Tuesday, April 15, 2014

I Can't Believe We Are Headed Home - First Stop: Needles, CA

It rarely happens, but I was actually up and ready to go before Kim.  Of course, he has a lot more on his list of things to get packed and put away than I do.  I asked him the night before what time he wanted to leave in the morning, and he said 10am.  Well, much to his surprise, I was ready at 10am.   He was not.  Therefore, I got to spend a few more minutes visiting with his aunt and uncle before we headed out.  We started our drive up the road to the Thousand Trails Verde Valley gatehouse.  We checked out, and drove about ¼ mile more before Kim realized he had not had anything to eat yet.  We pulled over before we even got out on to the highway so he could grab an energy bar from the pantry.  We had a good laugh, turned left onto Highway 260, and headed east toward I-17.

The previous evening there had been quite the discussion between Kim and Uncle Bill and their GPSs about which route to take.  With the Rand McNally GPS, you can plug in whether you are driving a car, a motor home, or a trailer/fifth wheel.  If you select car or motor home, the route took you south on 17, picking up AZ Highway 89 through Prescott, and then joining I-40 at Ash Fork.  If you put in fifth wheel, it took you north up I-17, picking up I-40 in Flagstaff.  We still don't know why one route was selected for a motor home, and another for the fiver.  We took the route through Flagstaff.  Next week, Kim's aunt and uncle will take the other route and let us know how it goes.  The GPS said that the route through Prescott was quicker by about 20 minutes.  It took us 2 hours from the Verde Valley TT Preserve to Ash Fork.  I know because that was just where we decided to stop for a potty break.  There are a few sections of I-17 and I-40 that are quite bumpy, and after 2 cups of coffee, my bladder had had all it could take.

Back on the road, we motored along until just before Kingman, where we stopped at a Love's to fill up, paying $3.86 per gallon for diesel.

We were headed for the Walmart in Kingman to pick up some groceries, but found a Safeway with a big parking lot and a traffic light (making it easier to turn left to get back on I-40).  We picked up some veggies, a bag of meatballs, some pretzel M & Ms, 5 gallons of water, and a roll of paper towels.  With what I already had in the refer and freezer, that should at least get us through California and possibly into Washington before having to stop for groceries again.

It had been windy the last two days in Cottonwood, and I guess the wind was following us as we were fighting the wind most of the way on today's trip.  Eventually, we crossed over the California/Arizona border, had a laugh with the agent at the Agriculture Check Point when I tried to claim Kim as live-stock....and the agent offered to quarantine me if Kim was offended.  We decided that calling Kim a "live one" was a compliment, and off we went.

We had reservations at the Desert View RV Resort in Needles.  Once we turned left from the end of the off-ramp, the road (part of Historic Route 66) was definitely in need of resurfacing.  Luckily, the resort was just one mile down the road.  As we were driving up, I was a little skeptical.  The surrounding  area was not something I would have picked, but as we approached the resort, I had a change of heart.  What a delightful place!  The spots were level.  It was very quiet.  The staff was very friendly and helpful.  The gentleman who escorted us to our spot even asked Kim if he wanted help or if he'd rather just do it himself.  To me, that's good insight into how your customers think.

I didn't get a chance to check out the pool, the laundry or the bathroom/shower facilities, but everything looks well tended to.  Here's a few quick shots of an empty site.

This was just an overnight stop, but I would definitely come back and do a little exploring.  Laughlin is just 20 miles away to the north, and Oatman is 25 miles to the northeast.  Lake Havasu and The London Bridge are just 40 miles south.  And there is a wildlife refuge I'd love to visit as well.  We will probably return in the next year or so, and spend more than just one night.

Next stop:  Bakersfield, CA.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Legendary Jerome, Arizona

I think the last time I was in Jerome, it was probably 10 years ago.  It is not some place that either Kim nor I would have really picked out at that time.  We went because Kim's brother just loves Jerome.  He didn't warn us about the winding road up there.  If you've read this blog before, perhaps you know that I get very car sick on any stretch of tight, hairpin curves.  And that is exactly what happened 10 years ago.  I was so car sick just getting up there that I didn't even want to get out of the car.  I just wanted to go back to Sedona where we were staying and lay down.

So, it was quite a surprise to Kim that I wanted to go back to Jerome on this trip.  I'm not sure it would have been his choice, but he agreed primarily because his Uncle Bill and Aunt Maria were going too.  He wouldn't have to go into every shop.  He could hang out with Bill while Maria and I browsed.

So the good news is that I survived the trip up to Jerome without getting sick.  Who knows why - smaller car, different driver, or the fact that my depth perception improved greatly after my cataract surgery.  Don't know, don't care, just grateful!

Jerome, a National Historic Landmark, was built on Cleopatra Hill on top of what was the largest copper mine in Arizona - it produced an astonishing three million pounds of copper per month, according to the brochure.

I was skeptical of how long Kim would hold out while we browsed the shops, but there must have been some things for him to enjoy as far as looking around at the old buildings and people watching, because he lasted longer than I expected.

We had two other stops on our itinerary, Old Town Cottonwood and the Alcantara Vineyards.  We elected to have lunch in Jerome before moving on.

I had crab cakes and a side salad.  Kim had the prime rib french dip.  

Bill and Maria opted for burgers.  One of them chose the Mile High's Big Ass BBQ Bacon Burger.  I'm not saying which.....

With our tummies all full, we headed back down the curves to some flat land.  I once again survived the drive (Thank You Bill for taking it easy on me).  We drove into Old Town Cottonwood.  It reminded me a bit of First Street in our home town, Snohomish, WA.  About 4 blocks of little shops and boutiques.  We didn't get out, but instead headed over to the Alcantara Vineyards.

The boys wimped out, but Maria and I were up to the challenge and sampled 5 of their wines.  At this winery, they gave you a list of the wines available, you picked 5 to sample, and they gave you a glass.  You find a table or a spot on the grass, drink your first sample, and then go back for the second. And so on.  Maria and I noticed that when you went back up to the bar for the next sample, if you were standing to the right of the server, you got a bigger sample.  Now the race was on to see who could get on the right side.  Of course, being grown well behaved adults - we took turns.....sort of.

I sampled the NV Viognier (crisp and clean with hints of grapefruit) which was nice, a 2012 Pinot Grigio - not my favorite, a 2011 Zinfandel which we heard others raving about - I apparently have a different kind of pallet, a 2010 Merlot - okay, and my favorite a NV Syrah (the description read "plum currants and peeper w/a nice long finish" - who knew I liked a peeper taste in my wine) which was very smooth and delightful.  It was a little pricey for my budget, so we didn't buy a bottle.  

And a little funny to end this post ;)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Day Trip To Payson, AZ

The title may be a bit deceiving.  As I read it, it implies that we really explored the area.  That's not exactly so.  The point in going was to visit with a high-school classmate of mine.  That, we did.  She also drove us around to see her favorite points in the area, but we were so busy talking, I didn't take any pictures.  The following are pictures of our drive up from Cottonwood to Payson.  They are mostly shots of trees.  After a few weeks in the desert area, I miss the green of the Pacific Northwest. I got a little carried away.

Going up to 6000 feet, we watched the landscape change.

We drove through two small towns.  If I had to guess, the industry in this area would be logging and tourism.  I'm pretty sure lots of people come up from the Phoenix area to camp in the summer to escape the heat.

And speaking of coming from the Phoenix area, I would do that next time I visit Payson.  I'm told that Highway 87 is a much easier drive than the way we came.  I have a tendency to get carsick on winding roads, so this is good for me to know.  The drive from Cottonwood on AZ Highway 260 (which incidentally our GPS calls aah-zee 260 - took us a while to figure that one out), which eventually hooks up with Highway 87, is a bit too much for me.  It was easier going back down that coming up, perhaps because I wasn't looking over the embankments.

Anyway, we went through the town of Strawberry - not much there, a few shops and probably a restaurant.  The photo of the street did not turn out, unfortunately.

And then through Pine, which is a bit larger.  If you are familiar with the Washington Coast, think Grayland.

We drove into Payson, and I was surprised at how big it was.  I'm not sure why, but I was.  There was a Super Walmart, a Big Lots, a Home Depot, Walgreens, lots of restaurants and shops, a Bashas (my favorite Arizona grocery store chain), a hospital.  It was fairly good sized - a large town/small city.

We caught up with my friend Debbie at her rig at the Ox Bow Estates RV Park.  This is a smaller park with some long term residents, but it appeared clean and well cared for.  There were restrooms and showers and a community center, but no pool or other "resort amenities".  I'm not sure big rigs would fit, but it was a nice little place out of town.

Debbie drove us around to see her favorite parts of the area, including a drive through the Houston Mesa Campground in the Tonto National Forrest.  They looked like very nice campsites.  I think they were all dry camping, and looked a little small for our rig, but it was lovely.

We opted to have lunch at Mazatzal Hotel and Casino  We decided on Friday's Fish Fry at the Cedar Ridge Buffet.  And as a bonus - we all qualified for the senior discount!  Kim and I had dinner plans with his aunt and uncle so we did not have time to play at the casino.  However, I did a walkabout and found many of the older reel to reel machines as well as newer video ones, and my favorite nickel and quarter keno/poker machines.  I will definitely make time to try my luck next time we are in Payson!

Soon it was time to head out.  I understand the cost of living is reduced in Payson as there are many retirees in the area.  We decided to fill up the truck as we found diesel at $3.81 per gallon at the local Circle K/Shell station.

The drive back down the mountain to Thousand Trails Verde Valley took about 90 minutes.  I waved goodbye to the trees.

Tomorrow, we are off to Old Town Cottonwood, and Jerome.

Friday, April 11, 2014

A Day At The Castles - Montezuma and Cliff

I think this is my third trip in this area around Sedona.  This is the first time we are really spending time doing something other than just experiencing the vortexes around Sedona.  Yesterday, Kim's aunt and uncle took us out to see Montezuma Castle.  We were half way there when Uncle Bill realized he'd left his wallet back at the rig - the wallet with the National Parks Senior Pass in it that would get us all in for free.  The good news was that it turns out that the "senior" means age 62, not 65, so Kim was able to now apply for the Senior Pass!  I've been waiting for this for quite a while.  So much more to explore when we are on a tight budget.

It was a short drive (maybe 20 minutes) from the Thousand Trails Verde Valley Preserve.

There is a ⅓ mile paved pathway down to the view points.  Very easily accessible for most everyone, wheelchairs and scooters included.

From the brochure:

"Southern Sinaqua farmers built this five-story 20 room dwelling sometime between 1100 and 1300.  It occupies a cliff recess 100 feet above the valley......Occupants found reliable water in the creek and fertile land on the nearby terrace."

The brochure mentions that Early American settlers marveled at the structure.  Heck, I'm in awe.

To think families lived in what is basically the side of a mountain.  They used ladders to access the rooms.  Multi-generational families lived together, and grandma was the boss!  I kind of like that dynamic.

I've become enamored of the shapes of trees.  Many of the photos I take are to help me remember how they look when I pull out my sketching pad or paints.

And I few additional shots from around the area.

We spent a few minutes checking out the gift shop and then on to lunch.

My father-in-law always talked about the Cliff Castle Casino and how much he enjoyed it.  We decided to stop there for lunch.  It's a smaller casino.  The smoke level was not too bad.  Our choices for food were Johnny Rocket's (hamburgers) or the buffet.  We decided to try the buffet.  $11 for lunch.  It was pretty good.  I thought the chicken-fried steak was especially good.

After lunch, we decided to test our luck.   I found a keno machine I liked, and I had good luck with my grandkids birthdays.  I left the casino up $20!  A good day, all in all.