T012 Arizona


Old habits die slowly as time and place make them obsolete. Mornings on Odyssey started by listening to NOAA. Reported wind and wave conditions influenced our day. Forecasted fronts would cause us to think about longer range stopping points to let weather pass. Now in the southwest weather forecasts are irrelevant because the weather doesn’t change much from day to day or week to week. We stopped listening to NOAA because weather didn’t impact our plans. The uniform weather does influence our story. Gone are entries about wind, waves, being weathered in, and playing the weather. What is left to record are stories of a succession of “then we dids” as miles rush past with fascinating destinations stacking up in a blur waiting to be recorded. New routines have entered our exchanges “Did you notice……..?” is followed by “missed it” as scenery rushed by and a turned head, or moment of inattention missed something observed by your partner. On Odyssey we take turns reading to each other, as the scenery passes with time even for the reader to glance up and observe. Instead of reading we listen to the radio and watch the ever changing scenery.

From a distance Quartzsite looked like a tent city. As we moved closer a few blank spots waiting for more tents showed up. Finally as we approached the center of town normal buildings began to appear. At the RV park we learned the main event wouldn’t start for another three weeks and by that time thousands of RV’s would be in town and the surrounding public lands to poke through all the vendor tents being erected. We took an evening stroll and found socks for sale next to pistachios, next to power rock drills. Great pizza at Silly Al’s Restaurant topped off the evening and we headed on into Arizona before being trapped by all the RV’s Quartzsite is expecting.

Phoenix droned by as we crossed town heading for the RV Park we’d selected. Expressways with newly planted embankments that didn’t show on our maps reflected the rapid growth of the city. Exploring by rental car we checked out huge RV parks boasting of space for up to 1,500 rigs. Most seemed heavily populated by “park model” RV’s (trailers with no wheels or towing provisions) arranged in neat packed rows like Tic Tacs on a grocery shelf.
Taliesin West

Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home/studio/school.

Low entryway ceiling and almost concealed entrance were common in FLW homes. Note unique door shape.
Entryway opens into airy conference room with translucent ceiling Ruth and tour group in living room listening to docent. Two single beds divided by low wall are tucked in a corner of the large bedroom.

The low almost hidden door and shaded entrance hall gave way to a large airy room with translucent ceiling—Frank Lloyd Wright’s reception room at Taliesin West. For the next hour we toured the intriguing complex with a docent who like us was a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright and expert at pointing out the unexpected personal touches the home/office/school included. The uniquely styled home started as a framework with canvas for a roof and shelter from the wind. Slowly over the winters Wright and his students/assistants added a solid roof and added glass.

Jerome an old mining town now becoming an artist colony. Flatiron Cafe seats about 6 for breakfast. Walking is up and down hill. Belgian Jennie’s uphill from the Flatiron served a great dinner. A bit of a fixer upper we found. Access from the street looked like a problem.

Way off in the distance we could see a “J” near the crest of a hill. Curious we started for Jerome, negotiated a series of steep switchbacks, and found Jerome clinging to even steeper switchbacks. Once a thriving mining town, it’s now home to restaurants and galleries catering to those of us who appreciate a good up hill climb. We stopped in at the Flatiron Café for breakfast a tiny place seating all of six people, but doing a good take out business. A few days later we returned for another dose of town charm and this time had a great dinner at Belgian Jennie’s Bordello Bistro and Pizzeria. It also had limited seating capacity. We really enjoyed chatting with the proprietoress who explained the history of the building. In addition, they served outstanding food.
Sedona Pink Jeep Tour

Our tour Jeep and a bit of the scenery Speed bump for 4WD Red rock formation Ruth at the top of hill the Jeep just climbed. Hanging from the seat belts heading down hill.

If you love being continually approached with offers for free overnight accommodations, dinners out, jeep tours, or just plain cash then Sedona is the place to go. High end shops seemed like their sole purpose was to provide a bit of separation between all the high pressure time share sales people trying to sign us up to listen to a ‘ninety minute’ (so they claimed) sales pitch in return for one of their goodie packages. Beautiful red rock mountains and cliffs surround Sedona. The area’s natural beauty is the draw for all the time shares and other development.

Coming in, any vehicle could travel the road to the point where a rock ledge neatly divided the road. At the ledge, our Pink Jeep Tour driver stopped, shifted to 4WD and bumped us up and over into 4WD only territory. For the next two hours we enjoyed Sedona’s red rock scenery and discovered a Jeep could go up and down some very steep grades while showcasing Sedona’s wonderful red rocks. The scenery was wonderful and the Jeep ride, our first serious 4WD rock climbing experience was a kick.
Petrified Forest National Parkt National Park

Towed due to a bad relay in Flagstaff Painted Desert vista. Petrified logs in the Painted Desert Face of a petrified log

Had we know it was just a bad Park relay we could have save the $200 tow charge. Instead three hours after arriving at the garage, a mechanic took 5 minutes to locate and replace the bad relay, and we were on our way again heading out of Flagstaff.

Perplexed we watched the cashier carefully wrap the small piece of petrified wood and placed a seal on the wrapping. Then it dawned on us, we were in the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park. Signs all over the gift shop indicated the petrified wood was from outside the park. When we exited the wrapping verified we weren’t stealing part of the park.

The Painted Desert lived up to its reputation. Layers of colors change the desert vista into a piece of modern art. Shifting colors were a treat to watch as we moved through the desert.

From a distance the logs looked normal. Approaching closer the subtle changes of minerals changing the wood to rock became apparent. Bright crystals mingled with tree rings turning the logs into wonderful works of art.

Going north out of Phoenix I 17 was boring. Riding US 60 south was a treat. Ever changing mountain scenery kept the eye and mind entertained. The road occasionally provided an adrenalin rush as the road moved out and seemed to hug the very edge of a cliff

The scale and feel of Tucson appealed to us. We liked the town and used the Catalina State Park just outside of town as a base of operation for further exploring.

On a Sunday afternoon all we could do was browse through the University of Arizona’s catalog listing of Ansel Adams photographs. It was a bit of compensation since the gallery of his photographs was closed for an exhibit change. A few originals in the catalog area gave us a small hint of his work. The University’s modern art gallery was open and it proved to be on of those fun unexpected finds of uniqueness that seem to hide on college campuses.
Biosphere 2

8 people lived in the sealed environment for 2 years in early 90’s/ Ocean Room with a living reef in the mini ocean. Inside the lung building. The ceiling moves with air pressure changes Designed for experiments over 100 years, the complex is now up for sale.

Biosphere 2 made history and was a sensation in the early 90’s when eight people entered its sealed environment for a two year period. A mini ocean, forest, crop lands, and live stock were calculated to be able to provide recycled food, water and oxygen for the occupants sealed within Biosphere 2. Now it stands idle, serving as a tourist attraction waiting for someone with very deep pockets to buy it. The tour was great, poking around behind the scenes learning about the unique history and the problems with the experiment.
Catalina State Park, Saguaro National Park, Kitt Peak

Our site in Catalina SP just outside of Tuscon Saguaro Cactus. Bony skeleton of a saguaro shows once the flesh falls away. Kitt Peak is the world’s largest solar telescope. Looking up at the collector mirrors shuttered for maintenance.

A desert trail wound through a forest of Saguaro Cactus and provided close up views of Saguaro in all stages of life. It was easy to see why Indian legend talks about the Saguaro being people that at night will slowly, ever so slowly move.

A narrow 12 mile road climbs from the desert floor to the top of Kitt Peak. The road at times is both breath taking and a white knuckle experience when just the road separates cliff face on one side with cliff edge on the other. From the top Tucson can be clearly seen in the dry desert air and seems much closer than the 56 miles we traveled to reach our viewing spot.

On the tour we stepped inside the barrel of the solar telescope. From our glassed in view point we could look up to see the collector mirrors and then look down deeper into the mountain to where sunlight hit the instruments for scientific analysis.
Patagonia State Park

Took a bit of work to get the Trek level on the hillside site. Bird watching companions. Patagonia woods early in the morning.

All the people walking around with spotting scopes, cameras with long lenses and impressive tripods confirmed that Patagonia State Park was indeed in prime birding territory. Rejecting the flat easy sites out in open area we worked a bit with spacers and blocking to get the Trek level on a downhill site with almost no level area. Our work rewarded us with a secluded site and a great view.

A small manmade lake, marsh area, trees and hills made the area attractive to birds. A campground fence kept cattle out. On the open range in the woods bird watching was great. Ruth’s life list got a bit longer. We poked around swapping notes with other birders, watched the occasional cow wander by and stepped carefully to stay out of their contributions to the forest floor.
Tombstone, Fairbanks, Bisbee

Tombstone where cowboys still roam and gunfights at the OK Corral occur on schedule. In 1880 Fairbanks started as a silver mining town. Ralph and Stef enjoying one on the few remaining buildings Ruth enjoys one of Bisbee’s houses tight up against the road edge. The steps form the door are immediately next to the road in tightly packed hilly Bisbee.

Just outside of Tombstone we met up with Ralph and Stef and had a grand time catching up on our respective travels for the past year and exploring the area together in their tow vehicle.

Down on the Mexican border it was a bit spooky seeing the modern day equivalent of the Great Wall of China, or possibly the Berlin Wall as a wall now extended upward with a fence on top ran along the border.

In Tombstone the tourist entertainment veneer of reenactments, rides, actors and gift shops appeals to many but not us. The place seemed more like a Disney World set. The few buildings of what was once Fairbanks provide more mind stimulation as the few signs hinted at what once was. In a way Bisbee was the most intriguing with its 19th century buildings being squeezed by bigness of the 21st century.
Kartchner Caverns

The Throne Room. Kubla Khan tower formation is 58′ tall. Soda Straws. The longest is 27′.

A warning about not touching anything and if you make a mistake reporting any touches so they could be cleaned by the evening wash down crew made for a strange introduction for a cave tour. Then we went through air locks, go a misting down to reduce dandruff and lint shedding and were finally off to walk Kartchner Cavern along a walkway with high curbs to contain any debris from people. Each night the cave walkway is cleaned keep stuff from getting on the formations. The cave was first discovered by man in 1974 and the state has taken extraordinary steps to maintain it in a totally natural condition. The result is an outstanding tour of the caves haunting formations.
Chiricahua Natural Monument

Tucked into the tiny but beautiful camp site.. Scrub Jays showed up after we arrived looking for a handout. A foggy morning made for a wonderful walk down the mountain. Ghostly images along the walk down As the fog lifted the view got even better.

The ranger explained the camping length restrictions for Chiricahua Natural Monument are due to dry wash road dips and a number of small camp sites. Being right at the upper length limit we decided to try. We squeezed the Trek into a beautiful site immediately before the first of two dips and postponed decisions about clearing the dips until we left.

The park shuttle bus gave us a ride to the mountain top early the next morning. At first we thought the walk down the CCC created trail would be a bust because of fog. Instead the fog added a surreal look to the rock formations along the trail. We walked downhill enjoying the hazy views and peaks at wider views when the fog would clear for a moment. Then shortly the fog disappeared, and we enjoyed wonderful wider views of this unique area.

We weighed leaving options. Since it was early we could drive back out against the one way road we came in without problems. Instead we decided to test our dip clearance so we’d know for future visits. Ruth drove. I watched and coached over the handheld. On the first dip we cleared without touching. On the second dip a few sparks from the trailer hitch skid plate showed up but that was all. We’ll be back to Chiricahua again to enjoy its unique features.

Roper Lake State Park

We got a lake front camp site. View from the trail up the hills behind the campground. Each morning Gambil Quails visited our site and poked in the dirt looking for breakfast. David and Janice from England This guy watched us as we watched the owl up in branches out of camera range.

We lucked out and got a lake view site at Roper Lake State Park and did a bit more birding. This time some of the birds came to us. Each morning Gambel Quails showed up and scratched in the dirt immediately outside the Trek while we watched from the window.

Word spread quickly about the Great Horned Owl resting in the tree. Barely visible we found it high in a tree. Just as interesting was the Red knapped Sapsucker that seemed to hang out looking for attention.

David and Janice flew to Phoenix from England, purchased a Mini Winnie and will spend the next 18 months touring the USA and Canada. Once they are done they’ll sell the RV to someone else from England who is coming over and head off on a new adventure. We’d first met them and enjoyed their company at Chiricahua. Now at Roper we got to know them a bit better and maybe we’ll be able to meet up again somewhere in the east. If you are interested in their unique travels check their blog: http://www.travelblog.org/fred.php?id=47085

Our wanderings in Arizona look a bit odd but the route allowed us to see many of the unique sites in the state.


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