Photo: Sunset over Apache Junction, near Phoenix.
It was February 1, in a blizzard, that we left Marathon Texas. We drove for eight hours through the desolation of West Texas and the stark beauty of southern New Mexico, all the while battling gusting winds and blowing snow.
Photo: We entered Arizona from New Mexico, driving west. Later, we re-entered from California, driving northeast to the Grand Canyon and Sedona. Eventually we headed back west into California.
We finally made it to Willcox, Arizona, and the Fort Willcox RV Resort, just after 6:00pm. Owner, Barb, has promised us free waffles and coffee in the morning. We’re only eighty miles from Tucson but it’s supposed to dip to -11 Celsius tonight.
In the morning, at Willcox, we found the thermometer had dipped to -12, slightly lower than predicted. We went for our helping of free waffles and pancakes provided by the RV Park and then for a brief walk, but the wind and cold drove us back after only half a mile or so. We hit the road, southwest, hoping to find some warmer weather.
The drive on Interstate 10 to Benson, and the Cochise Terrace RV Resort, took just half an hour. The elevation there is lower than Willcox but, disappointingly, it didn’t prove to be any warmer.
Photo: The view from Cochise Terrace RV Resort.
After setting up, we drove south to Sierra Vista and found the Best Buy store where I was finally able to purchase a battery for my camera. From there we drove east to Tombstone where we walked the streets of the historic town unmolested. It was mostly deserted, due to the cold. In the cemetery we saw the graves of the outlaw McLaury brothers who were gunned down by Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday at the O.K. Corral. Coincidence would have it that the movie Tombstone was on TV the night before we visited the town. Val Kilmer, as Doc Holliday, is still one of my favourite roles of all time.
We also stuck our heads in a few shops at Tombstone, where Janice bought a night light and a little lambskin purse. The whole loop back to Benson on highways 82 and 83 was just fifty miles.
Photo: The main drag at Tombstone. Not sure if the cowboy is looking for a gun fight, or what.
Photo: A rough hombre at tombstone. The cowboys really relish their roles.
Photo: The stagecoach at Tombstone.
We’re bracing for record low temperatures tonight. Seeing it was so cold and there was little else to do, we rented a couple of movies from the park office – I picked another old Val Kilmer movie that we hadn’t seen, Saint, while Janice picked Bewitched – she likes them light and entertaining.
I went to the jam session that they hold every Wednesday night here at the park. There are roughly twelve musicians that show regularly. Some are park regulars while others drive as far as forty-five miles. The more serious players go four nights a week; at this park, another RV park, a nearby bar and another bar in Tombstone. The music was mostly country, with a little Everly Brothers and Righteous Brothers thrown in. There was also a talented couple from Oklahoma that did gospel, him on guitar, backing her on vocals.
Photo: Tim, third from left, jamming at the RV Park. There was a woman keyboard player, out of the picture, to the left, who was both friendly and talented. She liked my playing and invited me to play with her regular four-piece in Tombstone, which included a sax player. While it would have been kind of cool to say that I’d jammed in Tombstone, it happens on Tuesday nights and I don’t think we’ll be around by then.
After the jam we watched Bewitched. I only remember watching the TV show a couple of times as a kid, not exactly what you’d call riveting.
When we went to brush our teeth before bed, we discovered that the trailers’ pipes had frozen. By morning everybody else in the park was in the same boat. Because there were more record setting cold temperatures on the way, there was really nowhere to run, so we went to the hardware store and bought a heat lamp and one of those reflective windshield shades to use as a windbreak. We got the wind mostly blocked and, we hope, the heat lamp positioned under the problem area. There’s nothing worse than being without water.
In the evening we went for dinner at a little café near us – we didn’t want to dirty more dishes because of the water situation.
Photo: A frozen elephant fountain outside the cafe where we had burgers for dinner.
After dinner we watched Saint. Once again Val Kilmer was great playing Simon Templar in a variety of disguises, seamlessly infusing different accents.
By morning the heat lamp had done its’ job – water was flowing again. It was still frigid but sunny as we hit the road for Tucson, where it was supposed to be a few degrees warmer. When we got there however, the only park with any availability was not to our liking, so we kept driving, stopping for a roadside lunch at Picacho Peak.
Photo: Picacho Peak, which is visible for many miles around. There is a trail to the top but a steel cable must be utilized for the last couple of hundred feet.
We drove on to the John Wayne RV Park, part of what remains of John Wayne’s 60,000 acre ranch, about twenty miles from Casa Grande. The park really is in the middle of nowhere. We drove fourteen miles to Maricopa, a pretty little town where there must be a bylaw prohibiting neon or any other type of garish signs, to get some groceries.
Later, we took a good long walk in the desert behind the RV Park. This area is one of the ‘highways’ that the Mexicans use to sneak in to the States, so it is littered, here and there, with discarded backpacks, blankets, empty food tins and water bottles.
Photo: A weird old Saguaro Cactus in the desert behind the John Wayne RV Park.
Back at the park, a very dark man, Joseph, pulled up in an old dented pick-up truck, offering several food items for sale. Our neighbour came over to endorse Joseph, claiming that he makes the best darned food anywhere. We bought some peach cobbler from him to have after dinner. It really was very good.
The next day it had warmed up considerably so we decided to hook up and back-track a little to Coolidge, nearer Tucson, so that we could explore that area a little further. We settled in at the Indian Skies RV Resort. After washing all the grime from the Texas/New Mexico storms off of the truck and trailer, we went to visit the Casa Grande National Monument.
Photo: It was in the 13th century the Hohokam Indians built the structures at the Casa Grande National monument, North America’s first high-rises.
Back at the park we went for a swim in the eighty-something degree pool. The air temperature was only in the mid-sixties so the pool was very welcoming. It was our first dip since Florida, more than a month ago.
While the Indian Skies RV Resort in Coolidge was very well-appointed, it didn’t seem to me that there was going to be enough for us to do in that area to stay for a week. Some people had told us about a high-rent RV resort in Casa Grande that offered first-timers a half price deal on a weeks’ fees. We wanted to have a look at the historic old part of town there anyway so we took the ten-mile drive to check it out. There wasn’t a whole lot to the historic part of town so we went for lunch and then stopped in at the resort. It was nice enough, for sure. It had a couple of swimming pools, an 18 hole golf course and the lobby was like that of some grand hotel. We didn’t see anybody dressed in t-shirts or tank tops, the norm in other parks. The half price deal turned out to be $400.00 for the week. We decided to stick with our t-shirts and stay in the under $200.00 range.
Photo: Sunset at Indian Skies RV Resort.
In the afternoon I watched the outcome I was looking for in the Super Bowl, (Green Bay Packers) while Janice did laundry and made prawns wrapped in crab cake and bacon. We had purchased some of these same seafood items, pre-made, at the Outer Banks in North Carolina a couple of months earlier. Janice’s were superior.
On Monday morning, after some research on the internet and the Passport America book, we decided to move to Apache Junction. We drove north on scenic highway 76 and pulled in to the Countryside RV Resort, where we booked in for a week. This park has all the amenities of Indian Skies, except no free internet or cablevision. It’s closer to a lot more hiking trails and lakes though. We can pick up fifty-two channels with our TV antennae anyway and Internet is $15 for the week for two people, available at the clubhouse 24/7. There is also a bunch of free DVD’s to choose from.
In the afternoon we took a drive to the Apache Trail, which is just five minutes from the resort. The trail is a truly awesome spectacle, at every turn. It’s only fourteen miles long, starting at Superstition Mountain and ending at Canyon Lake. I mentioned to Janice on the way back how, “An artist could spend their entire lifetime depicting those fourteen miles – the ever-changing colors, shapes, shadows and light.” We went back again in the evening to see it under some different light. Amazing!
Whoever made the decision though to run a couple sets of power lines through the Apache Trail should be strung up on them. There is so much flat desert nearby, or other ways they could have gone around. How short sighted – disgusting
Photo: Superstition Mountain at the beginning of the Apache Trail.
Photo: Along the Apache Trail.
Photo: The Apache Trail.
Photo: A church on the Apache Trail. Superstition Mountain is behind. I always use a polarizing filter on my camera because it reduces glare, takes the reflections off of water, gives clouds more contrast against the sky and saturates the colour more. Still, there can be no bluer skies than those in Arizona.
Photo: Along the Apache Trail.
Photo: Some spectacular colour along the Apache Trail.
Photo: Canyon Lake, at the end of the Apache Trail.
Today we plan to stay out of the truck completely. Instead we’ll walk, bike, swim or whatever else.
We rode our bikes a couple of miles to the shopping centre to get groceries and then I went to the weekly jam session here at the park. The jam session is a big deal, with twenty or more musicians in attendance. There were: piano, two electric guitars, electric bass, stand-up bass, banjo, three saxophones, two trumpets, two trombones, harmonica, three accordions, a drum kit and my cajon. The jam is so popular that the park provides valet parking, a sign-up sheet for musicians and a hundred or more chairs lined up in neat rows for the audience.
You might be thinking that all of those musicians together in one place would have the potential of creating something horrendously cacophonous. Thankfully, not everybody was always playing at once. The sound and the overall pace of events were surprisingly professional for so many players – but unbelievably boring.
The hundred or more folks in the audience turned out to be eager to dance, make requests for, and show a lot of outward appreciation for all those same, tired, boring old songs though.
Don’t get me wrong. I know I’m a kind-of-senior myself, but it’s not about age, it’s about attitude. I was brought up on sixties and seventies material but I certainly wouldn’t want to endure a steady diet of it, for the rest of my life. Give me something new already. Most of the people in that audience were probably in their late sixties or seventies – why are they stuck in such an old time warp? I mean, who has a jam session at one in the afternoon anyway? Who waltzes at that time of day? People in RV Parks do, that’s who.
You might be able to tell I was pretty disappointed. I had expected, after seeing all of the instruments, a bit of a rousing good time. Instead, after a dozen numbers of the same droll, fifty, sixty or seventy-year-old material, I was almost asleep. It was hard to believe. I half expected to see Gene Autry or Lawrence Welk step out from behind the curtain and tell me I’d been punk’d. Come on already, my mom’s eighty-eight years old and she rarely listens to that sappy old stuff anymore. Sure, it has its’ place, but not every time. Jeez! One more two-step, waltz or polka, and I swear, I‘m gonna’ bust into a heavy back beat.
The last straw was when almost every person in the audience stood up, hands over hearts, when one of the elderly guitar players started into America The Beautiful. I couldn’t handle any more – I left.
Readers might be able to tell that I’m really starting to miss jamming with people who play with some energy, some soul, some creativity, some gusto!
You guys and girls at home know who you are.
I suggested to Janice today that maybe we should start The Rockin’ RV Resort. Musicians can’t play more than one-in-ten old-time country songs – or any other old standard that makes people get all nostalgic and waxy eyed.
At the Rockin’ RV Resort: Quiet time would start at midnight. Nobody is welcome to make an appearance before 7:00am. Everyone has to have a campfire at least twice a week. There’s no going to bed before 10:00pm. Having your TV on in the afternoon is a misdemeanor. You might even be required to eat some spicy food once in a while.
I think there must be enough Boomers out there that are about ready for something like this. Don’t you? There are sixteen acres for sale on the Apache Trail.
Because I left the jam early, and we had no other plans, we broke our promise to ourselves and hopped in the truck, driving to the Apache Trail to hike the First Water Trail. As we started the gradual climb it was sunny but windy, and dusty. The trail got steeper as we approached the enormous sheer cliffs of Superstition Mountain. The closer we got to the cliff face the more the wind picked up – it served to keep us cool though.
Photo: Janice, on the way up, appreciating the somewhat dusty view from Superstition Mountain.
On Wednesday morning we went back to the Apache Trail and hiked the Bulldog Canyon Trail. I have no idea why it’s called that. We never saw any bulldogs or any topography that looked anything like a bulldog. I did take my walking stick along though, just in case we ran into any marauding bulldogs. It was a nice five-mile hike, winding through a narrow canyon and then to the top of a hill that afforded three hundred-and-sixty degree views of glorious scenery.
Photo: Along the Bulldog Trail.
Photo: Another view along the Bulldog Trail.
When we finished the Bulldog Trail we drove east toward Tortilla Flats, where we stopped for lunch at the Lost Dutchman’s eatery. There’s a Lost Dutchman State Park here too. Apparently he was an eccentric old prospector and miner who made it rich. There was a live band playing, what else, old time country music, where we sat outside. I had chili while Janice had a hot dog.
Photo: Janice in the washroom at Tortilla Flats. She really balloons up after a hot dog.
We kept driving east, taking the spectacular loop drive past Apache and Roosevelt Lakes, stopping to gawk at all the unbelievable topography along the way.
Photo: The canyon formed by the once mighty Salt River, which is now dammed at Roosevelt Lake, leaving a mere trickle of a river down below.
Leaving the rim of the canyon, we proceeded down a very scary, steep, narrow, winding dirt road that barely clung to the cliff face. It was so narrow that there were just a few pullouts to pass any vehicle that might approach in the other direction, which happened. There was so little room that I had to pull in my side mirror. As the other vehicle inched by us we noticed the woman in the passenger seat with her hands over her eyes.
Photo: A shot from the canyon floor.
Photo: Along the dirt road to Apache Lake.
Photo: Apache Lake.
The gravel road turned to pavement again at Roosevelt Dam. A few miles further on is the entrance to Tonto National Monument. There we took the half-mile hike to see the cliff dwellings of the Salado Indians.
Photo: A shot from the trail up to the dwellings at Tonto National Monument.
Photo: Remains of the dwellings themselves. The dwellings date from the 12th and 13th centuries. The Salado cultivated the banks of the Salt River, which is now Roosevelt Lake, in the distance.
Photo: Looking out from inside the ruins.
On Thursday morning we thought we’d get in a quick hike before lunch and then drive to Mesa to check the lay of the land there. Having seen a sign for the Peralta Trailhead on the way back from the loop drive we took the other day, we headed for there. It turned out the trail turnoff was a little further down the highway then we had remembered and then the trailhead itself was another seven miles’ drive up a dirt road.
Our feet never hit the trail until about 12:15. Beginning at the trailhead, the rock formations were astounding, becoming more interesting with just about every step. We climbed gradually, around massive boulders that had obviously come crashing down from the surrounding cliffs.
We were an hour into the hike when we decided we were getting hungry. Another couple was coming down the trail at that point and we asked how much farther the trail went. “Oh, about fifty miles,” they replied. They also explained that the Weaver’s Needle, where there was an awesome view, was just another hour or so up the trail. It was midday, hot, and we only a mouthful of water left in the bottle. We decided to turn back down the trail and come better prepared another day.
After lunch we drove to Mesa, which is like driving to Burnaby from east Vancouver – cross a road and you’re there. We didn’t find much to see in Mesa but we did stop in at the tourist bureau and got a map of local hikes. Looking it over, we discovered that a number of trails culminate with spectacular views of Weaver’s Needle.
The weather has been sunny but brisk since we got here, but today, Friday, it started to warm significantly. We went for a short but fairly steep hike up Silly Mountain, just south of Apache Junction.
Photo: Atop Silly Mountain, Apache Junction.
After lunch we went for a dip in the pool and hung around there reading our books while doing laundry.
We invited ourselves to our neighbours, Stuart and Carol, for happy hour. We had seen their Saskatchewan plates earlier and surmised, correctly, that they’d be easy to invade. They’re about our age and are on a ‘trial’ retirement. They’ve only been on the road for a couple of weeks but are thoroughly enjoying it so far. Our guess is that, like a lot of other folks we’ve met, they’ll turn out to be fairly sedentary. The reason I say that is because they don’t seem to do a lot. Many people we’ve met start out with ambitious traveling expectations but, after a month or two, find it easier to stay put. They discover that all they were really looking for was warmth and relaxation.
Following my tirade about the old folks music at the last jam session, my friend, Bill Lyle, responded by email. I print it here without his permission, only slightly edited. This being man-to-man talk I’ve deleted the first expletive for Janice’s mother, or anybody else with delicate sensibilities.
What the _ _ _ _ is wrong with you? Ever since you stopped chronicling the price of crab cakes and red onions around the four corners of America you have gotten steadily bitchier. Let’s take a minute and review the situation. You are a guest in the country. You’re burning up fossil fuels like there is no tomorrow, traipsing around the US of A with never a thought of my poor little grandchild’s future. According to your blogs you have consumed enough food to supply a third world country; you obviously have little or no regard for the laws of the land and now you take a shot at America, the Beautiful.
When Korea started acting up didn’t they go and kick some ass? Ditto Vietnam. When they found oil in the Middle East didn’t they step up and insure your right to drive a gas guzzler? Are they not in Iraq trying to make the world a better place to drive in? Incidentally, it’s my opinion that the true American genius in the automotive industry was Fred Flintstone – may he rest in peace.
I long ago predicted dire consequences resulting from your prolonged stay in the trailer parks of America. I can only imagine what Janice is like. She has probably gone back to settling her problems by fighting. It might be time to come home Tim.
As a rookie musician I am wondering if my melodic plunking of Eagles and John Fogherty songs are going to find a place in you music utopia. Too much exposure to trailer parks could leave you a bitter plus-60 sitting on that silly box. Get back up here and find a nice nine-to-five gig, eat some fried foods and get your life back on track.
I hope you’re not grumbling around the park kicking beer cans and yelling at kids Tim. Oh yeah, that’s right, no kids allowed in the parks.
I was in the hospital this morning, knocked out. Minor procedure, nothing to worry about…and my boobs are really perky now. Barb brought me home and I staggered up the back stairs under the glare of the neighbor a few doors down. My rep is going to take another hit.
God Bless America,
We were told by our neighbour, who had hiked all of the local trails, that it would be a three-hour hike up to The Saddle on the Peralta Trail. The Park Rangers who were standing at the bottom of the trail when we got there disagreed. They said, “You guys look like you’re in pretty good shape. It shouldn’t take you more than an hour-and-a-half.” We signed in at the trail head at 9:45 and were standing, looking at Weaver’s Needle at 10:45.
It was only two-and-a-half miles up the mountain but the elevation gain was 4,100 feet. I must admit I was pretty red-faced by the time we got to the top but it was worth the magnificent views. We sat and drank most of the water and had some fruit before hiking along The Saddle to get a closer look at the Needle.
We discovered that we had been two-thirds of the way to the top a few days earlier when we first attempted the trail. If we’d known that at the time we would have finished the hike that day.
Photo: We pose at Weaver’s Needle.
Photo: Heading back down the Peralta Trail.
Photo: A view, south, as we descend Peralta trail.
On Sunday morning we took a hike on the Hieroglyphic Trail on the back side of Superstition Mountain. The footing was slightly treacherous due to the many cannonball sized rocks littering the trail. Stepping on them couldn’t be avoided so we had to be careful not to turn an ankle. Once again we were kept busy gawking at all the unusual rock formations. It was a hot day, eventually reaching 80 degrees, but we had completed the 4.5 mile trail by then.
Photo: The uncanny balancing act of an enormous boulder on a pinnacle of rock along the Hyeroglyphics Trail.
Photo: Some of the many Hieroglyphics at the culmination of the trail.
Photo: Very near the hyeroglyphics, Janice sits in what was probably used as a shelter by natives.
Until today we hadn’t been able to find lamb in any of the stores here but, on the way home from the hike, we stopped for a few groceries where Janice spotted a couple of lamb shanks. She put them in the crock pot with some garlic and Rosemary to slow cook while we went to scout out a couple of other RV parks.
We had decided to stay in the area for another week, for a couple of reasons: Because there’s lots to do around here and because Janice’s mom, Rhelda, and her friend Jenny, are flying into Phoenix for a week, next week. We’ll move closer to Phoenix when they’re there and spend a day or two with them.
We didn‘t find an RV park that we felt was any better than what we already had so we booked another week here. We did have to move though because our spot had been booked previously. We went for a dip in the pool before having a cocktail with some neighbours from Ontario, Cathy and Russ. I spent quite a bit of time encouraging and bolstering Cathy so that she would take the scary road through the circle tour described earlier. She did it the next day and was very happy she had.
Photo: The sunset at cocktail hour.
By the way, the lamb shanks with Greek salad and garlic toast were excellent – like tender lamb drumsticks.
Our new neighbours are four elderly Brits that are traveling together in a large motor home. The host couple now lives in Florida but, for his brother and his wife, this is their first time in America. They’re all very funny, relishing in the timely delivery of their dry British humour. Visitor, Doug, (pronounced Doog) is already wearing a white ten gallon cowboy hat that he is looking forward to sporting with his lawn bowling whites when he gets home.
Doog loves a good curry and is more open-minded about such things than his somewhat Americanized brother, Gary, who won’t touch the stuff, muttering, “I wouldn’t touch that Goddam Packie rot.” Seeing as Janice was making us some papadons for an appie, she decided to treat Doog to a few. Papadons are those very thin, large, slightly spicy chip-kind-of-things they usually start you off with at an Indian restaurant. We dropped the papadons off before we went for a short bike ride. When we returned Doog thanked Janice effusively while Gary grumbled, “Tastes like they have Goddam fish or something in them.”
This being Valentine’s Day we thought we’d go for breakfast at the Waffle House, right next to the park. It was crowded, with a lineup though, so we drove uptown instead where we had bacon and eggs at one of Apache Junctions’ oldest established coffee shops. Sorry, I forgot to remember the name of it.
The night before, I had researched the internet for the Best Restaurant in Apache Junction. According to the reviews, Elvira’s Mexican Restaurant was the best in town. We had planned to go there for dinner but, after touring the old mining town of Goldfield on the Apache Trail, and then stopping for a margarita at a bar near there, we decided instead to get some beef tenderloin, romaine lettuce, (so I could make Tim’s famous Caesar salad) and a bottle of 7 Deadly Zins. We find it pretty hard to beat that combination. Later we watched Will Smith’s Pursuit of Happiness which was entertaining enough.
Photo: The abandoned mining town of Goldfield on the Apache Trail.
Photo: Another shot of Goldfield.
Tuesday was sunny and hot again so we set out for the Butcher Jones Trail at Saguaro Lake, just north of Mesa. The trail was about six or seven miles round trip and offered some nice vistas of the lake, the best being at Burro Cove, where we turned around. Back at the trailhead we waded in the frigid water.
After the hike we stopped at the Saguaro Lake Marina and split some fish & chips and a beer before heading for home. There we hung around at the pool while the laundry went round.
Photo: Tim at Burro Cove on Saguaro Lake.
Photo: Saguaro Lake.
February 15. There are now three months left in our Intermission. We’ve put on roughly 40,000 kilometers – about the equivalent to driving around the circumference of the earth.
The Lost Dutchman’s Trail had been recommended to us by the hiking club leader at the RV Park as one of the prettiest trails around. It was a much easier hike than Weaver’s Needle, about seven miles round trip, but not nearly as steep.
Photo: The Miner’s Needle – I guess because it has a hole in it.
Later in the day we went for a dip in the pool where Janice met a woman born and raised in Kamloops. She knew Janice’s boss, Bonnie, and she’s good friends with another acquaintance of ours from Kaledon, Anne Murray. No, not the famous one.
Two couples joined us for Happy Hour – one from Alberta and another from Saskatchewan. The woman from Alberta turned out to be fifty-nine years old, quite brash, and she could really knock them back. She had just retired, while her husband, a military guy who is twelve years her junior, has another ten years to work. She was ordering him to get her drinks, on command. He hopped to it too, poor guy. We kept waiting for him to salute her.
As we rode our bikes uptown for breakfast on Thursday morning it was fairly cool and cloudy, with the odd raindrop. By the time we got back home, the clouds had cleared, so we decided to take another bike ride around the town and have a better look at our immediate surroundings.
We managed to find a few of the seamier sides of Apache Junction. Not that we encountered anything really bad or threatening in any way, just what you might find in any town where you don’t stick to the main routes, and the tourist facades. There are no lawns here, because of water shortages, so a lot of properties tend to look unfinished. The sight of a child’s toy on a green lawn tends toward the romantic. The same toy on a dirt or gravel lot can look forlorn, broken even, when it’s not. A typical house in some of these neighbourhoods can be purchased for sixty or seventy thousand dollars.
In the afternoon I gave the truck a much needed going over, inside and out, while Janice did her nails, and other womanly stuff.
When we want to watch movies we have to pull the TV down from it’s shelf near the ceiling, to hook it up to the computer. While I was out in the morning, Janice was standing on the dinette seat putting the TV back when she lost her balance and fell backwards onto the couch, hip first. She has a nasty bruise.
On Friday it had clouded over. Janice packed a lunch and we drove the Apache Trail again to Canyon Lake where we hiked the Boulder Canyon Trail. It’s a steady but fairly gradual uphill climb. As soon as we reached the first lookout I went to take a picture but my camera battery was drained again. Not only is that frustrating, but I’d have to pack the camera gear up the mountain for nothing. Luckily Janice had hers.
The Boulder Canyon Trail was my favourite yet, with 360 degree vistas at the top. Part of the view was Weaver’s Needle from the opposite side, and further away then we’d seen it from before.
When we spotted some horses and riders traversing a mountain several miles from us, we noticed that one rider was way ahead of the rest. When he got to within a quarter mile or so away, I asked Janice to hustle back up the trail with me so that she could get a picture of him passing the most scenic terrain, with Weaver’s Needle in the background. Man, does a walking horse ever cover ground faster than a human, even on that rock strewn trail. We only needed to get a hundred or so yards back up the trail, and we had a good head start, but we could hear the horse clip-clopping on the rocks behind us, gaining steadily. By the end we were literally running, getting where we wanted just in time to get the photo.
Now I know what it might feel like to be on the outdoor TV show, Man Tracker. The rider turned out to be the very dapper, Dave, from Arkansas. When we saw him again at the bottom of the trail Janice apologized for asking him for his horse’s name before she had asked for his.
Photo: Dapper Dave, with Weaver’s Needle in the background.
We went for a bike ride when we got home, stopping on the way back to have a beer with Carol and Stuart, from Saskatchewan.
Saturday morning was cloudy and spitting rain here and there, so, rather than sitting around, we figured we’d take a short hike to the water tower at the end of Idaho Road, not far from our RV Park. There were curious looking rock formations right from the start but, within a half mile or so, the trail petered out, completely. We couldn’t pick it up again so we returned to the truck just as the wind picked up. The horizon was blurred almost immediately. By the time we got back to the park there was a full blown dust storm obliterating the view in all directions.
Photo: The beginning of the dust/sand storm over Apache Junction.
We’d heard about a huge flea market not far from us so, with the wind and rain happening, we decided that, if we were going to see it all, this would be the time. The flea market was enormous. More like a gigantic tent covered mall. Disappointingly, almost all the merchandise was new, imported and cheap. A lot of hats, sunglasses, lawn ornaments, t-shirts and other dollar store kind of stuff. Just what the world needs – a whole bunch more dollar stores, all under one roof.
The flea market being a bust, we decided to head for Goldfield and the scheduled Chili Cook-off. As we pulled into the parking lot the dust and sand storm had picked up even more momentum. We got out of the truck to a scene of complete mayhem. All of the chili cook-off contestants were trying desperately to hang onto pieces of their tarps or tents, hurriedly trying to pack up before everything got blown to smithereens. We heard one contestant complain that he’d tied his tent down to the tables and, as a result, everything got blown over, including the chili.
On the way home we stopped at Filly’s Bar & Grill where LIVE MUSIC was advertised every Saturday from 1-4pm. As we entered the darkened bar, sure enough, there was a decent country band playing. Cowboys in big hats, with bigger buckles and even bigger moustaches idled around the bar, trying not to stare at us in our t-shirts and shorts. We could see more cowboy hats bobbing behind the boys at the bar. They belonged to more cowboys and cowgirls happily line-dancing, while even more of them mingled around wooden tables. We had a beer and some fries, soaking in the authentic Arizona vibe for half an hour, before making our exit; backs to the door.
As I write this Janice is watching Spanish TV. It’s 4:30 and pouring rain outside.
In the evening we watched a couple of movies and then woke to drizzle again on Sunday morning. We drove to the First Water trailhead and followed the Second Water Trail. It got too soggy though, so we turned around and took The Lost Dutchman’s Trail again, from the opposite end of where we hiked the other day. We were a couple of miles in when it started to rain heavily again, sending us scurrying back to the truck.
Photo: The Lost Dutchman’s Trail.
Photo: Janice; just to prove that she has more than the one green top I’m always photographing her in. The fact is that, although it seems like we’re always wearing the same thing, I have three pairs of Khaki and two pair of green shorts while Janice has several sets of brown Capri pants of different shades, as well as a couple pairs of denim Capri pants so, even though we may be boring, we’re not wearing dirty clothing.
Photo: A brother and sister from Mesa who found a genuine arrow head, serrated edges and all.
Tomorrow we’re moving closer to Phoenix so we can spend a little time with Rhelda and Jenny.
By the time we left Apache Junction we felt we had covered it off pretty well. We had only missed one major hiking trail, one that apparently requires rock scaling at the end, so probably just as well.
I put my back out, for the first time in a long time, putting the fold-up bikes away.
It was sunny and cool when we hit the road for Phoenix, just thirty miles up the road.
Janice made a boo-boo when she put the wrong RV resort in the GPS, Susan, and it wasn’t until we were paid and already set up, reading the literature, that she realized we were booked into the North Phoenix RV Park. We’re about ten minutes further up the road than we’d intended to be and directly under the flight path of a small aircraft flight school. See, sometimes women make mistakes too.
We drove to the Pinnacle Peak Trail in Scottsdale in order to scout it out and see if it might be an appropriate place to take Rhelda and Jenny for a hike. It’s listed as easy in the guide but it’s actually a lot of switchbacks up some very steep terrain so, even though the trail is smooth and well used, it might prove a little steep for them. On the other hand, I guess anybody could do it at their own pace. We’ll see.
Photo: A golf course viewed from Pinnacle Peak.
Photo: A Hacienda viewed from Pinnacle Peak – like many others here that illustrate how some of the poor folks have to survive in the desert at Scottsdale.
Photo: Another view of Scottsdale from Pinnacle Peak.
Janice has been planning for a week to go to Chino Bandito’s for dinner. It’s a famous Chinese/Latin American fusion restaurant that we’ve seen featured on the Food Network. Chino means Chinese in Spanish. A Chinese woman and her Latin American husband own it and the food is a true mix of both cultures’ cuisine. I had a chili relleno and jade red pork with chicken fried rice and black beans, with a Tsu-Sang Chinese beer. Janice had egg foo-yung, a Jen red chicken quesadilla, jerk fried rice and refried beans, with a Dos Equix Mexican beer. Both orders came with a big old Snickerdoodle cookie. Guy Fierri, of Diners, Drive-Inns and Dives puts it on his top five places to chow down. It was no frills but really good food – filling and inexpensive.
Photo: Janice with our Chinese-Mexican food orders in front of a Guy Fierri poster.
My back has gotten really bad and I think I may have to visit a chiropractor. I could hardly sleep last night because of it.
On Tuesday morning I made the Chiropractor appointment and then spent forty-five minutes there getting worked over by a new-age Chiropractor who wanted to do x-rays.
I talked her out of that, knowing I wouldn’t be seeing her again. She was very good with the massage part and showed me some good new stretching exercises but wasn’t quite big enough to give me a proper cracking and, although the new-fangled decompression unit felt really good, my back was still really sore when we got out of there.
We picked up Rhelda and Jenny at the Sky Harbor Airport and drove them to pick up their rental car, which was half the price of what it would have cost at the airport. We lead them back to their resort using our GPS, Susan. I had mentioned to Jenny that she might want to upgrade to a car with GPS, because of the size of the city. Both she and Rhelda were skeptical about GPS and, while Rhelda drove following us back to the resort, I could see Jenny in my rearview mirror, checking her map.
Janice had prepared a broccoli and grape salad ahead of time and we picked up some French bread and roasted chicken from the grocery store, as well as a big bottle of Pinot Grigio, to share with them at their resort condo. We took our leave about 9:00 and headed back to the RV park.
There was no room in the trailer to do the exercises the Chiropractor had shown me so we went back there in the morning and she gave me a couple of alternate ones. We picked up a Yoga mat for me and then went to join Rhelda and Jenny toPinnaclePeakso they could walk up to see the view. After worrying if the women were going to be able to make the walk, it ended up being me, hobbled with a sore back, unable to ascend the hill. I sat and read We Were the Mulvaneys, while they hiked high enough up the peak to get some pictures.
Photo: Janice, Rhelda and Jenny before they hit the trail at Pinnacle Peak.
Our tour of Phoenix was sunny but hazy – there are now almost five million people in Greater Phoenix, which might help to explain the milky atmosphere. We drove across town, thirty-five miles, to Dobbin’s Look-out at South Phoenix Mountain, using ‘Susan’ all the way. By the time we got there I could see that Rhelda and Jenny were definitely warming up to Susan.
Photo: A hazy view of Phoenix, with some old ramparts from earlier days in the foreground. Views from the mountain would have been forever, except for the haze.
We dropped Rhelda and Jenny off at the resort while I went to lie down and rest my back for an hour. They were pretty well sold on Susan by then, wondering how they were going to get by with their good old fashioned map. Susan tells you which lane to be in, (on the eight-lane-each-way-freeways in Phoenix), how far ahead your turn is, how much time and distance to your destination, etc. She also says it all out loud, while showing the route in easy to follow diagrams.
Janice and I rejoined the women at their resort for a wine tasting, enjoying some really delicious, and new to us, wines and cheeses. Later, Janice and I barbequed steaks while Rhelda prepared potatoes and salad. Rhelda, being the wise elder, correctly figured we’d had enough wine at the tasting. We said our goodbyes about 9:00 – Rhelda and Jenny will be here for a few more days and are then driving to Sedona for a week.
Thursday morning Janice and I headed south, away from the Big Smoke, ending up back at Indian Skies RV Resort in Coolidge. We knew we liked the pool facilities there and figured I could do some convalescing for my bad back in the pool and hot tub.
Photo: The pool at Indian Skies RV Resort in Coolidge.
Some French Canadians we met at the pool, and who had given us the Apache Junction lead in the first place, highly recommended the museum in Florence, ten miles up the road.
We drove to Florence Friday morning. It’s a cool little town with some very well preserved historical buildings. The museum, although not very large, was packed through with a lot of chronological history. For example: One Sherriff, a few years after retirement, killed his former deputy in a gunfight at the local saloon. The Sherriff was seriously injured himself. It was a dispute over politics and careers.
Arizona has always had the death penalty so there were some pretty sinister, and strangely crude, instruments of death. Of course lots of hanging rope, and a steel trap door for those to be hanged. There was also the Gas Chambers’ ‘loveseat’ which was nothing more than some two-by fours with a leather belt-strap to hold the condemned in place while they were gassed, sometimes in two’s.
Photo: Downtown Florence.
Photos: The Florence Museum: Some Apache Playing Cards.
Photo: Some all-cactus furniture made by a former local store at Florence.
Across the street was the LB Mexican Restaurant, (I know, crappy name) with an outdoor patio, and lots of cars around, always a good sign. We got a seat outside where I had a chili/beef tomale and a guacamole taco, while Janice had a sampler with beef tacitos, mini beef chimi’s, chicken tenders and guacamole. It was making Janice hum.
Photo: Janice at the LB Mexican Restaurant.
Back at the park we spent another couple of hours in and out of the pool and hot tub. The idea is that this will be the last day of nursing a sore back. We’re thinking of heading a little more southward tomorrow.
My back was much better on Saturday morning when we pulled out of Indian Skies and set off for the southernmost area of Arizona. We decided on the area around Ajo and Why, both tiny dots on the map, because they looked like they were outside the storm zone that was supposed to be approaching, packing high winds and lots of rain.
Ajo turned out to be a mining town with a huge open pit mine right on it’s doorstep so we went a little further down the road to Why. Don’t ask. It’s nothing but a couple of gas stations and an RV park. The whole thing is on native land so, naturally, there’s a one-room casino attached to our RV Park. We never even looked inside.
The wind had picked up by the time we got set up so we decided to drive down the road to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. It was so windy and cold when we got there that I never even got out of the vehicle to take a picture of the famed Organ Pipe Cacti. They’re cool though, really big, with lots of arms. The US has put aside 33,000 acres to protect the unique ecosphere there and the Mexicans have protected an equal amount of land on their side of the border. Because there are so many different kinds and shapes of cacti in the area, it kind of delivers the sensation of driving along the ocean floor.
Photo: The Little Ajo Mountains on the road to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.
The wind and heavy rain buffeted the trailer well into the night but, by morning, the sky was cloudless once more.