Southwest Adventures… April/May.2017

One quest in this years spring road trip is to avoid snow!  The mountains in the west have received so much snow this year & in some places it’s still snowing.  So, I chose a trip to the Southwest…here comes the sun!

day 1…4.12 
I left on Wednesday morning around 7am & landed in Wichita, KS a couple of hours later.  I was making a stop at Danny’s sister’s house to meet the new baby in the family as well as see the rest of the family…they were all there.  We visited for a couple of hours & I caught up with the adult kids & met the new baby Zeb & saw his older sister, Elora.  

I’d made lunch plans with a friend from Lawrence who has recently moved to Wichita so I went by her new place & then she took me to lunch at NuWay…evidently a Wichita home town burger place featuring ‘loose’ meat burgers.  Loved our chat & her cute new digs!  

Then I turned on my audio book (Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone…I’ve lost count how many times I’ve heard/read this book & it never gets old!) & hit the road hard!  I made it a little way past the New Mexico border, before sleeping a couple of hours in a rest area.  Then about 1:30am, I started driving again, unable to sleep (I’m an insomniac & can function pretty well on little sleep…great for road tripping!) & ready to roll.  Somewhere south of Albuquerque around 4:30am I once again grabbed a couple of hours sleep.

day 2…4.13 
My next planned stop along the way was Truth or Consequences, NM.  Why?  It sounded interesting.  Just a bit after 8am when their doors opened, I walked into a National Forest Service office & asked the Ranger a few questions.  He was so awesome & nice & filled with advice.  He told me about his fave place to eat & that I should take the time to drive up into the Gila National Forest & hike up into the Cliff Dwellings.

At 9am, I pulled into the Riverbed Hot Springs, changed into my swim trunks & began my lovely, wonderful, oh so relaxing soak-with-a-view!  The outdoor pools are right over the Rio Grande River…it was pretty great!  They even came around & delivered coffee to anyone soaking…& it was surprising really good & topped off with fresh real cream!

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After I was feeling quite mellow, I went to Tony’s, the local Mexican place the Ranger had recommended.  The waitress said one of her favorites was the breakfast burrito with carne asade, green chiles, eggs & potatoes…OMG!  It was fantastic!   I could only eat 1/2, but took the rest with me for later.  So freakin’ delicious!

Then I started the long, twisty drive up into the Gila National Forest.  It’s about 28 miles of this slow kind of driving, but it was beautiful climbing up into the densely forested mountains.  

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My park pass from last year (used heavily, as I visited about 17 National Parks in 2016) is still good until the end of April, so once I flashed that I was able to get onto the trail.  I was disappointed that the trail is only a little longer than a mile, but it was a neat place to visit.  You could hike up into the ruins & through them, then down a ladder on the other side.  I’ve done several hikes in Mesa Verde & Bandelier National Parks, & I’m always amazed at what these ancient people built & how they lived.  It’s fascinating!

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I visited with the Ranger, asking my three or four questions, then finished the hike.  Inside the Visitors Center, I asked about some hot springs I’d heard about.  Unfortunately, to get to them, you needed to wade the river in three different places & it was running high & wild.  Ok…I’d already soaked once today, & didn’t really want my second time to be in a cold furious river…so I passed.  For some reason, I thought the drive back down the mountain on the OTHER side, was a more popular route & better roads, but I was wrong.  The road was barely wide enough for two vehicles, which didn’t matter much, because I only passed a couple of cars/trucks going back down.  About 1/2 way down, I spotted a NFS free campground, so I pulled in their for evening & set up camp.

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day 3…4.14 
The next morning I continued my trip along what I found out was the “Trail of the Mountain Spirits Scenic Byway”.

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One of the souvenirs I’d hope to find on this trip was a Mexican Falsa blanket.  I found one in a tourist shop, but it was family owned for the past 20 years & the woman working was super friendly & we ended up chatting a bit about all sorts of random.  As I waved & headed out the door with a ‘thank you’ she told me I’d been a ‘blessing to her day”…that was pretty sweet.  The drive down towards Arizona was really pretty.

It wasn’t long before I’d moseyed into the town of Tombstone…just like dropping into an old movie set.  It was pretty funny actually. You’d see tourists, then someone would walk by dressed as a cowboy, a sheriff, a saloon girl or a gun fighter.  The main street is bordered off, so the only thing moving on it are covered wagons…of course you can buy a ticket to ride one.  There’s also a gun fight that happens once or twice a day in the OK Coral.  The good & the bad guys all line up & face each other in the middle the street with rather snarly looks on their faces all topped of with ten gallons hats.  This is the ‘marketing’ part of the gunfight, to see the actual fight, you have to buy a ticket.  I thought it was funny that one of the things sold at the shops & I’d seen several little kids with, are toy wooden guns…of course all these shops have signs on the doors saying “no guns allowed in store”…ironic for sure.

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I guess some things never change….loved the sign!

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The only souvenir I bought was from the honey store.  I didn’t know it at the time, but there’s a chain of these throughout Arizona.  I sort of view honey like wine…I love to taste the different kinds & definitely know when I get a good one.  It made me a tad bit nervous when the guy started telling me about the real killer bees & the hikers who’d died by their sting….really?  He told me the bees will warn you by bumping you in the face ….really?….& to pay attention & try to leave the area….ok…will do!  Wow…I can’t wait to hike in Arizona!

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The Tombstone brewery was just a couple of blocks from all the western action going on, so I took myself there for a beer.  It was pretty good & the bartender was chatty & told me of other breweries I needed to visit while in Arizona.

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My next stop started as a suggestion two years ago while I was on a different Arizona road trip.  I was having a beer at the brewery in Santa Fe (the one that overlooks the plaza) & met a couple migrating from their Mexican winter home to their Michigan summer home.  They asked me if I’d ever been to Bisbee, AZ…that it was a hippy, artsy, fun & quirky community & definitely had to go there.  So, I’ve researched it & read about over the past couple of years & decided they were right…I must go there!  So, all the other places I’ve been so far, were just fill-ins on my way to Bisbee.  And I was not disappointed!  I only visited the Historic section but that’s what I wanted to see (you see one suburb filled with fast food chains & big box stores you’ve seen them all!).  Bisbee has a super interesting history….back in the late 1800’s being the largest town between St. Louis & San Francisco.  So many of the buildings were built then & they made their money mining copper.  And while the mine pit looks horribly ugly, as they all do having destroyed the land & are irreparable, you can’t see it from this historic part of town.  The town sits at 5,000’ & the mountains literally come right down to the streets.  One super unique aspect of Bisbee, is the people that moved here built their homes on the sides of the mountains…therefore building stairways up & down to connect these tiny nearly one lane streets, sometimes with several homes in between the upper & the lower streets.

This has created a one of a kind race that people come to from all over the world every October…it’s called the Bisbee 1000..The Great Stair Climb.  It’s 9 different stairways, over a 4 mile route with a total of 1000 stairs.  Then there’s the Ironman stairway (I think it’s like 158 stairs) & tons more stairs through out the town.  I decided this is how I would tour the town…not doing them in order & not in one day & definitely NOT running them, but to climb all 1000 steps!  Here are some pics from this really neat & unique Arizona town.

I kept seeing this fly all over town, so I went into the gallery to ask about it.  The artist had created it, then several businesses in town commissioned one…sounds just like a Bisbee-thing.

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The other thing that’s pretty interesting when you walk about the town, is that it’s filled with murals.  Every stairway used in the Bisbee 1000 is numbered & has a mural, but they are all through the town, designed & painted by one of the local artist.

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But this was my very favorite one!

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The historic town is kind of divided into two parts…brewery gulch—where all the old bars, saloons & only brewery are located & the shopping district.  Everything is on a hill…nothing is built on flat ground in this part of Bisbee!  

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I went to the Visitors Center, but it was really the guy in the Museum gift shop that was really helpful & fun to chat with.  He gave me some maps that included this really neat artwork & told me places to see & things to do.  I found a place to camp for the next couple of days….a place that would turn most of you off, but I was delighted.  I couldn’t find any camping at all…it was about 25 miles away & I didn’t want to drive back & forth.  I’d checked on a hotel room & they told me to park my car across the street at a 24 hour pay lot.  Really?  I said…overnight parking?  I told the clerk I’d be right back to possibly get a room or not.  I ran over to parking lot, which had a couple of younger people working the booth.  I asked if I could park & sleep overnight.  So, for $15 for two nights & days, I stayed in the parking lot in the heart of the historic district.  There were a couple of RV’s, nightly patrol by the local cops, lights all around (which I could block out) & a public bathroom right across the street & the two people manning the lot were super nice.  I called the hotel back & said I wouldn’t be coming back to reserve the $90 room.  I strolled up the shopping district in & out of some quirky shops & then went into a little jewelry shop & didn’t walk out for an hour & 1/2.  

I call this trip magic, but it’s really just meeting friendly & super interesting people & listening to their stories.  There was one woman in the shop, turns out she’s 77 & her name is Kate.  She was making glass beads with a torch but stopped as I was looking around.  Kate has a heavy British accent & told me she’d made everything in the shop.  There were blown up photographs, crystal, pearl & beaded jewelry, & tooled leather.  I was interested in one of the unique bracelets & she told me what it was made of.  Then she began to tell me her story.  She’d left Britain to avoid the upper society—her Grandmother was titled & rules were the name of the game.  She’s traveled & lived all over the world…Turkey, Costa Rica, Mexico, just to name a few.  She was an actress in NY City when she was in younger, then got into jewelry.  She had a thriving big business at one time with her crystal jewelry & personally knows my favorite jewelry designers, Holly Yashi.  She never knew her Grandmother, but she had been a published author.  Kate was reading one of the three books her Grandmother wrote, this one published in 1924.  She read me excerpt after excerpt for about 45 minutes…it was funny & very very interesting….as was Kate.  I asked how she came to live in Bisbee & she shared that story with me…it was just magic to her heart & soul when she came here in 1994 & never wanted to leave.  I so understand the power of place.  The whole time we visited her eyes sparkled & her accent was lovely.  

I ended up buying the bracelet!  I wear several bracelets & never take them off…each one has a special meaning to me.  Kate’s bracelet will remind me of her, & how wonderful it is be open to meeting new, interesting, different people from all walks of life as I travel.  It’s one of my very favorite reasons to travel.  I think my mother gave me the gift to be open, approachable, interested & unafraid.  I have memories of when I was little watching my mother talk to strangers, laugh with newly met friends & greeting celebrities  as a one woman welcome wagon to Kansas City (once at the Municipal airport she greeted Lee Marvin & once while shopping at the Plaza she struck up a big conversation with Dale Evans).  I really enjoyed meeting Kate!

I walked up the hill, just exploring & found a map of the stairs.  I went to the Screaming Banshee for pizza, then climbed my first set of stairs.  Then I did one more & then visited the only brewery in BisbeeOld Bisbee Brewing.  I sat out outside, ordered a flight.  I think the beer was just ok, but the homemade root beer was delicious!   I did one more flight of stairs before taking a night time walk back to my 4Runner & tucking myself in for the night.

day 4…4.15 
I didn’t think it would work too well to fire up my backpacking stove to make coffee, so I took myself out for coffee to the little shop around the corner. There I met several locals who invited me to sit at the ‘table of wisdom’.  I ended up sitting on a bar stool next to them, but was included in the conversation.  They were from all over.  By the time I was finishing my coffee, one of the women came over to me to tell me some great places to visit & eat while in Historic Bisbee.  She’d lived in SanFrancisco in the 60’s then, Santa Cruz then Bisbee….another interesting person with a story to tell!  I’d end up running into her again before I left & we had a super nice conversation.  The sun is pretty hot at 5,000’ so I started in on my Bisbee 1000 right after my morning coffee.  It was a super great way to see the town!

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This was my favorite stairway!

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I finished all 1,000 steps by Saturday morning, plus another 100…I mis-read the map & climbed an extra set!  After my ‘accomplishment!’ I went back to the car to change into my Chacos & the girl from the parking lot wanted to make sure I’d been comfortable the night before & felt safe….how nice was that?  We visited for a few minutes, before I crossed the street to the popular Mexican restaurant, Santiago, for a yummy margarita!  Super friendly & chatty bartenders telling me all about Bisbee.  I commented how as I climbed the stairs, I noticed all these small outdoor spaces next to the houses….fountains, fire pits, two chairs & a table or maybe a little garden.  The bartender said everyone loves to entertain & they love to be outside since they have great weather.  These little outdoor ‘rooms’ were so cool to see & most of them had killer views too!  I had a late lunch/early dinner at the recommended Vietnamese restaurant…wow!  it was sooooo awesome.  Danny & I used to eat at a Vietnamese place in KC years ago, but it closed & we’ve never found a replacement.  This place was fantastic!

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Once again, I walked up the hill to other end of the shopping area going into the well-loved Chocolate shop in town.  I ordered one dark chocolate covered fig, but the lady behind the counter gave me two!  YUMMY!!!!   I sat in the tiny park & listened to some live music for a while.  I really enjoyed all my time in Bisbee & every local I met was super nice!  It’s the perfect little town, with great year round weather, & filled with a very diverse group of very interesting people.  Here’s a few more pics from this cool little desert mountain town.  NOTE:  Never leave your phone sitting on the back bumper of your car…I’d sat it there so I could change my shoes earlier in the day, then slammed the hatch down.  It wouldn’t lock…thank goodness…because my phone was in the way.  I cracked the screen-COVER big time, but hopefully not my actual screen, which is somewhat of a miracle.  I haven’t taken the screen protector off yet…guess I’ll wait to do it once I’m back at home.  I felt lucky I didn’t kill my phone…Its pretty new & not sure how I’d travel without it, but felt pretty stupid for having made the mistake.  There are always lessons to learn!!!

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this on a t-shirt

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day 5…4.16 Easter Sunday
I had just one more place to go early Sunday morning before I left town.  I grabbed a coffee & headed up to Juniper Flats.just a few minute drive outside of town on a dirt road that winds up & up & up over the town.  It was a beautiful view of the town & a nasty view of what mining has done to our planet.

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I drove south, to the small town of Patagonia….I’ve always wanted to go to Patagonia….actually I really have wanted to go to the city in South America, but for today I was still in Arizona.  It was Easter Sunday so some places were closed.  I kept driving south, at this point I was only about 8 miles from the Mexican border to Patagonia State Lake, I thought it would be a nice quiet place to be & I’d read about a birding trail that went around the lake. The place between the town & lake was peaceful & out in the middle of nowhere, but once I got near the lake, there was a line of cars….looks like everyone else had the same idea I did.  It was $20 for day pass for the park (that was pretty stiff I thought) & the camping was all filled…but so was the park!  There were a gazillion people there…wall to wall picnickers, great big families all celebrating the holiday together.  I stopped into the Visitors Center to ask about the birding trail & they told me it was 1/2 mile up the road, but I should stay parked where I was because there would likely be no parking at the trailhead.  The actual trail was only a little over a mile (bummer), but I was already here, my car was parked  & I’d paid a boatload to get into the park.  I walked the 1/2 mile dodging the million people.  At the trail head there were three empty parking spaces…but oh well, I’d just doubled the hike by walking to the lot!  On the trail there was nobody….I could hear the motor boats on the lake & the loud music blaring from them, but the trail was void of any other humans.  I always love these Mountain Lion signs….they’re so comforting.  There was also a lack of view…I couldn’t even see the lake.  The reeds were grown up between the trail & lake & the only thing in between was stagnant water.  I didn’t even see any birds & definitely couldn’t have even heard any with noises coming from the boats.  This was not a fun hike.  I ended up turning around & walking back through the people to other side of the Visitors Center then over a small bridge to sit by the lake…the pic below is from my view.  It was nice, I was zoning out all the people…they were having fun & that’s always a good thing.  I saw a couple of kayakers, a canoe & then all of a sudden a fast moving red motor boat was flying around this small lake…he made a turn just in time but very very close to the kayakers, sending a big wave & I’m sure a scare through the kayakers…I know I was holding my breath.  (I’m not a motor boat fan…I have a huge scar on my right arm & blade marks on one boob from being run over by a motor boat…but that’s an old story).  I decided I’d given this place a chance, & it was time to leave.  As I drove out of the park & passed the entry booth, I held out my $20 pass & truck on it’s way into the park, reached out an arm & took it.  I hope I made someones day!!

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I retraced my drive heading north & stopped in the town of Patagonia.  There was one little fun shop open & slowly looked
through it…passing up my third piece of Oaxaca art this trip.  I’m so trying hard to do this trip cheaper, but 3 times?  The same cute little goldfish in different colors…then a wonderful coyote?  I think I’m being soooo good!  Well, enough of that!  I went to eat at the Velvet Elvis, which was practically empty…guess it’s not a big Easter dinner place.  BTW…they weren’t playing his music.

About 6 blocks away from the restaurant was the Paton Center for Hummingbirds, recently bought by the Audubon Society.  It’s just a house with lots of feeders throughout the property.  There were about 10 other people there, birders with binoculars.  But I never saw one humming bird.  I did see a few other birds, but no hummers.  There was a short trail leading off the property, so I took that.  It was a nice walk & good way to transition my day from being not what I expected & working off the food I’d just eaten.  One funny thing, as I was high up on a hill on the trail, I looked down & right in the middle of the trail was a shiny penny.  My Mother’s voice sprang into my head “find a penny pick it up, all the day you’ll have good luck’.  So in my pocket it went.  Then about 50 steps later, there was a shiny nickel in the middle of the trail, then later a dime, then later another penny.  These all I left for the next hiker…it had been an interesting day so far!

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It was time to hit the road & head to Tucson where I’d be spending the next two days.  I was going to be a decent sized city
again, one I’d never been to before, but was looking forward to exploring.  I found my way late in the day to a BLM property that offered dry or dispersed camping.  I found a spot, pulled out my chair & book & caught the last rays of the day…a sweet sunset for sure!

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