As long as we wake up in a warm place, we’re good

WHUFU Trip: August 2018 Lewis & Clark | 0

[By “we” I mean the Sprinter and me, and really I mean the Sprinter.]

Wednesday (Nov 21) 

It got down to 24° last night, but it was 45° by the time I tried to start, and it went pretty well, I am starting to think I will make it :)

I thought Socorro (not Sorroco as I keep wanting to type) was just another dusty little crossroads, which iall I have seen since Albuquerque, but it turns out to be a pretty big town. A snow bird haven it seems to me today.

M Mountain Coffee was a great coffee stop – get your own refills + pecan pie with whipped cream :) When I got there at 9-ish (so early!) it was empty, but by the time I left it was bustling with activity. 4-5 tables filled with grizzled white dudes yakking over coffee. It wasn’t till writing this later that I realized – oh yeah, today is Thanksgiving eve, so all the retirees are out having a special day in the neighborhood before the actual special day wth family tomorrow. Took me by surprise. But that is exactly what I would be doing if I were back on my home turf.

Very Large Array Visitors Center. Luv that Federal Helvetica!

I did do one useful thing, I called Collie Automotive back in San Rafael and set up a Sprinter appointment for next Thursday. I know those guys are real busy, so I felt pretty smart nailing down an appointment in before the holiday.

Very Large Array of radar dishes

I spent a good chunk of my wifi time this morning looking at the Five Day Forecast for a bunch of places west of here. The Valley of the Sun (Phoenix) is due west and it’s plenty warm, so I don’t need to go all the way down to the I-10 corridor. I don’t particularly like the Sonoran Desert anyway. Basically I will follow US 60 across most of Arizona to the far side of Phoenix.

The super bonus of this is that I will drive past the Very Large Array and my beloved Datil Well Campground. It’s early in the day and I’m feeling good, so when I get there I take the three mile detour off the highway to visit the Visitors Center – cool! There is a walking tour. The weather was perfect for it, and in retrospect I definitely should’ve spent the afternoon doing that, then eaten at the restaurant and stayed at my campground. That would have been a great day, but because it will get cold here tonight, I did not do that. sigh…

I did eat at the restaurant at the crossroads, the confusingly named Eagle Guest Ranch. Confusing because all I see is a general store and diner, but but the name implies so much more. I ate breakfast here eight years ago and liked it. My burger with salsa verde today was quite tasty also. They have wifi, but it wasn’t very good.

Now I’m gonna do too much driving. The idea is to get to a lower, warmer elevation. All the nice places around here – Datil, Show Low, Payson are all up in the 5-7,000′ elevation, which would normally be awesome, but not so much with my starting drama. Lower and warmer is my requirement, so I have a minimum four hours of driving left. Ugh.

Springerville is where I need to get diesel. Here my thing of hating pointless lines messed me up. The small gas station on the edge of town had vehicles at all four pumps. Rather than pulling in and waiting for someone to finish I went “eeew, I hate waiting” and spent the next fifteen minutes wandering around the surprisingly large town looking for another station. After those fifteen minutes of FAIL I drove back to the same place, where the pumps were now open. I like to think of myself as an efficient fellow, but that was really stupid waste of time and energy I will need today!

Salt River Canyon, Thanksgiving Eve
So that was the first 80 miles, another 120 miles or so to go, sigh… US 60 due west another 35 miles to Show Low, a mountain-y kind of town I’ve always liked. I didn’t need anything so I didn’t stop. My research showed no decent overnight opportunities open this time of year anywhere around here so onward. After Show Low US 60 turns southwest towards Globe and Phoenix through a very, very pretty but too long and tiring drive.  Just a lot of trees for a long while through the Apache Reservation, then suddenly there’s a spectacular canyon to the left! Then down, down, down a series of very sharp switchbacks to the bridge over the Salt River, then back up, up, up to the plateau and more trees.

I am definitely not going to make the place on the other side of Globe. I passed a place called Timber Camp billed as a horse camp, and later I dearly wished I had stopped here. It looked level and spacious, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t going to be clogged with horses the night before Thanksgiving. I was at that stage of fatigue where you don’t make great decisions. But I zoomed on to the next place … which sucked:

Jones Water Campground:  

A really low-tech campground, a handful of sites carved out of a gully right next to the highway.

tonight:

It was dark and the road was very rough, so I just stopped at the first site and never got any further. I don't even know if there's a bathroom.

This campground is not good. It’s cramped and dusty and for me tonight, depressing. As mentioned above, the road was really rough, and all I want is to stop driving, so I pulled into the first site even though it was not very level and most pleasant in any way.

Thanksgiving 

I feel pretty crappy this morning. I can’t even tell if the engine started because my head is so stuffed up from the fucking head cold I got in fucking Santa Fe. It’s overcast. My campsite sucks. And everybody else in America is looking forward to Thanksgiving dinner and I’m in a dark, depressing gully at the side of a highway. But no whining! You are here because of choices you made, so buck up and get with it!

The van starts! Woo! Drive out of the depressing gully, get on the road and I feel much better!

When I got to Globe I got phone reception. I pulled over and made as many calls as it took to find a restaurant open today. I drove straight there and ordered breakfast. It was pretty awful, but it was a meal in a real restaurant that wasn’t a fast food joint, so I guess I am thankful. Then when it came to bill-paying time, it turns out the family behind me who left a while ago bought my meal! Now there’s a Thanksgiving surprise! It was an east Asian family of four that gave no sign of noticing me either way. Thanks, unknown family! Pretty cool!

Continued down the hill on US 60 to places where the nights are warmer. Drove past huge copper mining and smelting structures on both sides of the road. A little before the town of Superior I did a quick drive-through on Oak Flat Campground, the place I had planned to stay last night before I ran out of daylight. It looks quite nice. I wish I coulda made it to here. Actually, what I wish is that I had walked the Very Large Array and stayed at Datil last night so I would be pulling in here for the night this afternoon. Oh well…

It’s quite interesting to drive the transition from the Superstition Mountains to the Valley of the Sun. US 60 becomes an interstate as it enters the huge city of Phoenix from the east, but on the west side of town it reverts to an extra wide city street to head northwest to Kingman. My plan is to stay on the interstate till it runs out – blast on through the eastern 2/3 of the city then start looking for wifi in the western third, where I will be on city streets without having to take an exit to do it.

I tried real hard to find a independent coffee shop – my phone shows 13 local calls that late morning. I got a: “yes but we don’t open till 1“, and then the bookend bad news a few calls later: “yes but we close in 7 minutes.” AAARGH!! Finally I gave up and started calling Starbucks. The second one I called was open, and it was pretty good … really! It had that special cross-section of humanity you get on holidays when no place else is open … like the Dairy Queen in the small town in North Dakota ten weeks ago. :)

I tried to wifi at Starbucks for quite a while. They’ve has changed their wifi authentication so they will remember you next time, and that simple change has made me way more likely to go to another one. I hung out for quite a while on their wifi. Then as a proof that I am back home-ish, I went to a Safeway, and got myself stocked up for the next six days and was able to use my Safeway discount number – yay! It was on the southern edge of Glendale, an upscale suburb, so it was quite a deluxe Safeway.

Leaving town on US 60 was pretty awful. I think I hit the “coming home from Thanksgiving dinner” rush hour. It was just like US 19 in Florida (not a compliment) – four lanes of traffic at a very long stoplight, drive just long enough to get up to 50, then four lanes of traffic at a very long stoplight, rinse and repeat forever… Drove through the fabled retirement community of Sun City, then Surprise, then finally, the open road. I finally parted ways with US 60 at Wickenburg, then it’s US 93 takes me to:

Burro Creek Campground:  

A great find! Very nice BLM campground right off US 93 between Phoenix and Kingman

tonight:

Nicely laid out, nice sites, running water in the bathrooms. There is a short trail down to the creek, and I was told there's a trail to underneath the bridge out of the far end of the campground.

Of course a,n RV-friendly campground with no electricity means folks are going to be running their generators all the time.

BLM minimalism at Burro Creek
Burro Creek

Happy Thanksgiving! I got progressively cheerier all day, and here I am a delightful BLM campground about 2/3 the way between Phoenix and Kingman. I feel like I have recovered that Road Trip Magic for at least a few more days! Burro Creek is just awesome. Spacious level camp sites a few miles downhill from the highway, right before the quite dramatic Burro Creek Bridge. There’s a nice little trail down to Burro Creek.

There is a waxing gibbous moon! We are in my absolute favorite seven days of the lunar cycle, so I don’t worry too much about when the sun is setting when I head down to the creek.

Friday 

Burro Creek Bridge in the morning from the edge of the campground

I didn’t do much this morning, but it’s so damn pleasant here that I hung out till noon just to soak it up. Awfully nice place here at Burro Creek. Then back on US 93 to Lake Mead.

Kingman AZ is kind of a pit. It turns out the old downtown, Old Route 66 part of town has some shabby charm, but there is nothing appealing about the parts of town that have grown up around the major highways that intersect here. By looking for a non-Starbucks coffee shop I lucked into the old downtown.

Beale Street Brews was a very nice coffee shop, but you could tell they had issues with the random asshole problem that places on major thoroughfares often have – must get a key for the bathroom, that kind of thing. Nice place though – good coffee, nice barristas, good goodies. Kingman is the last civilization I will see today, so I’d better get lunch also. I walked to the Siren’s Cafe a block away … but they were closed. The Garlic Clove is right across the street from the coffee place, and it was open and very good! I ordered some kind of rich cream sauce and seafood pasta dish which I liked so well I ordered an Italian sandwich to go for later. The sandwich turned out to be a little too hard to digest, but damn that pasta was good today, and good two days later as a leftover.

Las Vegas Bay Campground:  

Still quiet and cheap and convenient, EXCEPT for the generators which always seem to be running here during the permissible hours. But really, a $10 (or $5 for seniors) nice campground 16 miles from the edge of Las Vegas ... gotta take the bad with the good. Checks not accepted, so make sure to have that $5 bill!

tonight:

Nice spot on the edge of the canyon, ideal for watching the full moon rise!

Las Vegas Bay at sunset. Moonrise will be over to the right a bit.

Las Vegas Bay is quite the blessing to me in my travels. It’s very close to Vegas, but quiet and serene and quite pretty, once you get used to the idea that it is no longer on a bay. Las Vegas Canyon would be a more accurate name. Lake Mead has receded hundreds of feet since this place was built, and the lake shore is 300′ down and 2-3 miles to the left at the end of the canyon.

There’s a nice little trail that follows the edge of the canyon for quite a while, and I headed off on it into the gathering gloom with the notion that the moon would light the way. back. That is my favorite thing to do and it was super fun tonight. The moon was a little later than I thought it would be, but it was still very fun.

Could not ask for a better place to watch the full moon than from my campsite on the western edge of the canyon.