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postheadericon You Decided to Ride Where?

I have different reasons to take rides to different places. Sometimes I read about about a certain road that is fun to ride. Sometimes I hear or read about a particular landmark. This time it was a bit different.  I was scanning Google Maps around the Coolidge area and saw a peculiar design made by a couple of roads near someplace called 11 Mile Corner. The roads made a pair of “nesting” hexagons (i.e. one inside the other.) Weird, right?

This is what I saw.

     I then went to satellite view and saw a couple of buildings, but couldn’t really make out what this place was. I tried street view and only half the streets were viewable (I know, “viewable” isn’t actually a real word, but you knew what I wanted to say.) and even then, I couldn’t see enough to tell me what is here. I could tell that it is currently inhabited, as there were quite a few cars around.

A couple a friends and I were planning on taking a ride on that Friday, but we hadn’t decided where to go. I sent John a text with a link to the map location and said “Let’s ride here.” He replied with an understandable “What is it?” I said that I had no idea, to which his response was “Okay, let’s go.” And so, it was settled.

Had it been later in the year, we probably would have left early and had breakfast somewhere on the road, but the low temp that night was in the high 30’s so we decided to meet for breakfast and ride out a bit later. We met at the venerable “Hungry Fox” for some tasty breakfast. If you like S.O.S. theirs is very good.

After eating the temperature has warmed up to the mid-40’s, so we donned our cooler weather gear and hit the road. There are 2 basic options to get to the Coolidge/Florence area from Tucson. One is to go north on Highway 77 (aka Oracle Rd) then take Highway 79 to Florence then Hwy 287 to Coolidge. Traffic on 77 and 79 tends to be a bit busy and fast on both roads, so we tend to avoid them. The other route is to take the I-10 access road (aka the Casa Grande Highway) through Tucson, all the way to Picacho, where we briefly hopped on to Highway 87, then a quick left on to the Casa Grande-Picacho Highway (aka Frontier St.) Three miles later we go to the tiny burg of Eloy, where we turned north on 11 Mile Corner Rd. Now all we had to do was to ride until we go to the mysterious hexagon.

Our Route to The Hex

     I knew that there was a large skydiving complex somewhere around Eloy, but had never seen it. Well, no sooner did we make the turn on to 11 Mile Corner Rd, that the sky was filled with parachutes of many colors. We watched them float toward the ground as we rode along. We also saw a lot more houses than I expected to see in this rural area.

     We continued north and I almost stopped at the 11 Mile store and Post Office, but decided to continue to the Hex. Oddly enough, we arrived at the hexagon approx 11 miles after turning on to 11 Mile Corner Rd. We turned on to Sheppard Dr and immediately saw the long, low building I had seen on the Google street view. They look as if they have been plucked from a Soviet block housing complex and dropped here.

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This closed up building sets in the middle of the hexagon. I wonder what it was.

We weren’t sure where to explore first but decided that since it was the hexagonal roads that brought us here, we should probably ride them. we made a left and started around the “loop.”

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Section 8 Housing in 11 Mile Corner

      When we got to the end of the second section of the hexagon, we saw why some of the streets weren’t available on street view. There are no longer any buildings there and the road has been encroached by desert shrubs. The asphalt has degraded and is now little more than a trail. So, naturally, we rode through a gap in the brush and took off. We didn’t ride 65 miles for a hex ride and stop after 2 sides.

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Riding Through the Gap

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We found that the sewer system is still there, but the manhole covers aren’t. Watch out!

     We dodged the open manholes and made it around all six sides. Just before finishing it, we got a good view of the front of that big building in the middle of the hex. This looks like it was the front.

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The front of the center building. There are a lot of concrete pads to the right of this photo.

As Sean said, “Curiouser and curiouser.” We really didn’t know what kind of place this originally was. There are no Historical Markers present, either. We decided to ride over to Yandell’s New Camp Store and Post Office and see what they could tell us.

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Yandell’s. John is on the left of the pic on his Vespa.

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Sean and his Kymco with a shot of the mural on the side of the building. We aren’t sure why the last 2 digits of the zip code are missing.

    We walked in to the Camp store and were impressed with the presence of the old post office in the front of the store. There were 2 ladies working the counter. We asked them to tell us a bit about 11 Mile Corner, the store and the weird hexagon. The were quite friendly and told us a lot of interesting stuff. The store has been in the same family for almost 50 years. The post office parts came to 11 Mile from Red Rock, AZ, but they were told that Red Rock had gotten it from Tombstone.

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Beautiful Old Post Office

We were told that these post office boxes may have come from Tombstone and they date from the 1880's.

We were told that these post office boxes may have come from Tombstone and they date from the 1880’s.

11 Mile Corner got its name because the nearby intersection is 11 miles north of Eloy, 11 miles east of Casa Grande and 11 miles southwest of Coolidge. It is now an unincorporated part of Casa Grande. We asked about the strange hexagonal road pattern. That, they said, was probably part of the 11 Mile Prisoner of War Camp from World War II. I did a bit of research when we got home and did confirm that there was, in fact, a German POW camp in 11 Mile Corner. It housed approximately 300 prisoners. I couldn’t find any pictures of it.

The ladies also told about the upcoming gourd festival. They said that if we wanted to get a taste of what it would be like, we could drop by Wuertz Farm. They raise gourds there and have a small gift shop / gallery containing some gourd art works. That sound interesting, so we said good-bye and headed southeast and prepared for “the Wuertz.”

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Admiring the Gourds

 

Some people get too close when admiring the gourds.

Some people get too close when admiring the gourds.

Some gourds are serious art

Some gourds are serious art

Some are whimsical

Some are whimsical

Some are funny

Some are funny

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There are even musical gourds

We had a great time checking out the gourds. Mr Wuertz was a great host and showed us around. We didn’t have time to look around, but there are Burros and miniature horse there as well. Oh, if you are interested, you should go to the “13th Annual Running of the Gourds” coming up February 12-14.

We finally turned around and rode back to Tucson. The trip back was uneventful, but riding is good. Riding with friends is better. I noticed when we got home, that I had ridden 10 miles of mostly straight, mostly flat roads and still had an absolute blast.

Cairne General Hospital, 11 Mile Corner, AZ. Circa 1950's

Cairne General Hospital, 11 Mile Corner, AZ. Circa 1950’s

 

 

 

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postheadericon 2015 SIR’s Year in Review Video

The Sky Island Riders did a lot of riding in 2015. I put together a video of pics of our year. I hope you enjoy it. Feel free to share it with your friends:

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postheadericon State of the SIR’s 2012

State of the SIR’s 2012

It is time, again, for the (hopefully) annual report on our Sky Island Riders. Now that I’ve done one of these before, this one should be a bit easier since I will (more or less) use the same format as the last one.

First – Happy Birthday SIR’s. 11/8/12 was our 4th birthday. From my limited research of scooter clubs nationwide, we are about 3 years older than average

MEMBERS

Let’s take a look at how our membership has changed over the past year:

tucsonscooters – The yahoo group number declined from 309, last year, to 2scooter club.90 as of this writing. Traffic there has also declined dramatically. In 2009, right after the SIR’s were formed, there were 1493 message posted there. In 2011 there were only 191 messages and this year only 139. I will continue to post club rides and info there, but it is clear that the majority of action has moved on.

skyislandriders.com – As of 11/21/12, there are 184 registered users on the SIR’s homepage. This is an increase of 44 users over last year, or about 30%. Unlike the Yahoo group, I periodically go through the names and delete accounts with email contacts like “cheapskate@dirt_cheap_canadian_pills.com.” As with the yahoo group, forum traffic is virtually dead, but like last year, overall visitors to our homepage to view the various articles continues to increase. At this time last year we were averaging 60 unique visitors per day. As of today, that number is 137 visitors/day. A change of over 100% over last year. Traffic is such that I have been contacted by a couple of companies about advertising on the site. Nothing definite on that has happened, yet.

Facebook – Our FB page now has 147 members, which is up from 114 last year. I am very pleased at the amount of traffic present on the page right now. There are people organizing there own rides and a lot of great chatter. This means that we don’t just have a bunch of lurkers. People are feeling comfortable enough to join in the conversations.

Google+ – I think there are now 3 people in the SIR’s circle. Nothing happening here.

RALLIES

Last year I reported that the SIR’s had conducted two rallies. Let me do a correction to improve accuracy. The fact is that we had conducted two SPRING rallies (For A Few CC’s More), now three. I would like to add that we have also conducted four FALL rallies (El Scoot de Tucson.) That means that as of November 2012, we have actually conducted seven rallies.

For A Few CC’s More – Our third spring rally was, again, a success. We were a little disappointed because the number of riders was slightly lower than the two previous spring rallies, but there were a couple of huge, positive differences this year. First, we had almost triple the number of sponsors for this year compared to last. 60 businesses participated! (Check out the list here: http://skyislandriders.com/?page_id=1293 then go by and patronize some of them.) Second, we actually finished with money on the positive side – a club first! Finally, we were able to donate $742 to Ben’s Bells, up from $545 last year.

El Scoot de Tucson IV – This was a banner year for El Scoot. Look back and read my report ( http://skyislandriders.com/?p=1610 .) In a nutshell, attendance surged over 100% for this years ride! It was very exciting.

*** Planning for For A Few CC’s More III will be starting soon. I hope you will consider bringing your time and skills to help.

RIDES/EVENTS

I didn’t do as good a job tracking rides and events this year, but it looks like we had 29 rides or events and our 3-day rally. This is a huge increase over last year’s 18 rides/events plus the rally. I don’t know that our average number of attendee’s per event has increased much, but we are certainly offering plenty of opportunity for people to participate and that means an overall increase in the number of people who have rideen with us.

In 2012 we also had our first official “Night Ride” as well as our first 2-day ride when we rode to Cottonwood and back.

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2013

  • We have more members who are interested in actively participating in the organizing and maintenance aspects of the club. That means we should be able to increase the quantity and, hopefully, the quality of next year’s events.

  • We are planning at least one multi-day, long distance ride.

  • Although we slacked off as the year went on, I want to plan to resume our “Social Nights.” For those who don’t know, these are just simple gatherings for us to get to know one another and enjoy each other’s company. You may have friends who just “don’t get” your desire to ride a scooter. We do. Look for those to start again in December after the Phoenix rally.

  • We have already started “marketing” For A Few CC’s More III. We are hoping for a great turnout. We are very excited about this rally as we already have some fun ideas in mind.

  • I’m not sure how we’ll top this year’s El Scoot de Tucson, but we’ll try to think of something.

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postheadericon Fellowship of the Scoot – Part II (Changes in the plan)

We saw many rainbows on day #1. we knew all would turn out okay.

In Part I we had made it through wind and rain to our destination in Cottonwood, AZ. As night fell, so did the rain and the temperatures. I checked area forecasts (I love smart phones) and found that 1-2 inches of snow were forecast for Flagstaff and the top of Oak Creek Canyon. Rain with below freezing temps, followed by snow seemed like a potentially dangerous combination for save riding so I started looking at alternate routes.

The thought of skipping the ride up Oak Creek was saddening, but safety had to be taken into account. My fellow riders were gracious and said they were willing to ride whatever route I created. I didn’t want to just turn around and go back the way we came, but I needed to try to keep us to lower elevation, at least until we had gone south a ways. Once again, I came back to the trip I had taken the previous August, except that I wanted to make sure we at least rode through Sedona.

We awoke to this scene. This is looking east toward Sedona, from Cottonwood.

My route idea had one area of concern. It would require a 7 or 8 mile sprint down I-17 from Highway 179 to Camp Verde. I had to check with the other riders before committing us to riding interstate, especially  where there is heavy traffic with lots of trucks and RV’s concerned. I asked and we all agreed that we could handle it. I did a few more checks and came up with this route back to Tucson:

View Larger Map

This route still took us up to 7000 feet, but at a point about 40 miles south of Flagstaff, plus it would be later in the day before we got there, thus giving the, inevitable, warming temperatures a chance to melt off any precipitation of the frozen persuasion.

Our intrepid adventurers roughing it at The Coffee Pot

To give it a chance to warm up a bit, we took our time getting on the bikes in the morning. We left Cottonwood around 8:30 and rode to Sedona for breakfast. The temperature was about 40 degrees and it was still windy and it looked like it would rain any minute. The drive/ride along Route 89A into Sedona was beautiful. As we were coming into Sedona, the sun was breaking through the clouds and “spotlighting” various rock formations. It was hard trying to catch it with my camera as were riding, but I gave it a shot.

The sun was shining out in various places and “spotlighting” different rock formations. The effect was gorgeous.

We went to Sedona’s famous Coffee Pot Restaurant (Home of 101 Omelettes) for breakfast. There was quite a wait to get our table, but we all enjoyed our food. It was about 10:30am before we pulled out of Sedona but we were warm and full of tasty food. We went to Highway 179 and turned south toward the Village of Oak Creek. Hwy 179 is another very scenic road and is part of the Red Rock Scenic By-Way. It’s only 15 miles but there are many, many places where you will want to stop and take pictures.We pulled off at one such place and took a few pics.

Scooters on the Red Rock Scenic By-Way

At the base of that red mountain is the Church in the Rock.

We arrived at the junction with I-17, took a deep breath, opened our throttles and merged. I put Warren and his PCX in front so could set the pace. His little Honda had impressed me the day before and continued to do so on this day. We zoomed down to Camp Verde as fast as that little scooter would go.

This is some of the rugged country east of Camp Verde.

At Camp Verde, we turned east, onto Route 260, aka the General Crook Trail. From here we climbed from 3600 feet to almost 7000 feet over the next 25 miles, until we were up on the Mogollon Rim. Although we still hadn’t been rained on, it was still cold and  windy and once on the top of the rim, there were patches of snow on the side of the road. Brrrr! (You’ll have to trust me. It was too windy to try and take pics of the snow as we were riding.) Snow and wind aside, road quality on Route 260 and Highway 179 is very good.

Route 260 joins with Route 87 about 33 miles from Camp Verde. This was where we joined our originally planned route.After just a few miles on the top of the Rim, we began the steep descent toward the villages of Strawberry and Pine. Even though the sun had finally shown itself, we were getting pretty chilled, so we stopped in Pine to get fuel and something hot to drink.  We stopped at HB’s Place where I had my first ever piece of Oatmeal Pie. Wow! It was exceptional.

This was my first piece of Oatmeal Pie, but it sure was good.

Now that we were warm again, the sun was out and lower elevations were ahead, we rode out with smiles on our faces and hopes of a bit more adventure before getting back home. We followed Route 87 through Payson until we reached the Junction with Route 188, where we turned toward Roosevelt Lake. We made a brief stop in Pumpkin Center just prior to getting to the lake.

Nearing Lake Roosevelt on Route 188.

Once to Roosevelt Lake, we stopped at the dam for a rest and some pics. One of these days, I will ride down Route 88 from Roosevelt into Apache Junction. It is unpaved most of the way, so this day was not the day to do it. From the dam it is about 30 miles to Globe, where had decided we would eat our afternoon meal.

            

Gathered to rest and take pics of the bridge, lake and dam.

 

If you look very near the center of this pics, you can see a faint horizontal line. That is AZ-288, aka the road to Young, AZ.

After a bit of hunting, we decided to eat at De Marcos, which is right off of  Us-60 in Globe. It was dusk as we left the restaurant. One thing I have learned about myself is that I don’t like riding mountain roads at dusk or at night. Every shadow starts looking like a deer preparing to leap out at me. This can be quite terrifying at times.

Two huge tunnels going into the mine near Globe

Darkness fell as we turned onto Route 77 for the final stretch toward Tucson. Only 100 more miles to go. I had Warren take the lead again so I had tail lights to focus on rather than shadows. We took a break at Winkelman and had an uneventful ride the rest of the way into Tucson.

From door to door, my odometer showed a total mileage of about 640 miles over the two days. I had a blast and would do it again in a heartbeat. As a matter of fact, since we missed out on Oak Creek Canyon and Flagstaff, we are trying to figure out when we try this again.

Good friends and good rides make life good

 

Howard

 

 

 

 

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postheadericon Some Southern Arizona Shrines of Vastly Different Things

Grass-covered plain with mountains in the distance

Everyone knows that Arizona has a lot of great history. Especially if you are interested in the old west or ancient history of North America. How about baseball history? Did you know that one of the oldest  ballparks in America is located in Arizona? Neither did I until my friend, Stan, took me to Warren Ballpark. But first, the trip there:

 

As you know, for me, going someplace is as much about the journey to get there as it is about the destination. Stan and I also try to take each other on roads on which the other has never been before. This makes planning our rides more fun and more challenging.

 

There are only a few ways to get out of Tucson, so those can be a bit repetitive. To combat this, I try to look for sights along the way that I have never noticed before. Since we were headed southeast, we took Houghton Road down to Sahuarita Rd and turned east. A mile or so from our turn onto Highway 83 we came across a special sight.

Gila Monsters are one of the very few poisonous lizards in the world. Don’t mess with them.

The Gila (HEE-luh) Monster is native to the desert southwest and is named after the Gila River basin where it was first discovered. What makes seeing them special is their incredible laziness. They hibernate in the winter and estivate in the summer. They only come out of their burrows when the temperature is perfect. That means they spend as much as 95% of their lives underground, sleeping.

 

It was quite enjoyable, getting a few pics of this guy before he went back to his burrow for more sleep.

 

We saw this guy crossing the road, so we pulled over and ran back to snap some pictures before he crawled away. If you ever see one, stop and check it out, because you may never see another one.

This is a photo from the NPS, but you can now see these guys all over southern AZ.

I didn’t get a pic, but our next visual surprise was seeing a Pronghorn along the road as we approached Sonoita on Highway 83. I don’t remember ever seeing one. I always they they were a type of antelope, but in preparing for this article, I discovered that they aren’t. As a matter of fact, they are the only member of their animal family. I find that quite interesting.

 

This looks like great territory for Pronghorn to me.

We stopped for a brief rest in Sonoita, then turned east again, onto Highway 82. I have written about it before, but the trip between Sonoita and the junction with Highway 90 is quite beautiful. There are grassy plains, livestock and scenic views. Hwy-82 is 2-lane blacktop but is in good condition without very much traffic.

 

We made the turn onto Highway 90 at the community of Whetstone and went south into Sierra Vista. Highway 90 is divided and is in very good condition. It’s only about 12 miles until you hit town.

 

You can get a visitors’ pass to go see the museum.

Sierra Vista has population of about 40,000 and has about all you could need as far as goods and services are concerned. It is a military town as well, since it is adjacent to Fort Huachuca. Sierra Vista has only been incorporated since 1956, but the presence of Fort Huachuca ensures that there is a lot of history to be discovered here. If you’ve got time, stop in at the Fort Huachuca Museum.

 

The shrine is a lot easier to see now that virtuall all of the vegetation has been burned away.

Before we took this trip, Stan had asked me if I knew if the shrine at Our Lady of the Sierras had survived the Monument Fire last year. I didn’t know and wasn’t entirely sure of which shrine he was speaking. I then recalled seeing a large cross and statue on the side of a mountain when I took my youngest son on a drive to Bisbee a few years ago. We had decided to go check it out.

There is a beautiful water feature behind the chapel

 

 

 

Instead of turning to follow Highway 90, we continued straight as the road becomes Buffalo Soldier Road. We followed that until it intersects Highway 92. We followed that south toward Hereford. The shrine is about 6 miles after turning onto 92, but you can see it on the side of the mountain long before you get there. There is a 75 foot tall cross and a 30 foot tall statue of the Virgin Mary 400 feet up on the side of the mountain. To get to the shrine on paved road, turn right on Stone Ridge Rd and right again, on Prince Placer. Follow your eyes up to the parking lot. Be advised, the shrine is on the side of a mountain. The pathways are well maintained, but they are steep. Please plan accordingly.

 

I am not Catholic, but I can appreciate the beauty of this place as well as the dedication it took to make something like this happen. Stan and I headed down the mountain back to Highway 92. I had mentioned the close proximity of the Coronado National Memorial to Stan and, as luck would have it, Stan had never been there.

 

Just over a mile from where we came back onto 92 is the turn to the Memorial. I have written about this before, but it focused, mostly, on the route from the other side, coming in from Parker Canyon Lake. The road from Hereford is shorter and not as pretty as coming in from the west, but the park is still worth the visit. It is a shrine to nature and to Arizona history.

The view from the top of Montezuma Pass is well worth driving on a dirt road for a few miles.

 

We enjoyed talking with the Ranger at the visitors’ center and turned around to finish our trip to Warren Ballpark. (See what I mean by making the journey as good as the destination?) We didn’t do it, but I highly recommend going to the top of Montezuma Pass. It requires 2-3 miles of dirt road, but it is well maintained and the view is fantastic. Also, we saw two more Pronghorn on the Coronado national Memorial Road on our way out.

 

We retraced our steps back out to Highway 92 and turned east and headed toward Bisbee, home of Warren Ballpark. It is a short 20 miles from here to Bisbee. I followed Stan as he turned onto School Terrace Road. I had never been down this road before.

 

I was taken aback as we rode through a section of Bisbee that I had heard about, but never could find. There are houses that looked like they should be in New England rather  than southern Arizona. We turned right onto Douglas and followed that around to Warren Ballpark.

 

This is about all I could see of this notable baseball field

This boulder with a plaque about the field is located right near the ticket booths.

Unfortunately, the field was closed, but I was able to get some pics over the fence and of the plaque outside the field. Warren was built in 1909, one year BEFORE Rickwood Field in Birmingham, AL. I guess the big difference is that Rickwood is listed as the oldest professional park in the country, whereas Warren is the oldest continually used park in the country. It’s a shrine to America’s favorite past time. There have been professional teams there intermittently over the years but none in quite a while.

We had just been to a baseball field, so where else to go for lunch than Jimmy’s Hot Dogs? I had every intention of getting one of their delicious hot dogs until I got inside and it was “Spaghetti Wednesday.” Stan got the dog and I got the spaghetti. We were both very pleased with our choices.

 

I stopped and visited Gleeson’s cemetery when I went that way the last time.

We had a couple of options to return to Tucson. A while back I wrote about driving on Gleeson Road, seeing the ghost town. That post mentioned the fact that I needed to chose between two roads to go to Tombstone from the Sulfur Springs Valley. That time time I chose Gleeson, this time I chose Davis.

 

Therefore, we left Tombstone on highway 80 toward Douglas. A couple of miles before getting to Douglas, we turned north on Highway 191 and rode the 18 miles to McNeal and the junction with Davis Rd. The road condition of Davis Rd is good. It has very little traffic, gentle hills and easy curves. It is 24 miles from McNeal to the junction with Highway 80 (again) about 3 miles south of Tombstone.

While we were stopped to re-hydrate a bit, Stan asked me if there was an alternate route to Sierra Vista from Tombstone. “As a matter of fact there is.” I replied and told him about Charleston Road and off we went to get Stan on a second road in a day that he had never traveled.

The author waving from the middle of the old bridge across the San Pedro River

 

Locals tell me that, until a few years ago, Charleston Rd was extremely twisty and hilly but has been straightened for safety reasons. I never went on it before, but it is still an enjoyable piece of asphalt. There is an abandoned bridge where the road used to cross the San Pedro. We stopped there and took a couple of photos.

 

I love the look of the shadows in the cracks and crevices of the mountains.

From there, we came into Sierra Vista, turned north on Highway 90 and returned to Tucson by the way we had come. There was nothing exciting on the way back, but I will say that there were still interesting differences. The fact that it was afternoon, not morning, and the fact that we were traveling west rather than east both combined to make the return trip every bit as enjoyable as the way out.

 
View Larger Map
Here is the map of the route we took

I hope one or more of these places pique your interest and get you headed out to explore places in Arizona you’ve never seen before. Sure, you may have been on one, some or all of the highways mentioned in this article, but have you seen all the sights?

 

Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” – Seneca

 

Howard

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