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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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