Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado

Tucson, Arizona

We had very kindly been invited to stay with some friends of Carol’s in Silver City, New Mexico. To get there we had a 10 hour long bus ride with Flixbus from Las Vegas, which was a bargain $21.99 each.

We arrived at the Hotel Tucson City Center, Ascend Hotel, hot and sweaty looking forward to a dip in the pool. We had seen a the pictures online and it would be just the job after such a long coach trip. It didn’t disappoint either it looked lovely when we arrived.

Unfortunately we arrived at 6.05pm to be told the pool was now closed, and by the way so was the hotel restaurant for any evening meals 😔

After such a long journey we expressed our dissatisfaction, but the receptionist remained upbeat; “I can give you a room with a view of the pool if you like” Yeah, thanks a lot 🤥 She continued, “and if that’s not sufficient, I will happily cancel your booking at no cost to you and allow you to stay elsewhere”

Again, thanks a lot! Vegas and the long journey had worn us out, we were in no mood to be picking up our heavy bags again, researching other hotels and booking another taxi to take us there. We paid and we stayed. We would only be there one night, so what else could go wrong?

Well we didn’t have to wait too long for an answer to that question… We did an online order for some food to be delivered, I chose a pizza, which was delivered an hour or more later and on arrival was absolutely stone cold!

To be fair though the driver did have a great excuse. He got stuck waiting at a level crossing for a train to pass, and this is a part of the world where the trains can be nearly 4km long. We know that, because we’ve seen them!

Anyway, our room had a microwave oven, so the pizza was soon piping hot and delicious. Carol ordered a burger from 5 Guys, and agreed with my friend Mark Wallace that these are amongst the best in the world, if not the best.

All’s well that ends well, we had a great sleep and were up bright and early the next day. Our pre-booked Uber arrived on time and took us to the local Amtrak station.

This was our first trip with Amtrak, and it’s not an experience I am keen to repeat too quickly. Google maps told me our journey to Deming, New Mexico could be done in 2 1/2 hours by car. The Amtrak schedule said it would take over 5 hours, and that turned out to be an underestimation. These trains took over 30 minutes at some stations to disembark and reload with new passengers, and in between stations they travelled at barely more than walking pace.

The scenery throughout the journey was outstanding though.

Deming, New Mexico

When we did finally arrive, we were delighted to see Carol’s friend Pol waiting for us, along with his wife Trisha and their daughter Kaelyn. They looked pretty pleased to see us too, though I think that may have been more to do with them having been waiting outside in the scorching sun for a couple of hours by now, and our arrival meant we could all head inside to an air conditioned room. A Mexican restaurant was chosen and we shared a lovely meal with Trish, Pol, Kaelyn and Trish’s mum Mary. We may well be in America, and I am able to spell words such as ‘Center’ the American way, because that’s how the names are spelled. ‘Mom’ however is a step too far, and offends my British sensibilities, so I can’t do that. What the hell have they done with our beautiful language? 😉

We got in Paul’s car and had about an hour’s journey to their home town…

Silver City, New Mexico

Don’t be fooled by the place name including the word ‘city’. This is a small town with a population of under 10,000

We were welcomed into Paul and Trisha’s home in true ‘mi casa su casa’ style, and they demonstrated they are as good as their word. Almost 12 year old Kaelyn was our tour guide, and she was really good, enthusiastic and knowledgeable about her home town.

I think she was more upset than we were that much of what she wanted to show us was closed on a Monday, but still for us it was a great tour, and we saw many interesting things, story-telling murals (I love a bit of street art) and a former home of Billy the Kid. 😊

Boston Trail

Simply one of the highlights of Silver City. A mountain walk (all of Silver City is at an altitude higher than Mount Snowdon) in some simply beautiful scenery. Our walk was cut short by an electrical storm in the distance, but definitely making its way towards us. Trisha has personal knowledge of people who have been struck by lightning in the area, and knew that storms in this area are not to be taken lightly. Off to the safety of home we went, but not before Pol had managed to take a few photos of the looming night sky.

The Catwalks

According to the website, the Catwalk’s history began with the discovery of gold and silver in the rugged Mogollon Mountains above Whitewater Canyon. In 1893, the small town of Graham (also known as Whitewater) grew around a mill, located on the west hillside near the present day of parking area. The mill only lasted about 10 years. In the mid-1930’s the Civilian Conservation Corps rebuilt the Catwalk. The Catwalk bridge system washed away during a huge flooding event after the 2012 Whitewater-Baldy Fire. The bridge system was rebuilt and is now open for approximately .5 miles from the parking lot. This is a very accessible area and easily hiked by all ages. After the bridge system, the trail system has been cleared for another .5 – .75 miles. It goes across a low-water crossing, across the fiberglass bridge and through the arch. Once you go up the stairs to a small viewing area the trail can become steep. Past the “swimming hole” the trail becomes unnavigable.

All I know is we spent a lovely afternoon there with Pol, Trisha, Kaelyn and their gorgeous German Shepherd puppy, Ashi in stunning and extremely beautiful surroundings.

Party Time

Trisha and Paul invited a few friends over for drinks one evening, and to meet exhibit A, “our foreign visitors” The conversation flowed and we had a lovely time chatting with Susan, Steffan, Taylor and Maggie.

City of Rocks State Park

The City of Rocks State Park is a collection of big, volcanic rocks spewed forth by the earth around 35 million years ago. Who says the USA has little history?

We spent a fantastic late afternoon here with Trisha, Pol, Kaelyn and Ashi. Pol’s hobby is photography and again he went armed with his camera, and we were lucky to catch the golden hour, just before sunset when the lighting conditions made for some great shots.

Kaelyn constantly worried her parents by climbing on all the rocks, some of which are around 40 feet high, but she was also a willing model for Pol’s photography.

We spent some time just climbing and wandering in between rocks and it was great fun! We stayed there until it was nearly dark.

We had been warned that the City of Rocks would be home to a number of snakes, including rattlesnakes and bull snakes, but we never saw any. At one point Trisha said she heard coyotes though, and we did see some wildlife when Terry the desert Tarantula made an appearance very close to mine and Carol’s feet.

Carol recovered from the shock quickly enough to capture him on camera.

We felt we had continued ‘living the dream’ New Mexico was the perfect antidote to the excesses of Vegas, and we appreciated that Silver City is somewhere we would never have visited were it not for Carol’s friendship with Pol. Trisha and Kaelyn treated us like family, and we were made to feel so welcome.

We even fell in love with Ashi, a boisterous 6 month old puppy, and boy did he love those day trips out, and he was on his very best behaviour on those long car trips. I swear he was saying “I love going out for a walk and a run, and I promise to behave myself so that you take me with you next time too” 😊

Thank you all for making us feel so welcome and your amazing hospitality; however it was time to move on again…

Journey to Phoenix

For the first time, we rode on a Greyhound Bus. The pick up spot was in a petrol (gas) station in Deming which Trisha had kindly driven us to, from an hour away in Silver City. The bus was on time throughout, despite at one point driving through a monsoon which hit much of Arizona that day. The ground is dry and hard here, so it takes a long time for any rain to soak in, and often causes flash flooding. We were lucky to drive through it in the space of 5-10 minutes without much problem, but we could see the water levels rising outside, and the rest of Arizona wasn’t so lucky, with the extreme weather making their evening news. Most of the journey however was pretty uneventful.

The Greyhound Bus was much older than the Flixbus we had previously been on, we had no assigned seats and we couldn’t sit together for the first half of the 5 hour plus journey. In future, given a choice of Flixbus or Greyhound on the same route, we’d go with Flixbus.

Cave Creek Corral

I had a simple wish for my birthday, arguably a slightly unusual request, but a simple one nonetheless.

We were in Arizona, home of Cowboys and Indians. Sorry, Native Americans. I have no idea if any of the old classic Western films were made here, but they could have been. The landscape looked familiar from the TV, full of saguaro cacti, which only grow in the Sonoran desert. We did not see any Native Americans, but we did see some cowboys. Well, not that we saw any of them working, or doing anything that cowboys do, other than wear a cowboy hat. The cowboy hats here were of the type you could buy in a Spanish Costa, or even in an English seaside resort such as Skegness. I cannot comment as to whether the cowboys here were as fake as their hats, we didn’t speak with any of them for long.

At Pol and Trisha’s party earlier in the week, I had told Steffan what I wanted to do for my birthday, and he had offered a suggestion of 7 famous old West saloon bars. 6 of them were 2 to 3 hours drive away. We chose the one we could Uber to for less than $40 as it was only 37km away.

In Harold’s Cave Creek Corral, we were served variations of a full English breakfast. Exactly what we wanted, and my that food was good. Just the job. Washed down with a couple of Dos Equis beers my birthday celebrations were off to a great start 😊

We had been sat at a table for our food, and I asked our food server about my birthday wish. It was simply to have a drink poured and then slid along the bar to me, as would have been a typical scene in the old cowboy films. “Er… you can ask the bartender if you like” she replied. I had hoped for some of that fantastic American customer service we hear so much about in England, which in this case would have involved her asking the bartender, and setting it up to make my wish come true. It didn’t happen.

The atmosphere in the bar was great though, so we stayed around to play some pool, a game of table – tennis and to sink more alcohol. Carol played the role of the dutiful wife and let me win both games. Normally we’re very well matched at the games, today was my day 😊

I met an American guy called Chris, and we got talking about football. Yes real football, not the American version. He knew all about the England v Italy European Championship Final, and analysed where we went wrong. He didn’t say anything I could disagree with, and it was a pleasure to meet an American who didn’t vote Trump, didn’t own a gun, had travelled and liked life in other countries (he had studied for a degree in Eindhoven) and who knew ‘proper’ sports. Every American stereotype smashed out of the park.

We sank a cocktail or two, Desert Mules being our choice here, but no, the bartender was not willing to slide a drink over the counter to me. We left.

The next bar was called The Roadhouse. It was obvious from the clientele we could see drinking outside, along with the vehicles in the car park, that this was a biker’s bar. We strolled in and ordered more drinks.

I forget the barmaid’s name, but it was obvious she was very much at home here. Probably owned the bar, my guess was she had done for 30 years or more. The big, burly Hell’s Angels there held no fear for her, and it was easy to imagine that if any trouble did break out, she could most probably deal with it herself.

We went and played bar football, or fussball as I think the locals call it. I won again. Carol is so good to me 😊 Then we ordered more cocktails, from an extensive menu. The barmaid couldn’t understand us, and when we pointed out the one we wanted on the menu she had to check on what went into the drink. “I’m so sorry” she said, “How am I doing? This is my first day in the job” Well, she was doing very well, but her bar was sticky and bumpy, no chance of a ‘slider’ here. We left 😊 admiring some giant bison on the way!

The next bar was called The Horny Toad. More beers and cocktails ensued, but the barmaid here, ‘Missy’ also refused to slide me a drink. “Please” I begged, “It’s my birthday” Missy wished me a happy birthday, and told me to go talk to the people over there, because it’s their birthday too “It’s everybody’s birthday today”

I never got my wish, but still, it was a fantastic day, and never in a million years did I imagine I would be celebrating a birthday in Cave Creek, Arizona. I am very happy that I did though.

Denver, Colorado

For some variation, and because we’d had our fill of long bus rides, we decided to fly to our last destination in our tour of The Américas. A 2 hour flight versus 13 hours on a bus… For the first time we had been picked up on our bags being over weight, at just over 50 pounds. So we both moved an item from our bags to our hand luggage. What difference that makes to the plane’s ability to balance and fly safely I have no idea, but we quickly complied, and on we went. Unfortunately we didn’t get much chance to look around Denver; we flew in the evening and left the next day…next time…. Still we were excited about heading on our next destination – we boarded our 7 hour flight for our next destination, Iceland!

Nigel & Carol x

**Credit to Pol.doc for his amazing pics**

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