There’s no place like home. Even if it’s someone else’s home.

When Rachael and I got to Flagstaff, I dropped her off at the airport (only one gate, what!?) and went to go find my friend Clio. Flagstaff was nothing like I’d expected. I guess I thought Arizona was all red rock cliffs and desert, but I was way off. As I drove through Flagstaff, I found myself in a quaint little mountain town. It was so peaceful. Exactly the sort of place you’d want to drive into after a long day of skiing to get hot cocoa and nestle into your bed with a nice book, plenty of covers, and a snowy forest view. Meanwhile it’s the middle of summer for me in real life, but this is a town that immediately captures your imagination.

Flagstaff was one of my favorite towns I visite; I wish I could have stayed longer. Maybe I was just so grateful to be in a real home, eating a real home-cooked meal, with some of the nicest company in my friend and her lovely mother, but I immediately felt so relaxed and happy to just be there. This wasn’t the kind of town that shouted at you, “See this! See that! Buy this weird trinket and everything else we can throw at you!”. No, this was the kind of town that just was. It was itself, and though I can’t say I had time to make a thorough study of it, I can say it had its own personality and charm that had nothing to do with trying to seduce tourism.

The first thing Clio did was to take me on a walk out her front door, straight into Buffalo Park. She told me a funny story: the guy that bought this land in the 1960’s wanted to make it into a Wild-West themed wildlife park. He brought in more than 200 animals: buffalo, elk, antelope, llamas, etc. And they all pretty much immediately escaped. The park lasted fewer than 5 years, and then eventually was absorbed by the city as a recreational park. As we walked around and she pointed out remnants of the shoddy fencing,  she told me she often sees Olympians training there because of the high elevation. That’s pretty cool. Not to mention the views of the mountains are awful pretty.

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Next was a delicious, just-what-I-needed, home-cooked meal. Her mom’s from-scratch pizza. It was glorious! Way better than most of the restaurant meals I’d eaten so far on the trip.

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The crust was so light and fluffy! And fresh out of the oven, the pizza was perfectly warm, and crispy, and ooey gooey just like it should be.

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After dinner we exchanged our dish-washing services for clio’s mamma to whip up some chocolate chip cookies. I was in heaven.

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The next morning Clio took me to Macy’s for some people watching. I learned that 1)she did not mean the department store, and 2)that Flagstaff is home to some cute mountain men! It’s a college town, so there were great prospects here. I mean every guy was wearing flannel and had a beard, but that was kinda part of their allure. Exceptions were those that looked like they’d been on the mountain so long they were starting to become part yeti. Yikes man, no beard should be long enough that it can start to meld in with your chest hair.

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On the way there we passed Biff’s Bagels, which touted this mural on the outside. I immediately was like, “Whoa what the what? Who’s acid trip was this?”

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Then Clio pointed into the shop through the window- the walls were decorated with hundreds of portraits of dogs. She explained that at Biff’s, if your dog dies and you’re really sad, you can bring in a picture of it and they’ll hang it on the wall for you. Biff is actually the name of the founders’ beloved dog, who passed away in ’95. That crazy mural is a portrayal of The Rainbow Bridge. It’s really a sweet story, and made me even more partial to this town where such compassionate people live. http://www.biffsbagels.com/about.html http://www.petloss.com/rainbowbridge.htm

Macy’s was obviously the real deal, because it was packed. The decor was hippy meets hindu-investigator meets weird pregnancy photographer. Seriously, there were a lot of photos of the naked-pregnant-belly type.

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Then menu was very vegan-friendly, but we just got a coffe and chai. Excellent Oregon Chai, I must say.

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I have a lot of friends from all over the world, but I have to say, there’s something to seeing someone in their home element. Clio looked beautiful and happy, and I was glad to see it 🙂 It was a perfect visit for me.

But my travels were far from over. It was back to that tiny airport to pick up my dad, then onto the Grand Canyon…

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