When I first began posting on this blog the plans were grandiose. Reality set in rather quickly and as a result the planned daily post became weekly posts. With that in mind …
As you can see from the pictures, this week ended with a drive through some of Arizona’s finest landscapes. This, however, was but the frosting on the cake!
I kicked off the week by finishing the draft for my newest book, Ghost Towns of the Southwest. Now I have several weeks to polish and add a few side bars.
The rest of the week is a bit of a blur. Suffice to say I am holding to my pledge and ride my bicycle to work every day, I rented trucks to folks moving to the far corners of the nation, and the evenings were spent searching for the next book contract.
This weekend was the date scheduled for an informal gathering of my wife’s extensive clan in Prescott but several deaths in rapid succession resulted in cancellation. As my son and I had asked for the day off several months ago we decided not to let it go to waste.
I rented a mini van from the office (employee discount of $20 per day + .10 per mile), filled an ice chest with a wide array of drinks, a box with snacks, another for the multitude of items needed for the grand daughter who will be a year old in a few weeks, and set out for Prescott early Saturday morning.
My wife was eager to attend the family reunion as Orvin, her grandfathers brother, his wife and sister were to be the guest of honor. Sadly, his wife passed away in late June.
Visiting with Orvin was the catalyst for this adventure. This grand old man epitomizes what is sorely lacking in this nation today and has long been an inspiration for me. More on Orvin in a moment.
Even though the day started on a sour note, the need to replace the pump in the evaporate cooler, there was little doubt this was going to be a day of immense blessing. It had rained gently most of the evening, the morning was delightfully cool and the mountains were dappled with cloud shadows.
As is our custom we rolled east along Route 66 enjoying the relative lack of traffic and the timeless scenes along the way. With a need for making time we jumped on I40 in Seligman and at historic Ashfork turned south on highway 89.
I have a long association with this section of highway 89 and am always amazed as well as pleased that the first twenty miles or so are unchanged from thirty years ago. Back in 1982, I worked in the small ghost town of Drake and often walked into Paulden to mail letters to my girl, now my wife of 25 years.
There was an episode that involved a jug of home made cactus wine, my albino dog, Critter, a steer that didn’t want to be ridden and a 1946 GMC that is remembered every time I see the scar on my wrist. A happier and less embarrassing memory is of a picnic near the historic Hell’s Canyon bridge. An even better one is of a weekend shortly after we were married and a trip to Jerome via Perkinsville.
From Paulden to Prescott nothing is the same. In fact little is the same from when I rolled through here a couple of years ago.
Paulden is now far more than a general store/gas station/bar and a post office. In Chino Valley where corn fields once grew there are condos and strip malls. Antelope were a common site where subdivisions spread to either horizon and the town is now lapping at the outskirts of Prescott.
My wife and I have always had an affection for Prescott never dampened by changing times or the problems of life. This trip did nothing to change that.
Unlike so many towns across the country Prescott never has faced the challenge of finding a way to breath life into a dead or dying downtown historic district. Downtown Prescott is vital and full of life, and not just on weekends such as the 4th of July when the oldest rodeo comes to town.
This weekend was a real hoot. Montezuma Street was closed along Whiskey Row for a gathering of Arizona gunfighters, those folks young and old who recreate the wild west as it was and as movies have colored it.
Women and kids in period costume weaved in and out of the traffic. The noise of bikers who haunt whiskey row was lost in the din of gunfire and banjo music, singing and laughing. Mixed among the throngs of gawkers and tourist were real cowboys from local ranches that are also a fixture along Whiskey Row.
My daughter in law was enamored by her first visit to Prescott. My granddaughter laughed and cooed as I have never heard her before.
Crowds and spectacles are as much a part of downtown Prescott as are the historic buildings. Likewise with good food.
On this trip we tried the Lone Spur and found it to be excellent. The atmosphere as well as quality and quantity of the food outweighed the price that was a bit more than I was used to in Kingman.
The visit with Orvin was a pleasant and enjoyable one. As we talked I found myself wondering where we as a nation went wrong and what it will take to restore it.
I will let you fill in the blanks as to age but will say Orvin and his wife celebrated sixty two years together this year. By the way his sister is now 101 and lived on her own until this past year.
Orvin summed up life with the lamenting of his wife’s passing, a big sigh, and then reflecting on a lifetime of challenges, all met with a stiff upper lip and little whining, that got him to this point.
Growing up in home with five brothers and five sisters, a touch of polio as a kid, seeing Europe in the infantry during World War II, ranching, race horses, construction, turning wrenches and trading with Indians for items he could sell at a profit are just a few of the adventures and obstacles that make this man one of my heroes.
When I first met Orvin he had a small ranch along the Verde River. Development crowded him out. Now he lives in a tract home in the hills where he once ran cattle as well hunted deer and antelope. Still he smiles and carries the secret to enjoying life – change happens, deal with it.
After leaving Orvin’s we set out on one of my favorite drives – highway Alt. 89. The drive began with battling the traffic and urban sprawl of Prescott Valley that is transforming a beautiful valley in to a world of generic sameness.
At the foot of Mingus Mountain the sprawl was soon forgotten though the traffic remained. This road is little changed from the 1930s. Twists, turns, steep grades are the challenge and the reward is stunning views. The highway photo above was taken while standing on the shoulder of the highway, this series of curves and twists continues to the valley below.
Halfway down the other side is the amazing ghost city of Jerome with with its million dollar views of the red rock country of the Verde Valley. I always laugh when hearing people complain about the throngs of tourist that clog the narrow highway and streets, after all as late as the 1950s this was a main highway and the town was home to more than 20,000 people, not the few hundred who call it home today.
From Jerome it is but a few miles until the urban sprawl of Clarkdale demand full attention. To add the to fun there was extensive construction and numerous detours.
Next are a few miles of open road dominated by looming spires of red rock that gives way to the congestion of Sedona that almost, but not quite, drowns out the stunning setting that surrounds it. Road construction put a small damper on the party with delays of about thirty minutes.
Rejoice in all things is the creed I try to focus on. Though we were held up in traffic it was an amazing seventy five degrees instead of the usual one hundred plus. Additionally the south bound traffic was tied up for an hour at a time!
Oak Creek Canyon is one of those places that has to be experienced as mere words due little justice. Interspersed among some of the most beautiful scenery in Arizona are vintage cabins, stores, inss, and modern resorts. In between are herds of folks enjoying the desert oasis.
The traffic nightmare that is Flagstaff is a rude intrusion into the calm induced by Oak Creek Canyon. We tempered it with a visit to Bookman’s, an amazing literary cornucopia.
Williams and the Pine Country Inn was the last stop of the day. However, it was not our last surprise.
Halfway through a dinner of good food, conversation, and the granddaughter transforming crackers into a well chewed paste the restaurant was overrun by a military band in full uniform, the uniform of the Grand Army of the Republic. As we learned this intrepid band is the youngest group of Civil War reenactors in the nation and they perform as well as sell cd’s to raise money for school related needs.
The period music was delightful and seemed to please everyone from the locals to the European chattering with excitement. Crowning the day with perfection was a wondrous Arizona sunset as we took turns pushing the cooing grand daughter in her stroller through throngs of tourist and horse drawn carriages on the way back to the van.
This is why we work. This is the reward for the challenges and trials of life. This is why I know we are truly blessed.
Now plans begin for the 2nd honeymoon/25th anniversary adventure to Bisbee in October.