Glacier National Park: Planning for your visit

Glacier National Park has been on my bucket list ever since I moved to Colorado 14 years ago. However, I’ve always been in a bit of a quandary how to get there. We had previously visited the national parks in Wyoming (Grand Teton and Yellowstone) and doing a 14-hour drive from our home in Colorado to visit this national park in the northwest corner of Montana just didn’t seem like something I wanted to do.

So I reluctantly shelled out close to $800 for 2 tickets for me and my husband to fly there this past summer. It has its own International Airport (FCA) in Kalispell and is serviced by quite a few major airlines. Now, as you probably heard, there was a rental car shortage last summer. Initially I had some issues finding an available rental car, but ended up making a reservation with Hertz through Expedia. It was expensive – $200 a day. But a rental car is essential in Glacier. Lucky for us, the line was short. The line for Alamo was a mile long. I noted that Enterprise is located outside the airport. So I got lucky since I had also made a backup reservation with Enterprise.

Hopefully, the rental car situation will be better in 2022, but please make your reservation for one as soon as you make your flight reservation. Although there are the funky Red Bus tour cars, they don’t offer you the same freedom as a rental car.

Red Bus Tour Car (PC: NPS)

Where to stay?

Well, since it was the Pandemic, we opted to stay outside the park. The National Park Service actually has a variety of accommodations inside the park including seven NPS-affiliated lodges in the park: four on the west side (Lake McDonald Lodge, Village Inn at Apgar, Lake McDonald Motel, and Apgar Village Lodge & Cabins) and three on the east side (Many Glacier Lodge, Swiftcurrent Motor Inn & Cabins, Rising Sun Motor Inn & Cabins). Normally, I might have been inclinded to stay in Lake McDonald Lodge since it is a classic national park lodge with a beautiful location, but we are starting to prefer cabins and AirBNBs because of safety issues in the pandemic.

lobby of Lake McDonald Lodge (PC: NPS)

And of course, campgrounds. But camping was out of the question for me since this is grizzly bear country. But please don’t let this scare you. I’m just prefer a roof over my head and quite honestly, we didn’t spot one bear while we were there. And my husband even hiked in the backcounty, although he did pack bear spray at my insistence.

Grizzly bear in Glacier (PC: NPS)

I found a nice cabin resort called the North Forty Resort just about 10 minutes from the airport on the outskirts of Columbia Falls. It does add about 25 minutes on your drive into the park but on the plus side, it is close to Columbia Falls dining and shops.

Our cabin at North Forty Resort

GOING TO THE SUN ROAD – Ticketed entry!!! Please read this

I did not realize until a few weeks before we left that the main road through the park has a ticketed entry system. No, this is not included in the entry fee. You must go online and get this either in the spring or the week before you go. This is the info from the website for 2021:

Going-to-the-Sun Road Entry tickets are available 60 days in advance on a rolling daily window for arrivals May 28 – September 6, 2021. Beginning May 26th, 2021, tickets will also available two days in advance at 8 a.m. MT on a rolling daily window. Entry tickets are good for 7 consecutive days including the reserved day of arrival. Only one GTSR entry ticket is required per vehicle/motorcycle.

Since I missed the window in the springtime I attempted to get our pass a week before. They sold out within minutes. They said do not have multiple windows or devices open in an attempt to get a pass, but the next day I said to hell with it and had 3 windows and my phone submitting requests for a pass the minute they opened it up. I got it on my fourth attempt.

My next post will include more pics of the park. But I wanted to leave you with a few today. It’s a glorious place, even with smoky skies.

Lake McDonald

5 weeks post Septoplasty: life is great!

It’s hard to believe that having a clear nose to breathe out of has made a huge change in my life. For those of you considering Septoplasty, I highly recommend it. I will include links below to my first two posts.

As for the recovery, I thought I’d go into a bit more detail. The first week after my splints were removed my nose still hurt a bit to the touch and I needed to flush my nose at least twice a day to clean out residual junk (blood and mucous). Granted it wasn’t much but I didn’t like to blow my nose and I sort of grew to enjoy saline flushes (yeah, weird, but true)

By two weeks post-op I was only doing nasal flushes once a day in the morning. I had started running again as well. I have had to “retrain” myself to become a nose breather when I run.

One week ago (or just about 4 weeks post-op) I no longer felt the need to flush my nose. But that’s how long it took for it to completely heal and drain out. Now at five weeks I feel pretty normal. The nose has no more discomfort if I touch it.

The thing that was most weird was the numbness directly behind my front teeth. That took almost 5 weeks. Today is the first day I feel no numbness there.

Many people have asked if I stopped snoring (yes, I did snore before!). I will say it did help. But don’t do this operation solely for the purpose of stopping snoring. It may/may not help. Sometimes I do a quick nap during the day and catch myself snoring (since I fall asleep in my recliner.) But at night I sleep mostly on my side and for the most part I’m not snoring anymore. I think I slept on my back a lot more prior to my surgery.

So for me, this surgery has been worth it! Please feel free to message me if you have any questions.

Part 1: What is Septoplasty and why I got it done

Part 2: Surgery

My Septoplasty Adventure Part 2: Surgery and Recovery

Read Part 1 here for more background on Septoplasty!

If you’ve had surgery before, then Septoplasty surgery itself will be easy peasy. Pay attention to your instructions about eating and drinking before surgery (typically eat dinner no later than 12 hours before surgery and nothing to drink after midnight). Try to see about getting your prescriptions for pain meds and antibiotics filled before your surgery so you don’t have to worry about that after surgery. Trust me – you’ll want to go straight home and rest. My doctor did get this taken care of and I thank him immensely. Yes, he did want me on antibiotics after surgery. I watched some YouTube videos where some people did come down with sinus infections so he believes in giving them as you’ll have a lot of gunk in your sinuses afterwards. DO talk with your doc if he does not prescribe them.

Plan to buy protein drinks or other soft foods to have for the first few days. My surgery was at 10 am and by 5 pm that same day I was hungry. But I just ate little bits every few hours. You will be intubated and more than likely your throat will hurt afterwards.

One of the important things you will need to do is purchase a saline flush kit. My doctor does not recommend a Neti pot. You need one with a squeeze bottle as shown below. Do practice beforehand. I did not, but after a day I finally got better. I’m used to nasal sprays, including saline ones, but with this you really need to master the technique of flushing out your nose. My doc wanted me doing it at least 4 times a day. I bought a kit with 30 packets of saline but ended up buying more because I came to really like doing this. I could feel the junk in my nose and since you can’t blow your nose, this is the only way to get it out. I got my splints out a week ago and I’m still doing it, although not as much — typically in the morning and at night.

As for the surgery, it’s like any other surgery. You go under and then a minute later you wake up! No, not really, but that’s what it feels like. Mine took just over an hour. The funny thing was when I finally woke up from the anesthesia, I started talking in Spanish. While I do not consider myself a true bilingual person I do spend time on WhatsApp every day chatting with friends in Costa Rica so I’m fairly proficient in Spanish. It’s so bizarre that this happened.

Anyhow, as expected my throat hurt like hell and I was thirsty. They gave me some Percocet and water and that did help, but my nose was still mighty uncomfortable. Here’s a pic of me later that day with my awful little nose sling thingy.  No makeup. Rare that I would even post a picture like this, but I don’t want to sugar coat this. This is surgery and you won’t feel wonderful afterwards.

post op–feeling miserable

Sleeping that night was awful. I tried sleeping in my recliner but my cat wanted to sleep with me. Somehow I got a few winks in, but it wasn’t easy. I took a Vicodin at bedtime and then another at 3 am. By morning the throat pain was gone. I was able to drink a little coffee but it tasted awful. I pretty much slept as much as I could all day. Like the day before I just ate soft food. The good news was that the bleeding was subsiding and I was able to sleep in my bed with an extra pillow. By the next morning the bleeding had stopped and I just kept tissue with me at all times. I detested the nose sling anyhow.

The next few days I saw steady improvement with less swelling and increased appetite, although I could not smell or taste anything! Also the front part of my mouth behind my incisors was numb. On the last two nights before I got the splints taken out my throat started to feel sore again. Not sure why. Perhaps some post-nasal drip down my throat at night.

On the seventh day I got my splints out! I was so happy to have this over, but let me tell you that this for me was the worst part. Although they sprayed numbing spray in my nose (some of which got in my throat) I could still feel the doc slowing take them out.  They were huge! Probably a good 2.5 inches long.

Nasal splints

He then suctioned out my nasal passages. That was uncomfortable, too. You know how they say to imagine yourself on a sunny beach when you’re having an uncomfortable medical procedure? Well, I tried that and it did help some but I was still anxious for it to be all over.

The next few days I continued to take Advil because my nose felt a little uncomfortable. It’s been almost a week and I almost feel back to normal. My nasal passages still feel just a tad bit swollen but no more blood when I flush out my nose. Yesterday I went running for the first time and being able to breathe through both nostrils was wonderful. And yes, my sense of smell and taste came back right after the splints came out.

In the end I’m glad I went through with this procedure. It actually was an easier recovery than I expected and I already am sleeping better.

back to normal! After my first run

My Septoplasty Adventure Part 1: Why I got one and what it is

First the why:

For as long as I can remember, or at least close to 45 years dating back to my teenage years, I’ve been an allergy sufferer. Sneezing, itchy eyes, stuffiness . . .  you name it. For the most part I learned to live with it. But as I got older, it got worse. When I moved to California I started taking over-the-counter (OTC) allergy pills, and then when I moved to Colorado 14 years ago, it got notably worse (dry air here.) I have tried pretty much every nasal spray and eye drop, along with OTC allergy pills and a humidifier in my bedroom. I finally decided to go to an allergist as my life was miserable.

The results were astounding. I was basically allergic to nothing. She did note that I had a deviated septum, but didn’t mention that it could be a contributing factor. So I continued living in misery and wondering what I could do. I then noticed several posts on a local FB page where people mentioned that they had better luck going to an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialist than an allergist. Apparently, there are a lot of miserable people like me in Colorado.

However, it took me nearly 10 years to finally pull the trigger to make that appointment. I was always busy – traveling, kids’ school stuff, etc. Finally, I had the time last spring and the pandemic had settled down a little bit (we all know that has changed). So I made the appointment. I first went to the  physician assistant (PA) for the ENT (not the surgeon). Guess what? First thing that came up was the deviated septum. He also mentioned that my turbinates were enlarged and that I was the perfect candidate for septoplasty with turbinate reduction. First he wanted me to do a specific corticoid nasal spray for a month to document for insurance purposes that a non-surgical approach was unsuccessful. No surprises – spray didn’t help a bit. So I came back one month later and talked with the surgeon. He confirmed what his PA had said, explained the surgery and turned me over to scheduling. I could have had it done within a few weeks but I decided to wait until all my traveling and remodeling projects were done. In a way, I wish I hadn’t waited, as recovery was easier than expected. But anyhow, it’s done now and I couldn’t be happier.

So what is a deviated septum, septoplasty, and those funky things call turbinates?

The best way to show what a deviated septum is by a simple graphic:

You may also take a look at your nose in the mirror and note that your nostrils are a different size. Here’s a lovely pic of me before. As you can see mine are a slightly different size. Not horrible. But the doc said that my septum looked worse further up. In some people it’s much more obvious as seen in the man shown below my picture

So how do you get a deviated septum? Well, a lot of people have one simply due to genetics (thanks Mom & Dad), or they have had a rough trip out during childbirth (high birth weight babies in particular.) The other is injury. And that doesn’t necessarily mean a broken nose, although a broken nose can certainly cause a deviated septum. In particular, athletes such as basketball players frequently get banged in the nose without it actually being broken. This I believe is what happened to me, although not in basketball. I had a sledding accident when I was 12 or so where a saucer sled hit me in the bridge of my nose. I was gushing blood but my nose was not broken. However, that seems to stand out in my mind as the beginning of the time I started to have allergy issues.

So what are turbinates?

According to Stanford Health, “Turbinates are small structures inside the nose that cleanse and humidify air that passes through the nostrils into the lungs. They are made by a bony structure surrounded by vascular tissue and a mucous membrane outside, and can become swollen and inflamed by allergies, irritation or infection, causing nasal obstruction and producing an excessive amount of mucous which leads to congestion.”

This part of the procedure is relatively straightforward and uses a radiofrequency instrument to reduce the size.

So what is Septoplasty?

Well, I’m not going to get into the nuts and bolts of how it is done, but the main thing to know is that it is done under general anesthesia and you will have a fun little set of internal nose splints when you are done. (see graphic below) Unlike rhinoplasty, the nose is not broken or reset but you will have some swelling and discomfort for a number of days. I will talk more about that in my next post.

Cathedral Spires trail at Custer State Park

My husband is more of a hard core hiker and did a bit more hiking at Custer State Park when we were there earlier this summer. But for me Cathedral Spires was an easy and enjoyable hike that I think most people will like. The key is start early in the morning to avoid the scorching sun and the frequent afternoon thunderstorms. If you’re looking for some challenging hikes, consider Little Devil’s Spur and/or Black Elk Peak. My husband did that one on his own. It’s the highest spot in South Dakota (7242 feet).

Cathedral Spires is roughly 1.6 miles out and back. It takes you to the base of the spires and if you’re lucky you might spot some climbers like we did. It’s a moderate uphill climb and there were quite a few mosquitoes in the first half mile or so as we crossed some marshy meadows filled with wildflowers

Road Tripping to Black Hills, South Dakota: Bismarck Lake Campground

Back over a decade ago when we first moved to Colorado, we took an epic road trip up to the Wyoming national parks (Grand Teton and Yellowstone) and then finished out our trip by driving over to South Dakota and visiting Mt. Rushmore and the Badlands (which, contrary to their name, are pretty awesome). On our way home we passed through the Black Hills National Forest. At the time we were road weary and ready to get home, but we made a mental note to return as it was so green and beautiful. It took us a while but my husband and I finally made it back this summer. And we weren’t disappointed by our stay at Bismarck Lake Campground.

Getting there

From Denver it’s a good 5-6 hour drive, especially on a busy holiday weekend. However, that’s nothing for many folks. We talked to a couple who drove from Michigan and it was a 20-hour journey for them. If you prefer to fly, the nearest major city is Rapid City, just about an hour away. Since the Badlands and Mt. Rushmore, as well as some other major attractions such Crazy Horse Monument and Wind Cave National Park, are nearby, it’s very easy to spend a week here visiting all the sites.

Info for campers

There are cabins and hotels in and around the town of Custer, but we decided to tent camp. We don’t have an RV and every year I regret it a bit more as I get older as it just is not comfortable. Another reason is that in Colorado and throughout the Mountain West (and I stretch to include South Dakota within that region) summer thunderstorms are a frequent occurrence. All three days we were there we had them. Now, fortunately none were as torrential as we experienced in Colorado, but I think we just got lucky. Only one happened during the night and that passed by us just to the north. However, it woke up me (I was thinking it was another fireworks celebration as it was on the 4th of July) and I was unable to get back to sleep for over an hour as I was concerned it would come our direction as it appeared to be doing on the radar.

Now when it comes to picking a campground I always feel a bit torn. Usually I prefer a state park when staying 3 nights or longer, as they have shower facilities, but I didn’t really like the look of the campgrounds within Custer State Park.  The most central ones had a generic feel to them and were better suited it seems to RVs. So we decided to just stay right outside the boundary of the state park at a Black Hills National Forest Camp, Bismarck Lake Campground, a small 21-site campground next to a scenic lake. Like forest camps everywhere, it only had vault toilets but it did have water.  But it was high enough up that we felt it wouldn’t be too mosquito infested.

The campground itself was great. The location of our site (#3) was also very nice with lots of trees and plenty of space between us and our neighbors. However, it was indicated as a tent site and I just don’t agree with that.  We ended up pitched our large-ish tent at the end of the long gravel driveway. At least it was flat but the ground was very hard, difficult to drive the spikes into.

However, #3 was on the quieter end of the campground with better spacing than the small loop and we felt the mosquitoes were minimal. Close to the toilet but not too close and a short walk to the lake. The lake is smaller than the very popular Sylvan Lake and nearby Stockade Lake but very pretty, with a boat launch (for canoes, kayaks, small fishing boats, paddle boards as this is a no-wake lake).

Because of its proximity to Custer, we actually drove into town for breakfast 2 mornings and donuts on our final day. (I especially recommend Baker’s Bakery and Cafe – great breakfast and killer Apple fritters) We ate our dinner once, as well. For me, it was a nice balance as I’m not a hardcore camper

Overall, I’d give this a 4 out of 5 for its beautiful location and quiet surroundings.

Links to our favorite places:

The Begging Burro for killer Mexican food in Custer.

Baker’s Bakery & Cafe for homestyle breakfasts and donuts.

Hotel Rui Palace Mexico: our “revenge vacation” destination

Like so many Americans we decided to do what is being coined a revenge vacation after being fully vaccinated and waiting 2 weeks. I actually booked our vacation once I got my first vaccine scheduled. My husband was dragging his feet on scheduling but did want to go on vacation, so we worked quickly to get him scheduled as well (this was back in late March).

I had talked to several people who had gone to Mexico and it seemed like the easiest place to go. Sure, it wasn’t going to be the same as Spain, which we had booked and planned to go to in the fall of 2020. But it did have a beach and it was hot and sunny. After a long winter in Colorado, that’s all I needed.

Although we have stayed once in an all-inclusive (AI) in Puerta Vallarta, our preference is usually smaller boutique or condos in Mexico. However, given the situation of the pandemic, our plan this time was to find an AI in or around Playa del Carmen (south of Cancun). I had heard the big chain hotels were offering free on-site Covid testing as it is (currently) required to get back into the US. Once booking some dirt cheap flights on Frontier (with upgraded seating!) I started looking for hotels. They were cheap in May (and even cheaper now). My two finalists were the Rui Palace Mexico and the Riu Palace Maya Riviera. They’re both in the Playacar area of Playa del Carmen. Ultimately, I liked the look of Rui Palace Mexico a bit better and it was cheaper by $60 a night when we went.

(one little nice thing about the Riu chain – there are a bunch in Playa del Carmen. If you have a wristband from any one of them, you can eat or use the pools, etc. at any of them. One time we were walking down the beach and actually stopped by the RP Maya Riviera and saw that it was virtually the same layout as RP Mexico. We picked up a free drink and continued on down the beach to our hotel.)

Speaking of the rooms, I’m posting two pics here to show you that the rooms at both the hotels have virtually the same layout.

I booked directly online on the Riu site as I was able to get a free shuttle for us. That’s very worthwhile as it’s an hour away from the Cancun airport and would be quite a taxi ride. When you get to the Cancun airport just walk past all the people inside trying to get you on a shuttle or taxi and make your way outside to where Riu has a little podium where you can check in. It may take a while for a shuttle to come but no worries! There’s an outside bar where you can go eat or pick up a drink. I got a Tecate. After a long plane ride with no drink service, this was very welcome in hot, humid Mexico. One con about the RP Mexico is that is one of the later stops on the shuttle route. Fortunately, only one other couple on our way there. On the flip side, we were one of the first pickups on the return to the airport. This was good! We got a seat near the front of the van and were not packed in the back like a sardine.

Although we did do the online check-in procedure which was supposed to streamline the check-in process during Covid, it didn’t seem to be any different than the normal check-in. Copy of passport, etc. However, this wasn’t a big deal as there weren’t any others checking in at the time. By the way, they take Covid precautions very seriously in Mexico, such as wearing a mask in all indoor public areas in the hotel, hand sanitizer, and also these little shoe cleaning mats that you’re supposed to walk through. Also they did do temp checks when you enter the hotel. They’re supposed to do it every time but sometimes no one was there. The most important part of the check-in was getting info on the Covid testing. Kudos to the Riu for offering this service and making it so easy.

We were also scheduled to meet with a hotel representative who, of course, wanted to sign us up for activities. We passed on any activities, as the main attraction we wanted to do, Tulum, was closed by the government because of Covid.

I would give our restaurant and dining experience a B here. The breakfast and lunch buffets were always good and they did have a variety of hot dishes every day so you weren’t eating the same thing every day. At breakfast all I cared was that they had plantanos maduros (fried plantains) and papaya. As for the restaurants, no reservations were required (during the pandemic) and no dress code either, although most people did tend to dress up.

Each night 3 of the 5 restaurants were open. I think normally all five would be open during a non-pandemic year, but I think they were limiting dining choices due to low number of guests.

  • “Krystal” Fusion restaurant
  • “Miyagi” Japanese restaurant
  • Steakhouse
  • Italian restaurant
  • “La Bodega” Mexican restaurant (buffet starters and dessert)

Of course, I think the Mexican restaurant was the best, followed by the Italian, and the Steakhouse. Sometimes Mexican properties do a good job on sushi but the Riu Japanese offerings were not up to par.

As I mentioned, some of the activities were limited due to the pandemic. Live music seem to be limited and the resort seemed to be relatively quiet compared to what it probably was prior to pandemic. We saw that every afternoon they had some games going on by the pools, but overall it wasn’t the party atmosphere that we expected. But I was fine with that. The pools themselves are the smaller side, but with the relatively small amount of guests it wasn’t crowded. The swim-up bar was operating, but I never used it. The pool-side waiters kept the drinks coming. What I enjoyed most, though, was the beach area. Sure, 2021 is a bad year for sargassum seaweed. But there were tons of palm trees and lounge chairs which afforded beautiful views. Yes, there were some annoying venders but not as bad as some Mexican resorts.

We loved doing beach walks every morning before it rained (we seemed to get a quick shower most days around noon) and before it got super hot. There are some ruins just up the road from the hotel that were not much to see, but we did get to see some iguanas running around. I personally enjoyed the shopping in Playacar. We did go one day into Playa del Carmen but the shopping area was too touristy. That’s where you can catch the boat shuttle over to Cozumel.

In and around Playacar

Playa del Carmen

Now for the cons of this hotel. Overall, the housecleaning is great. However, they’re too stingy with towels (I swiped them off the housecleaning carts as it was easier than calling). I know, they’re doing what they’re told but two towels at a beach resort is not enough. (yes, you do get a card for pool/beach towels). And the housecleaners were a bit too thorough. While I do get partial blame for this, my new bikini top disappeared on day 2. I think I had accidentally put a towel over it after drying off after a shower but it I couldn’t find it later. Lesson learned. We were very careful with keeping things tidy after that.

But the biggest gripe is the noise. The neighboring hotel had live music going on one night until after midnight. Of course, the RP Mexico has no control over this, but I think offering ear plugs wouldn’t be a bad idea. Their policy is no music at the outside stage or theater after 11. But other hotels didn’t abide by this time frame. Furthermore, the hallways are super loud as noise echoes off the concrete walls. On the last night our upstairs neighbor was watching TV until midnight (and very active with other activities on other nights) and it became obvious that there was no soundproofing between floors and rooms.

Overall, we had a great time here. Good food, great location, very good service. Just a little noisy. I was impressed with Riu on my first stay there. I’ll certainly consider their other properties in the future.

Sedona: a wonderfully relaxing getaway

My husband has been bugging me for years that we should do a getaway to Sedona. As we live in Colorado, it’s just a short flight away (to Phoenix and then a 2 hour drive north.) So we finally decided to go in 2020 for our anniversary in April. But then the pandemic came and that plan went up in smoke.

However, we decided to try again in 2021. We discovered in 2021 that we liked staying in AirBNBs. Originally we had planned to stay in Sedona proper in a hotel but being that it was March this time (my birthday) and neither of us were vaccinated yet, we decided to skip the hotel and find an AirBNB in the Village of Oak Creek, just about 10 minutes south of Sedona. Good choice! It’s less crowded here and a lot less traffic. We stayed in a house just minutes away from shopping with tons of privacy, and of course, great views. Well, pretty much anymore in Sedona has great views but we feel that Oak Creek is a lot less hectic. The con is that there aren’t as many dining options. But that was the point – we wanted to stay away from crowded restaurants.

What to do: Well, first of all, Sedona is known as the day hike capital of the US. And from my observation, that’s a very accurate description. Since we were there only 3 nights, we devoted one day to hiking, although we could have easily done more. But for the non-hikers there’s plenty of shopping, “new age” activities such UFO tours and Vortex experiences, and your usual group tours. I’m not into new age stuff, but I did wish we could have gone to Slide Rock. I recall going there as a child. But it was too cold in March to do this. It’s a natural sandstone slide on Oak Creek. Not surprisingly, it’s super popular during the hot summer.

Slide Rock State Park (PC: azswimmingholes.com)

The hike we chose to do was the Bell Trail that takes off from the Bell Rock Trailhead and encircles Courthouse Rock. It’s about a 4 mile loop and is pretty easy with hardly any hill climbing, unless you decide to climb up to the Vortex at Bell Rock. Start early, though! This parking lot can get packed. Many people just chose to go up to the Vortex and by the time we returned the parking lot was packed. And this, as I mentioned, was in March! It was a little drizzly when we started but it cleared off quickly and we were treated to a beautiful hike.

View from our AirBNB

Courthouse Butte

Baby Bell Rock

Bell Rock

Another hugely popular trail is the Cathedral Rock trail. The picture below is from our vantage point on the Bell Trail. But it does have its own trailhead. I imagine it’s a zoo in the summer. They were doing some work there to prevent people from parking on the entrance road as it is near a residential area.

But if you’re not into hiking there is still plenty of sightseeing to be done. Two places I recommend are Sedona Airport Scenic Lookout with spectacular vistas of the Sedona area and also the Chapel of the Holy Cross, which is built into the rock cliff face.

Last but certainly not least, there’s plenty of shopping to be done. On the north side of town on 89A there are plenty of the typical touristy shops to get souvenirs and such. I couldn’t help myself and posed in front of these cute pink Javelina.

But for a more upscale shopping experience wander over to Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village on the west side of 179. Even though I didn’t buy anything they did have a lot of interesting shops and galleries and I enjoyed the pueblo-like atmosphere there. It’s very interesting to look at all the Sycamore trees which the buildings seem to be built around.

Overall, I have to say that Sedona was a pleasant surprise. It was very temperate in March and during the pandemic the crowds weren’t bad. Fall would also be a great time to go as well. If you’re coming to enjoy the water activities along Oak Creek, well, obviously March would not be a good time. But try to hit it before it starts to get scorching hot in the summer months.

Plan now for your rental car for summer vacation!

When it comes to vacations, securing flights and accommodations comes first. Typically, if I find a cheap fare to my destination (direct is preferred!) then I will work quickly to find a suitable accommodation that fits my needs. The last thing that I think about is a rental car.  I may even put it off in hopes that the rates will be cheaper if I book closer to my vacation.

I’ve taken several trips this last year during the pandemic – Knoxville, Tennessee; St. Augustine, Florida; and Sedona, Arizona (via Phoenix). On none of these trips did I have problems securing a rental car.

However, I recently heard that the rental car market was going crazy with sky high rates and no availability in some destinations. Way back in January I had booked accommodations and a flight to Kalispell, Montana for a visit to Glacier National Park.  I realized that I had not booked my rental car. I started looking around and kept on coming up with no availability. I was in a bit of a panic. Finally, I was able to book one through Enterprise. But I had to book the whole week instead of just the 4 days I was there. I’m not happy about it and am still worried that there won’t even be a car when I show up. However, we’re not canceling yet. I noticed that my daily rate was actually pretty cheap – $100. But when I looked at changing my flight to fly into Missoula and drive 2 hours north, everything turned out to be the same. The airfare was now higher and the daily rate out of Missoula (where there was availability) was $250 a day.

My husband and I did a little research and found out that this rental car crisis is due to the rental car fleets selling off a lot of cars during the pandemic in order to stay afloat. And now there is a chip shortage in the US so they can’t replace the cars that they sold off.

So, my advice to travelers is to now check rental car rates and availability before booking flights. Don’t wait like I did!

Two and through! Done with my Covid Vaccines

Two days ago I received my second Moderna vaccine. As expected I felt a little crappy the next day. Some chills and very fatigued. My husband had his second Pfizer vaccine the next day. He felt crappy today. Pretty much the same issues of tiredness and chills that I had. He also said he felt some body aches in the morning. I took Advil right after I got my shot and it did help. But the chills set in overnight for me. Today, I feel almost 100% back to normal. I went out and did some geocaching but decided to wait one more day before I went running.

Colorado now has a number of drive-thru clinics that don’t require appointments. That’s amazing! Back at the beginning of April it was so busy. I knew people driving up to Wyoming to get vaccinated. Now it’s pretty easy. It’s still problematic for people who don’t drive and I know in Denver they’re trying to address this issue.

Still, we could be doing better. My husband plays volleyball with a group of adults and most of them aren’t interested in getting the vaccine. We need 70% of the population vaccinated to reach herd immunity. At present Colorado is at 28.4% and the United State is at 27.2%. We opened it up to all people age 16 and over a few weeks ago. I’m hoping that more schools require it so we can see an increase over the summer.