Friday, May 25, 2012

Suddenly an unconventional solution popped into my head. We could leap frog! Using a car, Dad would drop Mom and one or both of us boys at the place where we had left off the night before. He would then drive ahead 3 to 6 miles and park the car. At which point, he would walk back towards the place he had just left my Mom. Mom and us boys would walk towards the car now parked down the road. Dad would cross us in the middle and he would continue walking to where he had originally dropped Mom. Mom would continue walking to the car and then drive back to pick up Dad. Then we would drive on and walk another section in the same manner and so on and so forth until it was time to drive back to camp or our occasional motel. 

We would use CB radio walkie talkies for communication with each other and for potential emergencies. At first, my idea didn't seem too popular because the main purpose and joy was to walk together as a family  preferably from west to east. Seeing no other possible solution that would keep us all walking towards the goal, it was eventually decided that we would take a bus back to Phoenix and fly back to LA. Once back home in Ventura, we would get our car and retrieve our tent trailer from my grandparents. 

We could then drive back to eastern Arizona and continue our trek. Thus, we could still be walking every inch of the way across the U.S. Grandpa and Grandma would join us later in Spring of 1987 to allow us to walk the remaining miles together as a family. Our adventure could continue and our goal was now obtainable! We returned to the spot where we had stopped walking and began our leap frogging with the car at mile mark 269 on the Apache reservation.  Our walk now continued towards the goal of reaching the Atlantic ocean at Chesapeake Bay. 

Cathleen and I could see that conditions on the reservation seemed impoverished for many, despite the addition of the casino built in 1994. I could see that most of the tribal offices and services seemed to be modern and new. I wonder whether the casino has really improved the standard of living on the reservation though. We stopped at a convenience store adjacent to the casino.  I inquired about how we might find officer Diego Garza. Everyone was courteous, but no one seemed to know anything about him. Then a young woman behind the counter brightened and said, "There's a guy named Diego who works security over at the casino!" My heart lept as I felt our search for him might becoming to an end. How many people have the name Diego? This had to be him! I ran back to our car and excitedly told Cathleen what I had learned.

Once inside the casino, I rushed over to the information desk and enthusiastically explained that I was looking for Diego Garza.  A kind lady said, "There's just been a shift change. Let me see if he's still here." A few minutes later an older Apache gentleman in a security officer's uniform with a silver name-plate labeled Hooke approached. I briefly explained that I was retracing my family's adventure and that Diego Garza had been on the Apache Police force back in 1986. He got a far off look on his face and said with a smile, " I knew Diego well. I was a probation officer and we often worked together. He did a swap with another officer  a few years back and has moved east of Scottsdale, AZ." We shook hands and I thanked him for the information. He introduced himself as Wilmer Hooke. We exchanged business cards. I thanked him for the help, and I think that I'll be able to find him now. 

Cathleen and I got back in our car and continued towards Safford, AZ. It was getting towards sunset. As we continued to drive across the reservation, I remembered the terrain as if it had been yesterday. Once past the casino, hotel, and RV park, the reservation pretty much looked the same. It was very rugged land, but so beautiful with the shadows of the late afternoon. Soon we came to the "town" of Geronimo. It was little more than a bar 25 years ago and was located just outside of the reservation's boundary. I remember dozens of out-of-work Apache men hanging around in the middle of the day back in 1986. 

Now at sunset, I could see several windows broken out and doors off hinges. It now looked abandoned for many years. It seemed like such a haunting place! I thought of  Quentin Tarantino's movie "Dusk Till Dawn." Warning...Not a movie for the faint of heart. Racial slurs were spray painted on the building, and I could feel that it remains a dark place to this day. I noticed a newer "Dish Network" satellite  dish and a TV antenna. It seems like someone still inhabits that old place! Why they hadn't fixed the broken doors and windows or painted over the graffiti is a mystery, but they seemed to have the latest television reception capabilities. 

A half hour later, we were checking into our motel near Safford. The front-desk girl informed us that the Copper Steer Steakhouse would give us a discount if we mentioned the motel.  She said it was mesquite BBQ. I remember with fondness how good mesquite BBQ can be because we had stopped at many such places during the Walk. 

Cathleen and I headed over there and enjoyed splitting a rib-eye steak. It was still plenty of food for both of us! The waitress asked what we were doing in Safford, and my wife started to explain. The expression on Ashley Lynn's face was priceless! She couldn't believe that anyone would do that. We enjoyed her service, and she was genuinely friendly. The food was amazing! We really enjoyed our dinner, and I hope to eat there again someday. The owners are husband and wife Parrish and Maureen. I chatted with Maureen after our dinner, and she said that my family's story was inspiring. It warms my heart to be able to share the joy of our adventure with people I meet once again. 

The Apache Casino 
Flags flying out front of the casino.

On the reservation

Nearing the sunset

Apache Reservation Boundary

Good farmland just beyond the reservation

Present day Geronimo

A closer look 

Notice the satellite dish and tv antenna.

Historical Marker for Geronimo

Chatting with Ashley Lynn

Best BBQ in Safford!


  1. Are you sure it was your idea? Is this creative licence since you are the one telling the story now? I was out of internet range for the weekend...catching up now!

  2. Why would you even doubt? MY Grandpa even drew out a detailed diagram of "Allen's plan." I didn't know that until I found it in some of the "Walk" memorabilia just last week. That was pretty high praise coming from him.