Thursday, February 24, 2011


The second half of my stay in southern Arizona was WAY better than the first half, and here is an extra-long post to prove it! Most significantly, our great friends the Lawrences flew out to visit during their April school vacation. Gene, Theonne, Austin and Athena flew into Tucson late Wednesday night, picked up a car, and drove to a hotel 9 miles north of me, in Benson. They came to camp the next morning full of the excitement that comes of vacationing in a new place. The warm Arizona sun warmed their skin which had been previously bundled up against this year's severe New England winter. The first thing we did was to go for a hike on the park trail, where everyone familiarized themselves with all of the prickly plants that make up this desert landscape.

Next, we drove down to Sierra Vista to a bike shop that I had identified as one which rents out high-end mountain bikes: Sun 'n' Spokes Thanks to "Comino" for showing me all of the great bikes available for rent, and for an awesome free cleaning and tuneup while replacing my worn-out bottom bracket and derailleur cable!

We got everyone set up with a bike, including a brand new, never-been-used, Giant Cypher women's-specific trail bike for Athena - awesome!

Here is a Gigantor-full of bikes:

We did a family ride at the site of the ghost town Charleston. Here we rode among ruins of a once thriving silver-mining town, and up into the hills above. Thenonne and Athena were terrific sports following us boys up scrabbly single track into the hills!

Especially cool to see were the ancient native-American petroglyphs:

The next morning Gene, Austin and I went for another ride down in Sierra Vista, this time at Brown Canyon, where we gave our full-suspension bikes a real workout. After the two-mile-long dirt-road climb from 5000' to 5600' we thoroughly enjoyed the rewarding single track descent, covering most of the remaining 3 miles of trail.

After dropping off the bikes we did some shopping (Austin had to have a real cowboy hat!) and then went over to Fort Huachuca (wah-chooka). This is listed as an historic site, which sounded touristy, but it didn't feel so touristy as we all handed over ID and answered the guard's questions at the gate! Once inside we drove through the massive base until finally finding their museum, which was very good, but closed at 4:00. At about 4:15 we made for the exit, but it seemed like the place was all locked up! Just an illusion - not locked - we made our escape!

That night I retrieved Nancy from the airport. She was happy to get back to the adventure, especially since the Lawrence's were here, and also as she'd been separated from Kinsey during the horror of her medicine overdose. Toby also celebrated his 10th birthday that day, and was happy as a puppy to receive a new toy:

I took the crew out to Texas Canyon to explore the fantastic rock formations there. Everyone had a great time climbing around and taking photos.

In the afternoon, we headed on down to the wild, wild west town of Tombstone. "The Town Too Tough to Die" used to be a thriving mining town until the miners broke into the water table and got flooded out. After a couple of restarts, failed pumps, and fires, mining shut down for good. The town was poised to become another Arizona ghost town, but rallied instead to create a tourist destination. The famous gunfight at the OK coral provides much of the fodder for the tourist trade. For a scarcely justifiable fee, you can watch a re-enactment of this gunfight:

Then we wandered around the dusty streets, stopping to enjoy the humor of Toughnut street:

Overnight, Arizona got itself a serving of New England winter weather. We awoke to freezing temperatures and an inch of snow on the ground! W.T.F.?

So...we went underground. Kartchner Caverns State Park features: surprise! Caverns! We followed our animated Jane Lynch lookalike tourguide down into the steamy depths of the mountain, and marveled at the formations and colors of the limestone labyrinth. Here are some that look like bacon. Mmmmmmmmm, bacon...

Thankfully, the next day the weather returned to normal, and we drove out to Saguaro National Park to admire the towering cacti that give the park its name:

It was a nice ending to a great visit with Gene, Theonne, Austin and Athena, who dashed off to catch their plane back to Connecticut.

I was two weeks in Benson, Arizona, the longest stop of our trip besides our own house. Biking, hiking, dogs near death, wheel bearings, and the Lawrences made it a busy and very memorable location.

1 comment:

  1. Matt & Nancy...once again I can't thank you both enough for an AWESOME visit! Spending time biking, hiking, living and loving life in Arizona with you was just amazing. We made memories that will last a lifetime! Travel safe...