Tucson to Steamboat – 2017 – Part I

The last blog post I wrote was back in February, talking about what being a snowbird in Tucson is like for us in the winter.  We left Desert Trails RV Park, a funky-but-wonderful ex-waterpark turned active adults-only community, on March 29, headed to Cottonwood, AZ, and Dead Horse Ranch State Park.  The park was recommended by several people at several of our nightly happy hour gatherings, so we decided to check it out.

Dead Horse Ranch State Park – Cottonwood, AZ.

Our first (of three) campsites at Dead Horse Ranch State Park. This was before the wind came in, knocked our potted plants over (and broke the geranium), and broke our front window awning arms. The wind was pretty horrendous most of the time we were here, seriously rocking the RV. Springtime in Arizona.

I started looking into reservations early in February, having been warned that the park gets pretty busy in mid- March through April as snowbirds start heading north. By the time I started looking, I was already behind the curve.  We wanted to stay in Cottonwood for a week and use it as a base to take day trips to Jerome, Sedona and Prescott.  Turns out we could only get three nights in one spot, one in a spot next door, and three more nights half way around the loop.  It was a pain to hook up, unhook, and move three times, but it was worth it.  If we ever stay in this place again, and I think we will, we will definitely start planning much sooner, not only to get a full week in one spot, but also to be able to orient  to the sun so there is shade in the afternoon.

Just a small example of Yellow Season in Arizona. Cars were stopped along the highway and there was a slow-down in the traffic that was still moving. On I-10 north of Phoenix.

For those who will be traveling in Arizona in late March and early April, much like the Aspens turn yellow in fall, Arizona also has Yellow Season.  They call it that.  There was a field along I-10 on the way to Cottonwood that was so striking, people were stopping along the highway or just slowing down to take pictures.  I took this shot out the window of the moving truck. With the cactus and palo verde trees blooming, along with all the other yellows, it is pretty stunning.

Several of our friends were also planning to stay at Dead Horse the same week (although not exactly the same dates) so we arranged a Desert Trails-style happy hour for one of the evenings during our week there. Martha  Webb and Jerry  Clark, Gail and Dave Hanley (from Steamboat), Judie and Carl Battle (Judie is my star pine needle basket students), joined Cooper and me at our campsite for about an hour of snacks, adult-beverages, and catching up on what we had all been doing, seeing and photographing.  It was just like we had never left DT.  Only the scenery had changed.

Prescott, AZ

When we first moved to Steamboat 42 years ago, Cooper’s best friend was Larry (Bones) Vanatta.  His son, Davin, was a young child then, but now is all grown up (waaaay grown up and ready to retire) and lives in Prescott, AZ – about an hour away from Cottonwood.  We had reconnected down in Tucson, via Facebook, last year and decided we wanted to visit him in Prescott.  He had been a fireman there for years, and is now a fireman-trainer.

Cooper and I had visited Prescott a couple of times several decades ago, thinking we might like to move there some day.  Although we never did, it really is a pretty cool town and part of the Arizona Main Street program. (You can tell.)  Before we met Davin for lunch, we toured the Sharlot Hall Museum. Sharlot Hall was a passionate collector of stories about Arizona history and was instrumental in preserving the first Governor’s ‘Mansion’ (a log house) on the grounds of what would become a collection of seven buildings with terrific interpretation.  I thought we could do this museum in about an hour, but it took longer than we expected.  We were almost late for lunch with Davin.

Since Cooper is in to breweries and we look for them in most towns we visit, it was logical for us to meet Davin at the Prescott Brewery, which we did.  We sat at the bar and enjoyed a great lunch.  We caught up on stories, took a tour of downtown after lunch and saw the fire-house-turned-restaurant (Firehouse Kitchen) where he used to work (in the firehouse, not the restaurant).  That restaurant is now closed, however.  Prescott is a really nice community, perfectly situated to easily get to Phoenix, skiing, hunting, the Grand Canyon and the Petrified Forest.  Weather is milder than Phoenix.

Davin Vanatta (left) and Cooper at the bar of the Prescott Brewery.

Jerome, AZ

A little over 8 miles out of Cottonwood, and up a really winding and steep hill, is the town of Jerome.  Back in the day, Jerome was a copper mining town.  The hills are dotted with miners’ cabins and the copper mine 0ffices-turned-museum.  One of those houses now belongs to Gail and Charlie (Captain Carburetor) Holthausen, to be used as a winter home in future.  (Charlie is the creator of the “Phoenix- the dragon”, highlight of past Steamboat Halloweens and now only 4th of July parades when they are home in the summer.)

Charlie and Gail Holthausen at Grapes in Jerome, AZ.

This is the perfect community for Gail and Charlie to spend their winters. Jerome is now known as an art community. Gail is already playing in a “band” and sits in whenever she can.  She also owned the paint-your-own pottery place in Steamboat for years and Charlie owned Black Diamond Auto. They are integrating themselves into the community of Jerome very quickly, as we could tell when they chatted with people on the street.  When we finished lunch, at a wonderful restaurant called “Grapes“, we walked outside, and a truck pulled right into the parking space in front of us.  The truck had a Steamboat Motors paper plate in the front license holder.  We looked up and it was John and Lee Centner.  John has been training for his multi-engine jet license (something like that) in Phoenix all winter, for his new job as pilot for Randy (oops, Randall)  Reed, now in Texas, formerly from Steamboat.  Dream job for John!!  It truly is a small world.  And, as much as Steamboat people get around, especially this time of year, we are not at all surprised when something like this happens.

Ran into John and Lee Centner just outside of Grapes restaurant in Jerome, AZ.

Several years ago, Jayne and Ed Hill moved from Steamboat to Cottonwood, AZ, to be closer to their daughter and her family.  For some reason, I remembered that small fact of trivia.  They didn’t actually move to Cottonwood, but a small town close by, but close enough.  They moved to Cornville.  There is a funny story about how Cornville got its name, but too long to reiterate here.  (There is no corn.)  We had a wonderful lunch at their beautiful home on the golf course and went for a tour of the area.  There are several wineries and grape arbors, along with horse ranches.  Jayne, having been the high school librarian for years, gave me the name of a couple of books I might like, both about characters from the area.  Haven’t got them yet, but they are on the list.

Jayne and Ed Hill in Cornville (not Cottonwood), AZ. We had a wonderful lunch on the patio and great conversation, followed by a tour of the area.

Tuzigoot and Montezuma’s Castle

If you have followed our blog in the past, you know I have been fascinated with Native American culture and ruins.  I have learned so much over the past year about the evolution of housing for Native Americans (aren’t we all Native Americans if we were born here?)  AKA Ancient Puebloans.  Starting out in pit houses and being nomadic to follow the food supplies, eventually they started digging out pits and erecting roofs over them before eventually starting to build walls, use caves with walls added, and the architecture evolved as people became more permanent, turning from hunting and gathering to agriculture.

Foundations of Tuzigoot National Monument, on the hill above the fields they used for farming.

Montezuma Castle National Monument. They reached these dwellings by ladders and by climbing hand-hold steps up the side of the mountain. They farmed in the area below the dwellings. There is a creek/river nearby.

Close to Cottonwood at two different ruins.  Tuzigoot National Monument is right in Cottonwood and Montezuma Castle National Monument is about a half hour away.  We did both in one day.  Both at National Monuments and very well interpreted.  (Montezuma, the leader, had nothing to do with Montezuma Castle, but those that found it assumed he did.)  I learn so much more at every monument we visit.

Arizona Copper Museum

I learned last year, while we were in Tucson, that the economy of Arizona is based on the five C’s – cotton, citrus, climate, cattle and copper.  In Cottonwood (actually Clarkdale), there is brand (almost) new Arizona Copper Art Museum. It opened three years ago – which is really new for a museum.  It’s located in a re-purposed school building, the passionate endevour of a couple of guys that started collecting copper items that attracted their attention at a very early age.  They were from Chicago, but decided it was much more important to tell the  copper story in Arizona where copper is king.  We drove by the museum each day on our way to some other attraction and finally stopped in to see what the museum had to offer.  We were the only people in there, but it took us over two hours to see.  There has been a lot of research on the copper mines, copper crafts, and copper collections.  I asked the founder of the museum what his first piece of copper was that started his collection.  It was a stove trimmed in copper.  He was eleven.  That stove is in the museum.  We learned about copper wiring, copper cookware, copper used in art, bronze, brass and so much more. I had no idea.  I guess you have to be exposed to this stuff to know that there is so much more to know.

The outside of the Copper Art Museum. It is located in a vacated school in Clarkdale, AZ.

One of the coolest collections was all of the decorated artillery shells from World War II.  Some of the art was magnificent!!!  Some people (especially artists) can see the beauty in anything.

This is only a small portion of the collection of the decorated, etched, carved and molded artillery shells that were a part of World War II. There are not only American, but also French and German examples in this collection.

Sedona, AZ

Sandy Graves’ long-legged horse in a gallery in Tlaquepaque Plaza in Sedona, AZ.

The final trek was up to Sedona.  More than 35 years ago we went through Sedona and loved it.  We loved the red rocks, the small town feel, the mystery and legend of the place.  It was just becoming an art community.  Boy, have things changed.  What used to be the entire downtown for the community has become a VERY small part, almost like an afterthought.  The town has sprawled for miles and added round-abouts, almost right downtown.  Not only have people discovered Sedona, they have ruined it.  It is still a pretty place, and the marketing of the vortexes that are supposed to make Sedona magical, has created just another tourist destination.  The clerks don’t share stories anymore about what made the community so special. They are all from somewhere else.  The galleries, while displaying amazing art, don’t have the actual artists available to talk to guests, the way they used to.  After a drive up and down the length of the community (and I don’t know if there really IS a community anymore), that was all we needed.  We stopped at the Tlaquepaque shopping area (the only time we got out of the car), perused the shops  and ate at the Oak Creek Brewery (of course), but that was all we needed.  We did find a long-legged horse bronze by Steamboater Sandy Graves at one of the galleries (they think she is a rock-star artist, and I agree), which was kind of cool.  The level of art in Sedona is top-notch, so to be among them is an honor.

This is only one of three parts to this trek north from Tucson to Steamboat in 2017. Stay tuned for the next two installments.  Turns out I probably should have written these posts as we went, but it is fun to try to remember and relive the last month of travel.  There is so much to see in this country.  I am so afraid I won’t get to see it all.  Time is a-wasting!!!