Christmas Day Road Trip to Show Low, Arizona

Odometer (Legend):  532,138


Odometer (ILX):  108,657


Trip Distance:  338 Miles


There’s no feeling quite like the “life flashing before your eyes” panic you get when you’re running to a car and lose your footing on a sheet of ice on the sidewalk.  Silly me, I should’ve known better than to disregard the freezing conditions when I bolted to the ILX at 7:22 a.m. this morning to start my 3-hour return drive to Phoenix from the mountains in Show Low.  I’d give $1 to see what I looked like trying to stay upright while balancing a laptop bag and my backpack on my shoulder.  Somehow, I didn’t meet the pavement head-on and as soon as I caught my breath again, I was laughing it off.


It was just 17 degrees when I started the car – and as many of you know, its battery is already near-dead.  Luckily, the ILX cranked to life and I turned on BOTH seat heaters, cranked the temperature to “Hi” and activated the defroster.  That was before I realized the windshield was covered in ice and I couldn’t see a thing.  My Chase Sapphire credit card made a decent impromptu ice scraper as I cleared an area large enough to see out of before driving out of the neighborhood.

The Phoenix-to-Show Low drive on Christmas morning yesterday was a repeat of one I’d taken exactly a year prior.  It seems to have become a bit of a tradition for me to get in the car and venture to the Sitgraves National Forest when most others are opening presents and sipping on hot cocoa.  Here’s last year’s trip write-up when I took the same route, which will detail the driving experience of the Salt River Canyon – one of Arizona’s most scenic day-trips.  Today, I’ll focus more on the town I visited on Route 60 after passing through that canyon.


After cruising eastward from Mesa on Route 60 toward the mining towns of Superior and Globe, I rolled through the canyon and took a series of pictures of the rest stop at the base – which was closed last year but has since re-opened.  The steel arch 1934 bridge across the Salt River and its 1996 replacement made for a nice photo op while I wandered around the facility before continuing up the other side of the canyon.  My playlist, by the way, for the ascent consisted mostly of Peter Cetera music.  Songs like this one were being blasted.


Show Low is a neat little community in the White Mountains that was established in 1870 and incorporated in 1953.  Due to its elevation at just over 6,300 feet, the town experiences all four seasons, unlike Phoenix which somehow skips over winter altogether.  Legend has it (see what I did there?) that the town’s name has roots in a poker game between two early settlers of the area, Corydon E. Cooley and Marion Clark.  The area in consideration comprised 100,000 acres and they decided whoever could show the lowest card would be the winner, and the other person would have to move.  Cooley had the deuce of clubs and won the game.  Today, Show Low’s main street is called Deuce of Clubs.


A friend of mine had rented a cabin near Torreon Golf Course that provided a cozy place for a group of us to crash out.  But first, I attended his family’s Christmas dinner and feasted on 3 full courses of deliciousness.  Friday’s return trip to Phoenix offered up some amazing views of snow-dusted landscapes and bright, blue sky.  Road conditions between Heber and Payson on Route 260 were slippery due to the prior night’s snowstorm, but I took things easy and made it home safe and sound in just a little over three hours.

Thanks for coming along on the drive!  Here are the rest of my pics.

Loved these organized, linear cloud formations approaching Superior on US Route 60


Queen Creek Tunnel, constructed 1953


Heading up Route 60 from Globe, Arizona.  I had the road to myself.




Each time the sun broke through the clouds, it would ignite the hills in vivid colors.


Some rock formations in the distance.


I asked some nice tourists to take my picture.


Parking at the rest area at the base of the Salt River Canyon.


1996 (background) and 1934 (foreground) bridges across the Salt River


This is the one that carries all the automobile traffic today.


Graffiti on the red bridge.


Perched and enjoying the scenery in the canyon before getting back into the car.


I love how ornate the 1934 steel bridge is.  Today, it’s only open to pedestrian traffic.


View from the steel bridge, looking up the Salt River.


Looking back toward the steel bridge from the parking area.


Heading back up the canyon, and stopping to check out this teeny little cabin.


Back at the top of the canyon after the 2,500-foot ascent on curvy roads.


Getting closer to Show Low!


Just in time for some light snow flurries.  Brrrrr!


Nightly accommodations at the cabin at Torreon Golf Club.


My friend gave a gift to himself, from himself.  At least that’s a good way to ensure you get what you want!


Friday morning frost.


The ol’ credit card ice scraper trick.


Quick picture while I let the car warm up before heading out on the 3-hour return drive.


Crisp as can be.  I love a big blue sky.


Heading westward on US Route 260 toward Payson.


Lowest that I saw the temperature dip to.  This is probably a record for the car, in the 2.5 years I’ve had it.


Breakfast in Payson, Arizona:  Ever seen a McDonald’s that will kick you out if you stay longer than 30 minutes?


Quick break along Highway 87 on the descent back to the Phoenix area.


Have a great weekend!

10 Responses to “Christmas Day Road Trip to Show Low, Arizona”

  1. That is such an amazing drive – great stretch of asphalt. I love the how just before you enter Miami that stretch of highway gets very gorgeous in scenery and the road becomes narrow and twisty.

    • Hey James, yes I know the stretch you’re talking about and I love it too! Especially the part right after the Queen Creek tunnel. Years ago I hiked around there with some friends and we went through the old tunnel where the road used to be, prior to the current tunnel’s completion. Lots of neat infrastructure out there. Happy Friday!

  2. Merry late Christmas, Tyson! The ILX looks great in this pic.

    Silver Moon + Snow + Tyson photography = I died.

    Hope Santa was good to you. 🙂

  3. What a wonderful “short” trip. An employee ID badge works decent as an Ice scraper as well with no possible damage to accessing your $$!

    • Dave, that’s a great tip! Very good to know. I was just grateful the roads weren’t very slick. My Michelins are about done! Definitely hitting up Discount Tire this week. Hope you’re having a great weekend.

  4. 14 degrees! That must have been a shock for a sun baby like yourself. Bizarrely, it’s been 50ish around here lately, and we’ve had no snow this winter! The McDonald’s restaurants in Chicago throw you out after 30 minutes as well, so don’t feel bad. The food and atmosphere are so lousy, a half hour is more than I can take anyway! As usual, you got some beautiful pics on that drive. Happy New Year 🙂

    • Thanks, Brad! Yeah it was a bit of a shocker to see temperatures in the teens! It was good to get back to the desert. You’d laugh at how people here react to “cold” temps. Like, putting blankets over the cacti in their front yards when the overnight low is expected to reach 35 or below… Seriously! Have a great rest of your weekend 🙂

  5. BRRRR!!!! Looks like it was quite nippy out! Loved the photos of the old bridge and the Salt Canyon. Definitely a trip I want to take soon. Glad Chase was there to help shave off some of that frost. They should market that. Haha

    • Chase was there for me when I needed them most! Haha. I’m guessing you’ve already driven the Salt River Canyon, but if you haven’t, it’s a must-see for sure.

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