I’ve had a pretty amazing week so far, and it’s only Tuesday! I’m in Arizona (Mesa, specifically) for a Mitel Communications Director Advanced Certification course. For those of you who don’t know: I sell, install, and maintain business communications solutions for a living. Mom and Pop shops, schools, campuses, government buildings, hotels, car dealerships, jails, etc. You name it, I have a communications solution for it. Some people call me a “phone guy,” but I assure you that the preparation, planning, and implementation of a voice network deserves a title a little longer than a disyllabic phrase as vague as “phone guy.” I’m not trying to sound pretentious, and I don’t get upset when people refer to my role in my company as such, but I think a new, more specific title should become standardized. 😉
Anyways, I’m getting off topic. The class is the main reason I’m here, but when I go places, I like to take full advantage of the time I have available to me to hike, explore, and see the sights surrounding me. This is my fourth trip to Arizona in roughly 4 years. This is the 3rd time I’ve been here for work. I can’t get enough! Kansas will always be “home,” but Arizona is my absolute favorite place to visit. The landscape is so diverse: deserts, mountains, canyons, mesas, cliffs, plains, etc. For a guy with an attention span comparable to that of a goldfish, this is my “pot of gold,” so to speak. Always something to do. Plus, Wal-Mart sells beer, fine wine, and spirits here. ON SUNDAYS.
I flew out a couple of days ahead of time so that I could kick a few things off the bucket list that I haven’t had a chance to see/do in my previous visits here. As soon as I landed in Phoenix, and picked up my rental car, I drove North on Interstate 17 toward Page. I didn’t originally plan on seeing the Grand Canyon for a fourth time (I have been to the Canyon, and even hiked in it on one occasion, during all of my previous visits), but as soon as the sign for the turn-off showed up on the horizon, I knew I had to at least drop in and say “Hello.” The allure and pull the Grand Canyon has on me is infectious. It’s a craving I can’t shake if I’m anywhere within reasonable driving distance of it. If you’ve never been and you appreciate nature, I think you’ll know what I’m talking about once you see it (or as much of it as you can see in one trip, anyway). Photos can’t capture its essence, and no prior notion, idea, or memory of it can compete with being there and seeing it in person. It’s mind-numbing. Its scope and grandeur can’t be described accurately. Just do yourself a favor if you have the time and the means: Go. Just see it. I didn’t go into the official National Park area, but that’s not where my favorite view is, anyway. My all-time favorite view is a little ways into the highway that goes along the South Rim as you approach it from the East. It’s 2 or 3 scenic views in. After about a 1/2 mile hike, you are granted this view:
I like this spot, in particular, because it’s not as “touristy,” and there are no handrails or anything keeping you from peering over the dramatic ledge that drops off into the canyon. It’s nearly a straight vertical drop, and it’s quite different from the part of the canyon you see once you’re in the National Park.
I didn’t stay long, but I had to quench my Grand Canyon thirst. Glad I stopped. I also picked up some Native American jewelry from some locals for my mother and girlfriend (Who says I can’t plan ahead? I started my Mother’s Day shopping early).
After that, I drove through the Painted Desert (I didn’t take any photos. Sorry!) and through a section of Navajo Nations before reaching Page. The primary reason I drove that far was to see Antelope Canyon. I have an ever-growing bucket list, and this item was near the top. I had also wanted to visit Zion National Park in Utah, since I was up that far North anyway, and had some doubts about seeing Antelope Canyon on a guided tour (that’s the only way you can view Antelope Canyon these days, due to a tragic flash flood incident in 1997 where several tourists were killed when water rushed through the canyon and drowned them, or so I’m told). I really wanted to visit the canyon and take it all in by myself. I spoke with my brother Luke on the phone, and he convinced me I should go, even though it would be on the tour. At least I would have been there and experienced it, right? I’m grateful Luke talked me into it, because it was an amazing, surreal, and spiritual experience. I would have kicked myself forever if I didn’t take the opportunity that was RIGHT in front of me. I signed up for the 10:30 a.m. tour, which gives you the best possible lighting, being that the sun is highest in the sky and shining down through the narrow gap between the canyon walls. I had an amazing tour guide, and a good group who was respectful of the canyon, as well as other people in the group. If you ever go to Page, Arizona, book a tour with Antelope Slot Canyon Tours, and get on Irene’s tour. She is an eccentric, good-natured, funny woman with a good heart, and a big smile. She pointed out several shapes and images you can make out under certain lighting conditions within the canyon. For instance, the bear:
It looks like he/she is climbing up toward the heavens.
She called this one “Sunset in Monument Valley,” and it’s easy to see why:
Eons of wind and water helped shape the rock into what we see today:
It was very windy, so sand was blowing in from the sides and top of the canyon, making for dramatic lighting displays. At around noon, a pillar of light shot in from the top of the canyon near the entrance:
This is Irene, by the way (lower left corner):
Needless to say, I am glad I went:
After my experience in Antelope Canyon, I made my way South toward Mesa for my class the following day. I intentionally hadn’t eaten anything that day because I had been dying to eat at a restaurant in Flagstaff called “Salsa Brava.” I had seen it featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. I stopped in and ordered the Gordito Burrito. It is quite possibly the best (and largest) meal I’ve ever had. Pulled pork, carne asada, guacamole, sour cream, rice, beans, chicken…you name it, it’s stuffed in there:
And yes, I ate the whole thing:
Stuffed as I was, I somehow managed to fit inside my car and drive a couple of hours to my hotel in Mesa, right beside Mitel’s training center where my class is being held. I turned in pretty early that night for obvious reasons.
Yesterday, I began my class. Turns out I have more certifications with different communications servers than everyone in my class other than my instructor. I live in a unique area where we are the main business communications solutions provider in our region of the state, and so I have a great opportunity to learn and apply knowledge across several different platforms and applications. There are some incredibly bright people in the class, and our instructor is top-notch. It’s a difficult and challenging course, but I’m glad to be learning new skills and information to apply to my area of expertise.
That’s all I have time to write for now, but there is more to come! I have to be in class in 20 minutes, and I haven’t had my morning cup of coffee yet.
Until next time.
Josh, signing off.