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Posted by on Nov 28, 2016 in Travel | 4 comments

Know what’s between Phoenix and Las Vegas? Nothing.

Nothing, Arizona

I don’t mean it’s totally empty – on the way to Las Vegas, we drove by a Joshua tree forest and ate at an unfriendly hot dog place.

Nothing, Arizona

We also noticed a spot on the map off highway 93, between Wickenburg and Wickieup, for the town of Nothing, Arizona. I’m using the term “town” very loosely here.

Nothing, Arizona

On the way back, we stopped there, in front of the abandoned gas station that’s the only building in sight. According to the sign painted on the side, Nothing has a population of 4.

But even that may be an exaggeration.

Nothing, Arizona

Microblog Mondays: Write in your own space

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Route 66 Celebration in Flagstaff

Posted by on Nov 10, 2016 in Travel | 0 comments

Does hearing about Route 66 put Nat King Cole’s “Get Your Kicks” in your head too?

Road to flagstaff

I don’t know the whole song, but I always chime in when he gets to “Flagstaff, Arizona.”

The “Mother Road” turns 90 this year, and Flagstaff is celebrating the milestone Friday (11/11). There will be food, music, games, classic cars, and bowling from 12-5pm between the Historic Museum Club and Starlite Lanes Bowling Alley. Bring cash – proceeds benefit the Military Order of the Purple Heart and Bowling for Vets.


If you’re in town through Saturday, you can also go to the opening reception for the It’s Elemental exhibition at the Coconino Center for the Arts 11/12, 6-8pm. You can find more ideas of what to see in the Flagstaff Visitor Center’s itinerary guide (PDF).

flagstaff arizona

According to the leaf-o-meter, there is still some fall color, and the forecast looks good. It should be a great weekend to get your kicks in Northern Arizona!

Flagstaff - NAU

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Payson Pie and Strawberry Llamas

Posted by on Sep 1, 2016 in Travel | 0 comments

Llamas at ranch at fossil creek

Ever since a park ranger at Phoenix Comicon told us about Arizona’s National Park Centennial Celebration (which you may have seen on recent Happenings Lists), we had planned to make a day trip to Flagstaff to join.


After a late start the morning of the event, we were finally en route when we learned there had been a freeway-closing collision between us and Flagstaff and that the resulting traffic jam would likely last several hours.

So. We considered our options, ditched the plan, and headed to Payson instead.


While Phillip drove, I found a list of 35 things to do around Payson and read it to him. #33 was “Fossil Creek Llama Ranch.” Obviously, that went on the afternoon’s itinerary.


First, though, we stopped at the Beeline Cafe for lunch and pie. They have crazy good pie.


The clouds were moving in as we stepped out of the cafe and drove towards the Ranch at Fossil Creek in the town of Strawberry.


The Ranch is home to llamas, goats, Fossil Creek Creamery – where they make fudge, cheese, and soap from goat’s milk – and a little log-cabin-style store with their products.


It was sprinkling by the time we pulled up and went into the Creamery store. We checked it all out, sampled some cheese, made some purchases.

Fossil Creek Creamery: goat cheese

We went out to watch the animals. The llamas didn’t seem to mind the rain and just hung out around their field, chewing cud.


The goats, on the other hand, had taken cover and stood huddled together.

Fossil Creek Creamery: goats


Eventually, one black goat decided the rain had let up enough to venture out. The rest tentatively followed, one by one realizing the drizzle wasn’t so bad, and it was safe to get back to eating, climbing on stuff, butting heads, and doing all their regular goaty things.



– More info –

ranch at fossil creek - strawberry, arizona

Photo of Phillip by someone at the National Park Service booth.

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The Ups and Downs of The Canyon Motel (Williams, AZ)

Posted by on Jun 9, 2016 in Travel | 2 comments


It’s not every day that your mom gets her master’s degree. So if her graduation is in another city, you make travel plans.


After getting back from our last big extended-family trip to my cousin’s wedding in Virginia, we started planning for Mom’s Northern Arizona University graduation in May. We were looking for somewhere that everyone making the trip to Flagstaff could stay.

Cast of Characters:

My mom (a.k.a. Graduate with honors) and dad (vital support system and expert pancake maker)

My brother Ian, sister-in-law Christine, niece and nephew (yep, they flew in from Seattle!)

My aunt (Sister of the Graduate), uncle, and their dog

Phillip and me


Turns out that, even four months ahead, we were a little late. Flagstaff hotels were filling up for graduation weekend, and the rooms that were available tended to cost double or triple their regular rates. We looked at cabins and Airbnb and weren’t finding anything that could accommodate all of us well. (Some of these places have like a million bedrooms but one bathroom. #badideas)

Canyon Motel, Williams, AZ -Picnic table

We were excited to find The Canyon Motel and RV Park, which fit what we were looking for:

  • Kitchenettes (microwave, mini-fridge, coffeemaker) so we could bring some of our own food.
  • Picnic tables for family meals.
  • ADA accessible rooms.
  • Playground for the kiddos.
  • Dogs allowed.



The motel is not actually in Flagstaff but in Williams, about 30 minutes away.

Williams, Arizona’s claims to fame:

Canyon Motel

The Property

Canyon Motel is minutes from historic downtown Williams one direction and Bearizona animal park the other.

Canyon Motel

The motel part is actually a series of renovated 1940s cottages with exteriors made from the local flagstone. There are 3 separate rooms next to each other in each building.

Canyon Motel

Besides the cottages, you have the option of staying in a vintage train car or caboose, pulling up your RV or tent camping.

Canyon Motel, Williams, AZ -image

There are fire pits and grills near the picnic tables, a heated indoor pool, and a “hidden patio” (for rent).


The office doubles as a general store selling snacks and Route 66 souvenirs.

Canyon Motel


While each room is different, the whole place is decorated with a kitschy Route 66 / railroad theme. There are vintage travel posters, benches with backs made from Chevy truck tailgates, and lots of railroad and road signs.

Canyon Motel

All rooms include kitchenettes. Some also include sofa beds. Ours had shelves near the mini-fridge and also in the bathroom, which is nice. We didn’t have a closet but there was a clothes rack and hangers.



Plot twist: A few weeks out, my aunt realized they wouldn’t be able to make the trip.

When she called to cancel their reservation, the motel couldn’t find it in the system. Which is disconcerting. If they had come with us, they may not have had a room when they arrived.

Canyon Motel, Williams, AZ - bed

Check-in Drama

Although the motel had the rest of our reservations, our arrival still wasn’t exactly smooth.


Act I

  • A white minivan, carrying my parents and Ian’s family, pulls up in front of the Canyon Motel office.
  • Dad is told he can’t park there.
  • Misdirected by signs meant for RVs, he pulls forward a few feet, and sends me a warning text.
  • Meanwhile, Ian is checking in. The desk clerk goes over where everything is, circling recommended restaurants on a map.
  • They go into their respective rooms, where my niece promptly throws up on the bed.
  • Someone from the motel brings a change of bedding.



Act II

  • 30 minutes later, Phillip and I arrive.
  • Confused, we follow Dad’s text and park in front of the office.
  • Phillip is told to move the car. (Exits)
  • I check in and receive a single room key.
  • The desk clerk patiently goes over where everything is, circling recommended restaurants on a map – as if she hadn’t just done that when Ian arrived and probably 10 times that day.
  • As we wrap up, Phillip returns from moving the car and is told to now park it next to our room.


Canyon Motel

I Saw the Sign

Of course, not all the check-in drama was the motel’s fault. (They did not, for example, ask my niece to get sick.) Actually, every employee we spoke with was friendly and helpful.

There are just a lot of things design- and policy-wise that make the place itself feel unwelcoming.


Besides the confusing parking, there are baffling rules about all kinds of things, like which picnic tables to use. There are do-and-don’t signs posted all over the place.


More importantly, even though our bed was comfortable, not everyone’s was. The sofa bed where my niece was slept was basically all springs. Fortunately, she’s small enough she could curl up on the one useable corner. (My even smaller nephew slept on a cushion. Awww…)
Canyon Motel, Williams, AZ -


Our stay wasn’t all bad, but it was a mixed bag. It was great for multiple families to be close together, still have our own individual space (and bathrooms!), and room for the kids to run around. They loved the playground, and the picnic tables were a good gathering spot.

Canyon Motel

If we were to do this trip over, I’d probably still stay there, because it worked for what we needed at the time. In other circumstances, though, I’d probably opt to stay somewhere that made me feel less like an intruder – or a hassle – and more like a guest.


We received a media discount for our stay from The Canyon Motel and RV Park.

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