The Road Full of Surprises

FEBRUARY 13, 2024: Today we needed to drive from Holbrook back to Phoenix. The route would take us through the mountains. In Google maps we saw that this road had twists and turns – many curves in the road as it climbed up and over the mountains. There was a weather travel advisory for this area just a couple of days ago. We were not sure how we would manage with our large motor home.

Our worries were for naught – the driving was fine. In fact, this turned out to be the most scenic route of our whole trip – a road full of surprises. We had saved the best for last without even realizing it.

The first part of the drive was very flat and very desolate.

Eventually the road started to climb to higher elevations, and we entered the Sitgreaves National Forest. After driving through desert scenery, here we were seeing large conifer trees.

We continued to climb higher and higher. Yes, the road had curves, but they were not hairpin and often there was an additional lane, so the faster traffic behind us could easily pass.  

After an hour of driving, we reached the town of Heber-Overgaard.  Here we had our first surprise – snow. Lots and lots of snow.

As we drove through the town, I noticed that there were many beautiful homes. The town has about 3,000 full-time residents, but its summertime population is closer to 12,000. This place is a haven for those who want to escape the heat of Phoenix is summer. Most of the houses here are second homes.

We left Heber-Overgaard and the snow continued. We drove for miles and miles with a layer of snow all around. At one point, we got our second surprise – a beautiful range of snowcapped mountains in the distance. Breathtaking scenery. Photos do not do it justice.

From there we continued to a bit lower elevation to Payson – a somewhat large town beautifully situated in the mountains. Payson was big enough to have a large shopping plaza and we parked in the parking lot to have our lunch. Dessert was at the Dairy Queen down the road. I had what I loved in my childhood – a dipped cone – where the cold of the ice cream makes a hard chocolate coating over the soft ice cream. Not quite as delicious as I remembered it.

We continued our drive from Payton to Phoenix. This was definitely the most amazing road of our whole trip. It started with snow capped mountains in the distance and as we reached lower elevations, a variety of desert cacti below.

The road just kept getting better and better. We found ourselves in mountains full of saguaro cacti – as many, if not more than in Saguaro National Park. Our first day with the motorhome we went to Saguaro National Park, and here we had come full circle to a similar landscape.

At one point, we noticed a turn-off to a recreational area. We parked and went for a short walk. Gorgeous.

Our campsite for the night was in Mesa, a southwestern neighborhood of Phoenix. To reach Mesa, instead of continuing straight on the main highway into central Phoenix, we turned onto a smaller side road . Here we had our last surprise – a lake in the middle of the desert! Beautiful scenery just minutes away from the big city.

We reached the KOA campground in Mesa and found the place jam packed. For the first time, we saw a pool campground with many bathers. The weather here in Phoenix was much warmer than what we had up to now. For once, we could leave the screen door open on the motorhome. Despite being in the city, the campground did not provide Wifi. This was not one of our favorite places and decided that tomorrow, for our last night, we would go somewhere else.

We spent the evening packing our suitcases and ignoring the noise of the other campers. At least the road to here was spectacular.