The road to Sedona, Oak Creek Canyon Drive, is simply beautiful. You start off from Flagstaff, heading south to enter the thickly forested Coconino National Forest. A few miles later the pines give way to the canyon, and you descend through two miles of switchbacks across the Pumphouse Wash Bridge. Driving along the creek, the canyon surrounds you with bright red sandstone walls. Halfway down the canyon lies Slide Rock State Park where a natural slide made from smooth Coconino sandstone provides some summer fun. The drive ends in Sedona, the arts community set among the red rock.
The rest of my day is spent stamp hunting, visiting four sites across a couple of hundred miles. And all of the park sites today have the same thing in common: They all preserve the remains of prehistoric Indian cultures. The first is Tuzigoot National Monument, just a bit northwest of Sedona. Here lie the remnants of a Sinaguan village built between 1125 and 1400. The hilltop pueblo, reminiscent of an Italian hill town, had 77 ground floor rooms. Further down my route is Montezumaís Castle National Monument, where Sinagua farmers built a five-story 20-room cliff dwelling in the 12th century.
As I head further south, the variety of desert plant life is quite surprising. Iíve never really been in a desert like this, and Iím just stunned by the strange beauty of the Sonora vegetation. The Saguaro cactus start sprouting everywhere when I turn towards Lake Roosevelt. Just across the Roosevelt Dam is Tonto National Monument, where Salado Indians occupied cliff dwellings during the 13th and 14th centuries. I walk halfway up the trail to the dwelling, but itís getting late, and I better get moving if I want to get the final stamp of the day.
Another 90 miles away is Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. I arrive about about 30 minutes before closing. Thatís just enough time to view the four-story clay building built 650 years ago, the largest known structure to exist in Hohokam times. The purpose of this building is a mystery, and its use has never been determined.
So my four-stamp tour is complete, but Iím hoping for one more. The Hohkam Pima National Monument is somewhere nearby, but according to the Fodorís guide, it is not open to the public. With visions of another Yucca House adventure, I ask the Ranger at Casa Grande about the site. Well, this time Fodorís is right! The monument is indeed closed, as it lies within a "Closed Area" of the Gila River Indian Reservation. The Ranger gives me a Xeroxed sheet about the site, but thatís all there is. No colorful park folder, no visitation allowed, and NO STAMP.
Okay, I understand the driver was trying to save some wildlife, but how about the human life behind him. Hey, Iíve got nothing against squirrels, although they are rodents, but Iím a little more concerned with my own safety. Obviously this jerk wasnít looking behind him, at least I hope he didnít know I was there before he tried to make my acquaintance - the hard way. I run with my brights on during the day, hoping to increase my visibility. But I guess it didnít make a difference to this loser. As I pass him, I let him know what I think about him and his car as I give him the middle finger salute.
Iím always checking behind me to see whatís going on back there. Cops, tailgaters, etc. Check Six, as the pilots say. My brakes are better than most cars on the road. So if I need to slam on the ABS, Iíll know when I can really stop short if I have to without getting rear-ended. Looking backwards is as important as looking forwards.
Once again, the BMW ABS system saved my ass. As soon as I noticed the car skidding, I grabbed a bunch of brake and I was able to avoid a crash. Like the BMW poster that I saw at Cycle Logical in Eugene says Ė "If you donít have ESP you need ABS."
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