My journey toward becoming a first rate pinata impersonator commenced with a positive biopsy report the week before we left to record two interviews with Jay Leno in November of 2010, really picked up speed in December, leveled out a bit in January and February, and then reached a crescendo in March. With one more major hurdle looming over our heads like an anvil, a series of medical tests in the morning, the stress has been, shall we say, a bit excessive. Several things had been shelved as a result of the schedule and the ongoing crisis that seemed to arise on a daily basis. One of these was the quarterly return to our old stomping grounds, Prescott. Well, on Thursday evening, after a particularly grueling day at the office I came home to the most pleasant surprise. My dearest friend was well on the way to making a spontaneous road trip for some much needed RR a reality by compiling a list of possible motels and interesting restaurants that we had yet to try. So, on Saturday I finished up at the office by noon, arrived home to find the Jeep loaded for bear, and a great lunch on the table. Within one hour, with full realization we were shooting a near terminal budget in the backside, we were headed east on Route 66. It was an absolutely spectacular spring day in Arizona and with the passing of each mile felt the burdens lift from my shoulders in direct correlation to the drop in speed. By the time we made peach Springs, I had resorted to the use of the cruise control to maintain 55 miles per hour.
|Williamson Valley Road at the junction with Yavapai County Road 125|
The destination for this mini vacation of 1.5 days was a favorite of ours, Prescott. This meant that from Seligman we had two choices, highway 89 through the sprawl that threatens to transform the former bucolic paradise of Chino Valley into a linked suburb of Prescott, or the Williamson Valley Road, Yavapai County Road 5.At its best the Williamson Valley Road is passable by automobile provided the driver has sense enough to pour pee out of a boot with directions on the heel. At its worst, after rain or during a time of snow, even with a 4×4 the probability of completing the 45 mile course is doubtful at best. As it turned out on this trip, the road condition was somewhere in between but we just couldn’t bear the thought of breaking the mood set by the cruise on Route 66 so soon. Besides, our stalwart steed for this adventure was the tried and true Jeep.
It was an absolutely delightful drive. As the road is only graded two or three times a year it was heavily rutted, pocked full of deep holes, and was littered with fist sized rocks. As a result, with the exception of a few battered ranch trucks, we had the road to ourselves from Seligman to the pavement and quasi ranches of the Rexall Rangers near the outskirts of Prescott. Now, Prescott is no longer the town hovering between the Arizona of the 1950s and the Arizona of urban sprawl, yuppies, and the generic world of the modern era that we knew during our courting years. Still, at its core, in the historic district, Prescott, is one of the most amazing small cities I know of. It has life and vitality. It has charm and history. It has vision for the future and an understanding of the importance that history is preserved.There are three historic hotels that date to the pre 1925 era that still offer clean, quality lodging with a real touch of class. Intermingled among them are a wide array of galleries, family owned restaurants unchanged since the 1950s, award winning micro breweries, bistros, coffee houses, and restaurants offering almost any type of cuisine you might imagine. Our first choice for lodging is the historic Hassayampa Inn but as we were making this trip on the cuff, there was no room at the Inn. So, we ended the day at the Best Western Prescotonian, an older but recently renovated property.It exceed what we usually budget for lodging but that is one of the prices paid for spontaneity. We justified the expense with the subtraction of the monies saved by taking advantage of the free breakfast. As an added bonus it was very clean and very quiet. My dear wife had made a list of interesting restaurants that fit our budget criteria and as luck would have it, the first on the list, the Firehouse Kitchen, wasn’t overly crowded. The restaurant is located in the historic district but is of the nontraditional, modern pattern; exposed duct work in the ceiling, floor to ceiling glass, the bar, dining area, and open air porch flow seamlessly. The prices were somewhere in the moderate range. For a $10.00 bill, I gorged myself on the most intriguing salad – diced spinach, lettuce, peppers, smoked chicken breast, tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, and roasted corn on a thick bed of Israeli couscous with balsamic vinegar. There were no adverse reactions.
|The steel bridge in the backgroundis but one of the surprises found on thisdrive.|
As this was to be a day of RR, we were not on the road until almost 8:00. Then it was a stop to top off the tank, and to keep the budget in line and maintain the tradition, we stopped at a supermarket to pick up supplies for the roadside picnic. Then we again turned the dusty Jeep toward the Williamson Valley Road where my wife took her position behind the wheel as she derives immense satisfaction from cruising the road less traveled. We topped off the mini vacation with a return junket on Route 66 but as it was now late afternoon, I set the cruise control at sixty. The first installment of Chillin on Beale Street was missed but there are some things that have to be made a priority and one of these is time shared with a friend. With that said I have two apologies to make. The first is to those who had hoped I would be at Chillin on Beale Street. The second is to whoever honked and said, “there is Jim Hinckley” in Prescott. Unitl my wife asked if I knew who that was, I didn’t even realize.