Friday, August 19, 2011

COLORADO VACATION 2011 Part 8 - Silver City, Tucson, and home!

Monday, August 15:
Click HERE to view the remaining trip pictures
            We are up at 6:45 once again, say goodbye to Patty before she leaves for school, pack up the trailer, say our goodbyes to Regan and Rachael, and by 8:20 we are on the road south. 
            From Edgewood to Socorro I pull back out the needlepoint and ALMOST finish a donkey before we arrive in Jed’s town.  We gas up and switch drivers.  I take a 75 mile stretch from Socorro down to south of Truth or Consequences and the turnoff on 152 to Silver City.
Santa Rita Cooper Mine
            Highwayt 152 proves to be a huge surprise.  The first part is typical high desert, shifting from the green of the Rio Grande valley to the high chaparral of the mountains.  About 20 miles in, we begin the climb to what is a MERE 8200’ pass over the Black Mts.  This pass seems like the LONGEST and windiest one of all the passes we have gone over. The road is windy and twisty and steep in places….and interminably long before we reach the summit.  Once over the top the vegetation seems to change to more pine and green and lush.  We drop down to the Mimbres valley, and then back up again toward Santa Rita (a ghost town of the old copper mining days) and eventually to our KOA 4 miles east of Silver City.  We do stop briefly at the Santa Rita Copper Mine site – now a huge open pit mine in action operation 24/7. 
            Our Silver City KOA is a model of how a campground should be run.  I am greeted as I walk into the office with, “Are you Ginger?”  She had seen the tent trailer pull in with the Oregon plates and knew she only had one tent trailer coming in with a reservation today!  Wow!  A very personable gal who shared her obvious love and joy of life in Silver City with us.  Gave us good recommendations.  Everything was ready to go, and we pulled into our site and set up the trailer.  The campground is beautifully groomed and cared for.  We are given a fresh baked cookie as a welcome gift.  Ice cream is served by the pool evenings.  So friendly I just might have to write the KOA people and let them know what a great job this couple does here in Silver City!
Our campsite in Silver City
            We are running a little late (thank you Emory Pass!), so instead of going out to eat we grab a bite from the truck while considering our options for the day.  The road north into Gila Hot Springs and the cliff dwellings is very slow – perhaps even more twisty and winding than Emory Pass.  We have seen cliff dwellings and probably won’t go into the hot springs anyway.  The weather is supposed to be negligible for views – a thunderstorm is forecast and locally heavy rain at times.  In reading through the information, we discover the Catwalk isn’t as far as thought and in fact the driving time is LESS than if we went up to Gila Hot Springs even though the milege is further.  With Krystal Irby’s wise advice about how cool the Catwalk is, we decide to head up 180 in that direction for the rest of the afternoon. 
Entrance to CatWalk
Ginger on suspension bridge
            What a great decision!!!  The road is smooth, the landscape lush and green, the rain scattered – we do go through a couple storms and see some lightning.  We arrive at Glenwood and then the Catwalk Picnic area around 4:10.  The “trail” is only 1.1 miles long, over metal bridges, suspension bridges, up stairways, and along “catwalks” over the river.  Many of the rocks in the canyon are tinged with purple or red, the water is relatively strong (and brownish). Huge boulders block the progress of the river and cause it to tumble and toss it’s way down the canyon.  The walls of the canyon are steep and lined with small niches, broad bands of strata.   It is a fascinating and fun walk through this narrow canyon, finding the remains of the old mining pipes (first 4” and then two 18” pipes) and hoping the storm would stay at bay.  A very light rain fell much of the walk, but nothing too hard.   We just had to make sure of our footing because the rocks could be slippery at times.  We found flowers to identify – some I am still working on!  New ones included Desert Four O’Clocks and Prickly Poppies as well as Mesquite pods.  Pinon pine mixed with yucca, agave, prickly pear and HUGE sycamore trees.  The picnic area was thick with the twisting branches of the sycamores.  We passed signs announcing a bear in the area, but no such luck. 
            Back the 5 miles of Whitewater Canyon to the main road and Glenwood.  It is 6:10 and we still have over an hour to go to get back to Silver City.  The KOA folks had recommended a café, The Bluefront, but we find it is closed.  All that is open seems to be Mario’s Pizzeria, so we give it a go.  Rick has a meatball grinder and I a Turkey, Bacon, and Avocado sandwich.  A little slow getting served, as right after we order many locals come in for take-out orders, movies (it is also the local video rental store!), etc.  But our meal is good and we are no longer hungry! 
Mystery poppy - Prickly Poppy
            Drive back to Silver City is uneventful for the most part.  It is darkening toward the end and begins to rain about 20 miles outside of town.  We do pass a herd of nearly 20 elk grazing in the fields.  By the time we arrive in Silver City, it is in the midst of a terrific thunderstorm, with lightning nearly blinding us and water running down the streets.  A deluge of water and then we discover heading out of town that the power is out and traffic lights are dark.  The rain seems to just come down harder!!!  But in spite of it all, we find our campground, discover we have power here, and make it back safely.  Whew!!! 
            Time to unwind, relax, search for the identities of some flowers, and prepare to visit Silver City in the morning and then head to Tucson!!  G’night

Tuesday, August 16:

            Ah, shortly before we went to sleep last night, the rain quieted.  This morning everything is damp and fresh, but the air is definitely going to be humid today as it warms up.  We arise, shower, and shortly after 9 head the 4 miles into Silver City. 
The Big Ditch Park down the middle of Silver City
            We drive straight to the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center and find the bridge across the “big ditch” to the main street of town.  The ditch used to be the location of Main Street, before a series of major floods at the turn of the century scoured the street down to bedrock 55 feet below.  An entire street of major buildings collapsed.  The ditch is now a park area, but still the location for the run off from all the streams coming into town.  Three creeks merge either within town or just before. 
            Main street is in a revitalization process over the past twenty years.  There is some outstanding public art on the sides of buildings.  One which intriqued us the most is a series of 5 panels, made to look somewhat like windows, which combine paint and mosaic to depict the five cultures which have merged in the Silver City history: Mimbres Indian, Apache Indian, Hispanic, Whites, and the last one celebrates all the others such as Jewish, Japanese and Chinese, German, etc. 
The Mimbres Indian panel
            I found a bead shop open and picked up the few turquoise beads I was hoping to get to alter a pair of earrings I have.  Then Rick mentioned he had seen a clay tile factory called Szerzgy at the end of the street.  We found it and the guy at the door offered to give us a tour.  It was fascinating – a hands-on company working out of an old automobile repair building.  I learned a few things to apply to my tile attempts!  Shortly after 11 we head back to the KOA, break down the trailer, gas up, and we are on our way by 11:45 bound for Lordsburg. 
            We cross the Continental Divide for the LAST time, elevation 6800’ this round, just 20 miles south of Silver City.  I am going to figure out how many times we have crossed the Divide this trip, as well as how many mountain passes we have gone over.  It is a lot!        
Section of Texas Canyon just east of Benson, AZ
            Southern Arizona and New Mexico are SO green!  It is an incredible sight!  Especially Arizona – cactus are in bloom, grass lines the freeway, the rocks at Texas Canyon are awesome with all the green.  I am in awe!  Also what looks like California poppies are growing in patches, which cast a glow to the green hills when viewed from a distance. 
            We are running a little low on gas when we reach the Arizona border (didn’t find the anticipated Pilot west of Lordburg) so we stop in Bowie to put a little into the tank.  (At $4.00 a gallon it is truly just a little!)  I drive at this point from Bowie to Benson – a short stretch, but it gives Rick a little break.  At Benson, we gas up again (not much cheaper at $3.67), pick up some groceries at Safeway, and a small bite to eat at the Wendy’s.  While in the Wendy’s we are reminded that Arizona is on Pacific Time during the summer – we have gained an hour! 
            With time to “blow”, Rick calls Mom R and asks if there is anyone we might visit while in Benson.  She suggests Gordie and Hattie.  We drive back the few miles to Pomerene Rd, but cannot find the assisted living quarters where they are living. It was a nice try…..
            On to Tucson!  With the handy directions I made for myself at Randy’s, we go straight to the CHRPA headquarters and the Mennonite house located there.  Drop off the trailer and drive in to downtown Tucson. 
            At 6th Avenue and 6th Street we pull over and call Luke.  Seconds later he is right there!  Evidently he was riding just two blocks away!  We make arrangements for the evening and he takes off to shower!  Rick and I find a parking space on 4th Avenue and mosey in the shops for an hour.  Rick finds a place to get a 15 minute neck massage right out on the sidewalk, plus we pick up a hat Luke wanted to purchase for Cameron M.  It is an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants down on 4th Avenue!! 
YAVs at Brandon's
Luke and Kyle Anderson
            Around 5:15 we walk over to Brandon’s house to say goodbye to the YAV kids (if we don’t see them in the morning).  Have a glass of wine/beer with them, then walk down to the B Line to meet Kyle Anderson for dinner.  Enjoy a great meal of fish tacos or chicken burrito with Kyle, hearing about his teaching program and placement in math at a middle school.  Luke joins us around 7:20 for dessert and at 8 we break up the party.  We have a truck to load up!! 
Our "campsite" at CHRPA
            Luke throws his bike into the truck, we stop at Borderlinks to pick up the YAV car, and drive back out to CHRPA.  Load up Luke’s stuff in trailer and truck – three bikes, a guitar, pictures in frames, boxes of books, but we get it all in!  Luke introduces us to Miriam and Emma – our hosts for the evening and he takes off to spend the rest of the night with his fellow YAVs at the Borderlinks house.  (He was outvoted on where to spend the night – he voted for Mennonite house!)
            It is so warm and muggy, but Miriam gets the swamp cooler up and running again and the house begins to cool off.  I will be glad to return to the Pacific Northwest weather! 
G’night!  Tomorrow we head for home!  

Wednesday, August 17:
Final group shot of Tucson YAVs:
Stevie, Meredith, Aly, Luke, Jacob
We leave the CHRPA house at 7:20, having enjoyed conversations with both Miriam and Emma prior to their going to work.  CHRPA operates from 7 to 3:30 during the summer months, so Miriam leaves early!  We pick up Luke at the Borderlinks HQ, take a final picture, and head for the freeway north! Rick drives to Wickenburg, with Luke navigating through Phoenix while Ging sets up camp in the back seat and starts working on her needlepoint work.  I haven’t done anything on this since the drive down to Boise!     
        I drive the stretch up to Kingman where we pull off to grab a bit to eat at Arby’s.  Ging to Kingman.  Heading out again, I make reservations for the KOA in Ely, but while that is happening we somehow miss the turn to Rte 93 north to Las Vegas.  I am busy working in the back seat and Rick and Luke are deep in conversation, so it is 40 miles before we see a sign to Los Angeles and Needles, CA.  I ask, “Why are we seeing signs to LA?”  Quick check of the map and we realize we are on our way to California!  Our little boo-boo adds 85 miles to our day.  We have to continue to Needles and then north on Hwy 95 up to Las Vegas.  End up visiting one more state and seeing the “New York Mts” – the skyline looks like a cityscape. Other than that the vista was very barren and dry! 
New York Mts.  I guess the skyline looks
like a city!  

      Around 5 we finally arrive in Las Vegas.  Rick is disgusted with himself and HOT!  He has been driving with the sun on the west side of the car.  It is 106 degrees in Vegas.  On the north side of Vegas, Luke starts driving and takes us three hours plus up Hwy 93 and 316 through the middle of Nevada.  Smooth sailing and very few cars.   Rick drives the last 30 miles into Ely over Murray Summit – one of two passes in Nevada.  We arrive at the KOA at 8:40, get set up and finally eat some dinner! 
One of our sunset pictures!  
The sunset driving up 316 was awesome.  I said we only got this treat because we missed our turn earlier.  God WANTED us to see this incredible a sunset.  It covered half the sky and just kept getting darker and darker and darker
            The KOA in Ely is a nice place – a movie was playing when we arrived.  Couldn’t check out much more in the dark, but morning revealed nice playground areas, beautiful tent sites, etc. 
            We traveled 725 miles today – should have been closer to 640.  Only nine hours tomorrow into Baker City!!  We put over $125 worth of gas into the truck today!

THURSDAY, August 18: 
            Final day of our trip!  We are ready to get home – apparent when everyone is up and ready to pull out of camp at 7:30 am!  Gas up, coffee up, and on our way north!  We are traveling again on Hwy 93, which will take us north through Wells and up to Twin Falls.  Rick drives to Twin Falls, while I manufacture three sheep in the back seat! 
Mountain vistas in northern Nevada. 
            We stop in Jerome (just west of Twin Falls) for lunch at a Wendy’s, and I take over driving.  My shift takes us to the Flying J at Caldwell, where Luke drives us into Baker City.  Smooth sailing for the day, just a lot of highway to cross.  502 miles later, we pull into Baker City just 5 minutes before 5 pm, in time to pick up the mail at the post office on the way into town!! 
            What a great vacation!  Beautiful countryside, time spent with Jed, time spent with Luke (unfortunately NOT together!), time with nieces and nephews and extended family.  Visits with friends, and a birthday celebration for Rick’s mom.  Plenty of adventures on mountain trails and a few FIRSTS: hitchhiking and chickens!  And through it all – safe travels.  Thank you, God!

TRIP FACTS AND FIGURES…..for the record!
**We traveled a total of 3902  miles, 3148 with the trailer in tow. 
Luke received a stipend of $250 for transportation on his trip home.  We spent $254 in gas on Wednesday and Thursday!
**We averaged expenses of under $100 per day over the 18 day vacation.
**Our Honda Ridgeline truck averaged 19 mpg over the trip – not bad pulling a trailer!   
**We crossed or touched the Continental Divide eleven times. 
**We went over 17 marked mountain passes, ranging in elevations from Texas Canyon Summit in Arizona at 4,975’ to Cottonwood Pass at 12,196’ in the central Colorado mountains.   

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