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  • Wm. Bracknell

Arizona and Oregon Travels 2014

On Tuesday, we were up at 6 am even though we did not have to be on road until nine thirty. Our flight wasn't scheduled to depart until 3 pm, but there was the two and a half trip to the Charlotte Airport. This trip was planned, primarily to ride the two remaining Hall of Fame bike trails designated by the Rail To Trails Conservancy. There have been 27 trails named to the list and I have ridden twenty-five of them. Number twenty-six is the Peavine-Iron King Trail in Prescott, Arizona and the Springwater Corridor Trail in Portland, Oregon was twenty-seven. These will be number 125 and 126 of my total trail rides. As Rhonda and I often say, the avocation of collecting bike trail rides allows us to have a reason to visit some popular tourist areas along with some very obscure little towns.

We stopped in Huntersville along I-77 for lunch. We had packed ham salad sandwiches and decided to stop at a high end grocery to buy salad ingredients by weight from a salad bar to augment our lunch. We also fueled the car so we would not have to stop for gas when we returned.

Our flight had a plane change in Chicago before heading to Phoenix. The flight was delayed leaving because of a big thunderstorm in our path. We had to wait for the tower to plot a new route and then we had to fly due west and then turn to the southwest to get around the weather system.

We arrived in Pheonix around eight rather than the scheduled 6:40 pm PDST. It was after nine by the time we got the rental car and were on our way for the two hour drive to Prescott. We had not eaten anything except snacks since lunch so, after we got out to edge of Phoenix. we whizzed through the take out window at McDonald and got a dollar menu hamburger. We arrived in Prescott at 11pm and were showered and in bed before 11:30 (2:30 EDST) (it goes without saying – that's a long day, especially for a couple of seniors.

Despite the late bedtime, we were up and ready for the 6 o'clock hotel breakfast. It was the anticipation of the adventures ahead and some breakfast waiting that got use going. I thought it would be the usual continental breakfast fare, but we were pleasantly surprised to find a full breakfast consisting of eggs, link sausage, sausage gravy and biscuits, hash browns, waffles and the usual bagels, raisin cinnamon toast and cereal along with juice and coffee. It was just what we needed to start a busy day.

It was 57 degrees when we left the room and the temperature was supposed to get to about 86. Prescott's elevation was around 5300 feet. The tourist information stated that they had four mild seasons (the winters do not get severely cold nor are the summers as hot a Pheonix.). It would be an enticing location to live or stay awhile, except for the diminished number of trees.

The bike shop did not open until 10 am so we had about three hours to kill, so we drove down town and walked around the Yavapia County Courthouse and down Montezuma Street which was called Whiskey Row. It is famous for it's historic wild west saloons, once having over 40 saloons. These establishments served miners and cowboys along the trail to California. Prescott was also the first capital of the state.

Next, we drove out to the Highlands Nature Center and walked several short trails in order to kill time waiting for the bike shop to open. We got to the Iron Clad bike shop just as they were opening and after getting the bike, a bike rack and helmet, we were off to find the northern start of the Peavine trail. I was hoping to use my new tablet to aid us in finding the trail head, but at the time, I had not figured out how to find the files on the device. After about thirty minutes of driving around and using a not so good map, we found the parking lot and I was on my way.

It was a perfectly sunny day with the temperature about 85 degrees. There was a gusty wind blowing which made the air cooler, but it was a head wind requiring a tad more effort. The terrain was mostly open all of the way to the junction of the Iron King trail except for some spectacular rock formations a couple of miles in. I turned left at the marked junction and rode the four miles to the end of the Iron King Trail. After the first mile it was also very open with small desert type plants along the way. On the way back, it was slightly up hill nearly all the way. They remaining three miles to the Watson Lake parking and picnic area was more scenic, but still shadeless except for a grove of large cottonwood trees a quarter mile from the end.

Rhonda was waiting near the trail under the shade of a picnic shelter. After eating some tuna salad spread and crackers, we headed back to turn in the bike and pay for the rental. We stopped at a couple of the shops on Montezuma Street, bought some souvenirs, and split an ice cream cone. We were back to the motel by 3:30, where Rhonda read from her Kindle and I took a nap. We had a great Mexican dinner at the motel res truant and after wards we drove down to another part of town and went by the site of the early governor's mansion. We retired early and was up by 5:30 the next morning ready to have that big breakfast again.

After breakfast, we drove over to the Fort Whimple Museum and walked through the Yavapia College sculpture gardens. We then headed northeast on Hwy 89 toward Sedona about 56 miles away. The highway was winding and climbed to about 7,200 feet through the Prescott National Forest. We drove through the towns of Jerome, Clarksdale and Cottonwood on the Sedona side of the mountains. Jerome was an old copper mining town that was literally built on the side of the mountain. After the copper played out, it became a ghost town, but in the 70's hippies and artist started inhabiting the buildings and now it a tourist destination for art lovers and historians. ( It was a most interesting little town.

Before reaching Sedona, we stopped and hiked several trails in the Red Rocks State Park which is on Oak Creek a tributary of the Verde River. The trails on the slopes and away from the creek were very warm in the sun, but along the shaded creek it was a very comfortable oasis.

It was a little after the noon hour when we arrived in Sedona. Beyond the commercialized streets and roadways, there were spectacular views and scenery everywhere. The huge rock formations and buttes were a flat red and some had thin layers of cream, tan, or brown, but mostly red. They stood like huge monuments, similar to those in Arches National Park in Utah or Monument Valley of Colorado. We could not check in the motel until 3 pm, so we drove along Hwy 89 taking in the scenery and trying to decide what we wanted for lunch. We stopped at one place we had heard about, but the hamburgers prices started at ten dollars.

After lunch, we drove out to the Chapel of the Holy Cross. It was a major tourist site and very beautiful. It is a Roman Catholic chapel and run by the Diocese of Phoenix, as a part of St. John Vianney Parrish. It was inspired and commissioned by a local rancher and sculptor, Marquerite Brunswig Staude, who had been inspired in 1932 by the newly constructed Empire State Building to build such a church. After an attempt to do so in Europe, with the help of noted architect, an Frank Lloyd Wright. After the war broke out, she decided to build the church in her native region. It was completed in 1952

On the way back to uptown Sedona we spotted one of those tourist traps that had just about every kind of western motif imaginable, mostly for the yard. There was also a special area for first class art and artisan items, such as painting, rugs, pottery, and jewelry. There was lots of the Mexican pottery and clay tiles we had seen at a similar place in Florida. It was fun just to see what can be bought to add interest to your yard, garden or patio.

Our next destination was a visit to Oak Creek Canyon in the Coconino National Forest. Oak Creek Canyon is a river gorge located along the Mogollon Rim in northern Arizona between Flagstaff and Sedona. The canyon is often described as the smaller cousin (much smaller) of the Grand Canyon because of its scenic beauty. State Route 89A enters the canyon on it north end via a series of hairpin turns before traversing the bottom of the canyon for about 13 miles where the highway enters the town of Sedona. The Oak Creek Canyon – Sedona area is second only to Grand Canyon as the most popular tourist destination in Arizona. A huge forest fire (21,227 acres) burned from May 20 to June 4th north of Slide rock. Fortunately it was extinguished two days before we arrived. We drove up a good ways into the canyon and found that even though is was bad it did not burn down along the creek or cross to the eastern side of the highway in the areas we visited. I may have been much worst the five miles we did not drive. There was a sign out of Sedona that said the highway was closed twelve miles ahead.

There was a popular site at Slide Rock State Park, where visitors could play in the creek and slide down on wet rock slabs in the creek. The site was closed due to the fire. The fire did not damage much of the park, but the area was being investigated for hazards, contamination, the source of the fire. It had been on my list for one of the “JTSIDI” (just to say I did it) events.

We were very glad to see in the distance that much of the beauty was untouched even where the entire western slope was devastated by the fire. There were signs at some of the homes and business thanking the fighters for saving their property. It is clear to see how this area is so popular with tourist.

We picked up a frozen lasagna and some salad fixings on the way back to the motel. Upon arrival, we headed for the pool. The water was just the right temperature to be refreshing and the breeze in the shade was very cool after coming out.

Friday morning we were up early for a five mile hike I had mapped out using three trails to make a loop. We arrived at the trail head at 7 am and it was about 64 degrees. The high for the day was going to be over ninety. The hike took in a part of the Brin Mesa, Soldier Pass and Jordan Trails. There was a 600 ft. somewhat gradual climb to the mesas. There were gorgeous views in all directions and many different wildflowers and plant life that I would need a book to identify.

We were warned by a sign at the start of the trail to be aware of rattlesnakes, but did not see any. On the Solider Pass trail trail, there were several features listed in the description I found on a site on the internet. There was the seven scared pools, the Devil's Sinkhole and some arches in the bluffs off in the distance. We connected with the Jordan Trail to get back to where the car was parked and arrived there right at 10 o'clock. Rhonda and I both agreed that the early start and the dry air made for a very pleasant hike; one of the best we had been on in a good while.

We returned to the motel briefly to check in on our flight to Portland for the next day and print our boarding passes. (can't be done before 24 hours before the flight and the closest to that time the better choice you will have for seats. Southwest does not assign seats, only places in line for you to chose your seat once on the plane.

At lunch, we decided to do our 'barbecue thing” (tasting barbecue where ever we go). We had seen the Red Rock Barbecue restaurant on the way out to the Chapel of the Holy Cross right off 89A in the heart of Sedona. We split a pull pork plate and it was pretty good. Their sauces were not that interesting. We usually do not care for the mustard based sauces, but is was the best of the three they had. After lunch, we strolled around the shops in the uptown area. It was a lot like Bar Harbor, Me, Gatlinburg, Tn and other such tourist towns near beautiful natural areas.

We stopped again at the Save Way grocery store and picked up frozen meatloaf and some steamer veggies for supper and some breakfast sandwiches for the next morning. I took a nap from about 3:30 to 4:30 and then we went to the pool. There was a couple there from up state New York that had just bought a vacation house in Belville on the Brunswick River outside of Wilmington. They were out visiting a son in Prescott and was on the way to Las Vegas to see a granddaughter graduate from Culinary School.

Saturday morning we had to be back in Phoenix to catch a 10:50 flight to Portland which meant that we had to be a the airport at 9:25, gas the rental car, buy a sandwich to take with us for lunch and turn in the rental car. With insurance, adding Rhonda as an extra driver, surcharges and the high Arizona taxes, the rental came out to just a little under a hundred dollars a day. It was not anywhere close to the thirty-three dollar rate I saw when I reserved the car online. I knew there was going to be some additional fees, but the bill really floored me. The bottom line is that we had to have the car to do what we planned. And what we planned sure was fun, scenic and one of those BTDT* moments.

The drive to Phoenix was about two hours, so we left Sedona at around 6:30. We stopped briefly about halfway near Black Canyon City to take our picture next to one of the giant Saguaro Cactus. It was a good thing we had allowed plenty of time. The baggage check line and the security area both were extremely busy but we still had time to spare. Saturday morning must be popular time to fly.

We arrived in Portland at the schedule 1:45pm time and as soon as we got our luggage and the rental car, Rhonda plugged in the GPS and we headed out of town east on I-84 to the Columbia River Gorge and Multnomah Falls on Larch Mountain. The area around the falls was crowded with sightseers. I took a number of pictures from the parking area and then we headed up to the pedestrian bridge that crosses in front of the falls, going past the lower falls. It is said to be the second tallest year round falls in the United States.

Rhonda said if I wanted to hike to the top, she would wait for me down by the gift shop. The trail was about a mile long with thirteen switchbacks. It was another one of those JTSIDI** occasions. I decided to do it as an impulse, so I did not have any water to carry with me. I was a little thirsty when I got back to the car.

From there, we drove the old historic Highway 30 back almost to the outskirts of Portland, stopping at another falls and the Vista House where we took in a spectacular view of the Columbia Gorge. The GPS was now set for the Ramada Airport motel where we had reservations.

The motel was convenient to the airport, two major expressways, a shopping center and had a nice outside appeal. Once inside, one could tell that it had been there quite awhile. The style of wood paneling and the wear in the carpet was showing it age. The rooms were nice, but some of the fixtures were not the most modern. The rate I got on and the reviews were good. The desk staff were great. They were friendly and readily gave recommendations where we could find places to eat and they had a shuttle to the airport.

We found that there was a new shopping center near by that had a Panda Express (one of our favorite Asian fast food restaurants. I got a large plate of food I wasn't sure I could handle it and was thinking takeout box – but I was wrong – it got consumed. We were soon back at the room and were showered and in bed by 9:30.

The next morning, Sunday, we were out by 6:30. It was overcast and 57 degrees, but the forecast said it was going to be mostly sunny and in the low 80s. The motel had a restaurant but it did not open until 7. We found an Elmer's restaurant while following directions to Shari's. It was similar to Denny's and Shoney's. Rhonda and I split a three egg western omelet with ham. The plate also had hash browns and a biscuit.

I had scheduled to pick up a bike from a private individual at 9am. My bike riding friend in Raleigh had told me about an internet rental service called Spinlister. They list individuals who want to rent their bike and the service is in most major cities. I was renting from an individual because the bike rental shops did not open until noon or 1 pm on Sunday. I wanted to get the ride in so we would have time to take in some of Portland.

We had two and a half hours before picking up the bike. We went downtown and crossed the Willamette River and drove along until we got to another bridge that crossed over to the area in which the trail started. As mentioned before, the main purpose of the Portland visit was to ride the Springwater Corridor Trail thus completing my quest of riding all the Hall of Fame trails (27).

We got to Tim's house (the renter) before 8:30 and he had the bike ready. I paid another five dollars to use one of his bike racks to transport the bike on the rental car. We loaded the bike and Rhonda GPS the trail head which was on Ivon St. We could not find the trail right away, but there was a poor sign that said it was in the area. Rhonda headed east toward the other end in Boring, Oregon. It took me another fifteen minutes to actually find the trail with the help of another rider. As it turned out, Ivon Street was split with a gap missing in the middle due to the rail road and thoroughfare.

As I got underway, it was still overcast and there were a good number of bikers and runners out on the trail. I reached the other end in Boring after the twenty-one and a half miles in just over two hours. I only stopped to take pictures or drink water. Even though the trail was in a urban area, it had the feel, except for the road and street crossings, of a much more rural area. That was because it ran beside Johnson Creek and through several parks and natural areas.

It was getting close to lunch time, but we wanted to get the bike back to the owner so we would not be responsible for it. Immediately after returning the bike, we started checking on the GPS for eating establishments. We spotted a sign for a farmer's market in the suburb of Milwaukee. The first food vendor we spotted, was a German lady selling German sausages. We bought a plate with the sausage in a bun with sour kraut, German potato salad, and pickled red cabbage and beets. The market had most of the usual fare of baked goods, frozen meat, some crafts and lots of fresh early vegetables. There were several that had strawberries, cherries, cabbages, carrots, beets, lettuce and greens. I asked if everything was local and she said the climate there allow them to use large covered beds to grow some produce year round.

We left there and headed for Leach's botanical garden south of Gresham. We walked around the gardens for almost an hour and then decided to drive down to one of the waterfront parks downtown along the Willamette River, but when we crossed the river and started driving toward the park, the traffic was backed up from a rose show and festival. Portland has one of the best test gardens for roses in the nation. You could tell the that roses were popular. They were seen in many yards and along the streets and highways.

We headed back to the motel so we could go the pool and then go out for supper. We decided to go over to a place we had seen coming back from the airport. It was another restaurant like Denny’s and was very good and reasonably priced. They had Marionberry pie on the dessert menu. I asked the waitress what was a Marionberry and she said it was a blackberry which originated and tested in Marion County. Since we both love good blackberries, I bought a slice to take with us. I ate my portion before bedtime and Rhonda had hers the next morning. We both felt it had great blackberry flavor and later wished we had bought a jar of the jelly.

The “Marion' cultivar (Rubus L. subgenus Rubus) or Marion blackberry, is an indigenous blackberry developed by the USDA, ARS breeding program in cooperation with Oregon State University. It is a cross between the 'Chehalem' and 'Olalie blackberries. The Marionberry is currently the most common blackberry cultivar, accounting for over half of the blackberries produced in Oregon and around 90% is produced in Marion County and the surrounding Willamette River Valley.

Monday morning, we were out early to beat the traffic around Portland, headed for Astoria and the site of winter quarters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition at Fort Clatsop. We stopped a local cafe along the way for breakfast. We arrived at the site outside of Astoria on the Lewis and Clark River a few minutes for they opened. After touring the site and taking in all the exhibits, we stopped at a Starbucks in a Save Way grocery to use the internet to confirm our flight for the next morning. We were flying US Air so we already had seat assignment. We would print the boarding passes by at the motel later.

Next on our agenda was to walk on the beach of the Pacific Ocean, so we headed for the nearest public beach, which was Sunset Beach, just a short way down the road. It was a hard packed beach and vehicles were allowed to drive on it for miles in each direction. There was a guy there kite surfing and another on a three wheel vehicle which was propelled by a kite. The beach was very broad and ideal for such an activity.

We had asked the staff back at Fort Clatsop for a recommendation as to where we might get some good local seafood. They were not emphatic about any particular place, but one suggestion was right before the bridge over Youngs Bay going into Astoria, Dooger's Seafood and Grill. We ordered clams and fresh halibut. Both were specialties of the area. They both were very good. Even though we intended to order the clam strips, we got razor clams and they were the largest clams I've ever seen. They were about the size of a credit card and of course, much thicker.

After the great seafood lunch, we drove back downtown and stopped at the mariner's museum and walked around in the gift shop. We decided not to go into the museum because the admission price was ten dollars a piece (for seniors). As we were headed back to the car, we saw a restored trolley in operation on the tracks that ran along the river front. It was only a a dollar each and was a wonderful tour of the ten or so blocks along the shore. The two volunteer guides were quite informative and entertaining. They even pointed out several spots that were in movies that were filmed there, one of which was the Goonies.

The river there in Astoria was quite wide, so large freighters would tie up just outside the main channel waiting their turn to go up river to load primarily forest products and grain,. They would go upriver as far as Portland, but the mooring fees up river would be as high as a thousand dollars a day. It did not cost them anything to tie up and wait their turn in Astoria.

We decided not to take any of the interstate on the way back, so we could see more of the countryside. About half of the 96 miles would be Interstate 5. We stopped at a grocery along the way to get a frozen dinner for supper, something for breakfast, and something to make a sandwich for lunch.

We decided to take the rental car back over near the airport after supper and turn it in so we did not have to deal with it before the flight. The motel said to call them from the rental place and they would come and pick us up. After we turned in the car, we asked if their shuttle went near our motel and the driver said he would take us there. Back at the motel, I scheduled us for the 7 am shuttle to the airport. Our flight was scheduled for 8:55 am.

The next morning we were ready to go when the 6:30 shuttle was loading, so we climbed aboard. The flight was to Phoenix where we changed planes for Charlotte. Total travel time was 7 hours and 24 minutes including the 42 minutes layover in Phoenix. We arrived home Tuesday night at around 10:30 after driving from Charlotte. Needless to say, we did not get up Wednesday morning at the crack of dawn.

I I calculated that our total flying miles was around 6200 miles (not sure how many miles the diversion out of Chicago would have been). I did not keep up with the driving miles, but the gas that was used in the two cars, I would estimate it was around 600 miles. It was a busy trip but worth every minute and dollar. We loved the Prescott and Sedona area for the different scenery. The Portland and northeast Oregon has its unique beauty also. We spend most of travels camping so this was a different type of vacation. I did some research to check the climate of each area to help decide when was the best time to visit and we hit it spot on.

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