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Monday, January 12, 2015

CLASSIC TRIP: Prescott, Arizona - 2002



The stereotypical image of Arizona is deserts, heat, cowboys, sagebrush, dusty, etc. Indeed, a trip to the dry heat of the Valley of the Sun can be very pleasurable...as long as there's a tall cool drink and a swimming pool nearby.

Not all of Arizona is such a hot, dry place. In fact, large portions of the state are covered with forests. Right on the dividing line of desert and forest lies the mile high town of Prescott, a two-hour drive northwest of Phoenix.


The western side of the city lies in one of the largest forests of Ponderosa Pine in the world while the eastern side leads into the desert. In the middle lies the historical core where the likes of Doc Holliday and the Earps once strolled.


Wintertime can be cold and snowy while the summertime is warm and dry.

There are many hotels, motels, and bed & breakfasts here. We have stayed at the Pleasant Street Inn B&B (not wheelchair accessible with rooms upstairs and one downstairs) just south of the town center and the Springhill Suites which are 3 blocks west. The Springhill Suites have some really good accessible rooms, some with roll-in showers, wheelchair level spy holes in the doors, and delayed key readers at the door for those of us who are a little slow in opening the door. There is also an indoor pool & spa and a free continental breakfast. An adjacent shopping center has all the supplies you would ever need.


Right on the town plaza is the century old Hotel St. Michael, which purports to have handicapped accessible rooms (we didn't get a chance to see them) starting at $59.


After a pleasant, three hour drive over from Las Vegas, we check into the Springhill Suites. Our room is large enough and has a king size bed with a full-size sleeper sofa. A quick walk next door to the supermarket nets us some wine, cheese, and fresh fruit for later.


It's only a three block walk to the town square from here but it's a bit uphill. Prescott is know for the one block stretch of Montezuma Street downtown that also goes by the moniker Whiskey Row. In the old west days, this block was wall to wall saloons. There are still several here although they now share the space with gift shops, clothing stores, and restaurants.


Whiskey Row burned to the ground several times in those olden days, some say fueled by all that alcohol. At the turn of the twentieth century, they finally got smart and rebuilt using bricks instead of wood. Those century old masonry buildings are what still stand there today.

Tim and I walk over to the entrance of the courthouse where a time line painted on the sidewalk takes you through Prescott history. Off on the south side of the plaza is the ice cream shop where Tom Laughlin kicked butt in Billy Jack ending in him smashing the bad guys head against the fountain across the street. On the north side is the Palace where Steve McQueen hung out in the film Junior Bonner.  



We decide to have dinner at the Palace. Inside the swinging wooden doors...yeah it's a real hoot barging your way through just like in the movies...is the original Palace bar.


When Whiskey Row was burning to the ground, bar patrons saved the most necessary thing...the Palace bar...by lifting it up and moving it across the street to the park. The Palace burned to the ground but when it was replaced with bricks, the old bar was put back in its place where it still serves thirsty customers to this day.


Behind the bar is the restaurant which this night served some good steaks and burgers but overcooked my wife's salmon.

Being a Saturday night, Whiskey Row lives up to its name with many college aged souls looking for drinks and good times as live music poured out of each saloon. On the other side of the plaza, theater goers pack an old church for a quieter evening watching a play. In between, the Prescott Brewery serves cold ones for those who are not so thrilled with the hard core drinking on one side but want something more than the theater on the other.


All in all, it's quite a lively place on a Saturday night.


Sunday morning finds us having a nice, quiet breakfast in the Depot #2 (don't know where #1 is) where Mexican dishes are served at reasonable prices in the heart of Whiskey Row.


After eating, we spend the morning shopping around the square where my wife picks up some jewelry making supplies at Bead It (a bead store), some candles, and some cosmetics at another store. An old-fashioned shoe store gives up some tennis shoes for her before we call it a day here.


A day trip to nearby Jerome is next on our to do list. This old mining town, turned ghost town, turned hippie town, which matured into an artist's colony, was slowly sliding down the mountainside before the ground was stabilized enough to stop it. As a consequence, access here is very spotty being on a steep hillside and all.


Still, a historic walking tour with the helpful advice of the Chamber of Commerce folks can be done in a wheelchair. After the tour, we stop in the many shops of the local artisans topped off with a stop at the saloon where a patio out back offers hundred mile views.


Back on the windy road to Prescott, we pass a fishing lake on the edge of town before being greeted by the city's two Indian casino's where you gamers will find lots of action. Us? We get a pizza before watching a movie with our wine and cheese back in the room.


-Darryl
Copyright 2002 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

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