Friday, Jun 22, 2018
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Mary Alice Powell

Red rocks, pink Jeeps, and white knuckles in the rugged Southwest

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    A Pink Jeep takes to the rugged terrain in Sedona, Ariz.

    THE BLADE/MARY ALICE POWELL
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    Powell

SEDONA, Ariz. — “Want to go on a Pink Jeep ride?,” friends asked when plans were being made to see all that we could in the magnificent region of America known as Red Rock Country.

No matter what color they are painted, Jeeps are synonymous with Toledo, and of course the answer was, “Sign me up!” Riding in the Jeep with passengers from Toronto, San Diego, and Minnesota, there was little doubt that the lady from Toledo felt the most kinship for the vehicle.

PinkJeepTour-jpg

A Pink Jeep takes to the rugged terrain in Sedona, Ariz.

THE BLADE/MARY ALICE POWELL
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Pink Jeeps traveling through and against the background of red rocks are pure Southwest grandeur that I would do again in a heartbeat.

But with one change.

On the next Pink Jeep ride, I would like it to be more daring, such as one of the routes where the Jeep goes right to the edge of huge rocks and everybody screams in fear, even though they know they are safe. What’s there to fear in a Jeep? Remember their war record.

They never admitted it, but I am quite certain that the friends who made the reservation chose the least rugged route on my behalf, little knowing that, despite the years, I am still in for white-knuckle excitement.

The Broken Arrow Jeep ride is claimed to be the most extreme off-road experience over rugged terrain and past incredible rock formations and includes a descending, heart-pounding thriller known as the “Road with No Return.”

Bear in mind, Sedona Red Rock Country is mountainous and awe inspiring. Even on a Jeep ride, there is something spiritual about it.

Why pink? The reason for the color choice is thousands of miles from Sedona — also a beautiful part of America, but in a tropical, floral way.

The company started in 1960 with two World War II Jeeps that Mary and Don Pratt bought in Long Beach, Calif. The Jeeps were used to take real estate customers to listed property in the mountainous region. When word of the Pratts’ unique transportation service got out, Sedona visitors who had no interest in real estate started requesting Jeep rides to view Red Rock scenery not acessible by car. More Jeeps were purchased, and the tour company was developed.

The company was known as Don Pratt Adventures before he and Mary traveled to the Hawaiian Islands and stayed at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel on Waikiki Beach.

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The hotel was, and still is, painted a lovely tropical pink and continues to carry the name “the Pink Palace of the Pacific.”

Back in Sedona, the Pratts’ fascination with the pink hotel prompted the color change of their fleet of Jeeps, and the company name became Pink Jeep Tours.

Customers have a choice of several different tours, from sissy routes to rugged ones, in a price range of $75 to $155 for adults and $68 to $140 for children. Average tours are two hours, and all leave from the Pink Jeep Plaza in downtown Sedona, which of course includes a nifty gift shop. Grand Canyon and Las Vegas tours are also available.

The Sedona gift shop accounts for the mini pink Jeep that has a place of honor with other travel souvenirs on the memory shelf in my home office. Visitors may consider the collection tacky, but I love every one, including the mini pyramids from Egypt.

Our driver/guide was as informative as he was well trained to maneuver the easy paths as well as the Broken Arrow routes. He explained that there are 80 guides and that each is required to take a six-week training course. The Pink Jeep company prides itself on certification with the National Association for Interpretation as well as following the guidelines from Smith System, which is a driver training program for all guides.

Red Rock scenery has long been the perfect backdrop for Western movie sets, and on Jeep tours, guides know the best places for rest stops and photo shoots. In another location, a tumbling fence would be just a fence, but in Sedona, it could be the fence John Wayne leaned against in Tall in the Saddle or Angel and the Badman.

The red rocks were also advantageous in other movies, including Copper Canyon with Ray Milland and Hedy Lamarr, Stay Away Joe with Elvis Presley, Disney movies The Legend of Lobo and The Legend of the Boy and the Eagle, and several others dating back to 1923.

The company assures their customers will travel in comfort and with more room than in an ordinary Jeep.

On the late March Sedona vacation, it was chilly enough to make good use of the heavy blankets that were stashed under the Jeep seats.

The shiny new Jeeps that come off the assembly line in the size Toledoans recognize are split in half horizontally before they get the pink makeup treatment. In reassembling the two halves, 18 inches are added in the center to accommodate more people than a standard Jeep.

And then the stretched Jeeps are painted bright pink and ready to hit the road. That’s a good thing.

Mary Alice is a retired Blade food editor. Contact her 
at poseypowell@aol.com.

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