We rolled into Payson around 2:00pm. This last leg of the journey featured very nice scenery. Leaving New Mexico was dominated by bare rock formations and scrublands. It looked like where you would expect to see cowboys riding around and shooting each other. Holbrook was the first major Arizona city, and boy, was it windy! While filling up at a gas station, a huge tumbleweed came rolling by, right behind Brian. It must have been really warm because even with serious wind, I was comfortable in shorts.
While walking Sydney, she suddenly started going crazy while looking into the distance. I looked over and found that a giant tumbleweed was coming right at us! It was still far away but it was amazing how fast it moved. She continued to bark in alarm at it while Brian got the camera out and filmed her defense routine. At one point, I charged the tumbleweed to see how Sydney would alter her reaction but she did not do much.
Turning onto 277 and Behold, the Pines!
We took a right on highway 277 and shortly after started to see pine trees, scattered sporadically along the road. The top peaked at 7700 feet elevation near the town of Heber and the pine tree density picked up dramatically. The drive down the mountain to Payson was almost magical. The pictures don’t do the area justice. As you look over the rim, all you see are miles of pines on rolling mountains.
Star Valley and its Speed traps
Highway 260 comes down the mountain, goes through the small town of Star Valley and then continues into Payson. The last time we drove down 260 into Payson, we flew by one of the speed enforcement camera setups on the edge of Star Valley. There was a huge flash as the camera presumably took a picture of our license plate. I guess we have good driving karma because we never got a ticket.
Yesterday, we remembered halfway down 260 to watch for the trap and thankfully, re-remembered at the bottom of the hill with enough time to hit the brakes. No camera flash, phew!
Moose Monsters & Other Notes
We went straight to my sister’s house so we could grab a hug and let the dogs roam in her yard. She has a big yard and we were able to throw the ball for Sydney. We unloaded unnecessary items from the car that we don’t care to drag around anymore and re-arranged the car to optimize for the next trip. It was really nice to let the dogs stretch their legs for the first time in 4 days.
We introduced Fred Bird to Jacque’s bird Cheeks and her cat Remy. Fred is fearless and was intimidated not-at-all when Remy jumped up next to his cage to investigate him. Cheeks, a much more cuddly bird than Fred, apparently was positively influenced by Fred’s soft noises because he was much quieter in his contact calls during our visit.
We had coffee at Dimi Espresso. It is an awesome establishment – it has a spacious layout with tables for settling in to work, cozy booth areas, a piano and lots of fun artwork. The pastry selection looks amazing but we won’t be able to comment on the taste until cheat day. You can get a single origin cup of coffee, prepared with a Chemex for $1.75. When we previously ordered this at our favorite café in West Hartford, it was $5 or $6 a cup.
As we were coming back to Jacque’s housing development after coffee, two elk crossed the road about 30 feet in front of us. We were so stunned by their sudden appearance that we did not get a picture in time. I don’t remember ever seeing them this far into town so I was really surprised. They have long legs and are beautiful animals. I sent Jacque a text and told her we had just seen two moose. She knows we are adventurous and assumed we were telling the truth…at least until someone set her straight.
When we re-convened with Jacque, she told us that elk are pretty common in town now and you frequently find them at the golf course. Hopefully, we’ll get a picture at some point.
A Small Town Experience & Interstellar
Payson is not a tiny town by any means, but it has a small town feel. It is spread out for about 3 miles along the main road. Housing and development is limited because the town is surrounded on all sides by National Forest – 97% is under the jurisdiction of the United States Forest Service or tribal governments and is therefore off limits for building.
While killing time before a movie, we decided to drive around some of the residential areas and see if any land jumped out at us. Because of the limited land, yards are small and most properties feel cramped. A home with two cars looks overwhelmed because often the second car (or sometimes third and fourth) are parked in the street. The tiny yards were often littered with kid’s toys, desert yard decorations and/or tools.
These non-HOA areas feel cramped and cluttered. The HOA areas appear to have lawn regulations (i.e. keep things tidy) but they are just as cramped. We’re not fans of ‘nanny’ rules that govern how to live, but the idea of living in one of these areas is not at all appealing.
We’ll do more exploring when we come back for our Payson leg. To finish off the evening, we saw Interstellar in theaters with Jacque. The movie was released last week, so you’d expect the theater to be packed; or at least that is what you would have seen in Manchester. Here, however, there was barely a quarter of the seats taken. One local commented on how ‘overpriced’ the theater was and maybe that keeps people away. At $9.50 per adult for an evening show, it wasn’t much different from what we’re used to.
By the way, the movie was fantastic!