How To Go To The Desert And Barely Make It Out Alive

I don’t know anyone who wants to go on a vacation without the constant threat of death looming over them. Being from New York, I’m not happy unless my stress levels are so high, I can pop a blood vessel as easily as the four Xanax it takes to get me on a plane. So imagine my delight, when after planning what was supposed to be a relaxing week in Sedona, Arizona, I came to find out it’s actually one of the most terrifying places on the planet. Here is my guide to narrowly surviving a stint in this brutal oasis:

Take A Jeep Ride With Cowboy Pete

Beth and I about to be scared shitless.

Do this first! Apparently there are a ridiculous amount of ways to die in the desert and after spending a couple of hours with Pete at A Day In The West Tours, you’ll know just about every one of them. While you’ll no doubt spend the rest of your getaway updating your will instead of attending the nightly bingo games, at least you’ll be prepared to encounter droughts, floods, fires, hypothermia, dehydration, heat exhaustion, poisonous plants and various deadly varmints, which Pete told us are all things that can kill you out here.

Rent ATVs

If you want to see everything you can see during the Jeep tour, only you prefer to do it while gripping onto something that harnesses the power of a thousand shake weights, with the possibility of flying off of a cliff due to your lack of experience on an all terrain vehicle, then by all means, visit the Sedona ATV and Buggy Rental and pick yourself up one of these things.

Since Stanley is most likely a member of a Mexican cartel by now, I’m going to be traveling with my gnome Cranky Franky until further notice.

Helmets are optional and if your goal is to avoid your ultimate demise by the closest of margins, you’ll want to go without like we did. This way, when you’re flying down the main roadway at forty miles per hour with all the other traffic before you get to the dirt paths, your life will flash before your eyes every six or so seconds.

Once you’re beyond the main street you’ll experience all of the magnificence that the red rocks of northern Arizona have to offer, from the ancient cave paintings at the Honanki ruins to the spectacular landscape.

You will also look like this when you are finished.

Me and Jeff Rheel after eating dirt for four hours.

Make A Spicey Margarita For A Friend

After a long day spent maneuvering a death canister, you’ll want a drink to calm your nerves. However, what fun is a cocktail if its preparation doesn’t nearly land you in the ER?

Jeff White was kind enough to make us all dinner, so in turn I offered to whip him up a beverage. I would recommend not handling hazardous materials, such as SUPER HOT jalapenos, if you yourself are already on your sixth glass of wine because you may end up shooting a seed directly into your eye whilst muddling them, like I did.

Having a chunk of jalapeno lodged in your eye is akin to being pepper sprayed directly in the retina. This was quite possibly the most intense pain I have ever felt in my life and stopped just short of inducing vomiting. Yet while bent over the sink trying to submerge my head in water, I was screaming at Jeff to get the camera. We had a number of photos of the incident, however they were erased the following morning without my consent because SOMEONE (and I say this in the most obnoxiously immature mocking tone I can muster) “can’t stand to see me hurt”. So to give you an idea of what I looked like after this ordeal, I had to search the internet for something comparable. This is pretty close.

If you want to be sure that all of your disaster photos remain in tact, travel with someone who is less of a pussy. Sorry Oma, it was warranted.

Visit Slide Rock

Let’s say you’re over the all of the crazier stunts that can get you killed and now you’re in the mood for a good old fashioned concussion. Take a drive out to Slide Rock State Park and you’re guaranteed at least a double hip replacement when you slip and bust your ass trying to navigate this polished terrain.

The whole place is like a natural water park, if water parks pumped their slides full of streams reaching sub-zero temperatures. I’m going to have Beth demonstrate a typical slip down the slope:

First, climb to the top of the rock.

 Next, dip into a pond so frigid it is most likely used for ice fishing half of the year.


Get it?

At the end of your journey you will be deposited into a churning lagoon, that you have the option of crawling out of and jumping back into from atop a cliff. Since neither of us bit it on the ride down the rock, we decided to give it another shot by plummeting into a murky cauldron.

I try to look fabulous even when I’m committing suicide. Beth, on the other hand, goes with your standard “this is about to suck” face.

Spend A Day At The Grand Canyon

Sedona’s awesome for near death experiences but if you want to step it up a notch, take a trip two and a half hours north to one of the seven wonders of the world where 550 people have perished since the 1870s. There’s lots of great photos to be taken from behind the safety of the railings but why not go for something a little more insane and climb down to the edge of a six hundred foot drop-off?

 Make sure to do this in flip flops so you’ve only got around a fifty-fifty shot of making it back.

Get Caught In A Vortex

I’m still not completely clear on what a vortex is but it even sounds evil, so naturally Sedona is chock full of them. To my understanding these are places with lots of swirling energy, you know, like a tornado. Only this energy is spiritual, so if you stand in one it’s supposed to “strengthen your inner being”. Thanks, but no thanks. That’s what I have Stoli for. However, if you’re willing to risk being caught in an ethereal cyclone and sucked deep into the Earth’s core, then you might want to stop by the Center For The New Age to get some information first. While you’re there, check out all this other cool stuff they have.

Visit The Haunted Town Of Jerome

It is now the end of your holiday, and let’s face it, you are not yet deceased. No one is going to want to look at your boring vacation photos otherwise, so in a last ditch effort to have a total misadventure, get back in the car and drive a half hour to the old mining town of Jerome which is supposedly crawling with the spirits of unfortunate miners and mental patients.

Aside from being riddled with ghosts, Jerome is a very artsy town and has lots of cool stores and art galleries that you might want to visit before being dismembered and stored in a meat locker. My favorite was The Wary Buffalo which is an antique shop that had a Kermit, castanets and a German board game.

However, if you’re just dead set on having the living daylights scared out of you, make your way up a long winding hill to have dinner at The Asylum in the haunted Jerome Grand Hotel which is a former hospital where over ten thousand people died.

We were lucky to be there right before Halloween, so it was completely decked out in some of the coolest decorations I have ever seen, but it’s not like the ghosts who reside there have the rest of the year off. Go anytime and if you inquire, your waiter might tell you a couple of stories about things flying off the walls and patrons abandoning their meals after brushes with apparitions.

Do A Celebratory Whooty

You’ve made it out alive. But just barely.


  • DQ

    My absolute favorite part was “I try to look fabulous even when I’m committing suicide” – LMAO!!!
    I also noticed you’re no longer wearing the butterfly clip – well done Kells, well done! :)

    • Kelly

      I replaced the butterfly clip with a two pronged tortoise shell type deal. I’m still getting made fun of. Now they say my hair looks like it’s in some kind of weird french twist thing, which it does. I hate them. Thanks DQ!

  • Betsy

    We were in Sedona last week and did the same ATV ride, except with helmets. Thought I was going to die, but it was crazy fun. Felt like my guts were shredded the next day and ate tons of dirt. Your description is priceless! Thanks!

  • Dorothea Anders Johnson

    Best family trip ever, Sedona and Grand Canyon. thanks for the memories.

  • Michelle

    I want to know why the hell (sorry Oma) am I reading about Sedona before Austin when you were clearly here first? Not to mention, given a ton of material to work with in this lovely city I call home=)

    • Kelly

      I anticipated this being a problem…

  • Gabriele Davieds

    Wow Michele…no presure!

    • Kelly

      Mom, I went to all the trouble of installing that spell check…

    • Jeff

      Where is this spell check you speak of?

  • Gabriele

    Whoops! Spell check apparently didn’t come up!

  • Jeff

    This should be just a series of 101 ways to die in Arizona. There has never been a week in my life where I’ve been so proud of myself for just not dying.

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  • Beth

    Love it!!! Thanks for the shout out, and thanks for pointing out my face on the jump… :-)

    • Beth

      PS, sorry I started the whole spicy tequilla idea … I’m glad there was no permanent damage

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