Tag: Sedona

Extreme Rental: Jeep Rubicon – Sedona, AZ

Originally posted on JPFreek.com

I always prefer the window seat. Mostly because I will hold my urine to the edge of kidney failure rather than try to cram my 6’5″ frame into an airplane toilet, and having to get up repeatedly to let my weaker-willed neighbors past makes my eye twitch. But there’s more to it than bladder control. I control the shade, and at my leisure I can peer out and down, unobstructed, over the great expanse below. 

windowJust a few weeks ago, I found myself in that prized position, looking down on the vast Senoran Desert, on my way to Phoenix, Arizona. From twenty-thousand feet, it’s a wasteland. Seemingly random outcrops of red stone rise and fall away, separated by endless miles of nothing at all, except every few minutes we’d drift over one of those mega-farms with the funny patchwork of circular fields. With nothing else to do but think of the bone-crushing pain being inflicted by the seat in front of me, I found myself wondering, “Just how could those first settlers have made it all the way out here in their Conestogas?” Gold or not, it looked impassable. 

Soon after, we landed in Phoenix, a quilt of strip malls sewn together with massive highways. I was there for a conference, but arrived a day early to explore with my wife. We settled into our hotel and quickly planned a trip to Sedona, just a few hours north, and set off early the next morning with our GPS aimed for Barlow Adventures

 We arrived around ten, and our hearts sunk to find half-day rentals start at 8 AM or 1 PM. They were kind enough to squeeze us in anyway, and with just a glance at my insurance card handed over the keys to Jenny. Oh Jenny. A red four-door Rubicon with the hips of a belly dancer and treads of an M1 Abrams. To my wife’s mixed dismay and delight, I fell immediately in love. 

The folks at Barlow gave us a quick, but thorough, tutorial of the best trails to suit our style – an easy climb to get acquainted, culminating in stunning views, followed by a technical crawl down into a valley full of history. With that, we put the top down, turned the radio up and got rolling.

Immediately, with a blue sky above us and red rocks all around, we felt we could conquer the world, just my wife, Jenny and I. Within a mile or two, we made it to the first trailhead and checked our notes. “When you pass the gate, put her in 4-HI and reset the odometer.” Done and done. 


Schnebly Hills Trail is a winding, bumpy fire road up the side of what I can only assume was Schnebly Hill. Jenny plowed over everything in her path. The only thing limiting our progress was that we kept stopping to take photos because the scenery just kept getting better. Massive, imposing rock formations surrounded us with hardly another human in sight. Cacti, iron woods and the hot sun above us – it was the setting of every spaghetti western. At first, I tentatively wove my way along, afraid to test the limits of the $25 tire and glass coverage we’d added. But my lack of experience with off-road driving and the sharpest, most punishing rocks proved no match for Jenny’s sheer brawn. We made it to the top, where we went on foot to explore the “Merry-go-round,” a rocky outcrop boasting a jaw-dropping panorama of the entire valley. We sat down for a few minutes to soak in the sun and bask in the diem we were thoroughly carpé-ing. 

If the way up was a learning experience, the way down was an educatioAmirn in fun. A downhill slalom, probably at higher speeds than Barlow would have liked, with a Pearl Jam soundtrack provided by Jenny’s Sirius XM radio, Schnebly Hill melted away. At the bottom, once again on pavement, we consulted the maps provided to us to navigate our way to the next trail. 

Soldier’s Pass was an entirely different beast altogether. This time our notes said, “4Lo, nice and slow.” I dropped Jenny into low gear and flipped the sway bar disconnect switch, allowing the axles to move more freely. Free is good. Let’s go. 

11149437_10100612306839057_5446780083734526773_n (1)The first thing we came across was a sign telling us if we couldn’t make it down the first boulder crawl, not to bother with the rest of the trail. Needless to say, Jenny took it all in stride, and again more than compensated for my lack of having any idea what I was doing. We rumbled down the flight of rocks, coming to rest on a trail just a few inches wider than our Wrangler. For the next hour, Jenny took us back in time. We clambered up and down some gravity-defying inclines on our way to an enormous gaping sink hole exposing a few million years of sedimentary layering. On the way back we visited the Seven Sacred Pools, from where General Crook marshaled his campaign against the last of the Apache. Jenny never missed a step. From start to finish, all I had to do was point her in the direction we wanted to go, and our girl’s 285hp took care of the rest. Sadly, with our first two trails down, we were nearing the end of our four hour escapade. We turned back towards Barlow and, with heavy hearts, turned over the keys.

Needless to say, getting back into our rental car was rather disappointing. If it hadn’t been for the unbelievably good taco truck we found on the way back, I may actually have shed a tear to leave Jenny behind. The next day at our conference was even less exciting, but the last drops of adrenaline still had me feeling like Superman. I finally understood why people buy those burly, lifted, totally unnecessary vehicles – because they must turn even the most blasé commute into an experience

On the flight home, I thought again of the rugged pioneers who trekked across a continent in rickety wagons with every one of their earthly possessions in tow. I imagine they’d be pretty annoyed to know how easily some guy from the East Coast can do it now but undoubtedly proud that they paved the way. I tried to look out the window to catch one more glimpse of the great cactus strewn expanse where roads are once again optional, but I was stuck in an aisle seat. I didn’t care. We’d had an unforgettable adventure. And, more importantly, I was in an exit row. 



2015 CORD CPC & a Side Trip to Sedona, AZ

It’s been quite a number of years since I’ve attended a conference for work.  In fact, I think the last one may have been Search Engine Strategies in 2007 as a speaker.  So, when an email came out requesting volunteers to fly out to Phoenix to tweet the event, I jumped.  It didn’t hurt that Amir was already planning to attend to present his case in the competition.  At the Counsel of Residency Directors Case Presentation Competition (CORD CPC), residents present a rare patient case seen in the ED, and Attendings try to guess the diagnosis.  Presentations are judged and winners selected for future presentation at ACEP.

To prepare for the event, I spent a little time brushing up on tweeting; while I consider myself heavy into Social Media, I’m more of an Instagram and Facebook gal.  My Twitter handle still echoed my maiden name, and didn’t convey anything about medicine or EMS, so I created a new one.  


Amir and I both got into town a day early, so we decided to take a 1/2 day trip to Sedona and rent a JEEP to explore the trails.  Amir found a great place on TripAdvisor.com called Barlow’s.  We drove 2 hours north from Phoenix to Sedona, and even without a reservation, they were able to rent us “Jennie,” an awesome red, 4-door Jeep Wrangler Rubicon with very “knobbly tires” as Amir says.


We started at the Schnebly Hills Trail which the folks at Barlow told was was good for beginners and probably had the best views.  Boy were they right.  It took about an hour to drive in and an hour to drive out.  We stopped along the trail and hiked up a bit to the Merry Go-Round Rock.

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One of the best aspects of the Jennie was that she came with Sirius Satellite Radio (apparently all of Barlow’s Jeeps do).  On the way up we rocked out to the Classic Rewind channel, and on the way back down we enjoyed the Pearl Jam Station.  After conquering Scheneby Hills, we proceded on to Soldier Pass Trail which we were told was “much rockier and more advanced.”

The trail was very similar to our experience in Barbarella in England, in that the “road” was only wide enough for one vehicle at a time.  Fortunately it wasn’t very crowded, and we only had to pull off for others twice.

FullSizeRender (2) FullSizeRender (3)After our day of intense off-roading, we were starved.  Leave it to Amir to find the most random taco truck on the side of the highway.  Whenever he suggests an off-beat eatery, I always say yes.  He has a track record of success.  Sonora Taqueria kept his streak going.

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Day 2 the real work started.  Amir donned his suit, I gathered my 2 iPhones, iPad mini and 3 apple chargers, and we headed off to the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass for a day of CPC presentations.

The presentations were packed with tons of “nuggets” as Dr. Wills likes to say.  I did my best to capture some of the ones that resonated with me most.  Sometimes they were coming faster than I could type. And of course, I did a live broadcast of Amir’s presentation via periscope (unfortunately the link has since expired).

Trecia and I were both there representing VCU Emergency Medicine.  We swapped ideas on what tweets were getting the most traction, and provided tips on artful posture to optimize photogenicity.

Lunchtime was needed to recharge in more way than one!  I only managed to trip one attendee who was texting and not watching where she was walking.

Amir presented his case of a 54YOF with back pain.  The Attending response was so well-done that we all found ourselves questioning if a secondary diagnosis should be considered.

All-in-all it was a great conference and event.  We learned a lot, met some great people, and saw some great sites.  I am thankful that VCUEM allowed me to participate.

Michelle Troendle, MD – Alisha Johnston, DO – Pete Moffett, MD – Stephanie Louka, MD – Amir Louka, MD – Trecia Henriques, MD, JD – Joel Moll, MD

Here’s how the tweets stacked up in the end: