1. Apache Death Cave - Diablo Canyon
Take the Navajo, add the Apache, multiply it by an epic, brutal attack and throw in some revenge for good measure and you find yourself deep in the canyon at a cave that marked the brutal retaliation towards a Navajo attack. As if that doesn’t make the site frightening and intriguing enough, add that the one time developer of the Mountain Lion Zoo found the cave, took out the bones and pretended to sell the remains to tourists which then put a curse on him and you have a full fledged thriller. Though not an easy trek to find, it is worth the exploration for the curious and brave,
2. Two Guns, AZ Abandoned Zoo
Nothing like cruising down the highway on the way from standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona only to find an abandoned mountain lion zoo and campsite. Better yet, it is owned by Russell Crowe. Yes, right off the 40 at an exit designated just for Two Guns, one can encounter the remains of a once prosperous tourist destination created by a con artist. The battle over the land included scandal, thievery and even murder. One can walk through the zoo, over bridges, into old exhibits, as well get a great view of the canyon below and snow capped San Francisco Peaks. It's a madman’s dream turned nightmare.
3. Casa Grande Domes
These space age domes were built in the 1980’s by a woman who was relocating her computer company in Casa Grande from Los Angeles. She had this crazy, insane, almost ingenious idea to use concrete and foam to make flying saucer structures that had no support beams and remained relatively cool in the hot AZ sun. The walls and ceilings are pocked with holes, decorated with the most detailed graffiti and offer a glimpse into the creative, often considered weird, mind of the past.
4. Jerome Grand Hotel
Jerome is a mining town near Sedona. The town sits nestled on a hillside, streets lined with old homes, unique shops, arts, bars, and restaurants. The road basically ends; destination, The Jerome Grand Hotel. The hotel is not luxurious, although quite unique, clean and comfortable, however, it was once the town’s hospital. The rooms are reminiscent of institutions of the past. Hallways are adorned with memorabilia. One hallway ends with a crooked wheel chair flanked with an absolutely frightening statue. The restaurant, The Asylum, takes its name from the psychiatric ward of the facility. Some say the hotel is haunted, the hallways roamed at night by those that once called Jerome home. It certainly is a unique place to rest your head, if you dare.
5. Ruby, AZ
It is not everyday you get to drive on switchback dirt roads, up, down, around and end up in another time. Ruby, deep in the Coronado Forest right near the Mexican border, offers a glimpse into the life of a mining community. Hillsides are dotted with homes, mercantiles, a jail, schoolhouse and a mill. The various domiciles differentiate based upon community status and economic stature. Almost no area is off limits. The caretaker offers a basic map and Wikipedia information sheet to help guide your exploration. If you listen closely, you can hear the past in the wind.
6. Wigwam Motel
Driving through Arizona, one cannot help but feel closer to the Earth. Whether one is mesmerized by the turquoise jewelry, enticed by the fried sugar dough, or awed by the beautiful pottery, the various Native American tribes are an integral part of the state. But, as kids we imagined Native Americans sitting in teepees, smoking peace pipes. So, when you drive into Holbrook and find a motel made out of wigwams, you have to stay there. Each unit stands independently, housing beds, chairs, and bath facilities. Classic automobiles adorn each unit, evoking the Route 66 roadtrip feel. It isn’t your average stay, but one that will be forever in your memory.
7. Christmas in Arizona
Leaving Las vegas and driving through Arizona, along what is commonly known as “The Death Road,” one does not encounter much. Lots of wide open space makes for one uninteresting ride. But out of the desert earth, about an hour outside the Hoover Dam, one finds the remains of a town, decorated in candy cane stripes, calling upon the likes of Old Saint Nick himself. This is Christmastown, a very small community named after the founder’s favorite holiday. The buildings sit empty, restaurant no longer serving patrons, paint faded and chipping away. Lights no longer twinkle, but the Christmas “spirit” shines all year round.
8. Hoover Dam John
The Hoover Dam is a common tourist destination. It is a marvel for all to see. Better than the dam itself are the bathrooms. Go to the bathrooms, for real, you will not regret the visit. Built in the early part of the 20th century, the bathrooms were designed in an art deco style, evoking the flamboyant style of the 1920’s and 1930’s. The tile, stairways and railings are a trip through the time space continuum. After my visit, I felt the need to fight prohibition and buy a flapper dress.
9. Mt. Lemmon Prison Camp
Mt. Lemmon in Tucson is a beautifully scenic spot to hike, bike, drive and explore. Starting low with saguaros and prickly pears and reaching high with snow and pines, one can literally span the seasons in an hour’s drive. Following the Catalina Highway up about 8 miles, one finds the Gordon Hirabayashi Rest Area. Upon exploring the area, it is found to once have been a prison camp designed for prisoners used as free labor to build the exact Catalina Highway one travels to the top of the mountain. Named after one of the Japanese Americans interned at the camp, the remains of the stone steps, foundations, and storage facilities remain as a brutal remnant of America’s past and an eerie reminder for us all to to never forget.
10. Graveyard of Steel
Smack dab right in the middle of Tucson one can find the most unique graveyard, the airplane boneyard. The average person cannot get a great view of the planes from the road, but unbeknownst to me until recently was that one can take a bus tour of the entire graveyard compliments of the Pima Air and Space Museum. The whole experience is well worth the nominal fee of a few bucks. Just entering the Air Force base through security was worth the fee. However, the history of the evolution of the different planes is actually interesting for all ages and the rows and rows of planes, lined up perfectly, as far as the eye can see is a sight that can not be matched.