Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Apache Gold, Globe, Miami and Superior

November 20 - 24, 2014:

It was a nice sunny driving day with no wind for the ride to San Carlos, Arizona.  We took route 191 north through a nice open desert landscape mostly downhill to Safford Arizona.  Safford was way larger and metropolitan than I imagined with lots of agriculture, mainly cotton farming.  We then took route 70 west which was more cotton farms, the roadsides were littered with clumps of cotton and cotton bales stacked everywhere.  Eventually the desert landscape returned and we entered the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation where we started to see Saguaro Cactus again.  We arrived at the Apache Gold Casino in early afternoon and set up in an easy pull through full hookup site.  It is a fairly large Casino / Hotel and a huge building for concerts and special events.  We did our usual thing, joined the players club which gives you $10 credit, promptly lost that along with a few dollars of our own and left.  It appears that the major percentage of the gamblers are from the reservation so I'm not sure it's dong them much good ?  The business model should be to take the white man's money ?

Cotton field near Safford Arizona

Saguaro Cactus again

Apache Gold Casino entrance

It is about six miles to downtown Globe which is another interesting old mining town with much history. My problem is that I have been here so many times that I have seen and explored it all more than once.  So, I'm mainly revisiting to see what has changed, what's closed, what's opened and what is new.  Happy to say that things in town look slightly better than the last visit.  I did manage to go to the "Los Robertos" restaurant for lunch which I have missed on all previous visits and the Carne Asada Quesadilla I had was really good.  It is next door to the "Pickle Barrel Trading Post" which also is not to be missed when in Globe.

Historic time line in front of the
old Court House in Globe

The New Tonto Hotel remains !

So does "Big Nose Kate's" rooming house
A favorite sign of mine in Globe

Historic Globe Bank

Los Robertos for lunch

Another favorite sign

I took a ride to the actual town of San Carlos which is the headquarters of the San Carlos Apache Reservation.  It is pretty sad, lots of poverty, trash everywhere and big problems with drinking and drugs.  I imagine that the people who somehow rise above it all here tend to get out as fast as possible.  The problem with the Apaches is that they don't do the tourist thing well.  The Navajo's for example are very artistic, making great rugs, beautiful jewelry and Navajo Taco's.  The Apaches were always fierce hunters, gathers, warriors and raiders and they seem to have little to offer other than photos of Geronimo.  The Casino has created some jobs and should be bringing in some money to the area but can only do so much, it's a depressing state of affairs.

San Carlos road sign

I went out on Friday night to the Drift Inn in Globe, one of my all time favorite saloons that is so wasted, it could be so cool in the right place with the right owner and the right crowd.  There was the usual going's on, bad pool shooters and ugly people playing poor music.  So I left and went down the street to the "Huddle" bar.  It is a little weird here in Globe as the majority of the bar patrons seem appear to be a mix of Hispanic and Apache. I sit down and the Apache girl next to me starts talking to me, telling me that I look like her councilor at San Carlos. (Twinkles says all of us older white guys with a beard look alike ?)  She is with her male cousin and his girlfriend, the cousin is really drunk, wants me to taste his drink, No, I'm not doing that, then he buys me a drink instead, then thankfully goes away.  She tells me something about leaving her boyfriend back at the Casino and I'm thinking I need to get out of here soon.  They surprisingly leave soon afterwards with the cousin staggering out the door.  Then this big buy at a table behind me comes over and shakes my hand like he knows me ?  Then the old mexican guy on the other side of me starts talking to me, I can't understand a word he's saying, although I think it was english, but he seems to want to be my buddy.  Now I know it is time to escape and head back to the RV.

The Drift Inn

Looking for places to go that we haven't already seen, I find the Salt River Canyon on the map, do a search on the internet and find that people are saying great things about it and even referring to it as a mini Grand Canyon.  It is a nice drive through very scenic country to get there and it lives up to the reviews.  It is a huge Canyon and the road, route 60, goes steeply downhill with several switchbacks from the top of the Canyon to the Salt River, over a classic arch bridge, then steeply uphill on the other side.  There is a very scenic rest area at the bridge and many scenic pullouts and vistas along the road.  You cross from the San Carlos Indian Reservation to the Fort Apache Indian Reservation as you pass over the Salt River.

Road view going into the Canyon

Waterfall on the Salt River

Bridge view

Under the bridge view

The Salt River Canyon from a high vantage point
On the return trip we stop at the town of Miami, where Twinkles needs to stop at Julie's Quilt Store for yet more quilting fabric and then we get ice cream at a beautifully restored ice cream shop. If you are in Miami Arizona you must stop to visit this place, the "Soda Pops Classic Soda Fountain" that was so lovingly restored. Twinkles highly recommends the Cherry Amaretto ice cream and their pies also look really good.

Parts of Miami resemble a ghost town

The Real Market is closed these days

The Soda Fountain is back

A Classic Have a Coke sign

A Classic old Packard car in Miami

A classic old Ford fuel truck

Great old Liquors sign

View of the old church from distance

View of the nines above Miami

In this area, I always make a point to stop at the town of Superior which looks like something out of an old western film.  It is another huge mining area that seems to be booming currently.  They are rebuilding the old "Mangus Hotel", actually they have built a totally new building that when done will hopefully look the old Hotel, however to me it currently looks way too much like a new building.  There seems to be some action on other buildings as well, a good sign, but hopefully they won't make them too pretty and destroy the wild west flavor.

Cafe in Superior

Nice mural

A favorite mural that is slowly flaking away

The new Mangus Hotel under construction

Old market in Superior

Superior street view

Superior sign

I had forgotten how wild the drive is from Globe to Superior, it's going to be a little exciting with the RV. I'm starting to wonder if it's me, am I driving like an old fart ?, or do the locals all drive like speed freaks on these curvey mountain roads as there seems to be someone constantly on my rear bumper.  I also note many roadside shrines for those who crashed.

Route 60 bridge in Devil's Canyon area south of Superior

One who didn't make it

The next stop is Phoenix Arizona for Thanksgiving,

Twinkles and Slick   

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Willcox and the last of the singing cowboys

November 16-19, 2014:

It was a cold windy morning with dark ominous clouds and light rain showers as we left Silver City, I felt like staying another day as I knew it wouldn't be good driving conditions.  It was 123 miles to Willcox Arizona and as expected it was not a smooth ride with light rain and wicked wind.  After getting into Arizona it improved and the sun was out by the time we arrived at the Fort Willcox RV Park.  This is a small RV Park a couple of miles outside of Willcox and we are here mainly because they are giving us the Passport America rate for 4 days.  Another attraction is free homemade waffles and coffee in the morning. 

Not a fun drive

The Fort Willcox RV Park

It was down to the low 20's in the mournings every day, colder than I expected.  I let the furnace run all night with the thermostat set at 60 degrees and also cracked open the kitchen faucet to let a trickle of water flow. That worked, nothing froze up, but that's pushing the limits.  The cold weather capability of this RV is terrible as it has exposed water tanks and piping underneath with no insulation, only small heat pads on the Tanks that probably do little.  I have added insulation and a length of heat tape to some of the pipes but it is piecemeal, to do it right required removing the black and gray water tanks to access the fresh water Tank and piping.  

Willcox was big cattle ranching country in the open range days starting in the mid 1800's.  In the 1870's the transcontinental railroad, the Southern Pacific arrived and Willcox became a major cattle shipping hub.  In the 1930's Willcox became known as the "cattle capital of the nation".  The freight trains still run through Willcox, probably more so than ever, but they don't stop any more.  It is now mostly a rest stop on Interstate 10.  Willcox has a nice small downtown area that is full of history.  In it's prime days it was a rough tough town, just like in the old cowboy westerns with the cowboys raising hell in town, the raiding Apache Indians and several train and stage robberies and shootouts.  Warren Earp, (Wyatt Earp's brother) was shot and killed in the Headquarters Saloon.  There are a two wonderful museums to see, the Rex Allen Arizona Cowboy Museum and the Chiricahua Regional Museum and Research Canter.

Welcome to Willcox sign

Willcox Railroad Park

The downtown historic district

Cocktails and U-cook steaks here

Rex Allen statue and grave site.  His ashes are
scattered around the park. 

Historic theater

I visited both museums and found them totally different but filled with amazing stuff.  If you love old cowboy movies, the Rex Allen Museum is a must see.  Rex Allen was born on a ranch in Willcox and went on to Hollywood fame as a singing cowboy starring in numerous western films.  He was billed as the last of the singing cowboys. He also narrated many Disney films and was the voice behind 150 Disney cartoon characters.  Rex Allen days is held every year in Willcox and is the their largest event.  Also housed in the museum is the Willcox Cowboy Hall of Fame that pays tribute to "real working cowboys" of the area. 

The Rex Allen museum

Movie posters

Rex's first sears guitar

Rex had a job in Trenton, NJ on WTTM !

Rex's saddle and suits

These guys were really good

Mural on side of the museum
The Chiricahua Regional Museum is filled with Apache Indian information and rare artifacts including a "Wickup" built by Geronimo family members inside the museum.  It also has lots of amazing Willcox history.  They also have a research library and historical archive across the street in another historical building.  Also a wonderful booklet that I purchased on the history of Willcox that could be used as a script for western movies.

Chiricahua Museum

Research library across the street

Indian Wickup in museum

Geronimo in the wild west show

The caption was great

When in Willcox, you must go to the "Big Tex Bar-B-Que", housed in an old Santa Fe dining rail car.  The food is cooked in a mesquite wood fired cooker.  We went there for dinner and it was one of the best BBQ meals I've had anywhere.  I am adding it to my best of fine dinning list for sure !

Big Tex Bar-B-que

We returned to the Chiricahua National Monument which we had previously been to in early 2013.  We also repeated the Echo Canyon Loop Trail there again, which we had done before and happy to say it was as great the second time around.  We had mostly forgotten about this trail until we were doing it, that's an advantage of aging, you can do the same things over and over and they still seem new !  Anyhow, the trail was fantastic and it was a really nice day.

Balanced Rock 

Rock spires at Chiricahua

The entire trail looks about like this

Another great trail view

When rail passenger and freight service ended in Willcox the station building was abandoned for years and eventually became derelict .  The Southern Pacific planned to demolish the building, but the city of Willcox stepped in and saved it, restored it and using it for city office space.  They have a small historical exhibit inside that is nicely done.

Willcox rail station, now City Hall

Back in the golden days of steam

Another place that sadly could use some help is the old cemetery as most of the graves are unmarked and headstones are broken or fallen over. The only grave that seems to be taken care of is Warren Earp.  Name recognition always helps ?  It appears that wooden markers were installed on some of the graves years ago, but they are now mostly not legible or fallen over. 

Warren Earp's grave

Nice  gravestone on the ground

Several wooden markers

On the way to the cemetery, I spotted a large cat ? (which I thought was a Bobcat or a Mountain Lion) that was stalking small birds. I took a photo from quite a distance which doesn't do it justice.  When Twinkles saw the photo she dismissed it as a common house cat.  I kept telling her; you had to be there, it was really big ?  I wouldn't mess with that house cat !

What is it ?

Also took a ride to the old town of Cochice which has a couple of interesting old buildings, nothing else of much interest now, but in the pioneer days it was a destination.  Along the way I took a nice dirt road past several Pistachios nut tree farms and saw a big hawk.  The Nut Tree business seems to thriving here, I saw several desert areas being cultivated to expand tree orchards.

An old store in Cochice with a man leading a mule

Lots of hay farming in the Cochice area

Hawk on pole along the Cochice Stronghold Road

Recently cleared land planted in nut trees

Near Cochise is the "Apache Station Wildlife viewing area" which is a winter range for thousands of Sand Hill Cranes that migrate from the northern US and Canada.  I could see them flying and hear them from far away, but they were not close enough for a good view.

Sand Hill Cranes in flight

The Cattlerest Bar is located about a quarter mile down the road from the Fort Willcox RV Park.  I wasn't sure it was open as usually there were no cars in front.  On Wednesday, the open sign was lit and there was a car out front, so stopped in.  It was big inside with two rooms, one room with a small bar, tables to sit at, pool tables and a shuffleboard. The other room has a large bar, a large stage for bands to play on with a large dance floor in front of it surrounded by a corral type fence and many tables and stools for seating.  It's a pretty near ultimate good old boy western cowboy honky tonk.  They have bands on some weekends which I was told draw a good crowd.  Wednesday night it turns out is Karaoke night which draws a small dedicated crowd who were also celebrating a birthday. The Karaoke was mostly dreadful with the highlight of the night being when the group did a round of shots with one of the women doing a shot called a "Bl xxxxx b".  I had never seen that done at a bar before, I usually don't hang out in those kind of places.   All agreed that she performed it perfectly, very impressive.

The Cattlerest Bar

Next stop is the Apache Gold Casino in San Carlos, Arizona,
Twinkles and Slick