I really like flagstaff, had a nice night there last night, though I was still a little sluggish, I did ok. Really liked the look and feel of the town. I’d woken today across the road from a school, there were ‘No Parking’ signs everywhere downtown and I didn’t want another ticket. I emerged from hummingbird looking like I don’t know what, the mothers dropping kids off never batted an eyelid.
Found Macy’s European coffee bar over the railroad tracks. I’d played guitar there once a long time ago. Thank fully it was just as cool as it had been, hadn’t changed at all. Remarkable really. Flagstaff has a lot of great coffee bars and great bars. Seems to be a lot going on in that town. Still has its charm, happy there.
I’d finished my daily chores made up some wraps, filled up with gas got a little extra cash and we were all set to go.
I have been toying with ideas and directions of where to go, I really would like to visit some of the churches on the Indian Reservations and I’d seen a gothic church just near to where I’d parked up, bright pink and lava stones so I thought why not start right here.
It was beautiful, had a beautiful painting of Mary holding the Christ that glowed in the gentle spotlights in the dimness above the alter. Very modern and beautifully done. I took a pew so to speak and just tried to open up. It was a little difficult at first as somebody was banging nails into something in a room somewhere, it took a little while but I managed to blank it out and began to sink into it.
It was brief, but that was all I needed, I seemed to be stood next to Big Name, we were stood on a rocky ledge looking out across and down onto the most beautiful valley covered with green trees that rose and feel over the contours of the land like a blanket, the earth between light pink and dusty. Big Man was pointing. It was definitely South East from where we were stood. There were arrows of light coming from behind him, pouring down in the direction he was pointing, hard to explain, all the subtle pastel hues of a rainbow, like a swirling Jacobs ladder. It looked dramatic and really beautiful, flowing as if he was directing and it illuminating the land in front. All in a few seconds, but very clear, South East from here.
It wasn’t until we were soaring down the I-17 a little later that it occurred to me that Flagstaff was up in the mountains and we were descending, almost free falling down into forests and valleys below.
The air was fresh and clean, the sunlight penetrating down deep right into my bones it felt, a wonderful feeling. As I’d been getting the wraps ready earlier I realized just how raggey I’m looking. My jeans though I’d patched them last week are falling apart and my black woolen jersey is fraying badly at the elbows. I’m really enjoying it. Takes me back.
Camp Verde was verdant and seeing as I’d arrived late to the nearby Montezuma’s Castle National Monument the other day I thought I’d call back in. I stopped in at a little indian stall selling jewellery and Fry bread. The guy was telling some tourists about how to eat traditional fry bread and with what on and how to eat it. Made me smile, he was shall we say a little stout, but the jewellery the old lady had was cool. It was an absolutely beautiful day and so of course the place was packed with tourists and school kids. I went into the visitor’s center looked around and very nearly just left. Back outside sat on a wall I said to myself
“What would Oris do?”
She’d go in of course. So I did and it turned out to be a free day and was of course really interesting to see. I’m starting to get a little more immersed in the ancient Pueblos. Apparently this valley was on the migration route from the south and many of the Modern Pueblos The Zuni and The Hopi trace their Ancestors to these places. Again the place had been deserted round about early middle 1400’s nobody really knows why but there had been some sort of fire, the place had collapsed and it seems then abandoned. It was also fun listening to the Japanese school kids being cheeky.
Then on we went up onto the 280 the road we come in on the other day. Back up into the tall forests. Becoming more and more peaceful through the long arrow straight road and flickering strobes of arrow straight pines. I didn’t take any notes, I was just free falling. Just before the Junction of the 87 about 10 miles outside the tiny town Strawberry, I thought, ‘rest’. I pulled up in the woods let my feet hang out the open door and just went to sleep again. I am doing it quite a bit, I have noted, I think because I’m sleep disturbed on the back seat and it hits when I am on the move. The sun was glorious. As we left there sometime later a Crow flew almost straight at me mouth open.
“Hey brother” I waved. A good sign for sure
Then onwards on the other side of Strawberry way up on a mountain pass the most spectacular views opened up, was this what I had seen? Beautiful Mountains coated with Pinion and Douglas fir it was a beautiful drive. I kept thinking is this place. I tried to stop in at the Natural Bridge State park on the 261 but entry was restricted after 4pm, it was then about 10 too. So onwards quickly through the functional town of Payson then south onto the 87 which is a major artery to Phoenix.
I’d stopped in at a junkyard I’d seen on the roadside, I am still looking for that Chrysler E. I walked up to the gate and called into a trailer home, the door was open, it had a horses head hanging on a rope on the porch doorway, I didn’t bat an eyelid. The skin drying and peeling off, two friendly little dogs came running out followed a minute later by a flabby young white guy who seemed startled suspected from a sleep. I’d asked whose yard it was. He said to call the number on the board. He was perfectly friendly. Nobody answered the number. I’d looked around anyway, there were no Chryslers. No E
As we sped up I glimpsed a turning for the towns of Tonto and Roosevelt, I was looking for Globe but something about it rang my bell but I was already past and there was then nowhere to turn back. I kept on paused at one point in a lay by. But we were driving through the most incredible mountain pass of Mount Ord. I have seen some roads on this journey but this was out of this world. The engineers who built these, never mind the people who first imagined a road through them have to be congratulated. Just amazing. Imagine Lord of the Rings with a beautiful freeway through it. Not a full grinding congested sweaty filthy one, but open fluid liquid gliding roads. Really very beautiful.
I had missed the turning, and though I kidded myself I could go anywhere I pleased, I really didn’t want to go into Pheonix. I wanted to drive through the Apache reservation. So I turned back, 20 miles back, to the junction. But I got to drive that mountain pass again. It was wonderful Hummingbird was just wings and air.
Then swung onto the 188 to Tonto National Monument and the Roosevelt Dam. I’d planned to be in Globe that night but as we came over a rise I got my first sight of Tonto Basin it was, is incredible, I had wondered if I would get to see the Saguro cactuses on this journey, well there they were, dotted like odd solo figures all over the valley. I slammed the brakes on and stepped out of the car. Wow.
“There she bows” I said in awe.
It seemed like a wrong turn into the Garden of Eden. We’d very nearly gone past and I’d very nearly gone with it. I was so very glad I hadn’t. The hills above, sandy and rocky pinks and creams covered in juniper and on the lower slopes the massive Cactuses. I just started laughing. The Tonto basin just a few feet below us its trees bursting with fresh green shoots, there was water down there for sure but I couldn’t see it just then. The place obviously flooded at times as there were patches of dead drowned woodland, which added to the scene heightening the green somehow.
I recalled what Big Name had showed me, it was the journey here to this place through those miles of beautiful flickering forests. But this was the destination for sure. I took my time along the gently swelling road. I’d checked the map and knew there was a lake coming up but I wasn’t ready for it.
I kept stopping just to look at the place. I’d wanted to get out all day and walk but I kept hearing ‘patience there will be time tomorrow’ If you are doing this you have to go with it. It is tough though at times because there is only yourself, visibly, but of course there is so much more if your eyes and ears are open and if you trust, sometimes that can be tough or we can be wrapped up with other things and miss it. I have always found the later disappointing.
I rolled slowly through the dusty town of Tonto looking for parking places a possible plug and possible IPA’s. All instincts told me to stop, a sign above the road said ‘Tonto Basin where the West Still Lives’ I believed it but wanted to see what Roosevelt up the road had to offer.
As the blue lake came into view, I smiled to myself, I already knew what I would be doing tomorrow morning, I watched like a hawk for places I could swim across,
“We’ll see how cold it is” I said very cheerfully, I was tempted there and then. Across on the other side of the lake red and orange cliffs framed the blue of the lake and were capped with the most beautiful cream white mesa’s. It was getting into Golden hour, the folds in the beautiful mountains deepening with the lowering of the sun, lengthening and intensifying the shadows and all the colours of the land. The great Saguro cactuses stood like the custodians of the place silhouetted against the skyline, some easily more than 20 feet tall.
I had a real sense of excitement now and was really hoping Roosevelt had something to offer in the way of plugs, coffee and chips. But it was a closed down place, there was a boating marina and couple cars parked. There was also a caravan trailer park that looked to have a few lights on on the other side of the road, it was you could say either very peaceful or stone dead. I chose the later
As I pulled into the dusty car park a dark haired guy appeared walking back down from the hills above, he had shawl on, bare legs, a staff and a beard. He had that glowing, fresh back from wilderness wild eyed knowing. I just knew he was coming back down from some adventure or revelation out there in those beautiful peaceful hills
I asked him if there was anywhere to get a coffee or a place I could plug in. He looked at me with twinkling eyes and sort of said well over there is a private bar but it may be closed. There a was gentleness all around him. I thanked him.
A guy appeared with a wheelbarrow from a jetty next to the closed bar.
“Closed” he said
I asked him for the nearest bar.
He said it was “Back down there, 25 miles”
Which I knew was an exaggeration even by American standards. We U turned back towards Tonto I was also a little worried about gas, Hummingbird was just below ¼ full and the next town was 70 miles away, she’d just about scrape there if I need be.
Cynthia said “There will be a gas station in the next town”
“Of course there will” I said. “Thanks”
15 miles later back in Tonto. There was the gas station, there was the saloon a restaurant and a closed up butchers all in a row.
Now there is a certain thing that somehow opens a door. It’s like striking a bell at the right angle with the right force to create the right pitch, and with people it’s not something you can always be conscious of and in fact when your not it’s the best. A naturally occurring warmth shall we say, and the right sound or a warm vibe is same thing actually. I seemed to hit it. I don’t think it was anything to do with my accent to begin with. I was just happy, I was open and my feet were on the ground. The King of Cups in fact.
I’d gone in and pre paid the little old lady Pat, $20 for the gas. She pottered out just to check that the gas pump was working and said
“You’ll have to stop it yourself at 20, ok?” Normally it’s prepaid and set right?
I said ok she pottered back in and I proceeded to pump away. It was a super fast pump and as I was thinking is that $1.20 or is that $12.00 and so on up to $3.20 or $32.00 the tank pressure switched the pump off at 34. So I rounded it off to 35 and checked it. Hummingbird was full, so I went back and said I’ve gone a little over I owe you $15.00
She was all-apologetic “I should have stayed with you people are not used to these pumps here” I told her brightly not to worry, I would use it and it was my fault anyway.
I was just leaving when she asked “Where you from?”
I told her London I said what a wonderful surprise this road had been. Well, she was off and actually so was I. She was called Pat. She told me all about the Indians and how I should go and see the Tonto ruins, told me that there were ruins all over the place. She had 3 acres just over there and that when they’d been laying the foundations to her house they’d come across another ruin.
“It’s still right there” she said.
She told me how the Indians dug out the earth lined the pits with stones and laid wood or straw across the top. I would later learn they were called the ‘Hohokum’
I’ve lived here all my life She said “I’ve found pottery and arrowheads all over the place. This was one of the most highly populated areas in this country
“You could see why” I said
I’d mentioned that there must have been a lot of game too,
“There still is” she said “Come on I’ll show you. Up there on the hillside had been a heard of deer when you arrived”
Her and her grandson had been sat taking it easy watching them
“There really confident right about now” she said laughing “Cos they know it ain’t huntin season and they can do what they like”
I had the distinct impression that she was a sensitive and sympathetic lady as far as the wildlife was concerned. Her grandson, I think he was, was sat on the porch playing with a plastic bucket, I could see he missed nothing, must have been early 20’s, he had few problems I could see, he was missing something. She I presumed was keeping an eye on him.
I’d asked her about the bar. She said her daughter Carol worked in there and I should go over thee and ask for her.
It turned out to a remarkable place, just because it was so ordinary and classic. I had wondered if it was going to be filed with a bunch of red necks. But of course it was nothing of the sort.
Inside there was a little dim light on over the bar, the only other lights were some fairy lights on the walls and the neon green and blue Budweiser & Coors lights. It was a long bar and had a room at the back. High round tables with high chairs covered with red Vinyl that were really comfortable, oh and of course the classic red OPEN light in the small window
There were 3 guys in there at the far end talking about chilies for an hour, I couldn’t help ear wigging, as they were the only people talking, but I learnt a lot
Later a strange couple who I learned later owned the motel up road the lady called Carol introduced herself with a hand on my shoulder as I was typing
“You can’t do that in here” It was a funny introduction. I think her and her husband Wayne wanted and perhaps needed some external stimulation. She told me the west was still alive here
“Did you see the sign as you came into town, well that’s true” she said. she told Wayne who was ex military and walked like he had a stiff board across his shoulders but loose string attached to his arms, to go and find me a better map apparently there were some next door in the store. They were sweet and really wanted me explore the area more tomorrow. I was sorely tempted.
They sat chatting for a while and were interesting. She was Russian she said, though I couldn’t detect an accent. Said she used to be called Popov and had moved out here with Wayne from Los Angeles.
She told me about the wildlife and what went on. “May even see a Mountain lion but hopefully from a long way off”
She’d been talking about the hunting season so I asked her if they let the lions go.
She very quickly and with a sort of serious glee said , “Oh no we kill those, they are a menace, kill out dogs, livestock and damage property”
I don’t know, but I didn’t believe that they did, just an instinct of an exageration. She seemed to be afraid of them, perhaps she had reason to be.
All the time Janette the barmaid was keeping an eye and an ear on things. I just sensed she was looking over me and after me. I could feel her, interestingly enough. She had been great since the moment I walked in, kept me in Blue Moons all evening. The glasses she served in were so cold and frosted the beer turned to mush in them. Fantastic, I would have liked to chat with her more
A little earlier the three guys had gone and it was just her and I in the bar. I’d quipped with a laugh when she’d the second beer across
“Dahling, it’s just you and I now” I forgot where I was I was just happy
She’d come back lighting fast “And the two people out the back” I got it, you never know do you, she didn’t know who I was. At that point I was still a stranger with a funny voice. I could tell she was warming though
Later when she had the handle on me, it does take a little time, she let me sit till she’d switched the lights out. I’d ordered a beer to go, I really think she wanted to sit and chat a little more, but perhaps caution got the better. But she said “Do you like popcorn.” Yeah I’d said
“Do you want some out of the machine I’m going to empty it”
Ok I’d said “That would be great for later”
As I drove easily up the dark road alongside the lake my ears were ringing so loudly. I checked a few possible sleeping places out. Pat had told me which beach sides were fee free. I’d checked one out but there were campfires about 100 yards on either side of me. You know what shadows are like, a guy to the left looked unhappy that I’d pulled in so late and the other side were playing hillbilly banjo music. So I’d pulled out and found the parking space Pat had directed me too benches tables lake view and all to myself.
I sat there in the darkness the only light was the lap top, working away sipping a bud and eating popcorn, I hadn’t realized how much Janette had given me, what a sweetheart, there was over half a plastic carrier full. It would last me for days. The Arizona evening was nice and warm my battery lasted well beyond my endurance. Only sound the crickets and me tapping away. Very nice indeed