4th of July Weekend 2016: Florence, Arizona Road Trip
Odometer (Legend): 543,770
Odometer (ILX): 174,186
Trip Distance: 135 Miles
On one end of the spectrum, you have Florence, Italy: the home of the Renaissance and the capital of Italy’s Tuscany Region. It’s a place filled with art, culture, and class. It would take about a 15-hour flight to get there. At the complete other end of the spectrum, there’s another Florence I’d like to introduce you to: Florence, Arizona. It’s the capital of Pinal County, home to one of the state’s largest prison facilities, and a now-defunct railroad stop. But, you can get there in about an hour from Phoenix and it offers a “culture” all its own.
I took my Legend coupe out for a half-day of exploration on Sunday morning to give Florence a whirl. Along the way, I stopped at a noteworthy waypoint suggested by Roadside America: The Pork Shop in San Tan Valley. This place is known for its meat. They have seven types of smoked bacon, as well as sausages and burritos. At 9:45 in the morning I wasn’t hungry for any of those items, and I think it may have been closed for the day anyway, but that didn’t stop be from taking a few pictures out front next to the giant tank that’s been decked out like a pink pig.
I zig-zagged my way across the desert southeast of Phoenix as I made my way toward Florence on two-lane roads, often times with telephone poles alongside me. There was really no one else on the roads so it was a chance to turn up the volume on my Jock Jams or whatever else was playing on the iPod at the time. I do recall having “Every Day Is a Winding Road,” by Sheryl Crow coming on and thinking that was an appropriate soundtrack for my drive.
Hooking up with Highway 79 at the T in the road, I headed south and Florence was just 4 more miles down the highway. It took just a few minutes of winding through the historic downtown district to get a feel for the lay of the land. Main Street was dead – a total ghost town if it weren’t for the random C6 Corvette parked southbound on the west side of the street in front of some shops.
I snagged a few photos and started thinking about lunch. Unfortunately my first choice was a place that wasn’t open. Painted in bold blue letters were the words DONUTS and SALAD BAR. That struck me as an odd combination of food offerings. They must be trying to cater to a wide variety of clientele. Maybe I could a glazed donut with a splash of ranch dressing?
I ended up continuing westward on Highway 287 to Coolidge for lunch instead of eating in Florence — it was still early anyway. So early, in fact, that when I arrived at my destination – “Gallopin’ Goose” – it was still 20 minutes before they opened. For some reason, even though the sign says “Breakfast All Day,” the place doesn’t open until 11:00 a.m. Go figure. I guess everyone in Coolidge eats breakfast really late.
As it turns out, it was worth the wait. I had the place to myself and also the attention of the entire wait staff. I sat myself at the bar and was immediately helped by “Chrissy” who was laying on the flirts pretty thick. Before I’d even been handed a menu, she’d rattled off about 5 or 6 drink specials. “Just a lemonade please,” I told her. It was quiet in there – just the sound of country music on the jukebox!
Appetizers were buy-one, get-one-half-off so I went with the buffalo chicken “bites,” and the chips & salsa. I probably only ate half what was given to me, so Chrissy got me two styrofoam boxes and a styrofoam cup (for the salsa) to take my leftovers. The Legend doesn’t have a cup holder. I think this was the first time I’ve ever had to hold a cup full of salsa between my legs as I drove away. Right down the street from Gallopin’ you’ll find the Casa Grande Ruins.
I had one more visit to pay before looping back to the Phoenix area, and that was to say hello to my friends Mark and Rosalinda Bandoni. I’ve known them for the better part of a decade and they’re good people. In fact, they invited me to their wedding 7 years ago. Today, they live in a two-story home there in Coolidge and have a kitty named Abra and three vehicles. Mark has developed his hobby of model car building in recent years and he showed me his growing collection of completed projects. I never had the patience to work on stuff like that.
The return drive was mostly on Interstate 10, since I decided to take an easy path by hitting the freeway at the McCartney Road interchange. It was a nice little Sunday loop and I hope you enjoyed taking it with me!
Cruising through San Tan Valley, Arizona. It’s pretty desolate out there.
Vintage looking signage on Main Street in Florence.
Building in Florence
Lunch at Gallopin’ Goose.
Mark’s review of G.G. wasn’t all that praiseworthy!
What’s wrong with this picture? Ugh.
I thought this sign inside Mark’s garage was kind of funny.
The Integra got tint yesterday!
My receipt at Texas Roadhouse the other night said it right!
Have a great rest of your week, all!