Arizona Trip 2020 – Verde Valley

Dates: January 18-19, 2020

After Uncle Jake’s memorial service and fellowship at the Mountain View United Methodist Church in Cottonwood, a group of relatives went to lunch. Sally’s sister Betty had a large contingent of grown kids attend the service and lunch: two sons and a daughter along with various of her in-laws. It was informal but comforting. I had an especially nice time visiting with one of Betty’s sons-in-law.

Carla, Diana, and I then headed out on our own for the afternoon. Our first stop was old town Cottonwood. Back in 1965, Diana and I spent the summer at my Aunt June’s and Uncle Tony’s place along Oak Creek east of the road that connects Cottonwood and Sedona. Tony farmed a bit of land down in the valley but his primary job was owning and operating a grocery store in downtown. I helped unload the trucks and stocked the shelves. I also wrapped groceries. Back then, they didn’t use grocery bags; instead, there was a big roller of brown paper and a large spool of twine. I was terrible at wrapping people’s groceries. Just plain terrible. But June and Tony never raised their voices and gave me time and space to figure out how to do it.

Diana worked up in the office with Aunt June – Jake’s second oldest sister. If you are old enough you’ll remember Green Stamps and/or Blue Chip Stamps stamps. When you bought something at a participating store – thousands and thousands across the country – you’d get a certain number of stamps per dollar spent. Diana’s job was to manage the stamp process.

As an aside, I remember pasting stamps into booklets at home. We’d have a big pile of stamps, a bunch of booklets, and sponges. My sisters and I would dampen the stamps with sponges and paste them into the books. When there were enough filled booklets, my mom would take us shopping at the Green Stamp redemption store.

Anyway, Tony retired and sold the store; today, it is a cabinet shop.

Aunt June and Uncle Tony’s Old Grocery store in Cottonwood, Arizona. Now a cabinet shop

Carla took a picture of Diana and me at the front door.

Howard and Diana in front of what used to be June and Tony’s grocery store. Cottonwood, Arizona

Old Town Cottonwood fell into the predictable hard times in the 70s, 80s, and 90s; but it has recently turned into a nice tourist area featuring wine tasting shops. While it doesn’t have the backdrop of the red hills you’ll find in Sedona, it is a more pleasant place to visit because of the lack of craziness that comes with Sedona tourism.

After walking through downtown and pointing out building we remembered, we walked down to the “Gateway of the Verde River” and walked along a beautiful path. Although their leaves were gone, the cottonwood trees were stunning with their white branches and limbs. I tried to capture the white tops.

White topped cottonwood trees along the Verde River in Cottonwood, Arizona
White topped cottonwood trees along the Verde River in Cottonwood, Arizona

The Verde River is that last free flowing river in Arizona. It’s not huge like its big brothers the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers, but it has its charms.

Verde River in Cottonwood, Arizona
Cottonwood Tree Reflections in the Verde River. Cottonwood, Arizona

After about an hour we wondered what to do next. Carla and I recalled that the neighboring town of Clarkdale has a copper museum that some of our yoga friends rave about. If you’ve been to the area, you have probably seen Jerome, the copper mining town on the side of Mingus mountain that dominates Cottonwood and Clarkdale. Clarkdale is at the base of the mountain where the smelter was and where the mine managers lived. Aunt Sally tells the story of how the mining operation just picked up and moved to a new mine – equipment, miners, families and belongings – in a weekend. Jerome is now a ghost town turned into a tourist town. It is said that if you lived in Jerome long enough, one leg would grow longer than the other, making it easier to walk the steep slopes of town. I have a couple of posts about Jerome you can see here.

Anyway, we drove the few miles over to Clarkdale to take in the museum which is in the old Clarkdale High School building.

Copper Museum in Clarkdale, Arizona

The museum was informative and there are an abundance of intriguing displays. But what took our breath away was the artillery art made during World War I. Soldiers would use their idle time in the trenches making intricate art from the brass – made from copper and zinc – artillery shells. After finding a spent shell without any cracks, they’d fill it with molten lead, then trace a design and slowly and delicately hammer out a pattern. Being filled with lead, hammering in one place would push out the brass in another. Here is an example of the result.

Artillery Art from World War I in the Copper Museum, Clarkdale, Arizona

There was an entire old classroom filled with hundreds of pieces of the shells. If you are in Sedona and/or Jerome, a stop at the copper museum is worth a look.

We stopped by Jake and Sally’s place on our return trip to watch Wheel of Fortune with Sally, Betty, and one of Betty’s sons. I think the country can be divided into two camps – not liberal or conservative – but whether you watch Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy. Sally, Jake, and Betty are diehard Wheel of Fortune fans.

Afterwards we headed back to our hotel. One of the benefits of the Cottonhwood Best Western is that there is a Mexican restaurant in the parking lot. We could drink a margarita or two and not have to have a designated driver.

We were scheduled to depart the next morning. Carla and I headed up to Winslow – of course – and Diana had to get back to Texas. Diana and I posed for a picture; we haven’t seen each other in person for too many years.

Brother and Sister having dinner after Uncle Jake’s memorial service

A second benefit of staying on the second floor of the back wing of the motel is the view. Early Sunday morning, I woke up, took a step out on the balcony and snapped away. Sedona’s red hills are hidden in the shadows.

Winter Sunrise in Cottonwood Arizona
Winter Sunrise in Cottonwood Arizona

While the sun was ascending the moon was getting ready for bed.

Early morning quarter moon in Cottonwood, Arizona

After a visit to give Sally one more hug, we headed out. Diana used to live in Cottonwood for a couple of years so she had breakfast with an old friend. Carla and I headed up to Flagstaff, then Winslow. Our first stop was Martanne’s Burrito Palace in Flagstaff. It is known as the “The House That Chilaquiles Built”. I had my first plate of chilaquiles there in the Fall of 2018 and have been looking forward ever since to my next visit. While I’ve had the dish a couple of other places since, your first love is always the strongest.

Chilaquiles are basically a green chili on top of corn tortilla chips. These feature scrambled eggs under it all. We didn’t have hangovers but this looks like perfect hangover food. Looking back at pictures of our last visit, the hashbrowns are a recent addition.

Chiliqueiles at Martannes in Flagstaff

It was late Sunday morning so of course the college crowd from Northern Arizona University crowded the place. We had a 15 minute wait to get a table, but it is sooo worth it.

The artwork on the walls is, interesting.

Artwork at Martannes. Flagstaff, Arizona

It was quite cold out – below freezing – but we stretched our legs a bit before getting back in the car. What do you know, we sauntered by the Flagstaff train depot. How did that happen? What, a train is coming? I might as well grab a picture.

Container train on the BNSF Transcon in Flagstaff, Arizona

We drove down to Winslow looking forward to some sightseeing the next day.

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