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Published: March 18th 2018
After enjoying the large numbers of horses and ATV's in Wickenburg, we headed to an RV park in northern Phoenix, from which we visited with my brother Johnny and his wife Katy for a few days. Then we drove north to Cottonwood so that we could revisit Jerome, Flagstaff, and a wonderful pie place in Cottonwood. Then back to Phoenix, where we parked in Johnny's driveway for a few nights. They took us fishing at a park in Scottsdale and held a pizza party with several of the Arizona relatives. We drove east as far as an RV park at the San Carlos Gold Casino, and that afternoon back into Globe to explore. Our next short trip was to Safford, where we spent a couple of nights at Roper Lake State Park. Today, we have driven as far as Willcox - this short trip seemed long as we battled a vigorous wind. Our RV is a-rockin' and a-rollin'.
Wickenburg is a neat town to visit. There is plenty of history, which you can learn by visiting the 31 statues downtown and pressing a button on each to hear an oral history lesson. There are horses everywhere, often just grazing in fields. So lovely. At the RV park where we stayed, it seemed as if more than half the sites had ATV's parked in them, and the owners definitely were enjoying their rides in the desert and hills. (Maybe we would have preferred Horspitality RV park, where there were facilities for RV's and horses.) We went to a large arena where people come from all over to practice rodeo skills, but unfortunately none were scheduled at that time. From our RV park, we could walk into the historic district, under the bridge over the Hassayampa River. I got a photo of the sign "No fishing from bridge" - with the completely dry riverbed in the background. My brother assures me, however, that at times the river even overflows its banks. Wickenburg has five "guest ranches" and is encouraging retirees to settle there.
It was so nice to visit with my brother and Katy. Katy and I did some "girl" things (grooming, shopping). They took us to Gadzooks, a mainly enchilada restaurant, which I liked so much that we went there again on our return visit. The road from the RV park to their house goes through lovely hilly desert areas, but the traffic is mostly a big pain in the neck. We played the card game "Son of a Gun", which they taught us years ago and is one of our favorite games. Johnny won. Oh, well.
We hadn't really liked the RV place we had stayed previously in Cottonwood, so booked a place called Thousand Trails. It turns out that it is a newly developing park, part of a national chain which you can join for a large entrance fee and then pay a pittance for each night's stay. We had a salesman come and knock on our door; it would have been preferable to have someone from the campground come and tell us if the water was back on, since we had received a notice when we checked in that the water would be turned off the next day. Oh, well, profit before consideration... There was quite a network of hiking trails, and we enjoyed many pleasant steps. Most memorable, though, was the arrival at the campground. Downward, around several tight curves, steeply downward again, more curves: we couldn't see ahead to know if we were actually on a wild goose chase! But at last we found a site. (And we did lose our water supply for only a day.)
We drove up to Jerome, the old copper mining town perched on the side of a mountain. It is now a tourist draw, with interesting artsy shops and restaurants, and beautiful views toward the north (snow on the mountain near Flagstaff, but sparse). Back in Cottonwood, we treated ourselves to a piece of key lime pie at Paradise Cafe, a very special place which is a major draw for us to Cottonwood.
Next day, we drove through Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon - some of the most glorious red rock formations anywhere - to Flagstaff. John loves to watch the trains there. The tracks cut right through the center of town, and many freight trains pass through there daily. We strolled around town; such an interesting old place. While I was in a bookstore, John's UNH hat was spotted by a guy who had gone to UNH, and they started a conversation. That couple is from Newmarket (for those who don't know, the town next to ours). Coincidences like this are not so rare. We struggled to find "our" Indian buffet, using our GPS, and finally phoned to learn that they had moved. Still a great place for a hearty, tasty lunch. Cruising back southward, I noticed again how many lovely guard rails have been built along the climb out of the canyon since our first trip there years ago. And I wasn't paying attention to our altitude near Flagstaff (9000' range) until I started opening a water bottle and it shot water all over me. We stopped in Sedona and walked around town, but decided it was just too touristy for us. Of course getting outside of town for hikes in the hills and desert is still wonderful.
Hoping we will someday return to Cottonwood, we drove back to Phoenix and parked at my brother's. Again, a pleasant place to visit. Next day, they loaded their fishing gear in their car and drove to a park in Scottsdale which has a large, stocked pond surrounded by a walking trail. Johnny has been tying flies his whole life, really enjoys fishing, and Katy is right there in her enthusiasm. In fact, she caught the only fish that day! It was the least appealing of the fish there, a carp, but it was very large, 18 to 20 pounds. The sky was grey, cloudy, overcast - the sort of day that Phoenicians love for its unusualness, but visitors find a bit disappointing. (Although we will not complain one bit, since at home folks have just endured their third heavy snowstorm in eleven days and number four might occur next week.)
Back at the Pattons' house, we prepared for a visit of their daughter, her son, and her daughter with husband and son. Pizza, of course! It's nice for me to see these folks every few years.
While Johnny and Katy dutifully went to church and prayed for us sinners, John and I took a lot of laundry to a laundromat. You had to put money on a card, then insert it in a washer or dryer to start it. My brilliant spouse was stymied by the card-issuing machine; it was funny to watch. I guess it's okay if I am in charge of laundry, since he does almost everything else. We rewarded all of our accomplishments with a visit to Gadzooks for enchiladas.
We didn't have specific plans for where we would head next! But we had not been to east central Arizona, so decided on that. When we finally got out of the Phoenix metro area, the drive became very pretty, through wooded hills. And we had managed to squeak by a gas pump, only inches from the car, when we stopped for gas. And we had detached the car when we tried a turn into a visitors center and couldn't quite make it. (Just another day in RV world...) We drove to San Carlos Casino, which provided electricity and water; all we need. We drove a few miles back, to Globe, a mining area. We strolled around the old-timey downtown, but just about everything was closed on a Monday. Sort of funny. We did manage to get groceries.
Back at the casino, we walked over to check out what was inside. Unfortunately, the first thing we experienced was smoke. We had been in some casinos which banned smoking, but this one didn't. So we walked through and back to the RV. As we drove through the San Carlos reservation, we were struck by the vast amounts of roadside litter, and are still contemplating the reasons why there is so much. It is surprising that Indians, who treasure the environment, would undervalue it by littering profusely. Resentment? Discouragement? Lack of resources?
John and Johnny had researched for our next campground and found Roper Lake State Park near Safford. Just before Safford, we stopped at a former Tastee Freez and we each had an extra large milk shake for our lunch. Delicious! The state park is several miles south of town. We had a large site, and we always seem to enjoy state parks, where people tend to be friendly and active, and there are children around. We had decent wifi, but the antenna TV had only two stations, both Spanish language. From anywhere in that area, your eyes are drawn toward a towering (10,000' plus) mountain, standing out in a range, with a top dusting of snow. Lovely. We began the next morning with the almost-two mile walk around the lake. There are several camping areas in the state park, with facilities ranging from day use areas to tents to RV's to camping cabins. At night, we saw several fires in fire pits. And millions of stars.
There is a large observatory on the mountain, but it is closed to tourists for another month. We drove a short way up the mountain to a picnic area for lunch, but I disappointed both John and myself by being unable to continue through more curves and climbs without guard rails. Back at our RV, we worked on ideas for our route for the next month, until we arrive north of DC on - whoops! - April Friday the 13th. We would like to stay in the southwest as long as possible, and move quickly across the middle of the country. Both days at Roper Lake, we conversed with our nearest RV neighbors. First was a lively family from Phoenix, with three teenagers. Second was a couple who had just become full-timers, and like us, weren't committed to a future route.
We left this morning for a drive of about 40 miles. But the wind soon picked up, and John had to work rather hard to keep us under control. We did avoid the coyote who dashed across the road in front of us. (I like to mention wildlife whenever we see it - which is annoyingly rarely.) We are now settled at a KOA in Willcox, and plan to visit Chiricahua National Monument tomorrow. After that, on to southern New Mexico. Meanwhile, we hope the wind will subside!
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