Winter in Arizona BUT Winnie is Warm

With Chiricahua and its snowy surprise fading in the rear view mirror, Winnie motored happily to a lower elevation.  There was more Water on the Road but Winnie merely slowed to walking speed and rolled on through.

CrossCountry Bob was amazed at how some drivers did not slow much, obviously used to the situation but perhaps not familiar with the expensive engine repair that would result if those fountains of tire spray sailed into their engine air intake.  Well, we each have our problems and many seem determined to increase their load through ignorance or otherwise (a little philosophy by CrossCountry Bob, sorry, he can’t always resist even though he himself is far from immune to ignorance (or just keeps doing dumb things, take your pick)).

Meanwhile, Winnie was headed for Kartchner Caverns State Park, an old haunt from last year.  The large limestone Caverns were out, reservations to enter running well into April, but CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie were not much interested in any event ( the caverns in southern Spain and the prehistoric caves in southern France seemed more fascinating but, hey, maybe that’s CrossCountry Bob doing a bit of rationalizing because he wasn’t able to tour Kartcher Caverns).  Wintering in southern Arizona does come with flocks of snowbirds after all – and it seems enough of them were smart enough to make reservations well in advance.

Caverns aside, the park had two sparkling attributes that kept CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie happy.  First, four reserved nights with power and water (keenly appreciated after the chill of Chiricahua and, as it turned out, a happy happenstance as you will see). Secondly, a couple of interesting hiking trails (presumed CrossCountry Bob, soon to be set straight by Paintin’ Peggie).  The hiking trails had become a primary requirement ever since Paintin’ Peggie’s ebike went missing in action in Tucson and made mountain biking trails redundant.

The weather at Kartchner was much improved, reaching 22 degrees in the afternoon.  The Americans were all settled in…

Flag is a must accessory

CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie had no flag accessories but were ready to hike.  CrossCountry Bob had checked the trail map and had it figured (he thought).  Five miles all in, a perfect distance.  Starting out, the trail seemed familiar.  As CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie climbed up and away, the trail turned out to be the very same one the very same intrepid hikers had completed the previous year without being too much impressed.  Needless to say, Paintin’ Peggie was even less impressed this time around (very much annoyed would be more accurate, probably even annoyed enough to turn CrossCountry Bob to this if she had Harry Potter’s wand:

CrossCountry Bob doesn’t survive the desert?

But, wishing fire and brimstone on CrossCountry Bob aside, the reality was that reversing course was dumber than going forward (said CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie actually listened), as the trail would eventually intersect the “Other Trail” (that being the one Paintin’ Peggie had wanted to be on to begin with (oh, CrossCountry Bob, how did you mix up those trails on the map (easily it turned out as CrossCountry Bob’s boy scout map reading skills were more than a bit rusty).  Note to self: Study the map itself more closely and pay less attention to the poetic exaltations that pass for trail descriptions.

Perhaps to the surprise of Paintin’ Peggie, the trail intersection CrossCountry Bob promised actually showed up when he said it would, and then up and away Paintin’ Peggie went on the “real” trail with CrossCountry Bob tagging along behind (not his day, apparently).  From that intersection (with 5 km already in the bag), it was a further 6.8 kilometre loop way, way up, around the back and then tracking back down through a canyon busy with boulders.  Fun times for all (even CrossCountry Bob) at first, a nice trail up with grand views of the valley.

CrossCountry Bob was tired near the top and Paintin’ Peggie (bless her compassionate soul) offered to turn back. CrossCountry Bob thought about that (a lot), but then determination prevailed over logic and sore knees, and CrossCountry Bob said “keep going” and they did. Up to the summit (not too bad it turned out) and then down the other side of the loop through the boulder filled canyon and much harder going.

By the bottom of the canyon, the persistent signals from tired legs and sore knees lifted slightly as, like horses returning after a day on the trail and then smelling home, their pace picked up as thoughts of runners off and feet up took hold.

Well, once CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie were back at Winnie, all was right with the world; the gin and tonic was a rewarding elixir and paired with Miss Vickie’s jalapeño potato chips, well, there were sighs of tired relief with no complaints from the gallery.  With that perfect combo in place, what could go wrong?  Well, the weather (of course).  Storm incoming (again? Yes.). One of the storms tracking through California had apparently decided it would be fun to rush across the Arizona desert and torment the snowbirds.  Well, how bad could be it be thought CrossCountry Bob.  “Urgent wind warning” said the US weather office, winds of 40 mph with gust to 60 mph.  Hmmm, thought CrossCountry Bob.

By bedtime (barely made 9 pm that night – excuse is the hike if you must know) , the wind was up but the real stuff wasn’t due until after 11 pm (said the weather office with an accuracy pretension CrossCountry Bob found, well, surprising).

Around 11 pm, CrossCountry Bob woke to some shaking and buffeting.  A few gusts, but not too bad.  The weather office was wrong about the intensity (hoped CrossCountry Bob), after all the weather office is wrong as much as it is right).  Turns out this time it was right more than it was wrong, just an hour early.  From midnight on, the wind was relentless with gusts that shook Winnie meanly and snatched at the tarp convering the slideout.  Inside, Winnie was a howling echo chamber that kept Paintin’ Peggie awake, eyes wide.  CrossCountry Bob figured the tarp was a goner as it snapped hard back and forth.  And then the snow started sometime around 3 or 4 am, blowing sideways – a blizzard in the desert!  CrossCountry Bob dozed fitfully. Paintin’ Peggie didn’t (doze or sleep). But by morning, the wind eased and sunrise displayed a blanket of white. Temperature: minus 4 centigrade outside. Plus 18 inside Winnie with the heater cranked up.

The folks in nearby Benson said it was the most snow they had ever seen in one dump and for the month of February was a record total (Kartchner received much less snow than Benson that night, lucky for Winnie and occupants).  But by evening, the desert sun had finished its work and…

Evening and the snow is gone

Well, apparently CrossCountry Bob has some knack for picking (bad weather) camping spots with uncanny timing (this aptitude for timing not always applicable to his efforts in the stock market however).

None of this is by way of complaining it must be noted.  Just reporting the weather as it happens (it would be a treat if the news media tried that on occasion);  oops, don’t stray there warned one reader.  Why ruin a good travel blog with politics?  CrossCountry Bob suspects that reader is right.  So, Winnie (who, unsurprisingly, doesn’t care about politics), moved a few miles north to the town of Benson and stayed a couple of nights in a private RV resort with full hookups and a laundromat!  That was a pleasant respite and so was Benson itself, a town of approximately 5,000 with a lot of very nice people, quaint little thrift shops (Paintin’ Peggie loved those) and a café with the best pecan cranberry hot cakes that CrossCountry Bob had ever tucked into.

After Benson, it was southwest to Patagonia, home of Ovens of Patagonia Bakery which, last year, had imprinted itself on the brain of Paintin’ Peggie due to the best lemon slice cake ever.  Arriving in Patagonia, it was all systems go – weather -very fine; shops and art galleries – open (no Covid limitations like last year); Ovens of Patagonia Bakery open (it was Sunday).  And then, what’s this?  Hardly any bakery items and customer tables where the shelves of unique and eccentric merchandise once stood.  To say Paintin’ Peggie was more than disappointed would not be an exaggeration..

brave smile at Ovens of Patagonia Bakery

Paintin’ Peggie recovered with a chocolate chip cookie while CrossCountry Bob contented himself with a quite adequate cinnamon bun (turns out Ovens of Patagonia Bakery had been sold and the new owners were, well, cut from a different cloth).

The town of Patagonia itself was still fun to explore, more so because this year there were no Covid restrictions and the shops and galleries could be freely browsed, no problems.

The nearby Patagonia Lake State Park was Winnie’s station for the next two nights and that campsite was maybe cut from the same cloth as the new owners of Ovens Bakery.  In Canada, Patagonia Lake would qualify as Patagonia Puddle (but in southern Arizona you takes your water where you finds it).  Paintin’ Peggie especially loved the aroma of the inexplicably located effluent processor (say no more)  The area is famous for bird watching and Cross Country Bob found that interesting.  He saw his first Northern Cardinal (brilliant red, wow!), followed up by a Vermillion Fly catcher (intense red breast, also wow).  Too entranced to take a photo, it was Paintin’ Peggie to the rescue with this shot..

Colour plus!

Not to give Patagonia Lake too bad a rap, the bird watching was fun (so many birds in such a small area (says the brochure and that means its true (yes?)…even if CrossCountry Bob didn’t spot many…

and the evening lake view was peaceful…

Patagonia Lake

Leaving Patagonia Lake on a warm but cloudy morning, CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie made a pit stop in nearby Tubac (an artist colony for sure and maybe a place to stay for  a month or two next winter). The galleries are certainly interesting…

With the Tubac refresher done, it was onward to  Catalina State Park northeast of Tucson (no longer the favourite Arizona city of CrossCountry Bob as bike thieves live there, damn it).

Ebikes aside, there are rumours that some desert flowers are blooming in the Catalina State Park area.  See you there.

And the latest from the grand baby files:

Arizona is Desert OR Water on the Road

Welcome to Tucson, Arizona…or not.

The drive to Tucson from Palm Canyon was pleasant enough, a combination of mostly desert with occasional blocks of agriculture where water was available.

Part of the plan for Tucson was to stop at a premium outdoor store and purchase proper hiking pants and good hiking poles (CrossCountry Bob’s knees are not what they used to be and assistance from poles is a premium idea he thinks and highly recommended by his sister, Marguerite, who has had her own challenges with knees).

The outdoor store outlet selected by CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie was the REI Co-Op, located in the Tucson Mall. Perfect thinks CrossCountry Bob, easy parking near the store, a busy mall with all types of stores (if we wanted to shop more); a no brainer as they say (note to self: often a no brainer means doing something without pre-applying brains to the situation). Into REI went CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie and that store turned out to be rich hunting grounds and within an hour CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie emerged with quality hiking poles and hiking pants.

Turns out that the REI store wasn’t the only rich hunting grounds in the area as CrossCountry Bob took one look at Winnie and swore (a lot). The bike tarp was flipped open and Paintin’ Peggie’s eBike was GONE.

Welcome to Tucson!

Nice big mall, lots of cars and traffic. What the??**!!

Well, CrossCountry Bob will spare you all the tedious details but a report was filed with the Tucson police department and the policeman at the station said that Tucson Mall is between two areas – to the north a fine area, to the south, not so good (CrossCountry Bob can sure pick ’em).

Lots of memories for that eBike, starting across Canada in 2018. All that is left now is those memories and this picture

Missing (probably forever)

Looking on the bright side – file the insurance claim and go bike shopping once Winnie is home. Meanwhile the rest of the journey, sadly, will include no biking explorations.

Before leaving Tucson, there was one more thing for that night – a storm with winds of 80 km/hour with gust to 100 km/hour. Ahhhh, the desert. Fortunately, we were tucked into a big RV resort (filled with snowbirds), hiding between park models, and the night passed with minimal shimming and shaking in the wind gusts (not always the case, as you may read about later as these storms are persistent and insist on passing through again (and again), oblivious to CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie and, for that matter, everything alive or inanimate.

And with that, CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie said goodbye (and good riddance) Tucson, and pointed Winnie southeast for Tombstone. Yes, that Tombstone with the OK Corral shootout, Wyatt Earp and the entire crew, reenacted every day. Yes, sir! The legend lives on.

Pure tourist kitsch, that town, but that was expected and it was entertaining to see. Good place to take the new grandkids when they are old enough to get super excited to ride a stagecoach (might pass on the shootout though…in America you never know. Take this old fella in a small town Arizona cafe…)

And with that it was goodbye to Tombstone and hello Bisbee, twenty miles further down the road and a town Paintin’ Peggie (especially) wanted to visit. An old copper mining town that, after the mines expired, reinvented itself as a place worth visiting with an eclectic district filled with curio shops, art galleries and artisan shops with jewelry and pottery (of good quality, produced in the area and not imported from China – how original!).

Bisbee was a pleasant interlude with sunny skies and temperatures around 15. A mile down the road from Bisbee is Lowell, essentially a celebration of a bygone era. See for yourself…

CrossCountry Bob has to confess that he felt somewhat antique himself when he saw the Shell gas pump as he remembers watching a pump just like that put gas in the family’s 1960 big, brown Pontiac station wagon. Yikes! That is a few years back). Well, wanting to feel not so antique, CrossCountry Bob thought the best remedy would be to hike into a one of those scenic vistas that Arizona has in abundance. As coincidence might have it, not far up the road was the Chiricahua National Monument, a little bit north and a lot higher. Beautiful rock formations, great hiking and a pleasant campground. A natural remedy for feeling antique. No matter that remedies often have side effects. That was not a factor weighing on CrossCountry Bob’s mind which was focused on the hike and that balancing rock.

Gotta’ see that!

But Winnie had to get there first and in the desert water isn’t usually a problem, right? Well, the odd snow storm and snow melt had different ideas. A jeep…no problem. But Winnie wasn’t too happy and it took a bit of reconaissance before she crossed (if the asphalt was undermined and a wheel dropped down, well, it was a long walk to cell service…

Turns out the asphalt was sound and Winnie crossed a few “Water on the Road”. By the last one, Winnie hardly paused. Easy in, easy out? Maybe…

Well, before hiking Chiricahua there was an important item of business to take care of. Happy Birthday, Paintin’ Peggie!! Following protocol, CrossCountry Bob will not reveal age, suffice to say that Paintin’ Peggie looks fabulous. Birthday evening found Winnie boondocking outside Chiricahua as the campground was full that night. It turned out to be a quality boondocking spot, beautiful and peaceful.

Chiricahua National Monument lived up to the billing (even if the painting that got us interested exaggerated the size of the balancing rock). It was natural hiking weather, partly cloudy and cool which was a good thing as the trail gained 1,500 feet in elevation over several miles. Real antiques can’t climb that much (thought CrossCountry Bob with some satisfaction).

But of course, as noted, most remedies have side effects and after a fine day of hiking and a quality gin and tonic (favourite reward of CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie) those side effects came calling early the next morning…

No hiking in the snow (CrossCountry Bob may have a touch of antique but that didn’t make him dumb). It was time to move on, both CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie decided (they often think alike in that regard which makes the travelling a LOT easier).

The next destination was Kartchner Caverns State Park for 4 days. Great hiking area and a civilized campsite with power and water (boondocking is fine from time to time but CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie (especially) do appreciate the comforts more than occasionally).

See you there.

Meanwhile, the new grand children are getting along fine without CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie which is exactly how it should be. Both sets of new parents are working hard at it and are doing a fine job!

Signing off.

CrossCountry Bob