Day Trips and Itineraries

The Sunday I traveled back in time without leaving Arizona

I hate road trips.  Seriously, I do.  Some aspects of them I really enjoy, like the endless laughs or the random stops along the way when we discover something cool and unexpected .  However, there are certain things I just don’t like.  I’m a little claustrophobic so being cramped in a car isn’t all that appealing to me.

Most of the time, my adventures are local.  It suits me well, considering I moved to Arizona five years ago and have still yet to experience a lot of what this great state has to offer.  I think I’ve seen a lot already but sometimes I wander to the visitor’s center in our office and browse the brochures we have about Tempe and the rest of Arizona.  I’m quickly humbled.

The older I get, the more I’m starting to like Western movies.  One weekend about a month ago, I decided to go on a little mini vacation to Apache Junction, specifically to Tortilla Flat.  Tortilla Flat is an old, stagecoach stop built in the early 1900s.  It’s located by the Superstition Mountains, in the Tonto National Forest.  The most appealing part to me?  It’s about an hour from Tempe, so I could get there and back fairly quickly.

Tortilla Flat is great but don’t blink or you might miss it.   It’s just a little place, with interesting shops and places to eat.  We were able to walk the entire place is a couple of minutes.  They had a little museum – and little is making it sound big – that had a lot of artifacts from when cowboys would stop over on their way to California.  I loved it.

On the way back, we stopped at Goldfield Ghost Town.  It was really fun.  It  gives you the feel of an old, Western town.  There are a lot of shops with local artists, in addition to places dedicated to preserving the memory of how the town used to be.  The best part?  Some actors dressed as cowboys had a fake gunfight.  It was awesome.  One thing that really stood out to me was the little church at the end of town.  You can tell that it has been there since the beginning.  But looking at it a little closer, it looks like it’s still used for services today.  I thought this was fascinating and pretty cool.

Just when I thought my day’s adventures were over, low and behold, a spotted another little white church, sitting out in the middle of nowhere.  Naturally, I was intrigued, pulled my car over and decided to investigate.  I slowly walked to the front door and immediately noticed it was unlocked.  I could hear someone talking inside but it was faint so I couldn’t really understand what was being said.  Were they tourists?  Was it a pastor conducting a service?  I opened the door and was amazed by what I saw.  Standing at the front of chapel was the king, Elvis Presley.

I happened to stop at the Elvis Memorial Chapel on the Apache Trail.  I knew Elvis had been in movies before and I quickly learned that he starred in a few westerns, including Charro, which was filmed at this location.   There’s a huge Elvis statue, as well as a handwritten note written by the man himself on display.  Out back, there were old barns and stables, with pictures of actors and actresses that have filmed there over the years.

I’m still surprised I was able to travel back in time and see another world without having to leave Arizona.  Anyone looking for a day trip should head out there and check it out.  There’s no admission costs to any of these places so the only thing it’ll cost you is the time it takes to get out there.   Just remember to wear your sunscreen, bring some water and get ready to take plenty of pictures.

For information about Tempe, remember to visit the Tempe Tourism website or call 800-283-6734.

Written Patrick