It was another grand adventure on the promotional trail. The weather put a crimp in the original travel plans but often when we take to the road only the destination, or if we have a schedule, the time is set in stone.
The morning kicked off with the loading of the Jeep, and removal of a heavy frost from the windows as the temperatures hovered around the twenty degree mark. Then, long before sunrise we began the journey to another interview on AM Arizona in Prescott by rolling east on I-40.
Time constraints and concerns about road conditions prompted the decision to take the generic path rather than our favored one which is Route 66.
Initially we had hoped to take the Williamson Valley Road from Seligman to Prescott as it meets the pavement just a mile or so from the studio. As a bonus it shaves about twenty miles from the trip and saves us the pain of having to fight our way through morning traffic in the suburbia that has swept north from Prescott Valley, threatens to inundate the once quiet farming community of Chino Valley, and that is now lapping at Paulden.
However, as everything from Fort Rock Road east was either snow covered or snow covered mudhttp://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0760332215&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr, we postponed the Williamson Valley Road, as well as the Perkinsville Road from Jerome to Williams, adventure for another day. Perhaps we can find a way to tie it in with a drive along the frontier era Senator Highway from Prescott to Crown King on a day conducive to picnics and the avoidance of digging a Jeep from a mud bog.
Patches of ice and thick banks of fog in the valleys kept the drive on normally boring I-40 interesting but we arrived unscathed and with five minutes to spare. As always, the discussion with Tonya and Lew was a spirited one that I hope encouraged folks to get out and explore a bit. It would also be nice if it spurred a few sales for Ghost Towns of the Southwest.
Then we drove into downtown Prescott for lunch at the Peacock Room in the Hassayampa Inn. As always lunch surrounded by a near perfect glimpse into the world of 1927, and in the accompaniment of dearest friend, was a wonderful celebration of a beautiful day.
If you are unfamiliar with the Prescott historic district, or the charms of the Hassayampa Inn, I strongly suggest you add it to your list of must see destinations.
It is a short, relatively scenic detour from Route 66 accessed by taking state highway 89 south from Ashfork. With the exception of the styling of the automobiles crowding the curbs this is a mid size American city as it was circa 1955; a courthouse square flanked by hotels, restaurants, saloons, and shops.
Imagine historic hotels that never succumbed to the decay that transformed them into flop houses, saloons unchanged in more than a century, or restaurants that appear to have been lifted from the pages of The Great Gatsby. Now, surround this with beautiful Victorian styled homes and forested mountains. That gives you a hint of why we rate Prescott very high on our list of favorite destinations.
|Oak Creek Canyon|
As Flagstaff was on our destination list, and the roads had been cleared of snow, we decided to give 89a a go for a change of pace. State highway 89a from Prescott Valley to Flagstaff is one of the most beautiful drives in the nation. Add a frosting of snow to the ghost city of Jerome and the red rock spires of Oak Creek Canyon, and deep snows to the forest on Mingus Mountain and at the head of the canyon, and you have an absolutely stunning drive.
|Views from Jerome|
The highway begins as a four lane in the suburban paradise of Prescott Valley but within a few miles it becomes a vintage two lane clinging to the steep slopes of Mingus Mountain as it twists and turns to the summit before repeating the process on the other side as it descends through old Jerome and into the Verve River Valley. With every turn the views become even more spectacular.
For those familiar with Route 66 in western Arizona, specifically the western side of Sitgreaves Pass in the Black Mountains, imagine a city of multi storied hotels, stores, auto dealerships, variety stores, corporate office buildings, and all the trappings of a real city pasted on the roadsides of that highway. That is Jerome.
Some of the curves are so sharp there are large mirrors to see what is coming around the corner. The hills are so steep you can walk into a restaurant at street level and without climbing a stair dine on a terrace three stories above the street behind the building.
The old town of Jerome seems to be picking up steam as the narrow streets were full of people braving the cold, the shops seemed busy, and a U-Haul or two could be seen in front of recently renovated houses. Hailed as a ghost city since the population of more than 20,000 during the 1920s has dropped precipitously to something like 1,000, this mountainside wonder has views of the Verde River Valley rimmed by the red rock country of Sedona that are far beyond breathtaking.
From Jerome we braved the future metropolis of Clarkdale and Cottonwood, rolled across a fast vanishing remnant of Arizona range lands, and into Sedona. Try as they might with architectural styling that mimic the era of the frontier and Spanish missions, Sedona would merely be another generic wonderland if it were not embraced by some of the most spectacular landscapes in Arizona.
So, we seldom stop and instead immerse ourselves in the beauty of Oak Creek Canyon. Traffic is always an issue on the twisted, narrow two lane highway that winds to the head of the canyon but by far the most frustrating aspect is the difficulty of finding a place to pull off and savor the jaw dropping beauty that surrounds you.
|The old McHat Inn on Route 66|