5. Southwest Adventures…April/May 2017

day 19…4.30
Im not sure what the temp dropped to last night, but I was warm as long as all my body parts were tucked in.  I went to Macys Coffee house for a cuppa & a french cinnamon roll.  I visited with a young couple camping but moving their way to Portland & they gave me an idea of where to camp once I reached Santa Fe.  

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Then I took off towards the Rec Center — which had just opened—  for a shower (this would be my second “traditional” shower in 19 days…I’m getting good at Nalgene-bottle showers!).  Once clean & all spiffy, I drove to Walnut Canyon National Monument, about 10 minutes outside of Flagstaff. Probably not the best hike to give my knee a break…240 steps down & 185 into the canyon, then you get to climb it all back up!  But there are some nice ruins in the canyon to see….not a big hike, but got my quads & lungs working for sure!



The sweet soapy clean smell only lasted briefly; the walk back up the steps turned me sweaty again.  I changed my shirt in the car, rinsed of with the Nalgene bottle & drove back into Flagstaff to the REI.  My National Park Pass expired today, so I bought a new one along with another pair of Smart Wool hiking socks.

My next stop was Williams, AZ.  I knew the train runs from this little town to the Grand Canyon everyday, I’d heard they had some good BBQ & it’s a town along the famed Route 66.

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I sat outside at Cruisers & enjoyed the nice weather & the super fun live music.  The guitar player/singer was including everyone in his ‘show’ & would call us by the states we were from.  We all got to sing-along & participate.  I was specifically called out for my great ‘train whistle” I had going on!

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The waitress, realizing I was a beer geek, suggested I walk the few blocks over to the Grand Canyon brewery, which also owned the restaurant & suggested some good brews she thought I might like.  It was a fun afternoon! So I walked around town, looked in a few windows of the shops, then headed to the brewery.  I tried small pours of the Quad, a coffee bean stout & a Blonde Nitro Stout…who’d ever heard of that?  But it was really good!

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My next stop has been in the plan for a few days…Prescott.  I’ve been close to here before…made it as far as Jerome a couple of years ago, but this would be my first time here.  I found some camping right out of town, up on the mountain & settled in for the night just as the sun was going down.

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day 20…5.1
After making myself coffee & a kind of leisurely morning of reading in camp, I drove back into town & to the Visitors Center for some info.  I didn’t know much about this little town.  I’d originally (I don’t know where I ever came up with this idea) thought this was a rich man’s golf town…this couldn’t be farther from the reality.  It’s a mix between cowboy & hippie…kind of reminds me of Gunnison, Colorado.  The lady at the VC was helpful & steered me towards my hike for the day…up in the Granite Dells, which are these huge rocks…all piled together with trails in between.  I had the place practically to myself, but it was a nice hike & I enjoyed the morning & views all around.


After my hike, I found the Superstition Meadery on the lower level of a marketplace in their historic downtown.  It was the middle of the afternoon, but before Happy Hour, so I was the only one in the place.  The two bartenders were great to visit with giving me some history of the place & filling me in on some local info.  Prescott has one of the best Pilot (as in flying) schools in the country & the oldest Rodeo in the country…I just know the mead was fantastic!!

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One of the bartenders suggested I go to this big awesome-craft-beer liquor store, called Park Plaza  (not in the historic section, but just across town) & that they also had some great food.  I got there about 3 & ordered the Cubano…those of you who follow this website, know I’ve done & continue to do extensive research on the Cuban sandwich….guess that would make this a working lunch?

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I wasn’t that excited about the beer on tap…EXCEPT for one.  They had a Prairie Artisan (Danny & I are huge fans!) Imperial Stout called Prairie Paradise.  It was 13% & $12 a glass.  The bartender gave me a sample & it was AMAZINGFANTASTICAWESOME all in one glass.  But there was no way I was going to pay $12 for a 10oz pour.  So, I inquired if it was included in the happy hour, which started in about 30 minutes.  BINGO!  It was.  After my delicious sandwich (A rating), I walked around & shopped for any beer to bring back home.  Then promptly at 4, I ordered my 1/2 price yummy-delicious-wonderful beer.

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Since it was Happy Hour, the bar was filling up fast. I was sitting next to a young guy, very tan but you could tell he worked outside & probably with his hands…they were also tan & a little rough looking.  He started visiting with me & ended up sharing his story.  We first started talking about the route I was taking after Prescott.  He said he’d spent quite a bit of time driving back & forth that way last summer.  Brandon was a former hotshot firefighter with the Granite Mountain Hotshots.  Back in 2013, 19 firefighters from that crew were over-run by fire & killed.  Brandon was not there that day, because his wife was in labor with their first child.  He lost his best friend & many other friends too.  I remember when that happened, but listening to him tell this story was even more heartbreaking.

He’s no longer fighting fires, but is an arborist…he climbs trees & works on them.  He said he loves being outside & in the trees.    The reason he’d been on the road last summer was to be in a movie that is being made about the Granite Mountain Fire tragedy. He shared with me his thoughts about being in the movie.  There was one other guy who was absent from the crew that day that was also asked to participate.  Brendan plays his best friend in the movie.  He wanted him portrayed right, but he’s still wondering if it was a good idea to do it or not.  I don’t think he’s too trusting of Hollywood & movie magic & their bottom dollar when it comes to telling the real stories in life.  We had a long & moving conversation, but he ended up telling me many of the places he’s been fighting fires…all the wilderness areas & some of his encounters with wildlife.  But you could see in this young mans eyes, that his heart, his mind & his life had been forever changed by the loss of so many young men & friends.

I went back to camp to find a spot for the night.  Last night’s spot was taken, so I drove down the bumpy road & found a better one. There were definitely more campers here tonight, but it was a nice spot, free & still wayyyy less crowded than a campground.  Lots more room in between campers.  I read for awhile, talked to Danny, then tucked in the 4Runner under another beautiful sky.

day 21…5.2
Today is the whole reason I’m in Prescott.  I’ve been following a Facebook page for about a year & half called “Driving Miss Norma”.  It’s the real story of a 90 year old woman, who is diagnosed with cancer two days after her husband dies.  Her son & his wife lead an easy going nomadic life on the road.  When Norma’s diagnosis came, Tim & Ramie (son & daughter in law) looked at all the options…home care, nursing home, or coming on the road with them.  Miss Norma chose the road…& that’s the story.  It’s moving, funny, heartbreaking but mostly a lesson in how to live life even while dying.  Miss Norma lasted more than a year, traveling thousands of miles, becoming somewhat of a celebrity, doing things she’d always wanted to do & Saying YES to life & it’s experiences.  Since her passing, Tim & Ramie have written a book & tonight was the book launch…the first place they’d tell their story.  They both consider Prescott their ‘hometown’ & wanted to have this special occasion in the local book shop.  When I found out the date, I rerouted my trip, only going about 100 miles out of the way to be part of this.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.  The book launch wasn’t until 5:30, so I had time for a hike.  I was hiking Thumb Butte—a popular hike with the locals up to the top of a huge rock formation that you can see from practically anywhere in town.  Once at the top you can see all the way to Flagstaff  & the SanFrancisco Peaks.  So, after another morning of coffee in camp, I took off to hike the Thumb.

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The hike was nice & the day was perfect. I managed to clean up & change clothes in the parking lot.  Now that I was all spiffy, it was time for town!  I wanted to grab something to eat & see the fun little shops in the historic downtown square.  Several people had mentioned eating at the Raven Cafe…I love to follow the locals suggestions.

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They have a great deck upstairs that overlooks the town.  I had a yummy sandwich, salad & beer.  And, from where I was sitting I had a great view of Thumb Butte…I was just up there!

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After lunch I went in & out of some of the little shops…hats & socks & other shops (the best selection of fun men’s socks I’ve ever seen!  Look out Danny…I brought you a pair home!).

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And then I saw a local artist’s gallery called Van Gogh’s Ear…fell in love with the name & walked in.

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All the art was eclectic & funky & colorful & unusual….& I loved it!  I spent a ton of time just looking at all the different pieces & especially the work of Carolyn Schmitz & her technique.  No way could I afford one of her pieces, but I bought one of her’s in the form of a card.  Some people might think this is just crazy, but I have collected some of my ‘art’ this way, & smile everytime I look at these little treasures.  I found the perfect piece with a rabbit that will remind me of this trip…I’ve been listening to Watership Down for a good part of my  road trip.  Here’s a photo I took from her site that’s of the piece I bought…it’s a very ‘southwesty rabbit’.

I also noticed a huge rack of colorful, painted shoes on one wall.  Some of my girlfriends might remember at one point in my life I was kind of obsessed with making my own pair of ‘art’ shoes.  Well, I sort of ended up making a pair, but these were really different.  Most of the women’s shoes were in pinks, turquoises & all those girly colors that just aren’t me.  I’d been talking to the gallery’s owner, John, but he’d been standing behind a counter.  He came around to explain to me that his British son in law custom makes each pair & his daughter paints the toes.  They were really unique…but then I saw the pair he had on.  Uh-oh.  We talked some more, I tried a pair on, he gave me an order form, but no way could I pull that trigger…it made the $12 beer look like a bargain.  I walked around & looked at more art, said thanks & good bye & left.  I went to the Meadery for Happy Hour & had a full pour of one of my favorites I’d tried the day before.  I couldn’t stop thinking about the shoes & what a splurge they’d be.  I sent Danny a photo & he told me they made him laugh & looked like clown shoes.  I wasn’t surprised at his reaction…it would be most peoples response, but when do I care about that?  I drank my mead.  Then I walked around some more.  I conversed & argued with myself.  Then I went back to the store to visit with John & try on a pair to check the size.  Then I pulled that trigger!  It’s a 10 week process & I can’t wait.  Laugh if you will…then we’ll both be smiling whenever I’m wearing my new shoes! (And I cancelled the sunset horseback ride I had planned to take later in the week…a little $$-savings to off-set the shoes.)

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It was now 5:00pm & of courseif you know me, I had to get to the book shop early & sit up front.  And it was a magical fantastic night!  Tim & Ramie have been added to my “Hero” list.  They rolled with the flow when the slide show presented technical difficulties at the store; I’m sure this is how they live their life…they don’t sweat the small stuff.  I really enjoyed listening to them & while they were signing my book & we chatted briefly, they invited me & everyone else to go across the street after all the books were signed, for a beer.  Many people attending the book launch, had read about Miss Norma’s story in the local paper that day.  For whatever reason, the only people who showed up at the Raven Cafe (the same place Id eaten earlier in the day) were their good friends & me.  Never one to feel out of place when I can tell the invitation was genuine, I had a blast & was enveloped in the evening with open arms.  I told one of Tims best friends that is traveling with them during the book tour, Im sure they were awesome people before they took Miss Norma into their RV & around the country.  He told me stories about them that let me know this was true.  It was time for me to go, but I got hugs from both Tim & Ramie & a couple of others.  I cant wait to read the book! 

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day 22…5.3
Today is my Grandmothers birthdate…loved my Mony.  I drove back through Flagstaff, my trip now turning eastward.  I stopped one last time at MIX & downed their pineapple upside down pancakes & coffee….yum!  They had this fun “telepoem booth”…so I gave it a try & got a nice little poem read to me…kind of a good way to start the day!

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On my way east was Winslow, AZ…where Id be standin’ on a corner & such a fine site to see.  These little towns along Route 66 are soooo set up for all the motorcycles & cars that drive through…but this corner was kind of cute. And, it started a long but hysterical text conversation between me & Danny…we were both smiling at sort of quoting some part of the song in reference to everything else going on…guess you had to be there.

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The next stop on my list was a big surprise.  I’d read to stop in & check out a gift shop in the La Posada Hotel while I was here.  What I didn’t realize until I got there, was that the La Posada was designed by Mary Colter in 1929 as a major hotel for the railroad that came through Winslow.  It was a huge railway hub & the hotel cost 1million dollars …in 1929.  It was Colters biggest design achievement.  I’d read about this a couple of years ago, but didn’t put it together until I arrived at the door step! Wow!  I spent about an hour here, just wandering around.  I watched a DVD explaining how the hotel had been sold in 1957 & most of the interior was sold off at auction. The hotel was bought in 1994 & painstakingly & expensively restored to as close to original as possible.  The owner is still purchasing things that were in the original hotel as they come to his attention.  It was so much fun to look at all the detail that is a trademark of Colter’s designs. 

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My next stop was another ‘off my radar’ until someone I met on a hike in Sedona suggested it….Petrified Forest National Park.  Before I got there I knew there was a 28 mile drive you could take from one end to the other, but I didn’t know much else.  I walked into the Visitors Center & read the information on the wall about Petrified trees…but they looked like rocks.  I felt stupid I had no idea what I was looking at & didn’t seem to ‘get it’ from reading the info on the wall.  So, I asked the Ranger…”Are these trees or rocks?”  She said, “both”. By the end of my lesson I was very curious, but by the end of the hike that’s behind the VC, I was mesmerized!  OMG…these are amazing!  Trees turned into rocks over a gazillion years… so very beautiful.  All the colors were spectacular!



I took a couple of mile hike out to see some ruins that were built by Native Americans using these ‘trees’…wow!


It was so fascinating walking around seeing these log/tree/rocks everywhere…& such beautiful colors!

In the background of this same area is a “Painted Desert”.  I took a good hike down & around these multi-colored formations.  There are a lot of these in the SW, always really amazing!


I took the long drive through the park, heading north.  There’s an old Inn or Hotel, called the Desert Inn, that you’re allowed to walk through….it was pretty cool too.  Behind it are these super bright formations…they were calling them the “Badlands”.  They get their formation by water running down the rock over a billion or so years.

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I paid for my first campsite tonight as I stayed at Bluewater State Park for $10. There weren’t very many people there & I had a great view over the lake & enjoyed watching the sunset!

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day 23…5.4
I took the scenic drive along the Turquoise Trail going from south to north; Id done this trail a couple of years ago in the opposite direction.  I took a turn off to go visit the Hollyhock Farms Alpaca Farmbut it was closed (even though their hours posted said they would be open).  My next turn off was to visit Tinkertown.  Its a little copy cat of House on the Rockbut not really.  The tickets were $3 & thats about what its worth, but it was someones dream & hobby & you cant begrudge someone their passion. The machine that told you what job youd be good, lighted up on lion tamer for me.Ive been looking for jobs in all the wrong places!

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I continued the drive & it was really pretty…you can see for miles as you climb to the top towards Madrid.

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Once I hit Madrid, I got out & stretched my legs & looked around this fun little town.

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The scenic drive ends in Santa Fe & I was headed there for some Mexican food.  But my first stop was at Santa Fe Brewing.  For the most part, I'm not a big fan of their beer, which we can get in Kansas, but I’d bypassed this brewery last time I was here & thought I should try it out.  I wasn’t impressed with the beer or the space…but that’s the way it goes sometimes.

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I found Maria’s by way of Google for the "place the locals eat Mexican food".  I don’t know if that’s true or not, but my tamales were really good!

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My second pay for campsite ($10) was at Hyde State Park just outside of town.  It was really pretty but off the grid…no cell service.  I got there in the afternoon & thought it was a perfect time & place to read the Driving Miss Norma book….& it was.  I read & read & finished this wonderfully written story. I popped open a beer, then finished another book I’d already been reading before I got the Miss Norma book.  It was a nice way to end the day.  Once again the night skies were so very, very dark with millions of twinkling stars !

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