In October 2012, an old friend who had moved out of Arizona came back for a visit. On his list of “have-to-dos” was visiting Sedona. He used to hike Sedona frequently when he lived here, and because there’s nothing like it in southwestern Ohio where he moved, he needed to get his fix.
Most travelers coming from Phoenix will drive up Interstate 17, traipse through the congested but picturesque Village of Oak Creek, and hit Sedona from the south side, but we decided to take a more scenic route, a road called Schnebly Hill Road.
All along the first couple of miles, there are signs stating that the road isn’t maintained, but besides a few larger rocks we had to steer around, the road was relatively smooth and made for a pleasant drive. Our ride for the day was my 1983 BMW 533, jokingly referred to as “The Panzer.” Although sturdy, its hardly an all-terrain vehicle. Goaded by the views, however, we pushed forward.
Having multiple “should we turn around?” moments at every wide spot in the road, all ending with “let’s try one more section,” eventually, as usually happens, we ran out of spaces to turn around. With little more space than a single-lane road, we began our descent down worse terrain than I’ve driven in a very long time.
And never in a thirty-year-old sedan.
Grinding downhill in first gear, passing the only other traffic on the road, all coming the other direction, Pink Jeep Tour after Pink Jeep Tour bouncing up the hill. At that speed, it was easy to hear the commentary from the tour guides from their windowless perches. “Your GPS tell you to go this way?” was a frequent quip. With one eye on the ever-climbing oil temperature gauge and one on the oil pan-demolishing boulders, we powered on. I didn’t get to see much of the scenery of that part of the trip; I could tell when we were close to the edge of a substantial drop-off by the varying degrees of white Eric’s knuckles turned as he gripped the “Oh shit” handle for dear life.
Long story short, we survived, and didn’t have to be towed off the mountain, which was always a concern. By the time we made through to the other side, besides my shoulders pounding from the steering wheel being whipped back and forth as the front wheels were manipulated by the boulders in the road, the only casualties of the three-hour snails-pace trip to the car were a punctured catalytic converter, which was damaged when the the car slammed down on a big rock sticking too high out of the center of the road; and a small bend in an oil line that got pinched at some point over the mountain.
Getting out to stretch our legs, we spent a couple of hours on a victory hike around the Huckaby trail, mostly to let the poor car cool down, before we meandering into town for a burger and a brew at the Oak Creek Brewery & Grill, one of my favorite places not just for their food, but the views. What is it about food tasting that much better after a day like that, or while you’re camping, or on an epic road trip? This same burger, even though great at any other time, was phenomenal that night.
The perfect end to a terrific, if not harrowing, day.