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taxi.jpgCleopatra, 1, and Pretty Face, 6, are on their way to the Village of Oak Creek from New York City, and, like many New Yorkers, their preferred mode of transportation is a Yellow Cab.
By Mark Herz
Larson Newspapers

Cleopatra, 1, and Pretty Face, 6, are on their way to the Village of Oak Creek from New York City, and, like many New Yorkers, their preferred mode of transportation is a Yellow Cab.

It?s a $3,000 fare — plus gas and lodging — being paid to their cabbie, Douglas Guldeniz, by their owners [Cleopatra and Pretty Face are cats], Bob and Betty Matas, 72 and 71.

?They really OK. They really perfect cats,? said Guldeniz, formerly of Istanbul, Turkey.

The cats ride in spacious carriers in Guldeniz? hybrid Ford Escape SUV. Bob and Betty Matas take turns riding in the cab and the U-Haul truck that is carrying all their belongings to their retirement home in the Village. They keep in touch with walkie-talkies on the drive — they left New York on Tuesday, April 10, at about 9 a.m. and plan to arrive here on Monday around noon. Bob Matas calls it ?The Sedona Kitty Express?

?We wanted a little warmer weather and a beautiful place to live,? Bob Matas said. ?And we always loved the mountain scenery.?

Growing up and working in New York City — blocks from the subway or an arm wave away from a cab — neither Bob nor Betty Matas learned to drive.

When it came time to pack up and move to Arizona, they decided flying with their beloved cats in the hold of an airplane, or crammed under their seats, was out of the question.

?We never even thought of doing that,? Bob Matas said. ?We just didn?t think that was the ideal way of doing it.?

The Matases both recently retired from advertising, though Bob Matas has done a number of other things. For a while, he was a model, and one of his jobs seemed to presage his Western leanings.

?A few years ago, I had a cast of my head made,? Bob Matas said. ?I understand I have a clone at a museum in Virginia on a stagecoach driver.?

The Sedona Red Rock News caught up with the Matases in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia near the Tennessee border late Wednesday night, April 11.

Betty Matas said there had been torrential rain for hours on end, but they had still been able to enjoy the scenery on most of the drive so far.

?We saw a lot of beautiful farms, a lot of cattle, a lot of horses,? she said.

If all goes according to plan, when the Matases arrive in the Village on Monday, April 16, after 10- to 12-hour days of driving for Guldeniz and a friend who is driving their U-Haul, they will be greeted by Sedona Mayor Pud Colquitt.

?It?s a unique story,? Colquitt said. ?What fascinates me is, I forgot what it?s like when you live where people don?t drive. I do understand; I wouldn?t put my animals on a plane.?

The Matases say they have no plans to start driving at this point in their lives.

?It?s right in keeping with Sedona,? Colquitt said. ?Where else do you get the creative thinkers, the weird thinkers — we go the full gamut from the conservative retiree to the ?woo-woo.??

Bob and Betty Matas have at least one cab service lined up from the last time they visited the area.

?Do you know ?Gator??? Bob Matas said. ?He?s a retired cowboy, was in John Wayne movies, and drives around a Cadillac with bull horns on the front.?

?Well, I?m a legend in my own mind,? John ?Gator? Bertini said. ?I give good ride — they have a good time ridin? with me, and I?m on time.?

Bertini said he plans on meeting the Matases on their arrival as well: ?I?ll take care of ?em.?

Colquitt is not one for prepared speeches, but she knows one piece of advice she?ll be handing out to the erstwhile New Yorkers.

?I?m looking forward to meeting them,? Colquitt said. ?I?ll tell them you?ve got a month, and you need to get a good pair of cowboy boots and a hat — everybody looks good in a cowboy hat.?

One wonders if Cleopatra and Pretty Face will have to submit to such Western ways as well.

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