Winter in the Desert - 2013 travel blog

Empire Ranch

Fairbank school

Fairbank post office, gas station, hotel, etc.


Elgin winery

Once we've been in an area for a while and done the tourist must-sees, we like to drive around in a serendipitous way, turning when something looks interesting. It gives us insights into an area that the tourist stuff cannot provide. This sort of moseying has become much easier in the days of GPS. Whenever the mosey is finished, we punch in our location and know that we will be back to the motor home sooner or later.

Coastal areas such as Maine and Hawaii lend themselves to wandering especially well. You always find a scenic ocean view at the end of the road unless someone has built a house there to block the view. Here in Arizona the land is vast and we could drive long distances without coming upon something interesting. So we decided to drive a loop suggested in the local paper that offered a variety of different types of sights.

The itinerary mentioned some ghost towns that intrigued us. But ghost towns are tricky; they have to be in the right stage of dilapidation to be scenic. If they're too far gone, it's all left to the imagination. The town of Fairbank is in the beginning stages or restoration. The school house building was done and the guide inside talked about the days when this mining community on the railroad line was thriving and busy. When the mines closed and seized the remaining homes, the residents were so angry they knocked them down with sledge hammers rather than have the company profit from their misery and disappointment. So much of Fairbanks was left to the imagination.

The Empire Ranch was a flourishing concern until far more recently, when the final descendants no longer wished to live there. The buildings have been turned over to the Bureau of Land Management which has done a few repairs on roofs and walls, but clearly had much left to do to before it can fully illustrate what ranch life was like.

As we drove we were surprised how much the arid land varied. We quickly left the saguaros and went through many micro climates that were influenced by the low mountain ranges all around. This mountains are not connected to each other and channel the weather in chaotic patterns. We were very surprised when we came to an extensive grape growing area dotted with wineries. The Town of Elgin winery merited a stop after all the years we lived in another Elgin. The proprietor was quite familiar with our old home town and said he ships wine their regularly. He said that this area gets almost as much rain as we get annually in Chicagoland, but most of the year the weather is hot and dry the way wine grapes like it. Who knew?

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