Cruisin' Into Cottonwood, AZ


Sherman, our Cruise America RV, pulled out of Kirtland AFB raring’ to go. We had rented a car for a couple of days to explore the area around Santa Fe, so Sherman was given the weekend off. Now, rested, ready, and with a full tank of gas, he was heading due west on I-40 to Cottonwood, AZ.

About three hours into a very scenic drive we passed the entrance to the Petrified Forest National Park and decided to pull over to commemorate the event with a picture. We coaxed a young lady into doing us the favor of snapping the shot. That picture is in our photo library.

In Flagstaff, we turned south on I-17, and shortly after that detoured on Highway 89A to see what Sedona, AZ was all about, having heard from friends that this was a can’t miss. The highway took us through the Coconino National Forest. There was a lot of highway and tree work underway, and we slowed somewhat, but that only provided the opportunity to view the incredible red rock formations visible from the highway. The blue sky made the awesome structures stand out.

Traffic in Sedona was bumper to bumper. The crowds were large, and Pink Jeep Tours were doing a landslide business on this day, and there were Pink Jeeps everywhere. I thought the town was well done but looked newer and more “touristy” than I had anticipated. I should probably come back when we have time to explore.

Our original plan had been to stay in the Fort Tuthill Recreation Area in Flagstaff, but this installation, operated by Luke AFB, did not open until mid-April. We went to Plan B. We did just fine. We were able to secure the last site available at Dead Horse Ranch State Park on the outskirts of Cottonwood. The drive was almost six hours, and we arrived around 3 pm in plenty of time to locate Sherman’s new home for the night and check in. This area is beautiful.

The campground is located in a small canyon with short hills to the east and west. Campers were sitting outside their trailers enjoying the perfect weather. There were enough trees to give each campsite a few degrees of separation from its neighbor and provide a dab of shade. All in all, Dead Horse Ranch looked very inviting.
The camp host greeted us and verified our registration, then gave us a rundown on the facilities. The showers were close to our camping spot, and Helen (adorable wife) verified that they were immaculate. Our site had connections for both water and electric, but before we hooked up, we made a return trip to Cottonwood and Hog Wild BBQ to “pig out” for dinner.

Hog Wild was a small BBQ restaurant, but the food was large on flavor and larger still on portions. We ordered a sampler platter to share and took it back to the campground. This may have been our best meal to date…the ribs were out of this world good. I’ll torture BBQ lovers with a picture.

The next morning we were up before sunrise. I wanted to walk up the hill to the west of our campsite and take pictures of the sunrise as it came over the canyon. This excursion turned out to be fraught with peril, however.

As I walked up the hillside and turned to get a bearing on the sunrise, I tripped over my own feet, fell, and introduced my nose to a big rock. At first, I thought I broke my nose, but I had only cut it open (and scratched my glasses). I was a bit woozy but determined to take pictures and continued up the hill holding a handkerchief on my face with one hand and holding my camera with another. Thankfully, I continued because the sunrise over the canyon was spectacular. There was a red glow everywhere, and the moon was still high in the western sky to add an accent piece to the picture. I snapped away, even finding Sherman in the distance. It was now time to return to Sherman and care for my wounds. I was fine and eventually found my spare glasses.

I sincerely regret that we had only booked one day at Dead Horse Ranch and made a promise that we would return, but our next stop was Nellis AFB in Las Vegas and we wanted to arrive before five o’clock traffic which we understood could be quite heavy. Sherman agreed. We did have one stop planned on our way out of the area however and turned into the Tuzigoot National Monument for a quick tour of the ancient pueblo.

The Sinagua people built the pueblo around A.D. 1000. They were agriculturists and traders. The pueblo sat on a hillside which offered a view for miles and enabled the inhabitants to watch for oncoming traders or threats. The pueblo was quite impressive to be as ancient as it was. It had a total of three stories.

According to the displays in the museum, the original inhabitants had departed the area around 1400 A.D. In the early 1930’s an excavation of the area was completed and uncovered hundreds of relics including tools and pottery from the period of occupation. Tuzigoot received its name from an Apache who worked with the excavation team.

Having added to our knowledge base for today, we left on a route that took us through some beautiful countryside that included the town of Prescott. Glorious doesn’t describe the views. Please note the snow-capped peaks in the distance.

Retirement is still the best gig going, and we’re determined to prove it. Next week…it’s Vegas, baby! We’ll be Easin’ Along now.

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Easin' Along