In the time that we have been travelling, it has been rare for us to stay in the same place for very long. We’ve occasionally stopped for a couple of weeks, usually prompted either by the need for a concerted work period or maintenance on the rig. This year however, a new precedent has been set: we have been stationary since the end of December and will probably remain so through to the end of March.
The first of these months was planned. We needed time on both our usual scores and additionally, Sterling needed to get his Achilles tendon sorted. The later has turned out to be a much longer, more restrictive and painful process than we had anticipated.
So, we find ourselves heading towards mid-March with Sterling still virtually immobile and wearing his fetching "boot". His treatment has involved injection of amniotic enzyme directly into the tendon which he will tell you is no fun at all. I counted twenty three puncture marks and inspite of some local anaesthetic before the real fun started, he still nearly went through the roof a couple of times.
That was just about six weeks ago and although the doc says it’s coming along nicely, Sterling’s still hardly walking. In our more pessimistic moments we joke that the medic’s assertion that the tendon is improving is somewhat disingenuous. It cannot be denied if comparing matters with the immediate aftermath of the injections, but truth be told, it was much better before they started treating it. We’re hoping it’s a case of “it’s going to get worse before it gets better”. The prognosis was that around the end of week five there would be a dramatic improvement. We are still waiting with baited breath.
It’s a situation in which living in a shoebox is both a blessing and a curse: small enough that Sterling can get around but also compact enough to be oppressive when it’s the limit of our physical environment for long periods. A good day has involved the heady excitement of a trip to the supermarket, Sterling dropped at the front door to hobble a few steps to the nearest Mart Cart. Admittedly he grins rather a lot whilst scooting round the shop and it’s probably just as well that there’s a speed restrictor. In my personal opinion he makes rather excessive use of the “horn” especially when trying to get me to move out of his way!
Our only other outing has been a visit to the Hassayampa River Preserve, not far outside Wickenburg, AZ. They have a wheelchair and a half mile trail that they claim is accessible. The meaning of this word is however clearly open to interpretation and while we set off in a spritely enough fashion, Sterling self propelling, me occasionally pushing, things quickly become somewhat more challenging. The surface of the path becomes extremely soft and sandy as it crosses numerous small gullies, the wheelchair grinding to a halt in spite of our combined best efforts. We finally make it back but agree that we will not return until Sterling is ambulatory again.
The town of Wickenburg hosts an event called Gold Rush Days in mid-February celebrating the town’s origins in ranching and gold mining. One of the highlights is a parade and we manage to get the truck close enough to the route to set up chairs on the pavement and enjoy the festivities. The parade doesn’t quite live up to our expectations given its billing as one of the largest in Arizona but it's still fun. Wickenburg is the ‘horseiest’ town we’ve ever visited so it comes as no surprise that the majority of parade entrants are on their trusty steeds. My favourites are the Rainbow Ladies and on foot, The Sun City Poms, a group of fifty plus cheerleaders!
Maybe in an attempt to bulk out the apparent size of the parade, the town enters what looks like a new, very shiny and clean rubbish collection truck but we’re easily impressed at the moment, not having been out much and we thoroughly enjoy it all and take far too many photos.
Before the treatment of the Achilles really got underway, we had a wonderful day out at the Verde Canyon Railroad, a Christmas gift from our friends Maureen and Dick.
We’re a cut above the Hoi Polloi today, travelling in First Class with our very own sofa where we sit in comfort sipping our G & Ts, enjoying the scenery and feeling rather pleased with ourselves. It’s our anniversary and a treat like this is great way to celebrate.
The railroad parallels the muddy, silt laden waters of the Verde River as we start the meandering journey to Perkinsville, twenty miles away, the train following a course some fifty feet above the water, allowing good views of the riparian ecosystem below. The sweeping open lines of the land gradually close in and about eight miles into the trip, at the confluence with the Sycamore Creek tributary, the canyon takes over and the waters of the Verde River suddenly become crystal clear, sparkling in the sunlight, its character transformed. The scenery is wonderful, the reddish hues of the exposed rock accentuated by the deep blue sky.
This is not high speed travel. It’s a pace from a different era, an experience to be savoured as the train struggles to maintain twelve miles an hour. There’s an elevation gain of nearly five hundred feet between the start of our journey and our destination and we’re not clear if the speed is all the diesel can manage or if it’s also partly to allow us plenty of time to enjoy the experience. Either way it’s a very different business to the last train I was on: El Pato, the Spanish high speed rail.
Perkinsville is our turnabout point although to call it a destination may be going too far. The railroad company built a station here back in 1912 and while there was little enough here even then, nowadays there’s only a couple of buildings remaining. Its claim to fame is that it provided the location for a few scenes of the film, How the West Was Won. The ‘town’ originally boasted an impressive wooden water tower, used by the steam locomotives that once populated this route and was allegedly blown up during the making of the film but failed to make the final cut.
As we stand out on the viewing car, soaking up the warm afternoon sun, the diesel disconnects and passes alongside us to reposition itself at the other end of the train for our return leg back to the Clarkdale depot.