We pulled out of Quartzsite onto I-10 and picked up Highway 60 in just a few miles. It was a beautiful day, a beautiful road, I was feeling beautiful as we glided along. I have spent a lot of time reflecting on myself, I want to be more gracious, less nervous. I try to visualize myself as the happy, serene person I really want to be. So with that good attitude off we went.
I need to say here I still haven't used a full quart of oil yet and I've gone over 1,500 miles. I can't believe it and I guess that is just a tribute to my mechanic Micahel Elliott. I keep checking but the levels are still good.
From 60 we picked up Highway 71 and Joe began looking for Stanton. Maps can be so decieving. What seems obvious on a map is so hard to discern on the road. We never found the turnoff for Stanton and I started having misgivings as we began ascending higher and higher into mountain ranges.
By the time we got to Jerome I had become a horrible nagging monster, a million miles from the beauty I had been envisioning in my mind for the last few days. Joe didn't bother to notice any elevation notes on the road maps he was studying and the ascent only got worse, curvier, steeper, harder to manage. There is only one thing I hate more than trekking down washboard dirt roads that dislodge every screw and bolt in my van and that is heading up and down mountain grades of eight to twelve percent that require endless braking and gear shifting.
I had to go to first gear on some bends and couldn't make more than 20 mph. Of course this endears me greatly to the string of drivers behind me and my stress mounts with every second. Where the hell is Julie Andrews singing "The hills are alive with the sound of music," And where the heck are we - Bavaria?
I bitch, bitch, bitch. Poor Joe. I have manifested every ugly wart of bad habit that I hate in myself. I have really tried to stop complaining as best I can. And it's amazing how little I have to say if I'm not complaining. I kept my mouth shut for as long as I could stand it and then the frustrations and arguments running around in my mind get so great I have to release them or I think my head is going to pop. Poor Joe. I don't know how he stands me sometimes.
It was an entire afternoon of 20 and 30 mph, first and second gear driving but finally we made it to Jerome. I didn't even care. I wasn't even going to get out of the van, I just wanted to calm myself down. But that was before I realized what a special place Jerome, AZ, is.
A lot like Bisbee, it's a100-year-old gold mining town abandoned by Phelps-Dodge, just like Bisbee. What is called the Gold King Mine today was originally Haynes, AZ, in 1890, a small suburb of Jerome, one mile north. The Haynes Copper Company dug a 1200 foot deep shaft in search of copper. They missed the copper, but hit gold instead.
When the Gold King Mine ended its run the area was reinhabited by a lot of artists and small business people. The town is filled with antique trucks, tractors, construction and mining equipment dating back to the turn of the century. You can enter a walk-in mine, see the world's largest gas engines, and enjoy all the shops as well.
It's smaller than Bisbee, clinging to the side of a mountain, and butressed up with long stairsteps and landings that offer views that go on for what seems like hundreds of miles. Looking towards Cottonwood and Sedona, far far down the mountain range, you can follow the little two lane highway past the desert floor and into the infinity of enormous red rock mountains. They call this red rock country.
When we arrive in the late afternoon the town is teeming with bikers, antique cars, and lots of tourists and shoppers. I guess the big rigs aren't as interested in trekking up the mountain sides as I see few of their ilk here. Obviously it is a destination place for people out on an adventurous motorcycle or sports car ride.
I washed my hair inside the van and cleaned up. I told Joe to come back in an hour and I would be a different person. We hugged and I apologized. He felt bad for me too for all the stress and we got on with it and hit the streets.
One of the most interesting features to me was the state park which was the old Douglas Mansion. You see it off in the distance, it's a small mountain completely terraced and landscaped with this enormous mansion ala the Biltmore in North Carolina. But alas as is so common now, it was closed by the state one week before we arrived - budget cuts.
We enjoyed peering into the multiple art galleries and craft shops and had dinner at the wine bar. The day ended on a great note. We found an open mic at the Spirit Bar next to a small hotel. The gig was hosted by a Jerome resident who calls himself DL Harrison. Gosh he was great, haven't heard such good music since Catdaddy played back there in Bisbee.
DL sang Otis Redding, old blues songs, southern rock. I had enough of a buzz on to sing along, probably a little too loud. Plus he writes his own music. I loved his line, "Tell your story walking, your truth won't set me free." Great lines, and he was joined by a beautiful young woman, Nancy McDonald, who accompanied him on a cello. She later came back and did a solo gig on her ukelele. It was a great night. Joe and I got up and did two poems. The crowd was kind. DL's my space address: www.myspace.com/dloveharrison
After being so upset all day long it was a great way to end the evening. We took a stroll around the town, which was definitely a lot quieter at night, and headed back to our urban campsite, right in the middle of the action across from the Conner Hotel.