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.

Day 7: The poetry of earth is never dead.. -John Keats

Today was breathtaking. We spent the majority of our day at two of the most beautiful and untouched places in Ireland; the Cliffs of Moher and The Burren. If you ever find yourself in Ireland, which I hope you will, put these two places at the top of your list.

It’s difficult to compare each day we’ve had on our trip. Every day is better than the last but at the same time, nothing can compare to the day prior. With that being said, both the Ring of Kerry (yesterday) and today’s trip were worth every single step and ounce of tired in our bodies. The views were spectacular. The ocean’s wild waves smashing into the side of the rocks and hitting us was refreshing. The wind, both literally and figuratively, took my breath away. Even with all of the people and the noise (of the people), I was still able to just be there and soak it all in for as long as I possibly could.

And with that, I can’t say anything more but to show you what I saw. Bucket list item, check.

Day 1: What about a bog? Say that 3 times fast.

Operation world traveler wannabe to will be is about to begin! Some of you may or may not know that I have a binder full of our to-do’s while on vacation. I’m an ultra-planner by nature and my mom, not so much.

Our first trip was planned out to a T. It eased my stress to know what we were going to do when but it did have downfalls, of course. Being so attached to my “plan” made it difficult to stray from it and there were a couple of activities or days where we would have loved and preferred to stay awhile longer.

Trip two, I tried to be a bit more loose with our plans. I still had our time away organized as shit but I had a lot more “ehh, we can decide when we get there” pockets and days. This trip made me a lot more of a stress ball and I feel like we had wasted time that we could have used a bit more wisely had I made some decisions ahead of time.

Present day, I’m trusting in the motto “third times a charm.” Our days are planned out via day trips around the Emerald Isle and Scotland and our evenings are free for adventure and spontaneity.

Before we left for Minneapolis, we met up with Bodhi’s godparents, Nick and Katie to go over my helicopter cat-mom of a list and visit a bit. They’ll be taking care of Lil’ Boat and my apartment while I’m away. (THANK YOU!) Then, funny enough, my dad was also in town so we all hit up Qdoba (otherwise known as Kubota, thanks to Dad) for lunch before leaving.

We stopped in Albert(s)ville for a minute or 30, Wiki’d all the different types and true definitions of bodies of water, stopped at Minnehaha Falls for a break from the humidity and ended the night walking on the very dimly lit Stone Arch Bridge.

‘Twas a great first day to the start of our vaca. Even if Mom compared the heat to St. Louis!

What I Learned

We’re three days post-trip and I thought it’d be a great time to reflect on our vaca.. The last two days of our vacation really made me feel crappy about how the last part of our vacation went and on our way home I reflected rather poorly on the trip as a whole when I shouldn’t have.

I purposefully hadn’t planned a lot for the last couple of days because we were going to wing it a little. Turns out, I’m not the best at winging it. I feel like our moods had slowly but surely went downhill throughout the duration of our trip and it bummed me out. A lot. Mostly because I couldn’t fix it.

My mom’s always taught me that it’s a choice to be happy. You choose to wake up on the right side of the bed. I’ve agreed with that most of my life. But some days, optimism apparently is a fight for the fittest. Don’t get me wrong, the trip was good. I was surprised that Omaha was my favorite city and I want to return there to see more attractions that we didn’t get a chance to explore. I liked Kansas City too but I don’t think there is anything there calling my name.

Honestly, I probably had a rather negative outlook on the trip as a whole prior to even venturing that way. When I think of the mid-west (middle of the country), I don’t think of anything. I don’t think of water or mountains or beaches or buildings or beauty. I think of nothing, like actually nothing. Not in an “I hate America” type of way, just as a “No one has ever bragged about doing anything so how would I know what there is to do?” type of way. And the internet wasn’t much help.

There were loads of things to do all along our trip but most of them consisted of museums or events happening on days before or after we were there. You can only see so many museums before you get museumed out. Ya’ know?

Parasailing was very fun. I was so SO worried that I’d fall to my death not because I was scared of the adventure but because of my weight. And guess what? I didn’t. The harness held me and for that I’m elated. I did have a bit of an emotional breakdown after though. Although it was fun and I cannot wait to go parasailing again, I hated on myself so hard about the entire experience. I got winded going down and up the 65 steps there and back. The life-jacket was so small and tight on me that I felt as if I looked like a balloon being squeezed in the middle. I also wish I could have rode tandem. The typical way to go parasailing is two people at a time, side by side. Due to my weight, that wasn’t an option. I had so many emotions going through me by the time I got back to the car that I couldn’t even talk. I wanted to cry and scream and yell and shake myself thin. I’m so beyond grateful that I had the option to go parasailing when my weight often limits the things I can do. I only hope that the way I beat myself up that day helps me to find the motivation needed to make some serious changes.

Reflecting on the rest of the trip was rather bland. St. Louis was physically draining because of all the walking and the heat. It wasn’t much warmer in Missouri as it is in Minnesota but we spent a lot more time outside than we would on a typical 90 degree day up north and that took it’s toll on us.

For the most part, I’d like to think that we had fully intended on our trip being in high spirits the entire way and there were a lot of great moments, beautiful views, interesting things.. But it seemed to be overshadowed by the heat and tiredness and frustration.

What I learned throughout this trip though, is that my mom is still my bestie. We had moments that we just needed a minute but it was okay and we made it. I learned that I have energy to keep going even when I didn’t think it was possible. I learned that my thoughts about middle America are pretty much true.

I also learned that the only thing holding me back from being the adventurous self I know I am is my weight. There are so many things I’ve never ever done because I exceed the limit or am afraid I’ll break whatever it is. This is something I’ve been learning all my life and I really truly need to find the power within myself to overcome this.

And lastly, I learned that the words I type don’t 100% reflect how I felt about every single moment on our trip. Showing Channing all the photos I took and the souvenirs I got made me feel good. I was so excited to tell him all the things we did and where we went along with the ups and downs alike. It was a good trip even if I didn’t realize it at the time.

Most of all, I’m so very grateful to have my mom with me and in my life. I don’t know how I could possibly live my life as well as I do without her there with me every step of the way. So, if you’re reading this mom, thank you and I love you. ❤

Days 6 & 7: The Journey Home

Day 6 was supposed to be our “spa” day but it didn’t happen quite as planned. Initially we were going to book massages and pedi’s but we decided a few days ago we’d be okay with passing on the massages this time around. No real reason, just weren’t into it.

So we figured we’d go swimming. I found a pond/swimming hole in Rochester online and it looked pretty nice so that’s where we were headed. We got a little sidetracked early on wanting to get blow up floaty things so we could just veg out on the water. Turns out the swimming hole was literally a gravel pit of a hole. It was a dud and it was dirty. Not like Detroit Lake dirty but like goose poop and seaweed clumps dirty. We were in and out in 10 minutes or less\. It took us longer to change into our swimwear than we were actually there. We didn’t even stick around to lounge on the beach.

We got to the hotel about an hour or so later and did go swimming in the pool at the hotel. It was okay.

On our last and final day we headed home. We stopped in Alexandria for lunch and it was delicious and then got pedicures at a nail spa in Fargo. Much needed.