Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Archive for the category “Travelin’ Man”

Tucumcari, New Mexico

The Rio Puerco Bridge on Historic Route 66.

Today was a novel day. I got a few miles in on what is now cited as Historic Route 66. Many exits on I-40 have signage to that effect, but most often, the start of the route itself is nowhere to be found. Without having pre-prepped routing independently, I either wound up on wrong choices or kept getting shunted back to the Interstate. Whatever. The Rio Puerco bridge you see above came to be in 1934 and became a late alignment of Route 66 in 1937. (Parts of Route 66 changed continually since its start in the 1920s as various pavements were upgraded to handle the traffic. In some cases, paved roads replaced dirt roads.)

Looks like a single lane bridge by today’s standards, doesn’t it?

This bridge is one of the longest single span steel truss bridges (250 feet) built in New Mexico, the result of an effort to avoid using a center truss in the river bed. The Rio Puerco is one of those rivers that had (has?) floods violent enough to cause bad erosion, and it had a penchant for collapsing every Read more…

Bluewater, New Mexico

That little red & white camper behind the blue semi is the Mighty Intrepid. The semi left a half-hour later.

Day one brings the Bowlin’s Bluewater Outpost Travel Center. That’s along I-40, and I gotta say, the scenic views along I-40 in both eastern Arizona and western New Mexico, well, there’s just nothing like them. The red dirt in Arizona goes as far as the eye can see, and in New Mexico shifts to a light tan color. Flat-topped formations with a layer of boulders on top like icing, which spills down at the edges. It’s several hours of wow.

This outpost is jammed during the day, offering a Dairy Queen and all the baubles you could think of. At night, it’s all cleared out. There’s a very busy set of railroad tracks in back of me next to Route 122, a divided four-lane that stands out as a peculiarity in the middle of nowhere like this. Turns out, it’s the original Route 66, so I plan to take it eastward until it merges with the Interstate. Most of my daily drives are no more than four hours, so the slower pace of 66 should be just fine. It’s about the trip as much as arriving back in Illinois, thus I’ve been plugging along at 65 MPH instead of the 75 MPH speed limit. Saves a couple of miles per gallon, which has been between 14-15 so far. Driving here always ruins me for the flat cornfields of Illinois that come later!

Sea Change or See Change?

Fire on Mingus Mountain! It’s a controlled burn, of course.

Well, it began to get just too cold on Mingus, so I repaired down to the area just south of Cottonwood, along the same spur where I’d camped before. But this time, I found a lone pull-off at the beginning of the road and managed to avoid the mass of RVers clustered together in the two main camping areas.

It’s not quite as lonesome as I’ve made it seem here, but nobody was close, so it was quiet.

Being lower in elevation, Cottonwood was experiencing highs of about 70 degrees, so life was pretty good up until Thursday, when a heat wave moved back in. But it was all for naught, since Thursday was Read more…

Backtrack!

A forecast heatwave moving into Cottonwood, Arizona made me chicken out and climb back to the cooler air of Mingus Mountain yesterday, something like 6.5 miles away, but 16 on the road.  Cooler, but probably not cool. Mingus is more problematic to get accurate temperature forecasts about, so you get what you get. This time, the trip was all climb, so the Mighty Furd burbled its way up the serpentine that is 89A. I’m not the only one who deserted Cottonwood’s 3,500′ elevation, which is expected to hit 90 degrees today and head for the mid-90s until Sunday. My location at 7,300′ should knock that down by perhaps 10 degrees. Of necessity, I’m not conforming to my pre-planned travel itinerary, but the time prior to the Overland Expo consists mainly of mucking about at various unfamiliar sites onroute, their elevations being unknown but certainly not as high as Mingus, so forget it.

This pastoral scene is at the campsite just south of Cottonwood. Moo.

The talk among vanners and RVers is that Cottonwood has some great campsites, but with my interests, I’m just not seeing it at this time of year. The town itself is a great place to Read more…

On to Cottonwood

FR104 as it descends down to Route 89A.

By the time I left the Mingus Mountain Recreation Area, daytime temps were lucky to hit 60, and except for one motorhome, the place had cleared out. Having run low on water and edibles after a little over a week’s stay, I packed up and made my way toward Cottonwood on the mountain highway of State Route 89A. Wow. Up, down and all around, 89A is packed with turns that are appropriate for 20 MPH, and one at 15. I was thankful for the Furd’s Tow/Haul transmission mode, which let me pretty much avoid the brakes.

Peeking between two mountains to view the Verde Valley.

The little burg of Jerome is onroute, and it is astonishing in its own way. Much like an Italian village perched Read more…

Mingus Mountain, Ho!

Ahhhh, now THIS is camping. Ground solar is out and to the left. (You can barely see them.)

Mingus Mountain (the name source is uncertain but is from a last name in the late 1800s) is a serious climb, with AZ 89A as its high launching point. 89A itself is a great drive from Prescott, winding and climbing with some exquisite scenery. Midway between Prescott and Cottonwood, the turnoff to FS104 is well-marked, being noted as the Mingus Mountain Recreation Area. I had expected a no-go here, since FS104 is closed a couple of miles in due to a late snow, but not before FS413 branches off to the right. To my relief, 413 has oodles of unoccupied camping sites before it dives back down to where I decided to turn around. No point in going needlessly far, although the dirt road is graded and fairly smooth. The goal is solitude after all, not four-wheeling adventure. No rain is forecast, but there’s no point in needlessly complicating the possibilities. The climb up to reach 413 is also wide and smooth, making this trek a simple drive.

I finally camped on a nice level spot where I have a pretty good shot at lighting up the solar panels, and I deployed the ground panels too, just for good measure. Most sites here offer at least Read more…

3:10 to Wickenburg

Ahead, some nice hills. Off to the right, a mild drop-off into a valley. Above, a beautiful sky.

Since the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge was going to be too hot for my tender sensibilities, I decided to stay the one night and the next morning, and then move on to my principal stop at a higher, cooler elevation. I was surprised that the overnight low at 60 degrees felt cold to me, and realized that I’d need to break out a wool blanket or two when I camped in cooler Wickenburg. The warm sweats and flannel sheet weren’t cutting it in the way I’d expected. Maybe it was just me.

I had noticed some guy in a new Toyota pickup wandering up and past my site on the trail to Queen Canyon fairly early in the morning, and was pleased to find him driving past on his return just as I was finally wheeling out in late morning. See, I knew I’d be going back down the trail much too slowly for anyone following, and areas large enough to pull the 27′ Intrepid over are far and few between on this trail. As predicted, he quickly put Read more…

Kofa National Wildlife Refuge

This is near Queen Canyon.

And so it begins. Buttoning up the Defiant TT took awhile, so by the time I finally hit the road after a replenishing trip to a supermarket in Yuma, it was 4 o’clock. I had anticipated just such a problem, and drove about an hour to turn in to Palm Canyon Road at the Kofa National Wildlife Preserve. The name Kofa was derived from King of Arizona Mine, one of the principal mines in the area. There are reputed to be bighorn sheep and a unique breed of pronghorn here, as well as one of the few groves of native palm trees. Many level campsites can be found on the right side of Palm Canyon Road, suitable for all types of rigs. The Queen Canyon side-trail is very different in character from the broad dirt road in, and it took another hour to get to my current campsite along it – almost 5 miles.

The Queen Canyon trail in from Palm Canyon Road is a rough one not suitable for Read more…

Home!

The Defiant, slightly the worse for wear.

The Defiant, slightly the worse for wear.

Wellton, Arizona! The drive from Payson along 87 was fascinating, with the separated four-lane winding up, down and around in the Tonto National forest. What a stunning ride. What magnificent vistas! I highly recommend it, as long as your vehicle’s powertrain and brakes are healthy and reasonably robust. I noticed a converted vintage VW van on an uphill grade yesterday, flashers on and falling behind the pace of the slow semi in front of it. Not your first choice for this kind of task. The 4% and 6% downhills go for miles too, so you’ll want to downshift manually unless your drive system is bright enough to downshift when it senses you’re exceeding the speed control you set. Yeah, like everyone is now going to rush to Route 87…

I got to Wellton at 3PM to survey the wreckage, and apparently the summer monsoon season has been interesting. Both the Read more…

Schnay!

Today was another handful! A 20-30 MPH wind with gusts to 45 (according to the radio) held steady from the southwest, while the directions I took shifted around. Temps dropped as I came into Arizona, since another cold front was moving through. The state highway heading for Payson gave me a now-unusual sensation: a ribbon of pavement undulating across a desolate but visually interesting landscape. With an hour to go, I started into the Sitgreaves National Park, and that eventually led to a mountain pass where the added elevation lowered temperatures further. In combination with snow flurries that thickened to lower visibility to a couple hundred feet at points, the snow began Read more…

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