Car camping and sightseeing in Sedona

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By Simon J. Lau

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Arriving in Sedona filled me with a great sense of satisfaction. Satisfaction that after a thousand miles on the road, a dozen gas breaks, and countless McCafes, that I finally found myself here. For those who have never visited, Sedona is an incredibly charming city. It is unlike any other place that I have seen in America. It was made famous by its many red sandstone formations. These sandstone formations, or what are formally known as Schnebly Hill Formations, can only be found here. These unique features also made Sedona a popular backdrop for many Hollywood films including Johnny Guitar and 3:10 to Yuma. The rich hues come from both the bright red rock formations as well as the changing colors of the sky. With each sunrise and sunset, these formation emit a soft glow that blanket the desert floor. As one can imagine, it provides a unique setting in which to enjoy the great outdoors.

In addition to these natural beauties, I also discovered the 1930’s New Deal-era project, Midgley Bridge, which connected Sedona to Flagstaff. This arched bridge spanned Wilson Canyon and ran along Oak Creek. For more than 80 years, Midgley Bridge has remained a notable local landmark and has become a popular tourist destination. In fact, during my visit to Sedona, I backtracked from my campsite, and my itinerary, just to visit here. There are several hiking trails that run in and around the bridge that lead down to Oak Creek. However, the best views can be had just above the bridge’s pillars. From here, one can gain beautiful views of the canyon, the creek, and the vast mountainous terrain that surround Sedona. As a history junkie, I also appreciated the thought, care, and craftsmanship that were applied to creating this gem. The Great Depression may have been a struggling period for America, but it was also a notable period for American design, manufacturing, and in this case, architecture.

That said, I took this as an opportunity to dabble in some outdoor activities through my unorthodox camping technique, what I generally refer to as car camping. Rather than setting up a tent, I used my crossover as my bed and shelter. As you can tell from the pictures above, Benny was the largest beneficiary. Not only did he have the creature comforts he has grown so accustomed to at home, but he also had me cooking and slaving for him over an open fire. Kidding aside, car camping is not as glamorous as one would think (or as I had hoped). My car is barely large enough for me to sleep comfortably with the back row laid flat, and despite my best efforts to keep the bugs out, I woke to many bug bites in the morning. Still, I would do it again, especially here in Sedona.




Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson

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By Simon J. Lau

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Of all the attractions I saw in Tucson, my favorite was the Pima Air and Space Museum. This is the largest non-government funded aerospace museum (third largest of any kind) in the world. It has nearly 300 aircrafts across 6 hangars and an outdoor boneyard that sits on an 80 acre lot. The sheer number of planes and the care taken to restore them is breathtaking. In addition, the docents were simply amazing. Their depth of knowledge and uncanny ability to describe the legacy and impact of each aircraft’s history made this not only my favorite attraction in Tucson, but one of the most engaging and educational museum experiences I’ve had.

Some of the most intriguing pieces of history that I learned here related to the WWII bombers and fighter jets. My docent took great care in highlighting the limitations of early US fighter jet escorts in WWII — mainly that they did not have the range to escort bombers to the drop zone and back home. This made bombers, particularly the early B-17 bombers, vulnerable during air missions. Initially, US bomber crews in Europe were required to complete at least 25 combat missions before returning home from tour. Unfortunately, these early bomber crews only averaged 12 missions before being shot down. It was not until fighter jets such as the P-51 Mustang that bombers were provided with full range escorts. This drastically improved bomber survival where that the number of required combat missions increased to 35 by the end of the war.

One unique feature of the B-17 bomber is the ventral, or lower body, ball gun turret located near the tail of the plane. These planes were outfitted with a number of gun turrets at various points along the plane, including a ventral ball gun turret. This gun turret housed two .50 caliber machine guns and could seat a crewman no taller than 5’4″. This apparatus was so compact and the din of two machine guns firing on both sides of a crewman’s head was so loud that after a combat mission, it was not uncommon for one to temporarily lose hearing. These stories truly illustrate the struggles of American and Allied servicemen throughout WWII.

To end this post on a lighter note, Pima was also dog friendly. I was able to bring Benny with me into the hangars and also toured the boneyard outside. This image is of Benny in front of a Vietnam era Huey Helicopter. Ben seemed to very much enjoy this part of the tour — inside the air conditioned hangar. Whether he learned anything is still up for debate.