Personal Journeys

PERSONAL JOURNEYS

March 07, 2004|By Special to the Sun

A Memorable Place

A hard ride into a fascinating town

By Robert L. Lamborn

SPECIAL TO THE SUN

We rode our bicycles up Oak Creek Canyon into Sedona. In the high desert country of Arizona, 4,500 feet above sea level, the little town is nestled between red-rock walls, spires and buttes, bluffs and chimneys in a magnificent box canyon. The setting is so dramatic it has been the site of many classic Western films. It's also home to a vibrant arts colony.

Our schedule for the day -- we were on a 3,500-mile bicycle tour from Los Angeles to Boston -- called for us to ride more than 50 miles from Cottonwood to Flagstaff, climbing more than 3,000 feet. As we pedaled into town, we knew we still had 28 miles to ride, with a major climb up the canyon wall. There wouldn't be much time for wandering Sedona's streets or for a refreshing dip in the creek.

But we had time enough to get a sense of the place and to savor its character. Sedona was once a ceremonial meeting place for Indians. Today, 12th-century cliff dwellings, petroglyphs and ancient pathways remain to be explored.

Surrounded by the 2-million-acre Coconino National Forest (and two state parks), the area provides many opportunities for hiking, birding, fishing, swimming, horseback riding and bicycling.

While town leaders pride themselves on the area's amenities -- four-star resorts, international cuisine, art galleries and music festivals, among others -- they take seriously their responsibilities as stewards of the history and ecology of the area.

We took a quick look around. Then we rode toward Flagstaff, climbing more than 2,000 feet, the last 800 up the sheer cliff wall at the end of the canyon. The road had more than 100 switchbacks.

We fought to stay upright in winds gusting to gale force. Two of our group were blown off their bikes. At the top, we stopped in a little roadside park to rest. American Indians were sitting on the ground selling their wares -- silver and turquoise jewelry laid out on brightly colored blankets.

We looked back down the valley. Bicyclists were approaching the first switchback. Others were farther along. We promised ourselves that we would come back here one day. We haven't returned yet, but we're satisfied, after cycling in 42 states and 10 foreign countries, that Sedona is a place like no other.

The locals say, "God created the Grand Canyon but he lives in Sedona." They may be going a bit far, but Sedona is surely worth a visit.

Robert L. Lamborn lives in Columbia.

My Best Shot

Lilly Cubano, Baltimore

Colorful Buenos Aires

This street in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is called Caminito. The people who live in this area of the city are poor, but they are proud of what they have and they show it by painting their houses in bright colors. Buenos Aires is a beautiful place to visit.

Readers Recommend

Cancun, Mexico

Michael Crnovic, Nottingham

My wife and I were on our honeymoon in Cancun and fell asleep one day on the beach. When we awoke, we saw a beautiful sandcastle version of the Chichen Itza ruin about two feet from where we were sleeping. It was as if it appeared out of nowhere. The sand and beach in Cancun were incredible.

Doolin, Ireland

Gordon Strauss, Fallston

For many years I've wanted to visit Ireland, and last fall I had the chance to do so with my wife and extended family. My favorite spot was a town named Doolin, near the Cliffs of Moher (above). The scenery was spectacular, the people friendly, the town quaint and the beer cold. Need I say more?

Let Us Hear From You

We want to know about your travels, your experiences, your pictures. Here's how to participate in this page:

* My Best Shot -- Send us a terrific travel photo with a description of when and where you took it. (Cash value: $50.)

* A Memorable Place -- In 500 words or less, tell us about a travel experience that changed you, about the nostalgia a certain place evokes, about the power of a favorite beach, the mountains, a city cafe. (Cash value: $150.)

* Readers Recommend -- Briefly tell us about places you've recently visited that you'd recommend to other readers. (50 words or less; photos are welcome.)

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