Monthly Archives: March 2013

DAY 28 – Silver City, New Mexico

Today I was a tourist and got to indulge my curiosity and need to wander.  I was very curious about the town because my friend Ginny lived here briefly in the 1990’s.  Silver City was number 11 on the list of top places to retire in the USA. And I can understand why.  An article in the New York Times, January 13, 2006 gives a good nutshell description of the city:

PEOPLE who live in Silver City like to say that their town of 10,000 offers “the real New Mexico experience.” Perched on the edge of the Gila National Forest in a high-desert wonderland of ponderosas, deep gorges and red-rock mesas, Silver City is a bit rough around the edges, especially compared with places like Santa Fe and Taos – but that’s the way the locals like it. The town was founded after silver ore was discovered in 1870, and soon transplanted Yankees built the large Victorian houses that still loom over newer structures in the historic downtown. The silver industry crashed in 1893, but the town was becoming a haven for tuberculosis patients – including Billy the Kid’s mother – because of the desert air and healing hot springs. (Billy himself passed some of his youth in Silver City.) By the 1900’s, TB patients started going there en masse. After 1910, large-scale copper mining began, and that continues to be the basis of the economy, making Silver City a place where miners, artists, ranchers and extreme sports types mix easily.

People were very friendly. A woman stopped me outside of the grocery store because she saw the sign on the truck.  She was a reporter for the local online county paper and had just lost a friend to ALS.  She was very interested in our story.  Later I was directed to a great little coffee shop called Three Dogs.  I had an excellent cup of drip coffee and a cinnamon nut roll that was a real treat.   I enjoyed the Silver City Museum and wandering around the historic district.  Very colorful southwestern buildings with Victorian and Art Deco touches. Lots of art galleries, shops, restaurants and bars.  it’s an interesting blend of outdoor-hippie-artsy-west. I visited two bike shops and enjoyed talking with the owners as I distributed our business cards.

The most unusual part of town is The Big Ditch.  It is now a nice park in a ravine with a stream running through it. Prior to a 1902 flood, it was Main Street! Copper mining had stripped away enough of the surface growth upstream of town that several floods destroyed the street and buildings with it.

I caught up with Dave a little after 1 pm. On the route I passed a huge copper mine, still a mainstay for local employment.  The Rider was tired after a grueling day pedaling up and down big hills, but he kept at it till 2 pm to get a head start on climbing the highest peak yet.  Later he took a little gas nap.

We went into town to visit the Gila Bike and Hike shop.  The guys were really interested in Dave’s ride. Next door is the Q Southern Bistro that I had checked out earlier to see if they would be showing the Marquette Sweet Sixteen NCAA basketball game.  They said yes, so we went there to relax, watch the game and eat dinner. They beat Miami 71-61! It is unlikely that we will be anywhere near a TV for the Elite 8 game this weekend, so I was happy to see this win.

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DAY 26 & 27 – Coal Creek Campground to Silver City KOA

Day 26 started only one mile short of the New Mexico line.  34 degrees in the truck at 8 am. Fortunately no snow. As we descended from the mountains, we traveled through an area that did not make much of an impression on me. Other than I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to live here. It was washed out, dry and had no real towns or services. We camped overnight at the Buckthorn RV park.  Not a place I would recommend if there were any other choices, other than it was on the route. On a positive note, it had a warm laundry room where we kept warm reading our Kindles in the evening.

Day 27, Wednesday –  we didn’t hurry to leave the truck as it was 44 degrees this morning. I dropped Dave off and found a nice little coffee shop & grocery store in  Cliff, NM, owned by a woman named Kim.  She made great coffee and had a little wood stove going, so I stayed a while to chat.  Good start for the day.  Soon, the scenery improved as we started climbing toward Silver City, New Mexico. Here, I could imagine living, but would miss the color green and water.  Another day of leapfrogging the rider, but back in the land of cell phone reception, which meant internet on the Ipad.  Makes the time go much faster.  Did a little more walking today on the road and on a trail out of our camp.

We made it to Silver City and are staying at the KOA, right on the route.  KOA’s are like MacDonalds – not unique or special, but clean and reliable – you know what to expect for your money.  This one is really very nice with Wifi and a community room where we are sitting indoors keeping warm and blogging.

DAY 24 & 25 – Pima to Over the Mountain

Day 24 – Pima to Clifton

After a good breakfast at the Zen Cafe, we said goodbye to Phyllis and Mike and headed out for the Tasty Freez in Pima so Dave could resume riding.  I headed to the Thatcher Safeway for groceries and scored another instore Starbucks – always a treat. If it sounds like I grocery shop all the time, that is because I do.  We have a small refrigerator in the truck that means no cooler with ice and that’s great.  However, it’s space is limited so I try to buy food for two or three days at a time. It seems like we always need something.  Wish I owned stock in Post Raisin Bran and bananas.

My workout for the day was washing the truck camper in a car wash.  It’s a big truck when you are trying to clean it!

We are in high, dry desert now and my wildflowers have disappeared.  It’s progressively more rocky and rugged terrain as we climb toward the New Mexico border.

We headed to another copper mining town called Clifton to camp in their town RV park. It was 7 miles off the route, but worth the drive through an area that turned into a canyon with trees when we got to the town.  The San Francisco River runs through it & the camp was right on the banks.  It’s one of the few rivers we’ve seen recently with water in it.  It reminded us a little of the Middle Fork River in Idaho.  When we checked in with Tony, he told us that there are lots of animals and big horn sheep often wander down into camp.  He also mentioned cougar and scorpions, which I was less than thrilled about. We got another  great camp deal for $10.

DAY 25 – Clifton to over the mountain

We got any early start because this was going to be a challenging climb up to the pass.  I leapfrogged Dave, staying nearby.  It’s not like there was anywhere to go.  There are no towns or services in this area once you pass a crossroads called Three Way, where there is a Forest Service Headquarters, one little store & 2 gas stations.

I enjoyed doing some walking along the road and taking lots of photos.  The scenery was spectacular if you like rocky outcroppings, buttes, deep canyons and desert.

Tonight we are camped at Coal Creek Forest Service Campground 5 miles beyond the pass. No cost to camp here, but no water either. It does have a decent pit toilet.  We are the only ones here.  It also reminds me of the Middle Fork – same terrain as the Boundary Creek put-in. Lots of pines and alpine hills.  Before cooking dinner, I pretended that I was Greg Beach and climbed the steep hill behind the campsite.  It was an animal trail & lead to a great view.

We are just a few miles from New Mexico state line. Almost 2 states down. I started putting glow-in-the-dark star stickers on the rear window of the truck cap. One for each the hundred miles that Dave rides.  Now there are SIX!!!

DAY 23 – Globe Again

I looked at the mileage on the truck odometer and realized that it said 254 and we had never really left Globe.  All the back and forth driving was transporting The Rider to his starting point, meeting him at the end of a days ride and returning to our Casino RV Park.  Saturday was a layover day and we moved into the Motel 6 in Globe proper. I have to admit that I was looking forward to sleeping in a real bed since it had been almost a month.

Phyllis & Mike came up from Maricopa and we spent the day visiting local watering holes and walking through the historic district.  The Drift Inn’s claim to fame is that it opened in 1902, before Arizona became a state in 1907.  After another goofy GPS wild goose chase, we found the Tap Room. We were the only ones there and had an interesting conversation with Stella, the owner. Her donation to our ride was drinks on the house!  Two Lanes was a short walk down the hill from the motel.  We had fun playing pool & I got to watch Marquette beat Butler to make it into the Sweet Sixteen.  We had a good time hanging out together.


DAY 22 – not much out there!

After driving Dave 20 miles to the point where his ride began, I continued driving in pursuit of a place with internet and a cup of coffee. I soon discovered there’s not much out there.  Forty miles later I was in Safford, AZ, the first location with “services”.

Along the way I spotted the Tasty Freez in Pima and thought it would be the ideal meeting place for ice cream. Great little ice cream & sandwich spot.  43 years and the original owner is now an employee!  He made it & hung out with some local older guys who were fascinated by the unicycle trip. One guy said he saw him near Phoenix a few days ago.  I’m trying to encourage Dave to get more calories in, so this was an easy place to do it. Yes, he ate this banana split all by himself!

That was really the highlight of the day.  We drove back 50 miles to our Casino RV park home.  When you are on the road, three nights in a row somewhere really does feel like home. It was a rough afternoon dabbling in the pool & jacuzzi followed by happy hour in the desert & dutch oven pizza. Each pizza I make is a little less overbaked/burned on the bottom, but it’s tricky baking in a dutch oven on a propane stove. It’s a lot easier using charcoal.

The plan for  Saturday is to meet Phyllis and Mike in Globe for the weekend.  They are bringing some unicycle parts that were delivered to her home after we left. There is a rumor that the oldest bar in Arizona is in Globe. We’ll have to check that one out.

DAY 21 – Globe, AZ

Globe is a copper and turquoise mining town about a 2 hour drive or 2-day unicycle ride east of Phoenix. My destination today was the Besh-Ba-Gowah archaelogical park and checking out the local antique shops.

Besh-Ba-Gowah is an ancient ruin that was occupied between A.D.1225 and 1400 by the Salado Indians. It was a Pueblo with 44 rooms and parts of it were three stories tall.  Rooms were entered through hatches on the roofs a nd rooftops were the center of traffic flow within the community. Pottery and jewelry made with shells was found that indicates widespread trade and commerce.

Excavation of the site began in the 1930’s and became a WPA project. The WPA (Works Project Administration) was a Depression Era program that put people to work . It was the largest and most ambitious New Deal agency, employing millions of unemployed people (mostly unskilled men) to carry out public works projects,[1] including the construction of public buildings and roads. In much smaller but more famous projects the WPA employed musicians, artists, writers, actors and directors in large arts, drama, media, and literacy projects.[1]   (Wikipedia)  

The WPA preserved our America heritage in ways that still have an impact  today.  I’m always moved when I go somewhere and realize that it was a WPA project.  Examples at home in Ohio include Happy Days Lodge in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Cain Park in Cleveland Heights.

The drive to pick up Dave revealed some dramatic vistas covered in yellow with wildflowers.  I didn’t expect that we would have such good timing to see so many blooming at this time of year.  At some point, wildflowers turned out to be my “thing”! I was delighted to enter the realm of Gold Poppy Land.

We returned to our Apache Casino park home again for a pleasant time in the pool. I made a shrimp jumbalaya dinner to celebrate Dave passing the 500 mile mark and we enjoyed a quiet evening.

Day 20 – Apache Junction to Apache Gold Casino RV Park

Wednesday I took a day off from my tourist wanderings.  We departed Maricopa for the last time & Dave started riding outside Apache Junction.  I started catching up on blogs at the Mountain Brew Coffee House in Gold Canyon, right on the bike route.  A cozy, independent shop with Wifi, that seems to be be a community gathering place. Time got away from me & it got to be 12:30 way too soon.  Time to find The Rider.

The road started climbing as the terrain changed to rock outcroppings and winding turns.  One tunnel & 6% grades. In hindsight, it would have been a good day to be nearby (and probably nervous), but I did meet up with Dave.  He rode almost 32 miles, climbed about 3400 feet & descended 1000 feet. Tough day on a unicycle. The rugged scenery was impressive, without many opportunities to stop for photographs.

I met a crosscountry cyclist who took my picture because he had seen Dave but didn’t get a photo.  Vicarious celebrity status for me. Bruce Miller’s son went to Case Western and his daughter-in-law is from Chesterland.  Small world stuff at every turn!

Not many camping choices in this area, so we went to the Apache Casino RV Park 4.5 miles east of Globe.  A $10 bargain for “dry camping” i.e. no water or electricity. Plus – a pool & jacuzzi. The website says no tents, but a church group doing work on the reservation camped there.

DAY 19 – Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix & Gambling in Maricopa

Tuesday, March 19 – another tourist day for Joan & Dave’s final escape from riding through Phoenix.   This place was amazing.  Established in 1939, 145 acres and over 50,000 plants. And a bonus butterfly house!  I walked 2 miles, read everything & happily took pictures for four hours.

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The day ended on a completely different note.  For our last evening in town, we went to the local casino, where I actually gambled instead of just using the restroom.  I entertained Dave & Phyllis at the poker machine, where I won $11.30.  Really, Phyllis won it for me.  I pushed buttons cluelessly.

DAY 18 – Taliesin West

We determined that staying in Maricopa made sense until Dave finished riding through all the suburban sprawl that is Phoenix.  From where he started in Surprise, that would add up to more than 60 miles!

Monday, March 18, I drove him to Surprise, than headed across town to Scottsdale to visit Taliesin West, the Frank Lloyd Wright home and school of architecture  in the desert.  Getting there turned out to be a challenge.  I trusted Destiny, the GPS, & it took me to a golf course adjacent to the property.  One of those “you can’t get there from here” frustrations.  A local dog walker pointed me in the right directions when I was lost in his neighborhood.  Lesson learned: don’t rely on the gps alone.

I’ve visited Falling Water (the home he designed & built over a waterfall) in Ohiopyle, PA several times and recently read “Loving Frank”, historical fiction that refueled my interest in his work. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to check Taliesin West out & wasn’t a bit disappointed. Building Taliesin began in 1937 and finished in 1959. The guy had a remarkable mind & kept working into his 90’s.

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A bit about FLW (from the FLW foundaton website)
Wright’s anchor and muse was Nature, which he spelled with a capital “N.” This was not the outward aspect of nature, but the omnipresent spiritual dimension. He wrote:
Using this word Nature…I do not of course mean that outward aspect which strikes the eye as a visual image of a scene strikes the ground glass of a camera, but that inner harmony which penetrates the outward form…and is its determining character; that quality in the thing that is its significance and it’s Life for us,–what Plato called (with reason, we see, psychological if not metaphysical) the “eternal idea of the thing.” 
Wright himself grew up close to the land and in touch with its creative processes and it gave him constant inspiration for his architecture. He believed architecture must stand as a unified whole, grow from and be a blessing to the landscape, all parts relating and contributing to the final unity, whether furnishings, plantings, or works of art. To materially realize such a result, he created environments of carefully composed plans and elevations based on a consistent geometric grammar, while skillfully implementing the integration of the building with the site through the compatibility of materials, form, and method of construction. Through simplification of form, line, and color, and through the “rhythmic play of parts, the poise and balance, the respect the forms pay to the materials, and the repose these qualities attain to,” Wright created plastic, fluent, and coherent spaces that complement the changing physical and spiritual lives of the people who live in them.

DAY 17 – Old Friends & St. Patrick’s Day in Maricopa, AZ

Who has a friend that they started kindergarten with? I’m lucky enough to be one of that rare breed.  Phyllis & I have been friends for 54 years – started school when Eisenhower was president & graduated from Marquette University in the Bicentennial year – 1976!  She’s been in Arizona since then, but we’ve maintained a great friendship over the years. We just sort of pick up where we left off the last time we’ve been together. The bike route goes through Phoenix so the plan was to visit & stay at her home. Mike, her partner, even rides a unicycle, so he and Dave did the male bonding thing over one wheel.

Sunday we went to breakfast with Phyllis’s son Russell and his family.  I haven’t seen him since he was 16, when they would come to Ohio every summer to visit Phyllis’s mom. It was great to catch up with his adult life Russell & Shelly cooked a corned beef and cabbage dinner and we all ate green pies & cupcakes for dessert. It’s still a little hard to get used to my friends being grandparents.  The grandkids were a lot of fun.  Four year old Aubrey even tried to juggle with Dave’s coaching. Ethan’s a super-reader.

The town we are in is Maricopa, about  20 miles southwest of metropolitan Phoenix.  In 2000 it had less than 2000 people. Now it’s got 44,000+. All the homes are some version of tan stucco. Suburban Phoenix will never catch up to it because  desert & Indian reservations surround it.  John Wayne once owned a ranch here.

Before I sign off, here is a tribute to friendship. One of my favorite songs,            Old Friends, by Guy Clark