Arid-Zona!

11/10/15  Leaving southwest Utah, we made our way to Laughlin, Nevada, for a brief stay before heading to Arizona and hopefully warmer weather.

We drove up the Needles Highway, the California portion of which was potholed and rough – not recommended.  I guess California can’t afford to patch the holes.  As we had noted on previous trips, gas prices in Needles are much higher than anyplace else.  Gas was $4.09/gallon vs. the $2.50 we had been paying elsewhere on the trip.

11/12  We drove on to Lake Havasu, Arizona, where it was indeed warmer – in the 70s.  The state park was full due to a radio-controlled seaplane gathering.  Are there really that many RC seaplane nuts out there?  We camped in overflow so we could use the showers and drove into town for laundry purposes.  Although we had been to Havasu several times in the past for Buses by the Bridge, we decided it was time to do the tourist thing and walk around London Bridge and have ice cream.

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11/13  We stayed the next night at Cattail Cove south of Havasu which had a nice white sand beach and good hot showers.  It was suggested that we visit the “Desert Bar” further south and Mag recalled Bev telling us about it in the past.  So Lar contacted Bev to see if it would be worth it and if we should go.  “Yes and Yes” was the reply.

11/14 We packed up and drove to the Desert Bar near Parker.  The bar is about five miles out a rough old mining road.  4WD isn’t a necessity, but high clearance is a good idea and you will have to contend with a barrage of 4-wheelers running up and down the road.  This guy didn’t make it!

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The bar is only open from October through April and only on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 6 p.m.  They are completely off the grid and the place is mostly open-air, making it uninhabitable during summer.

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It is quite an eclectic place and we arrived as a cowboy wedding was about to commence.

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They were also advertising a classic car show but apparently no one was willing to bring their prized vehicle down that road.  For more, see http://www.thedesertbar.com  We had a burger and fries, got the t-shirt, and left.

We drove through Quartzite, finding the place nearly deserted, and went on towards Prescott.  After miles of mesquite-filled desert, we climbed steeply up to the mountains and the beautiful little town of Yarnell, which might be remembered for the fire that claimed 19 firefighters’ lives in 2013.  The town is surrounded by boulders reminiscent of the uplands in Baja.

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We continued on to Prescott where we had some good Thai food and decided to hotel it in order to watch the OU-Baylor game (OU won).  It’s odd that we sleep better in the bus than in a hotel, but we do.

11/15  We arrived in Clarkdale after lunch to visit Geneva and Mike, authors of the blog “It’s not a slow car, it’s a fast house”.  They are located, until the next trip, on VW Bug Blvd.

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Miles and Aaron were there attempting to put a Zetec engine in their Syncro Adventurewagon.  It was a busy place and we wandered around the yard noting the large quantity of VW Bug parts.  Geneva’s dad was a VW mechanic and had quite a collection.

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11/16  It rained off and on during the night and the next morning we headed into Cottonwood.  We had been thinking about Old Town Cafe there ever since our last visit almost three years ago.  They have the most amazing almond croissants.  We got there in time for the last two croissants and noted the usual collection of old-timers sitting around one of the few tables in the place.  After a nice visit with Geneva and Mike, we left for Scottsdale.  Rain changed to snow as we gained elevation but the roads were clear.

We got to Lar’s family’s house in the afternoon and were greeted by barks from their huge Golden Doodle, Luci, although she refused to come out of the bedroom.  Carrie, Mike, and Brandon arrived later and there was a lot of catching up to do.  Luci decided we were OK and came out of the bedroom.  She even sat in on the ironing lesson with Lar and grandson Brandon.

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11/17  The next few days in Scottsdale kept us busy with walks, visiting with family and friends, attending a basketball game and occasionally eating out.  One day we were invited by our friend Trina Lindal to visit her at Taliesen West where she is attending architecture school.  She gave us a wonderful tour of the desert dwellings that the students design, build, and live in while they are attending school.  Here are just a few examples:

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We had lunch with the students in the cafeteria and then attended an informative tour of the campus which was built by Frank Lloyd Wright.

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We had lunch with our friend Bill Barley and on another day, breakfast with Karl and Stephanie Wolz.  We couldn’t resist bringing out the pig snouts for the “Oink” cafe.

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The snouts seemed especially appropriate after we sampled the “BACON DONUT”.

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On Saturday, Carrie took us to “The Big Heap” which was a fun vintage-type flea market, followed by dinner and the OU/TCU game (OU won).  Movies, football, food and visits with family filled the week.  We celebrated Carrie’s birthday a week early, but she was camera shy.

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As we prepare to leave Carrie’s, Luci is thinking maybe she will hitch a ride.

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11/23  We said our goodbyes promising to return in a week for Brandon’s first basketball game of the season.  We reached our friend Hobie’s house near Saguaro National Park West in Tucson in the afternoon.  We have blogged about Hobie before – once at his desert home and last year at his home in Gig Harbor, Washington.  So he should be familiar by now!  Hobie was waiting for us with his delicious chili and cornbread, after which we sat on his west-facing back porch for an incredible sunset.

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11/24  Hobie took us on two hiking trails in Saguaro NP, one a view trail of the valley and the other a climb up to some petroglyphs and another nice view.  As noted last year at Mt. Rainier, we have trouble keeping up with this 88-year young friend.

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That evening we drove into town to have dinner with John and Bergit Ranney.  Bergit is an artist and we proudly display some of her paintings in our home.  She works in many different mediums and showed us some of her beautiful pencil drawings.  Here are some of the painted rocks she did recently:

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Roadhaus overheard our plans to see John (owner of European Auto Tech) and decided to act up a bit on our way to dinner.  Her dash lights wouldn’t work and the engine wouldn’t shut off until the headlights were turned off.  Plans were made to take her in to John’s shop in the morning and in short order the problem was resolved.  John took us for a ride in his “beast” to have lunch.

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11/26  Thanksgiving.  As we had no plans, Hobie invited us to Thanksgiving dinner with the Unitarian Universalist fellowship he attends.  We enjoyed the dinner and the walk around the labyrinth inspired by Hobie who has two of his own in the backyard of his casita.  No dinner was needed after this feast.

11/27  After a stop at Raging Sage Coffee Roasters, we went to visit Pat Gilman and Paul Minnis, two of Mag’s former professors at OU who have recently moved to Tucson.  After a tour of the house and beautiful desert backyard garden, we had lunch and a nice visit, and Paul gave us a demo of his latest recumbent bike.

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We took a walk in the eclectic 4th street shopping district and popped into a couple of the shops.  On the street we saw several displays of “love locks”, which we had seen in other locations we visited.  A good marketing ploy, we think.

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We met friend Scott Schuhle for dinner that evening at Mi Nidito.  The wait was long but the food was good and we then followed Scott home where we spent a couple of days.

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11/28  We drove up to Sabino Canyon where Scott’s wife Jan’s ashes were scattered recently.  Jan passed away in March after a long battle with cancer and we wanted to visit the canyon in her memory.  We took the shuttle up to the last stop and walked the four miles back down.  The weather was perfect – cool, but sunny.

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Back at Scott’s house we ordered pizza and watched the Bedlam game, OU vs OSU, which OU won, ensuring the Big 12 championship.  After the game we retired to the bus and slept well except for the noisy party the coyotes had nearby.  The next morning we said goodbye to Scott and drove to Whitewater Draw in hopes of seeing lots of cranes.

11/29  We got to Whitewater Draw in early afternoon and no cranes were to be found.  We did, however, spot this Great Horned Owl hanging out in a tree near the ponds.

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Weather was nice during the day – in the 60s, but low 20s at night.  We watched at sunset and no cranes flew in, a contrast to the tens of thousands we had seen in a previous visit.  Looking back, it was the first of February the last time we were here, so we may simply be too early this year.

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11/30  After an early morning walk around the ponds, we packed up to drive to Tombstone to meet our friend Barb Cotton for lunch.  We met at Big Nose Kate’s Saloon and took pictures at the bar and had lunch followed by a short walk around the downtown.  If you’re in Tombstone this winter, stop by and see Barb at the Margarita Cafe.

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We drove back through Tucson and camped at Picacho Peak State Park so that we could attend Brandon’s bball game the next night.

12/1  A cold morning required coffee and a shower in an unheated bathhouse to get us awake and on the road to Phoenix for the game, stopping in Florence for haircuts and lunch.  We were glad to get a chance to see Brandon play and later had dinner with Carrie before driving back to Picacho Peak.

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12/2  Wednesday morning, after packing up to leave Arizona, we stopped at the park interpretive area to learn a bit of the history of Picacho Peak.  We knew it had been the site of a Civil War skirmish, reportedly the westernmost such engagement, but it was also a Butterfield Overland Stage stop.

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We bid farewell to Arizona, for now, and headed east to New Mexico.  Warm weather had eluded us in Arizona except for a couple of days in the Lake Havasu area.  We were hopeful that our luck would change.