Putting the Fun in Funky Towns ~ Old Cottonwood and Jerome, AZ

{Dates of Visit Mar 12 - 18, 2015} 

The plans for a summer in Alaska were already well in the works when we left Tucson and started north. There were a lot of miles to be covered to get us into position to cross into Canada on June 1st but the temperatures in many areas along the way were still below freezing. Since Clark's sister lives in Jerome, not far from Sedona, we decided to spend a couple of weeks visiting family and enjoying the famous red rocks.

The view from our free spot on Thousand Trails Road in Cottonwood. Note the red clay...if it rains you might be stuck for a few days.
The other side of the RV...just a small sample of the other RVers camped here.
We spent our first few days on some National Forest land (Thousand Trails Road) right near the Thousand Trails Park in Cottonwood. This is a popular area for boondockers and Thousand Trails members who need to cycle out of the system before being able to get their discount again. So, it was a little crowded. Not so much that we had trouble finding a level spot, but enough that there was almost always someone coming or going and you had to pay attention to where you parked, lest you end up in the middle of a road or in someone else's campsite. Although "free" was the right price, we felt it was a little too far out of the way to make it worth our while since we'd be making several trips into Jerome to hang out with family. Old Town Cottonwood and Jerome were 30-40 minutes away as was Sedona.

With our niece, Sara, and her daughter (making the great face), Rachel, and her friend.
Since we'd be spending multiple days in Jerome and wanted to be able to walk around downtown Cottonwood we moved to Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood. Over the years we've learned that it's sometimes worth paying a little extra in order to be closer to the things you want to do and see. Even a free campsite can lose it's charm if it means your commute time is an hour round trip (this is mostly true if you plan on making that trip several times). Dead Horse State Park was just minutes to Old Town and our commute to Jerome was cut in half.

Besides, being closer to the things we wanted to see, Dead Horse is a beautifully laid out park with plenty of hiking and biking trails, a fishing pond, spacious sites and it sits on the Verde River. Sites, which are water and electric only, will set you back $25 per night (that's the rate when we were there). There's an onsite dump station and nice (clean) showers.

Pizzas at Bocce
Kumari and Clark
Old Town Cottonwood was voted one of the top places to visit by Lonely Planet. With restaurants to tempt a variety palates, boutique shops lining the streets and a plethora of wineries ready to pour you a glass (or 3) Cottonwood is not to be missed. We had an exceptional meal at Pizzeria Bocce which specializes in authentic, handmade pizzas (they way they've been made in Naples for 300 years). Bocce is owned by the same folks who own the Haunted Burger and Grapes in Jerome...so you know it's good stuff. If you're in the mood for wine tasting, Pillsbury Winery Tasting Room should be at the top of your list. Of the 11 wines we tasted we liked...all 11...and we're kinda picky (we came from the Napa Valley/Sonoma area after all). And, to balance out all that pizza and wine, stop by Spirit Rising Yoga & Healing for a cleansing (and amazing) yoga class. 

Spirit Rising Yoga Studio in Old Town Cottonwood

Jerome, once known as the wickedest town in the west, is another one of my favorite small towns, Bisbee. There's something so appealing about these old mining/ghost towns that have reinvented themselves into blossoming artist's communities. Take an old, dusty town, add a few hippies, a splash of creative artists and out-of-the-box (eccentric) types and you've got a winning recipe for my kinda town. Not only is it home to my lovely sister-in-law, Kumari, and my super fun nieces and nephew, Becca, Jonas and Sara, but Maynard James Keenan (lead singer of Tool) once lived right across the street from Kumari. His wineries, Caduceus Cellars and Merkin Vineyards have their headquarters in Jerome. Be sure to stop by for a tasting and, should you need a hair cut, head downstairs in Puscifer (named after Maynard's other band) and see the barber.

Clark got a great cut in Puscifer.

After you're done tasting at Maynard's place be sure to drop by Cellar 433 and say hi to our niece, Sara. Cellar 433 has a huge selection of Arizona wines and Sara will be sure to find you exactly what you want (the last time we were in Jerome Drew Barrymore was tasting in Cellar 433...go where the stars go!!).

Crumbling buildings and satellite dishes...
Other great shops (some of which have breakables so maybe go to these before wine tasting):

Raku Gallery ~ Gorgeous pottery and superb displays of jewelry, paintings, sculptures and textiles all in a relaxed, browse at your own pace setting.They're staff is very friendly and love to talk about the various artists. So ask away!

Merchant's Gathering ~ A collection of fun shops and fine art...this is where you might find Kumari hanging out. Her shop is a fun collection of Native American, Peruvian and other South American art.

Nellie Bly ~ I never knew how much I loved kaleidoscopes until I entered Nellie Bly. Wow, wow, wow. Do yourself a favor and go inside. It's super fun, family friendly (yes, they absolutely have kaleidoscopes for the kids) and a feast for the eyes. I want to buy everything here. EVERYTHING. 

La Victoria Glass Blowing Studio ~ Behind Raku is a funky old dilapidated building with something really, really cool inside. A kiln, glory hole, torches and powdered glass occupy at least half the shop while several shelves display the magnificent blown glass art of Tracy Weisel. Several chairs are set up so you can sit a while and watch the whole process, from beginning to end, as he explains each step. The day we went he was making glass pears and they were stunning. A worthy stop anytime you're in Jerome.

Flatiron ~ Grab yourself a nice espresso and scone (a new menu is coming soon) in this historic building. There's outdoor seating for the cafe right across the seat.

The House of Joy ~ Once a house of ill-repute (although brothels were legal back in the day) and now a house of curiosities this store is so full of cool and unique items that I always go inside when we go to Jerome. From vintage clothing to vintage print ads, handmade cards (created by the owner) to old political buttons this place is fun!

Pretty much any shop in Jerome is worth going into really. There are so many artists, from potters to painters, that each place offers something unique and awe inspiring. I love the Turquoise Spider and Pura Vida Gallery. Go and browse to your hearts content. Walk the street, grab a drink, eat some food. Jerome is sure to having something worth your while.

Tip: Although Jerome is only about 20-30 miles from Prescott Valley and Prescott (respectively) the road over the mountain is narrow and full of twists and turns. It's not recommended for trailers or RV's (I have no idea how you would even maneuver through the streets of Jerome in anything larger than a dually pickup...and that would be tight).

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