Questor Insurance Travel Features

Autumn and Winter Travel - Introducing Arizona Part 1

Date Created: 15 November 2013

Arizona is home to the absolute top class block buster attraction in the US – the Grand Canyon. But there’s far more to Arizona than monumental geological structures. From the pink sandstone mountains of mystical Sedona to the cowboy saloons of Whisky Row in the one horse town of Prescott, you can still find shadows of the real wild west in this film set state.


Above the door of Matts Saloon in Whiskey Row, Prescott, Arizona, is a buffalo skull with two red light bulbs in the eye sockets. The sign on the window says ‘Purveyors of Red Eye whiskey and other potables. We accept green back dollars and gold dust’. From outside I can hear the sinewy sounds of a live band playing footstomping country and western classics. I push open the doors. Before me a sea of Stetsons lines the bar and the dance floor is filled with couples swirling expertly in and out of each others grasp. The men are in full cowboy regalia, boots, jeans, waistcoats and of course, those hats. The ladies favour either l950’s style full skirts or hip hugging jeans and they are all wearing cowboy boots. It seems that I have entered the new Wild West.

Being a fairly inept dance partner, I try declining the whiskery advances of a portly cowboy bearing a distinct resemblance to Kenny Rogers. Yet in the end, I am persuaded to step onto the floor where he twists and twirls me around with smiling and practised aplomb. Suddenly, he removes his Stetson and whilst spinning me away, hurls it in the air and as I’m hurtling back, he catches the hat and effortlessly places it back on his head. It is a bravura performance. My next partner is a tall cowboy dressed entirely in white who looks as if he has just stepped from the set of a Clint Eastwood film. “Can yer foller?” he drawls. “I’ll try.” I reply unconvincingly. Half way through the dance his white boots are smudged with my footprints. Pityingly he looks down at me and sighs, “Yer can’t foller, can ye.”

For a girl who grew up with the Lone Ranger, Bonanza and Rawhide, a trip through real cowboy country was enough to make me holler ‘ye haw’ and slap my thigh in an Annie Get Your Gun style. Ever since The Great Train Robbery made by Edwin S. Porter in l903 became the first ever cowboy film, the genre has featured scenes such as I encountered in that Prescott bar. Yet in Arizona, the image of the cowboy is fact not fiction and visitors to this fascinating state will realise that American history, whist briefer than our own, is treated here with a tad more respect and reverence.

My Arizona odyssey began in Sedona. Being a northern Arizonan town, we shouldn’t have been surprised to be greeted by snow in early Spring, but we were. However, the dusting of snow capping the towering red pinnacles of sandstone that characterise this mystical area merely added to the grandeur. This is a monolithic geography, a blue print for the Grand Canyon, and breathtaking in its magnitude.

Long before white people arrived, the prehistoric Hohokam and Sinagua Indians tilled the soil along Oak Creek which carved this landscape. American settlers arrived in the late 1800’s to run cattle and farm in the valley but now it is a thriving community, art centre and spiritual retreat. New age people believe that vortexes, or psychic- energy points are prevalent in the Sedona area, although I couldn’t imagine any self respecting cowboy exchanging good liquor for good karma.

Written by Beverley Byrne.