This is part of a writing I did some time ago about a solo trip I took to Arizona in 2018. For more info, see here.
My plans to journey to Arizona come about rather suddenly. I’ve been wanting to go on vacation for a while, and wanting to take just a solo trip because I have never really traveled alone before. But it takes a bit of time for all the pieces to fall into place. Sometime around July, it sort of hits me that I could absolutely do it, and I start thinking of what sort of places I might go. I’ve been wanting to visit the US southwest for a while, so I have a vague idea in mind about heading in that direction, but that's about it.
It isn’t till a bit later, however, when I am doing completely separate research on an obscure body modification I’ve wanted for quite a while that it hits me. Steve Haworth, the man who pioneered subdermal magnets, has a studio in Phoenix. I’ve wanted a subdermal magnet implant (yes, I now have a magnet in my hand, more on this later) for several years but the technology was still a bit too new for me, and I had no idea how I’d actually get one. But Steve is in Phoenix. Still, I’m not going to Phoenix any time soon am I? Or am I? Suddenly, it hits me, and within a few hours I’ve decided that I’m going to Phoenix.
Now begins the planning. The first obstacle to plan around is Steve’s schedule. He does a lot of traveling to do presentations and train people how to install his various creations and use the custom tools he’s made. To pick my date, I cross reference Steve’s schedule for when he won't be traveling, with a Google search to find the cheapest flights to Phoenix. Luckily, Phoenix is one of the few destinations that the cheap airline, Allegiant, will fly to out of the Central Nebraska Regional Airport (CNRA) in Grand Island, NE. However, the prices vary depending on your departure and return dates. I consider two basic options, either a Monday through Friday, or a Friday through Monday. After comparing lots of various options I eventually land on departing on Monday, October 8, 2018 at 11:50 AM, and arrive at Phoenix Mesa Airport at 12:16 Mountain Time.
Now that I know what days I’ll be in Phoenix, I can start filling those days. I use TripIt to plan things out loosely. The first step is to contact Steve and set an appointment for the magnet implant. I am put into contact with his assistant, Jenna and together we set my appointment for 7:00 PM on the Monday that I arrive. I place a deposit to hold my appointment, and spend the next couple of months annoying Jenna with questions so that I can be prepared.
Other than this appointment, my time on the trip is mine. My main attraction in Arizona is, of course, the Grand Canyon. After doing a little research online, I decide that I can spend no less than a full day there. I wish dearly that I could dedicate more time, but with only four real days for sightseeing, I just can’t. I’ve also heard wonderful things about the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix, so I plan to make a stop there. Perusing through Atlas Obscura for the Phoenix and Flagstaff areas, I spot an interesting little shop called Curious Nature and decide to pop in there briefly. My eye is also drawn to a place called the Coconino Lava River Tubes in the Coconino National Forest. That sounds too interesting to pass up and I decide to try to visit. Since I’ll be in the Flagstaff area for the Grand Canyon, I also decide I’ll have to visit the Lowell Observatory. It has been a goal of mine to visit ever since I read about it as a kid in a book where a group of kids visit the observatory at one point. My Flagstaff Airbnb host also recommends a nearby trail called Viet Springs Loop and I plan to try to make time to visit that too, although I ultimately don’t manage it.
I spend weeks deliberating about various different ways of organizing my schedule and getting from place to place, including taking a Greyhound bus at least one way between Phoenix and Flagstaff. Ultimately however, I decide to get a rental car and, going outside my comfort zone, brave driving the streets of Phoenix. To some, Phoenix may not seem so scary, but I grew up and learned to drive in a town with four thousand people. I do however, decide to at least use Uber to get from place to place in Phoenix. I’m not that much of a masochist. I also entertain lots of different lodging options, including camping, but then realize that would mean I'd need to bring my camping gear with me which would be a huge pain for flying, and I decide to stick with Airbnbs.
With my schedule more or less finalized, I begin to make reservations. I bought my plane tickets a while back, once I finalized the dates for the trip, but the rest had to wait a while. Over the next month or so, I reserve my rental car, my Airbnb lodgings in both Phoenix and Flagstaff, and everything else that needs to be locked in ahead of time. Once everything is in place, all that is left is the long, excruciating wait until it’s time to leave.
The weekend before my trip is spent making preparations. I always want to pack light but it never seems to happen. I’ve anticipated this in advance and went ahead and paid for a checked bag for my flight both ways. Even with this, my ticket was around $250 round trip.
So, I drag out my luggage. First is my huge duffel bag. I worry if it’ll even fit within the TSA requirements but it’s the only one I have this size so it’ll have to do. I also grab my laptop backpack. Here’s where I run into a snag, I need to also bring my hiking backpack, staff, boots and other gear, but the two bags is all I can have, one checked, one carry-on, and technically a personal item but I don’t have a bag that size. So, I empty out my hiking bag, and find places for all of its contents in my other bags, smash it flat, and put it in the lower compartment of the huge duffel, along with my boots, staff, and other stuff. I pile clothes into the upper compartment somewhat haphazardly, toss in some underwear, socks, a couple pairs of shorts, some jeans, and a pile of t-shirts. I shove all my bathroom gear into a Ziploc, forcing the air out and sealing it before tossing it on the pile. My backpack gets most of my electronics (padded as well as possible), one change of clothes, a book or two, and anything else I might need for the plane.
I try to get some sleep the night before. I don’t have to leave super early in the morning, but I try to go to sleep anyway, just to pass the time faster until it’s time to go.
Read part 1 here.