Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Arizoning Out, part 5: Road 42

Unwashed, and feeling gross from sweating all night, I decided that it wasn't worth being mad, or pissing and moaning about the night before. It was a new day, a beautiful morning and it found us looking at a list of a million things we wanted to do in New Mexico, and we hadn't even gotten across the border yet.

After leaving the Murder Hotel, getting some quick eats at a drive through, our ultimate goal was to make it to Silver City, NM to drive out to the Gila Cliff Dwellings. First, was to hit the the Chiricahua National Monument and take the Bonita Canyon scenic drive.

I had a lot of fun with my new camera, playing with settings, depth of fields, and light.

We traveled by Fort Bowie, but we didn't take the hike in. We looked at the landscape, had the whole area to ourselves, a bright, cool and beautiful morning, solitude for as far as the eye could see. A dust trail far in the distance from another car driving along Apache Pass Road.

Driving towards Chiricahua, we met a cow in the road. He was checking out girl cows on either side of the road in a fenced area. Cow didn't want to move. I took a lot of pictures of the cow.  More pictures than I should have.

My inner New Yorker was showing.


We made it to the ranger station at Chiricahua, and found the scenic road closed. The website had said it would be open by the end of February, and (as of this writing still even) it was not. We studied a map and Doug talked to the ranger about driving through another area. The ranger was concerned about us going that way because the road could be muddy or washed out. Another man overheard and told Doug that he just drove here from the other side of that area and the road was fine. The ranger asked what kind of car we had, and Doug said it was a rental SUV.

"Well, as long as you don't have a camper or a trailer you should be okay," said the cautious ranger.

The other guy said he just did the road in a Toyota Corolla, and again echoed his earlier assertion that the road was fine.

"Well, I'm half as smart as you look so we'll take it!" Doug said.

Now, I never really talked much about our car rental aside from telling you we picked the car up at the airport.

Doug had reserved us a convertible Ford Mustang, because he thought it would be badass to barrel through the desert in a fine American automobile. At the counter, he asked about AAA discounts. The kid behind the counter offered to upgrade us to an all wheel drive Cadillac XT5 crossover. With 26 miles on it.

We took it. I'm glad we did because I don't know if a Ford Mustang could have done the things we needed the vehicle to do.

At this point we'd tested the vehicle on all kinds of dirt roads.

We hit the road. And boy did we hit it. Dirt, water, gravel, more dirt, dust! That car was a mess by the time we reached the top of the mountain. We actually met a guy running up the mountain toward us as we were headed down, and he reluctantly waved at us with a look of suspicion and disgust.

Sorry dude.

I imagined what it would be like to park here and have a campout, with dark skies and star gazing and the Milky Way. I imagined how cool it would be to bring the Boy Scout troop here and how it would blow their minds.

We managed to find the way down to an area called Cave Creek Canyon, and took a short hike to a scenic view. Again, we had the place to ourselves, and everything was just perfect. Again, we had the whole place to ourselves.

Heading towards the little town of Portal, where there was nothing really, we then found the road that would take us on to I-10 again, and onward to New Mexico.

That was a fun ride. Probably not like the Bonita Canyon Scenic byway, but heck. We had a great time.

Making it to Silver City, we were super hungry. It was 1pm. Time to eat. Center of town didn't have a lot food-wise going on, but it did have Little Toad Creek brewery/distillery. Perfect.

We settled down at the bar and ordered some beers and burgers. Mike the bartender was super friendly, and we told him about our adventures thus far.

Doug mentioned to him that we were headed to Gila Cliff Dwellings and he shook his head hard.

"Don't go at this hour. Not a good idea."

It was only 1:30, and only 36 miles from where we were,  so we were a little incredulous.

He said we should go in the morning, get an early start. If we left after lunch, we'd get out there and have to turn around and come back, and the road is "dangerous even for those who know it."

Figuring that the bartender at the local familiar would be the wisest judge of what was going on in the world, Doug said that we'd do that.

But what should we do for the rest of the day if we weren't going to go out there...

Mike and the other bartender said "City of Rocks."

"You have to go to City of Rocks, you will love it!" the other bartender cheered with great enthusiasm.

"It is my favorite place on Earth. It's like, you're driving forever and you come in there and rise over the crest and Oh Man! City of Rocks!" Sold. Okay then. City of Rocks, here we come.

Doug looked at Travelocity for a hotel. I told him to choose wisely after the experience the night before at Murder Hotel.

He chose the Murray Hotel, right around the corner. No swimming pool, but the website looked nice, and our car was actually parked in front so. Easy.

The hotel has been in the process of being renovated over the past few years. It was pretty much abandoned in the 1980s after years of great success in this small city out in the middle of nowhere.

The current owners have been moving through floor by floor, room by room and bringing back a nice art deco style to the joint. It used to have a ballroom and concert hall, maybe someday it will again.

In the meantime, we got a nice deal and the girl gave us a very nice room based on Doug's tale of needing to make it right after the last night's hotel... We had a large corner room, with a sofa, love seat, big TV, king sized bed, and a shower.

With shampoo.

We got our stuff stowed away and headed out to City of Rocks.

It was all the bartenders had promised. We hiked around, took pictures, and talked about coming back with a camper or camping equipment and staying a few days here. Within the giant rocks, there were gorgeous little cubbies where you could park a camper or your car, pitch your tent, grill your food, and climb up and around the formations.

It was a most excellent choice for a way to spend some time.

We were going to head back to town, but then decided to check out Faywood Springs. For a reasonable rate, we booked an hour in a private spring all to ourselves.

The water was very hot. And an hour is a long time. Getting in and out of course was recommended, but after about 40 minutes I was super done. The sun started to set. The starts started to come out. But we didn't have any further time to soak in the springs. I wanted to go back to City of Rocks, park up on the overlook and stargaze, but once again - we were hungry. Hungry overrides stargazing.

We went back to Silver City, around 8:30pm. Got cleaned up (I finally got that shower) and then decided we needed dinner. We discovered that all of the restaurants in town closed at 8pm.

Ridiculously uncool, right? Come on, Silver City! 9pm dinner! You're a college town! How do you do this?

Doug wanted a giant burrito, and we were devastated to learn that we couldn't get one anywhere. So we went back to Little Toad Creek, the only thing open.   The bartender that we met earlier that day came in to hang out (again, only thing open so where else is he gonna go?) and saw us sitting in the dining room, beamed a huge smile and came over to ask us if we got to City of Rocks. We thanked him profusely for the recommendation. I could tell he was totally happy about making other people happy.

Dinner was not quite as good as lunch. Cocktails were small, and a little bit disappointing. I should have stuck with the beer.  There was an open mic, and the sound quality was not so awesome. We enjoyed watching a guy play banjo, guitar, and a suitcase with a kick pedal from a drum set. Our experience with him is a whole entry unto itself so I'll save that for later.

We happily were sleeping by 11pm.

Next, our Final Amazing Chapter - Part 6!

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