“roughing it” in Sedona

NOTE: I need to learn as much about WordPress as possible this week, so I’m trying out some new tricks. Pardon me while I play. I’m just blathering — at length — while I discover previously unknown features: galleries, lists, background colors, etc. Feel free to just skim the text (as long as you also take note of the elegance of the design :-), but there’s a great photo and good kid quip at the bottom that you won’t want to miss.

Richard, my husband, planned a week in Sedona for us — a golf getaway for him, a “learn WordPress” immersion for me. He found an Airbnb here that allows dogs and purported to be a “whole house.” Either one of us could have investigated the listing more thoroughly… but we didn’t. When we arrived late afternoon on Sunday, there were a few unwelcome surprises:

  • No kitchen, just a counter with a Keurig and a microwave with a small refrigerator underneath. The food from our cooler barely fit in the fridge after removing a shelf.
  • No dishes.
  • NO comfortable place to sit. A mid-century couch (which looks like it’s from the set of the Jetsons) that is singularly UNcomfortable and, I repeat, NO CHAIRS.
  • Yes, a backyard, but no back door, which means getting dressed and putting Mac on a leash every time we take him out.
  • Most frustrating for me? No desk or table to put my laptop on. I considered bringing my fancy lap-desk, but we’ve never before ended up in a place without some kind of table or desk (and, as I think I mentioned, at least one chair).

Richard went to Safeway that evening to acquire some essentials to make the place livable — mugs, paper plates and microwavable bowls with lids, one small, one larger. Monday morning, I was still figuring out how to feel about all this. I managed to channel Jessie, the resourceful older sister in the Boxcar Children books, and sort of “made camp” with what we had. I figured I could use the larger bowl for 1) serving the salad I brought with us, 2) cooking sweet potatoes in the microwave, and 3) brewing tea. (I’m terrible at pouring tea from a bowl without a spout. I don’t seem to understand fluid dynamics.)

My Eeyore side was still a little aggrieved and half-convinced my week was ruined. I spoke with some friends on the phone in that state of mind, describing the place as essentially a Motel 6 with really nice bathrooms. Then a little later, the internet went out for about an hour. I didn’t cry, but wondered if I should. (If you have to wonder about it, you must not need to, but I did feel like stomping my little foot.) The internet is the one amenity that would have redeemed this experience, so it was adding insult to injury to lose it. But for that, I could have gotten some work done even if I had to sit on the bed with pillows behind me. Another friend got an even sadder “poor me” story on the phone, enhanced with “and now, no wi-fi!”

Mac, patiently hanging out by my workspace

Then, several things happened. A woman cleaning the place next door knew how to get in touch with Steve, the “innkeeper,” who showed up right after the internet came back on. I told him (without whining too much, I think) about how the ceiling fan and the light above the “kitchen” didn’t work, and that the handle came off the refrigerator but I managed to get it back on (then HE broke it for real while testing it). When I said I really missed having a table, he left and came back within a half-hour with the table you see here. Apparently, this duplex is part of the El Portal hotel, just on a separate property. He offered to have us move into the hotel, but there are no kitchens there, either, and by now I had a make-shift dish cupboard, a small pantry and plans for how to cook the food we had (except for the eggs). My pioneer spirit, deeply ingrained in my genes, had kicked in, and I was looking forward to the week. Eeyore in retrograde.

Steve told us we have access to the amenities at El Portal and invited us to take Mac on a 5-minute walk to see the place. Those of you who know Sedona may already know El Portal — if you don’t, but you know the Tlaquepaque restaurant/shopping area, it’s nestled right beside that. They only have about a dozen rooms, and are dog-friendly. When we walked down there, we saw several other people seated in the shaded courtyard, masked when indoors, well-distanced, some with canine friends, all evidently in the same high-risk of corona age group that we’re in. We got to chatting with a couple of women in the lobby who work there, one of whom, Terry, had come with Steve to deliver the table. We were on our way to dinner, so I said we’d come back after for a glass of wine. Terry said they were about to close, and gave us a key to the lobby so we could come in anytime. What?! Who does that?! Sedona innkeepers, I guess. All the guests are welcome to help themselves to snacks and drinks, including beer and wine. For us, it’s free — to make up for all the (obviously inconsequential) “adversity” we had in the first 24 hours.

There is something perversely pleasurable about momentarily feeling “hard done by.” It makes a good story, for one thing. But once the story is told, it’s kind of important to move on, especially when there are SO many reasons to be grateful. Our visit since that first night has been exactly what I hoped for. I made a list of negatives above; here’s another gallery followed by a list detailing the view from the sunny side of the street.

  • Mac is settling in. He was a little disoriented at first — this is like his first sleep-away camp. He has figured out that he is getting more outings than usual, some in the extremely boring back yard: a wide expanse of lawn with room for volleyball, badminton and maybe a pick-up game of softball — but NO table or chairs. (I’m still a touch petulant, you see.)
  • Father and son electricians came by today to replace the “kitchen” light and replace the ceiling fan with yet another light fixture. . . not really needed, but at least that switch does something. I have no trouble making conversation with workers in cowboy hats. The father is 80. We compared orthopedic procedures and talked about pets. The son is probably around 55? He’s wearing a brace on his right leg because six weeks ago he fell into an oil change pit and broke his leg — and now, with a leg brace, he’s going up a ladder!
  • Steve brought us a new refrigerator — just because the handle broke off! It was easy to open the broken one by pulling from the side, but OK, I guess. I sure hope someone who needs one gets the old red one. This one matches the retro (Jetson) microwave. Oh, and he’s crediting us for one night’s stay due to the broken stuff. He’s at least as old as I am, likely older, but he gets up and down off the floor with much more ease. I commented on that, and he said, “I work at it.” He found out I’m a teacher and told me that he never really learned to read, just got by because he learned from listening, especially if there were visual aids. He dropped out of school after 10th grade and has made a good life for himself, adept at many useful skills including saving and investing money. He is on the board of Yavapai College, Sedona branch. That tickles me (as my mom used to say) — a successful HS drop-out’s point of view is often exactly what’s missing in academia.
  • I am making progress in my quest to master (or at least work with) WordPress. I found a free 10-part WordPress tutorial that makes things extremely clear, produced by Dr. Andy Williams. He has a British accent that, of course, gives him much more credibility.
  • Duke (Richard’s nickname if you were not aware) is golfing happily every day. The feature photo of the golf course on the home page is one he took. I will never understand the joy the game gives him. He used to try to get me interested, but for one thing, I hate being in the sun for more than a few minutes, and for another, I can’t summon up enthusiasm for the challenge of getting a ball in small holes 18 times in succession. He has a conference call coming up this morning (Wednesday), so he’s just hanging out with us for a while before doing the call, then heading back to the golf course.
  • MOST OF ALL, we are away from home and I’m enjoying my favorite kind of vacation — no plans, a place to read and work, good places to walk and people to meet, lots of time to myself while Duke golfs, AND in Sedona — beautiful red rock formations, 10-15° cooler than Phoenix, crystals, vortexes (and protection from them), and aura photos available!

I stole this photo from Grant Woods’ Twitter feed. Grant was Attorney General of AZ at one time — a good, smart guy. I used to tutor his son Dylan (who has now graduated from college). I thought about messaging Grant to ask for permission to use the photo, but decided the chances of him ever seeing my blog were minuscule. And I AM crediting him! His caption was “Lighting the desert torch.” Good one, eh?

from the mouths (and pencils) of kids

A mondegreen from my shirttail cousin in Wichita: Her daughter Kay is about my age, so like me, she grew up in the days of the Cold War when we had drills at school where we sought shelter under their desks to protect us from radiation (!). Kay came home from school one day in December saying that she had learned a new song. Her mom asked her to sing it, and she sang, “Atomic bomb, atomic bomb. . .” It turns out her mom, though German by birth, hated “O Tannenbaum”, so Kay had not heard it before and sang it the way it made sense to her.


  1. Oh Susan, you are a better sport than I would be given these circumstances. I would have left in a fury immediately. I always check photos of the hotel or house rental, including the divine villa we rented in Tuscany, after looking at some not so divine villas. I also agree with you about golf. It seems mind numbingly boring. Tennis was always our sport. Can’t do that anymore, but wish I could. I admire you for making the best of it, Your billeted comments redeemed what could have been an awful week.

    Trying to recoup from yesterday’s awful primary loss. Mickey too.


  2. Don’t you have adventures? You are an excellent sport, my dear. And speaking of sports, let me give you my perspective on golf since it appears Richard (who knew he had an alias, something usually reserved for repeat criminals in the legal world) has not adequately described the most fantastic attributes of golf.

    Golf has been part of my whole life ever since I can recall. My father golfed and watched golf on television on the weekends when he wasn’t golfing. When the TV golfers would putt, my Dad would yell at us kids and say “Be quiet! You need to whisper while they’re putting.” And we would whisper.

    All the men I knew played golf and they all played it much better than I did. My Dad, my brother, my boyfriends. Well, no surprise there, they all had more upper body strength, and were taller. I played along, terrified at first, but eventually getting the hang of it, more or less (my brother would say less.)

    So for the basics — golf is a game of intermittent reinforcement. You probably took Psychology 101 in college and learned that a scientist named Skinner put rats in boxes to study their behavior. In the control box the rat would push a lever and get one food pellet. In the “intermittent reinforcement” box, the rat would push the level and might get one food pellet, or two, or none, or ten, or fifty. He found the rat in that box would continuously push the lever until it had no energy left and fell asleep, exhausted. That’s golf.

    Now that you understand golf completely (due to having read the above paragraph) you can use this information to your advantage. Now you KNOW golf is a game of intermittent reinforcement, you understand golf is completely random. You could do great, or not. The secret then is that there is no need to take it seriously. Think of it as a walk, during which time you may hit a golf ball or two, or ten, or fifty. You don’t even have to keep score if you don’t feel like it. If you don’t like where your ball lands, pick it up and move it. You are not on TV. You understand golf, and so you are there to concentrate on the finer points of the game, points that are more important to you than your golf score.

    Nature. Golf course are typically outside. This means you may see mountains, birds, squirrels, grass, etc. You might see snakes, too, so if you can’t find your ball, don’t look too hard for it. Just drop another one somewhere. I recommend the middle of the fairway. In golf you have to wait for other people so there is a lot of time to be standing (or sitting if you have a cart) around looking at stuff. It’s nice to notice the outside and to breathe the air. We so often don’t get a chance to do this in our society.

    Apparel. You can’t go wrong with golf apparel (even though there are rules) because a golfer’s clothes needn’t match. If the sun bothers you, you will get a cool jaunty hat. You will get special shoes so you never slip in the mud. You will get a cute outfit, and you will think you look cool. You might not actually look that cool, but as I said, it doesn’t matter. Any color scheme will do.

    People. You get to meet people playing golf. All kinds of people. It is fun to chat with them and I think you would especially like this part. You will notice that not all the golfers you encounter play as though they just came out of the TV. In fact, they might play like you (or even worse!)

    I think, Susan, that if you look at golf the way I do, you would really come to love it and it would enhance your life in ways you can not even begin to imagine.



  3. Susan this is great! Thank you for the invite to the blog. I loved “living Sedona” through your sights. What a wonderful story about Steve. Great share!


  4. My, my! Someone thinks they can talk me into becoming a golfer. . . Your description of the game helps me understand all the joy you and Richard get from it, but the leap in logic that I will therefore also love it is, I believe, faulty. I have tried golf, and have ridden in a cart while Duke plays once. I simply have no “itch” to do more. My life is rich and full beyond measure, time is limited, and I’m choosing to spend what I have left on other pursuits. All the time Richard spends golfing is a gift — I’m a very happy “golf widow!” Love, S


  5. Fun reading, Susan! Sedona is the best. Enjoyed the “people” stories. The golf promo from Frances had me laughing out loud! Thanks for sharing.


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