Thursday morning Rick leaves to meet Rob and return to San Diego at 10:40 PM. By 11:00 we’re on the road also. We’re getting quicker at this set up/break down operation but I keep in mind I must not get complacent. The plan is to drive east, across some foreboding desert, cross the Colorado River into Arizona, then head north. There are three state parks along the river and we plan on stopping at one. I find it easy to like the cheapest one, as usual.
As we leave Twentynine Palms CA heading east, there is a sign warning the next services are 100 miles. We drive through a stark desert floor with the Old Woman Mountains and Turtle Mountains to our left, the Palen Mountains and Big Maria Mountains to our right. The mountains are completely barren piles of rocks. The valley floor slopes gently down from the base of one mountain range to the base of the next. Vegetation consisted of creosote plants dotted along the desert floor. The dry Danby Lake is in one valley, stark and white. It’s hard to imagine the courage it must have taken to cross such a land on horse, oxen and wagon.
We decide to stop at Lake Havasu State Park. On the positive side, they were 70% empty, clean, well maintained, cheap, and right on the water. On the negative, they were right in downtown Lake Havasu, it was blazing hot in the dark gravel lot, and there were a fair number of flies and gnats.
The best I can tell, the only thing folks do around Lake Havasu is drive up and down the flooded ditch in ugly, loud, overpowered boats. I can see the draw to the lake as it is cool and crystal clear with a nice rock shoreline. 15’ from the cool shores it’s blazing hot. Buddy was in heaven as swimming is big on his list of “to do” items. And, there is a two-mile long hiking trail right along the lake with no cactus. He was finally able to run off leash and take a dip every 15 minutes.
I was able to get on line and make reservations for camping in the Grand Canyon National Park, starting 4/27. That left five more days to hang around. Although Lake Havasu was not a bad option, we decide to move on to the Sedona area. Friday, we resupply and head northeast.
There are three routes to get into the valley where Sedona is located and we (I) managed to pick the worst. AZ 89A from Prescott to Cottonwood is a scenic route zig-zaggging up an 8,000’ mountain, then 5,000’ back down to the valley. I got a couple of warnings that this may not be a good route, but we managed to ignore them. The first was a big sign saying trucks over 50’ prohibited. As we’re just 45’, I managed to ignore that one. Then there was a second sign warning of steep curvy mountain roads for the next 12 miles. With that I pulled over to reconsider this route. Donna, obviously used to my over cautious nature when towing, just dismisses the sign and says “you’ll be fine”. With that encouragement I proceed.
The drive up was a series of 10 mph hair pin turns at the end of a quarter mile of steep mountain inclines. Tough driving, but the truck was up to the task. The drive back down was the challenge. It was the same endless series of 10 mph hair pin turns but now it was up to the brakes to do the job. We ended up working our way down from one emergency pull off to the next. There was no way the brakes were up to the job so we had to ride the engine brake all the way down. After letting the brakes cool off we’d pull out of the emergency pull off and I’d immediately start looking for the next. The transmission was doing a great job of keeping things somewhat under control, but the brakes were at their limit getting the load down to the necessary 5 to 10 mph to make the next hair pin turn. On a few of the turns the oncoming traffic had to stop as it simply wasn’t possible to make the turn without using both lanes. About a third of the way down we got a view of how much farther we had to go, and it made me want to puke. It was a long, long way down. Just when I thought we were about to make it, we ran right into the town of Jerome.
There is an old copper mine at the base of the mountain. Jerome is about a third of the way up the mountain and was where all the miners lived. In the 30’s the mine went under. Many of the miners and their families whet to work for the CCC renovating some of the Indian ruins we were to visit later. In the 70’s Jerome was a hippie enclave. Later, as said hippies decided they needed to make some money, Jerome was turned into a tourist attraction. The narrow, twisting roads, with the buildings built right to the roads edge, swarming with Easter weekend tourists, was pretty cool, but not when you’re at your whit’s end, trying to nurse and oversized RV off a mountain you never should have been on in the first place. But, like the decent down the mountain, we made it through Jerome. After Jerome there were a few more hairpin turns, then a long descent down the slope at the base of the mountain, then one last pull off to gather my nerves. I tried to put of the emergency brake and found out we had burnt it out on the way down. I’m not sure how, but that really doesn’t matter.
The Forrest Ranger told us; if we wanted to get a forest service campsite on this weekend, we’d better get there early. We were now about five hours behind schedule, but decided to give it a try anyway. More adventures waited. I guess some days are just made to be difficult.
First, we make a wrong turn onto a winding country road trying to find the park. After a couple of failed attempts I finally manage to make a three point turn to get turned around. When we find the real campground entrance, it’s a mile long pretty much single lane dirt road. Half way in we come up on someone leaving the park. Fortunately they pull way off the road into the bushes so we can pass. Unfortunately, they inform us the campground if full and there’s nowhere to turn around. Right at the entrance to the park there actually is a place to make a turn, maybe. There were a series of bolder buried in the ground out front with the possibility of maybe, just maybe, making a turn. I just about make it. One more foot and I’d have looked brilliant. There was one large stone just in front of the wheels on the left side of the RV. I get out to try and move it, no dice. Although it looks pretty dicey, I decide to try and pull the RV over it, as there apparently weren’t any options. The only thing revving the engine in an attempt to get over the rock did was get people pouring out of the park to see just what the heck was going on. I really hate doing stupid things, and I really hate doing stupid things when there’s a large crowd of people who know just how stupid what you did was, are watching. It was apparent the only thing I could do was try to back out of this situation, although I though the odds extremely thin. On the positive side, if I couldn’t get out of the jamb I was in, I had everyone in the park blocked in, so I’d have plenty of help getting un-stuck. I put it in reverse and was not only able to back out of my jamb, but miraculously backed it down a little access road enough to make yet another three point turn and be headed back out the trail. I had Donna, who was spotting for me, jump back in the truck and went blazing on back down the dusty road, with the crowd no doubt wondering just who that mad man was.
As it was now right about dark, and we’d had a lot of fun that day, I told Donna to get on the phone and find a commercial park to hide in. She found a very nice, clean park not far down the road in Camp Verde. We only committed to one day, but after a good nights rest we decided to stay until our site in the Grand Canyon was available. Word was, due to spring break and the snow birds moving north, everything was likely to be full for the week.
Telling any RV folks in the Sedona area you came in on 89A is one sure way to get roars of laughter. Then you get hear the stories of other folks who came in after making the same mistake. As bad as it rattled us, we seemed to have handled it better than most. In RV terms, we’ve earned a stripe.
We did a little bit of light exploring of the area the first day. We revisited Jerome first and it wasn’t any fun just driving the truck into town, much less with an RV in tow. It was the Saturday before Easter and we weren’t able to find any parking so Donna could hit the shops so we headed on to Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon. Sedona was also mobbed, but the town and surrounding area is beautiful. We went up the canyon about 6 miles to a picnic area right next to the creek. It was mobbed also, but we were able to find a spot. Then it was a different route back to camp down the Red Rock Canyon.
Easter Sunday was Indian ruins day. We started with Montezuma’s Castle, then on to Montezuma’s Well, followed by Tuzigoot National Monument. Jerome is right up from the Tuzigoot ruins so we went back and we able to find some parking to wander around.
Monday was hiking day. We started with an attempt at hiking Cathedral Rock but the hike went vertical so taking Buddy wasn’t possible. We then followed a trail around to the side of Castle Rock that turned out to be a really nice hike down to the river. Buddy finally forgave us for leaving Lake Havasu as he had a great swim. We headed back to a now deserted Sedona for a lunch break. Buddy was dead to the world on the front seat so I got to sit with him while Donna window shopped (thank you Buddy). Then it was off to another hike, a relatively level one, to end the day.Tuesday we just laze around and do some chores, getting ready for our exit to the Grand Canyon the next day.
Photos: Lake Havasu, Mingus Mountain drive, Jerome, Campground turn-around, Camp Verde campsite, Montezuma's Castle, Montezuma's Well, Tuzigoot, Cathedral Rock hike, Valley hike