Flagstaff was a great place to weather a storm and meet a lot of cool people. I arrived in the afternoon after a nice drive down from the Grand Canyon and immediately headed over the library to check in on the rest of the world. After it got a bit stuffy I drifted over the Dark Sky Brewery to soak up the local scene. This place had produced over 100 beers in their first year of operation and I tried the popular Jalapeno somethingorother. It was appropriately spicy. I also met a very nice group of people who were on their way to raft the Grand Canyon! In winter! I asked how they would avoid freezing to death and they told me that they had to wear dry suits at all times. Sounds like fun. I’m being a little glib, but these were the nicest people I have met so far; they said they understood what it was like to travel alone and went out of their way to come talk to me. I wished them very well on their river trip.

I spent the night at a Walmart near a Buffalo Wild Wings because I had a B3W gift card for some reason. The couple next to me left an entire basket of wings and some drinks so I was in dirtbag heaven. I tried the hottest sauce available at B3W and it was pretty hot, but nothing I couldn’t handle.

Walking outside at the start of the storm

The next morning (Christmas Eve) I was planning to work at the library for most of the day, but they forced us out at noon because a major storm was forecast to begin dumping snow around 1pm. In the interest of not being alone on Christmas I had booked lodging at the Grand Canyon International Hostel for the night, so I checked in and waited for it to snow. And snow it did! All told I think Flagstaff got about a foot and a half in about 6 hours or so, just what was needed for a white Christmas! I met a lot of friendly and interesting people just hanging out in the hostel lounge and before we got too buried we all made a trip to a local craft beer store to stock up for the night. And thus I spent Christmas Eve drinking fancy beer in the friendly company of strangers. As the night went on our conversation became closer and the falling snow sheltered us from the cold beyond our little world.

The morning after the storm

I was not surprised the next morning when I found Van Halen buried under snow in the back of the parking lot and the unuseful state of my vehicle made it easy for me to sign up for another night at the hostel. Most of the tenants were worried about what to “do” because their plans had been impacted by the storm, but I was happy to stay in and work/socialize. Later in the day I went for a nice hike up a nearby hill with another tenant and got some good views of the newly snow’d forest. The rest of the day was spent doing laundry and cooking what might be my dankest batch of beans yet. I took pleasure in the fact that everyone who walked into the kitchen started coughing from the spicy fumes in the air.

Some views for the hike
The telescope used to discover Pluto (not a planet)

Over the next few days I spent nights in Van Halen and days hanging around the hostel lounge (with the permission of the very nice staff). I met more people, had more fun, and generally was very happy to be taking each day one at a time. One highlight worth mentioning was a trip to Lowell Observatory just on the edge of town. I saw their cool, old telescopes, including the one used to find the planet formally known as Pluto. I went back for some night observing, but sadly 6+ years of running my own star parties and driving world-class research telescopes left me a little too jaded to really have a good time. Still, it was nice to see how many people were there and into Astronomy.

The biggest (?) telescope at Lowell. A 24 inch refractor

I left in the late morning a full five nights after I had arrived (which might be a record). Before that I said goodbye to Clemens, a very nice German guy who teaches German out in Pennsylvania and was at the hostel my entire time in Flagstaff. We had hung out a lot and it was good to know that there are travelers like him out there. Maybe I will stay in more hostels in the future… In any case it was time to be alone again so I jumped on I-40 heading East.

Other notes:

  • For dinner one night I had the usual rice and beans, but I augmented it with more cheese than normal and some free tortilla chips left in the hostel kitchen. The result was exquisite beyond my expectations.

  • For a town that apparently gets snow on regular basis the snow removal efforts in Flagstaff were laughably amateur. Even a full 3 days after the storm there were still huge puddles and patches of ice all over the town. If this was Madison an entire department would have shot by then.



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