On Tuesday, February 28, 2017, we enjoyed a short 1-1/2 hour drive to Casa Grande RV Resort in Casa Grande, Arizona. When we backed into our assigned site, I was glad to relinquish my backup guide duties to the two men who came out to help Jon situate our fifth wheel. After about a half hour of polite arguments on the best approach to take, I wanted to tell them, “I’ve got this. It’s not that difficult.” But I couldn’t offend the retired truck driver instructor. A few more, “Pull-ups over there, and turn your wheels that way,” and the trailer slid into place.
I think we must have worn ourselves out over the past seven weeks because we took the rest of the day off to wash our clothes, replenish the fridge and pantry, and enjoy a steak and salad dinner prepared by Chef Jon. It felt good to put our feet up and sip our Dark & Stormy’s while the steaks sizzled on the grill.
We had selected Casa Grande Ruins National Monument for our day trip on Wednesday.
The monument preserves an ancient Sonoran Desert People’s farming community and “Great House” that dates back to 1350 C.E. On the website, an artist’s drawing depicts what the compound might have looked like around 1350 C.E. It has the appearance of a mission or fort. The complex was surrounded by walls, adobe buildings lining the inside of walls, and other buildings surrounded the great house. Journal entries of Padre Eusebio Francisco Kino who visited in 1694 is the first written account of Casa Grande. Col. Juan Batista de Anza’s expedition in 1775 and Brig. Gen. Stephen Watts Kearny’s military detachment in 1846 also mention the ruins.
The arrival of the railroad, twenty miles away, and a stagecoach route that ran near Casa Grande brought many visitors to the area. As a result, the historic structure suffered damage from souvenir hunting, graffiti, and vandalism. In 1889, Massachusetts Senator George F. Hoar presented a petition before the U. S. Senate to repair and protect the ruins. In 1892, President Benjamin Harrison established the first prehistoric and cultural reserve in the United States by setting aside one square mile surrounding the Casa Grande Ruins. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Casa Grande Ruins a National Monument on August 3, 1918. A steel shelter roof built in 1932 protects the Great House from the elements and visitors are not permitted inside the structure to protect it from further damage.
Walking the grounds, I could almost hear children laughing as they chased each other around the complex, see women weaving blankets or creating pottery jugs and bowls, smell smoke from the fires used to cook meat and vegetables, while men yelled and cheered at the ball court outside the compound’s walls.
No one knows why the people abandoned the complex, but archaeological records document their presence at Casa Grande for at least a thousand years.
The monument is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. except for Thanksgiving and Christmas. For an in-depth understanding of the history and people who occupied the compound, catch a guided tour, which is offered from late November to mid-April. Shaded picnic tables are also available for use across from the visitor’s center. As of the date of this post, the entrance fee is $5.00 for each adult (16 years or older) and children 15 and younger are free. All National Park passes are accepted.
Colorado River and Lake Havasu City
Lake Havasu City was our next destination to visit with family and friends before turning the truck toward home. Unable to secure a spot for March 2, we stopped at La Paz County Park for the night. We were glad the rain that had drenched the area a few days before had moved on to other locations because our spot looked like it would have been a lake during the downpour.
Jon and I both spent a lot of time along the river in our younger years so we took time out to reminisce and tour old haunts. Our first stop was Fox’s RV Park Resort for dinner. I didn’t remember dollar bills hanging from every available surface of the ceiling, but I did remember boating to the floating bar and restaurant with my friend, drinking our sodas, and playing “Hey Jude” on the jukebox. Jon remembered partying at the bar at night during spring break.
Next time we are driving along the river road to or from Lake Havasu, we’ll be sure to stop and grab a bite at Fox’s. The pulled pork sandwich was as good if not better than any I ever ate in North Carolina.
We drove up to Parker Dam, which reminded me of our float trips down the river for two miles to Tom’s Landing where we stayed. I’d jump out of my dad’s boat with an inner tube around my waist along with other kids who stayed at Tom’s. We’d kick back and enjoy the peaceful ride through the red rock canyon. River Lodge Resort took over Tom’s Landing property several years ago.
The City of Lake Havasu offers residents and visitors alike plenty of activities to keep a family busy. Sara Park is an 1100-acre regional park that offers hiking and bike trails, BMX and Motocross, Rodeo grounds, baseball and softball fields, to name a few. The park is also home to Havasu 95 Speedway, which runs a race schedule from October through April. We had fun one night watching the races and cheering on our friend Chris Blackwell in his Orange 99 Car. Congratulations on your win, Chris.
Next up in our GPS? San Diego.