Update on Down By The River B and B

Down By The River B and B – an exciting update for our Guests

Arizona winter birding lodging

Down By The River B and B is the perfect lodging for the Arizona winter birding enthusiast.

The dream named Down By The River B and B was opened by Barb and I in 2005. We planned to work and building up our little piece of heaven with an emphasis on providing a great experience with meals, service and ambiance for our guests. We planned to retire after about 7 years and enjoy our “Golden Years” using the advice out guests gave us for traveling to locations all over the world. But the best laid plans were not in the cards. Barb passed away in 2009 at the beginning of the recession and it was not a good time to try selling anything unless you were giving it away.

southeast arizona b and b anniversary picture

The Ribbon Cutting in 2005 at Down By The River B and B with the Benson Chamber of Commerce and The Red Hat Ladies of Benson

Then a bright spot entered my life when Angie came back as a second time guest. Things progressed and we were married in 2010. Angie moved out and added her warmth and charm to the b and b. With her arrival, she also brought new touches that helped to improve the experience for our guests and she raised the bar higher. The guests responded to her efforts and this lead to many of our great reviews that we have received over the past 4 years.

But after four years of doing what we do best we decided that it might be a time to try and sell again. With grandchildren growing up and things changing in their lives, we decided we wanted to become a part of that experience. But we didn’t want to just sell to anyone. We wanted to find a couple that  would take this “Gem in the Desert” (as many guests have called us) and take the ambiance and guest experience to another new level. Well our prayers were answered when a couple visited us as guests and then informed us that they were wanting to buy Down By The River B and B.

Down by the river b and b update picture

Angie and Mike

So on June 25th there will be new faces here at Down By The River. We have spent many hours with the new owners explaining what we do and how we do it. We will remain a resource for them to help them with a seamless transition as they take the reins of the business. We are excited for them and their plan. We believe that they will take the guest experience to that new level with their enthusiasm and charm. Let Angie and I introduce to you Elizabeth and Darryn Cray who hail from Las Vegas. The Crays want to keep the basics the same but will be making some improvements to the B and B by adding their own touches during the scheduled summer shutdown and will be reopening September 1. We wish them both well and want our former guests to come back and experience Down By The River B and B.

We are sure that you will love to visit the Crays as much as you loved coming to see us.

The Crays picture

The Crays, New owners of Down By The River B and B.

Southeast Arizona Parks

Southeast Arizona Parks – The Unknown Jewels

Cochise County Map of Attractions

Down By The River B and B is “The Lodging Hub of Cochise County” and you can see all the things to do in the area from this map

Southeast Arizona parks and historic sites are not as well known or frequented like the Grand Canyon but have their own charm that will delight you when you visit this part of Arizona. The better known park in this part of Southeast Arizona is Kartchner Caverns State Park. But we have many guests from Arizona that have never heard of it. Tombstone is a National Historic Site best known as the site of the Gunfight at the OK Corral. For some reason, the majority of parks in Southeastern Arizona are one of the best kept secrets around. So let me give you a quick review of places that you can visit here in Southeast Arizona.

Chiricahua National Monument PictureChiricahua National Monument encompasses a volcanic formation from the Turkey Creek Caldera that erupted millions of years ago. Over time the elements have worn down the rock to form many interesting rock features similar to Bryce Canyon only to a smaller scale. The color of the rocks is not orangish red but shades of browns, grays and whites. Many of the rock features have names such as balance rock, Punch and Judy and Duck on a Rock to name a few. It is almost to the New Mexico Border south of Willcox.

Fort Bowie National Historic Site is east of Willcox about 20 miles just off of Interstate 10. This is the location that was a focal point in the Apache Indian Wars here in Arizona. The actual incident that started the hostilities happened near the ruins of Fort Bowie. Originally the Fort was placed here at Apache Springs to guard the water for the Butterfield Stage line. The old stage road can be seen at this location. Ruins of the stage station, a graveyard, the Jefford’s Indian Agency ruins and the old fort can be explored during your hike into the visitor’s center.

On Top of Coronado Peak in the Coronado National Memorial.

From the top of Coronado National Memorial looking to the Southwest into Mexico.

Coronado National Memorial is located at the southern end of the Huachuca Mountains. The site celebrates the Coronado Expedition that entered Arizona along the San Pedro River in their search for Cibola – The Lost Cities of Gold. From the high point in the monument you can look out over the San Pedro Valley toward the Peloncillo Mountains where Geronimo surrendered. Looking south you view Mexico and the foothills of the Sierra Madres. To the west you can see about 80 miles to Baboquivari Peak, a sacred mountain to the Tohono O’odham peoples south of Tucson.

There are many other smaller Southeast Arizona parks and sites to visit when you come to Cochise County. Staying at Down By The River will also not disappoint you. Enjoy the parks all within a short drive time to Down By The River with the seclusion and quiet that can be found here in St. David, AZ. So read up on the area and find out what the well kept secret is and enjoy it.

Cochise County Lizards

Cochise County Lizards – fun to watch while you sit on the patio.

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Tree Lizard

Cochise County lizards start to come out after the weather warms up. You don’t see them in the winter unless you uncover one in the yard when you are moving rocks. Lizards are cold blooded so they need warmth to become active. We do find some lizards inside the house and usually they are easy to catch on the concrete floors. They don’t get much traction so we can reach down and pick them up easily. Sometimes it is just easier to catch them with the broom and the dust pan.

cochise county lizards picture

Great grandad in hand is a Regal Horned Lizard

Most of the lizards here in Cochise County are harmless, even though they may have a frightening appearance. The Horned Lizards, also known as Horny Toads have been used in old scifi 1950 films. The Regal Horned Lizard is the largest horned lizard in Arizona and can fill the palm of your hand. They can blend into the rocks and you can walk right by without seeing it. There is one Cochise County lizard that is dangerous but only if you try to pick it up. That is the Gila Monster or Mexican Beaded Lizard. This reptile is protected and bothering one can get you in trouble with the authorities. In the 10 ½ years I have been here, we have only seen one of these lizards on the property. By the time I got the camera it was gone into the brush and we didn’t see it again.

cochise County lizards

Arizona Striped Whiptail Lizard has an additional stripe down its back

cochise county lizard

Desert Grassland Whiptail Lizard is missing the stripe in the center of its back

Many lizards look alike but there are subtle differences. We use a link for Arizona Lizards to help us ID Cochise County lizards. The Desert Grassland Whiptail and the Arizona Striped Whiptail look the same until you count the number of strips on the back. Lizards eat insects and ants but I spotted something that was a bit different. One lizard has some bumps on its back and so I took the picture to see what it was. The lizard had 3 riders. I have no idea why they were there but the lizard didn’t seem bothered by them at that location. Lizards also become prey to other animals such as snakes, birds, and mammals. We have seen Roadrunners with lizards and sometimes snakes in their beak running through the breezeway.

Cochise County Lizards

3 insects are riding this Desert Grassland Whiptail Lizard just over the back legs.

Cochise County lizards are fun to watch and there are a lot of them around the b and b during the warmer times of the year.

B and B Owner’s Day Part 2

B and B owner’s day – Now comes the rest

The b and b owner’s day starts early but after breakfast the harder work will come. If you do things right breakfast is easy and you have some time to relax. If you have guests leaving your relaxation will be short lived. But if you have guests that are staying and you don’t have to clean and do laundry you can get some things done that help you our cause. So here is part 2 of the narrative.

b and b breakfast Picture

Our table can seat 10 guests comfortably during our b and b breakfast.

After the guests leave the table, we will finish up our cleaning and straightening up the kitchen and table. We will update our menu for tomorrow and get any cooking dishes we need to have ready for tomorrows breakfast prep. As the guest leave we will tidy rooms, take out the trash, check for any dishes that we need to put in the dishwasher and check for any shortages of tissues and such that may need to be replaced. We will clean the rooms if guests check out. We try to run a quick spot check of the rooms for anything left behind before they get out the gate. We start the laundry and the dishwasher and hang the clothes on the line as they are done. In between we check the emails and telephone for messages.

Once we finish laundry, cleaning the rooms and putting the laundry away, we get the paperwork out for the incoming guests; start the prep for the next morning breakfast and other household chores that we need to get done that day. We check ingredients as we make breakfast and write down items which will need to be replenished. A running list keeps you from forgetting things when you have a long drive to the store. Wasted trips don’t help efficiencies and time is precious. We field phone calls as needed and many are from solicitors that want to sell us the cheapest insurance, best credit card set up, advertizing. While we do have online reservations, we get the call from potential guests who have questions and want to make a reservation. There are many balls to juggle but with two people working at it we usually aren’t overburdened. We get the morning meal into the refrigerator to sit overnight. In amongst all of this we try to fit in lunch.

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Day for a B and B owner Part 1

Day for a B and B owner – the morning

day for a b and b owner picture

Early in the morning I am headed over to the guest side to start preparing the morning breakfast prep. This is after and hour or so that I have been on the computer.

The routine day of the b and b owner may vary as to specifics but there is always the one thing in common. The essentials everyday tasks are doing maintenance, cleaning, cooking, processing reservations and greeting guests. Most guests don’t know about all the other hats that a b and b owner may wear. There is the bookkeeping, budgeting, planning meals, gardening, scheduling time for shopping, banking, paying bills and maintenance. Then there are some b and b owners that do their own websites and marketing. If you aren’t organized and if you don’t have a system that works for you, things can unravel quickly at inopportune times.

We are starting our 11th year at Down By The River B and B. We have developed systems that save us time and effort. We only have 4 rooms at our b and b but that is enough to make our business plan work. We are able to do everything ourselves without needing to hire help for the normal day to day operation. When it comes to special maintenance or repair work we do find someone that is qualified to work with us in that area. So just what exactly is our normal day like? Well I can tell you that it isn’t ever the same but this is probably a typical scenario.

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Arizona Winery Events

Arizona Winery Events – Sample that perfect wine.

Arizona Winery Events picture

Wineries such as Carlson Creek will have venues such as Cafe Roka for dinner and wine pairings.

Throughout the year the calendar is filled with Arizona winery events. Some of the wineries have special events that are strictly for their club members. One that we have oped to join is Coronado and Zarpara Vineyards. Some wineries such as Carlson Creek or Flying Leap that have events where wines are paired at a dinner and people on their email list are invited. Other wineries have dates where musical entertainment is offered during the wine tasting weekends. Then you may find vineyards that celebrate their new releases with a special event such as Sonoita Vineyards with their Blessing of the Vines. There are regional events that take place with many vintners setting up their booths so that the attendees can sample the wines.

These Arizona winery events are held all over the state and one way you can find out about them is to get on a mailing list of the individual wineries or become a club member. You can always go to a winery website and see if they have posted an event that will be coming up in the future. Another source for events is the calendar at AZ Wine Lifestyle Magazine. Anyone can submit an event on this magazine for inclusion. Local chambers of commerce will also let you know about events or their members.

Arizona Winery Events picture

The Wine and Music Festival in Sonoita this Spring brought out a lot of people to sample wines from 20 wineries.

Although Angie and I have gone to smaller events, we prefer the regional Arizona winery events. These usually allow us to schedule a time when our guests at Down By The River B and B are out for the day. Some of our guests may even be at the event and that makes it a little more fun. In mid April, The 4 th Annual Southeast Arizona Wine Growers Music Festival was held at Kief – Joshua Vineyards. There were 20 wineries there along with food, music, a chili cook off and other vendor booths. There was a wide range of wines available for tasting. If you couldn’t find one that you liked then it was because you didn’t try hard enough.


Kief Manning has hosted the Sonoita Wine and Music Festival for 4 years now

The owners of the vineyards are usually at these events and you will be able to meet them and talk about their wines. You will find a lot of very knowledgeable enologists at these events and we meet other people that share the same interest in wine as us. It also allows Angie and I to pass out our cards to people we meet and maybe end up with future guests. All the while a good band was playing music for our enjoyment as we sampled wine. What better way to spend an Arizona Spring day. Now you may be saying to yourself, I will have to wait until next year to experience an Arizona wine event. Well no because the next Arizona Winery Event is going to be held on May 16 and 17. On that date, The Willcox Wine Country Spring Festival will be held in Railroad Park. There should be between 15 and 20 wineries represented there.

arizona winery events picture

The next on the list of Arizona winery events is the Willcox Wine Festival in May.

So think about joining the fun for a day or two and book a room at Down By The River so that you won’t miss out on tasting all that great wine at this Southeastern Arizona winery event. What better thing to do than set back in a secluded quite venue and maybe open one of the wines you purchased to go with your meal. It doesn’t get better than this.


B and B Breakfast – Not like your corner cafe.

b and b breakfast picture

Our signature breakfast is Gruyere cheese souffle with a strawberry crepe.

One of the things I always check out is a b and b breakfast menu on the website. I want to find a place that will serve me something that I can’t get in a chain restaurant. If I want bacon and eggs with toast then the b and b needs to be extra special with other amenities. Before we opened Down By The River B and B, breakfast was one of the first things on our list to figure out. We didn’t want to spend hours on preparation or cook times but we also didn’t want to be short order cooks. To be able to have the best of both worlds we felt we needed to research and develop our recipes to be easy to prepare and have that “Wow” factor that Barb loved to find.

Our signature dish would probably be the Gruyere Cheese Soufflé served with a strawberry crepe. At first look just thinking about a soufflé is daunting. I thought of nothing but watching an “I Love Lucy” episode when I heard that this would be perfect. Too hard and takes a lot of time. But Barb was determined and took a class to learn how it was done. I found out that the prep time wasn’t that bad; 30 minutes or less and it keeps you organized so that you don’t make mistakes. If you would like to know how it is done read our blog on making soufflés.

b and b breakfast picture

We serve a fruit smoothie in the morning just before breakfast.

Over time we have developed and adapted different recipes to add to our selection. One thing we planned was to keep a database of our guests and what they had on their visit. This list has been handy when the guests return. We will then provide a different recipe for them on a return visit. This way our guests will end up with a variety of breakfast entrées. We have had guests at our b and b breakfast for 14 days in a row. We now have 13 recipes to choose from before we have to repeat.

b and b breakfast picture

We serve quiche at some breakfasts and yes real men do eat quiche.

One last part of the b and b breakfast plan we decided on was “How do we want to serve breakfast?” We have been at different b and b’s that serve over a several hour time period. These were generally the normal short order cook breakfasts. Others did a buffet style breakfast but they had to keep the food conditioned for heat or cold while people served themselves. The first people there saw the nice presentation while the ones at the end may have gotten lukewarm food that had been worked over by previous guests. We decided on “Family Style”. Why family style? Well that allows us to do dishes that we can prepare the afternoon before when needed. It allows us to make soufflés , quiches or our other casserole type entrées in an orderly manner and we also get to sit down with the guests and learn things about them. We do have times when guests have a schedule that they must adhere to so we try to modify the meal time for them but they may not get the dish everyone else is getting.

b and b breakfast Picture

Our table can seat 10 guests comfortably during our b and b breakfast.

When everyone is at the table, we usually have discussions that can be informative and interesting. One example is an engineer who worked at Cern on the supercollider. Another was a guest that runs African Safaris in Botswana. Other guests were b and b owners who one day may have us as guests. We also have the guests that tell us funny stories and in turn other guests will share theirs. Sometimes we find out that we have been enjoying breakfast and conversation for 2 hours. When this happens we like to tell our guests that they “Made Memories” at our b and b breakfast. If you would like to experience this, book a room with us at Down By The River B and B. Bring your appetite and your stories.

Cochise County Ruins

Cochise County Ruins – Photographing Yesteryear

Cochise County Runes picture

Fort Bowie National Historic Site is well preserved considering that it was scavanged after it was abandon by the army.

I love photographing Cochise County ruins in black and white. There are lots of ghost towns in Cochise and neighboring Santa Cruz Counties. Old mining towns dot the landscape. Some boomed and died over 100 years ago while some were thriving 50 years ago. You can find the old ruins of military forts such as Fort Bowie and wander through the building remains at your leisure. Hike the trails around Fairbank and you will come across other ghost towns that had their heyday in the 1880 and 90s. Many of these old towns have little left of the buildings. Maybe you will find foundations or the remnants of adobe walls that have been washed away over the years from the monsoon storms that sweep Cochise County during July and August. Another ghost town with many buildings to photograph is Gleeson, which I wrote about some time back.

southeast arizona ghost town

The Gleeson Jail was built in 1910. It is constructed from concrete and is now a museum.

Besides ghost towns there are old home sites to explore. There are abandon houses that you will find in different areas of the county as you travel the picturesque back country. These homes are in various states of decay and some are nothing more than foundations or ruins. Travel throughout the county and you will find buildings overgrown with vegetation and in some cases in danger of full collapse. It is always interesting to stop and photograph some of these places. Some can be seen only as you are passing by on a road to somewhere else. In some cases, such as Dos Cabezas, you can’t stop because there isn’t any place to pull off to the side of the road. Then there are others can be seen as you approach so you can plan to stop. What are their stories?

cochise county ruins picture

This Black and White photo of an old houses that was abandon to the elements can be found all over Cochise County.

These were usually old abandon family homes that were located in the farming areas. One such area is Kansas Settlement south of Willcox. The area got its name from of the family immigrants that came from Kansas and settled in the area in the early 1900s. The farming was good and the acreage progressively grew. After World War II, the farming grew even faster until 175000 acres were being cultivated. In the late 1970s and early 80s when the price of energy skyrocketed. This caused great hardships and the acreage dropped to less than 40,000. Many of the farms were abandoned or foreclosed upon by banks. Now the area is growing again with grape vineyards. Most of Arizona’s wine grapes are grown in the Sulphur Springs Valley.

Cochise County Ruin picture

Some buildings are very close to total collapse as can be seen in the state of this building.

One building that I see when we go out on the Willcox Bench to do wine tasting is the Arzberger homestead. This building always intrigued me. It gives you a feeling of forlorn desolation. The old dead tree still is standing next to the home giving faint hope of shade in the summer sun. We stopped recently and took pictures inside the building and from other angle. The Arzburger’s were one of 17 families that that settled the area from Kansas. The old homestead was still being farmed by the Arzbergers in 2005. Being centrally located  is a great bonus when staying here at Down By The River B and B. With all the things to do in the area, one fun thing is to photograph old Cochise County ruins.

cochise county Ruin picture

This old Arzberger homestead on Kansas Settlement Rd and Arzberger Rd is one of the most interesting photo subjects as we drive along the back roads. The tree that once gave shade has died and stands like a sentinel waiting for the owners to return.

Golden Rule Vineyard

Golden Rule Vineyard on your way to the Willcox Bench

Golden Rule Vineyard is located in the Sulphur Springs Valley at the northern end of the Dragoons. While driving down Dragoon Road on our way into the Sulphur Springs Valley, Angie spotted a sign that heralded the Golden Rule Vineyard Tasting Room. We were in a hurry to make our appointment so we couldn’t stop. We thought we might stop to see where the tasting room was on the way back, if it wasn’t too late. As it turned out, we were back on Dragoon Road around 4 PM and we decided to go and see where the winery was located. We really didn’t expect it to be open since it wasn’t during their normal business hours.

Golden rule vineyard photo

Golden Rule Vineyards Tasting Room is open to the public Thursday through Sunday and by appointment.

As we drove down the dirt road, we were enjoying viewing the scenery with the fresh wild flowers that dotted the landscape. Red, yellow, purple and white flowers growing in the fields added to the ambiance of the country road. We finally came over a rise and around a turn to see the vineyards on the side of the sloping hill. We drove on to the parking lot and found that there was another couple from Pennsylvania wine tasting. I got out of the car and took a photo of the tasting room and we were greeted at the door by Jim Graham. Jim and his wife Ruth own the vineyard and run the tasting room. We had met them both previously at a couple of the Willcox wine festivals. There are almost 20 wineries represented at the festivals in the spring and fall.

Golden Rule Vineyard

You will find Golden Rule Vineyards at the Willcox Wine Festivals.

While sampling wines, they told us about their venture and we told them about our b and b. Jims and Ruth’s story was interesting and we found that Jim has always been farming. He grew up in Iowa and farmed there for many years. Jim was on his way to a conference when he met Ruth on a plane. They started talking and things evolved. In the end Ruth married Jim and moving to Iowa. An uncle who owned the land where Golden Rule is now located decided to quit farming. Jim and Ruth came out to take over the operation and thus started Golden Rule winery. The winery is named after the gold mine that is located on the hill behind the property.

We enjoyed or palaver and of course their red wines. We hadn’t noticed the time but after almost 2 hours before we knew it. We purchased a few bottle to take home but it was a tough choice to decide which ones. They were all so good. Golden Rule is not located in the clusters of tasting rooms that you find in Willcox or Kansas Settlement. Golden Rule Vineyards about 9 miles west of the other tasting rooms. However, if you are coming from Down By The River B and B, the tasting room is on the way to the Kansas Settlement tasting rooms. The drive is enjoyable and you will pass through Texas Canyon with all the beautiful rocks. If you wish to go to the Willcox Wine Festival, book your room at Down By The River B and B. You can have fun during the day samplings wines from many vintners, including Golden Rule, and spend the night enjoying the seclusion of a fine b and b.

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