Reflections on a Journey with Friends from Seattle to Phoenix

Feature Photo - Rainbow Bridge

With Deborah hosting a Wisdom Quest in Portugal in September, Tim took on the responsibility to move BAM from the Pacific Northwest back to Phoenix. He called on two lifelong friends to ride and enjoy the sights along the way. There was no need to hurry, so a 32-day journey with friends was scheduled. Lots of golf was played, one friend saw Yellowstone for the first time, and they boated on Lake Powell 50 years after their first adventure there.

Serendipity and Synchronicity

Bob and Donnie, January 1969

In 1968, Bob, one of my best friends growing up in Nebraska, pitched the idea of going to Arizona, where we could golf all winter. It sounded better than another cold, snowy season in Lincoln, so early in September that year, my life changed forever. Arriving in Phoenix, one of the first people we met on the golf course was Donnie. Fifty-one years later, the three of us are still best buds.

My decision to travel to Arizona with Bob and the serendipitous odds that he would get paired in a match against Donnie absolutely changed my life’s destiny. They completed 36 holes of qualifying for the State Amateur Championship in a combined total of 298 strokes. Had either of them scored just one stroke differently, one shot hit better or worse, one putt made or missed throughout two rounds each, they would not have met in match play. Ten years later, it was through Donnie and his then-wife Jean that I met Deborah. I believe in synchronicity!

Shift Change!

On September 9th, I took Deborah to the airport in Seattle where she began her Portugal Wisdom Quest journey. Within an hour, Bob and Donnie had landed in Seattle, and we were off on a new adventure together. It was a shift change like none other.

What follows is mostly a picture log of this epic journey with friends from Seattle to Phoenix. Three guys, each 71, sometimes still thinking we were 21. It was equal parts golf and sightseeing with a little partying like it was 1969 again thrown in.

Sunshine Silver Mine

Our first stop as we crossed the panhandle of Idaho was Osburn, a small town just west of the Sunshine Silver Mine. When we first saw the mine, we had no idea what a profound history it has played to this small hamlet with a population of just more than 1,000. The mine has produced in excess of 360 million ounces of silver, nearly 20% of all silver mined in the US.

On May 2, 1972, 173 miners descended into the underground shafts to start the day shift. A fire broke out mid-morning filling the tunnels with smoke and carbon monoxide. Eighty miners were hoisted out in small groups before the hoist man himself was overcome and died, trapping the 93 miners still below. Two were rescued an unbelievable 175 hours later, having made it to a shaft with ventilation. The other 91 perished.

Elsie Lake above the Sunshine Mine

Galena Ridge 9-hole course: Built on former mining property

Fairmont Hot Springs, Montana

After stopping for a couple of days at the Jellystone RV Park in Missoula, we proceeded to Fairmont Hot Springs, Montana.

journey with friends in Jellystone RV park

Tim, Donnie, and Bob at Jellystone RV Park

The resort offers both indoor and outdoor pools, and each has 93- and 104-degree options. It was off-season, so we practically had the place to ourselves. When the outdoor temperatures dropped into the low 50s the final two days we were there, soaking neck deep in warm water lasted for hours.

Their golf course features a hole advertised as “a mile high and a mile long.” It wasn’t quite that long but had signs of encouragement along the way.

Fairmont Hot Springs, Montana. We practically had the place to ourselves. 93 degrees in the main pool, 50 degrees outside.

200 yards to go with an encouraging sign

Anaconda, a once-booming copper-mining town, is proximate to Fairmont. The town has reinvented itself with the help of a superfund golf development called Old Works built over the former mine. We got out of town just in time as the weather cooled drastically throughout the round.

Anaconda, Montana: Deer Lodge County Courthouse

Old Works Golf with winter approaching

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone in the fall is something to behold. The leaves were starting to change, and the crowds were thinning with cold weather approaching. Donnie had never traveled in a motorcoach nor had he ever been to Yellowstone. He commented on how every day of the trip just seemed to keep getting better and better.

Old Faithful erupting during a clearing fall storm

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone—from above the lower falls

Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park in the town West Yellowstone is my favorite place to park a big rig here. We caught both Old Faithful and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone on, particularly dramatic days. The trees in the Grand Teton were in full fall color.

journey with friends at Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Tim, Bob, and Donnie at Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone with a view of the lower falls

Particularly large buffalo bull with his herd

Particularly large buffalo bull with his herd

Heber City, Utah

Heber City, Utah was our next stop on our journey with friends. We parked directly below the Jordanelle Reservoir Dam at River’s Edge at Deer Park RV Resort. It is deep in the canyon on the edge of the Provo River as it exits the reservoir. It is the darkest, quietest spot I have ever parked BAM. Sleeping was great!

BAM at River’s Edge RV Park below Jordanelle Reservoir Dam

Bob putting with the background trees in full fall colors around the mountain course, Wasatch State Park

When we arrived at the Wasatch State Park to play golf, we were greeted by the brightest red foliage I have ever experience around a golf course. The Mountain Course took its beauty to a whole new level. The people in nearby Park City were excited about the season’s first snow, predicted in a couple of days. We were equally excited about the bottle of Vida Tequila that we purchased in town.

Green River, Utah

For three warm-weather guys from Phoenix, magic happened the afternoon we left Heber City. As we passed over Soldier Summit on US Highway 6 on our way to Green River, we dropped down into our element: the desert. At Green River, we planned to visit the John Wesley Powell Museum and play their great 9-hole, state park golf course.

journey with friends in the desert

And suddenly, we were back in the desert

RVing and golf

John Wesley Powell Museum in Green River, Utah

When you actively post a trip like this journey with friends on social media, we often get tips sent about things we should do. Such was the case at Green River. I did not know that the greatest watermelons in the US are grown there. It was harvest time and our choices were abundant. Who knew there were so many types of watermelon? I am looking forward to a couple of Green River melons again next year.

Thanks for the tip! Green River produces the best watermelons in the US!

Moab, Monticello, and Monument Valley

Moab, Monticello, and Monument Valley were next. If you are looking for one singular view, Dead Horse State Park has a viewpoint that tops any of the many spectacular views at its National Park Neighbor: Canyonlands. It’s $20 whether you stay for one hour or two days and well worth the price.

Dead Horse State Park Colorado River Overlook

After stopping at many viewpoints on the Island in the Sky drive above Canyonlands National Park, we drove Willy into the inter-canyon on the 4WD White Rim Road. I had worried about this drive the whole trip, as Bob has never been one to shy away from cliffs. I’ve witnessed two specific events in which he awkwardly had gone off a cliff. Fortunately, the water below saved him both times but not without injuries. There is an abundance of unprotected cliffs along this permitted road, and the opportunities of being saved by water don’t exist. Nevertheless, he was quick to pose at every opportunity.

journey with friends at Canyonlands National Park

Mesa Arch at Canyonlands National Park

Bob, never height-challenged, in the inner canyon

The Hideout

Monticello sits at 7,000 feet, causing the heater to come back on in BAM. The attraction here is another super-fun golf course. It is called the Hideout and is built atop a former uranium mine. We played this hidden gem of a course twice and totally had it to ourselves except playing through hundreds of deer. Hunting season had started and other than dodging an occasional golf ball, they were safe here. The abundance of irrigated grass makes this a perfect hideout for them.

Donnie, playing through the deer at the Hideout

Mile Marker 13

The drive down to Monument Valley presents a stop at mile marker 13 on US 163, where everybody stands in the middle of the road to have their picture taken. Forrest Gump dramatically stopped here after running back and forth across the country for three years, two months, 14 days and 16 hours. Next time, I’ll have to remember to bring a “shit happens” bumper sticker and a smiley face T-shirt, two major fads Forrest inspired on his run.

journey with friends on mile marker 13

Mile marker 13: the spot where Forest Gump stopped running

Lake Powell

Forbidden Canyon, Lake Powell

Donnie first took me to an emerging new reservoir on the northern border of Arizona named Lake Powell in 1969. Since then, I calculate that I have spent more than half a year of time there. A lot of the trips included Donnie, Bob, or both, so this visit, marking 50 years, was very special.

Some consider the canyons that the lake covered to be a tragic loss, but the water access to the canyons that are left is truly amazing. I could not hike to all the majestic places I get to see every visit. Although we enjoyed days in the low 70s, winter continued to chase us with snow in Monticello and highs the low 50s at Lake Powell shortly after we left both places. Our journey with friends had been blessed with beautiful fall weather, but early winter was right behind us the whole way.

Lake Powell: early morning

This journey with friends presented an expanded collection of emotions. The memories of trips past and 50 years of life with my buddies were abundant. Still, traveling with three guys in such a tight space can be raw at times.

A Heartfelt Homecoming

Are you ready for me?

As we got closer to Phoenix, I was eager to be back together with Deborah. Thirty-two days is a long time to be apart. After not shaving the entire trip, I sent her a selfie asking if she was ready for me. Surprisingly, she liked the beard. I arrived home on October 11th and was overwhelmed at how much time and effort Deborah had taken to make my homecoming perfect. It was a heartfelt reception.

Fifty-year reunions are a big part of my generation’s lives right now. This wasn’t a school reunion but was a lifetime reunion. I thank Bob and Donnie for being so much a part of my life. I would not be in Arizona without Bob, and I would not have met Deborah without Donnie. This trip was a journey not many people get to experience. For this, I thank Deborah forever for giving me the opportunity to not just reflect, but in a way, touch on and re-experience many parts of 50 years of my life.

“As with any journey, who you travel with is more important than the destination.”

Scenery change: sitting on our balcony my first night home

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