The best adventures on the road less traveled are those unfettered from schedule or destination. Exceptions to the rule are those rare instances when planning how the day will end becomes the spice that adds flavor to the adventure.
|Historic Bisbee, Arizona|
Just as with the road trip itself, at the end of a long day there can be adventures that renew, restore, and invigorate, or adventures that frustrate, cast a dark pall over the thrill of the journey, and that leave you longing for home.
Southeastern Arizona is a veritable cornucopia of historic and scenic treasures that can easily consume vacation after vacation. However, when it comes to choices for lodging at the end of a long day there is but one, the historic Copper Queen, the oldest continuously operated hotel in Arizona, nestled deep in the time capsule that is Bisbee. With exception of the addition of an elevator about seventy years ago, and a few modern amenities such as television, there is little to indicate change since the hotels opening in 1902. Moderately priced, the hotel is clean, well maintained, and is centrally located to a wide array of attractions and restaurants.
|Courthouse square, Prescott, Arizona|
I discovered the hotel, and Bisbee, some years ago while drifting about the southwest in search of job and a place to soothe a troubled soul. To this day I remember that cold winter morning when the tunnel at the top of Mule Pass opened before me to reveal a charming village nestled in a narrow canyon that seemed to be suspended in time.It was several years ago that I introduced my dearest friend to the charms and wonders of the slightly tarnished territorial era gem that is Bisbee and the delights of the Copper Queen. We were were on a meandering road with the destination being Bisbee for our anniversary. On that wonderful adventure we rolled south from Kingman, battled the seemingly endless sea of traffic that now flows between Wickenburg and Tucson, and then set the pace at slow and easy as we turned south at Benson. As the road followed the gentle contours of the landscape we could feel the peace and serenity of the vast Sonoran Desert landscapes, punctuated by little oasis such as St. David and riparian areas act as balm to our weary minds.We stopped long enough in Tombstone to gawk at the tourists and to pay homage to the memory of my wife’s family, many of whom hail from this legendary mining town including her dad and grandfather. The old town has survived, and even prospered, on the legend of a gunfight that lasted less than a few minutes but we prefer the authentic even if that means the empty.We had a wonderful time in Bisbee and the staff of the Copper Queen Hotel ensured it was an anniversary never to be forgotten. So, the Copper Queen rates very high on our list of places worthy of a reservation. It also makes an excellent base camp for exploring places such as Tombstone, about thirty miles to the north, Douglas, the ghost towns of Fairbank, Dos Cabezas, and Pearce, and the natural wonders that abound in the area such as Kartchner Caverns. I can’t remember a time when Prescott, Arizona did not grab my attention. It was 1967 or 1968 when the search for a well drilling rig brought us to the former capital of the Arizona territory. My impression, tainted with the innocence of childhood, was that this was the west enshrined in the cinematic epics starring John Wayne. From that day to this, Prescott has association with some of my fondest memories. On one our first big dates, I borrowed a car from a friend and drove my future wife to Prescott for a day at Sharlotte Hall, a wonderful blend of botanical gardens and historic structures including the territorial governors home, and a nice dinner at a little cafe near the Hotel St. Michaels. A weekend trip to Prescott constituted our honeymoon as I was so broke that if steamboats were being sold for a dime a piece, all I would be able to do was tell folks how cheap they were. Prescott is unique in a number of ways one of which is the number of historic hotels. There are several in the historic district that have provided quality lodging for seventy, eighty, and ninety years but for us only one stands out, the lovely Hassayampa Inn that dates tothe 1920s.
|Hassayampa Inn lobby|
Consistently voted the number one historic hotel in Arizona, the Hassayampa Inn offers moderately priced rooms in an historic setting that provides for a very unique atmosphere. Fine dining and entertainment is found on site or with short walks as just a few blocks away is the Prescott Brewery, Mexican restaurants operated by the same family for more than a half century, and even an historic saloon, the Palace, that has survived into the modern era unchanged from the territorial era of Arizona. Now, if money does not factor into your planning, it would be difficult to find a more unique hotel, in a more beautiful setting than the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island nestled between the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan. The name is a gross understatement as this is an opportunity to experience historic lodging as it was in the era of the Titanic.Mackinac Island itself is a treasure that needs to be added to the list of must see attractions for any serious road trip enthusiast. Moreover, no trip to the island is complete without a visit to the Grand Hotel. It was on a grand adventure that included boats and trains when my family was introduced to the wonderland of Mackinac Island. Via Amtrack my wife and son crossed the might Mississippi River for the first time on this wonderful adventure but this is a story for another day.Our plans for this year are to revisit a few old favorites, the Wigwam motels in Holbrook and Rialto, and to add a few more, such as the historic Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba, to our list. Where are your favorite places to end a day of adventure on the road less traveled? The final item of the day is a book reccomendation. Route 66 garners the lions share of the attention when it comes to road trips and as a result it is becoming a 2,000 museum and amusement park. http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0393059383&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrThere is, however, another historic highway that promises grand adventure on the road less traveled. Michael Wallis, the man who sparked the resurgent interest in Route 66, recently turned his skills and prose to chronicling the history and wonders of the Lincoln Highway. This a great read. It is also a source of inspiration for those giving thought to a grand adventure on America’s second most famous highway.