Nancy Pickard and I met through her blog a few years ago, and cemented our friendship on my numerous trips across the country and a week spent together at the Writers Retreat Workshop (she was teaching and I was an eager student). So I was thrilled when I found out she was going to be presenting at the Northern Arizona Book Fest yesterday in Flagstaff. I’ve been wanting to get up there and check out the town since I moved to Phoenix, so this was the perfect opportunity.
All of my wanderings in Arizona have been through the desert, so I was amazed to watch the terrain change as I drove north yesterday morning. Flag is at almost 7000 feet, so with every gain in altitude (signs along the interstate marked each thousand foot increase) came fewer cacti, shrubs then stubby trees then green hills then greener mountains, then finally Ponderosa pine forests and the San Francisco Peaks. And suddenly it felt like I was in North Idaho again – well, except for the lack of a lake for the city to nestle on.
My friend Andi suggested I stop at Macy’s coffee shop, and since her suggestions are always dead-on and I had time to kill, and I always find a coffee shop when I visit a new town, I did. And ordered a decaf latte and razzberry tofu danish that were simply amazing. The shop was bustling yet not crowded, filled with an assorted of college students in hoodies, young couples with babies, folks reading the morning paper, and me. More students waited outside with a jar, collecting spare change to fight malaria in children in…Africa, I believe (I missed that part). We laughed over our exclusive use of debit cards as I fumbled in my purse for a spare coin, and I complimented them on spending their morning following their hearts.
Then I drove around the area to see the sights, and found a town I could see myself living in (no, I’m not going to, but I sure could). A cozy downtown with an old-time feel, with wine bars and cafes and shops. Mountains perched on the edge of town. Unpretentious homes. And trees. Lots of trees. It was hard to believe I was still in Arizona! Obviously I need to learn more about this state…
I DID spend a few minutes driving on Route 66, just to say that I had done it. 🙂 There are some funky old motels and businesses proclaiming their affiliation with the historic cross-country route, so it was a quick jaunt into the past.
Nancy had a morning flight over the Grand Canyon as part of her festival activities, so I settled in the lodge-like lobby of her hotel and read while I waited for her. It was a treat, this enforced idleness – I haven’t opened a book since lounging by the pool in Florida last month. I snuggled into a comfy couch near the fireplace with the roaring fire (it was probably in the 60’s, so the heat wasn’t necessary – it was great for the ambiance, though!) and read, glancing out the windows now and then to reassure myself the trees were still there.
Then Nancy appeared, and we dashed off to the Pita Jungle on the recommendation of the students manning the front desk (“Where would you take your mom for lunch if she came to visit?” was the right question to ask them). A Mediterranean platter of hummus, falafel, tzatziki, dolmades, tahini, feta, and olives was way too much food, after my yummy danish, but I did my best. We sat in the sunshine and chatted and caught up (I hadn’t seen her since September 2010), then drove around town and explored a little before she was due at the conference where she was presenting.
I haven’t been doing much writerly stuff (except songs and the jingle, and that’s not quite the same thing) for a while, so it was refreshing to immerse myself in that world again, even if only for a little while. Writers talked about and read selections from their books, and Nancy talked about the writing process, and I vowed to get back to putting words on paper.
All too soon, it was time to take Nancy back to her hotel. We vowed to get together again soon somehow, somewhere, and I headed south. It was a little sad to leave the trees and reenter the desert, but I promised myself to get out of Phoenix again soon and explore more of the area. I hear there’s a place in Sedona that serves deep fried olives…
Anyway, it was a great time spent with a wonderful friend. It was fun to do something different, see a new place, not work for a day. Today I have tons of loose ends to tie up before starting the work week, so I’m off to make a list. And reminisce about my fun adventure!