Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Archive for the category “Travelin’ Man”

Mingus Mountain, Ho!

Ahhhh, now THIS is camping. Ground solar is out and to the left. (You can barely see them.)

Mingus Mountain (the name source is uncertain but is from a last name in the late 1800s) is a serious climb, with AZ 89A as its high launching point. 89A itself is a great drive from Prescott, winding and climbing with some exquisite scenery. Midway between Prescott and Cottonwood, the turnoff to FS104 is well-marked, being noted as the Mingus Mountain Recreation Area. I had expected a no-go here, since FS104 is closed a couple of miles in due to a late snow, but not before FS413 branches off to the right. To my relief, 413 has oodles of unoccupied camping sites before it dives back down to where I decided to turn around. No point in going needlessly far, although the dirt road is graded and fairly smooth. The goal is solitude after all, not four-wheeling adventure. No rain is forecast, but there’s no point in needlessly complicating the possibilities. The climb up to reach 413 is also wide and smooth, making this trek a simple drive.

I finally camped on a nice level spot where I have a pretty good shot at lighting up the solar panels, and I deployed the ground panels too, just for good measure. Most sites here offer at least Read more…

3:10 to Wickenburg

Ahead, some nice hills. Off to the right, a mild drop-off into a valley. Above, a beautiful sky.

Since the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge was going to be too hot for my tender sensibilities, I decided to stay the one night and the next morning, and then move on to my principal stop at a higher, cooler elevation. I was surprised that the overnight low at 60 degrees felt cold to me, and realized that I’d need to break out a wool blanket or two when I camped in cooler Wickenburg. The warm sweats and flannel sheet weren’t cutting it in the way I’d expected. Maybe it was just me.

I had noticed some guy in a new Toyota pickup wandering up and past my site on the trail to Queen Canyon fairly early in the morning, and was pleased to find him driving past on his return just as I was finally wheeling out in late morning. See, I knew I’d be going back down the trail much too slowly for anyone following, and areas large enough to pull the 27′ Intrepid over are far and few between on this trail. As predicted, he quickly put Read more…

Kofa National Wildlife Refuge

This is near Queen Canyon.

And so it begins. Buttoning up the Defiant TT took awhile, so by the time I finally hit the road after a replenishing trip to a supermarket in Yuma, it was 4 o’clock. I had anticipated just such a problem, and drove about an hour to turn in to Palm Canyon Road at the Kofa National Wildlife Preserve. The name Kofa was derived from King of Arizona Mine, one of the principal mines in the area. There are reputed to be bighorn sheep and a unique breed of pronghorn here, as well as one of the few groves of native palm trees. Many level campsites can be found on the right side of Palm Canyon Road, suitable for all types of rigs. The Queen Canyon side-trail is very different in character from the broad dirt road in, and it took another hour to get to my current campsite along it – almost 5 miles.

The Queen Canyon trail in from Palm Canyon Road is a rough one not suitable for Read more…


The Defiant, slightly the worse for wear.

The Defiant, slightly the worse for wear.

Wellton, Arizona! The drive from Payson along 87 was fascinating, with the separated four-lane winding up, down and around in the Tonto National forest. What a stunning ride. What magnificent vistas! I highly recommend it, as long as your vehicle’s powertrain and brakes are healthy and reasonably robust. I noticed a converted vintage VW van on an uphill grade yesterday, flashers on and falling behind the pace of the slow semi in front of it. Not your first choice for this kind of task. The 4% and 6% downhills go for miles too, so you’ll want to downshift manually unless your drive system is bright enough to downshift when it senses you’re exceeding the speed control you set. Yeah, like everyone is now going to rush to Route 87…

I got to Wellton at 3PM to survey the wreckage, and apparently the summer monsoon season has been interesting. Both the Read more…


Today was another handful! A 20-30 MPH wind with gusts to 45 (according to the radio) held steady from the southwest, while the directions I took shifted around. Temps dropped as I came into Arizona, since another cold front was moving through. The state highway heading for Payson gave me a now-unusual sensation: a ribbon of pavement undulating across a desolate but visually interesting landscape. With an hour to go, I started into the Sitgreaves National Park, and that eventually led to a mountain pass where the added elevation lowered temperatures further. In combination with snow flurries that thickened to lower visibility to a couple hundred feet at points, the snow began Read more…

And So It Begins

Oh, the humanity... The Mighty Furd jams awkwardly in between the normal cars like a bratwurst among franks.

Oh, the humanity… The Mighty Furd jams awkwardly in between the normal cars like a bratwurst among franks.

Day two of the cross-country trip, putting in an easy couple of hours after hurting myself at the Thanksgiving dinner table with family. The Comfort Suites I stopped at in Normal, Illinois at end of day was nearly a clone of the Comfort Inn in Crystal Lake. Today’s 6-hour drive took me to Kearney, Missouri and an Econo Lodge Motel. No pool or fitness room here, but it’s more Read more…

Decadent, and Loving It

Now back in the Chicago area for medical follow-up appointments and family visits in between, I’m staying in a motel called Comfort Inn for 5 days before I depart for Arizona. On the way here from Indy, I stayed in a roadside motel called Family Inn in Watseka, Illinois for $45. I was surprised to find the Family Inn to be a very good deal for the low price, with a quiet, clean, good-sized room with a decent mattress. TV, microwave and mini-fridge. I had tried to book a motel at my destination, a good family-run one I came across when I used to Read more…

Chain-O-Lakes State Park



I made it to Chain-O-Lakes State Park in Spring Grove, Illinois at 3 PM yesterday. To say it’s lush is pretty accurate. In fact, the undergrowth is so thick that you’d need a machete to carve a new path through it. You can’t simply walk into the woods. Signs say that ticks are plentiful here. I don’t know about that, but my hopes of coming in too early in the year for the mosquitoes and biting flies were in vain. Still, the classic rule to avoid sunrise and sunset works, as does keeping moving.

The spot I made reservations for has no hookups of any kind, and the overhead treetops limit solar power to most of the day rather than all of it, which will likely be good enough. I had to be careful about that, since most of the Read more…

Oh, Peoria!

Jefferson City is the Capital of Missouri, and I was able to capture this shot through the windshield as I improvised getting back on US 54 despite two closed entrances, being a tourist against my will. This being a Saturday, the place and the streets were deserted.

Jefferson City is the Capital of Missouri, and I was able to capture this shot through the windshield as I improvised getting back on US 54 despite two closed entrances, being a tourist against my will. This being a Saturday, the place and the streets were deserted.

Missouri, as it approaches Illinois, transitions to cornfields. The highways still wander interestingly about, and one town along the way, Rushville, still had its original town square in full operation. Using the GPS for scurrying along highways got trickier further on, since regardless of how it’s set, it still has its own agenda. Like when following Route 66, intermediate towns had to be keyed in to ensure that I’d be where I wanted to be along The Path. Long bridges crossed the Missouri River, the Mighty Mississip’, and the Illinois River along the way. Twice now, my GPS, an old Garmin Nuvi, has spontaneously registered me as off in a field somewhere, directing me to Read more…

Step By Step

Nope, no photo today. A pic of the Intrepid in a Walmart parking lot in Jefferson City, Missouri just isn’t that exciting. Once I reached Kansas, I noticed that there was some greenery on either side of the highways, and in Missouri, it’s doubly so. Trees, bushes, weeds, you name it, it’s lush. And the rolling hills are a bit like Wisconsin – the cruise control is getting a workout now, though that’s not the most fuel-efficient way to travel. Still, I’ve been reaching 15 MPG as a daily average, which is pretty good for the 2008 series of Ford diesels. They’re reputed to be the worst of the bunch, thanks to the quirks of the then-new emissions system and tow-oriented axle ratios that were soon after found to be overkill. Ford went to taller ratios afterward, once Ford convinced itself that the motor wouldn’t bust a gut. That probably involved a little anxiety, since some 80% of all Super Dutys are estimated to regularly used for towing of some kind. Not something you’ll be tempted to bring up at your next party, but there it is.

I’m on a travel schedule, but since I’m taking state and county highways almost exclusively, the small towns here in Missouri are a far cry from the near-ghost towns farther west. There’s often something worth a stop here and there, and the towns are comparatively vibrant and proud. And, my policy of trying to hit locally-owned cafes instead of national franchises is still paying off big. One town offered Shirley’s Highway Cafe, and I managed to have a pretty sumptuous breakfast at 2 PM for no more than Burger King would have cost. Plus, the staff greets you warmly as soon as you limp through the door. Good food, generous portions. Between the roads and the businesses, it’s just a different experience than my usual Interstate commute has been in the past. With the emphasis off of mile count and on enjoy-the-trip, it’s been nice.

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