Valentines Day arrived in Phoenix. But in all the preparations needed for our adventure, it almost slipped my mind. My wife Ruth was back in Winnipeg enjoying our newest grandson and somehow the V Day was back of mind. Fortunately, I knew Academy Florist in Winnipeg and after a quick call, I was assured that all would be looked after.
On that same day, my friend Larry arrived in Phoenix. After packing everything I could possibly think would be needed for the ranch, I loaded up my car and headed for the Sky Harbor Airport to pick him up. Larry arrived safely, tired but ready to embark on our adventure. We immediately began the drive to Bisbee, AZ, where we had an overnight reservation. The drive was a pleasant 3.5 hours and we arrived at the Jonquil Motel in Bisbee at 6:00PM. Bisbee is a former copper mining town, but with the demise of that industry, it has become a picturesque tourist town with lots of art galleries, boutique hotels dating back to the late 1800's, and numerous small eateries and bars. Neither of us had eaten much during the day and so the first order of business was to find a restaurant. However, being the V Day, it seemed like everyone was having a romantic night out and the eateries were all filled up. Eventually, we put our name on the waiting list at The Table restaurant and a long 1.5 hours later, we were taken in. The hostess offered us a rose but I assured her that we were not a "couple". Dinner was thoroughly enjoyed as the food and service were both first rate.
Sunday dawned crisp and clear. A tasty breakfast was followed by a short walk through downtown Bisbee. A most interesting shop was a hat shop, one of only fifteen similar shops in America who still custom make hats on premise. The process of creating that perfect hat takes approx. six weeks and can easily run into thousands of dollars, depending upon the materials selected. Although Larry conceded to some temptation, we managed to walk out without him ordering a hat.
By 11:00AM, we were on our way to Douglas, AZ. We passed the gigantic open pit mine from which they had originally extracted the copper ore. It is today an eyesore of unimaginable proportions, reflecting back to a day when this type of mining was commonplace. Unfortunately for the Bizbee residents, they will have to live with this open sore indefinitely. We pulled into Douglas at noon and met up with Manuel, one of the family members who own Rancho Los Banos. Larry and I, plus four other guests, plus our driver Manuel were all shoehorned into an older Chevrolet Suburban with luggage behind and around us taking up every conceivable bit of space. I do not do well as a passenger in a vehicle, being somewhat prone to motion sickness. I had no idea as to what lay ahead but found out soon enough. Almost five hours later, driving over one of the most torturous roads I have ever experienced, we arrived at our lodgings. Only 75 miles from Douglas, but over half of it on an old, narrow, rock-strewn, mountainous, muddy, pockmarked road, we arrived. Far worse than any midway ride you can imagine, I thought and felt that my body was battered and my brain addled. Remote, remote, remote, yet stunningly beautiful, the drive took us through the Sierra Madre mountain range, across two other private ranch lands, and onto the 30,000 acre Banos ranch. Simple and rustic would be one way to describe our lodgings. And the cabana allocated to Larry and myself was unheated with only a general promise that warm water would be available the next day for showers. I was typing this diary wearing a long-sleeved shirt, a Bomber jacket, an Eddie Bauer goose down jacket and a heavy blanket around my shoulders. Having said all of that, our hosts and their staff were exceedingly warm and gracious and despite the challenge of surviving the trip to get there, we looked forward to beginning our riding adventure the next day.
Check back on February 15, 2019, to continue reading about The Adventures Of The Retired Guy - Part 3!