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This is a reprint from the 1994-95 issue of Movin' On with new notes and pictures. 
All things are still fairly current.

Many who have never visited Arizona think that the state is primarily desert. We remember even being surprised that the Grand Canyon was in Arizona; we thought it was in Colorado probably because the Colorado River runs through it. Arizona, like many states, is a state of contrasts. You can find desert, canyons, mountains, pine forests and much more. From here in Mesa, would you believe that one could drive about 60 miles SOUTH and ski in the winter? 

When we entered Arizona back in October, we had been driving the interstates for what seemed like forever. Ron and I generally try to avoid them. So after entering the state from the east on I-40, we got off and headed southwest on red roads (they are printed in red on the maps). U.S. route 191 looked good on our map and would be new for us. By the way, we mark the routes previously taken in each state's map in our Rand McNally Road Atlas with high-lighters so we know where we have been before. At St Johns we turned on route 61 which took us to the beautiful Show Low area and from there picked up state route 77 which ran into U.S. 60. That drive was spectacular as it wound its way up, down, through and around the Salt Canyon. The whole day's drive was a gradual descent until we were in Mesa. 

It is wonderful to look out in any direction and see mountains and even more exciting to take a drive into them. For starters when you are in the area, plan to visit South Mountain Park/Preserve in Phoenix. As the world's largest municipal park, it is a wonderful playground—all 17,000 acres of it. You can picnic, hike and bike to your heart's content. There are several stables where horses can be rented and one can just enjoy the drive to the view point at the top. From that vantage point the whole city of Phoenix and its surrounding mountains form a magnificent panorama. 

We wanted to visit the Desert Botanical Garden, Mystery Castle, Tovrea Castle, Wrigley Mansion, and Papago Park/ Hole-in-the-Rock in Phoenix but ran out of time. Be sure to stop in at any Visitor Center and pick up a copy of the Phoenix Visitors Guide. 

For an exciting drive and day long trip, head east from Mesa on Apache Trail then turn northeast on state route 88. In just 3 ½ miles you will pass Goldfield ghost town on the left, but save that for another day since you will want to spend several hours there. Enjoy the scenic desert drive especially as the road goes up and around the mountains. There's a nice scenic overlook at Canyon Lake which is worth stopping at, and shortly after you will reach the unique and historic town of Tortilla Flat pop.6. It is one of the last remnants of the Old West and in its heyday boasted a population of 125. Today there is a gift shop, post office, saloon and the restaurant which boasts the World's best chili. There are no telephones in Tortilla Flat, "Never have been-never will be" is the quote in their little newspaper/menu. You will feel as if you are in the middle of nowhere too. It is all part of the fun. 


At Tortilla Flat with friends Gary and Maryellen Mencimer. The big guy in the middle (7' 2") is Big Dave Murra. 
The Mencimers who are full-timers are both over six feet tall. 

If you are adventuresome, continue on route 88. It becomes a dirt road a few miles after Tortilla Flat and that is where the sights become breathtakingly beautiful. We do not recommend taking your RV, but it is a good road for autos. Fish Creek Canyon and the road winding through it is scary, exciting and wonderful all at the same time. The day we took Marty it was raining and we were treated to a rare sight—two waterfalls. 


Flowers in the desert are especially beautiful this spring.

The dirt road continues for another 18 miles. You will have two choices—turn around whenever you can and go back where you came from or continue on to the Roosevelt Dam. Once through the canyon, the drive is not spectacular but still pretty. Unfortunately there is construction going on at the dam, so we were not able to get out and take any pictures or to even really study this engineering feat. It is the largest masonry dam in the world and was built in the early 1900's. 

Head towards Globe after the dam and in just a few miles, you will see the signs for the Tonto National Monument. This monument preserves the masonry ruins of the prehistoric Salado people who made their home here for about 300 years. They left the area about 1400 AD. Even though we had seen other Indian 
 ruins, we enjoyed these. Each different culture builds its own unique dwellings. It was also exciting for us since we were sharing it with Marty who had never seen ancient ruins before. 

To get back to Mesa continue on route 88. When you junction with U.S. 60 take that west. This will be the least attractive part of the tour, especially around Miami where the strip mining is very obvious and ugly. The drive from Miami to Superior is refreshing though. You will go from high desert and mountains to low desert. The rocks, trees, cactus and canyons on this part of the drive are interesting. Soon after Superior, you will be back in Mesa with lots of sights to remember. 

A visit to Goldfield is a must. This once bustling ghost town is only 3 ½ miles from Apache Junction. There is no charge to visit the town. From the moment you cross over the overgrown railroad tracks, you will constantly wonder, "Is this for real?" Everything looks old, but how could it be in such good condition? Never mind, for now, just enjoy looking at all of the old things. You will see the mine entrance off to the left. If you check it out, you will discover they give tours of the mine often. Do not miss this opportunity especially if Richard Nicodemus is your tour guide. We had been on mine tours before, but never had understood all the little details until this tour. It was well worth the $4 admission price. If you want to pan for gold you can do that too. They will tell you how then give you a vial of water to collect your gold in. The price for this is just a couple of dollars. 

Back up to the main street, check out the general store. The wooden floored, two story building is surrounded by a wooden porch. Inside you will find everything from fudge to earrings and the prices are reasonable. 

Goldfield Ghost Town also features a rock shop, ice cream parlor, old time photos, gourmet shop (specializing in salsa and dips), Mexican imports, old gold, leather shop and the Steak House and 1890's Saloon (see Good Places to Eat pg 3). 

My favorite shop in town was the Gidy-Up Gourmet which is advertised as "Southwest foods and salsas that will sizzle your shorts." They have several sauces and jellies for sampling and at the recommendation of Graig "hot sauce" Hardy, I purchased the Mad Coyote Salsa Mix which is excellent. You can make it as hot or mild as you like. Graig has an 800 number for orders. 1-800-542-7391. 

Also in town is the Lost Dutchman Museum. One interesting area in the museum is the display of maps to the legendary Lost Dutchman Mine. Jacob Waltz took the secret of the location of his mine (if there ever was one) to the grave with him in 1891. Upstairs is a scale model of the Superstition Mountains and there is a short slide show. While the slides of the various views of the mountains are shown a tape of the old song about Superstition Mountain is played. I felt that at $2.50 it was a bit overpriced for what they had. 

 Also available in town are jeep tours, hiking and horseback tours (from the livery, of course). 

When we took the mine tour, I talked with Richard about the town. It has been rebuilt. In fact, he is one of the owners. Another partner is in the demolition/ construction business. Whenever they demolish an old western building, they re-use the lumber and fixtures to build a new (old) building in Goldfield. And they authentically re-construct the buildings according to old maps, and other data available. The mine is also a reconstruction and in fact is not at all underground although it sure felt like it. The original mine was lost when the area flooded just five years after the boom. We had a good time in Goldfield. 

Right in Mesa (at Falcon Field) is the Champlin Fighter Museum. It boasts over 30 perfectly restored fighter aircraft from World War I and II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam era. In the lobby and throughout the buildings are autographed photos of fighter pilots from around the world. Also in the museum is the "most complete private collection of historic military automatic weapons in the world." I liked the gift shop the most. It was there that I could hear the music piped over the intercom the best. It was the "big band" music that we all associate with WW II. They had a very nice collection of model planes, aircraft books, prints, tee shirts and so on. The admission to the museum is $6. 

There are many nice state parks in the area and we enjoyed a picnic brunch one morning at Usury Park with the euchre bunch. Another day, Ron and I had a picnic lunch at the Lost Dutchman State Park. It would have been fun to have time to hike the many trails in the parks. 

 The things we didn't do and places we didn't see were many. We had planned to drive to Sedona and Jerome, but... next time! It has been fun just living here for a while. 
 

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