Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Field Research - Sedona Airport (Skytrek)

After finally getting some rest, we followed up with Tom at the Sedona Airport (Skytrek) to see if he could fit us into his schedule today (ahem) to do a Roden Crater flyby (here it is pronounced "Rodden"). Luckily he could squeeze us in at 1 PM. After completing other errands in Flagstaff and slowly winding our way 30 miles south, we arrived in Sedona; land of red rocks, new age crystals, and all things cowboy. We ate an early lunch of "Oaxacan" food, piled so high four people (Americans) could eat one entree. Leaving our lunch behind, we arrived at the airport as our pilot, Paul, was gassing up the plane.

References to Robert Smithson's demise were noted before hopping into the tiny aircraft. Without any knowledge of this conversation, Paul also mentioned that payment is taken upon landing and he's always had the same amount of take-offs to landing ratio. Paul immediately made fun of us for taking tourist airplane photographs. We promised we would not be a further annoyance by asking him to pose for us.

He strapped us in and Nancy immediately went for the headset, wishing she could acquire one in an upcoming performance (we bought pink hard hats earlier in the day). Fascinated once again with the possibility of smoking freely (also a topic of conversation in Las Vegas), Nancy wished she could use the cool ashtrays in back of the airplane. Unfortunately, she doesn't smoke.

More on Paul (interspersed by red rock scenery)... He spent 40 years living in St. Anthony, Idaho also working in Alaska, Montana, and 3.5 years in Sedona. He was employed by cattle ranches in Montana to search for stray cows from the air and also finding lost people and body searches in the Sedona area (once upon a time, a man committed suicide by "freezing himself to death" under a tree with his shirt and jacket wide open).

He asked about our interest in Roden Crater, stating that he first heard about it in a bar in Sedona. He thought it was false information when conversing with a construction worker who had helped shape the exterior of the crater. He had noticed it prior to this conversation but believed it to be a government facility of some sort. His interest was piqued and after researching it, was surprised to learn that this wasn't just "bar talk" but true. Upon discovering the Roden Crater website, he noticed many inaccuracies including the location of the crater and surrounding landmarks. The distances were off by over 20 miles (Nancy replied, "Turrell is keeping it vague").

Jokingly, Nancy suggested we buzz Turrell's front yard. As a surprise bonus feature, Paul circled James Turrell's compound, pointing out the landing strip as a highlight. Nancy and I both thought, "Our letter was sent here."

Finally, Roden Crater appeared on the outskirts of the Painted Desert in the distance, significantly smaller than the surrounding cinder cones. The roundness of this crater (instantly compared to a glazed donut) melds right into the landscape - the color variations were startling but were contained within a fenced off rectangle. We circled three times, viewing the observation decks and the sheer lack of construction vehicles in the parking lot (we were close enough to notice as we were flying at a lower altitude than usual).

Jacinda, sitting in the front, tried to take some decent photographs but every time her camera came close to the window, the wind bounced the plane up and down, round and round, with the camera reverberating back into her head set (sorry if some of the photos are out of focus - apparently her arch nemesis this vacation). Five minutes into the flight, she realized she would be the one using the souvenir bag. Fortunately, she remembered to pass the camera back to Nancy and remove her headset before hurling "Oaxacan" food into the white, plastic barf bag. Incidentally, the last time she ate Mexican food, also featured vomiting in an airplane. Also noted was the fact that TWO James Turrell artworks have now made her physically ill.

In the meantime.... Paul was helping Nancy trace the roads that we should be driving on to reach the crater, giving us important landmarks to remember. He reminded us "that on the ground, it all looks different." This will be the excuse that Nancy uses tomorrow when navigating from the passenger seat. Nancy was thinking, "This is a TERRIBLE time for Jacinda to be ill as I am not the Queen of Navigation." Hopefully we'll have cellphone coverage to use the GPS system (how that is going to help, we don't know).

Today we were mainly researching our plan of attack for tomorrow. Upon returning to Sedona, Nancy's main highlight, post airplane ride, was the lemon sorbet & mist falling from the awnings over the sidewalks. Jacinda was more interested in the blooming ocotillo and barrel cacti and getting over her motion sickness.

On the drive home, Jacinda closed her eyes (AKA slept) so she wouldn't have to experience the winding roads again. Nancy had the pleasure of reliving another puking incident as the poor boy in the backseat of the car in front of us, held his head out of the window, spewing what looked like gallons of liquid chunk all over the road and flying back onto our car. This happened twice and she was glad Jacinda was closing her eyes, guaranteeing that there was not a chain reaction as Nancy was not prepared with another white souvenir bag in the front seat.

For the record: Paul noted that one woman had to use nine souvenir bags in one flight and that Jacinda "composed herself with dignity" during the whole experience. Meanwhile Nancy thought to herself, "I may have missed my calling. I can whip around in this airplane no problem." (more experienced, more professional than her compadre in the front seat but truth be told, she was only pretending).


Adam said...

This is right out of a spy novel. I'm very excited for you guys; I hope you find it and don't get too lost. Any idea why the area within the fence is a different shade?

j. russell said...

Nancy and I tried to figure that out today Adam but couldn't get in close enough to determine the answer! Cattle are on the outskirts so I don't know if it has to do with grazing (?). We are going to get to the bottom of this though.