Day 2: Blythe, CA to Crown King, AZ

Saturday 9/10

We were up at 6:00 am. The sun was cranking the second it came over the horizon. I felt like crap, but it was nothing that a good cup of gas station coffee couldn’t cure. We were kind of dumb for getting gas on the California side since Arizona was about .20/gallon cheaper, but my need for coffee was a borderline medical emergency.

We knew from the start that Simon would be a limiting factor, especially where food establishments were concerned. We hit Wickenburg and wanted to get lunch. Wayne saw a place that interested him and went in to ask if it was ok to bring Simon in. The woman said, “He’s a service dog, riiiight?” Wayne said, “Uh…yeah?” and then added that I needed him for an anxiety disorder. She responded, “We love dogs!” Simon was such a hit with the crew that the cook brought him his own slice of ham.

After lunch we hit our first stretch of dirt on Castle Hot Springs Road. There were some interesting structures along the way, including one that looked like a rich person’s home in disrepair. Later on we learned that Castle Hot Springs was a famous resort. Although no longer in use, we could see the caretaker’s truck on the property so sneaking around for a closer look was out. Probably the most striking thing about the resort were the out-of-place expanse of palm trees. Castle Hot Springs is unusual in that it’s one location of note in the Southwest that has nothing to do with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid hiding out.

We hit a gas station on the I-17 and then made our way to Crown King, a popular area close to Phoenix where people like to go to get out of the desert heat. We were surprised at the amount of traffic going up and coming down the dirt road. Neither of us had ever encountered so many vehicles on any unpaved road at any times in our combined lives: trucks, jeeps, SUVs, ATVs, Rhinos — even the occasional passenger car reduced to a crawl. At one spot we let Simon out to stretch his legs, but I continually had to scoop him up because yet another vehicle was coming around the bend. Strangely enough, we didn’t encounter a single motorcycle along that road — they must know better than to be on the Crown King expressway on a weekend.

We stopped at the general store to have a snack and to capture important memories for Simon.

While there we met Cameron and Mike. They were camping over at Hazlett Hollow and highly recommended that we check it out. We happened to be in search of a camping spot and the place sounded perfect so we headed over there. Sure enough, Hazlett Hollow had something I’d never seen before at other camp sites: permanent lean-tos. Bonus: They weren’t filled with trash and they didn’t smell of urine left by generations of outdoorsmen who couldn’t stagger over to a bush with their load of processed Bud Light.

Each lean-to also had a fire pit with a “backboard” that radiated the heat towards the shelter. Maybe as a naïve camper I’m easily impressed, but I was impressed.

The shelter came in handy during the night. We didn’t put the rain fly on the tent since it was a nice night, but some time after we had fallen asleep the clouds moved in and started to dump its load. I yelled for Wayne to wake up. We both jumped out of the tent and dragged it into the shelter. I can’t remember if Simon was in or out of the tent when we did the frantic maneuver — if he inside, he got an awesome “bouncy house” ride.

The bonus of being in the lean-to was that it kept us out of the impressively annoying full moon, which is comparable to sleeping with a headlight in your face. You may fall asleep, but odds are that you’ll dream you’re a political prisoner under interrogation.

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Day 2 overview: 239 miles

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