We spent several months visiting family in Portland and we enjoyed camping near the Columbia River. While in town, we helped our daughter and son-in-law move and get settled into a new house. We were happy to be able to be there to lend a hand. As the weather began to turn cold and rainy though, we decided to go in search of the warmer climate in Arizona, specifically the town of Casa Grande.
Our first stop was in Eugene, OR where we had some work done on our camper. One of the things that RV salesmen fail to tell you when you purchase a camper is how many repairs and how much maintenance is required to keep your rig in good working order, especially if you are on the road a lot. Another bit of information that they omit is that oftentimes you will have to schedule repairs and service months in advance because the service departments are always very busy now that so many people are have chosen to go RVing.
We had made an appointment six weeks in advance to stop at Kaiser Brake and Alignment in Eugene, Oregon. They were highly recommended and they performed the axle alignment that we needed. They also had a place with hook ups, so that we could spend the night and have the first appointment of the day.
With the repairs complete, we headed to northern California where were stayed for a few days in the shadow of Mt. Shasta. At 14,179 feet, this peak is the second highest in the Cascade Range. We were told that if you look closely the mountain resembles a sleeping woman or an Indian with a headdress on depending on what part of the mountain you are viewing. Others say that Mount Shasta is an Indian princess and her lover, who protects her, is positioned on the dome of Castle Crags. We did not see the princess and her lover but we could make out the outline of a reclining woman from our vantage point.
Mt. Shasta is actually a volcano and, according to the volcanologists who monitor its activity, it has a very high probability of erupting in the near future. The days that we spent there, the mountain was very serene and beautifully clothed in a fresh layer of snow.
We crossed over the Cascade Range safely. At this time of the year, the roads can become impossible due to heavy snowfall. As we drove through the Shasta-Trinity National Forest and Lassen National Forest, it was sunny and the roads were clear. We did see snow piled up along the sides of the road and in shady areas under the trees remnants of previous early snows in the area. It was a breathtakingly beautiful drive over the mountains that day.
We took several more days to traverse Nevada making stops in Reno and Pahrump. Once we arrived in Arizona, we spent a couple of days exploring Wickenburg. We have some RVing friends who have settled in the area so we wanted to see them. Also we had heard that Wickenburg was an interesting town so we wanted to check it out.
Located 65 miles northwest of Phoenix in the Sonoran Desert, Wickenburg is known as the Team Roping Capital of the World. There are numerous roping arenas and equestrian centers in and around town. It appears that this is the place to come to learn this trade or just to be a cowpoke for the day. There are monthly roping competitions held a different ranches and every year Wickenburg hosts the World Series of Team Roping. As a result, the town has a Wild West feel to it.
While roping is the featured activity now, originally it was mining that lured people to this high desert area. Henry Wickenburg, a German prospector, discovered the Vulture Mine in the 1860s. Miners, ranchers, and farmers flocked to the area and founded the town of Wickenburg in 1863. From 1863-1942, the Vulture Mine, the most productive in Arizona history, has yielded $30 million worth of gold. Although the mine is no longer in operation today, you can visit the site if you book a tour of the mine and the ghost town.
Downtown Wickenburg retains its Old West appeal and it also has some interesting places to explore. One that fascinated us was the Desert Caballeros Western Museum. Founded in 1960, this museum has a wonderful collection of southwestern paintings and sculptures that celebrate the lives of both cowboys and Native Americans.
There are several Frederic Remington sculptures on display as well as some paintings by Thomas Moran and Albert Bierstadt that celebrate the western landscape. Works by contemporary artists round out the museum’s collection.
Beautifully crafted saddles, hats, boots, and bola ties are scattered throughout the exhibits.
In addition to the artwork, there is an exhibit called “Speaking of Wickenburg” on the lower level of the museum. Museum volunteers have researched the town’s history and recreated the town of Wickenburg as it would have been at the turn of the century. Visitors can wander the streets and enter shops that are set up as they would have been in the Old West. There is also a Victorian-era home and a Western-style ranch house to explore. These are all touchable exhibits and you can learn about the lives of the town’s residents. If you enter the general store, you will be greeted by the clerk who is a hologram. This exhibit is truly amazing!
The Desert Caballeros Western Museum hosts many special exhibits throughout the year. When we visited, they features a special collection of Apache cultural art called “Apache Stories.” This was another unique collection of paintings, textiles, sculptures, and artifacts all featuring the lives of the Apache people.
One of the annual events that the Museum sponsors is called “Cowgirl Up.” It is both an exhibition and an art sale of works by current female Western genre artists. For many years, the Western genre was dominated by male artists. By highlighting and promoting female artists, the Museum hopes of add new perspectives and voices to Western Art in general.
We really enjoyed our visit to the Desert Caballeros Western Museum. We were delighted to discover that the small town of Wickenburg has such a wonderful collection of art and artists.
We were also thrilled to get to catch up with our RVing friends, Mona Liza and Steve. We had seen them in Oregon several years ago. Since then, they have decided to settle in the Wickenburg area. We can certainly see why. That area certainly has its charms. It was so good to see them again. Thank you Mona Liza and Steve for your friendship and gracious hospitality.
Having traveled over 1,300 miles, David and I were glad to finally park our rig for a couple of months south of Phoenix in Casa Grande (Big House). We planned to leave our rig there, while we travel back to the East Coast for the holidays. Once we got set up, we were treated to one of Arizona’s spectacular sunsets. Just amazing!