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"The Compelling Chronicles Of America, Moon & Honey" by Jacy & Damien Chalcraft. “Not all those who wander are lost.” — J. R. R. Tolkien

"Learn to swim, I'll see you down in Arizona Bay."

USA | Saturday, 28 July 2012 | Views [1183]

It was the most uncomfortable drive of our entire honeymoon. 300miles (483kms). From Las Vegas, Nevada to Cottonwood, Arizona. 5 gruelling hours it took, across the unrelenting heat of the Arizona desert, lining our sore stomachs with nothing but pork crackle snacks & water. From desert, through mountains. From mountains to highway. From highway through hills, farms & towns. The final road we took lead us through the most winding road you could ever imagine (& we've done the zig-zag in Perth many times). Not only was the road, steep & contoured at every angle possible, it was incredibly thin & on the edge of a cliff face! And here's me, mr Australian-unlicensed, driving on the right hand side of the road, hungover, with 6 days experience: playing snakes & ladders in our Ford Fiesta up & down a mountain face in 39-degree heat. Jacy said more than once on that journey along the road, "of all the thrill rides & roller-coasters we rode at Knotts Berry Farm; driving along these winding roads on the edges of the mountain cliffs was far scarier than any of these rides combined." If I had seen the height below, no doubt I'd have agreed. I guess the element of almost certain death makes things kinda real. We made it through the final stretch & doing so brings you threw this surreal town named Jerome. It was formed as a copper mining community in the late 1930s, at it's boom contained 15,000 people & within 15 years became America's largest "Ghost Town" falling to a population of 50! Jerome is the most unbelievable town, a very hippie, artistic, wine-orientated community, filled with a vibrant culture reminiscent of Margaret River. The only huge difference is that Jerome is built along the cliff edges of a treacherously steep mountain-face. The photos will really emphasize what I mean. It's utterly insane. An earthquake or mountain slide would wipe out this town in an instant. The reason I know so much about this town, & the reason we're here, is because our favourite artist of all time has chosen this place as his habitat to display his current project: Wine. His vineyards Merkin Vineyards are in the Arizona hills & his Celladoor & Puscifer Store; in Jerome. Back to the story though, we passed through the clutches of Jerome for 10 minutes to our little hideaway, "Pines Hotel" located in the city centre of Cottonwood, Arizona. This well-kept, quaint, little resort was absolutely perfect for our relative stopover. An upstairs apartment with sink, ensuite, kitchen & pool. 'twas exactly what we needed after our Vegas fiasco. Quiet, simple, yet fully furnished, comfortable & air-conditioned. It was SO hot!! We Urban-Spooned nearby restaurants & hit up Cottonwoods town centre, a place named "Tavern Grille" for dinner. Uncertain & somewhat cautious, we ordered familiar dishes & were blown away. Coconut shrimp with orange zest entree & massive sirloin's with salads. Salads!! Oh my god yes! And they were good too :)) We had to come to the middle of the desert to get a proper, decent salad. 'twas worth every treacherous downslope.

Monday 16th of July we awoke, refreshed & hungry. Went into the odd little town of Cottonwood & enjoyed a very cheap egg, hashbrown & toast continental breakfast. After which, we returned to our hotel, packed all our belongings into the car, checked out & proceeded in reverse, back up the hills to Jerome. Today was our day of sampling & appreciation of the sounds, clothes & wine of Maynard James Keenan. We arrived early & the Puscifer store wasn't open. We went next door & had Iced Tea at a beautiful little hillside cafe named "Alice's". At 11am we went next door & purchased our weight in official Puscifer gear available only instore. Nearing 12pm, we wandered down the insanely steep hill to Caduceus Cellars & after observing all the meticulously crafted glasses, wine stoppers, corkscrews, clothes & everything else imaginable, we did a wine tasting of M.J.K's personals. We left about an hour later with 2 reds & a white, caduceus corkscrew, bottle stop, t-shirt & various other goodies. Soon after, we descended the mountain to our second stop "Arizona Stronghold" cellars which are basically the conglomerate of all Arizona Based winemakers, setup 3 years ago by Eric Glomski & Maynard J Keenan. We did a tasting there as well & left with a beautiful bottle of Chardonnay. If you ever have the opportunity, I'd highly recommend visiting this place. It's an art exhibit slash cellar door. Magnificent art murals & impeccable wines. Heaven together. We left here & made our dash for Phoenix, Arizona. 2 hours, 100 miles (161km) later we pulled into our final stop. Checked in, threw all our bags into the room & in the last hour which we had the car, ventured through the chaotic city streets of Phoenix to "Alice Coopertown". A pretty damn awesome place as you'd probably expect from the legendary, 4 decade shock rocker. I had a BBQ Turkey breast with salad & Jacy, Chicken Salsa Salad. Delish! We went straight from there to the airport terminal & dropped off our beloved Ford Fiesta of which we'd put 1300 miles (2,092kms) onto the clock & said a sad farewell. It's quite a brave move, deciding to drive across such a vast majority of any country, but the benefits of having a car, it's convenience & infinite uses, far outweighs the difficulty of potential driving obstacles. The American population on the roads are wreck less as hell, regardless. All you have to do is drive sensibly, safely & cautiously & you'll have no issue whatsoever. I didn't & I wasn't even allowed to drive. :P  As a wise man once said "It's about the journey, not the destination."

We experienced turmoil on the returning trip from the car hire place - airport - hotel. Incompetence. It makes me angry just thinking about it, so I'm choosing to leave it out of the story. At the hotel, I wandered into the hotel bar, purchased two Coronas & Jacy & I went & sat in the pool, wound-down, sipped our beers & forgot about our worries for a while. "Hakuna Matata". ß Damn, Disneys having an effect on me.

We awoke early (5:45am), Tuesday 17th July & fretted about out luggage capacity. All our bottles of wine surely threw us over our 23kg limit. We spread items throughout our cases & set off. In the lobby we found free bananas for breakfast & mud-flavored, diahorrea-coloured coffee. Putrid. Our driver arrived & we headed to the airport. On the way we spoke of our  Iimit-exceeding qualms & he informed us how flashing a few 20 dollar bills coerces officials to "oversee" luggage violations. Completely at his mercy, we followed his advance. We had no cash on us so when we hit the airport we sourced an ATM & withdrew. Meanwhile outside, our fantastic cab driver had found his friendly airport official & for a small fee to each, we avoided a minimum of a $100 if we were 5lbs over. Which we were. It feels like bribing, but instead- your tipping these people to go out of their way to help you. And they do. At this stage we also learned; If your luggage is over, they'll charge you $100+ for being over capacity. Whereas you could go upstairs, purchase a new, crappy suitcase/bag (~$25), stuff it full of your heaviest items & submit it as an extra item of 'Checked Luggage' & pay the extra $35 to check it. You've ultimately spent $60 & saved yourself $40! Alternatively; carry-on baggage is almost NEVER weighed. Stuff as much of your heaviest "permittable" items into your carry-on (you can get away with two carry-on bags per person) & your good to go & your checked cases are within limits. There are ALOT of ways around these ridiculous luggage fees if youre sensible about it. Glorious loopholes.

              We boarded the plane at 7:50am from Phoenix, Arizona eastbound to Miami Beach, Florida. We touched down 4.5-hours later, [4pm Miami time] & by doing so, had successfully crossed from one side of the United States Of America, to the other. :)


 But more than anything else, for us two humble Perthlings, it was so good to see the ocean again..



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