A Sixt Supported Road Trip from Frank Fox
Sixt was happy to support driver enthusiast Frank Fox on his latest adventure. Below you can read about his road trip experience and how much he enjoyed his car rental. You can find out more about Frank and his work here or check out his Facebook page.
You know the excitement of looking forward to that thing, whatever it is, that you’ve ordered special for yourself? Maybe it came from online, or a big box store, or through a friend’s local business. Well, that excitement is one of my favorite feelings to experience; and mine often comes in the form of a hip, sexy rental car for a day trip or weekend. I often plan months in advance, picking a Friday on the calendar, getting the day off of work, and then, I reach the exciting part: booking the car. The big question I try to answer to myself is, what will I book?
It used to be that I’d go between something like a Ford Taurus, Chrysler 300, or Buick Verano, all great cars in their own rights; but there really wasn’t a lot of exciting variety through my normal rental company. Then my buddy turned me on to this hip, catchy company I’d never paid attention to at the airport, because their desk wasn’t grandiose nor overly advertised. You know what I’m talking about: walking through the airport, watching TV, etc., you see the major brands and just assume “hey, that’s where I gotta go. That’s my best deal, the safest company to rent from, the most customer focused, most reliable, etc.”
When I first looked up Sixt, I had this vision in my head they were just a small discount rental company. When I saw their inventory, my mind quickly changed. I was excited, in a way I hadn’t been in years of renting cars for road trips. Sixt actually had some pretty exciting cars in standard inventory, at very awesome rates; it was like love at first sight. Plus, I loved the orange swoop in their name.
My third rental with Sixt was from their Scottsdale, AZ., location. I received a special in my email one day for a $40/day rate on the BMW 4 series convertible (428), and I was psyched to get behind the wheel of this black beauty on a sunny Friday morning. I got in, put the hardtop down using the automation in the cockpit, paired my phone so I could jam out, and headed out on my trip.
This trip was planned to be shorter than most, because I had plans in the evening; but I still had a full day planned. All total, that Friday in April I put a healthy 290+ miles down on the Arizona pavement. I headed out of Scottsdale along Shea boulevard, towards Fountain Hills and the Beeline Highway. My first major way point was the city of Payson, which is about an hour-and-twenty minutes from the Sixt location I picked up at. I took my time, enjoying the convertible on a mild Arizona morning.
As I drove along the Beeline (Hwy 87), the ever beautiful Sonoran desert managed to provide gorgeous views full of spring flowers, healthy green cacti, and sprawling mountains. To the east of the Beeline, heading away from Phoenix, was a gorgeous view of Four Peaks; a series of peaks that are a part of the Mazatzal Mountains, that are part of the Tonto National Forest. These four peaks, on a clear day, can be easily seen from all over parts of the Valley of the Sun, but are so much more impressive the closer you get. The Beeline gets you within about 6 miles of the peaks themselves; I highly recommend even just this leg of the trip to capture a view of this beautiful vista.
As the Beeline climbs up and over the Mazatzal mountains and into the next valley, the landscape changes; giving way to various shrubs and grasses, in an area that is greener than the Sonoran desert floor. Within a few short moments, the next ascent up onto the Mogollon Rim begins, giving way to pine trees, and taking the elevation from around 3200’ to around 5000’ by the time Payson comes along a short 25 minutes or so later.
Arriving in Payson in late morning, it was time for a quick snack. I pulled the sleek, sexy BMW 428 into the Piñon Cafe, on the corner of the Beeline Highway and Aero Dr., just as I pulled into Payson. I happened to be meeting some friends here, so while I wasn’t really ready for lunch, I did decide to go for a side of bacon. I mean, it was a local cafe, I couldn’t just sit there without trying their cooking! The bacon was legit, but, according to public reviews, they’re pretty legit overall. The servers were very friendly and well engaged; my friends enjoyed their food, and I do remember feeling like “holy moly, that’s a lot of food”, when everyone’s plates came. This is definitely a place on my “visit for a real meal” list. The inside has an aged feel that helped contribute to the character of the place, and almost a layer of old school, main street diner romanticism. The servers write down the order on an old school pad, which also becomes your bill with your total on it. You then can pay at the front register on the way out the door (or the server may take it, also). Don’t worry, they do take plastic. Great place, just based on my experience.
I soon hopped back in my BMW 4 series, dropped the top back down, and decided to head through Payson, toward the small towns of Pine and Strawberry. Along the way the drive offers small mountains and mesas that rise around a few hundred feet above the casually curvy road. Soon I was in the town of Pine, a small mountain village with a number of little knick knack shops and such. The first place I noticed on the way in, on the right side, was “the honey stand”. I didn’t stop, but was intrigued, as I love honey (who doesn’t, AM-I-RIGHT?). It was a cute little town, and definitely worth the slow down to 35 MPH as you cruise in. Since I was on a self-designed schedule I didn’t stop, but for those interested in the cute crafts a small town has to offer, this seems a great place to go through and pause for a bit.
After passing through Pine, Strawberry was next; smaller in size, and with less of the touristy feel. The road curves NE as you go through town, then curves back West a bit, before ultimately heading NE. About 15 minutes out of Strawberry, comes the junction to AZ 260, which was my next way point. At this point I made the turn toward Camp Verde, which is the main town in the Verde Valley. The Interstate 17 freeway runs through this valley, running Northeast/Southwest (mostly), and bisects the valley by passing right along Camp Verde itself. From the turnoff of the 87 onto the 260, it’s about 32 miles to Camp Verde proper; a ~35 minute drive or so. This road slowly brought me down off the Mogollon Rim, and provided sweeping views of the entire Verde Valley. The views were immense and gorgeous, especially with the top down. Along this route, early on, I stopped on the shoulder, where there was plenty of room in a pull out, and decided to just take in a few moments of near silence and fresh air.
After a brief stop, I continued down the valley into Camp Verde, where I stopped at a Taco Bell, near the I-17 Interchange, for a quick lunch, before continuing Northwest on AZ 260 over to Cottonwood, and then up the mountainside road into Jerome. As a side note, Old Town Cottonwood is worth a visit, if you like historic venues with a little charm.
Approaching Jerome on AZ Hwy 89A, from Cottonwood, I climbed up nearly 1,000 feet in elevation on the twisty road that leads into Jerome, in the span of less than 2 miles. I quickly was rewarded with a very beautiful view of the entire Verde Valley, including Sedona, by the time I made it up into Jerome proper. Jerome is one of the gems of Arizona, in my own opinion, and is well known for it’s rich and jaded history. Jerome is a former mining town built in the late 1800s, on the side of Mingus Mountain, and today is a mecca for art galleries, funky little eateries, saloons, and more.
As I coasted slowly through the streets of Jerome, during a hustling, bustling mid-afternoon, I found myself thinking it was already the weekend, as there were people everywhere. I navigated through the tightly built town on the narrow 89A, and then headed to the West, crossing Mingus mountain, toward Prescott Valley. This road from Jerome to the Prescott Valley is twisty, tight, and can be fun to drive in the right car. The BMW 4 series was a perfect car for this trip, especially with the top down. The suspension helped the car hug the curves so snugly, and the car’s response to the lateral rolls from one corner to another was smooth and fun.
I stopped at a quick turn off along the route to step out and get a breath of fresh, cool mountain air. The high desert vegetation was made up of shrubs and other various brush. A few cacti here and there, and some of these little agave plants. The landscape is lush in it’s own way; not like the hills of Virginia, but still just as beautiful if you are the type to stop and appreciate all the views the Earth has to offer.
After making my way along the windy road across Mingus Mountain, I was brought into the beautiful, open, Prescott Valley, along a road much more straight than the one behind me. The sun was still well above the horizon, the sky blue and mostly clear, the air a tad warmer than it had been on Mingus but it was still great convertible weather. As I approached the intersection of 89A and Fain Road, which would take me to Hwy 69, back toward Phoenix, I pulled to a stop at the light. I changed my playlist over to my Electronic Dance Music mix, which was heavy with Armin Van Buuren, and just let the stereo thump away while the red light casually stared me in the face.
This was it. This was my Zen. Music, great car, and a carefree roadtrip. This is what I do to find my peace in a hectic, fast paced world. All I could think was, “which song do I want to bounce to, next, while I’m enjoying this smooth, quick ride?” The worries of everyday life faded away while I was out on the road that day; just like they do every time I take a trip like this; and even though this one was shorter than average, I still managed to find that Zen space.
The light turned green and I made the sharp left onto Fain Road, which went around the East edge of Prescott Valley proper, and eventually connected with AZ Hwy 69. This road connects Prescott with the I-17, and is a four-lane divided highway for most of the way between Prescott and the Interstate. This road is far more casual in it’s curves than the 89A, as this road is more geared toward mass transit, than it is toward hugging mountains. The BMW handled this strip like it was nothing; butter. I drove with a casual approach, just enjoying the music and wind wrapping around the open cockpit. I coasted through the town of Mayer, then past the town of Spring Valley, before merging onto the I-17 South, toward Phoenix.
Awhile after getting on the 17, I passed the Sunset Point Rest Area and Scenic Overlook. This is a popular rest stop that overlooks the Bradshaw Mountains, a few miles to the West; but it’s also the benchmark for another awesome stretch of road where cars with a little extra road-hugging capability help make it just a bit more enjoyable. I bypassed the rest area, this time, and entered the slalom run with the car in neutral. The grade is steep enough that the car needs no acceleration whatsoever, and rather, needs some braking action to keep the vehicle from going over speed. This stretch is one of my favorite roads in the state, as the freeway drops down into Black Canyon City, eventually, after a few miles of mountain hugging turns. I will admit, it’s less fun when it’s bogged down with traffic, because it takes the focus off the road experience and puts it on adhering to traffic; it’s still worth the drive, though.
If you’ve never stopped at the Rock Springs Cafe, on the outskirts of Black Canyon City, to have a slice of their homemade pie, do yourself a favor: add this place to your damn list. Their cafe food is good, too, but the pie is a 10 out of 10, every time. The pie is so popular, they even ship. On their website, they even lay claim to selling more pie than any other single location in Arizona… kinda sounds worth a stop, doesn’t it?
As I cruised down the mountain freeway into the foothills and then into the Valley of the Sun, I was slowly brought back to reality. The city appeared slowly; traffic picked up, as I went from a road experience into simple, mundane commuting. Sure, I was doing it in this sexy Sixt BMW 4 series convertible; but it still wasn’t the same as the rest of the trip. I soon pulled into my driveway in North Phoenix, shut the beast down, and headed for the door to take me inside. I stopped as I released the garage door, and looked back, as the car slid into the darkness of the unlit garage, with the top still down. That was a pretty awesome day, in an awesome car, and all thanks to a high quality company like Sixt.
Returning the car was a breeze; the agent was helpful and quick on the return process. He asked how the trip was and I told him briefly about the trip. It was cool to have an agent that was willing to connect and really treat me like another human, rather than just another ‘rental return customer.’ Once he checked the car in, we parted ways, and the final chapter on the day’s road trip was closed.
Go on your own road trip adventure and rent a car with Sixt!