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A Yankee in the Desert, Part Two

NH Tourist in Phoneix, AZ (continued)

Kingsbury never missed a chance to take pot shots at Yankee members of the tour.

"You people from the East are so strange," he offered. "Where did you ever get the idea that grass is green and rivers have water in them?"

Abandoned Hotel in Jerome, Arizona/ SeacoastNH.comThe more Rick Kingsbury talked, the more familiar the West became. When we pulled into Jerome, an old copper mining village teetering on a steep hill, it felt like Newmarket, NH. Old photos of Jerome miners look like old photos of French Canadian factory workers. All but abandoned by 1950, the ghost town was adopted "by the hippies" in the 60's Kingsbury said. Today, it's a super funky tourist town with tie-dyed aging hipsters and hard rock Hell's Angels.

Something of the outlaw spirit still hovers over the Southwest territory where the last of the nation's bad boys found refuge from civilization and law. Arizonians appear as proud of their late 48th state status as we are of the first in the nation presidential primary. These are badges of our shared pioneer spirit and iconoclastic nature. They brag about surviving scorching summers the way we take pride in digging out from six foot snow drifts. Cordial, yet cantankerous, the desert residents I met could have easily passed for Yankee fishermen.

Last stop on the tour was the stunning rock hills of Sedona, as dry and red and tall as the ocean is wet and blue and flat. You've seen it all in the movies, in cowboy films like Broken Arrow, Yellowstone Kid, Cheyenne, Riders of the Purple Sage, Copper Canyon, Legend of Lobo, Tall in the Saddle. That's all Sedona. Formerly Arizona's little secret, today, Rick Kinsgbury explained, it is home to more millionaires per capita, than any other town in the United States. It ranks just below Portsmouth, NH as one of the best places in the nation to live.

Lower Sedona/ SeacoastNH.comWhat we had in Upper Sedona, nevertheless, was a mall dropped in the middle of a natural wonder. I was happier in Jerome, in downtown Phoenix or on the surrounding desert than watching chic people on cell phones drink double mocha lates with a mountain view. Sedona has been gaining fame as a New Age Mecca. Some say it is the Vortex, home to some great Cosmic rift. Two well-dressed young men sat in a lotus position and "ommed" meditatively on a park bench near an ice cream and T-shirt shop. Next door there was a half price sale on mystic amulets and powerful crystals. This, even the members of our tour bus agreed, was not really Arizona, but some horrid convergence of California and New York City. I bought the obligatory souvenir and climbed back into the tour van early.

Even in the middle 19th century, Horace Greeley saw the whole thing coming. Three decades after urging Eastern men to become Western men, Greeley wrote in his New York Tribune: "This Daniel Boone business is about played out." It isn't played out, though, quite yet. A bit of that trail blazing spirit survives. I still feel it on a lobster boat chugging around the Isles of Shoals. Rick Kinsbury feels it on his boat on Arizona's man-made Lake Havasu. The West and East, it seems, are much closer than any map of our expansive nation indicates.

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