Monday, September 28, 2015

A Day in Flagstaff

The six peaks of the San Francisco Peaks are visible in the distance
as we travel west on Interstate-40 across northern Arizona.
Flagstaff is located just south of this mountain range.
28 Sept 2015

Today Mark had an appointment to see a neurosurgeon in Flagstaff, the largest city in northern Arizona and home of the Northern Arizona University Lumberjacks (where I earned my masters degree). Since the drive from our little mountain town to Flagstaff is about 2 hours and 15 minutes, we decided to make it a day trip and have some fun.

We're getting closer! Next 5 exits for Flagstaff...

Mark's appointment was set for 1:40, so we left the house just after 10:00 this morning. We stopped in Snowflake to fill my gas tank (gas is 10 cents cheaper in Snowflake than at home: $2.47 per gallon for us, and just $2.37 for them) and add half-a-quart of oil to my engine before we continued north to Holbrook, where we caught I-40 going west toward Flagstaff. 

It's a long, boring drive on a two-lane highway with not much more to look at than high desert covered with yellow grasses, brown brush, and short, scrubby trees. And wind. Always lots of wind. Sometimes the highway is even closed due to blowing dust, for hours.

This will also be the first leg of our journey on Friday, as we travel to central California. Twice in one week. I don't know if I can bear it... Just kidding.

Mark in front of the medical building where the neurosurgery office is located.

We arrived in Flagstaff a little before 12:30 and drove directly to Carl's Jr. for lunch. Since we planned to eat out later, we kept it light. Mark had a western bacon cheeseburger, no fries, no shake, while I had a super-star lettuce wrap. How I love those! I wish they'd open a Carl's Jr. in our little community.

Then we went up to the neurosurgeon's office, where we spent the next hour. The results were a bit anticlimactic. We'd fully expected that Mark was going to end up having back surgery, and even hoped that it would be the end of his pain. However, the surgeon told us that surgery in the area where Mark's spinal stenosis is located would likely stop only the burning pain it's sending down the side of Mark's right thigh. He didn't think it would solve the worse pain in Mark's back. 

It almost didn't seem worth making the trip. So Mark is back to trying steroid injections, which are unlikely to provide more than limited relief. So far none of the painkillers (non-narcotic) Mark has tried have provided any relief. A muscle relaxant does help take the edge off the pain somewhat. Poor guy.

The corner of San Francisco Street and Historic Route 66.

Once that business was taken care of, we drove around the area a bit. We drove up San Francisco Street, which is in the center of the old, historic downtown area. (Interesting note: the San Francisco Peaks were named in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, 147 years before the city of San Francisco was established in California.) Mark and I had walked up this street before, back in 1996, and it seems to have been revived along with most other properties located adjacent to old Route 66. Lots of people were hiking and biking among the eclectic little shops and cafes there.

I love the architecture of this old building on San Francisco Street. 
Courthouse? Library? Church? School? Abandoned? I don't know.

A limousine waits for someone on Route 66.

We spent some time cruising the portion of Route 66 that passes through Flagstaff. It's fun to see the old businesses from the '50s and '60s that have been restored and given new life, frequented by those who want to relive the "good old days." It appears to be thriving.

The entrance to Flagstaff Mall.

There really isn't that much to do in Flagstaff, at least not for those who are only spending a few hours. Great area for hiking and skiing and other recreational high-country activities, but for quick fun it is limited. It's still a relatively small town compared to metro areas like Phoenix and Tucson. 

The view from the mall entrance. Mountains all around.

So Mark and I headed over to Flagstaff Mall next. Again, it's small by comparison with malls in the larger metro areas, but you can always find ways to entertain yourself in a mall of any size.

Inside the entrance of Flagstaff Mall.
Mark and I wondered if they light up this fireplace when the snow comes.

When I graduated from ASU in 1990, I actually considered applying to schools in Flagstaff. We wanted to get out of the Valley heat, and the climate in Flagstaff is very similar to where we now live. The temperatures are comparable and so is the snow, although Flagstaff sometimes gets more snowfall than we do, depending upon the storm. 

Even the elevations are similar. While Humphrey's Peak, the tallest of the San Francisco Peaks, is the highest point in Arizona at 12,633 feet, Flagstaff itself is only 6,910 feet. Our town of Pinetop-Lakeside climbs from 6,804 feet at its lowest point (northern Lakeside) to about 7,200 feet at it's highest (southern Pinetop). I think our house is located at a little over 6,900 feet. The highest peak in our area, about a 30-minute drive away, is Apache Peak at Sunrise Ski Resort on the White Mountain Apache reservation. Apache Peak stands at an elevation of 11,155 feet.

Mark's favorite shop in the mall was this Halloween store.
Those wolf and dog heads were snapping, snarling, and growling viciously.
We spent a lot of time here.

As it happened, I never did put in an application for Flagstaff. I was offered jobs at a tiny town called Pinon on the Navajo reservation, at Bradshaw Mountain Jr. High in Prescott, and--of course--at Blue Ridge High School in Pinetop-Lakeside. We all know which I chose 25 years ago, and I've never once regretted that decision.

And now, after driving the crazy, congested streets of Flagstaff, I am doubly glad of where we ended up settling! It seemed there were stoplights every hundred yards, and they didn't change from red to green until the line of waiting cars was backed up past the last stoplight. Insane!

Even Sizzler had a mountainous backdrop.

It was almost 4:00 when we finished exploring the mall and decided we had enough room for some dinner, so our next and final stop was a Sizzler not too far from the mall. Being so early, we pretty much had the place to ourselves. We had the sole attention of the cashier and waiter and cook!

We decided I should be in at least one of these pictures.

While waiting for our dinner, we tried to take some selfies.
They kind of sucked.

We finished dinner at 4:45 and headed back toward home. After another stop in Snowflake to refuel, we returned home by about 7:15. I suppose as day trips go, it wasn't the most exciting ever, but it was fun and relaxing. Just what I needed, a chance to put aside everything that's still on my long list and simply have a good time. Sometimes we really need to do that!

Mark and Mary, Sept. 28, 2015

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