Best Weather Day Every day south of Phoenix, Ariz. in March is the best weather day. For once, we timed it right.
Best Opportunity to Test Michael’s “Jacket of the Year” (Worst Weather Day) Arriving in Flagstaff, Ariz. and snow after weeks of southern Arizona sunshine. From flip-flops to fleece in less than two hours.
Most Talked About Natural Phenomenon “Have you seen the wildflowers at Organ Pipe yet?” This was practically all we heard as soon as we crossed into Arizona. Unusual amounts of rain this winter were supposed to lead to breathtaking, once in a lifetime displays of wildflowers of every color. Well, we saw them, but not here. The show at Organ Pipe Cactus NM was actually disappointing compared to what we saw along the road of the Tohono O’Odham Indian Reservation and along I-60 through Devil’s Canyon. Now that’s some pretty stuff.
Most Interesting Name for a Roadside Attraction Java-Linas Coffee Shop, South Tucson, Ariz. Get it? Javalinas? Well, we thought it was cute and coffee is always attractive.
Most Beautiful View Into the canyon at Canyon de Chelly NM, Ariz. But beware: the low and sometimes nonexistent guardrails at overlooks make this site a challenge for those with a fear of heights.
Best Day Hike Massai Point, through the Heart of Rocks to the Visitor Center, Chiricahua NM, Ariz.. A free shuttle takes you to the highest point of the park. Choose your route and make your way back. How nice to have your car waiting for you at the other end! A great service and a beautiful hike.
Most Scenic Drive (National Parks) Chiricahua NM, Ariz. This was a tough one. Several of the NPS sites we saw this month offered scenic drives, each with their own beauty. Chiricahua wins the prize because we didn’t do the driving. An SCA volunteer chauffeured us to our trailhead and pointed out several features of the landscape, like the head of Cochise, we may have missed alone.
Most Scenic Drive (Highways) I-60 east from Phoenix to Globe, Ariz. straight through Devil’s Canyon. Fields of wildflowers added even more color to the brilliant scenery. Deep gorges and colorful cliff walls almost made us forget how long we’d been in the car.
Liveliest City Center (Towns) Flagstaff, Ariz. And not just because this is where we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day. Some of our most interesting conversations begin here. Flagstaff is small with a population of less than 50,000 but there is always something going on downtown and someone who wants to chat.
Friendliest People Flagstaff, Ariz. This place feels like home. Especially since people are starting to recognize us after our third stay here in five months. We are sure we will find a reason to come back here again before the trip is over.
Runner up - Silver City, N.Mex. If we do end up working in Antarctica, blame it on David. Back just a few days from his latest tour, David convinced us that there just might be a way to see the seventh continent that fits our budget. He gets extra points for sending us to the Silver Café before it closed for the night.
Ugliest Capitol Building Phoenix, Ariz. The Capitol itself is fine; it’s the scrap metal yards and vacant lots that surround it that minimizes the grandeur of Arizona’s seat of government. The old capitol building no longer houses the Legislature or the Government. When it became too small, both houses and the governor moved to new buildings on either side and behind the original structure, leaving the domed building to serve as a visitor center and free museum.
Most Beautiful Capitol Building Santa Fe, N.Mex. No dome here. No towering columns. None of the usual trappings of a state center. This three story adobe roundhouse showcases New Mexican artists in every hallway and every available space. This might be Michael’s favorite capitol building yet.
Biggest Disappointment Finding out the only road to the Gila Cliff Dwellings NM, N.Mex. was completely washed away. In fact, the river was still too high for any repairs to begin. Who know how or when we will find ourselves back here. The helpful receptionist at the National Forest headquarters said it could be months before the road is passable.
NOTE: the road actually opened 4 days after we left Silver City.
Most Pleasant Surprise Tie * Cloudcroft, N.Mex. We weren’t expecting snow as we drove across southern New Mexico. We also weren’t expecting to find a funky little town, complete with a main street with a western feel at 9,000 feet above sea level. This was a great lunch stop in between Carlsbad Caverns and El Paso, Texas. * Silver City, N.Mex. An affordable room in a charming historic hotel set us in the middle of Silver City’s downtown. There we found two unique food stores to stock up on camping snacks, some of this month’s friendliest folks and the best local cuisine, all within walking distance. What cliff dwellings?
Most Unpleasant Surprise see Biggest Disappointment.
Cheapest Ballgame Ticket $4 for lawn seats to see the Chicago White Sox play the Colorado Rockies at the Tucson Electric Park, Ariz. We love Spring Training!
Most Expensive Ballgame Ticket $8 for bleacher seats at the same park, this time to see the Arizona Diamondbacks v. the San Francisco Giants.
Best Sporting Experience Spring Training in Arizona. 80 degrees and sunny, cheap seats and giveaways at every game. Like a minor league game, only better. We are very happy that we didn’t attend the March 24th Diamondbacks game; a bee invasion (!) forced the players off the field just after the 5th inning.
Best American Kabuki Power Cat, Tucson Electric Park, Ariz.
Highest Price for Gas $2.15 on March 16th at Chevron, Phoenix, Ariz.
Lowest Price for Gas $1.82 on March 6th at Albertsons, El Paso, Texas. We fondly remember gas prices under $2.00.
Most Out of the Way Site Gila Cliff Dwellings. So out of the way we couldn’t get there.
Runner Up: Fort Bowie NM, Ariz. Eight miles down a dirt road. 3-mile round trip hike to get to the actual site.
Most Vitriol Inducing Site "Thefts Occur Frequently from this Parking Lot", says the sign posted at the Boquillas Canyon trailhead in Big Bend NP, Texas. Watching another person watch you across the Rio Grande didn’t make us feel any better about leaving nearly all of our earthly possessions unattended. So much for that hike.
Best Pizza Fratelli Pizza, Flagstaff, Ariz. In fact, after at least 6 return visits and sampling, no devouring, a number of different pies we just might say, with apologies to Christopher’s in Harrisburg, Pa. that Fratelli Pizza is the best pizza in the United States of America.
Best Local Cuisine Combo platters at the Silver Café, Silver City, N.Mex. Stacked with a taco, chile relleno, 2 enchiladas, beans and rice AND sopapillas. All for $7.
Best Burger In-N-Out Burger. Did you know they were in Phoenix? We didn’t. Gab takes hers animal style. Michael prefers double meat no cheese lettuce tomato and grilled onions only.
Best Barista(s) The men at Raging Sage Café, Tucson, Ariz. “Does anyone ever get black coffee?” Michael asked. “Yes and I love them,” our barista responded without missing a beat or spilling a drop of the iced double mocha soy latte he was preparing. Locally known as the best brew in Tucson, Raging Sage was crowded both times we stopped to fill our mugs. Amazingly, we were out in minutes. And the maple scone, oh my.
Best Bartender Sharon at the Mogollon Brewery, Flagstaff, Ariz. Picture this: It is St. Patty’s Day. You’re out with all of your friends. The joint is packed. Irish Stouts are on special and everyone has one – double poured. Now picture this: There is one person behind the bar! Sharon was amazing. Never looked hurried, never seemed stressed. These are her words: “Don’t’ worry about me; I’m Irish. I could pour stout all day.”
Best Live Music Saturday night at the T Lounge in El Paso, Texas. Thank you, Everett, for taking us to one of your favorite places and reminding us what music should be like. We watched in awe as four Tejano high schoolers rocked so hard Gab thought one of them was going to fall off the stage. This night has single-handedly resurrected Gab’s desire to learn how to play bass. She does play a mean air guitar.
Runner Up – Pat Gahn singing and playing guitar at the Olde Town, Bisbee, Ariz. Country and folk classics, songs from people we have never heard of, and the best rendition of the Grateful Dead’s Jack Straw that Gab has ever heard. We stopped here for a bite to eat before bed. We got the food to go and stayed to hear Pat.
Most Interesting Sign A banner stretched across the main street of Alpine, Texas told us that we missed the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering by just a few days. Oh give me a home...
Most Helpful Roadside Stop The Northwest New Mexico Visitor Center, I-40, exit 85, Grants, N.Mex. Jointly run by NPS, the National Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, which in itself is no small feat, the NW NM VC offers visitors a fantastic introduction to their corner of the state. Walk in and gather all the info you might need for your stay: official NPS brochures, maps, and the prized discount hotel coupon books that have proven so invaluable to us. Then use any of the large open tables to spread them all out and plan your trip. If you have time, choose any of the thirty movies to watch in the theater or browse the museum, which is actually a walk through of area attractions complete with suggested routes for hiking, biking or driving. Nice!
Most helpful to us was a long conversation with one of the NPS staff. After discussion Grants, uranium mining and the logistics of running a multi-agency center, he helped us think through the equally challenging logistics of some of our upcoming stops. Thank you, Rick.
Best Campground Tie * Guadalupe Mountains NP – Tenters are the honored guests here. 18 comfortable sites are available on a first come, first served basis. The ground is level, the water pump nearby, the view is of El Capitan and the RVs are placed out of sight (generators out of hearing range) across the street in the parking lot. * Chiricahua NM – 25 sites on a first come first served basis, tucked away in a pleasant wooded canyon with a free hiker’s shuttle pick up at the restrooms every morning at 8:30 a.m. A high elevation makes this campground a little chilly, but you can handle it, right?
Runner Up: Madera Canyon NF, Valle Verde, Ariz. Maybe we’re just still celebrating the fact that we pulled into one of the last available sites in this highly popular area. The site itself was nothing special, but access to hummingbirds and other birds that migrate through the canyon was. We watched at least a dozen vehicles circle the campground in vain as we chatted with a professional bird photographer who had also gained a spot for the weekend.
Proof that Texas thinks it’s its own country Did you know that Texas celebrates its own Independence Day every March 2nd? We didn’t.
Best Bumper Sticker "Don’t Postpone JOY". Seen in the Casa Grande Ruins NM, Ariz. parking lot. Exactly!
Big Bend, TX • Alpine, TX • Marfa, TX • Van Horn, TX • Carlsbad, NM • Artesia, NM • Cloudcroft, NM • Alamogordo, NM • El Paso, TX • Las Cruces, NM • Deming, NM • Silver City, NM • Lordsburg, NM • Willcox, AZ • Dos Cabezas, AZ • Tombstone, AZ • Bisbee, AZ • Sierra Vista, AZ • Tucson, AZ • Carmen, AZ • Madera Canyon, AZ • Why, AZ • Lukeville, AZ • Ajo, AZ • Coolidge, AZ • Tempe, AZ • Flagstaff, AZ • Phoenix, AZ • Superior, AZ • Miami, AZ • Roosevelt, AZ • Payson, AZ • Strawberry, AZ • Flagstaff, AZ • Holbrook, AZ • Gallup, NM • Window Rock, NM • Ganado, NM • Chinle, NM • Grants, NM • Albuquerque, NM • Santa Fe, NM •
Big Bend NP • Guadalupe Mountains NP • Carlsbad Caverns NM • White Sands NM • Fort Bowie NHS • Chiricahua NM • Coronado N MEM • Saguaro NP • Tumacácori NHP • Organ Pipe Cactus NM • Casa Grande Ruins NM • Tonto NM • Petrified Forest NP • Hubbell Trading Post NHS • Canyon de Chelly NM • El Morro NM • El Malpais NM •
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