Finding Wonder in Central AZ: Tuzigoot National Monument & Jerome

It’s never good when you hear, “Ka-chugga….{heart beat  heart beat}  …bang,” as you’re driving down the road…. not like a minor explosion, more like someone swinging a baseball bat into the undercarriage of the RV.   We pulled into the boondocking spot outside of Cottonwood, AZ.  Turns out, the arm of the mechanical step had broken in half.  That’s fairly impressive since the arm is a short, inch-thick piece of metal.  It gave out after 30+ years of solid use.  Fair winds and following seas, arm… thank you for faithfully deploying our step for a good long run.

Scott got online.  A new step + motor cost $500.  For that price, we were prepared to do a simple fix with a bungee cord and manually deploy the step form here on out (yes…. I can be a cheap bastard).  Scott found a motorhome graveyard in Phoenix.  For the bargain price of $200 we could forage a new-to-us step.  That sounded pretty good (and I’ve never been to a junk yard – bonus!!).  As an after thought, I suggested Scott call Winnebago (since we’d just been to the factory and were educated on how they could help us locate parts).  Scott sent them some pictures.  Within 24 hours we had a new arm en route to us (in Maine) for $60.  Look at us… we’re essentially coupon cutters now.  Oh how far we’ve come!








We spent a couple of days exploring the area south of Sedona and serendipitously hanging with the friends we made while visiting Joshua Tree National Park.



Tuzigoot National Monument wasn’t on my list of must-sees.  In fact, I’d never heard of it.  This shouldn’t come as a shock, I’m not well versed in early North American history.

Tuzigoot is a 2- to 3-story pueblo ruin built along the spine of a natural outcrop in the Verde Valley. There are 110 rooms and it was built by the Sinagua people between 1125 and 1400. Interestingly, they used very few doors, instead preferring to use a trapdoor type opening in the roofs using ladders to enter each room.  We spent an hour or so scrambling around the sidewalks, looking at the buildings and the view.

I am in no way an aspiring amateur archeologist (despite a long-time crush on Indiana Jones), but it was fun to compare this style with Machu Picchu, Tikal in Guatemala, the cave dwelling in Cappadocia, Turkey and the pyramids in Egypt (all of which were in use while this town was operating).  I sincerely hope that doesn’t sound pretentious.  It’s not meant to be an ugly “look at all the places we’ve been”.  I mention it only because, having been to each place, I feel like we are extraordinarily lucky to be able to compare based on first-hand knowledge.  Side note: THAT is what I am hoping to give to the kids.  That is world schooling.








From Tuzigoot we could see Jerome, AZ nestled into the mountainside.  Lorna suggested we have a visit if we could… so we did.

What a neat little place?!  The people here took over a billion dollars out of the mountain, mostly in copper, in the late 1800s.  After the boom, it essentially became a ghost town.  There were fewer than 100 residents in the 1950s.  To bring it back, they reinvented themselves as an artist haven.  Now it’s a quirky place with extra personality worth at least a few hours of exploring (if not more).

I have a fascination with old, big, glorious hotels (Waldorf Astoria, Pera Palace in Istanbul…. I’m lookin’ at you, ladies).  In Jerome, the Grand Hotel is crown jewel that sits high above the city.  It used to be a hospital before it was converted.  They have an original 1920s elevator.  It’s haunted (if you believe in those sorts of things).  It celebrates some of the more unfortunate things that have happened there (why do I need to know the elevator dropped on someone’s head?!).  They named the main restaurant The Asylum.  I could have stayed there all day but was satisfied to get in a happy little lunch.









We made it to Phoenix with a couple of days to spare.  In preparation for putting the Chief in storage and flying home to Maine/Mass for the holidays, we decided a few nights in a campground was the right move for us.  We had been boondocking for 3 weeks so I was mentally prepared to cough up $150 for the easy life (all-you-can-eat electricity, showers and a heated, indoor pool).  This was also our first experience with what I affectionately call a “geriatric campground”.  We didn’t know that the Phoenix area attracts a lot of the older generation because of the climate, affordability and conveniences.  The old timers were fun to hang out with for a few days… the kids had more grandparent-like friends than we could count AND they learned a little bit about shuffleboard.


I spent 6 solid hours cleaning the Chief.  I scrubbed the floor on my hands and knees… Cinderella style.  Scott thought he would be funny and take a few unflattering photos.  I’ll show him… here they are.  That… right there… is called Self Confidence.  I like me even when I look ugly and my butt is hanging out high and mighty in the air.  The joke’s on you, Bud – your wife’s butt is on the internet.



Unfortunately, the car is going to live at a hotel while we’re in Maine.  Therefore, everything that normally gets stuffed into the trunk and backseats had to be put in the Chief.  This is why we need a Jeep with one of those containers on top.  I hate coming home to mess.  This is the Chief…. after I deep cleaned it.


The Chief is going to live on a farm while we’re gone.  Thank you thank you thank you to Michelle and Chad for being so generous and sweet.  Scott and Michelle attended Thunderbird together a few years back.  They stayed in touch.  When Scott contacted her to see about getting together for dinner while we’re in AZ, she made us an offer we couldn’t turn down.  Super bonus – we got our families together for dinner.  Despite an unusual and epic meltdown by Evie, we had a great evening filled with talk of shucking off the ties of the “normal” life and heading out into the great yonder to discover the world for ourselves.  I can’t wait to do it again when we get back.



We often have clothing optional days.  No one likes these more than Evie.  She is a bona fide nudie.



I’m not sure I should even put this out there… I don’t want to be accused of a Kate Gosselin-esque situation like when she locked her kid in a dog crate.  However, I think it’s super funny that Evie put herself in the new dog carrier and she actually fit.  You can’t see it in the picture, but the entire bottom half of the bag is mesh so Boston (and Evie) can easily breath.


Cool kid Jack is in the house.  Of note, these will be the last of the warm weather photos for awhile.  From here on out, until mid January, we will be covered up from head to toe.  The kids are super excited to play in snow. I don’t think the reality of being in sub zero temperatures has set in yet.  They’re also excited to see “everyone”…. especially, you, Nate.




Scott found an app that turned some of our favorite photos into cartoons.  Love it.