Arizona: A lifetime of places to explore
One thing about Arizona is you'll never run out of places to explore in a lifetime. There's so much territory to cover from the the Four Corners of the Navajo Reservation to the other “corners” and canyons of this vast state.
There are railroad and highway towns, mining and ghost towns, sun-bleached desert crossroads, farming towns and alpine villages with cool air and Ponderosa pines.
And if that’s not enough, there’s Canyon de Chelly, the San Francisco Peaks, Petrified Forest and the Grand Canyon. You can spend decades exploring the Canyon and never see it all.
In more than 40 years, I’ve seen much of the state but there’s places I’ve never been and always another road to explore or rediscover with fresh eyes.
When I first arrived in Arizona in 1974, there were fewer than 2.2 million folks living here. That made for a lot of wide open spaces and empty wilderness where it was easy to be all alone with the critters and sounds of wilderness. And Route 66 was still carrying traffic across much of Northern Arizona.
Now there are more than 7 million people living here. Sometimes you have to share the space with other people drawn to Arizona’s diverse landscapes. The good thing is that more than half of Arizonans live in Phoenix and Tucson so there are still many places to get away and leave the big city behind.
Searching back roads for windshield gems
On the Road Arizona is focused on exploring those wide open spaces. We advocate getting out to drive scenic roads and see the historic buildings, neon signs, road ruins and other windshield attractions.
There are 25 national monuments, three national parks, and countless recreational opportunities in the national forests, rivers and canyon lakes of Arizona.
I've been fascinated with the 48th state since I rolled across Hoover Dam in my VW bus in 1973. Since then I set out to see every town and stretch of open road and explore all the state's canyons, mountains and desert highways.
I've lived in the Phoenix area for the past 30 years. I also spent a decade in Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, Sedona and Clarkdale. I lived five years in a rustic, white house on Route 66 in Flagstaff where my spirit for Arizona adventures grew into a passion.
I watched the Mother Road and its attractions fade as the rush of an interstate highway swept across Northern Arizona. And I witnessed Route 66's recovery two decades later. Travelers returned to see what was left of the midcentury glory days of "motoring west" on the old highway.
I've rolled up a half-million miles in 40 years criss-crossing the state as a journalist, on weekend road trips and hiking treks into the Canyon. But there is so much more to see. And I still haven't been to Giselea or the Slaughter Ranch in the far southeastern corner of Arizona.
In the past few years, I've been out there on a deeper drive into old Arizona to get a better feel for its character and characters. I shot most of the photos in the last three years.
Take a look. Take a virtual trip. I hope you'll be inspired to explore more of Arizona after navigating On the Road Arizona.
Travel tip: Turn around and go back
A few things I’ve learned in recent years: Stop whenever you’re inclined to explore a town, alley or back road. Don’t assume you will catch it next time. Go back if you passed something you really want to see. You will be rewarded.
Be safe. Check the forecast where you're going, check your tires, bring plenty of water and let someone know where you're headed.
As a footnote, the name On the Road Arizona honors the legacy of Beat generation writer Jack Kerouac, whose 1957 book On the Road inspired me during my adventures across the West that brought me home to Arizona.
Footnote: Many pages includes links to National Historic Register reports and other historical documents.
Follow me on Twitter: @petercorbett1
Best Arizona Travel Blog
The New Times Best of Phoenix edition (Sept. 29-Oct. 5) named
On the Road Arizona the Best Arizona Travel Blog in 2016.