Yesterday we were up and out of the bus early, making a road trip to our old hometown of Show Low, Arizona. It is 175 miles from the Pinal County Fairgrounds to Show Low, and every foot of it is scenic.
U.S. Highway 60 winds its way uphill from the Valley of the Sun to the White Mountains, passing through desert, spectacular mountains, historic small towns, and dense pine forests along the way. The highway has been undergoing a major construction project between Apache Junction and Superior the last few years, and the results are great. Much of it is divided four lane highway, and the portions that are still two lane road have frequent passing lanes. They call this the Old West Highway, and it weaves through the Queen Creek Tunnel and between rough mountains that are popular with rock climbers, photographers, and artists.
As we drove through the small town of Miami, tall mine derricks looked down on us from the hillsides, and a few miles down the highway at Claypool the smokestack and main buildings of one of the many regional copper mines dominated a ridgeline. Globe, Miami, and Claypool are all separate towns, though you drive out of one and into the next without ever knowing it.
There is a lot of history in this area, so slow down and enjoy the neat old commercial buildings as you pass through. Since this stretch of the route is also aggressively patrolled for speed, be careful so you don’t make an unexpected donation to the local economy. This is a No Tolerance area, and the cops here will write you up for one mile over the limit.
35 miles north of Globe, U.S. 60 starts winding five miles down to the bottom of the Salt River Canyon, one of the most breathtaking places in the West. Here in Arizona, we call this the “Other Grand Canyon.” The highway has lots of pullouts, so be sure to stop at each one. The vistas are just unbelievable, and different at each pullout.
Be sure your camera batteries are fully charged, because I guarantee that you’ll be taking lots of pictures! Be careful driving through the canyon! In my years publishing the weekly newspaper in Show Low, I covered many fatal accidents on this highway. Most were caused by speed and carelessness. Those signs that show 15 mile per hour curves are there for a reason. The canyon’s hairpin turns are unforgiving, and if you go off the side, it’s a long way down!
At the bottom of the canyon there is a rest area large enough for RVs to pull into, and it’s a good place to take a break, enjoy the scenery, and to let your brakes cool down if you need to. A pair of bridges cross the river just past the rest area. One is closed to vehicular traffic, but pedestrians use it to get good views of the rushing river below. On summer days you’ll often see white water rafters enjoying the river. This is Apache land, so if you want to hike, fish, or explore past the highway, you’ll need a reservation permit.
Once you cross the bridge, it is 48 miles to Show Low, and you are climbing all the way. The elevation at the bridge is 3,363 feet, and Show Low is 6,450 feet. Once you climb out of the canyon, there are still curves and some short, steep climbs, but most of it is gradual. Between the Salt River Canyon and Show Low, the road passes through the huge White Mountain Apache Reservation.
The only place to buy gas between Globe and Show Low is at a small convenience store 24 miles north of the Salt River Canyon, at the junction with State Route 73. This store seems to open and close at the whim of whomever is supposed to be working on any given day, so I always top off my tank before leaving Globe or Show Low.
As the highway climbs up to the White Mountains, it passes through dense forests of tall Ponderosa pine trees. Be alert for wildlife here. Elk, deer, and black bear are commonly struck by vehicles in this area. When you arrive in Show Low, you will not believe you are still in Arizona. The pine trees, lakes, and snow (yes, there was still a lot of snow on the ground yesterday), will make you think you are in Colorado or Montana.
The long trip was worth it, because we had several hours with my daughter Tiffany, son-in-law Jim, and granddaughters Hailey and Destiny. Little Destiny is still too young to remember us from our last visit in April, but it didn’t take her long to warm up to her Grandpa. Here is a picture Jim took of me with my favorite ladies in the world (from left), Miss Terry, Hailey, Grandpa Nick, Destiny, and Tiffany. Did you ever see a fat old guy with so many pretty girls?
We spent the afternoon with the kids, looked at a house they are negotiating to buy (which has plenty of room for our bus and a dozen more RVs to park), and all too soon had to make our way back down the hill to the bus. It was a long day, but we have been away from those two grandkids too long and we had a whole bunch of kisses, snuggles, and tickles we needed to deliver.
Thought For The Day – If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.