for us, nearly 3 hours. #notevenbeingdramatic #wowafterwow #icannotbelievethis #notgoinghome

You guys. Not to take a single descriptive sentence away from the Grand Canyon’s glory that I witnessed yesterday but I can’t even begin to explain the trek to Sedona this morning. After yesterday, the rest of our trip was very loosely planned. We wanted to see the GC and we wanted to relax a bit poolside, back in Mesa. We expected to take our time today and see what Sedona had to offer but had very little info about what was up from here to there and all that lies in between.

We began our descent on SR 89A through Oak Creek Canyon right after checking out of our hotel. I’ve never ever been on a descent like this. The road was thin, I suspect semi-trucks aren’t allowed to travel this route. The pine tree forests were the skyscrapers of our day and jagged rocks hugged the not-actually-there shoulder of the road on both sides. Thankfully, there were pull-offs all along the road so I could get out, gaze up and then down, until my neck ached. As the driver, I was both white-knuckling my steering wheel and looking as far up as I possibly could to take in what we were seeing and what was to come below us. Thank you Jesus for our angels today guiding us along that road. There were more hairpin turns than I could count twisting us in circles and the tree lines were so dramatic, I wish you could have seen them.

While briefly scanning the wold wide web this morning, I came across a blog post that said you have to go up and then down SR 89-A so that each person can get a chance to see the drive and remain in awe the entire time. Now that I’m writing this, I can’t seem to track that post down but if I come back across it, I’ll be sure to share. From the natural springs to the wildlife and rock formations; there isn’t a single second you could possibly lose interest along this route. It’s simply incredible from top to bottom.

There were a handful of trails along today’s route that we could have, should have, stopped at. A walk to explore would have been nice. We didn’t realize it until after we passed, but within Coconio National Forest, along this road, lies Slide Rock State Park. By the time we realized the sign and entrance, we were just passed it and were in the lead of what seemed like a million cars. I wish there had been a secondary entrance or a sign 1/4 mile back for us to know what was coming up.

Along one of the places we pulled off on, was Midgley Bridge. I stopped there just to take in the sites. The closer we got to Sedona, the more and more red rocks we saw. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, this region of the United States is severely underrated. I’ve always thought of Arizona as a place that people head to when they are retired. That snow bird life and all. All of our grandparents have been hiding this sacred gem of a state from us. How dare they! Also, maybe AZ tourism needs to up their game. Holla at your girl and I’ll help you out!


We didn’t explore the city of Sedona much. We actually had planned to get pedicures but that fell through. I had wanted to visit the Holy Cross Church. This ended up just being a drive by for us. Everyone and their brother had the same idea I did. It would have been neat to find our way into the church built into the side of a rock but we’ll survive.

If the trip to Sedona wasn’t already a highlight to the day, our stop at the Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park definitely was. Before the last couple of days, I’d never heard of a stupa. By definition, a stupa is: a monumental pile of earth or other material, in memory of Buddha or a Buddhist saint, and commemorating some event or marking a sacred spot. We parked in a small lot at the base of this area, there were only a couple of vehicles besides ours there. This peace park brought us up a twisty dirt path towards the stupa and a few other spiritual artifacts. Along the way were benches and prayer flags in trees lining the path.

This area has been marked holy by those native to Sedona and is thought to bring healing and transformation to those that visit. The stupa itself has a square sidewalk around the parameter. You’re encouraged to walk around it three times, silently and slowly, in meditation; focusing on your prayers or wishes for peace in the world and in your life. The stupa is filled with millions and millions of prayers and blessings.

I lost count the number of times I walked around this stupa. It was so peaceful. Rarely do I allow myself the gift of meditating and taking the opportunity to disconnect completely from technology and the bustling world. As we spent time here, more people came but everyone was respectful and quiet; taking in the presence of peace and prayer as they walked around. This park and the area around is known for being a spiritual vortex; full of transformative and healing energy. If you find yourself in Sedona, which I hope you do, I urge you to stop at this remote and beautiful spot. There are nearly 14 acres to this park and we only explored a fraction of it. I hope to come back and spend more time here someday.

And with that, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite (it was hard to narrow down) Buddhist quotes:

We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves. -Buddha


There is so much more I’d like to elaborate on in regards to Buddhism. I’ll try to make time for that in a later post. I named my cat Bodhi (age 2) which is a Buddhist term for the knowledge of wisdom or awakened intellect. I have many Buddha’s in my home and find myself drawn towards the wisdom and calm that they bring to me. Stay tuned.

Day 2: It’s as if we were all just trying to slow down, let nature in, and quiet our restless minds.

If any a day to accomplish a whole lot of everything, today was it. Now, I usually post photos at the very end of a post but I have to break that self-made rule because today’s 5:15 a.m. wake time was motivated by the view below. This is Mather Point at the Grand Canyon. It was freezing. Like, right at or around freezing for realz. BUT so. freaking. worth. it.

To say the Grand Canyon is beautiful is an understatement. I really need to freshen up on my personal dictionary. No wonder this place has been named one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. I have to be honest, while Arizona and more specifically, the Grand Canyon were on my bucket list of places to see, I had loads and loads more places on that list ahead of this trip. After today, I don’t know why. I genuinely believe that Arizona is one of the most underrated and breathtaking places I’ve ever been to (literally and visually). Everywhere I’ve been blessed with having the opportunity to go to, has been gorgeous; I can find beauty nearly every place I’ve been but holy shit to the GC. I had no idea.

Maybe I’m in the minority here, who knows? Am I THAT naive or can I blame a handful of cruddy geography and history teachers along my path of brain growth? I’ll play it safe and sit in the middle on that debate.

I’m going to keep today’s post as short as I possibly can because we covered A LOT of ground today. With that being said, we all know this is going to be long AF because YA GORL cannot condense anything. #teamlongstorylong

So, along with tons of other official natural wonders or not, the tourist scene is wildly organized at the Grand Canyon. There are three shuttle lines within the park (orange blue, and red). There’s actually a fourth line (purple) but that goes to and from Tusayan. We didn’t opt to do that. The cool thing about the shuttles is that you can hop on and off any of them. They each have their specific routes but there are a few opportunities to jump off one bus and onto another. They run pretty frequently too; anywhere from 10-15 minutes.

We first took the shuttle from Yavapai Lodge to Mather Point (where we saw that bomb ass sunrise). Then we took the shuttle from there all the way up to Hermit’s Rest. That’s the furthest west point on the South Rim. BTW, we were in the South Rim the entire time. There is a North Rim portion but that would have been a couple more hours to drive last night. From my research, the southern rim is the more touristy of the two.

From Mather Point, there were so many stops. We tried to plan our day out strategically based on reviews I’d read about but there was no way we’d get through the entire rim in the day. We took the good ol’ trolley through Market Plaza and the Village without getting off. If there was time later, we would. We did stop at a handful of places along the route up to Hermits Rest though. Hopi Point, Mohave Point, and Pima Point were my favorites. A couple of stops are super close together so you can walk from one to the other. At the end of this post, I’ll likely share a stupid amount of photos that may all look the same to you but they definitely aren’t.

What the photos don’t show or tell is how vast the GC really is. The day was a perfect 58 degrees. The skies, a sweet #5EADE5 blue. I’ve never been anywhere where there were so many people throughout but so little sound. It’s as if we were all just trying to slow down, let nature in, and quiet our restless minds. While it looked like an off-brown ball point pen line drawn into the canyons, it was so quiet that we could hear the Colorado River (can you spot it below?). My mom even dared to say that the Grand Canyon was more captivating than the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.

One thing I haven’t mentioned but I did read about while researching, was the air to lung ratio, or lack there of. I had briefly read that those interested in hiking down and back up (those people are crazy and also my wanna-be spirit animals) should be warned of the altitude variations especially to those traveling from an altitude much different than here. And holy crap could we feel it. Even during the drive from Mesa north, we started to notice the change in altitude. The thinner air really did make it much harder to breathe. This effected my mom quite a bit more than me but we did make a point of taking our time and pacing ourselves throughout the day. I don’t know what kind of made-of-steal lungs hikers have but I want a sip of that medicine. The views we witnessed today were worth every single second of the 7000+ feet above sea level hikes we took today.

Once we picked up our jaws from the views along Hermits Rest, we hopped back aboard the red shuttle due east. We found ourselves a taco food truck in the Visitor Center Area and hung out enjoying the cool-to-everyone but warm-to-us weather. Did I mention our winter was brutal? 58 degrees felt like 90 but a good 90.

We finished up our day at Yaki Point and then decided to head back to the Yavapai Lodge area to make our way back south and over to Flagstaff. The only chunk of the South Rim that we didn’t get a chance to venture towards was Desert View. There is a watchtower up there that I would have loved to climb. Honestly, I don’t know if I’d have been able to because of the oxygen fun we were having but I’ll be making it a priority next time I visit.


I had no plans to see anything exciting once we left the Grand Canyon today. Really, can the GC be beat? We just needed to get to our hotel in Flagstaff but we managed to find some really REALLY cool pit-stops along the way. The trek from the south entrance area of the GC to Flagstaff is only about 90 minutes but it took us well over two hours. This seems to be a recurring theme for this trip. On our way, we found Yabba Dabba Doo Fintstones Bedrock City! Who would have thunk? It didn’t appear to be in working order anymore which really is a tragedy but a few cool photo ops were necessary.

Cue Williams, AZ. I’ve had so many “when I grow up” dreams, I could fill a book. Anywhere from a yellow brick road trail through the woods to secret garden as dreamy as the book I read until the pages were lose and watched in movie form back when VHS tapes were still cool. Today, I found another dream I didn’t even know I had and it currently resides in Williams. I hope my ‘somewhere in the future’ babies want a tipi in the backyard instead of a playhouse. The tipi below was a part of a little village touristy shop on the side of the road. I instantly thought of my niece Emma and how she’d love to have this all to herself in the back of my parents yard. I can’t wait to tell her all about it when I get home.

Lastly, before arriving in Flagstaff, we stumbled upon the sweetest little slanted church in the middle of the Coconino National Forest near the base of the San Francisco Peaks. At the enterance of this quaint and mostly deserted church, I had to duck to get in. As I walked around to the other side of the small building, I was greeted by an entire wall filled with glass. This place was remarkable. Could you imagine getting married here?! I would LOVE it! I couldn’t wait to read up more about this place once we arrived at the hotel tonight. Here’s an excerpt I found:

Chapel of the Holy Dove: In the summer of 1961, with the help of his sons and some hired hands, the 41 year-old Watson Lacy, with no experience as a builder, used explosives to create holes in the rock beneath the Chapel to secure and position the large Ponderosa Pine logs which comprised the original A-shaped structure framing the San Francisco Peaks. Local volcanic rock and petrified wood was used to build the supporting stone walls. The Chapel was completed in 1962. The beauty of the Peaks affirmed the goodness and majesty of God. They wanted to give travelers the opportunity to share it. –Ghost Town AZ

For anyone still with me, if time permits, I would definitely plan for a full two days at the Grand Canyon alone. I’ve shared more photos at the end of this post and I hope you love them as much as I cherish them. Our trip to AZ is a short one. Since we had such a ways to drive from start to finish, we wanted to make sure to see a few places on the way so we opted to cut our time at the GC short in order to enjoy the ride back to Flagstaff and tomorrow, Mesa. While it’s a bummer we didn’t get to spend more time further north, I’m glad we left when we did or we wouldn’t have been able to capture the awe these few stops along the way brought us. I don’t know where the Grand Canyon is on your bucket list, or Arizona for that matter but I would encourage you to move it up. Like way TF up. We have two more days in this lush state and I can’t hardly wait!

Day 1: Star Light, Star Bright

It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I had embarked on a new adventure. Wait, it was just six months ago! If you live anywhere near where I’m currently living (NoDak), you’ll understand when I say this winter was LONG AF. Just about as soon as I landed stateside again in September, I began dreaming of my next adventure. I desperately need to go back to Europe but I’ll leave that for another day to ramble on about.

About half way through this winter, my mom asked if I wanted to get away and out of the cold. And YA GURL was like “yep.” Without thinking much about it, one of us suggested Arizona and we were both on board. This winter, really, has been draining. Not only have the snow storms put an emphasis on seasonal depressive moods but I busted up my knee twice in the last couple of months. Officially tearing my ACL and my meniscus in two places at the end of January. I have currently managed to forgo surgery for a multitude of reason and have thankfully gotten by with some PT and lots of rest. My knee is no where near 100%, maybe 60% on a good day? We’ll get there.

Enough about that. You’re here for an adventure and I’m about to deliver!

Day 1 is about as routine as day 1’s go, I think. Finishing up packing, because I’ve been a major procrastinator lately and stressing a bit about “did I plan this enough?” were the recurring themes of the days leading up to our trip. I’ve been on a continuous stress-boat of anxiety for a few months due to some work-flow changes in my job and it rarely lets up enough for me to indulge in a life outside of work. Which I know, is incredibly unhealthy, but I’m working on it.

For the first time ever today, I flew out of my local airport, Hector International. Also, for the first time ever today, every inch of my body was patted TF down like I was some sort of criminal. I thought I had this travel thing down. I’m extra cautious with the items I bring on board, my flying attire is basically PJ chic (yogas, sports bra, shirt, slides) and I still was patted down. I don’t know if it was a random spot check but it was weird. Up until today, I was almost weirded out about how “easy” it’d been to stroll through security checkpoints like it was nothin’ because it really was. I had nothing to hide and it’d always been a breeze. Now I know, the pat-down happens. You’ve been warned.

I’m tired and today wasn’t extra eventful aside from the frisk so I may jump around a little bit.

Actually, I’m going to bullet this shit out so I can get to sleep.

  • The people of Alamo as in the car rental service, are jerks. Don’t rent a vehicle from them. We stood in line for well over 30 minutes waiting for a vehicle I reserved. Once I got to the front counter, I was notified that there were no vehicles available. So like, wtf? I ended up dinking around at another rental car place but guess what? They didn’t have any vehicles either and so, head hung low, I returned back to Alamo with the intention of giving them a piece of my mind. Obviously with my mom’s help because lets be honest, she’s the confrontational one between the two of us when it’s go time. We ended up with a vehicle, not the one we paid for and one that will end up costing us more in gas than we had budgeted but it’s better than nothing. I guess.
  • The four and half hour drive (or so) north from Mesa was a beautiful one and filled with angels watching over us. Not only were the roads full of bizarre speed limit changes but we curved around one rock formation after another all the way up. The scary part about this is, I drove. If you know anything about me, two of them should be: 1. I’m a shit driver. And 2. I’m a shit driver because I love looking at all the things. I’m grateful my dad wasn’t with us. We’d surely have driven over cliff because he would have flipped at how distracted I was.
  • We arrived at the Grand Canyon and Yavapai Lodge well past sunset. (I just realized that I hadn’t told you where exactly in AZ we were headed. Surprise!) I was hoping to get a few glimpses of the canyons tonight but we’re preparing for an early rise in the morning so stay tuned. I didn’t know this until I arrived, but Arizona has more certified “International Dark Sky” places in the United States than any other state. This made it a bit difficult to find our actual lodge without streetlights to guide us but we managed. Believe it or not, I do remember the days of finding a place on a map without Siri directing me where to go. I have lived in a city for quite some time so I don’t get to observe the stars as often as I would like. It’s really one of my favorite things in this world. Tonight, I was able to do that for a brief time and am so happy I did. Obviously cameras never quite capture the night sky the way we see it but if you look close enough, you’ll see the Big Dipper in one of my photos below.

That about sums up our day. I feel so lucky to have my mom as my travel partner. Traveling isn’t always rainbows and sunshine but having someone along that can take the good with the bad really makes all the difference when it comes to enjoying the greatest treasures in life.

I’d like to extend a special thanks to our Guardian Angels today for keeping us safe as I drove around admiring this lovely state. The land that is Arizona is truly a beauté so far.