So you're on I-17...

Snowy day on an I-17 scene overlook. 

It's a rite of passage, literally and figuratively, I suppose.  Enjoying the natural beauty of a good chunk of northern Arizona almost inevitably involves an hour or two of transit on I-17.  The drive is certainly beautiful, but after enough trips even the biggest tree-hugger can find the scenery a bit mundane and then you're just driving through various desert landscapes.  Here are a few of my favorite ways to make the trip itself an adventure.

1.  Play the license plate game. Try to be the first person in your car to spot a license plate from a different state. Each first-spotting gets 2 points.  Deduct 1 point for repeating a previously spotted state.

KIDDING, oh man, I really had you going there for a second, huh?

Here are the three stops I almost always make.

1. Kid Chilleen's (there might be an updated name...they used to be Kid Chilleen's Bad-Ass BBQ, but changed the name to import family-friendliness).  Regardless of name, this places serves up a bad ass brisket sandwich and fries.  The meat is so tender that it's almost easier to eat the sandwich than the fries.  Located at exit 224 off the 17, this isn't quite far enough outside of Phoenix to warrant a food or bathroom stop on the way north, but it's well worth the special detour.  I do suggest avoiding the chicken fried steak, even for a southern boy like myself it was just too much to take.  http://www.badassbbq.net/directions.html

2. Rock Springs Café.  In the same area as Kid Chilleen's, I guess Rock Springs and Black Canyon City are meccas for good eating?  I like to save this stop for on the way back, a reward for a hard hike or just a long drive.  Stop off for a slice or a whole pie...actual pie, not slang for pizza pie.  You can order in advance or even have you pie shipped to you.  I prefer berry or apple pies, but they all look pretty darn good.  Also enjoy the country store and pick up some souvenirs for the folks back east. Exit 242 off the 17.  http://www.rockspringscafe.com/

3. Outlets at Anthem.  What can I say?  I was raised to be a shopper, a bargain shopper.  This is a destination of it's own and I definitely recommend going if you need business attire, some fresh Nikes, or some Under Armour work out gear.  I always try to stop on the way back from a trip north to see if there are any good sales (I have gotten a silk cable-knit Polo sweater, new ski gloves and pants, and multiple pieces of work clothing all discounted well below even outlet prices).  My favorite stores to check are Polo, Coach, Nike, Columbia, Banana Republic, and J.Crew.  There are a lot of stores for women, too, as well as Le Creuset for all you foodies. Exit 229 off the 17.  http://www.outletsanthem.com/

4.  The scenic views in I-17 south.  There are two great ones between Flagstaff and Sedona on the 17 southbound.  The first can be kind of 'meh' unless you hit it at the right time.  The second always has great views of the red rocks in Sedona.  One of the first things I saw when driving into Phoenix on my move from Virginia was the sunset from this rest area (not Sunset Point)...a rainstorm had just blown through so the sky was dark over the Sedona rocks, the sunlight was streaming in below the clouds lighting the rocks a vibrant red, and a rainbow capped the experience.  Unfortunately, this was before digital cameras were easily available and the film in my 35mm was too old and I have no images of the experience. 






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