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twina49 Aug 4th, 2009 12:19 AM

Sedona Trip Report - From complete despair to complete satisfaction!
This is the first time I've done a trip report while we're on the trip, and I'm doing it without pre-typing it in a Word document, plus using our traveling companions laptop where the keys are WAY too close together, but here goes:

My husband, daughter and son-in-law started our "Trek to the desert" trip on Friday with a stay at the Crowne Plaza Pittsburgh Airport hotel - it's a very decent hotel and I got a really good rate through Since our flight left at 6:45 a.m. Saturday, it seemed a must better option than leaving at some ungodly hour in the middle of the night. We left the hotel at 4:30 a.m. on the hotel/airport shuttle and arrived at Pittsburgh airport.

We boarded our AirTran flight at 6:30 a.m. for a flight to Atlanta, then a connecting AirTran flight to Phoenix at 9:30. That's when SNAFU began. We sat on the tarmac until about 7:30 for no stated reason. Whether it was the situation at LaGuardia, weather somewhere along the route or the pilot's whim, the reason was never stated. We finally took off and had an uneventful flight to Atlanta, although fellow passengers were starting to get antsy because some of them had to make connecting flights at 9 or 9:15. We landed in Atlanta at 9:10 or so, with no announcement made on the plane of where our gates might be (as I've heard done on other flights), so we rushed off the plane and headed for the gate printed on the boarding passes the day before. The AirTran customer service agent standing in the deplaning area was mobbed by the people trying to make even earlier connecting flights than ours, so we didn't stop to ask where our flight was boarding (BIG mistake).

I assumed that since I printed the boarding passes the day before that they were accurate (another BIG mistake). There was no information board in the immediate area of the gate where we landed, so we headed off for Gate C. Atlanta is a big airport, which is an understatement. As we rushed from Concourse D where we landed to Concourse C, we stopped about half-way when we saw an information board. Lo and behold, our flight was boarding in Concourse D, six gates from where we got off the plane! We rushed back to the correct gate, only to be told they closed the boarding about two minutes prior to arriving at the gate.

The agent told us that they could put us on standby for 9 p.m. Saturday night, although she, of course, could not guarantee that we'd be on that flight and we'd have to go speak to customer service about our options. As an aside, my husband is NOT a fan of air travel, so it was quite interesting to keep him from ripping the agent a new one, since she's not the one who makes the rules.

Off we went to customer service, to be confronted with a l-o-n-g, l-o-n-g line. We stood in line for about 30 minutes until it was our turn. The agent there told us that since it was not AirTran's fault there was a delay (no mechanical problems, etc. on their plane), there was no requirement that they get us on another flight nor one with any of their partners. The best she could do was guarantee us a flight out today (August 3rd). As you can imagine, spending two extra days at the Atlanta airport was not going over very well with our group. I kept asking her if there was something she could do to provide better customer service with us, and she finally said she could get us on a flight to Denver at 6:30 p.m., then we'd have to get tickets on a Frontier flight from Denver to Phoenix ($78 per person, which was better than the $800 per person she told us we'd pay if we took a flight on USAir [one of their "partners"]). Since it was better than taking a chance on leaving stand-by Saturday evening on a flight already oversold by five seats, we went with the Denver option.

I then called National Car Rental in Phoenix where I had made a car reservation, to let them know we would be late picking up our rental, only to be told that they hold the rental for six hours after we were meant to pick it up, then it would have to go into a new reservation with new rates, which the rental agent told me would be approximately $300 more than my original rental (talk about adding insult to injury!). Luckily enough I had not been required to give them a credit card number when I made the reservation, so there was no way they were going to charge me ANY amount! I can't understand why I would pay more because I was picking up the car late rather than be out using it. In either case, it wasn't going to be used by someone else. I guess it must cost $300 for National to have it sit in the garage, for god's sake! At that point, I hung up with National, went and paid for internet access, and got onto the Enterprise site, where I was able to rent a car with pickup at 11:30 p.m., plus it cost me about $100 less than National was charging on the original reservation! I called National back and politely told them to stick their car up their ass. (Trust me, you can do this politely. Really....)

The flight to Denver was delayed (of course!), but we finally took off and landed at 7:30 Denver time. We went to get something to eat and then on to a bar to soothe our feelings somewhat. We left on time on Frontier and landed in Phoenix at 10:30 p.m., making our second (or was it our third?) mad dash through an airport that day in order to get our luggage before AirTran locked down for the night. We then mad dashed to the car rental center, where Enterprise couldn't have been nicer. We got an SUV, water for the drive, AND they put my daughter on as an extra driver for no charge. (The agent's comment was that we'd already had a tough enough day....). No shit.

We drove from Phoenix to Sedona/Village of Oak Creek and found our rental house, which turned out to be absolutely magnificent! The house is even more beautiful than the photos on the internet indicated. Friends we were meeting were already in the house and sound asleep, so we snuck in as quietly as possible and absolutely collapsed into our beds. Altogether, we were on the go (or sitting in the airport sending bad thoughts toward AirTran's way) for 25 hours, with only little naps on the plane.

Next time - relaxing in 100 ("but it's a "dry" heat) degrees, scenic drives and the Grand Canyon!

SAnParis2 Aug 4th, 2009 06:34 AM

As you unfortunately found out, PHX is one of the worst places in the country as far as car rentals go. Hopefully the remainder of the trip makes up for the 'getting there' part.

MichelleY Aug 4th, 2009 11:48 AM

Wow! I hope the rest of your trip is much better. Sedona/GC are so beautiful.

Looking forward to more.


Samsaf Aug 4th, 2009 12:19 PM

Oh, my goodness! I'm glad you were finally able to make it. Looking forward to reading more.

ksucat Aug 4th, 2009 01:05 PM

Relax and enjoy your stay..look forward to reading more!
Elote Cafe is excellent for dinner at the Kings Ransom hotel and lunch at the stunning Enchantment resort at Yavapai is a must!
Report back!

fatcat8689 Aug 4th, 2009 11:15 PM

Whew! Your stay in Sedona is really well deserved after that trip in! We have used Fox for rental cars when going into PHX based solely on price since we stay 10 days or so and get hit for those days over the 1-week rate. No problems thus far with them. Am looking into renting from a location other than the airport this time around due to cost; is quite a bit less expensive...working on the logistics, though. Hope you are enjoying the rest of your trip. If you haven't found it yet, would recommend visiting Jerome while based in Sedona...mountainside, former mining town..the drive up to it is an experience! Also look forward to reading more.

espinach1 Aug 5th, 2009 03:52 AM

The worst flying experienced I have ever encountered was with Air Tran. It's too long of a story to go into but I was actually put on hold for 45 minutes before I gave up. And the whole time I was on hold the recorded message kept telling me that my call was important to them. I think that it's one of the worst airlines flying.

The_D_Dawg Aug 6th, 2009 05:55 AM

Oooh - Sedona! One of the most beautiful places around. Couple of quick thoughts - when you go to the GC, take 89A up to Flagstaff - beautiful winding road canyon-type scenery. Also, a couple of places very nearby that are great to see are:

Montezuma's Castle National Monument (30 minutes south)
Sunset Crater (between GC and Flagstaff on 89)
Meteor Crater (NASA sight, 20 miles east of Flagstaff)
Walnut Canyon NM (5 miles east of Flagstaff)

All of them are fascinating. Enjoy - Alles gut das endes gut!

sludick Aug 6th, 2009 10:22 AM

twina49, I am SO sorry to hear about your disastrous travel out there. Count me among those who have crossed Air Tran off my list, and who avoid Atlanta at all costs.

We're due back in Phoenix on September 3, and car rental prices have just keep going up, up, up. fatcat8689, I may check out Fox, given your remarks.

I'm looking forward to hearing some really good reports, now that you are there in Sedona.

twina49 Aug 6th, 2009 10:48 PM

As you may be able to tell from my delay in adding to my trip report, we've been having a wonderful time in the Sedona area! Perhaps all the sweeter due to the bad beginning.

I'm sitting here with a drink beside me and the desire to get some of this written while it's all fresh in my mind. As I mentioned, the house is everything we would ever want in a vacation home. Check out and click on the Terra Bella link. While we've enjoying driving around, a lot of our time is also spent out on the patio just enjoying the scenery.

Sunday was spent relaxing at the house, with a quick trip into Sedona for a little shopping and sightseeing. At one point I needed to turn around to drive back toward the Village of Oak Creek and my ice cream radar went off, as I just happened to turn into the parking lot of a shopping center which had a Cold Stone Creamery. Yum! The sweet cream ice cream is to die for!

We try to balance a travel day with a relaxation day, so after our restful Sunday, we had breakfast at Cafe Jose, thanks to a suggestion by ksucat. Our GPS took us to the one in Sedona, where we all enjoyed a great breakfast before heading to the Grand Canyon via the scenic route. Yes, the_d_dawg, it is a wonderful drive. We stopped at Oak Creek Canyon vista and then on the road past the Bedrock Village (or whatever that thing was called).

Once we got to the Canyon, we parked at the Park Service Office and hiked to the rim. The vistas are outstanding! My husband is not a fan of heights or dramatic drops, so he hung back while the rest of us walked as close to the edge as our nerve allowed. Some people let their little kids get WAY too close to the rim (what the hell are they thinking???).

We walked around for a couple of hours and then headed back to the visitor center for a picnic lunch before catching the Blue Route bus to where we could catch the Red Route to Herman's View. Thanks to what looked like a mile-long line, we decided against that idea and went back to our cars and headed for the different vistas, taking our chances on parking. It turned out not to be too bad at each stop, so we got to view the canyon from many different angles. We worked our way toward the eastern side of the canyon and finally got to a point where we could see the Colorado River from a couple of the stops. I will admit it was hotter than hades, especially since I'm at that certain age where I get to enjoy my own private summers, but it wasn't unbearable. We couldn't get over the colors, the immensity and the beauty of the place. We could look down and watch condors flying around, catching the air currents and seeming to float gently downward. We were able to use the binoculars and see people rafting on the river, plus we stopped at the Desert View lookout tower and enjoyed the Canyon as much as the people-watching.

My husband spent a lot of time looking at rock formations away from the rim, to the point that our friend remarked that everytime he turned around, my husband was on his hands and knees! He wasn't really, but he was happy when we weren't standing on the rim.

We left around 6 p.m. and headed toward home on Rt. 89, stopping at the Anasazi Inn, where I tried fry bread and mutton stew. The fry bread was good, but I can't say I'll ever try mutton stew again! I figured what the hell, when in Rome....

Tuesday was one of the "relaxation" days, so we did a little grocery shopping, then the whole group decided to head over to check out Slide Rock State Park. As we drove once again on 89A enjoying the scenery, I noticed different areas where you could pull over, park and go down to Oak Creek, so I mentioned that if Slide Rock was crowded, that might be an option. When we got there, there was a line into the park, and our friend, not known for the greatest patience in the world, took one look and said that wasn't for him, so off they went in their car, unfortunately with the cooler of drinking water in the trunk! My husband, daughter, son-in-law and I found one of the Red Rock Pass machines (the passes have to be displayed on the dashboard if you want to park at any of the pull-over areas I had noticed on our way to Slide Rock), bought a pass, stopped at the nearby Dairy Queen for water, then found a parking spot above a lovely pool of water surrounded by red rocks. It was a little tricky making our way down to the Creek, but once there we spent a couple of hours swimming, exploring and just generally enjoying ourselves. The cool water felt so good on such a hot day! While we didn't get a chance to go to Slide Rock, we didn't have to share our spot with hordes of people. We tried to let our friends know where we were but couldn't get any signal. When we got back to the house, my friend's fiancee said she wished she had ridden in our car....

Yesterday the four of us left early in the morning to head for Monument Valley, stopping at the Cameron Trading Post along the way. The ride to the Monument seems to go on forever, but eventually we could see the monuments off in the distance. After paying the fee, we drove the 17 mile self-guided tour through the Monument. While we had no problem in our small SUV, the drive still caused me to cringe every time my husband hit a pothole or got too close to the rocks on the side of the road, with me saying, "Be careful, be careful," and him saying, "I AM - quit telling me that!"

What fascinated me the most was the idea that the top of the buttes and rocks was where ground level used to be. It's amazing what wind and erosion can do.

We left the Monument and drove to Chinle, where we stayed at the Chinle Holiday Inn. The drive through the Navajo Nation can be such a juxtaposition of images, with the outstanding physical beauty of the place providing the backdrop for what looks like a third world country. The small, older homes/shacks or trailers, the stray dogs in the parking lots and the cattle on the roads were all so different from anything I've ever seen before. Surroundings aside, almost all the people we ran into were very friendly. I have to admit I'm not used to being a minority, so that was a whole new feeling, as well.

We had an appointment this morning with Adam Teller of Antelope House Canyon de Chelly Tours, and it was one of the best things we have enjoyed in Arizona. Canyon de Chelly is beautiful and Adam Teller was the perfect guide to explain the history of the area. We drove through the canyon and got to see pictographs and dwellings high on the walls, with Adam telling us stories about his childhood in the canyon, the legends his grandmother told him and the history of the Pueblo and Navajo. Looking at rocks is one thing, but hearing about how the ancient people lived, farmed, and fought their battles among those rocks is quite another.

After a wonderful four-hour tour, we headed south toward Sedona, with a stop along the way at Meteor Crater. We weren't sure if we'd be impressed with what amounted to be a large hole in the ground, but the interactive museum and crater were very interesting, as was the 40 mile-per-hour wind that was blowing while we were standing on the observation platforms. (Well, some of us were standing at the viewpoints and some of us were hanging back looking at rocks....)

Two more days in the lovely place before heading home, so I'll continue this later. Thank you for all the nice comments!

missypie Aug 7th, 2009 11:44 AM

If you need another restaurant recommendation, try the Barking Frog.
Have a prickly pear margarita!

missypie Aug 7th, 2009 11:45 AM

One more thing. When we went to Phoenix a few years back, I rented our mini-van from Fox and saved quite a bit of money. This past March their price was higher than several of the national chains.

Dayenu Aug 7th, 2009 12:02 PM

Taking notes. We'll be there in October.

What a horrible, horrible beginning, and a wonderful, wonderful vacation!

twina49 Aug 7th, 2009 09:00 PM

I wanted to add one note about AirTran - while I think they could have been a lot more helpful with getting us on an earlier flight, I do think that a lot of the problems were related to the LaGuardia bomb scare. I did a search on AirTran on Fodors prior to our trip and most of the people had no major complaints. I feel sorry for the information desk agents, as they are only following company rules. I told the agent we were dealing with that I wouldn't want her job, and asked her if she went home at night and kicked her dog....!

twina49 Aug 10th, 2009 08:33 PM

Well, we're back home after two uneventful flights (wouldn't you know....?). My friend emailed me today and said she was going through withdrawal, as was I!

To finish the trip report - the plan for Friday was to hang around the Sedona/Village of Oak Creek area and relax. My son-in-law and our friends went hiking on Bell Rock, while my husband, daughter and I decided to check out the Prime Outlets mall, mostly for reading material for the flight home. We were greeted at the Worm Book and Music store by a very friendly Staffordshire dog that the owner got from a shelter last year, before browsing the selections. We also stopped at a kitchy souvenir store (I can't remember the name) where you could buy "Fartless" chili. Might have been helpful finding that product earlier in the week.... ;)

After shopping, everyone met for brunch at Café Jose (, which was becoming a favorite of ours, where I enjoyed my second Huevos Garcia of the week. One Café Jose is located in Sedona and the other in the Village of Oak Creek, but both seemed to have the same menu with some slight price difference. The food and service were great at both places.

After our meal, we headed back to the house to get some packing done and relax for the afternoon. The patio had become our favorite gathering spot, where we could enjoy the beautiful views. I liked the fact that the house is located in a quiet area, especially at night.

After organizing our stuff, cleaning up a bit around the house, we headed out once again for a meal (scenery or food both seem to play a major part in nearly everyone's vacation!). We had made reservations at The Hollywood Marketplace ( in the Sedona Prime Outlets, where we could relax among the many vintage movie photos/posters and enjoy our last evening with a very good dinner. It actually cooled down enough at night that we sat on the patio wearing jackets and slacks. The stars where beautiful, even though they were dimmed a bit by the bright moon.

Saturday found us finishing our packing and saying goodbye to our friends, who left on an earlier flight than ours. Since my family's flight didn't leave until 11 p.m., we reluctantly left our beautiful house for our journey home. We drove to Cottonwood, where we stopped at Ye Olde Hippie Emporium, which is very eclectic and run by, well, old hippies.

Our next stop was the mountainside town of Jerome, where copper used to reign supreme, with tourism now the main source of income (at least in my opinion). Some of the houses look as if a slight wind could blow them down the mountain, and it was fun visiting businesses that used to host houses of ill repute. We had lunch at The Grapes Winery (, which had a good menu variety with helpful hints on which wine went best with which food. I was glad for the cool atmosphere, as the hot temperatures where waging battle with my own "private summers." Holy Hot Flash, as the cartoons say!

We stopped at a few more shops (passed up the fartless chili once again...), and then headed for Phoenix. Traffic wasn't bad, plus we enjoyed our first look at saguaro cactus (cacti?), since our trip the week before through the area was done in the dark.

Friends from Phoenix met us for dinner at Macayo's (do you sense a recurring theme here?) near the airport, so we spent a relaxing two hours catching up with them and enjoying our meals ( I really enjoyed Macayo's, which has been at the N. Central Avenue location since the early 50's. The food was very tasty with generous portions and decent prices, plus sharing it with friends we haven't seen for a long time made it even better.

By 8:30 we were headed to the Sky Harbor Car Rental Center to drop off our car and head for the airport for our flight home. We left right on time at 11 p.m., landing in Atlanta at 5:30 a.m., then catching a flight to Pittsburgh at 8:15 a.m. Too bad everything didn't go as smoothly last week....

Other than the rough start, we had a wonderful week in the southwest. And yes, even though it's blazingly hot at times, it doesn't seem so bad without the usual humidity we're used to in Western Pennsylvania. I loved the colors (the red rocks against the azure sky was fantastic), the geological wonders and the friendly people. (And the food, mustn't forget about the food!) I'd like to go back again, although probably not in August. Thanks to everyone for the responses to the earlier parts of the trip report!

ksucat Aug 10th, 2009 11:41 PM

Couldn't be happier on your stay in Sedona..isn't it stunning..did you get any monsoon action?
Late September and October are great times along with the holidays..snow on the red rock is a sight to see.
Great report!

twina49 Aug 11th, 2009 05:36 AM

ksucat - we had one brief downpour while we were in Chinle, but that was about it.

One thing I forgot to mention and perhaps you'll know the answer to something we were wondering about. On Friday morning we all visited the Chapel of the Holy Cross, which was beautiful with magnificent views. We were curious, though, about the large house near the bottom of the hill. I know I've read references to the house on the Fodors forum before, but I couldn't find it when I did a search. On one hand, I think the house is attractive, but on the other, it really needs to be out somewhere all by itself. I'm sure everybody who visits the Chapel gives it a once over!

schmerl Aug 11th, 2009 07:12 AM

Loved your report. Thanks for sharing. I took my first trip to that area last year and I too was in awe over the natural beauty.

sludick Aug 12th, 2009 11:40 AM

Loved your report, thanks for taking the time to share. Cafe Jose is a fav of ours, too.

ksucat Aug 12th, 2009 12:29 PM

This must be the house you are thinking took a couple of years to complete..It's so over the top and I would hate to have someone always looking down at my property..[email protected]/3746821856/

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