Last month I got a last minute temporary training assignment to Florida and decided on a whim to take a few days of leave en enroute. It was worth it but in hindsight I should have brought the family along.
The training trip to Florida went well. Slept in tents with air conditioning. Sometimes the Air Force gets the butt of the jokes in military circles for such luxuries. Air condition in a tent in the bunduz. The Army wishes they were us. I was not complaining though. The Meals-Ready-to-Eat or MRE’s were not too bad but most of my colleagues hate them. It usually consists of a pre -prepared meal that only requires heating to eat. There is a powdered drink, snack and some dessert of sorts. You warm it with a heating pad activated by adding water.
We played in the field and got some time on the equipment that we would use of we were to deploy.
After Florida I flew to Houston for a day to see my ‘family’ there. As you know I call Houston my American home. It’s where it all started. One of my friends was diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy. So it was good to see him and hang out with him and his family. The warm weather was a welcome break from the coldish spring in Alaska. I also got to restock on some Kenyan food as there are Indian and Pakistani stores that sell ndengu aka green grams and tea. They also stock chapati flour. Another Kenyan delicacy.
My next stop was Phoenix, Arizona.I got a rental car at the airport and spent a night there then headed north towards Flagstaff. Flagstaff is a high altitude area in Arizona popular with elite runners. It’s more like Iten in Kenya. I stopped in Sedona and hiked in the Red Rock State Park. It’s a beautiful park with red rock formations. The nearby Sedona has the same rock formations and had a popular Catholic Chapel of the Cross built on the side of the red rock. It’s an architectural masterpiece.
I spent a night in Flagstaff which was my base for two nights. I had made reservations for the Page Canyon about 2 hours north. It’s one of the most photographed canyons in the world. It was formed by flooding erosion over the years and it’s now about 90 feet into the ground at its deepest point. It has steep ladders going down into the canyon. Once you are inside, you get to see God’s creative hand at its best. When the sunlight hits the canyon the colors are magical. It is on Navajo tribal land who benefit by charging a fee for guides. It was totally worth the hike and takes about an hour and a half to complete.
There is the Horseshoe Bend nearby which is an overlook of the Colorado River. It resembles a horseshoe. It’s viewed from a steep cliff 1000ft (300m) above the river. It’s a 1.5 mile hike to the overlook from the road. They have float raft tours down below where you navigate the river or from the Air in small planes. The hike was well worth it.
From there I headed to the Grand Canyon which is about an hour away from Page which is home to the canyon and overlook. The Grand Canyon is too big to explore in a day so I checked in, hiked for a little bit then then headed back to my base in Flagstaff before dark and came back the following day. There is so much to do there from biking, to hiking to helicopter tours to camping. I was able to explore and it’s a marvel of nature that has taken millions of years to form. The trick is to get there early which I did on the second day. Hike, explore the less popular viewpoints before human crowds become overwhelming and parking space becomes scarce. I loved it and even got to see some weird looking mountain elk.
From there I had a 5 hour drive south back to Phoenix. It’s a beautiful drive from the high mountain areas of Flagstaff to the desert down in Phoenix. Traffic is horrible there, reminding me of my Nairobi days.
I had made an appointment South of Phoenix in the Sonora desert to go and see the plane graveyard diem there. There is an airport in the middle of the desert called Pinal Airpark Marana where commercial planes land and for some making their last flights, for some the owners store them there due to the ideal dry desert climate which mitigates corrosion of the aircraft. It’s owned by the Pinal county and the airport economic development director takes people on tours if you coordinate with him in advance. It was formerly an Army Airfield during WWII where they trained pilots and later on a CIA off site for covert operations.
I drove down to the desert the following day and for an aviation enthusiast like me it was heaven. They all the Delta airline’s retired jumbo jets and so many other types of aircrafts being stripped of parts, others in storage awaiting new owners and some eye down there for maintenance. The is a big facility on site. I loved it seeing all the planes up close on the tour of the facility.
My fight back to Alaska was delayed as I drove back to the airport in Phoenix to drop off the rental car. Luckily I was rebooked through Los Angeles then onto Seattle and finally on the final leg to Anchorage arriving back in the wee hours of the morning. LA was great as I had a longer transit time so I was able to check out more interesting airlines from around the world like Aeroflot from Russia and Air New Zealand which of never seen before.
Travel is addictive as I always say and once the bug bites you, you are hooked forever.
Below are pictures from that trip starting in chronological order from Florida to LA.