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March 2-21 - Cottonwood AZ

It's about 265 miles from Yuma (4) to the 1000 Trails Verde Valley Preserve (5) near Cottonwood AZ. We like the Cottonwood area. For openers, there's the Hog Wild BBQ. Then, of course, there's the spectacular scenery. If you pick your seasons (Spring or Fall), the weather is pretty good. And the Verde Valley Presbyterian Church is one we like a lot. We spent almost 3 weeks in the Cottonwood area.

When we were here in 2009, we "did" most of the major tourist things, so we weren't quite sure how we'd spend our time. We started by heading up the mountain to the "ghost" town of Jerome, where we indulged at the Haunted Hamburger restaurant, wandered the streets some, and watched a movie on the history of the town. Jerome is a fun place to visit, and the Haunted Hamburger is a great place for a decadent burger.


We'd ridden the Verde Canyon Scenic Railway our last visit, but we enjoyed it so much we booked another ride. We also wanted to go to the Blazin' M Ranch Chuckwagon Dinner, but couldn't find any way to get tickets. On the day of our train ride, we made our way to the depot and managed to arrive just as the train was departing. When we went inside to reschedule, we noticed a brochure for the Blazin' M Ranch, so we asked about it. Turns out the ranch had recently been purchased by the railroad, and we could get a combo package for the dinner show AND our train ride. Combined with our senior discounts, we wound up getting the whole package at a price that essentially gave us one dinner show free. So we did the ranch thing that evening, and came back on time the next day for the train ride.

We'd enjoyed the cowboy dinner show we'd done in Jackson WY a couple years ago, so we were reasonably sure we'd like this one. And we did. The food was actually better than Jackson, but the show wasn't quite as good. Still fun, though. We wound up sharing a table with a couple from Shelton WA and a family group from the Portland OR area.



The train ride the next day was also very enjoyable, although the canyon hadn't changed all that much in the two years since our last ride. Even so, the views were spectacular.

On our first motorhome trip in 2006 we'd passed by Meteor Crater outside Flagstaff, and decided we needed to correct that oversight. We've always wanted to see the crater, and we'd just rewatched the movie "Starman", which ends at the crater - further piquing our interest. So one morning, we got up and drove the 100 or so miles to see the crater. On the way, we stopped for lunch at a Wendy's in Flagstaff at the same time as a tour bus. Turns out the bus was a group of about 30 folks from the Cincinnati OH area on a Spring Training Tour - they'd seen three Reds games in Phoenix, had just left Sedona and were headed for the Grand Canyon, their last major stop before heading for home. Friendly folks.



Meteor Crater is about what you'd expect - a big hole in the ground, about a 3/4 of a mile across and about 600ft deep. We knew it had been formed by the impact of a huge meteor - they guestimate about 54 yards across, traveling around 28,000 mph - around 50,000 years ago. We didn't know that this was the first crater on earth proven to have been caused by an impact. Up till then, the scientific community had been of the opinion that earth had pretty well been immune to impacts since the atmosphere formed billions of years ago. The crater, they said, was obviously volcanic. But early in the 20th century, a geologist exploring the crater for minerals worth mining (and not finding any) began to believe it was an impact crater. The scientific community didn't believe. It wasn't until 1960 that noted geologist Gene Shoemaker (of Shoemaker-Levy Comet fame) proved from the minerals found around the crater that the crater was indeed an impact site. Him, they believed. Today we know it's one of the most recent major meteor craters on earth, and arguably the best preserved. And with the advent of satellite imagery and other technology, science now knows there are hundreds, if not thousands, of impact craters on our "immune" planet.

You can't climb down into the crater, and you can only walk part way around the rim on escorted tours. But it's spectacular. We're glad we took the drive.

You can't spend any time in the Verde Valley without visiting Sedona. On the northeastern end of the valley, Sedona is situated among some of the most spectacular sandstone formations anywhere. Red Rocks Country is awesome. We spent a day wandering about taking pictures, interrupted only by a delightful St. Patrick's Day lunch at Judi's Restaurant. Sedona is a well-heeled community, and the eateries are priced accordingly, but it was an outing, and we indulged.

Other than that, we pretty much lazed about. We had a few chilly nights, but things warmed up and the weather was generally fine. While we were there, the decorative fruit trees bloomed and then leafed out. Spring had sprung.

In the five+ years we've had our motorhome, we've made several modifications. It's always fun to customize. While in Cottonwood, we bought a new oil dipstick for the engine. Someone remarked we must be scraping the bottom of our project barrel.

And on March 21 - the second "official" day of Spring - we hooked up and headed South to Casa Grande.

Only about 75 pictures in our slide show this time. Check them out here.


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