Holidays in Cactus Country

November 2016 to January 13, 2017

I’ve been incommunicado for some time now. I hear that’s a big No No for a blog. Can’t blame anyone who has given up on me and bailed. But if you do you will miss some fun stuff. Kicking around Arizona the past couple of months reminded me just how nice it is here in the winter – especially when I see it’s ZERO and snowing in Colorado!

First stop of note was a two week stay ‘Out Wickenburg Way’ where I used to book dude ranch vacations by the wagon-load. Nice town outside the Phoenix madness that made their politics clear… Big billboards urged you to Vote for Trump and Hillary for Prison! The sole highlight was an unforgettable gourmet dinner with bro Don & wife Fay in the small town of Congress at a place called Nichols West. Some 5-star chef escaped here and opened up a truly wonderful restaurant!  One other place of note is the Hassayampa River Preserve – a cool place to hike and see nature.

nichols-west

It was back in the spring of 1973 when I had my first exposure to the West. Five Penn Staters (yes, one of whom was our beloved Gary Smith) and I spent six months supposedly “helping” the Yavapai Apache tribe at Fort McDowell Reservation. The experience was transformational and made me want to live out West upon graduation.  In an ironic twist of fate the tribe was then facing near extinction and total inundation due to the Orme Dam being considered at the confluence of the Salt and Verde Rivers. Low community morale and poverty was dominant. But turning the pile of poop they were thrown by the whiteman into pure gold, they later organized and opened the first casino on Indian land in the state. Now the tribe is mega wealthy, the dam is a bad memory and the white visitors are now paying them millions in gambling losses!  Way to go I say.

A cool thing for me was that they also opened up a nice RV resort near where I used to sell Coors beer at Kill’s Grocery. I booked the entire month of December there! Had an incredible unexpected visit from Annie Thomas to celebrate my birthday! Talked my boys Jake and Luke into visiting me over Xmas. We had a blast. Hit the casino (more cash for the tribe) and hooked up with Don & Fay for a great hike to Tom’s Thumb in the McDowell Mountains.

Life often throws you unplanned opportunities and with Penn State winning the Big 10 and going to the Rose Bowl… my brother Jim and I HAD to go!  I booked a site at the Pomona KOA (a dump) and Jim flew out on a red-eye from NYC on New Year’s eve. The Jan 1 pep rally was awesome and the Jan 2 game was one of the best I’ve ever seen although I would have enjoyed NOT sitting in the USC section (thanks Jim). Score: 52-49. The USC (used Trojans) ended up on top but win or lose you HAVE to experience a Rose Bowl in your lifetime.

For the past two weeks I’ve been camping at the MOST beautiful site to date – McDowell Mountain Regional Park. I literally parked the rig next to endless Sonoran Desert with Saguaro cacti, teddy bear cholla, bands of barking coyotes and endless views of the distant Superstition Mountains.  If you are a mountain biker – this is YOUR place!  Miles and miles of trails. The sunsets (and rises) are breathtaking and the closest neighbor is 500 yards away!  I’ll be back.

Tomorrow I head south to Tucson and yet another awesome park – Catalina State Park…….. stay tuned.

3 thoughts on “Holidays in Cactus Country

  1. You DO know how to spend a winter! What a blast. Great to hear from you again. You got my “explore Arizona” juices flowing for sure!

    Like

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