With the acquisition of a high clearance vehicle it was time to hit one of the ‘off pavement’ routes I have been looking forward to, Montezuma Canyon Road through Coronado Pass.
This route took us past Parker Canyon Lake and up to the pass, with an extensive view of the San Pedro River valley and the multi billion dollar boondoggle fence. This route was 24 miles of dirt and gravel road up over the mountain pass, resulting in the dustiest car I have ever had (which of course I forgot to take a photo of before washing)
One of the more interesting features is the riparian desert features of the San Pedro River. Retaining water year round (a bit), you are instantly in a wooded area with huge trees, literally next to the dry grasslands.
The day ended with a beautiful ‘Blood Moon’ lunar eclipse.
The Pima Air and Space Museum is one of the largest non government sponsored airplane museums in the country. While much of their collection is military, with a mix of commercial, I (as usual) focused on the abstract views, rather than document the collection.
Part of the collection has been used as blank canvases for ‘The Boneyard Project’, where they used the old planes for their art.
Tucumcari is one of those towns that lives off the Route 66 tourism. By appearances it seems the tourism business is suffering, as many of the small shops, motels and gas stations are closed down. Some still exist though, and hopefully the tourism returns.
Kansas City’s Union Station still provides what little passenger rail service exists today, but it has so much more. It has been restored as a museum, restaurant center and post office. The station was, and is, one of America’s great stations.
The towns of Clifton and Morenci Arizona are home to one of the largest copper mines in the world, having been that way for well over 100 years. Clifton has had booms and busts, leading to an interesting mix of seemingly desolate, but next door to the massive, very active mine.
The train station however has been beautifully restored, offering a view of the houses along the hillside across the tracks.
As you leave town headed north for the Coronado Trail (U.S. 191 – formerly Arizona 666) you reach the mine, completely destroying the mountains.
Fortunately after a couple of miles you leave this behind and arrive to a wonderful 100 miles of nature.
Our move to Arizona has found us living in a town called Vail, at the far east end of Tucson. It predates the same named town in Colorado by about 100 years, but for most of it’s time was a small, dusty railroad stop. The Colorado town has nothing on the Arizona one, the mountains here have more vertical gain above the town – just without so much snow (thankfully).
In the last 30 years it has grown tremendously but still has that ‘outpost’ feel, being at the edge of town, next to the mountains and desert. This posting has random views of some sights around Vail and beyond.
While Route 66 is the most famous east-west route in the pre interstate days, in reality more people actually took U.S. 80 west to California. This route made it’s way across Southern Arizona, including a portion between Benson and Vail, on it’s way to Tucson.
U.S. 80 crosses Cienega Creek on a 1921 bridge, next to where two Southern Pacific railroad routes also traverse the creek. A cienega is a wetland unique to the Southwestern U.S., resulting in a landscape unlike the surrounding area because of the constant availability of water, with large trees lining the banks.
Just to the east is the ghost town of Pantano, another railroad stop in the late 1800s, early 1900s. Today only the water tower remains.
About 30 miles south of Vail is the town of Sonoita. As you cross the Empire Mountains the landscape changes yet again, with large fields of tall grasses, instead of the Sonoran Desert look of Vail.
A local propane dealer has a cool collection of decorated tanks.
While Saguaro National Park East has a Tucson address, it is in the Vail area. It was a good day to take the dog for a walk, and take a closer look at the cacti.
The Vail area, and all of Southern Arizona, have spectacular sunsets.
Lowell, Arizona is just south of Bisbee, and today is officially part of the city of Bisbee. Not only has the town lost it’s population over the years, but it actually lost it’s land as the massive copper pit mining was expanded.
Today a portion of the main street remains, with a collection of old buildings, cars, trucks and buses – but it has a unique appeal. It is the scene of numerous photo and video shoots.