Sunday, September 1, 2013

133 miles with cliff dwellings, red rocks, mining towns, mountains and a thunderstorm

Thank you Christine and Tom! Part of the fun of living in a new place is meeting people who share our love of riding a motorcycle, and today Christine and Tom were our tour guides on a 133 mile trip through the Verde Valley.

Arizona-blue skies with puffy white clouds and the temperature hovering around 90 made for a wonderful day on the BMW. Our first destination was Montezuma Castle National Monument, 50 miles and 1000 years from Prescott.

The southern Sinagua farmers built this 5-story, 20-room dwelling sometime between 1100 and 1300 on cliffs that rise 100 feet above the valley. It's amazing to think about the amount of work that went into simply staying alive:  carrying water and food from the valley up a series of wooden ladders into the village built into the side of the limestone cliffs.

From Montezuma Castle we headed northwest to Sedona and the gorgeous sandstone red rock formations. 

Unfortunately, it seemed like everyone in the state of Arizona had the same idea as bumper-to-bumper traffic backed up 5 miles outside of Sedona. Instead of melting in the 90 degree sunshine and heat reflected off the asphalt, we took a quick left and headed west toward Cottonwood, known for its historic downtown.

We all were glad to leave the traffic behind us as we traveled on almost-empty, twisty roads through Cornville and Page Springs.


According to the Cottonwood website, “In 1874 soldiers from Camp Verde were stationed at an adobe house, but at that time there was no name for the present Cottonwood (where the house existed). As settlers moved in and the community developed, it took its name from a circle of sixteen large cottonwoods growing about one-quarter of a miles away from the Verde River. The place was unhealthful. Malaria and dysentry were severe problems as mosquitos rose in thick clouds from stagnant pools left by receding floods."

We didn't see any stagnant pools or mosquitos, but I did spot two hang-gliders. We stopped for lunch at Old Town Cooperage on the old historic main street in Cottonwood before continuing south toward Jerome.

Jerome barely hangs onto the side of the mountains where it was founded by miners, grew to 15,000 people working in the copper mining industry in the 1920's, survived 4 large fires that destroyed much of the downtown area, and currently is a busy tourist town promoting its history, arts and crafts, and numerous local wineries.

We tolerated the traffic in town in order to have fun on the hairpin turns and winding, twisting road that leads south from Jerome toward Prescott. This route was made for mules and wagons but today is great fun on a motorcycle. We even saw one person riding a longboard, reminding us of our son Nate who races longboards.

The sky seems to go on forever in Arizona, and as we headed toward home we could see dark clouds unleashing sheets of rain to the north and south. At one point we saw a 'window' of bright blue sky, book-ended on each side by black clouds and heavy rains.

Imagine standing in the middle of that 'window', watching the rain pour down all around. Even though we saw lightning in the distance we felt only a few sprinkles as we rode back into Prescott. We ended the day sitting on the porch at Christine and Tom's house, talking about the ride, watching lightning, and finally spotting a rainbow.

We're already planning the next ride!


  1. That sounds like a perfect day on two wheels - once you could dodge the busy traffic of course.

    Thanks for the link on the Sinagua. I learned something new. Would be interesting to tour that old cliff dwelling if it wasn't too dangerous.

    1. If you want to tour cliff dwellings, check out Mesa Verde in southwestern Colorado. We were there 4 years ago, and the tour led by a park ranger into the cliff dwellings was fantastic. Not for the faint of heart because you climb up wooden ladders!