travel:: Scottsdale, AZ

For the last leg of our anniversary trip, we headed down to Scottsdale for 3 nights of resort living. We stopped by Old Town on the way in, and it was just the cutest place — even more so at night once the streets and trees are lit up with what seemed like millions of tiny white lights. Old Town is filled with tons of great restaurants and bars, and even more jewelry and souvenir shops.

It was so hard to choose a resort — there were too many that all looked fabulous. We ended up at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch… largely because of that water slide below! The resort had something like 10 pools (some tiny, but who’s measuring), including an adults-only pool, and that giant slide, which was so fun! I may or may have not been the only adult in line with a dozen 5-year-olds. We sat by the pool for 2 solid days, which I think we earned after our rigorous hiking excursions. ūüėČ


What I loved most about the resort property was the huge open courtyard and open-air lobby area. The view was so inviting for breakfast, lunch, sushi/cheese/wine happy hour, and¬†for nighttime entertainment. Southwest Bistro¬†was my favorite restaurant onsite — I got the southwest chicken caesar salad both days for lunch, and I kinda wish I had one right now.¬†¬†
In between laying hanging out at the pool and hugging cacti, we tried a few really great restaurants, with our favorites¬†being The Mission and El Chorro. You know I’ll have a blog post coming soon.¬†
The last full day of the trip, we were up at literally before the crack of dawn to do something I’ve been wanting to do for years — ride in a hot air balloon!! This was the 2nd item I was able to check off my bucket list during this trip, and I’ve been so excited about it since booking it a few¬†months ago. We had to call the night before to ensure that the weather would be good enough to fly, and thankfully it was. After reading tons and tons of reviews, I chose¬†2 Fly Us Hot Air Balloons¬†(if we were going to float thousands of feet into the air in a tiny basket, I wanted to at least make sure we were choosing a SAFE¬†tiny basket and a great pilot).

Kevin is the owner of 2 Fly Us, and he was our pilot and tour guide of the open air. He and his “chase crew” — an ex-Seattle Seahawks player named Gene — were so professional, friendly, and really made us feel comfortable. The cool thing about these companies is that they ¬†coordinate take-off sites so that their customers get to see all of the other balloons being blown up and photograph them while they’re flying near them in the air. Our basket held just 5 people, which we really liked, but one of the groups had a basket holding 20!

It was so neat to watch each team quickly but very carefully unroll the balloons, connect them to the baskets (which were lying on their sides on the ground), and then turn on the fuel to essentially air up the balloon and lift it upright. To me, the only really unnerving part of the process was hopping into the half-upright basket and having it wobble around until it righted itself with the flow of the wind and took off into the air.

Once up in the air, the balloon just¬†sort of goes where the wind takes it. The ride was surprisingly incredibly smooth and stable. We reached a height of about 5,300 feet and then (very) slowly swooped down in between mountains so low that I thought we might end up on top of a cactus… and then before we knew it, we’d be heading right back up into the sky again.
Our pilot and chase crew communicated via radios to determine a landing spot. I was a little worried about crash landing, but it was so smooth. Kevin really knows what he’s doing. Once we disembarked, Gene quickly rolled the giant balloon back up into its container. I would most certainly¬†have had that thing in a colossal knot if that were my job.¬†
And another fun¬†part…. a champagne toast to celebrate a successful flight! We held our glasses toward the rising sun and Kevin recited what is called “The Balloonist’s Prayer,” which goes like this:
May the winds welcome you with softness.
May the sun bless you with its warm hands.
May you fly so high and so well that God
joins you in laughter and sets you gently
back into the loving arms of Mother Earth.
I¬†can’t say enough how much I loved our hot air balloon experience. Flying peacefully through the sky, between mountains, above cacti in the desert, and next to several other giant, glowing balloons was one of the single most amazing things I’ve ever gotten to do. It was the perfect cap to an incredible trip celebrating 5 wonderful, joyous years of marriage. I’m excited¬†to see where we end up for our 10th!

travel:: Sedona, AZ

Craig and I took a trip out to Arizona last week in celebration of our 5-year wedding anniversary. We got married in June, but while researching our trip, I found that it would be well into the 100s by then, so we chose to go a couple months early. We flew into Phoenix and rented a car so we could road trip it to Sedona, the Grand Canyon, and Scottsdale for 6 days. I took way too many photos (surprise!), so I’ve broken the trip up into 3 posts.

We¬†absolutely loved Arizona. The landscape must have changed a dozen times along our various drives, and I just couldn’t get over all those giant cacti! We met so many friendly people, hiked the most gorgeous trails, ate too many yummy things, sang along to approximately 1,000 songs¬†on our¬†drives through the desert and mountains, and I got to check not one, but two, items off my bucket list! It was the perfect way to ring in 5 years with my one and only. I hope you enjoy our road trip through Arizona!

First up, lunch at MacAlpine’s Restaurant & Soda Fountain in Phoenix. It’s a little time warp back to the 50s with a soda fountain featuring too many flavors to count. We sat at the counter and enjoyed lunch and shakes before hitting the road to Sedona.

Our view from the Best Western Plus in Sedona — I could not get over that view! I’d highly recommend this hotel, especially for a short stay.¬†
Pink Jeep Tours:: One of our favorite things we did! This was recommended by almost everyone we talked to who has been to Sedona, and they were right. It was the perfect way to get an up-close view of the Red Rocks without having to huff it through the mountains on foot. Our tour guide was awesome — just enough interesting info and funny jokes — and he was a very¬†experienced driver, which is important when driving up and down 45-degree inclines and HUGE rocks. I would ¬†have had that jeep upside down¬†in no time.¬†
The photo below is¬†in memory¬†of my cousin Stuart. He took a similar photo on a GA mountain not too long before his passing, and it perfectly captured the pure joy of his personality. While having a little photo shoot out on the Red Rocks, Craig had the sweet idea to pay homage to¬†him¬†with a reenactment¬†of his “jumping” photo. Not so sure about mine, but I think Craig totally¬†nailed it. ūüôā
We were up bright and early the next morning to hike Devil’s Bridge. Our neighbors recommended that trail, and it was another of our favorite activities. The views were unmatched, and the trail was really fun to hike. The drive into the trailhead, however, was not for the faint of heart. I was wishing we had that pink jeep from the day before…. and I’m surprised we didn’t completely break our rental suv in the process. Those “roads” are no joke! We even ended up picking up a¬†nice older Canadian couple on the drive out from the trailhead because they’d accidentally walked the wrong way to their car. They in turn gave us their Grand Canyon Park pass, which saved us $25! Karma, people.
The town of Sedona is so cute. It was a sort of random addition to the trip itinerary, but I’m so, so glad we visited. Nice people, lots of restaurants, great hiking, too many palm readers and “crystal” shops to count, and unparalleled views of the Red Rocks.¬†It ended up being the surprise favorite for both of us!¬†