Visiting Bill & Colleen — Parks, AZ, September 2-16, 2016

We had an enormously enjoyable and productive visit with Bill & Colleen.  New friends Bruce & Jan Dodge were also often present.  We met a number of Bill & Colleen’s neighbors at a Labor Day neighborhood gathering, and again when invited over to a couple’s home and again when Bill & Colleen threw a neighborhood BBQ rib party.  We had a number of ladderball tournaments.  We played Spades most evenings — the girls somehow managed to erase their previously abysmal record and humiliated the boys.  We took quite a few walks through woods and clearings looping around a nearby hill.  The weather was beautiful; the skies bright blue and temperatures mild.

While rooting around under the RV one day early in our visit (sealing all cracks to keep mice out), I discovered some cracked supports in one section of the structure that anchors the coach to the chassis.  And so yet another project was entered into — yet another example of the generosity and abilities of Bill, who borrowed a welder from a friend and scrounged up some angle iron and rectangular piping and proceeded to give me some experience with being the right-hand man of a metal worker.  We had to take off the rear wheels in order to get access to the area needing repair.  When we were finished, several days later, we looked up the specs and learned that the prescribed torque value for the lug nuts on the wheels was a surprising 465 lbs. or so.  Bill’s largest torque wrench topped out at 150 lbs.  What to do?  Bill and Bruce put their heads together and created a torque-mulitplying arm by welding a nut to a long metal arm at just the right position.  By attaching the torque wrench to the nut at the end of the arm,  the nominal value of 150 lbs. was actually 465 lbs.  Is there anything these two guys cannot do?

Lava River Cave is a lava tube cave in northern Arizona’s Coconino National Forest, accessible from Bill & Colleen’s by about 11 miles of gravel roads . At approximately 3/4-mile long, the cave is the longest of its kind known in Arizona. The cave was discovered by some lumbermen in 1915. Geologists believe the cave was formed sometime between 650,000 and 700,000 years ago when molten lava erupted from a nearby volcanic vent. The top, sides and bottom of the flow cooled and solidified, while lava in the middle flowed out, leaving a hollow space to form the cave. Examples of both ʻAʻā and Pāhoehoe basaltic lava can be seen in the cave.

The cave is mostly dry, but due to the temperature change, there is a lot of condensation on the walls, ceiling and floor near the entrance, which makes it slippery. Temperatures inside are around 40°F  during the summer, and it is not uncommon for some of the rocks to be covered with ice. The cave can range in height from 30 feet  to only 2 to 3 feet. There are no light sources inside.

Barb’s sister Audrey drove up from Las Vegas and joined us all for a few days.  She slipped on a slick rock in the cave and hurt her back, and so wasn’t able to complete the transit of the cave.  Barb hiked the first half and then decided she had had enough of dark caves and joined Audrey on the surface.

Walnut Canyon National Monument is a United States National Monument located about 10 mi  southeast of downtown Flagstaff, near Interstate 40. The canyon rim elevation is 6,690 ft; the canyon’s floor is 350 ft lower. A 0.9 mile long loop trail descends 185 ft into the canyon passing 25 cliff dwelling rooms constructed by the Sinagua, a pre-Columbian cultural group that lived in Walnut Canyon from about 1100 to 1250 CE.

Back in Flagstaff, we also visited the Riordan Mansion State Park, which features the duplex home of Timothy and Michael Riordan, lumber baron brothers who married sisters, Caroline and Elizabeth Metz. The brothers were members of an important Arizona Territorial family who played a role in the development of Flagstaff and northern Arizona and were involved in lumber, railroads, cattle, banking, and politics.

Cooperatively the Riordan brothers built their thirteen thousand square foot mansion in 1904 while Arizona was still a territory. The home consisted of two similar six thousand square foot wings for each family, connected by a large common room.

As we left early in the morning on September 16, we were bid adieu by Bill & Colleen and neighbor Willie and Bill’s friend Casey.