My wife and I had to go to Portland, Oregon, earlier this week for two days to address some medical issues. Here are a few notes from that trip.
Hotel: we stayed at the Park Lane Suites & Inn, located in the Goose Hollow neighborhood at the west side of the downtown area. It’s a hotel with outside entrances to the rooms; however, you can only access the rooms by first going through a lobby entrance. The room was clean and bright – we had a suite with a kitchen area and dining table. WiFi is provided. Numerous restaurants, as well as a Starbucks, Walgreens, and Fred Meyers are within 5 minutes walking distance. We booked our room on Priceline for $90 per night – a deal considering most hotels in the downtown area are double that.
Good Eats: dinner our first night was at Tapalaya, a Creole/Cajun tapas eatery with a Vietnamese twist in the east side Laurelhurst neighborhood. My wife and I split popcorn shrimp ($12), followed by seafood gumbo ($14) for her, and a crab cake for me ($14). But I really went for the beignets ($6). Served with a bourbon dipping sauce, they are guaranteed to induce a culinary orgasm. They are as good or even better than Cafe Du Monde’s.
The second night we ate at Oven and Shaker in the Pearl District. After a long day spent at Oregon Health Sciences Center, a simple pizza dinner was all we were looking for. Disappointed we were not, as we had a wonderful Neopolitan style Margherita (tomato, basil, mozzarella) pizza ($13), preceded by lamb sugo served over a crispy polenta, and followed by layered budino, a parfait of chocolate ganache, whipped cream, cajeta caramel, and cookie crumble ($7). I could have easily oredered a second of everything.
And one must not forget donuts. One of Coco Donuts’ three locations is a five minute walk from the Park Lane, at 709 SW 17th. Classic donuts and great coffee.
Eloise and I hit the open road to see family in Mount Shasta and Sacramento, California. In those 11 days, we drove 2,444.2 miles, with stops in:
Casa Grande, Arizona
We started the trip out with a delightful meal at the highly rated Feli’s Cuban Kitchen in Casa Grande. Eloise’s dinner was especially tasteful and artfully presented (flounder with mango and pineapple)
Palm Desert, California
Weed/Mount Shasta, California (3 nights)
I hiked to the top of Black Butte, an extinct dacite dome volcano just north of the City of Mount Shasta on the east side of Interstate 5. A trip report and photoset for the hike is posted on this site, as well as at hikearizona.com
We had dinner with our son and one of Eloise’s brothers at a wonderful restaurant in Auburn, California, Carpe Vino. Among us we had fresh popcorn in melted black truffle butter, muscovy duck breast (farro, butternut squash, purslane, seared onion, huckleberry), niman ranch bistro filet (chanterelles, pole beans, fingerling potato, black garlic soubise), and skuna bay salmon (sunchokes, fuji apple, brussels sprouts, dill, apple must brown butter). For dessert, 3 out of 4 of us had chocolate profiteroles, which were walnut ice cream balls wrapped in caramel and walnut streusel. Simply unbelievable. The service was outstanding.
I bagged a couple of highpoints in the area: Carpenter Hill, which is the Sacramento County highpoint, and a small hill in neighboring El Dorado Hills, Peak 1161. Click on the names to go to trip reports at hikearizona.com
The drive from Folsom to Monrovia included a stop in Atwater at the Foster’s Freeze. Those of you unfamiliar with California drive-in cuisine, Foster’s is a DQ-like chain. I had been saving my calorie budget for an extra larger chocolate malt, with extra malt. Later I found out that this Foster’s Freeze was featured in Pulp Fiction(which I have not seen), where apparently Bruce Willis runs Ving Rhames over in the parking lot.
An easy day’s drive with a couple of stops along the Salton Sea, where we had never been. It’s an impressive body of water, dramatic with it’s sea to desert interface. I would consider camping here sometime during the offseason – none of the campgrounds along any campers in them, save one or two here or there. Solitude abounded. We stopped at the North Shore Beach & Yacht Club along State Route 111, a county recreation facility that once was a marina and resort for Hollywood types. There we watched pelicans, egrets and other birds, while enjoying the pleasant autumn sun and sound o the water lapping the shore.
I spent a couple hours of the morning before we drove to Tucson exploring Yuma and taking pictures of trains crossing the Colorado River next to Interstate 8. We hit the road about noon, stopping in Dateland to buy dates. I’ve always been fascinated by abandoned places, especially abandoned airfields, so I remembered that there were several old WWII training fields in the area. One was back west a couple of miles on the south side of the interstate. So we headed there, and as we crossed the adjacent railroad tracks, we came across signs proclaiming “Barry M Goldwater Firing Range : Do Not Enter : Live Fire Range, yada, yada, yada”. I pondered ignoring the sign for a few moments, I mean the airfield was just another quarter mile down the road, and not an A-10 or F-35 to be seen. Well, wisdom prevailed, and I turned around – only to see a Border Patrol agent coming from the direction of the airfield 30 seconds later. An encounter with any federal agent would not have been good. But that’s ok, because just on the other side of Interstate 8 is Dateland Field, another abandoned WWII training field, so I was able to stop there. Passing Gila Bend, I got a good look at the Sand Tank Mountains, part of the Sonora Desert National Monument. It looks like a fascinating area to explore, and I’ve put it on my bucket list. There’s a great series of trip reports about this area by Desert Mountaineer.
DSCN0042 webThe Tom Mix Memorial on Arizona State Route 79 north of Oracle Junction
DSCN0049 webFarmland near Florence, Arizona
DSCN0046 webCotton fields, Florence, Arizona
DSCN0050 webFeli's Cuban Kitchen, Casa Grande, Arizona
DSCN0052 webFeli's Cuban Kitchen
DSCN0057 webFlounder with mango and pineapple, Feli's Cuban Kitchen
DSCN0064 webHeading west out of the Phoenix metroplex at sunset
DSCN0070 webWind turbines outside of Palm Springs, California
DSCN0074 webCottonwoods along California State Route 138
DSCN0077 web 2
DSCN0078 webAmtrak cab car "Mount Shasta" heading north, Merced, California
DSCN0080 webSouthbound freight on the BNSF line, Merced, California
DSCN0083 webLocal BNSF crew setting out freight cars
DSCN0092 webSW1200 switch engine at the Foster Farms Collier Road plant
DSCN0117 webCity of Mount Shasta below its namesake
DSCN0101 webMount Shasta from the northwest side
DSCN0155 webThe Shastina cone of Mount Shasta
DSCN0110 webWeed, California
DSCN0105 webSwitch engine at Roseburg Lumber Products in Weed, California
DSCN0115 webThe Sacramento River, Dunsmuir, California
DSCN0161 webBlack Butte, just north of Mount Shasta. Black Butte is an extinct dacite dome volcano.
DSCN0207 webLocomotive turntable replica, downtown Folsom, California
DSCN0211 webA bar sign in Auburn, California
IMG_1852 A webOn the east side of the Salton Sea, California, looking west
IMG_1856 webPelicans, Salton Sea
DSCN0223 webAn eastbound freight train crosses the Colorado River at Yuma, Arizona
DSCN0224 webBalwin steam locomotive SP 2521 on display in Yuma.
DSCN0227 webInside of the cab of SP 2521
DSCN0218 bw webAbandoned train station, Fort Yuma-Quechan Indian Reservation, which straddles the California/Arizona state line at Yuma.
DSCN0233 webOne of the former runways of the WWII Army Air Corps training field Dateland Field, Dateland, Arizona
DSCN0231 webAbandoned water tower, used for steam locomotives along the former Southern Pacific Railroad line, just east of Dateland, Arizona
The dichotomy of urbanization and wide open spaces in Southern Arizona has always fascinated me. Within minutes of the hustle and bustle of Tucson, you can find yourself in wide open desert terrain, with an endless view to the horizon; on top of a mountain wilderness, surrounded by towering conifer forests; or in the middle of rural ranchlands and farms, looking more like California’s Central Valley or a Midwest farming state. No more is this apparent than in a drive around the Rincon Mountains east of Tucson.
I’ve been in Tucson for 10 years, and have yet to drive from start to finish Redington Road, or circumnavigate either the Catalinas or the Rincons. I had mentioned to my buddy Rob a few weeks ago that I wanted to accomplish these trips, now that I had gotten my Expedition road trip and somewhat off road ready. We decided on this past Saturday to make the trip, with the objective of getting the lay of the land and scouting out stuff for further exploration, as well as taking a few photos along the way. We met at my house on the Eastside and left at 8:20 am. We had a full take of gas, water, ice, donuts, charged batteries for everything, and no deadline to get back. Some clouds floated in the sky ahead, but nothing threatening, so we forged ahead. Since it was a gorgeous morning with relatively low temps, I thought we’d see more people on Redington Road than we did. We ran across a dozen or so souls from a geocaching club who were doing a clean up along the first few miles of the road, a couple of mountain bikers, and a handful of people engaged in target practice. Other than a 4 or five other vehicles, including a Pima County deputy sheriff, we had the entire length of Redington Road to ourselves. The road was in really good shape, save a couple of spots where rain had created small gulleys (maybe 6 inches deep and a foot wide) in the last couple of nights. There were obvious signs that road crews had done some grading and clearing of washes in the last week. The scenery was just stunning. Very green vegetation was abundant, from thick grasses coating the top of the pass to plump saguaro and dark green ocotillo. Wildflowers were everywhere. We made our way along rather slowly, as we stopped along the way to take pictures and check some side roads out. Just below east of Piety Hill we stopped to drink our coffee and devour our donuts. This video is a view to the east with the Galiuro Mountains across the valley
The water was only about 6 inches deep, not swift, and the river bed seemed firm enough, but since we didn’t have a second vehicle to pull us out or any recovery equipment, we crossed further downstream at the bridge. Cascabel Road is in great shape. The valley floor is green and lush. I didn’t expect to see as many residences this far out of Benson as we did. As you would expect, the people we did see reflected the cross section of those you find in rural Arizona – from ranchers to retirees to old hippies to those trying to stay off the grid. Everyone seemed friendly and waved at us, whether from a passing vehicle or from their front gate. Just south of the Spear Ranch I had noted a cemetery on the topo map on the east side of the road. Along this stretch the road was line on both sides by a bosque, which on the east side of the road climbed up a short bluff. I jumped out of the truck and wound my way up the hillside through some brush until I came to a fence about 60 feet off the road. Going through the barbed wire I proceeded another 25 feet until I topped the bluff and wa-lah! there was the graveyard. I had only brought my iPhone up the hill, so I went back to the truck to retrieve my camera and Rob, because he had to see this. As one can see in the photos, besides several modern graves, there are 29 unmarked graves that have to date back to the 1850’s. In a history written by Tess Gamez, of the family that owns the land on which the cemetery sits, it’s not known what year the graveyard was established, or what persons are buried in the 29 unmarked graves.
IMG_2281 webThere was no end to the photographic opportunities, as my buddy Rob will attest to.
IMG_2282 webClouds set up some spectacular shots to photograph.
IMG_2286 webA lone cottonwood guards an old water tank near the top of Reddington Pass.
IMG_2293 webThe top of the pass opens into some large grassland areas.
IMG_2298 webMesquite bosques are common throughout Arizona.
IMG_2309 webWe were treated to grand views throughout the trip.
IMG_2310 webThe view as we descended into the San Pedro River Valley.
IMG_1845 webLooking east towards the Galiuro Mountains.
IMG_2314 webA magnificient stand of heritage saguaros.
IMG_2316 webThe San Pedro River.
IMG_2323 webAnother bosque.
IMG_1846 webNo trip in Arizona is complete without a snake in the road.
IMG_2327 webThe Gamez family cemetery.
IMG_2331 webSome of the 29 pioneer graves, occupants unknown.
IMG_2339 webRailfanning at the Three Bridges area on Marsh Station Road just east of Vail, Arizona.
We had thought of completing the trip to Benson in about 3 to 4 hours so we could lunch there, but we stopped so often that we found ourselves at the Gamez Cemetery around 1 pm. From there, we left off making any more stops (for the most part), reaching Benson around 3. Rob suggested we eat at the Horseshoe Café. I had never eaten there. Wow, we had quite a meal! While the burgers and sandwiches sounded great, they start serving dinner at 3 on Saturday, so Rob had meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and a salad, while I had liver, bacon, and onions, baked potato, and a salad. The portions were HUGE. Each entrée was only $10. On the way back, we stopped at the Three Bridges area off Marsh Station Road near Vail to photograph a couple of westbound trains we had seen passing through Benson. We finally got back to my house at 5:20 pm, nine hours after we had left.
It was easy to forget within minutes of climbing Reddington Road that a modern city was behind us. Almost immediately we were met with solitude, gorgeous landscapes, and a sense of what Arizona must have looked like when the first European explorers entered the region. For those that live in the region, life is probably pretty much the same as it was 150 years ago – isolated, dependent upon water, neighbors, adaptability, and endurance. Even with Tucson or Benson 40 or 50 miles away, you get a sense that you are a long ways from nowhere.
Random acts of thought, and useless pieces of information – et deinceps per nebula