Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Payson, Arizona

Sedona, Sedona, Sedona, it is the place to be in Northern Arizona; if you are looking for moderate overkill on the New Age gimmicks and commercialized tourist hot spots. Sure the Red Rocks are a wonderful hike and great view, but there are so many other locations for a relaxing, quiet, more down to earth escape from the city.
The town of Payson, Arizona with its population of around 16,000 people is a haven for nature enthusiasts, families, hikers and bikers. It is perfect balance of relaxing entertainment. The town is home to many quaint antique shops, while nature surrounds as a great place for fishing, hiking, hunting and swimming.
Max is fortunate to have an adorable little cabin at the edge of Payson. This is one of my favorite places to escape to in November, or in the heat of summer. Spending time at the cabin draws up memories, for me at least, of my childhood home in Central New York with slow, relaxing days wandering the woods or hanging out in the quiet town.
Every weekend visit has to start at the Knotty Pine Café. There are quite a few little mom & pop restaurants in town but the Knotty Pine has the best breakfast and service, and pie! Do not go to the Knotty Pine if you are into gourmet spreads, fancy foods, or artisan meals at exorbitant prices. This is the perfect place to escape all of those things and just get an honest meal at a fair price.
While we are on the topic of food, I should mention that while there are plenty of fish and crayfish (more on that later), there is no sin in ordering a pizza while camping out. This is especially true if it is from the Pizza Factory.
So, you are well fed and looking to work off some of the calories? Pick a trail and wander, there are so many wonderful places to get lost. Some of the more marked trails include the Natural Bridge or the walk down to the creek to swim. If you drive a few miles out though, and are willing to venture into unmarked territory there are many places to pick out fossils and even crystals! Max is always open to showing off the best spots for fossils. He loves finding crinoids and fossilized shells. I am a complete girl however and very much attracted to shiny objects. I love treasure hunting! Crystals are incredibly easy to find just off the road if you are willing to keep your eyes to the ground and be patient.
Speaking on patience, Max loves fishing, even though he rarely catches anything worth keeping and cooking. Shh! Don’t tell him I said that. I prefer at least a small prize to take home; that is why I hunt crayfish! The little, and sometimes not so little, monsters are easy to catch with patience a shoelace and bits of raw bacon. Never use Bologna; the little buggers steal it every time! Crayfish are tedious to peel though, so be aware, it takes at least a dozen to reasonably feed one person.
Writing this makes me miss the cabin and the cool wide open spaces even though we just left. I am excited to be able to escape again soon for NaNoWriMo in November.

 Knotty Pine Café
1001 South Beeline Highway # A
Payson, Arizona
(928) 474-4602

Pizza Factory
238 East State Highway 260
Payson, Arizona
(928) 474-1895


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bisbee Arizona

The town of Bisbee, adorable! This was completely worth the four-hour drive into Southern Arizona from Phoenix.
Similar to Jerome, artists and antique dealers reclaimed the former mining town of Bisbee. I love these little towns. In contrast to the bustling, commerce-centric ideals of Phoenix, Bisbee is slow, and friendly and fun. It boasts having the “most perfect year round climate”. It lived up to the motto while I was there. So much cooler than Phoenix though slightly humid, I was actually a bit chilly at night.
I really do not know where to start in explaining the town. We drove in and again much like Jerome worked our way up narrow winding streets with barely a yield sign to direct traffic. I didn’t see a single traffic light! It reminded me of home, in upstate New York. It is much easier to get turned around in Bisbee thought. While Jerome is essentially one winding street up the mountain, Bisbee has a few branches that twist on to one another. Our hotel was blessedly on the main road and at the top of the shopping district.
The Inn at Castle Rock is a lovely 1800’s era hotel and I absolutely recommend staying there if you visit Bisbee. A warning from the start, the parking is severely limited. Carpool if you intend on going in a large group. The rooms are very small, but in a cozy sort of way, not like a living in a broom closet sort of way. Each room has a private bathroom and plenty of storage space. Our room was quaintly decorated in a Coca-Cola theme; not my favorite, but still Americana cute. None of the rooms have the typical modern hotel frivolous amenities like a television, or an office work area. This is a classic old west set up. There is a very welcoming family room with a television and comfortable seating on the second floor, and a kitchen area with a microwave and fridge, fresh fruit, snacks and coffee. Both areas are open at all hours and completely complimentary. Most of the time, we saw hotel occupants and locals lounging on the verandah or the sitting area on the first floor. If you do need to connect to the modern world, there is free wi-fi. JD made fair use of that while Max and I hit the after hours pirate events.
Day or night there really is a lot to do in Bisbee. From a tourist perspective, the shops and mine tours are absolutely worth a look. Locals have a plethora of friendly bars and restaurants. The town does cater to its artsy denizens but it is family friendly as well. About half the bars welcome families well into the evening. We had to visit Old Bisbee Brewery to seek out Vanessa (my contact for the Pirate Days) and it was the best of the bars, for certain. The brewery has seven of its own ales. Max and I tried two of them. I am sad to say I do not recall the first one, but we fell in love with the Mountain Lime. If you do go I recommend trying the Flight. It is a ring of cordial sized glasses of the seven locally brewed ales. It is a great way to sample and see what you like. When you do make a choice, buy the Growler to take home! A large glass Old Bisbee Brewing Company jug, filled with your choice of beer only costs $16.00. It made a great souvenir to share when we arrived back in Phoenix.
So, I covered accommodations, entertainment of the liquid variety, how about food? Keep in mind you are paying mid-range restaurant prices for quality vittles and nothing near fast food, and you will do fine. We ate breakfast on the second day at Sully’s Café. I wouldn’t say it was a disappointment, but if any of the other places had been open, I think we would have chosen elsewhere. The food was decent for basic ham and eggs. The home fries left a bit to be desired though. Service was reasonable, but you could tell, locals visited to shake off a hangover or for coffee talk. Not horrible, but there are much better places like Screaming Banshee Pizzeria. Max and I were drawn to the pizza place for the rum tasting, and JD was drawn to the idea of pizza and wings for dinner. The rum was mildly disappointing having had the best of the three choices before and not liking the other two at all. The food more than made up for it though. Fresh is the word. Banshee pizza does lean on the gourmet pizza side of the line, but not in the “this is not a pizza” sort of way. It is classic toppings, pepperoni, sausage, veggies, but of a gourmet quality. The cheese was fantastic and gooey without being like a second sauce. The chicken wings were not typical, but again, still great. I am pretty sure they were a Pirate Days special too; Jamaican jerk style flavor. They were very tasty! The atmosphere at Banshee was again a sort of small town bar and grill with an artsy flair. As the evening wore on people mingled and chatted on the porch until the wee hours.
The town of Bisbee exemplifies in my mind how things should be. People take the time to do things and to do them right. Nothing is a slapdash job. Life is slow but steady not lazy but comfortable with little need to rush into anything. Time is valuable to the people of Bisbee is the assumption that can be made by looking at the care that goes into attending to their town, preparing their food, and welcoming their guests. I do not think it is any different than what the town used to be, but they have taken a different spin on it. The miners who once ran this town were salt of the earth, hard working men and women. They had to look out for themselves. While most people did not tour a mining town, people did pass through on business and for business to boom care must be in all that you do. In a way the pendulum has swung for this town, but has not changed course to drastically. The miners came to make something of themselves by taking from Earth’s offerings. The artists are here to care for the wounds left by this but make a living just the same. Bisbee would not be what it is without the work of both types. I hope to take a bit of this hard working mentality with me wherever I travel and in everything I do.

The Inn At Castle Rock
112 Tombstone Canyon Road
Bisbee, Arizona
(520) 432-4449 ‎

Old Bisbee Brewery
Review Alley 
Bisbee, Arizona
(520) 432-2739

Sully’s Café
24 Brewery Avenue
Bisbee, Arizona
(520) 432-3558

Screaming Banshee Pizzeria
200 Tombstone Canyon Road
Bisbee, Arizona
(520) 432-1300