Stunning! White, illuminated, and gorgeous! It immediately occurred to me that there would be tree-based obscuration issues in spring or summer, but one of the few good things about going out in the winter is that most of that would be avoided. Future Arborists of America should still take note, however.
My presence here was both planned yet actually quite unplanned. So, here’s the thing: I usually maintain a good financial buffer when I go out on trips, but this one was a little rushed. It was soon after the holidays and the attendant expenditures, but I was chomping at the bit to get out on the road. With a cheap flight (my round trip flight to Las Vegas cost less than the gas to drive to Arizona and back) and the pending end of entries for my previous trip, I had hoped to get a month’s worth of entries to tide the narrative over until the upcoming Texas Challenge in March, and then get back out on the road in April. I had hoped to come back, wreathed in glory, with an entire state completed and three new states visited. If I had listened to my brain more than my ambition, I would have waited a couple of weeks so that not only would I be in a better financial position, but I might be able to hit the Yuma Mega while I was in the area. These things didn’t happen. Why, you might ask?
Because a month ago, I had a flat tire.
Remember how I used to talk about spending four hours instead of two hours in New Mexico, which totally threw off my travels for months all those days ago when I was still working the Texas County Challenge? Well, this turned out to be a similar case. I had a rental, and a tire went flat on me. I changed it for the spare and I was on the way to return it anyway. I have a pretty good relationship with the location I rent from, and they told me that if the tire could be patched, no big deal, but if it had to be replaced, I’d be charged, and they would let me know. Fair enough. A month went by, and I didn’t hear anything. The day before I left on this trip, I got a letter informing me that I was responsible for the tire. No big deal. I decided to pay it with my next paycheck after I returned, eight days after receiving notification. Unfortunately, they didn’t want to wait. When I made my current rental, I was also charged for the tire. Since it was a system thing, it didn’t show up on my contract, and I had no idea what had happened until I checked my balance while I was out on the road in Kingman. The cost itself wasn’t a big deal. The problem was that it wiped out about 25% of my fuel budget. That was bad, but it could be surmounted. However, I also had another financial problem. Being from Texas, I’m pretty used to cheap gas. Knowing that gas will be more expensive no matter where I go, I check the gas prices so I have a rough idea of what I will be paying for a tank. I checked the major cities of Arizona, but I didn’t check Vegas or the hinterlands. Consequently, fuel was running about 20%-40% higher than I had estimated. My point here (and I do have one) is that I had planned for a 2,600-mile trip, fuel prices dropped my budget down to cover only about 2,100 miles of range, and the cost of that tire took another 700 miles away from that.
My internal planner went into a panic.
I decided to remove the farther counties and focus on the more important and “fun” ones. That is why I shot east over to Prescott instead of heading due south toward Yuma as I had planned. I was determined to do the best that I could with what I had. And that would start with the Virtuals I was practically sitting on top of.
The first one was at the county veterans’ memorial. I found the appropriate names on the appropriate plaques as a deputy started getting ready to raise the flags over the courthouse. I’ve been to many places where they leave the flags flying at night, unilluminated. It was interesting to see someone actually in the process of doing it. The other Virtual was across the street and far more interesting.
The Palace was opened in 1877 and has remained open pretty much continuously except for those two times it burned down and was rebuilt. It has also had quite a famous/infamous clientele …
… among them being Virgil and Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. Had it been open, I would most definitely have gone in for a moment, but 7:00 a.m. is hardly prime bar-going time. And yet outside in the twenty-one degrees wasn’t a great place to be, either. I made a beeline back to the car to warm my fingers and enter my finds. My mind was still racing, processing what I was going to do. Though my desire to never return to Arizona was dashed, I would do what I have always done. When life gives you lemons, you clone them to make super lemons, arm them, and then send them to attack life back, yelling, “Hey, Life! I don’t want your stupid lemons!” For now, I headed due south, and the sun was fully up by the time I arrived in…