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Spring Breakout

May - 2011


The was my first year not working. I had finished several home projects - blinds, mirrored closet doors, and was in the process of renovating my bathrooms. Once the renovations got to the point where the bathtub would be out of commission, I booked Snoopy in the kennel and headed south for parts unknown.



Friday, April 29 - Calgary, Alberta to Helena, Montana

Everything was going smoothly until between Great Falls and Helena. I definitely picked the wrong day to be on that road. Stopping in Great Falls would have been better but I didn't know I was in for the white knuckle ride of my life. I have driven through a lot of tricky situations over the years but never have I been that scared. The curves and hills through the mountains were frightening but the cliffs over the side of the road were terrifying.

Right in the middle of my panic attack, Karen called. Is that her sixth sense? It felt like she was right beside me and as we talked I actually started to calm down.

I-15 Whiteout

Traffic was crawling at about 20 miles an hour. Visibility was basically zero. The road was so slippery, cars were sliding every which way. Pulling over would have been just as dangerous and there really wasn't anywhere safe to stop. There was only one lane consisting of two grooves to drive in. I settled in behind a big truck and let him lead the way. These are coloured pictures.

Finally I reached Helena and stopped for the night at the Wingate Inn. I was pretty shaken up but safe. When something like today happens, all you can think of is "this is a big mistake". I would decide whether or not to continue tomorrow. For now a warm bath and bed was all I wanted.

Saturday, April 30 - Helena to Mountain Home, Idaho

This morning it was like the storm never happened. The sun was shining and the snow was rapidly melting. Snow plows had worked overnight and the roads were wet and a bit slushy in spots but otherwise it was easy driving.

I continued down I-15 until Pocatello, Idaho and turned west on I-86 which merges with I-84. Gas receipts for today were from Butte, Montana and Blackfoot, Idaho. I stayed at the Best Western in Mountain Home for the night.


Sunday, May 1 - Mountain Home to Eugene, Oregon

US Route 20 - Bend, Oregon

Today I travelled west on I-84 to Caldwell, Idaho, US Route 20 to Sisters, Oregon, and Hwy 126 to Eugene. There is a small highway west of Sisters, Oregon (McKenzie Hwy 242) that on the maps looks really interesting. It was still closed for the season. We will have to keep this road in mind for future travels.

This was the first time I'd travelled through the Bend area. It is part of the Auto Tour Route and is absolutely beautiful. I spent a lot of time stopping at the viewpoints, historical markers, and scenic overlooks. Gas receipts today were from Caldwell, Idaho and Bend, Oregon. I stayed at the Hampton Inn in Eugene for the night.

Three Sisters Viewpoint

The Three Sisters are three volcanic peaks in the Cascade Range. The viewpoint is located on Hwy 20 between Bend and Sisters, Oregon. With an elevation of over 10,000 feet each, they are the 3rd, 4th, and 5th highest peaks in Oregon. Explorers during the 1800's often referred to this area in their journals. In early days the peaks were called Faith, Hope and Charity but the names did not prevail. Now they are simply described as North, Middle and South.

In 2001 a deforming uplift was discovered and there was concern that the mountain was awakening.

In 2004 an earthquake swarm occurred with hundreds of small earthquakes striking over several days. By 2007 the uplift had slowed and concern had diminished. The area, however, is still considered potentially active.


South Sister - Charity

B & B Complex Fire

The B & B Complex Fire were a linked pair of wildfires caused by lightening strikes that together burned 90,769 acres of Oregon forest during the summer of 2003. The fire complex began on August 19th, 2003 as two separate fires, the Bear Butte Fire and the Booth Fire. The two fires eventually burned together, forming a single fire area in the central Cascades, west of Sisters, Oregon.

Between September 9 and September 26, modest rainfall and cooler temperatures allowed firefighters to construct containment lines. Crews then shifted focus from fire suppression to mop-up and rehabilitation throughout the B & B fire area.


Monday, May 2 - Eugene to Arcata, California

Coastal Highway 101

I continued west on Hwy 126 to Florence, then south on US Route 101. The Pacific Ocean is seldom out of sight along this entire route. Only one gas receipt today from Brookings, Oregon. I stopped at Arcata, California for the night.

Sand Dunes

The sand dunes stretch 40 miles from Florence to North Bend. The Oregon Dunes are a unique area of windswept sand that is the result of millions of years of wind, sun, and rain erosion on the Oregon Coast. These are the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America.

Coastal State Parks

I spent a lot of time stopping at some of the many State Parks that protect the sand dunes, old-growth forests, and historic sites. The entire Oregon and California coastline is one park after the other. It is a very scenic and peaceful drive.

Crescent City & Tsunamis

The portion of highway passing through the Crescent City area is dotted with Tsunamis Warning signs. Crescent City's offshore geography makes it unusually susceptible to tsunamis. The City experienced major destruction because of earthquakes in Alaska in 1964 and Japan in March 2011.

Trees of Mystery, Klamath Falls

Trees of Mystery is a privately owned roadside attraction and in Klamath, California. It is surrounded by Redwood National and State Parks. The property contains a number of unique tree formations, hence its name. Paul Bunyan and Babe, both of which are visible from Hwy 101, greet visitors in the parking lot.

Redwood National and State Parks

The Redwood National and State Parks are located the coast of northern California. Comprised of Redwood National Park, established in 1968, and California's Del Norte Coast, Jedediah Smith, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Parks, dating from the 1920s, the combined parks contain 133,000 acres.

The four parks, together, protect 45% of all remaining coast redwood (sequoia sempervirens) old-growth forests, totaling at least 38,982 acres. These trees are the tallest and one of the most massive tree species on Earth.

Tuesday, May 3 - Arcata to Susanville, California
Two highways today - east on Hwy 299 to Redding and Hwy 44 to Susanville. Originally, I planned to visit Lassen Volcanic National Park via Hwy 89 but the highway was still closed for the season. This road did not open that year until July 18th. Today was an incredibly beautiful and relaxing drive. Weather was hot and sunny. Gas receipts were from Willow Creek and Susanville and I stayed in Susanville that night at the High Country Inn.

Highway 299 - Trinity Scenic Byway

I left quite early this morning travelling east on Hwy 299. The highway crosses into the Trinity National Forest paralleling the Trinity River. The Trinity Scenic Byway is probably one of the most beautiful drives in Northern California. It begins at Hwy 101 in Arcata and ends at the Nevada state line.

Driving was a bit dicey in some stretches in the beginning because a heavy fog had settled in the valley. A couple of times I had to pull over and wait for a breeze to move the fog along.

Eventually I arrived at the top of the mountain and was able to overlook the spectacular scenery.

Bagdad, California

The Bagdad marker is located about 10 miles west of Weaverville near the unincorporated community of Helena, California. The town of Helena, now on private land, was first known as North Fork, but it was popularly known as "Bagdad," a name given to it because it was as rowdy and bizarre as the ancient city with the same name.

"On this site once stood the Town of Bagdad. Founded in the year of 1850 by pioneers Craven Lee and David Weed. Peak of population five hundred." Erected 1953 by Native Sons of the Golden West and National Daughters of the Golden West. Historical Marker Database

The La Grange Mine

About 5 miles down the road was a huge mining area. The name comes from the owner who bought the mine in 1893 - Baron Ernest de la Grange who came from France.

This mine was originally known as the Oregon Mountain group of claims, first operated about 1862. In 1892 the mine was purchased by the La Grange Hydraulic Gold Mining Company which brought water from Stuart's Fork through 29 miles of ditch tunnels and flume and delivered it to the mine pit under a 650 food head. Over 100,000,000 yards of gravel were moved and $3,500,000 in gold produced. Large scale operations ceased in 1918. Historical Marker No. 778 was erected in 1963 by California State Park Commission in cooperation with the Native Sons of the Golden West and National Daughters of the Golden West. Historical Marker Database

Whiskeytown, California

The name alone made me want to turn into the recreation area and explore. Whiskeytown is an unincorporated community in Shasta County about 10 miles west of Redding, California. Settled by gold miners in 1849, the town was first called Whiskey Creek for the stream on which it was located, but later the name was changed to Whiskeytown. Whiskeytown Information (pdf)

Whiskeytown Dam & Whiskeytown Lake

Whiskeytown was flooded in 1962 to make way for Whiskeytown Lake (Schuyler Reservoir).

The Town is now properly part of French Gulch as the original post office and store that were moved to higher ground in 1962. Historical Marker Database

All that remains is the relocated store, a few residences, old mines that are above the water level of the lake. Whiskeytown Dam was completed in 1963. It is owned and operated by the United States Bureau of Reclamation. Its purpose is to provide flood control, water for irrigation, and electricity generation. Whiskeytown Lake has a beautiful beach and shady family picnic areas. The area definitely made my wish I had a picnic lunch packed for day.

Whiskeytown Cemetery

The original Whiskeytown Cemetery was located above Whiskey Creek road but was moved in 1961 to its present location within Whiskeytown National Recreation Area. The move was done to avoid the cemetery being buried under the rising waters from the Whiskeytown Dam. Approximately 80 graves were moved from its former location and the cemetery continues to be used and overseen by the Shasta County Coroners Office.

This is the most unique cemetery I've ever seen. The graves are like shrines. The cemetery allows graves to be decorated. There are pictures, coffee cups, ball caps, flannel shirts, wind chimes, bird houses, children's toys, stuffed animals, and even a gas tank from a motorcycle. Headstones vary from the usual granite to field stones, driftwood and ceramic figurines.
I continued on Hwy 299 until Redding where I connected with Hwy 44 to Susanville where I stayed for the night. Today was one of the most interesting days I have ever had on the road. There was very little traffic, the weather was great, the scenery was spectacular and the stops along the way were fascinating.

Wednesday, May 4 - Susanville to Lone Pine, California
Highways today were pretty convoluted. I went south on Hwy 395 to Hallelujah Junction, west on Hwy 70 and south on Hwy 49 (Golden Chain Highway) to Sierraville. I followed Hwy 89 south through Lake Tahoe and east over Monitor Pass to connect with Hwy 395. Hwy 50 joins Hwy 89 around Lake Tahoe and Hwy 89 joins Hwy 88 on the east/west portion of the Carson Pass Hwy. Gas receipts were from Bridgeport and Lone Pine. I stayed at the Best Western in Lone Pine.

Lake Tahoe

By the time I arrived in Lake Tahoe, I was back in winter wonderland. Although melting rapidly, snow was still piled to the roof tops of the cabins.

Emerald Bay Lookout

Just on the south side of Lake Tahoe. I stopped at the Emerald Bay Lookout. The view was breathtaking. This little bird followed me hopping along the ledge the whole time I was taking the pictures. I imagine he was quite used to tourists and was expecting some food.

Hwy 89 - Monitor Pass Scenic Route

This pass is closed in the winter. At the turnoff, signs saying "snow not removed beyond here" were posted right behind warnings of a steep winding narrow road. I had to wonder what I was getting into - and I definitely had to find out. It was spectacular - well worth seeing.

Apparently this road had just opened on April 29th. Road warnings were also posted that the passes on Highways 120 and 108 to Yosemite and Sonora were still closed. Sonora did not open until May 27th and Yosemite was June 18th. California DOT

Mono Lake

I connected with Hwy 395 at Topaz and turned south. I was now back into the hot dry climate. It's amazing how completely different the west and east sides of this mountain range can be. It's also amazing how much snow there is at the top.

Mono Lake formed because it lies in the Mono Basin, an endorheic basin that has no outlet to the ocean. Dissolved salts in the runoff thus remain in the lake and raise the water's salt concentration. This desert lake has an unusually productive ecosystem based on brine shrimp that thrive in its waters, and provides critical nesting habitat for two million annual migratory birds that feed on the shrimp.

Mono Diggins

About 1 mile N.E. of here lies Mono Diggins, the first extensive placer mining excitement east of the Sierra. Cord Norst is generally credited with being the discoverer on July 4, 1859. A town, Monoville, boasted a transient population of 500 – 1,000. A post office established December 12, 1859, was closed by April 2, 1862, as the prospectors moved to Aurora.

One of the most ambitious hydraulic water projects of the time was the transportation of water from Virginia Creek to the Diggins by open ditches known as “the Mono Ditch”. The remnants of the system may be seen by looking easterly from the highway summit or northerly from the bottom of the grade. Erected September 9, 1978 by E Clampus Vitus, Bodie Chapter No. 64. Historical Marker Database

Lost Cement Mine

Somewhere near this spot is located the famous Lost Cement Mine. First discovered in 1857, the find was described as a ledge, "wide as a curb stone" of rusty, reddish cement, two thirds of it pure gold. Various circumstances prevented the original discoverers from returning to claim their wealth.

History indicates the location of the Lost Cement Mine may have been rediscovered and mined periodically until 1877 and then again concealed. An occasional prospector still searches for the elusive treasure but its location today still remains a secret. If while hiking in the area, you happen to come upon a ledge of pure gold please notify the nearest ECV chapter so that we might relocate this monument to the correct site. Erected September 6, 1980 by Bodie Chapter of E Clampus Vitus. Historical Marker Database
I stayed at the Best Western in Lone Pine for the night. Karen and I tried to stay here before. The hotel looked so nice, we were disappointed they were full for the night. The bedroom area was quite lovely but the bathroom needed some work.

Thursday, May 5 - Lone Pine to Ridgecrest, California

Most of today was spent touring Death Valley and Rhyolite rather than on the road. Only one gas receipt - from Ridgecrest.

I started south on Hwy 395, then Highways 136 and 190 into Death Valley National Park. After visiting Furnace Creek, I took Daylight Pass and Hwy 374 to Rhyolite and back, then west on Hwy 190 to Wildrose Road/Trona Road (Hwy 178), eventually connecting with Hwy 395 again. I stayed that night at the beautiful Springhill Suites in Ridgecrest.

Death Valley National Park

It is mind boggling how you can go from the winter wonderland of Lake Tahoe to the extreme heat of Death Valley in one day. Temperature was over 100°. Death Valley is the hottest place on earth and the driest place in North America. Annual precipitation is about 2 1/2 inches. Summer daytime highs top 120°.

Furnace Creek holds a temperature record of 134° on July 10th, 1913 and a surface temperature record of 201° on July 15th, 1972. Death Valley is so frequently the hottest spot in the United States that many tabulations of the highest daily temperatures in the country omit Death Valley as a matter of course. I'm sure today was one of those days.

Padre Crowley Point

Entering Death Valley from the west, one of the first pullouts is Padre Crowley Point. This scenic overlook provides panoramic views of the northern end of the Panamint Valley. It was named after Father John Crowley "Padre of the Desert" 1891 - 1940.

Old Harmony Borax Works

There are many scenic markers along the way but the Old Harmony Borax Works catches your eye. It was these works that made the Twenty Mule Team Wagons famous. The buildings are in good shape and can be seen quite well from the parking area. I did not hike into the site. It was getting way too hot to be hiking!! Historical Marker Database

Furnace Creek

Furnace Creek is 195 feet below sea level. The Visitor Center, Museum, and headquarters of the Death Valley National Park are located at Furnace Creek. I stopped for lunch. It was "high noon" and hot as hell!!

There was no vacancy at the hotel but I did go to their registration desk to obtain information about their rates, etc. This hotel has a swimming pool - how glorious would that feel after a day in Death Valley? I definitely want to plan to stay there on another trip. I also obtained information about the Racetrack Playa. Apparently, the safest way to get there is by renting a Jeep. The roads can chop up regular tires very quickly. Rates were also quite reasonable. I didn't want to rent a Jeep and go alone but it was something to keep in mind for the future.

Rhyolite Ghost Town

During Rhyolite's heyday, from 1905-1911, it contained 2 churches, 50 saloons, 18 stores, 2 undertakers, 19 lodging houses, 8 doctors, 2 dentists, a stock exchange and an opera. Karen and I have visited Rhyolite a couple of times before. There were no other tourists there today so I was able to stop wherever I wanted and wander around at will.

Rhyolite is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Jay and his dog live on-site in a fifth wheel. He and I visited for well over an hour during which time only one other tourist and a police officer drove through. He said the tourist season was over now that it was getting so hot. The police come through routinely once or twice a day to check on him.

It was fascinating to hear about his life with the BLM and all the places he had been. As exciting as the travelling may sound, I was amazed at the loneliness and hardships he endures. For instance, there is a convenience store in Beatty but the closest grocery store is a 150 mile return trip to Pahrump, Nevada. The BLM moves their workers after approximately three months. Prior to Rhyolite, he was at the Redwood Forest. Now on his last week at Rhyolite, he was heading to the Manti-La-Sal Forest near Sault Lake City. I wish now I had obtained his contact information so I could hear more about his travels.

Stovepipe Wells

Once back in Death Valley I backtracked on Hwy 190 and stopped at Stovepipe Wells, a small community of businesses, including a hotel, gas station, general store and saloon. It is a refreshing stop along a baron road. This area is at sea level. I did some shopping in the gift shop and visited with a couple of bikers who were touring the off road trails. It was so hot, I simply couldn't imagine how they could bear it.

Just west of Stovepipe Wells is the turnoff onto Emigrant Canyon Road (Wildrose Road). This road becomes the Trona/Wildrose Road and finally Hwy 178 leading out of the Park on the south side. It looked like an OK road on the park map, so I decided to go ahead. Parts are a bit rough and some areas were not paved but generally it was no problem for a regular vehicle. In one area there was a stream trickling over the road. It was a beautiful drive through several canyons eventually coming out in Panamint Valley.

Eureka Mine

At the Aguereberry Point turnoff, I saw the sign "Eureka Mine" so decided to explore. It was only a couple of miles up a dirt road - one very dusty dirt road! I was definitely going to need a car wash after this one. There wasn't too much to see, but still worth the side trip.

Pete Aguereberry, one of the original strike finders, spent 40 years working his claims in the Eureka gold mine. A tent city grew to support a population of 300. Today nothing remains of the town but Pete’s home and mine.

Emigrant Pass

The Death Valley '49ers were a group of pioneers from the Eastern United States that endured a long difficult journey during the late 1840s California Gold Rush. Their route from Utah took them through Death Valley and over Emigrant Pass.

Ballarat Ghost Town

I drove the 3 1/2 miles into Ballarat. Quite a bit remains of the town's buildings. As of 2009 there were two full time residents, two dogs, and a general store. There are three markers at the entrance site one for Panamint City and two for Ballarat.

Within one week after a marker was originally erected by the Death Valley '49ers, it was stolen. A second marker was later erected and it was also stolen. Finally someone placed a very large sheet of metal with the words cut into it using a cutting torch. Historical Marker Database

Ridgecrest, California

I left Death Valley and arrived in Ridgecrest early evening. Ridgecrest is quite a big City - at least for this area. It is next to China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station and has several very large hotels. I stayed at the Marriott Springhill Suites.


Friday, May 6 - Ridgecrest to Kingman, Arizona
Several highways today. From Ridgecrest, I started south on Hwy 395, then east on Hwy 58 to connect with I-40. At Daggett, I turned north crossed under I-15 onto Ghost Town Road to Calico. I then retraced my steps back to I-40 east to Needles, and finally Route 66 to Oatman and Kingman. Only one gas receipt today from Needles.

Calico Ghost Town

Just as I was beginning to think the drive from Ridgecrest to Oatman was going to be unbearably boring, and about the time I was on I-40 and thankful to be able to make some time, I noticed the sign to Calico Ghost Town. Instantly awake, I turned at Daggett and headed the few miles north to Calico. Calico is a rebuilt Ghost Town but wonderfully done.

I spent several hours wandering around the town. They were preparing for a Bluegrass Festival so music theme decorations were everywhere. It was quite colourful. There is a train ride, complete with commentary, that takes you to the mine area. The round trip takes about a half hour and is well worth it. There were so many unique shops to browse through, it took me quite a while to get out of town.

Calico Ghost Town - Spring2011
View Photo Slideshow
Calico is located in the Calico Mountains of the Mojave Desert region. It was founded in 1881 as a silver mining town, and today has been converted into a county park. Walter Knott (of Knott's Berry Farm fame) purchased Calico in the 1950's and architecturally restored all but the five original buildings to look as they did in the 1880's. Calico Ghost Town

Oatman Ghost Town - Day 1

It was early afternoon before I left Calico and I still had a three hour drive to Oatman. By the time I got there, Brenda was already closed for the day. I strolled around town, fed the donkeys and did some shopping.

Cool Springs

Cool Springs is about 10 miles from Oatman. It was still open so I stopped for a cool drink and a visit with George - the only man I know that wears a pink hat 'because he can'. Today we were colour coordinated. Cool Springs

I stayed the night at Best Western King's Inn & Suites in Kingman and spent a relaxing evening sitting at the pool reading. It was also time to do some laundry. I booked the next night at the hotel too as I planned to visit Oatman again the next day. George recommended this hotel several years ago and we've never been disappointed.

Saturday, May 7 - Kingman, Arizona
Only one highway today - Route 66 to Oatman and back to Kingman. The main street, Andy Devine Avenue, is Route 66 and goes right through Kingman. By the time I gassed up, and stopped at the Visitors Center, it was noon before I headed west.

Whistle Stop Railroad Club, Kingman, Arizona

I stopped at the Power House Visitors Center on Route 66 before heading out of town. The Whistle Stop Railroad Club had their portable model train layout set up.

These exhibits, on two levels of the Visitors Center, were incredible. I don't know much about model trains but I thoroughly enjoyed myself for over an hour. This Club started in 2009 and now has it's own Museum at the Amtrak Train Depot in Kingman, Arizona. Whistle Stop Railroad Club

Oatman Ghost Town- Day 2

I arrived in town just after noon and Brenda wasn't open. I was afraid I wasn't going to be able to see her this year but her neighbour told me she was around and would probably be there shortly. Even a donkey was waiting for her!

Street Gunfight

Oatman is famous for burros and gunfights. I sat in the cool shade and watched the gun battle play out. Once everything was said and done, both gunfighters were dead and Fred (the real bad guy) left with the money. A good time was had by all - I suppose all but the two dead gunfighters!!

Usually it's Karen and I that seem to dress coordinated but when I ran into a complete stranger looking like my bobbsey twin, I had to get a picture.
Finally Brenda had arrived and I spent the next hour or so visiting with her, drinking Route 66 Beer, and getting caught up on all the 'donkey news'.
I had a great day wandering through the stores, taking in the gunfight, visiting with Brenda and, of course, feeding the donkeys. By the time I left Oatman, it was late in the afternoon. It's always sad to say good-bye for another year and even sadder this year as Brenda told me she was thinking of selling her business. I hope not - it just wouldn't be same in Oatman.
Route 66 - May 6-7, 2011
View Photo Slideshow

Oatman is a former mining town in the Black Mountains of Mohave County, Arizona. It began as a tent camp soon after two prospectors struck gold. Oatman's population grew to more than 3,500 in the course of a year.

In 1921, a fire burned down many of Oatman's smaller buildings, but spared the Oatman Hotel, now a Mohave County historical landmark. Built in 1902, the Oatman Hotel is the oldest two-story adobe structure in Mohave County, and is especially famous as the honeymoon stop of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard after their wedding in Kingman on March 18, 1939.

Oatman has undergone a renaissance of sorts in recent years thanks to burgeoning worldwide interest in Route 66. Oatman is fiercely proud of its Route 66 heritage and replicas of 66's black-on-white US highway shield are posted all over the town. Wild burros freely roam the town and can be hand-fed carrots and burro chow, both readily available in practically every store in town.


Sunday, May 8 - Kingman to Payson, Arizona

This was a turning point of my trip. There were two choices now - turn south to Tombstone or north toward home. I spoke to Karen who had been keeping tabs on the bathroom renovations and they were still a long way from completion. I decided to go south.

A few different highways today. I left Kingman via Route 66 and connected with I-40 east of Seligman. After only a few miles on I-40 I turned south on Hwy 89 to Prescott, east on Hwy 89A through Jerome to Cottonwood, then east on Hwy 260 to Payson, Arizona where I stayed for the night.

Seligman, Arizona

Seligman is the last town before Route 66 meets I-40. I stopped at the Rusty Bolt and did some shopping. Karen and I discovered this little town in 2001 and have managed to come back several times. It's shops and restaurants are so unique. Everything revolves around Route 66. These mannequins have been outside for as long as we have been visiting.

Seligman, population about 450 people, is located alongside the Big Chino Wash, in a north section of Chino Valley. The wash is a major tributary of the Verde River. Seligman was a stage stop on the Mojave Road, and its successor Historic U.S. Route 66. Traffic through the town virtually disappeared the day nearby I-40 opened. Tourism, specifically the revival of Route 66 interest, keeps the town afloat.

Jerome, Arizona

I stopped for lunch at Jerome spending the next couple of hours wandering around the unique shops and viewing the historical markers. The entire town is built on the side of a mountain. Everything is "hanging off the edge". The view is spectacular.

Jerome is a town in the Black Hills of Yavapai County built in the late 19th century on Cleopatra Hill, overlooking the Verde Valley, It is along State Route 89A between Sedona and Prescott. Supported in its heyday by rich copper mines, it now has art galleries, coffee houses, restaurants, a state park and local museum devoted to mining history. In the 1920's Jerome was home to more than 10,000 people. As of the 2010 census, its population was 444. Jerome became a National Historic Landmark in 1967.

Tonto Natural Bridge State Park

I arrived at the State Park just in time to be the last visitor of the day allowed entry. They were preparing to close so my tour was a bit rushed. I did manage to see the bridge from all four viewpoints but I would like to stop here again to explore without being so rushed.

Located about 10 miles north of Payson, Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, opened on June 29, 1991. It was first documented by David Gowan, a Scotsman, in 1877 while hiding from hostile Apache tribe members. Tonto Natural Bridge stands over a 400-foot-long tunnel that measures 150 feet at its widest point and reaches a height of 183 feet. It is believed to be the world's largest natural arch made of travertine limestone.

In 2010 Tonto Natural Bridge State Park was listed to close due to budget cuts but was able to remain open thanks to donations and partnerships with local agencies.

Payson, Arizona - Mazatzal Hotel

I stayed at the Mazatzal Hotel in Payson. It is a luxury Casino and Hotel located on the reservation of the Tonto-Apache Tribe located adjacent to the town of Payson. The Tonto Apache Reservation was created in 1972 within the Tonto National Forest. Consisting of 85 acres, it is the smallest land base of any reservation in the state of Arizona.

Staying one night isn't enough. When they advertise luxury, they mean it. The "rooms" are actually modern suites with separate sitting and sleeping areas. There was granite, comfortable furniture, plush bedding, two large flat screen televisions, a refrigerator, coffee and wet bar and High Speed Internet. In addition to everything else, they give you gambling and breakfast vouchers. There are several restaurants and shopping all located on site.

Monday, May 9 - Payson to Tombstone, Arizona
Tombstone was only about 300 miles so I was able to take some side roads and do some touring today. I went south from Payson on Hwy 87, then east on Hwy 188 to Globe where I connected with Hwy 60 to Superior. From Superior I turned south again on Hwy 177 to Winkelman, Hwy 77 through Tucson, and east on I-10 for about 20 miles. At Vail I turned south on Hwy 83, then east on Hwy 82, and finally Hwy 80 entering Tombstone from the north.

Tonto National Monument - Cliff Dwellings

I stopped at the Tonto National Monument Visitors Center. I watched a 20 minute video about the area and purchased some tapes.

The well-preserved cliff dwellings were occupied by the Salado culture between 1150-1450. Why the Salado disappeared is not known.

The Salado farmed in the Salt River Valley and supplemented their diet by hunting and gathering native wildlife and plants. They produced some of the most flamboyant polychrome pottery and intricately woven textiles to be found in the Southwest. Some of the artifacts excavated nearby are on display in the visitor center museum.

The gardens around the Visitors Center are really beautiful artfully displaying the natural surroundings of cactus and desert flowers.

Karen and I were here in 2008. I was amazed at how much this saguaro had grown in 3 years. We will have to make a point of checking it's progress the next time we pass through this area.

Tombstone, Arizona

I arrived in Tombstone late afternoon. After checking into my hotel, I went downtown to wander around the shops and eat supper. Allen Street was almost deserted. Everything had pretty well shut down for the night.


Tuesday, May 10 - Tombstone, Arizona

Tombstone, Arizona

Coined "the Town too Tough to Die", Tombstone was founded by Ed Schieffelin in 1877. Ed was part of a mission against the Chiricahua Apaches and was staying at a place called Camp Huachuca.

Against warnings from his fellow soldiers at the camp, he would leave camp to look for rocks in the wilderness. The soldiers told him that the only thing he would find was his own tombstone. Fortunately, for Ed, he found silver. He named his first mine The Tombstone. Tombstone Travel Guide

Helldorado Gunfight Theater

One of the first attractions I took in was the Helldorado Gunfight. The plot was the same, but all the actors had changed. This is an entertaining comedy mixed with a twist of history.

The Bird Cage Theater

Karen and I did not go through the Bird Cage Theater when we were here. I toured it this time. Although I found it interesting, I was turned off by the smell and how dirty it was. I can appreciate that "cleaning" would probably destroy it's authenticity, but by the time I left the building I wanted to go have a shower.

The Bird Cage Theatre was a combination theater, saloon, gambling parlor and brothel that operated from 1881 to 1889 in Tombstone. The Theatre is Tombstone's most authentic attraction and one of the west's most famous landmarks. The New York Times in 1882 described it as "The wildest, wickedest night spot between Basin Street and the Barbary Coast ."

Tombstone was a very isolated city that was home to some of the worst gangs and criminals of the time. The Bird Cage Theater is said to be the home of 26 deaths during its reign as one of the meanest places in the city. There are still well over 100 bullet holes in the building. To this day it is said that there has been a lot of paranormal activity at the theater. People that work there and visitors have reported seeing different things in and around the location.

O.K. Corral Gunfight

I sat trough the half hour orientation video before attending the re-enactment of the O.K. Corral Gunfight.

The Gunfight took place at about 3:00 pm on Wednesday, October 26, 1881 and is generally regarded as the most famous gunfight in the history of the Old West.

The gunfight, believed to have lasted only about thirty seconds, was fought between the outlaw cowboys Billy Claiborne, Ike and Billy Clanton, and Tom and Frank McLaury, and the opposing town Marshal Virgil Earp and his brothers Morgan Wyatt, aided by Doc Holliday. Ike Clanton and Billy Claiborne ran from the fight unharmed, but Billy Clanton was killed, along with both McLaurys. Lawmen Virgil Earp, Morgan Earp and Doc Holliday were wounded. Wyatt Earp came through the fight unharmed.
After the O.K. Corral gunfight, I explored the town, visiting Big Nose Kate Saloon, the Crystal Palace, and wandering through the unique shops. I had supper at the Longhorn Restaurant, the oldest continually operated restaurant in Tombstone. I purchased a huge picture (3' x 4'). The only way it would fit in my car was to stand it up across the floor in the back seat - which is where it stayed all the way home. It flopped around a bit but the store wrapped it pretty good so no damage was done.

Fairbank Historic Townsite

After supper I went for a drive first stopping at Fairbank Ghost Town about 8 miles west of Tombstone. Karen and I stopped here last time and I wanted to see if there were any changes. It is in remarkably good shape.

Settled in 1881, Fairbank was the closest rail stop to nearby Tombstone, which made it an important location in the development of southeastern Arizona. The town was named for Chicago investor Nathaniel Kellogg Fairbank who partially financed the railroad, and was the founder of the Grand Central Mining Company, which had an interest in the silver mines in Tombstone.

At its height in the mid-1880s, the town housed approximately 100 residents, and boasted a steam quartz mill, general store, butcher shop, restaurant, saloon, Wells Fargo office, railroad depot, and a stage coach station. By the 1970s Fairbank was all but deserted. The final remaining residents left when the buildings were deemed unsafe. After that, the post office closed, and the side roads became overgrown and largely impassable. In 1986, Fairbank was acquired by the Bureau of Land Management. What remains of the town of Fairbank is now open to the public.

Mexican Border

I continued driving down some backroads towards the Mexican Border going as far as Sierra Vista before turning around around. I wasn't sure what was beyond that and didn't want to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Once back in Tombstone, I drove around town and walked Allen Street once more before heading back to my hotel.

It had been a long, action packed, hot day and I was totally exhausted. I sat in the garden outside my room for a while but I could barely keep my eyes open. Going to bed seemed like a good option so by 9:00 pm I was sawing logs.
Tombstone - 2011
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Wednesday, May 11 - Tombstone to Eagar, Arizona
There were only three highways today - north out of Tombstone on Hwy 80, east on I-10, and north on Hwy 191 to Eagar. Hwy 191 joins Hwy 70 for about 10 miles east of Safford. After going to bed so early, I was up at the breakfast table by 6:00 am and on the road by 7:00. I stopped at Benson Walmart and did some shopping - but, for what, I don't know now.
Formerly known as Route 666, Hwy 191 runs nearly 2,000 miles from the Mexican border at Douglas, Arizona right to the Canadian border at Loring, Montana.

Coronado Trail

The area between Eagar and Morenci is a designated National Scenic Byway given the name Coronado Trail. That portion approximates the path taken by Francisco Vásquez de Coronado between 1540 and 1542. Although reported as a very dangerous mountain road with many sharp curves and little or no shoulders on steep cliffs, driving this portion is relatively easy and well worth the beautiful scenery.

Pioneer Mexicano Cemetery

This cemetery just outside of Morenci sits on the side of a steep hill right beside the highway. It could be easily missed unless you happen to be looking right at it. The vegetation has obscured the view and nearly grown over the cemetery. There is only a small pull out area for cars to park.

  The Devil's Highway
With a history of wicked twists and turns, bad luck, unexplained accidents, paranormal activity, and it's original number of 666, Hwy 191 is still referred to as the Devil's Highway. By 1997 Route 666 was named one of the top 20 dangerous highways in the United States.

In 1992, Arizona requested a new number for its portion of U.S. Route 666, arguing the road signs on this highway were the most frequently stolen in the state. In 2003 New Mexico asked to renumber its portion of US 666. This time all US 666 was renumbered.

Although sign theft has always been a problem along this highway, thefts reached epidemic proportions when the pending number change was announced. Within days of the announcement, virtually every US 666 sign had been stolen, some for sale on eBay.

I stopped at two lookouts along the way. At the Chase Creek Overlook you get bird's eye view of the steep mountainsides and series of hairpin turns you just drove. Two hours north of Morenci Blue Vista Lookout is at an elevation of 9,172. You can see thousands of square miles of the mountain peaks and desert plateaus of Central & Eastern Arizona and Western New Mexico.

It was late afternoon by the time I reached Eagar. All total I had only gone about 250 miles, but because I spent so much time stopping at the overlooks, it took longer than usual. I stayed at the Best Western Sunrise Motel.

Thursday, May 12 - Eagar to Sedona, Arizona
Highways today were Hwy 260 west from Eagar to Camp Verde, north of Hwy 17 and west on Hwy 179 to Sedona.
The drive along Hwy 260 was very beautiful. I saw several deer along the way. Stretches of this highway are known by some interesting names, including General Crook Trail and Zane Grey Hwy. The portion of the road from Payson to Camp Verde was a repeat for this trip as I travelled on it on the way south. Apparently the highway is closed during winter storms because of its elevation changes between Payson and Show Low.

Sedona

I'm in love with Sedona. I stopped at the tourist information at Village of Oak Creek, a small town just south of Sedona. The agent sold me on Sedona in one word - weather. Sedona does not have extreme weather. It is mild in the winter and mild in the summer.

I booked into the Bell Rock Inn part of the Premier Vacation Club group. I toured around the City. There are a lot of properties for sale. One lady in a condominium complex invited me in and gave me a tour of her home. She and her husband moved to Sedona from the east several years ago.

Son Silver West

I saw this unique shop and decided to stop. I was there over an hour and had only begun to browse through it. There several nooks and crannies within the store, each very specific in what is being sold. They have everything from outdoor pots and yard ornaments to hanging chills, jewellery and placemats. There are a couple of art galleries and a restaurant making the whole shopping experience quite enjoyable and very relaxing. Son Silver West

Bell Rock

The Red Rocks of Sedona provide a beautiful backdrop for the City and surrounding areas. Bell Rock is a popular tourist attraction just north of the Village of Oak Creek. Its summit elevation is 4816 ft.


Friday, May 13 - Sedona to Ogden, Utah

My bathrooms were ready so it was time to head home. Now anxious, I travelled over 600 miles today on a dozen or so highways. Friday the 13th turned out to be a really great day!

North on Hwy 89A and I-17, east on I-40 to Flagstaff then north on Hwy 89 connecting with Hwy 160 at Tuba City, Hwy 163 at Kayenta, Hwy 261 at Bluff, Hwy 95, Hwy 24 west through Torrey, Hwy 50 at Salina and finally I-15 north to Ogden. Gas receipts were from Monument Valley and Nephi.

Highway 261

I wasn't in so much of a hurry that I would miss Hwy 261. After lunch and gas at Monument Valley I arrived at Hwy 261 from the west. Willie wanted to get out at Willie's Overlook - but I locked him in the car. There was no way I could take pictures and hold him at the same time!!

With my Hwy261 fix complete, the push was now on to get home. I arrived at Torrey about 5 pm. I was tempted to stop for the night but decided to spend the next 4 hours of sunlight putting on miles. I stopped at the Chuckwagon Store to stock up on snacks. It was dark when I finally reached Ogden.

Saturday, May 14 - Ogden to Calgary, Alberta
Only one highway today - I-15 for over 800 miles. I was up very early and on the road so it was not too hard to do 800 miles at 80 miles an hour. Gas receipts were from Dubois, Idaho and Great Falls, Montana. Unfortunately, I wasn't home in time to pick up Miss Snoopy. That would have to wait until morning.
The best part about being home was finally being able to see the wonderful renovations in my bathrooms.


 

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