January 14–February 8, 2009


    Last winter was cold, windy, snowy, and icy. Cabin fever set in early and lasted until April. We decided not this year! A road trip to a warm part of the country was in order. Arizona beckoned for a number of reasons: warm weather, friends and family, and interesting places to visit.
Bella Driving
    To get ready for the trip, to be sure we could get on the road, we parked the RV at the top of our dirt drive so we could avoid an icy hill on our road and make it to the plowed pavement without worry. It was a smart move because in spite of a snow-covered driveway, we got out easily. From there, our itinerary took us down I-25 to Santa Fe and Albuquerque, then west to Flagstaff, Ashfork, and south to Wickenburg; west to Quartzite; east and south to Karchner Caverns near Tombstone; north to Tucson, Cave Creek, and Sedona—and several places in between. Part of the trip was planned beforehand, and part was decided on the fly. Both made sense, and both proved the right thing to do.

    Was the month away from home a success? You bet it was. We found warm weather, good people to visit, and interesting places. And some unanticipated pleasures.

Visiting Friends and Family
Gail and Judy
    The rules say, “Fish and family…” and we followed the rules carefully. As a result we enjoyed being with folks we hadn’t seen in a long time and didn’t outstay our welcome. At least we don’t think we did.

1. Santa Fe

    Judy had recently learned that a daughter of a first cousin (does that make her a second cousin? first cousin once removed?) lives and works out of Santa Fe. Judy and Gail had not seen each other since childhood, but the “reunion” was as though the half century between visits was like last week. Yes, there was lots of catching up to do, pictures to share, and family stories to tell, but it all seemed to come easily for the two of them. All the time, her shepherd puppy, Max, made life interesting for Sophie and Bella. We were only able to spend an evening together, but a connection was made. We’ll see her again this summer at a Chasan family reunion back east, so we saved some talk for then.

2. Albuquerque
Anna Marie
    We have stayed in touch with Anna Marie since we knew her in Ohio nearly 40 years ago. We have visited so often and shared so many experiences with her family—four-wheel trips in Silverton, impromptu bridge games, glug parties, naughty dogs, and more—that getting together is as easy as dropping in on a next door neighbor.

    She also knows all the good places in Albuquerque and what’s happening; she always offers dozens of choices of places to visit, interesting restaurants, and special events. Since she lives about an hour south of Santa Fe, we arrived well before lunch in time to shop the Benalillo Thrift Store (rating: B+), have a good Mexican lunch (and a great margarita) at Bernalillo ’s Range Café, visited the historic Silva’s Saloon next door. It claims to hold the first liquor license in the state and the oldest “continuous saloon in the country!” On the way home we walked through the stunning Sandia Indian Casino. We covered a lot of ground in a short time.

    That evening, Eric (her son) and his wife Pam and her son Jabare came over for drinks and finger foods. At 7:00, a friend came over to make a fourth for bridge. We played until 11:00 and went to bed exhausted. We left late the next morning for Flagstaff.

3. TucsonBob and Ginn

    After several weeks of camping around the state, we made our way to Tucson to visit Judy’s cousin, Bob, and his wife Ginny whom we saw two winters ago in Arizona. As we did with Anna Marie, we packed a lot into just a few days with them.

    Bob is very much a family historian, as well as a storyteller and yard sale maven (and, as you can see in the photo, he has a number of Santa gigs around Christmas). We laughed at his family stories, along the way learning who in the family was who. After all, Judy’s dad was one of eight children who immigrated to this country and most had several children who had several children who had several children… you get the idea. Keeping everyone straight requires either some genealogical digging or a prodigious memory. Bob has the memory.

    The first evening we had terrific dinner at one of Tucson’s finest/best known/most popular Mexican restaurants, La Parrilla Suiza. In the morning, Hughes went to yard sales with Bob, watching and listening and learning from the “master,” who’s widely known around town as Trader Bob. He buys low, fixes/refurbishes/polishes other people’s castoffs, and resells it all (or most of it) at swap meets. This day he spent about $50 for what he thinks will bring in 4-5 times that; e.g., a pickup truck toolbox that he purchased for $20 sold two weeks later for $90. Plus we met a lot of nice folks along the way.

    In the afternoon, Bob’s son, Bobby, treated Bob and me to a performance at the Tucson Music Hall of “A Bronx Tale,” a one-man show starring the author, Chazz Palminteri. What a stunning performance: 90 minutes of one guy creating nearly a dozen characters and telling a compelling coming of age story with humor, strong characters, and inspiration. Don ’t miss it if it comes to your town.  Thank you, Bobby, for getting us there.
Sandi and Jim
    Judy, meanwhile, spent much of the afternoon with Ginny at a birthday party of one of Ginny’s friends, a party complete with a harpist and a flower cake.

    That evening, Ginny served up stuffed cabbage that would make Toledo’s Tony Packo proud. Afterward, until we couldn’t keep our eyes open any longer, Bob dug out a researched genealogy chart and we shared more family stories.

4. Marana

    About 20 miles north of downtown Tucson is the growing suburb of Marana where Nederland neighbors Jim and Sandi spend most of the winter. (Need we mention they are very smart people?) Their spacious condo is near several golf courses and backs up to a wash where animals of all kinds gather. From their patio, we saw more wildlife than at any other one spot on the trip.

    We arrived on Super Bowl Sunday, awash in the statewide excitement of the Arizona Cardinals playing. While no one gave them much of a chance against Pittsburgh, the game turned out to be one of the best Super Bowls ever: closely played, a lead that went back and forth, some outstanding plays, and at least some controversy. (Did you love watching the close-up of Steelers linebacker-thug James Harrison punching an Arizona player who was lying on the ground? Shouldn’t that result in an ejection and a fine? I guess Mr. Harrison has immunity.) Anyway, dirty play aside, we all agreed it was an exciting game—and Jim’s new HDTV was marvelously bright and incredibly sharp.Herd of Javalinas

    Judy did her morning run on the neighborhood trails; Jim and Hughes walked at the same time, photographing the several varieties of cacti growing there, plus a herd of javalinas—nine in all—in the upper part of the wash that runs behind their condo.

Saguaro Boot   In the afternoon, Jim took us to Saguaro National Park (the west section); Sandi preferred to take care of the dogs, whom she seems to adore. We stopped by Jeb’s Rock Shop on the way to look over his collection of local and imported specimens and be audience to his stories about rock collecting and gemstones. We stopped at the National Park Visitors Center to find out where we might take a gentle hike. The Bajada Loop Road took us to Signal Hill picnic area (built by the CCC in 1934), which is a short walk to the location of petroglyphs on a rock outcropping. We found several saguaro boots (see photo on left) and one rare cristate (or crowned) saguaro, which occurs in about one in 200,000 saguaros.

    [Note: Youve got to really, really love saguaros to visit this park—there are lots and lots of saguaros everywhere and not much else. Only real saguaro lovers go in the summer.]

Camping in Arizona
    In between visits with family and friends, we camped our way across the state, setting up in both RV parks and in the boondocks dry camping. Sometimes we drove out on BLM land for a single night, and sometimes we parked our RV in a town or campground for several days. The dogs preferred the freedom of BLM dry camping where they were permitted open spaces to explore without a leash. And while we liked staying in one place for several nights and enjoying the opportunities of each town or campground, we preferred the serenity and solitude of the well-off-the-road camping that public lands provide.

1. Wickenburg Constellation Road

The area between Phoenix and the California border always looks like a blank area on maps: nothing but sand and sagebrush, poisonous snakes, bleached bones, and the rusting carcasses of old cars that didnt make the full trip. We had heard of Wickenburg, but what we thought was a sleepy desert town in that space between Phoenix and the Colorado River turned out to be an oasis of warm weather, a great biking and running area, a good place for birding and rockhounding, home to a fine museum, close to the richest gold mine in Arizona history, and home to just over 5,000 really nice folks. Our three days there were full, yet we left lots of to do on our next visit.

Wickenburg Saguaro    We stayed three nights at the Desert Cypress RV Park, a comfortable and quiet place close to town and to dirt roads for biking and running. Paul and Barb Root were the very pleasant and helpful managers on site while we were there; in fact, Paul spent a good hour
fixing the cable TV connection that had been undone by the folks who installed the TV converter box back in the fall and didn't properly test the system before I picked it up. (Having a working TV permitted us to watch the Arizona Cardinals win a spot in the Super Bowl and the inauguration of Barack Obama. We may have been the only ones in the park or town watching the inauguration, though everyone watched the Cardinals beat the Eagles.) We had planned for only one night, but stayed two more.

    Wickenburgs claim to be a true western town is hard to dispute. The towns history and development are grounded in mining and ranching.  It has a fine museum of local history (especially good exhibits on gold mining, rodeos, wild wests, ranching, western art, and dude ranches), the Webb Center for the Performing Arts, some high-end developments with golf courses, and an airport. The Hassayampa River (an Apache word meaning the river that runs upside down) flows through town and is home to a Nature Conservancy Preserve perfect for bird watching. There are also at least three pretty good thrift stores in town, the best one run by the Soroptimists (rating: A+). The town also hosts an annual Cowboy Poetry Gathering in early December. The folks living there seem to enjoy their active, yet laid back life in the high desert.

    Judy ran and Hughes biked every morning along Constellation Road, which heads north and east of town into cactus country where rockhounds and ATVs love to explore. Together we biked through town, visiting art galleries, the museum, the jail tree (for the nearly 30 years when the town had no jail, prisoners were shackled to a mesquite tree), and thrift shops. We paid a visit to the excellent Bar S Animal Clinic on our way out of town where Dr. Colleen McCullum, a vet just down from Homer, Alaska, saw Sophie for an incontinence problem and gave her some magic pills that provided immediate relief and, so far, a cure.
Assay Office at Vulture
    Just 15 miles outside of Wickenburg is the Vulture Mine, which was discovered by Henry Wickenburg in 1863 (or 1864), and the (now ghost) town of Vulture City that boomed to a population of 5,000. After five years, Henry sold 80% of the mine and took up ranching. Sadly, he died a pauper by his own hand in 1905. In 1942, when the government banned gold mining, the mine closed and 5,000 people left the town to the desert. The property was eventually bought and opened to visitors for $10/person.

    [Note: The property is currently for sale to anyone
interested in purchasing a town.]

    We took the dogs on a walking tour through the remarkably well preserved buildings and equipment. Some buildings, like that Assay Office pictured here, were built from ore taken from the mine. A few hundred yards from the mine and mill area is the schoolhouse which, except for the outhouse that tilts precariously, remains in pretty good condition. Outside, the swing, slide, and teeter-totters still work. We have seen a lot of derelict mines, mills, and ghost towns, but the Vulture is one of the best for really understanding how people lived and worked extracting precious minerals from the ground. It was well worth the fee and the two hours to explore.

Bonanza Mine Road Sunrise    After leaving Vulture City, we continued west on US 60 to Wenden and turned north toward Alamo Lake to dry camp on BLM land somewhere on Bonanza Mine Road near the slopes of the Harcuvar Mountains. Before sunset, we pulled off on a level spot where we could hear nothing, where the stars were not dimmed by city lights, and where the sunset and the sunrise (pictured here) were spectacular. We had a warm dinner, a long walk with the dogs, and slept warm and peacefully. Some would say we finally did some camping (even though we slept in our RV).

2. Swansea

    Though we were headed for Quartzite, we had read about the Bouse Mine and the townsite of Swansea, both north of US 60, but not too far out of our way. The Bouse Mine proved small and not particularly good for rockhounding. We did not spend long there, though we did pass through town when the
bread man was there: were not sure if this is a daily, weekly, or a once-in-a-while event, but the bread man came loaded with day-old bread, bagels, donuts, and rolls from Safeway (we dont know which one) and folks in Bouse helped themselves to whatever they liked and as much as they wanted. No one seemed greedy, and there was plenty for all. So, for a few minutes, we were honorary citizens of Bouse and walked away with bagels and bread to last a week.
Camping at Swansea
    While Bouse is on paved State Highway 72, the road to Swansea is 30 miles of regularly graded dirt. We didn
t travel much over 30 MPH, but even so the dishes rattled and the dogs were on alert. The last three miles were in rough condition, though we never doubted we could drive that section. (It would be impassible in wet weather!) We were rewarded with the remains of a prosperous copper mining town settled in 1908 which grew when a railroad spur was built linking Swansea to Bouse. The population fluctuated as the price of copper went up and down. The town was abandoned in the 1930s.

Wine at Swansea    We tried to imagine 500 people or more living out here toiling in the mines for copper. Fifty tons a day were taken either to the Colorado River and on to Wales, or to the railroad headed for Wickenburg or Parker.) Discovered in 1882, developed in 1886, the mines were profitable from 1908 until they petered out in the Depression and the town went ghost in the 1940s. This isolated, desolate area supported a school, newspaper, electric company, post office, movie house, hospital, and housing for hundreds of men, women, and children. The beauty of the town in the winter months, when the temperature is in the low 70s, hides the harsh reality of summer heat well over 115°. Swansea (originally named Signal) is a world away from the Welsh town that was its namesake. All that remains of the community that once gave hope of prosperity are the adobe rubble of living quarters, the smelter and dust chamber, the foundations of stores and company offices, and the glory hole that yielded the ore.

    Weather, vandals, and neglect have reduced much of what was a jewel in the middle of nowhere to only a hint of its former grandeur. Still, for rockhounds, mining history buffs, and 4-wheelers, Swansea is worth the drive. Camping here for the night, we found the quietest place on earth where you can see more stars than we thought existed, a place where dogs can roam freely and a person could sit quietly with a glass of wine and see mountains hundreds of miles off on the horizon.

3. Quartzite
RVs In Quartzite
    If you've been to Quartzite in the summer, you probably get to know most everyone in town pretty fast because there are not very many folks who live with +110°. On the other hand, if you've been there in the winter months, you've been among over 1,000,000 visitors—some say as many as 4,000,000—
who come for what might be the worlds largest swap meet, plus gem and mineral shows, Indian pow wows, RV and vacation expos, and other events to which snowbirds flock. We decided to find out what the other 999,998 people see in this circus extravaganza. We saw and now we know. And we might even go back again!!

    Not knowing how things were spread out on one of the busiest weekends of the Quartzite winter season, we phoned for reservations in August. Given all the
No Vacancy signs at the dozens of RV parks, we're glad we did. Our stay at 88 Shades RV Park was very pleasant. Our site was small but sufficient. The facilities were spotless and we even got free laundry in new machines. Oranges and grapefruits grown on the property are picked regularly and guests at the park can take what theyd like. The park sponsors host of activities from scheduled social gatherings to free concerts; they offer a lending library, a game room, and a small auditorium where once a week local musicians (many who live at the park) present a country and western music jam which is, we were told, always well attended. We enjoyed it and the house was packed. The park is located in the heart of town, which we wanted since we had only our bikes to get around. We feel fortunate to have made a good choice for this weekend.
Quartzite Swap Meet
   There were four or five main “shows
going on simultaneously: the Desert Gardens International Gem and Jewelry Show; The “World Famous Main Event,” (read flea market); the QIA Pow Wow Rock & Mineral Show; the Quartzite Sports, Vacation & RV Show; the Tyson Wells Rock & Gem show, plus ongoing swap meets at “Prospectors Panorama” and the “Rice Ranch.” In addition, there are organized areas of smaller flea markets all over the town, and RV dealers are showing and selling RVs everywhere. It’s a phenomenon that has sprung up only in the last 31 years. We shopped each day until we almost literally dropped. Though we bought little, we saw lots: some of the minerals were remarkable and most of the swap meet items were ordinary but inexpensive. Most interesting to us was the Vacation and RV Show with merchandise and vacation information from which we learned a lot. At the end of each day, we were pooped and glad to get back to the relative quiet of our campground.

4. Tonopah

    Leaving Quartzite was a breeze. We unhooked, washed out the sewer line, filled the gallon jugs we keep inside, and then drove over to the park
s Car/RV wash facility and power hosed off the dust and grime we’d picked up on the dirt roads. We filled with diesel ($2.19/gallon) and headed east on I-10. We aimed for Tonopah, just an hour or so east on the interstate, where we turned off at this crossroads of a town, stopped for ten minutes at a roadside informal flea market (just couldnt pass it up), then headed for the base of Saddle Mountain about eight miles southwest of Tonopah where James Mitchells Gem Trails of Arizona (Gem Guides: 2001) guided us to the location of an “eminent southwest mineral collecting spot” noted for “beautiful fire agate and chalcedony…In addition rock hounds can occasionally find crystal-filled geodes on the lower slopes, but they are not too common.”Tonopah

    Though we found small agates and not much fire and no geodes at all, we did enjoy hiking the sides of Saddle Mountain (3,037') and found an outstanding place to dry camp for the night. We added the few mineral specimens we found to those from Swansea, Bouse, and Wickenburg. Once again we found quiet and solitude well off the road. What a pleasure after the hustle and bustle of Quartzite!

    In the morning, Judy went for a run along the shoulder of the back road leading into Tonopah. It was the first time she ran since she fell off her bike in Quartzite and banged up her knee pretty well; no blood, but plenty of bruising and enough pain to cause concern. She did her four miles in normal time but ran tentatively and with some discomfort.

    [Note: The Friday after we got home, Judy went in for an exam with an orthopod here in Boulder who did an x-ray and then ordered an MRI. She went over the MRI results with Judy the following Wednesday and advised her to lay off running for a month, which was not what she wanted to hear, but a better prescription than surgery.]

5. Picacho State Park

    We had hoped to poke through another
eminent mineral collecting spot, the Ramsey Mine near Painted Rocks Petroglyph Site west of Gila Bend. When we finally found the road, which could have been easily missed in the past, there was an large hand-painted sign blocking the road indicating the mine was closed by the owner due to the bastards who stole diesel fuel, shovels…also winch (and) barbeque.” We were disappointed, but certainly understood his hostility.
Hughes at Picacho SP
    Just a short way back, we stopped for a picnic lunch at the Painted Rocks Petroglyph Site. This area protects a small outcropping of rock with Hohokam petroglyphs. It is remarkable that these, like so many others that date back nearly 2,000 years, have not been vandalized or destroyed or stolen by ignorant visitors. With no hiking of interest and rather bleak scenery, we let the dogs free for a while and then headed east until it was time to stop for the night. Quite by chance and circumstance, we spent the night at Picacho SP.

    Picacho is a small state park fairly close to I-10 an hour north of Tucson at the base of Picacho Peak with lovely facilities, spacious sites, and several hiking and nature trails around the mountain and to the top of the 3,200' peak. At this time of year there is enough grass to make the hills green (unlike their usual brown summer color) with cactus in early bloom.

[Note: After dinner, as we were getting ready to take the dogs out for their last walk, I reached for a flashlight in the compartment above the passenger seat and, lo and behold, discovered my gold watch which had been missing and presumed lost for over a year. I last saw it on our west coast trip in September, 2008, and had no idea where it might have gone. It was in the compartment in such a way that we couldn’t see it and it was only by reaching down into it that I found it. It was a high school graduation gift that I’d taken good care of for over 50 years. In spite of being on several camping trips in the past year, and in spite of freezing last winter and the first part of this winter, I gently shook it (it’s self-winding) and it still runs.]

    The temperature dipped below freezing during the night and we were slow getting out of our warm beds. But we fired up the furnace for the first (and only time) and the inside was toasty in no time at all. We had breakfast and walked the dogs by 9:00. Judy took her morning run and then we took a short hike up the side of Picacho for the views and the saguaros—and to let the dogs really stretch their legs and get some good exercise. Then we drove through Tucson and east to Benson for groceries before heading ten miles down to our home for the next few days: the campground at Karchner Caverns State Park.

6. Karchner Caverns State Park

    Karchner Caverns SP became one of Arizona
s newest state parks just ten years ago when the caverns were turned over to the state and became a destination for people from all over the country. Two tours of each room of the cave are scheduled several times each day and reservations are recommended, though while we were there walk-ons were readily available. The tours are not inexpensive ($22.95 and $18.95), but we agreed that these caverns, which have been carefully developed to maintain their pristine condition, are incredible and not to be missed. We have visited Carlsbad Caverns (NM), Mammoth Cave (KY), Luray Caverns (VA), Wind Cave (SD) and other smaller caves around the country, and Karchner is unique: what we saw was very close to what the fellows discovered in 1974 when people entered for the first time. Downtown Fairbank

    Another day while Judy did her morning run, Hughes biked south and west about 20 miles to the ghost town of Fairbank on the banks of the San Pedro River. Fairbank grew as the site of one of the mills that worked the silver ore from Tombstone, and was a stop on the rail line between Bisbee and Benson: ore and cattle went out, people and goods came in.

    When Judy finished her run, she drove the RV with Sophie and Bella to Fairbank and we poked around what was once a thriving town. We hiked to the cemetery and mill a couple of miles north of town. By exploring ghost towns, we seem to find connections with the past (in some ways, our past) by way of noting who died and when, as well as how people worked and lived. Fairbank is worth visiting: there are quite a few buildings still remaining (the town went ghost in the 1940s, but was lived in until the early 1970s), and recent funds are slowly helping to restore some of the buildings and to provide visitor information.

Main Street Tombstone    From Fairbank, we put the bike on the RV and drove on to Tombstone—definitely not a ghost town, though its population has fluctuated from 5000 in the 1880s to a little over 100 during the Depression to its current population of about 1,500. Tombstone thrives on its made-in-Hollywood western mythology: Boot Hill (named after Dodge City
s more famous cemetery hoping to make it a tourist attraction); the shady ladies (Is it really true that the scarlet ladies were confined to walking on the shaded side of the street?), the OK Corral (the fabled gunfight actually took place in a vacant lot on Fremont Street), Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday and all that western movie kind of stuff). Some of whats there is definitely hokey and strictly to fleece the tourists, but there is a strong sense of western history that underlies the movie-set facade and is worth knowing about: the stories of people like Edward Schieffelin, John Clum, and Nellie Cashman, the fabulous riches from the silver mines, and the Tombstone Epitaph, which is still in print after 110 years of covering the west.
Karchner SP
    Check out time at Karchner is 2:00, plenty of time for a morning run and a 3-4 mile hike
into the hills above the park with the dogs off leash. (Most of the hike was outside the park in the adjoining National Forest where dogs off leash are permitted.) Only in the winter months could we enjoy the area as we did. We returned to give Bella and Sophie baths (in the RV shower), to vacuum and clean the RV, and take showers ourselves. We left for Tucson and our visit with cousin Bob and Ginny.

7. Cave Creek Regional Park

    Our Colorado cousins, Carol and Ken, camped at Cave Creek Park last year and raved about the facilities and the hiking. They were right: this Maricopa County Regional Park just north of Phoenix has wonderfully groomed trails for hiking, horses, and mountain bikers that course through saguaro forests, outcropping of chalcedony agate, and thickets of palo verde, mesquite, ocotillo, creosote, and jojoba where a variety of birds find homes and protection. The trails are also good for running, though accessing the trail heads requires a mile of running or biking up a fairly steep grade from the campground.

Trail at Cave Creek    With Phoenix less than an hour south, Cave Creek is a popular, easy to reach park that takes no reservations. Like our cousins last year, we spent two nights in the overflow area without hookups, though the shower/bathrooms were very close by. We were disappointed to be without electricity for two nights, but it was not a hardship. We lacked only the privacy of the large sites in the campground proper. It is always nice to have electricity, but we can manage easily without it.

     We spent two of our three days hiking the Overton and Go John trails. We took a late afternoon short trail from the campground to the Clay Mine. The mine was named not for a Mr. Clay, but for what was taken out of the ground. Lila Pearl Irish bought the failed gold mine in the 1940s and marketed
Mineral Springs Clay to be mixed with water as an elixir that cured whatever ailed a person. It actually made a fortune for Lila because her potion turned out to be an effective cure for dysentery. The weather was great for being outdoors, one of our major goals for the trip. There were other trails, but the landscape is basically the same and we knew we would see little new on other trails. We have not yet become serious birders, but when we do, we will return here in the proper season with the right resources (binoculars, reference books, etc.).

    However, what we found most rewarding were the spectacular sunsets. Each night we took scads of photos (aren't we grateful for digital photography?) with saguaros and ocotillos silhouetted against red clouds and blue-tinted skies. One sunset was more more glorious than the one before; each was a postcard photo that the Arizona Chamber of Commerce would die for!
Cave Creek Sunset

    We took one afternoon to return to The Town Dump, one of our favorite shopping experiences in the nearby town of Cave Creek. Part junk, part folk art, part Mexican crafts, and part reclamation from old buildings, this is the
best of several similar antique and junque stores in the quirky little town of Cave Creek (a sort of Nederland in the high desert). Its worth the drive and at least an hour of your time to find that special, unexpected treasure.

8. Sedona

    Our last stop before heading home was Sedona, one of our favorite towns in Arizona. We stay at Los Abrigados Resort and Spa when we go, and in the past we have enjoyed great hiking, biking, dining, shopping, and relaxing in this scenic red rocks area. We always find new areas and opportunities to explore, whether it
s a new trail in the red rocks area or in Oak Creek Canyon, or poking through galleries in Sedona or in nearby Jerome and having a great hamburger and an outstanding margarita The Haunted Hamburger overlooking town.

    This time, however, we were there for Judy to run in the 5K race that is run along with the Sedona marathon and half marathon. We camped the night before the race at the Rancho Sedona RV Park, a very pleasant stopover for us. We walked the dogs along Oak Creek that fronts the campground, we photographed at least a dozen blue herons nesting high in the trees that shade the park in the summer, and we drained our water system and winterized in preparation for the winter weather still to come at home.

Judy at Sedona 5K    We were up at 5:30 and down to the Sedona Cultural Center for the start of the races. The chilly morning warmed as the sun came up, which created a lovely red rock setting for the race. Judy did well (she must have felt the pull of a Sedona vortex): She won her age group by six minutes and beat every woman over 50 except for a very fast 54-year-old from Kalispell, Montana. Judy said it was the toughest 5K she has ever run: nothing was flat. It was either uphill or down. The morning race was a great way to finish our Arizona trip.

Going Home

We filled with diesel in Flagstaff and headed east across Arizona. It’s a dull trip—we really should find some good books on tape/CD—so we had time to notice the following:

  1.  Most of the vehicles on the interstate, even on a weekend, are trucks!

  2.  At least a dozen trains were traveling west, each loaded with a long string of flat bed cars carrying either semi trailers or shipping containers. If the economy is in a downturn, what accounts for the movement of so many goods? Along with trucks, there is a lot of commerce being shipped from here to there.

  3.  Billboards are not longer painted on wood or printed on paper and then glued to boards. They are virtually all printed (painted?) on vinyl or cloth (nylon? canvas?) and attached somehow. Bad news for traditional billboard paper hangers and good news for folks who make printers, print images on cloth, et al.

  4.  Winslow to Gallup is empty. Is that why the meteor made the crater where it did? Because nothing was there? It made us think of US 50 across Nevada.

  5.  We experienced our first real major traffic snarl: a truck caught fire in a work zone between Gallup and Grants. We moved a mile in about an hour and a half before we were able to get diverted to a frontage road.

    We spent the night at the Bar S RV Park in Grants: $13.50/night included free wi-fi, cable TV, and full hook-ups. That
s so inexpensive we were embarrassed to take the 10% Good Sam discount. The owner asked that we not keep the water line hooked up over night because of the possibility of stormy weather. This was, of course, no problem since we had drained the water lines and hot water heater in Sedona and filled the lines with antifreeze. It did freeze overnight, but we used our space heater for the night and we slept comfortably!
Last Nigh Sunset
     Hearing that a storm was building up, we decided to make the big push to get home from Grants in one day. This is not a hard drive, just a longer day than we had been used to for the past few weeks. It was a smart thing to do: the night we arrived home, Flagstaff got hit with over 2' of new snow. We had light snow between Las Vegas (NM) and Raton, but—and this sounds hard to believe, but its the way it happened—the moment we crossed over Raton Pass and the Colorado line, the skies dramatically turned blue and clear. It was like that all the way home.

Now That We're Home…

    Arizona had the warm temperatures we hoped. There were lots of interesting places to go and things to do. We saw friends and family. Sophie and Bella were with us to keep us smiling. We explored new places and learned about some others we want to visit. We renewed at least two interests—rockhounding and birding. We were so busy that Judy didn
’t finish one book in the entire trip. 

    We are already looking forward to next winter.

    And many more Arizona sunsets.

Judy and Hughes Moir
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