Daily Archives: January 11, 2011

Arizona Redux

Arizona has been in the news for a lot of bad reasons this week  and I was thinking about Arizona today and wishing people knew more than Phoenix and Barry Goldwater. The latest shooting tragedy will now be permanently tied to Arizona as well so I decided to share one of my Arizona memories and the photos are below the story.

 A few years back before my life turned upside down and sideways, I was visiting a long string of Arizona schools in the course of working life. I love Arizona and go there every chance I get. I am continually appalled at the the notion by latecomers (Phoenix residents this means most of you) that if you water the desert you change its nature–as in with golfcourses and other green things that don’t belong in a desert. Put Palm Springs in the same boat. That water is evaporating off those wasteful acres of grass faster than you can believe, and I would bet a lot of money that in the future the state will have drained its aquifers and turned lots of land saline in the quest for a great golf course. 

Which is why I head immediately away from the biggest cities. I love exploring the back country and some of the funky old towns that abound in the west. Jerome, although heavily turista is still very cool perched way up on hill sides well above Sedona. Sedona is gorgeous, weirdly populated with rich newage hip types and German tourists, but outside the town? Stunning.

And there is today’s subject: Get out on Highway 79 out of Tuscon, around Oracle and Florence and you are in the middle of beautiful emptiness. Its called the Tom Mix memorial highway after the cowboy film star from silent movies. He crashed his car and died there in 1940, and there is a roadside memorial to him in the middle of nowhere. Hint: don’t go visit it in the summer. Hotness aboundness. Spring is gorgeous, winter is lovely and fall is nice. Summer? Nope.

I stopped in Florence, curious after seeing signs everywhere outside town that said “don’t stop, don’t pick up hitchhikers”! Hmmm…turns out Pinal County, of which Florence is the county seat has NINE prisons and jails. Talk about a cottage industry! That tally includes two federal pens and three private pens, the state’s death row and execution chamber.

All the creepy stuff being said, its still a historic town with some spots that are truly beautiful. The old courthouse is very photogenic, and the day I was prowling around, the courthouse cat was napping on the back steps. I talked to the park ranger for the historic area and the rangers actually feed and watch over the cats around the courthouse, which is very cool.

I surprised another cat about a block over in the rubble of an old hotel. Just the beautiful facade was standing with pigeons perched on the second story brick roof line. Down in the weeds, a scrawny mama cat overcame her shyness and just had to have a look at me. Luckily I had my camera ready and the picture I got of her is one of my all time favorites. She scampered off and watched me from the old basement opening, all I could see of her was glowing eyes.

The town was founded in 1866, one of Arizona’s oldest and Florence is the county seat still. They get less than ten inches of rain a year, the average summer temperature is holy cow! 104 degrees! The winter it gets down to as low as 10 degrees. Why on earth would people move here? I still don’t know and the town while tidy is pretty empty.

That may change with good old Del Webb putting up another one of his Anthem communities about six miles down the road. I want to go back and see who is living in those houses. Prison employees, retirees? Yeah, I need to go back. my favorite Florence photos follow.