Artisans At Work – Amazing

Yesterday we traveled to Wickenburg to meet Paul and Sue for lunch.  They moved here to Arizona about 2-3 years ago from where we lived in Mt. Gilead and we’ve got together a few times over the last few months for sightseeing, fun, and food.

The four of us had dinner a few months back at Nichols West in Congress and enjoyed it so much, so we decided that we would walk around historic Wickenburg a bit and then head up to Congress for lunch.  The pictures below show a couple of shops we went into that particularly interested me.

Back in the early days, when the jail was full, the Marshall would chain the outlaws would be chained to the “Jail Tree” until space became available

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We had stopped in to Ben’s Saddlery when we were here back in April and I wanted to go again.  Not that I’m a cowboy in need of a lasso rope, a belt, pair of chaps, or a saddle, but just because I was fascinated at the selection of western leather goods and to know (because I could see the shop in the back) that they were made or repaired to look and feel like new right there on the spot.  And that smell of leather in the shop was great!

Then we went around the corner to see what was there … and just off the beaten path the sign for Double H Custom Hat Co. caught my eye so …. down the block we went.2017-01-04-11-34-13

When we got inside, quite a site!  We met “Jimmy The Hat Man” and talked a bit with him while he worked on a hat for a new customer.

Jimmy apprenticed under a hat maker years ago and for the last 25 years or so he’s been making custom hats in his own shop, first in Darby, Montana and for the past four years or so he comes down to his new shop in Wickenburg to make and sell his fine wool hats from here.

I asked him about how he sells, figuring he could only sell a custom hat to a customer in person (to get it sized right), but he showed us and explained to us his method for getting a perfect fit even for customers who order from afar.  He also attends western shows where he sells from his booth and, most recently he set up his display at a high-end western dude ranch of sorts where folks pay BIG money to attend.  I imagine after a few drinks, those that have the money might start spillin’ it and Jimmy can help them out.


ALL of Jimmy’s hats are beautiful and when you realize how much artful labor is involved, only then can you appreciate the price you will pay.  Jimmy’s hats start at about $600 and go up from there.  The one centered in the picture above (black felt with turquoise hat band) Jimmy tells us will sell at $2500.

Kathy and I have looked over his website and decided which ones we’d like to have.  Now we have to start saving …

Hey, check out Jimmy’s website here and tell us in the comments box below which style YOU like best.  I’m sure Jimmy would be pleased to see the results!

But alas, now for the “Rest of The Story” as Paul Harvey used to say … we finished up in Wickenburg and then headed up the road to Congress to Nichols West for lunch.

Not much to say, but I wanted to share these pix of the food because not only is it all delicious, but the presentation is beautiful too!

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All in all, we had a wonderful day … the weather was warm and sunny, being with friends was fun and we all enjoyed a great meal.

Now for the two hour drive back home.  As you can see from the map at the top of this post, there’s no direct shot from Camp Verde to Congress.  The mountains around here are beautiful, but they often make trips much longer than they might seem they should be.  Nonetheless, we made it home just as night fell.

What a GREAT Eatery! – Nichols West

So some of the other campers here at The North Ranch told us about a great little restaurant just up the road in “downtown” Congress, AZ.  The town of Congress has; a gas station/convenience store, a post office, an auto repair shop, and little else.

But nestled right next door to the auto repair shop, visitors to the area will discover a very popular local eatery (looks like a little old diner) known as “Nichols West”.

Simon, along with his wife and crew, put out a great menu of other than typical southwest cooking.  You see, Simon came over to the states from London, England 37 years ago and ultimately developed and ran 3 restaurants in the Hamptons.  At some point, they leased out the restaurants there and, having made a short year-long stop in Zanesville, OH ultimately came out to Congress and opened this upscale eclectic (there’s that word) little restaurant/bar that offers both inside and outside (on the patio) seating.

We went there twice.  Once for lunch when I had their Shrimp Tempura and Kathy had a spinach/strawberry/mango salad.  Our 2nd visit was last night for a late dinner after spending the day with Paul and Sue Middaugh up in Sedona.  There’s another post on our trip to Sedona.

A Few Days Rest @ Congress, AZ

So having had a fun time with Judy & Bob, we headed out from our site at Shangri-La RV Resort @ Vista, CA on Monday the 18th and headed for another one of the Escapee’s RV parks .. This one is called The North Ranch and it’s just south of a little berg called Congress, AZ.

Congress is even smaller than our home town of Mt. Gilead having a gas station, post office, auto repair shop, and a wonderful little restaurant called “Nichols West” that more than one other resident at the North Ranch told us we had to check out.

We pulled in to The North Ranch mid-afternoon Monday, so we had plenty of time to get hooked up to elec/water/sewer and get our home “tricked out” for a few days stay.

Tuesday morning I was up with the sun (about 5am) while Kathy slept until about 7 or so. We took a morning walk around the campground and discovered a beautiful cactus garden that has been planted and is continually cared for by some of the full-time residents here. I’ve written a short post about that garden including loads of pictures of these beautiful and rugged flowering plants.

While strolling the garden, we met Ruth who shared with us some information about the gardens and we sat and watched all the different bird species flying in and out of “Methuselah”, the 600 year old Saguaro Cactus that’s peppered with holes the birds have used to make houses and nesting pods.  Ruth and her husband Dave were originally South Dakotan’s but have been full-time RV’ers  for years now.  They Workamp sometimes for a few months, sometimes just traveling visiting friends or locales that they’ve never been to.  Turns out Ruth and Dave are in the site right next to us.

The rest of the day Tuesday took us on a LONG drive, ended up being about 12 hours of driving up to the Grand Canyon and back with just over 500 miles.  We took a circuitous route up Route 89 into the hills with a lot of “switchbacks” so thank goodness we were driving the car and not the motor home!  We stopped for lunch in a wonderful little town called Williams, AZ and known as the “Gateway to the Grand Canyon”.

Wednesday brought a more laid back day.  In the morning I washed the driver side and rear of the motor home (they were in the shade) and then we took a drive early afternoon down the road 30 minutes or so to the historic gold mining town of Wickenburg, AZ.  We strolled the sidewalk poking our heads into the shops peddling local artwork, leather goods, sliver jewelry, and a couple junk shops too.  I was pretty proud of Kathy, she only spent about 90 bucks!

Thursday was an even more laid back day.  We stuck around the park, washed the car and the other side of the motor home, went down to the club house and were entertained by local park residents (both full-timers and drop-ins) for the weekly jam session.  All are invited to play or just listen.  We listened and enjoyed since neither of us have any musical talents.  The highlight of the day (besides the jam session) was our quick trip 6 miles north to the local gas station to buy some ICE CREAM for our nighttime snack!

We generally buy our groceries at a local Walmart (since we know what to expect) and prepare and eat our meals at home.  We generally take walks in the early morning and just before sundown when it’s coolest and we enjoy seeing the desert critters scurry about.

Today it’s Friday and we are heading out to meet Paul and Sue Middaugh, who live in Surprise, AZ.  Kathy used to work for Sue at the Mt Gilead Rite-Aid pharmacy.  Sue and Paul moved out here about 3 years or so ago.  We’re meeting them and then heading to Sedona for the day to see what kind of trouble we can get in to.

More on that day trip later.